The Mississippi in the Civil War Message Board

marker for site of USS Petrel capture...YES!!!!!!

Hi Colon -

I am very pleased to announce that the historical marker for the capture of the Federal tinclad USS Petrel by Confederate cavalry has been APPROVED by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) and donations are actively (!!!!) being solicited.

Local historians in Yazoo City, MS are coordinating logistics, etc. re actual marker placement and a formal dedication (probably sometime in late Jan. or in Feb. of 2008).

Any parties wishing to put "boots on the ground" and help the good folks in Yazoo City, please contact me and I will get you in touch with them.

ALL are welcome to help and/or participate!!!!

Please distribute/forward the info below to groups and individuals as you see fit:


--- Historical Marker for the Capture of the tinclad USS Petrel by Confederate cavalry ---

The Mississippi Department of Archives & History (MDAH) will soon send the order for manufacture of the historical marker re the capture of the Federal tinclad USS Petrel by Confederate cavalry on April 22, 1864 (see short description and URLs below).

This dramatic event was orchestrated by Colonel John Griffith of the 11th & 17th Arkansas Infantry. Colonel John Griffith is buried near Junction, Kimble Co. TX. A short biography of his life can be read at this URL:

Donations by private individuals together with those made by the Frontier Guards SCV Camp and Mary Harlow Griffith OCR Chapter in West Texas currently total $600. The cost of the MDAH historical marker will be ~$1,600.

We are hopeful that private individuals, CWRTs, and SCV chapters everywhere can help contribute to this historical marker commemorating the Petrel's capture by CSA cavalry from Arkansas and Mississippi. YOUR help is needed!!!!!

At this time, it looks like the marker will be placed and dedicated in mid/late January or February 2008 near Yazoo City, Mississippi. ALL are welcome to attend and participate!!!!

Contributions for the Petrel historical marker can be sent to:

USS Petrel marker fund
c/o Frederica Wyatt
P.O. Box 271
Junction, TX 76849

As a grateful thank you, donors will receive a video/DVD of the upcoming historical marker placement/dedication ceremonies that will take place in Yazoo City.

The following description was written by Ed Bearss and appeared in Morningside Notes (1982):

ďAt 1 p.m., Petrel tied-up to the west bank of the stream near the mouth of Tokeba Bayou, two and one-half miles above the town. A working party was sent ashore to secure rails with which to protect the boilers. The rest of the crew remained at their battle stations. McElroy assigned the task of supervising the loading of the rails to his executive officer, Ensign E. Flanigan. This freed the other deck officers to help the quartermaster and sentries scan the opposite bank for Confederates. Since everything seemed to be going according to schedule, Captain McElroy went below, at 2 p.m., to eat his dinner. After finishing his meal, the captain again stepped out onto the deck. As he emerged from his cabin, the Rebels opened fire on his vessel."

"About noon the commander of the 11th and 17th Arkansas Consolidated Mounted Infantry, Colonel John Griffith, had asked General Adams for permission to attack Petrel. Adams at first objected on the grounds that the attack would be futile, besides needlessly endangering the lives of the troopers. At length Adams yielded and told Griffith to capture the tinclad. Once he had received the "go ahead," Colonel Griffith organized a combat patrol which included two 10-pounder Parrott rifles manned by Owens' Arkansas Battery and a number of sharpshooters from the consolidated regiment. Because the Arkansans were unfamiliar with the area, several men from Companies A and K, Wood's Mississippi Regiment, who had been reared in Yazoo County, served as guides. His preparations completed, Griffith's combat patrol marched via the Andrews' Ferry road. Several hundred yards from the river, the gunners unhitched their teams and manhandled their pieces forward. Screened by the dense forest, the cannoneers emplaced their guns on the bank 400 yards below the gunboat. When Griffith gave the signal, the gun captains pulled the lanyards, and two rifled projectiles screamed toward the targets."

"The Union sailors returned the Rebels' fire with their starboard battery. After several rounds had missed their mark, the Yankees realized their guns could not be brought to bear. At the same time, Captain McElroy rang the bell for full speed ahead. The pilot, however, was unable to spin the wheel fast enough, and before the tinclad had proceeded 200 yards, she grounded. While the crew frantically sought to back the gunboat off the bar, a shot from one of the Confederate guns tipped through the stern, cutting off the steam pipe and disabling the engine. Moments later, a projectile crashed into the magazine, tearing off Gunner's Mate Charles Seitz's legs. This caused Petrel's guns to fall silent for several minutes, while damage control parties effected repairs and Captain McElroy found a replacement for Seitz."

"When the guns again went into action the rate of fire was very slow. Already the after gun had been dismounted, and Griffith's sharpshooters were making life hectic for the loaders. To make matters worse, several of the naval officers behaved badly. Realizing that he was in danger of losing his vessel, McElroy shouted for Acting First Engineer Arthur M. Phillips, to have the engineers ready to fire the gunboat when she could no longer fight. Simultaneously, he ordered small-arms issued to the crew. A shot now smashed through the stern, raking the gun deck and exploding the boilers. To escape being scalded most of the officers and crew scrambled ashore. Nearly all of them succeeded in crossing the swamp and reaching Prairie Bird."

"Besides the captain, the pilot, Kimble Ware, and Quartermaster John Nibble remained aboard Petrel with the dead and wounded. After the steam had started to dissipate, the captain and the quartermaster helped the wounded ashore. They then prepared to set fire to the stricken gunboat. Obtaining hot coals from the fire box, McElroy placed them among the rails. Before the fire could get a good start, the Confederates crossed the river."

"Probably the first greyclad to reach Petrel was Sergeant Joseph A. Garing of Company A, Wood's Mississippi Regiment. Seeing that the Yankees were deserting the doomed gunboat, Garing stripped off his coat, shoes and hat, and plunged into the river. Other men belonging to Griffith's combat patrol followed Garing's example. Reaching the west bank of the river, the Rebels forced McElroy to surrender. While some of the greyclads pursued the fleeing survivors, others extinguished the blaze. Confederate fatigue parties were put to work removing the tinclad's "fine armament" of eight 24-pounder howitzers. These guns were later sent to Canton, from where they were eventually forwarded to Mobile, Alabama. In addition, the Southerners were able to secure a considerable quantity of valuable stores from the vessel. After they had salvaged everything they could use from the gunboat, the Confederates burned her "to the water's edge."

Here are two URLs with additional info re the capture of the Petrel; please feel free to use/distribute this information in any way you see fit.

please contact me if I can answer any questions, etc.?

Thanks for your help!!!!


Kenneth Byrd

Messages In This Thread

marker for site of USS Petrel capture...???
Re: marker for site of USS Petrel capture...???
marker for site of USS Petrel - THANKS!!!
Re: marker for site of USS Petrel capture...???
marker for site of USS Petrel capture...YES!!!!!!