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tinclad Petrel marker dedication on June

The date/time/place for the dedication of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History (MDAH) historical marker for the capture of the Federal tinclad USS Petrel has now been confirmed as being:

Sunday, June 15, 3:00 pm in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Our special guest will be Mr. Ed Bearss, Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service. Mr. Bearss wrote the 1982 article re the Petrel capture which was published in Morningside Notes as part of his longtime excellent and extensive scholarship re the War Between The States in Mississippi (see excerpt below).

More details will be provided as they are known. Please contact Mr. Sam Olden, the President of the Yazoo City Historical Society or Mr. Harold Fisher as per below if you have any questions.

Thanks to everyone for their interest, time, and support which made this happen!!!!

Please spread the word to any and all parties that may be interested in this event.

The site of the marker will be a mile or so above (going north) Yazoo City on OLD HIGHWAY 49W. The site of the marker will be where Old Highway 49W and an old farm road, blacktop, SCHAEFER ROAD meet. Visitors are encouraged to turn to the left at this point and park on the blacktop.

Interested parties can call Mr. Harold C. Fisher, at 662-746-4781 or Cell Phone 662-571-1322 (E Mail: Mr. Sam Olden, who is the President of the Yazoo City Historical Society can be reached at 662-746-5015.

A reception is being planned, but details are not yet available.

The Mississippi Department of Archives & History (MDAH) has approved a historical marker re the capture of the Federal tinclad USS Petrel by Confederate cavalry on April 22, 1864 (see short description and URLs below). The actual marker will read as follows:

Capture of the Union tinclad Petrel
On April 22, 1864, about two and a half
miles above Yazoo city, on the west bank
of the Yazoo river, Col. John Griffith of
the 11th and 17th Consolidated Arkansas
Infantry led a Confederate cavalry and
artillery detachment to attack the Union
tinclad Petrel. The Petrel, commanded by
Acting Master Thomas McElroy, responded
with its eight 24-pound Howitzer cannons.
A solid shot from the Confederate Parrott
guns tore through the stern, puncturing a
steam pipe and exploding the boilers. The
Petrel was then surrendered and burned.

This MDAH historical marker will be placed and dedicated on Sunday, June 15, 2008 near Yazoo City, Mississippi. ALL are welcome to attend and participate!!!!

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 additional URLs with detailed info re the capture of the Petrel; please feel free to use/distribute any of the information in this email as you see fit.

An article describing the capture and listing the Hempstead County, Arkansas men involved was written by one of the participants and can be read at:

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:

Relevant reports from the O.R. and O.R.N. can be read at:

See you in Yazoo City on June 15....!!!!!!!!

Kenneth Byrd

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