The American Civil War At Sea Wiki


Built: Cincinnati, Ohio

Commissioned: 1861

Service: River Defense Fleet, 1861-1862

Home Port: Memphis, Tennessee

Dimensions: 162' Length, 30' 10" Beam, 11' Draft

Armor: Cottonclad

Armament: 1xSmoothebore (likely 32 or 42lb); see notes below for other possible armament.

Engines: Dual Paddlewheel

Speed: Unknown;estimated 9-10 Knots

Crew: Unknown

Fate: Rammed and sunk at the Battle of Memphis, June 6th 1862.


Colonel Lovell was a sidewheel cottonclad ram, acquired and converted in 1861 for use by the Confederacy's River Defense Fleet, originally built as the civilian steamer Hercules at Cincinnati, Ohio. She spent her career defending the Upper Mississippi as part of the River Defense Fleet. Although her precise armament is unknown, it is generally known that she carried a large smoothebore in her bow, likely a 32 or 42 pounder. She was classified as a ram, and may have had a reinforced ram bow, though not all vessels in the River Defense Fleet classified as such had such modifications made.

Colonel Lovell was part of the attacking force at theBattle of Plum Point in May, 1862, which successfully delayed the advance of the Western Gunboat Flotilla and allowed the evacuation of Fort Pillow. During the engagement she fired on the Union fleet, but did not actually ram any of the Union vessels, she was moderately damaged as a result of fire taken from the USS Benton. She was heavily damaged at the Battle of Memphis the next month when rammed by the USS Queen of the West, drifting out of control into further waters. She went down quickly, taking many of her crew with her.

As of the time of this update, a source has come to light claiming that all ships of the River Defense Fleet present at the Battle of Plum Point were equipped with "at least four eight inch guns." If this is true, the guns would likely have been 8" Smoothebores, very common weapons in use on the Mississippi.