USS Benton (1861)

Drawing of Benton, in the collection of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

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Much of the naval part of the American Civil War was fought on the nation's rivers. Lacking a standing riverine force, the needed ships were quickly built from scratch, or converted from existing shallow draft river boats. One of the latter was the ironclad USS Benton, converted from a snagboat called Submarine Number 7. 202 feet (62m) long, and 72 feet (22m) wide, Benton was heavily armed, carrying sixteen guns which would be regularly updated during the heavy fighting in 1862-63. Benton was used as a flagship for most of the War, being wide gave her extra space which made her ideal for that purpose. Benton first went into action in March, 1862, at the Battle of Island Number 10 on the Tennessee-Missouri border. She led the Union forces in routing Confederate ironclads during the Battle of Memphis, and was Admiral Porter's flagship for the Vicksburg Campaign. She was also the flagship for the unsuccessful Red River Campaign in 1864, and her final action was accepting the surrender of the ironclad CSS Missouri in June, 1865. Benton was decommissioned 20 July, 1865, and relieved of her guns and armor before she was sold 29 November.