CSS General M. Jeff Thompson

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Career
Name: General M. Jeff Thompson
Namesake: Brigadier-General M. Jeff Thompson
Acquired: January 1862
Commissioned: April 1862
Fate: Ran aground and blew up, 6 June 1862
General characteristics
Type: Sidewheel steamer
Propulsion: Steam engine, side wheels

CSS General M. Jeff Thompson was a cotton-clad sidewheel ram of the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War.

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.

Service history[edit]

Battle of Plum Point Bend[edit]

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[edit]

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.

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