CSS General M. Jeff Thompson
|Name:||General M. Jeff Thompson|
|Namesake:||Brigadier-General M. Jeff Thompson|
|Fate:||Ran aground and blew up, 6 June 1862|
|Propulsion:||Steam engine, side wheels|
The ship was selected in January 1862 by Captain James E. Montgomery to be part of his River Defense Fleet. At New Orleans on 25 January, Capt. Montgomery began to convert her into a cottonclad ram by placing a 4-inch (100 mm) oak sheath with a 1-inch (25 mm) iron covering on her bow, and by installing double pine bulkheads filled with compressed cotton bales.
Battle of Plum Point Bend
When General M. Jeff Thompson's conversion was completed on 11 April, she steamed to Fort Pillow, Tennessee, where she operated in defense of the river approaches to Memphis. On 10 May 1862, General M. Jeff Thompson, in company with seven other vessels of Montgomery's fleet, attacked the ironclad gunboats of the Federal Mississippi Flotilla. The Battle of Plum Point Bend which followed witnessed successful ramming tactics by the Confederates, but General M. Jeff Thompson, under Captain J. H. Burke, was not able to get into the battle except with her guns. These she manned coolly and effectively despite the discouraging effect of heavy Union fire. Montgomery's force held off the Federal rams and gunboats until Fort Pillow was successfully evacuated on 1 June. Then the Confederate vessels fell back on Memphis to take on coal.
Battle of Memphis
Following the Federal capture of Fort Pillow, Flag Officer Charles Henry Davis, USN, commanding the Mississippi River Squadron pressed on without delay and appeared off Memphis with a superior force on 6 June 1862. Montgomery, unable to retreat to Vicksburg, Mississippi, because of his fuel shortage, and unwilling to destroy his boats, determined to fight against heavy odds. In the ensuing Battle of Memphis, General M. Jeff Thompson was heavily hit and set on fire by Union shells. She ran aground and was abandoned by her crew. She burned to the water's edge and her magazine blew up violently, strewing the shore with iron braces and fastenings, with charred remains of broken timbers, and leaving her wrecked remains half buried and half sunk.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.