Mississippi Marine Brigade, 1863

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Thread: Mississippi Marine Brigade, 1863

  1. #1

    Mississippi Marine Brigade, 1863

    Below are my pictures of a private in the Mississippi Marine Brigade (MMB) in 1863.

    The figure is SST. Pants, canteen and brogans are SOTW. Sack coat is Battle gear. All other gear is SST. The MMB wore a conventional army uniform except for a rounded hat with visor and green band with trim. A kit-bashed SST WWI officers cap fills the role. The MMB is equipment light since they were stationed on boats. No haversack or bed-roll was required. So I gave him a non-reg pistol and knife to fill out his equipment and give him more of a raider look.

    The MMB has been called “The strangest outfit of them all” which is quit a title given all the crazy outfits in the ACW. Conceived by the wealthy Ellet family as a Marine force to control the Mississippi River, they were either effective raiders or little more than glorified thugs that burned Rebel plantations and stole property.

    I decided to create more of the raider / pillager image with my figure. He’s a bit of a bad boy; unshaven, chomping on a cigar, carrying his our personal libation flask and has “liberated” some Reb wine. He’s got a pistol and knife just in case the plantation owner objects too strenuously. He’s more the Southern interruption of the MBB. According to the histories I’ve read on the net, old-timers still tell stories repeated from their grandfathers of the raids by the MMB along the Mississippi. I’ll have to take their word for it.

    The history of this unit is hard to come by because the Army intentionaly burned their records after the war. The Army hated them because they had their own boats and could good where they pleased. The Navy hated them because they were Army and had boats. And the Rebs hated then because they stole property left and right. It’s great to be loved. :-)

    A more thorough history of the raiders.

    The US Navy wasn't the only part of our nation's military with ships during the Civil War. The Army had ships too, mostly transport vessels rented or purchased from commercial shippers to move troops and supplies along navigable rivers. They were vital in an era before the invention of aircraft and trucks, and before our rail system had advanced beyond its infancy.

    However, the Army also had WARSHIPS. It operated river patrol gunboats and also a strange variety of ship known as a "ram". This vessel came in a couple designs. The first being a genuine military design on the order of a heavy ironclad, while the other was a conversion of a wooden commerical steamboat into an offensive military weapon.

    What these two types had in common was a large, heavily reinforced bow with which they rammed enemy ships. The traditional military-style ram was equipped with armor and carried artillery, and was the far superior ship overall. But the often unarmed wooded steamboats had greater maneuverability and could go much faster. And when a ram crashed into the unprotected side of a wooden vessel belonging to the enemy, particularly if the ram was traveling at the higher speeds attained by steamboats, the enemy ship was likely to sink. These rams didn't need artillery; they simply battered a hole into the side of an enemy ship, then pulled away and let the water rush in.

    In time the army recognized that these converted steamboats had another advantage over the military style rams. Because they were large and had been designed to carry cargo in peacetime, they were also capable of carrying troops and horses during the war, which meant they could be used for amphibious assaults. The idea was to pack these rams with soldiers and horses and send them out to patrol a river, especially the Mississippi River. From their roaming patrol stations, they could quickly deploy to hotspots along the river from which rebel cavalry and partisans were attacking Union vessels with artillery and small arms fire.

    Upon arriving near the hotspot, the ram would offload their soldiers onto the riverbank, from which point they would advance in hopes of battle. Sometimes they got it, although usually the rebels took flight before significant fighting occurred. Thus, typical fighting for a ram's soldiers consisted mostly of short skirmishes, both on land and from their ships.

    The ships themselves were operated by sailors, with the soldiers serving in a capacity similar to that served by US Marines aboard Navy vessels. The steamboat rams, however, did not go to sea as Navy vessels often did. Rather, they operated only on rivers. In fact, they were limited almost entirely to the Mississippi River and it's tributaries.

    The Mississippi River rams and other transport vessels were originally organized into a squadron called the "ELLET RAM FLEET", named after Charles Ellet, who proposed the unit and was it's first commander. The men that volunteered to serve aboard these vessels and the ships they served on, were known as the MISSISSIPPI MARINE BRIGADE, or the M.M.B.. The men were U.S. VOLUNTEERS as opposed to the far more numerous "State Volunteers" or the "Regular US Army", the permanent, standing peacetime army of the United States.

    Conditions on the ships were not always good. Being situated on a river, there was an abundance of flies and mosquitos during warm weather. Further, the ships were powered by steam which meant that the ship's boilers were always fired up..a fact that undoubtedly made the hot summer days and evening aboard these vessels even hotter.

    Among the major complaints of the men of MMB was the quality of their drinking water. Being river-borne soldiers, their drinking water was usually taken from sources along the riverbank, contributing to discomfort and chronic symptoms.

    There were many administrative problems, and there were political problems, as well. Further, the concept of the amphibious operation had never been fully developed to its potential, so in August 1864, the War Department terminated the command.

    A decision was made to relieve or discharge the officers, scatter the vessels among various ports, and remove the M.M.B. troops from the ships turning them into a standard, fighting regiment based in Vicksburg. This is the point where the
    "1st" was added to their unit name.

    The soldiers were accustomed to water patrol and resented their change in status. Some men refused to fight or even work, and legal questions were raised as to the army's proper authority to change the conditions of service for which the men were recruited. In the end, the War Department decided it was easiest just to discharge the whole bunch. Consequently, in December 1864 the 1st M.M.B. began to disband, with the last group of soldiers receiving their discharges in January 1865.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Wow. Beautifully done. Wonderfully narrated. Crazy Zouave of course!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Nice work. That's one rowdy marine. He has a very good headsculpt, and the bottle/cigar mixture suits him perfectly!
    ''They're pretty. Real pretty. But can they fight?''

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  6. #4
    USMCWayne's Avatar
    USMCWayne is offline In the bush..........Nam baby!
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Fort Worth, Texas
    "The strangest outfit of them all" eh?

    Obviously a great bash of yet another all but unknown ACW unit, with a pretty unique and wonderful history.

    Malta, MT

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    The Great White North
    He almost seems to be shouting "spoils of war"!
    Maintiens le Droits

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Apparently, some alternate universe
    He's a full measure of trouble, no doubt. A roguish character. Fine work, CZ, his mates are here as well in hatman's thread on the Mississippi Marine Brigade.
    Great minds....
    You are
    What you do
    When it counts---The Masao
    - Ryan Bonaminio lived his life this way -

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    cool !!

    great work !

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Mississippi Marine Brigade, 1863