Item #7750 List of Freight on Captured Steamer Fairplay.

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List of Freight on Captured Steamer Fairplay.

[Near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River, ca. 18 August 1862]. 12.5” x 8”. 1 p. in ink and pencil. CONDITION: Good, dampstain to top edge, chip and short tears to top edge, old folds.

A fascinating list of captured freight—including guns, ammunition, equipment, and more—from the rebel steamer and transport Fairplay, which was seized by a Union operation.

The captured freight is organized by cases and boxes, with numbers of cases/boxes on the left and the number of contents on the right. Below the list are pencil notes providing the total counts of muskets (5,040), ammunition (245,600), and pieces of equipment (26,263), excluding items contained in twenty-one boxes bearing the mark of rebel Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes (1804–1880). Weapons include Enfield Rifles, Howitzers, and Mountain Howitzers. Among other items listed are sixteen bags of cotton, molasses, buggies and harnesses, rice, a box of dry goods (“said to belong to Mrs. Brandon”), waist and shoulder belts, bayonet scabbards, and military caps and cap pouches. Some of the boxes bear the marks of Gen. Holmes and Gen. Earl Van Dorn (1820–1863). Holmes was a friend and protégé of rebel President Jefferson Davis, and was appointed commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department but failed in his primary task, which was to defend the rebel hold on the Mississippi. Van Dorn fought in the Western Theater as a Major General and was appointed commander of the Trans-Mississippi District. 

Built in 1859 in Indiana, the wooden, side-wheel steamer Fairplay (AKA Fair Play) was pressed into service at the start of the war by the Confederacy on the Mississippi River and other waterways in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. On August 18th, 1862, Fairplay was captured by an expedition cruising down the Mississippi River to Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, consisting of four rams, several gunboats, transports, the 58th and 76th Regiments Ohio Volunteers, and a battalion of cavalry. Fairplay had been transporting military supplies during the Vicksburg Campaign (1862–63), and its freight was intended for Gen. Thomas C. Hindman’s division. The Union expedition discovered the activities of Fairplay after it picked up seven contrabands in a skiff who had seen the steamer the day before. There was a rebel regiment of cavalry and infantry camped near the river bank, and the rebels fled when the Union approached. Union troops pursued them as far as Richmond, and captured fifty prisoners and destroyed a railroad bridge. There were also a half dozen women on Fairplay who left the vessel hastily and took refuge in a cornfield before being permitted by the Union to return and fully clothe themselves. 

After being seized by the Union and converted to a gunboat, Fairplay was commissioned on September 6th, 1862 and was transferred to the Navy on October 1st. Based out of Smithland, Kentucky, she operated with other gunboats in tandem with the Army, patrolling the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Ohio rivers, escorting troop transports and Army supply vessels, and also seeking out and attacking groups of rebels on land. On February 3rd, 1863, Fairplay was bound up the Cumberland from Smithland to Nashville, Tennessee—in the vicinity of which a lengthy campaign was underway—guarding a convoy of transports. After she and the five other gunboats of the escort learned that the garrison at Dover, Tennessee was under attack by a large rebel force, all six sailed to disperse the attackers, who were taken by surprise. Afterwards, the gunboats returned to complete the passage to Nashville. Fairplay continued to operate in the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Ohio Rivers, and on December 3rd, 1864 engaged a rebel battery at Bell’s Mill near Nashville. The next day, with Carondelet, she recaptured two Union transport steamers held at Bell’s Mill. Fairplay was decommissioned at Mound City on August 9th and sold on August 17th, 1865. Renamed Cotile for civilian use, she was broken up in 1871.

An evocative survival of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War.

REFERENCES: “Fairplay (Side-Wheel Gunboat) 1862-1865” at Naval History and Heritage Command online; “The Mississippi Expedition; The Capture of the Rebel Steamer Fair Play, and the Destruction of the Rebel Batteries on the Yazoo. Correspondence of the Chicago Evening Journal,”The New York Times (New York: September 1, 1862), p. 9.

Item #7750

Price: $750.00

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