Admiral Porter’s 1863 Civil War Gunboat Hoax
Admiral Porter’s 1863 Civil War Gunboat Hoax
“Deluded People, Cave In.”
Model by John Bowman
Admiral Porter had observed that many of Vicksburg’s battery guns would burst while firing on his vessels. Logically, Porter deduced, the more vessels he could send past the batteries, the more guns would burst. February 24th, 1863, Porter launched his brainchild down-river towards Vicksburg, a giant black imposing ironclad with stacks belching fire and black smoke. The batteries opened fire with a barrage of gunfire, the sounds of which compelled each battery to recklessly fire their guns again and again. The amazed gunners thought the ironclad was invincible as she slowly drifted downstream, seemingly unhurt. The boat, passing Vicksburg, drifted downstream towards Warrenton where Confederate crews were feverishly working to raise the Union gunboat Indianola. Thinking the ironclad, on flying the Union flag, was about to attack and destroy what was left of the Indianola, they destroyed her guns and set her afire. When the Union ironclad sat too long, motionless against the bank, a contingent of Rebel soldiers rowed out for a closer examination and found her to be a hoax. Her flag contained a skull and crossbones and Porter had painted in large letters on her wheelhouses: “Deluded People Cave In“. She had been built-up of wood on a large model coal barge with sloping sides meant to resemble the real thing. Her black painted stacks, (pork barrels stacked on top of each other) had their top barrels filled with pitch, then set afire.
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