The Saga of the Arkansas
The military situation at Vicksburg changed drastically with the sudden appearance of the Confederate ironclad Arkansas on the scene in mid-July 1862. The Confederates had a fascination with ironclads as floating invulnerable batteries and rams ever since the Merrimac (a.k.a. Virginia) had singlehandedly almost destroyed the entire Union wooden blockading fleet at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 8 March 1862. Since they had only a few ships and limited resources, use of large ironclads provided a ready way to make up for their lack of resources and even possibly tip the scales in their favor. When well built and ably captained, ironclads could be very destructive, as Captain Franklin Buchanan had shown with his Merrimac. On the other hand, the ironclads were often heavy, cumbersome, and too underpowered to be effective, as was the case with the Tennessee in the defense of New Orleans. Time would soon tell what would be the case with the Arkansas in the Mississippi at Vicksburg.
The Arkansas was a twin screw ironclad ram whose construction had been started near Memphis in October 1861. She was scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, but work on her proved so slow that she still was not finished when New Orleans was captured in the spring of 1862. Since Memphis at the same time was under pressure from Foote's Union fleet, it was decided to move the unfinished Arkansas south to Greenwood, Mississippi, on the Yazoo River. At the same time a less finished sister of the Arkansas had to be left behind and burned