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    Default Yesterday in History

    I noticed that there was no entry for the January 19 "Today in History" header. Since there has never been a dull day in river history, I offer the following.

    On January 19, 1862, the Union woodclad gunboat Lexington, a converted steamboat, was ordered from Paducah to Mound City to undergo repairs after striking a rock in the Tennessee River. The collision had taken place on the 16th, and caused the boat to take on about 1-1/2 inches per hour--"considerably more than she made before the accident occurred," said her captain, Lieutenant James W. Shirk.

    Lexington's Tennessee River pilot fell under immediate suspicion of sabotage for allowing the accident to take place. He was placed under arrest and confined "in double irons." But the unnamed pilot was released the next morning after appearing "downhearted and distressed" by the accident.

    Lieutenant Shirk said that Lexington "had no bilge pumps connected with the engines[!] She had them when she was purchased by the Government, but they were taken out by order...of Naval Constuctor [Samuel] Pook. Two small hand pumps are the only means we have by which we can keep the bilge clear of water." Shirk went on to say that he did not think any of Lexington's hull timbers were broken.

    In reply to Shirk's report, Flag Officer Andrew Foote ordered Lexington in for repairs if the leak increased. Apparently, it did. On January 19 he arranged for the boat to go on the ways at the Mound City naval yard, "to calk the butts and repair necessary damages." Inasmuch as the accident took place at the onset of the campaign against Forts Henry and Donelson, Foote insisted on a quick turnaround. "I want the services of the boat as soon as possible," he demanded.
    Last edited by Michael Gillespie; 01-20-2007 at 10:13 AM.

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