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Union Brown Water Navy Celebrates the Fourth of July by Bombarding Vicksburg
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We had quite a time on the fourth of this month  we commenced to celebrate the day with our morters by throwing shell into the City of Vicksburge  we knocked down quite a number of buildings during the day. At 12 oclock we fired a salute of 100 guns from the gun boats, and a national salute with the morters into the City.

WILLIAM H. KINNEY. Autograph Letter Signed, July 13, 1862, “U.S.S. Gunboat Benton, Off Vicksburg,” 4 pp., 5 x 8 in.

Inventory #21265.22       Price: $450

Complete Transcript

U. S. Gun Boat, Benton / Off Vicksburgh, Miss  July 13th 62

Dear Friends

            After so long a time spent in wating to hear from you, I again will try to write a few lines to let you know that I am yet in good health and hope that this will finde you all the same. I had been looking for a letter from you for over seven weeks but have not yet got one. It might be that my last one did not get there and I will now try again  if the other one failed I hope that this on will not

            The weather is verry warm out hear at the present time so mutch so that we are unable to do but little in the day time  To day we have a foraging party out up the river after green corn and pototoes beanes pease &c. all these things are plenty out hear and all we have to do is to go <2> and take what we want and give them what we have a might to. they hate us so bad they will not sell enny thing to us. we found a Union man the other day out in the country  he gave us three carts loads of corn a lots of cabbages and every thing that we could carry of in one of our tugs. We had quite a time on the fourth of this month  we commenced to celebrate the day with our morters by throwing shell into the City of Vicksburge  we knocked down quite a number of buildings during the day. At 12 oclock we fired a salute of 100 guns from the gun boats, and a national salute with the morters into the City. At sundown we again opend with the morters on the City. Com Porter morters also fired. We wound up the day by giving them another dose at 9 oclock. they never fired a gun during the whole day, but the next day they opend fire quite sharpe and kept it up all the fore noon. We opened at a quarter <3> to twelve when the enemy ceased fireng  the other day we wer out in the woods having a look around we fell in with some artillery men out a scouting. they belonged to the 2nd Mass Battery and one of them was from New Bedford a man by the name of Price  he knew me and all the rest of you  I had a long talk with him  I do not remember of ever seeing him before, but he knew me the minute he saw me

            Since our battle at Memphis we have don but little fighting but we are expecting a battle every day and we might be into it before to morrow night. after this place is taken the Mississippi will be opend  I shall be glad when we get this place and than we will not have to fight enney more unless the rebels erect new batterys or up some of the small rivers  we hear that the rebels have got a battery up the Yazour River <4> We hear that there has been hard fighting at Ritchmond but we cannot hear mutch about it hear  we get no papers onley what is sent through the mail

I had a letter from the olde man yesterday  he reports every thing quite in Mattapoisett

I shall not have enney more time this after noon  our morters have agained opened on the City  I must go and see what it is all about  you must give my love to all inquiring friends

            Write soon  From William H. Kinney / U. S. Gun boat Benton / Cairo, Ill.

Historical Background

After the fall of New Orleans on May 1, 1862, and the destruction of Confederate naval forces on the river at the Battle of Memphis that June, the Union had control of the Mississippi River, except for a stretch between Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson, Louisiana. In June and July 1862, as reflected in Kinney’s letter, parts of the Mississippi Squadron bombarded Vicksburg. Until October 1862, the Squadron was led by naval officers but under the command of the Union Army. In addition, Commander David Dixon Porter led a semi-autonomous flotilla of twenty mortar boats. When, in the summer of 1862, Captain David G. Farragut of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron could not pass Vicksburg, because the bluffs were too high for his naval guns, he ordered his adoptive brother Porter to bring his mortar flotilla up. The mortars suppressed Confederate artillery enough to allow Farragut’s ships to pass and join the Mississippi River Squadron coming south from Cairo, Illinois. In July 1863, a combined army and navy operation force the surrender of Vicksburg, followed five days later by the surrender of Port Hudson, which opened the Mississippi River to free navigation by Union forces.

William H. Kinney (1838-1863) was born in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, and in 1860 was a mariner in Mattapoisett. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at New Bedford on August 20, 1861. On April 29, 1863, in an engagement at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, a Confederate shell pierced the USS Benton’s armor, killing captain of the hold William H. Kinney and six others.

USS Benton (1861-1865), originally a catamaran snag boat, was converted to an ironclad river gunboat at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1861. 202 feet long, 72 feet wide, with a 9-foot draft, it carried sixteen smoothbore and rifled cannons. Commissioned on February 24, 1862, with a crew of 176 officers and enlisted men, it served as the flagship of the Mississippi Squadron. The Benton took part in the capture of Island Number 10 in April, the attack on Fort Pillow in May, and the Battle of Memphis in June, and the bombardment of Vicksburg in June and July, 1862. The Benton took part in Yazoo River expeditions in August and December. It ran the Vicksburg batteries in April 1863, and at the end of that month participated in the bombardment of Grand Gulf, Mississippi. It also took part in attacks on the Vicksburg batteries in May and June 1863, and in the Red River expedition of March to May 1864. It was decommissioned in July 1865 at Mound City, Illinois.

Theodore H. Price (1822-1862) was born in Massachusetts and in 1860 was a printer in Boston. He enlisted as a private in the 2nd Independent Battery of the Massachusetts Light Artillery, which was organized at Quincy and mustered in on July 31, 1861. After duty at Baltimore and Fortress Monroe, the battery traveled to New Orleans in April and May, 1862, then on to Vicksburg, where it aided Captain Farragut’s ships to pass the defenses at Vicksburg. The battery returned to Baton Rouge in late July, but disease had taken a toll. One week after Kinney penned this letter, Price died of fever on July 19, 1862, the first among the battery of 140 men to die. Within the next three weeks, five more died of fever, and many more were in the hospital.

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