Uncle Bent in the War of Northern Agression

When the USS Lexington captured the Confederate-flagged W.B.Terry on 20 Aug 1861, it caused quite a stir on Paducah’s waterfront, where other steamboats were laid up due to the blockade at Cairo.  An angry mob, led by the Terry’s crew, retaliated by seizing the Federally-flagged Samuel Orr.

Quietly, in the midst of this riotous event, captain Elijah Wood and his brother-in-law James Benton Ogilvie, along with a few others, made steam on the side-wheeler Eastport and slipped away with the smaller packet Dunbar in tow.

James Benton Ogilvie

Eliza Wood

The Orr soon followed as they headed up the Tennessee River (south) to Fort Henry.  There, they sold the boats to the Confederacy.  Unlike the Orr, the Federals knew nothing about it, and the Paducah boys got away with it.

We didn’t know about it either until we stumbled upon J.B. Ogilvie’s postwar testimony while researching another matter.

The Eastport was huge, and one of the fastest of more than a thousand packet steamers plying the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  Unfortunately, she would be captured at Cerro Gordo before the Confederates could finish converting her into an ironclad.

Painting of the U.S.S. Eastport (1862-1864) by Ens. D.M.N. Stouffer, 1864.

The Federals finished the job at Cairo in Aug 1862 and the ironclad ram, USS Eastport, began patrolling the Mississippi River to prevent the movement of Confederate troops and supplies.

The Eastport hit a mine in the Red River on 15 Apr 1864.  While the Navy halted a pursuit to salvage their ironclad flagship, the Confederates cleverly dammed the river.  By 26 Apr the river was so low the federals were forced to scuttle the Eastport and abandon their expedition.

The Eastport’s rightful owners pressed their case in the courts for years, and in 1899 it was settled by Supreme Court (Oakes v. U.S., 174 U.S. 778, 1899).


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