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USS Fort Hindman

The USS Fort Hindman was a Union paddle-wheel steamer that operated along rivers in the Trans-Mississippi during the Civil War. Named for the Confederate fort captured at Arkansas Post in January 1863, the Fort Hindman participated in numerous actions during the war.

The ship that became known as the Fort Hindman was purchased by the Federal government on March 14, 1863. Known as the James Thompson when it entered service, the ship was renamed the USS Manitou the same month. Lightly armored, the ship also carried a total of six eight-inch guns. In April 1863, the ship joined the Mississippi River Squadron and was commanded by Lieutenant Thomas O. Selfridge, the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

In July 1863, the Manitou moved into the Little Red River in Louisiana with the USS Rattler and captured the Confederate steamer Louisville. The Louisville soon entered Union service as the USS Ouachita. On November 5, 1863, the Manitou was renamed the Fort Hindman.

In early 1864, the Fort Hindman worked with other ships to prepare for the Red River Campaign. A Union army marched along the river accompanied by the fleet in an effort to capture Shreveport, Louisiana. Another force from Little Rock (Pulaski County) moved southward at the same time to help encircle the city. The Fort Hindman moved up the Black River with five other ships on February 29 to disrupt Confederate troops in the area. Approaching Harrisonburg, Louisiana, the ships were engaged by enemy artillery and infantry. The Fort Hindman was hit twenty-seven times, and one engine was disabled. The other ships drove the Confederates away, and the expedition continued. During the battle, the Fort Hindman had one man killed and nine wounded. Three men from the Fort Hindman received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle.

Rejoining the Federal fleet, the Fort Hindman participated in the capture of Fort DeRussy. After the Union army was defeated, the flotilla began to work its way downriver. Many of the ships were almost lost due to falling water levels in the Red River, and the Fort Hindman helped several other ships escape downriver.

With the conclusion of the campaign, the Fort Hindman patrolled the Mississippi River south of Natchez, Mississippi. At some point during its service, the ship received two additional guns, bringing its total to eight. At the end of the war, the ship returned to the north and was decommissioned at Mound City, Illinois, on August 3, 1865. Sold two weeks later, the ship continued to ply the western rivers as a merchant steamer.

For additional information:
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington DC: Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, 1959–1981.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vols. 24–26. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1921.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated 4/17/2017

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