The American Civil War At Sea Wiki

A sketch by artist David Price. There are no surviving period photos of Missouri, and images of her recovered wreck give a poor impression of her original appearance.


Built: Shreveport, Louisiana

Commissioned: September 12, 1863

Service: Shreveport, Louisiana 1863-1865. Alexandria, Louisiana, 1865.

Home Port: Shreveport, Louisiana

Dimensions: 83' Length, 54" Beam, 9'6" Draft

Armor: 2" Iron, with wood backing.

Armament: 1x11" Smoothebore, 1x9" Smoothebore, 1x32lb Smoothebore

Engines: Single Rear Paddlewheel

Speed: 4 Knots

Crew: 145

Fate: Surrendered to Union Forces June 3rd, 1865. Sold at auction November 29, 1865.


One of two Ironclads contracted for completion at Shreveport by the Confederate Department of the Navy, and the only one of the two actually finished, Missouri was a riverine casemate ironclad plagued by bad luck. Her builders ran out of materials at a critical point during her construction, and chose to commission her without building the armored box designed for protecting her paddle wheel, which protruded from the rear center of the hull and remained a liability throughout her service. Later, when she was ordered to assist in the Red River Campaign of 1864, water levels near Shreveport trapped her and prevented her from travelling upriver to assist Confederate forces. Her designated captain reputedly stated that he hoped she would sink and swore that he would never serve aboard her, "not if I can help it." Later, an attempt to capture the USS Rattler using detached parties from Missouri and CSS Webb failed.

In early 1865, water levels in the Mississippi tributaries began to rise again, and Missouri was able to get underway. She anchored near Alexandria, Louisiana in April with the intention of defending the town. However, shortly thereafer news reached her acting captain of the surrender of Confederate forces in the East. On June 3rd, 1865, she was surrendered to advancing US Army forces, having never fired a shot in anger. CSS Missouri was the last Confederate ironclad to surrender.

Missouri was never well regarded as a warship, though she did provide troops for various shore detachments and special operations, and acted as a troop ferry in the vicinity of Shreveport. There is not a great deal of information available about the perceived flaws in the design, but her lighter than normal armor plate and exposed paddle wheel probably gave rise to the less than enthusiastic opinions regarding her potential performance.