United States Ram Fleet

United States Ram Fleet

Side Wheel Ram
Active 1862 - 1864
Country  United States
Branch United States Army
Col. Charles Ellet, Jr.
Col. Alfred W. Ellet
Col. Charles R. Ellet

The United States Ram Fleet was a small group of rams on the Mississippi River during the American Civil War.


In March 1862, the U.S. Army authorized the noted civil engineer Charles Ellet, Jr., to establish a flotilla of steam rams for employment on the Western Rivers. Ellet converted several powerful river towboats, heavily reinforcing their hulls for ramming. These ships had light protection for their boilers, engines and upper works (upper works were protected with wood and cotton). They were originally given no artillery, later they were fitted with several guns. With the rank of colonel, Ellet led his force in action during the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, where rams played an important role in the Union victory against the Confederate River Defense Fleet. However, Colonel Ellet died several days later of a wound received at that action.

Mississippi Marine Brigade

After Charles Ellet's death, his younger brother Alfred W. Ellet took command of the rams. The unit was reorganized as part of the Mississippi Marine Brigade in early 1863 under now Brigadier Alfred W. Ellet. Command of the ram fleet was given to Col. Charles R. Ellet, son of Charles Ellet Jr. and nephew of the general. Under the two Ellet's leadership, the rams figured prominently in actions around and below Vicksburg, Mississippi, into 1863. Ellet's fleet was under the command of the army even after the transfer of the Western Gunboat Flotilla to the navy and was always somewhat independent of navy command. The Ellet fleet was disestablished in August 1864, and its surviving ships were transferred to other duties.


Line engraving published in Harper's Weekly, 1862, illustrating members of the fleet. Ships in the foreground are: Monarch (letter "M" between stacks), Queen of the West (with letter "Q") and Lioness (letter "L"). In the left background are: Switzerland (with letter "S" on paddle box), Samson and Lancaster.

The Ram Fleet included the following ships:

See also


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