Explosion of the Boiler on the "Mound City" June 17th, 1862.
Boiler Explosion on the Mound City.

The Mound City.
Mound City
Battle at St. Charles, White River, Arkansas-
Explosion of the "Mound City." [on the far right]-
Sketched by Mr. Alexander Simplot.

    Thomas Henry Wynkoop, son of Thomas Langstroth Wynkoop and brother of Capt. William Wynkoop, was on board the Mound City when a cannonball pierced her steam drum the morning of June 17, 1862 killing over 71% of the Union soldiers and sailors on board:

    From Richard Wynkoop's 1904 edition of Wynkoop Genealogy in the United States of America, page 141:

    681. Thomas Langstroth Wynkoop, (William 375, Gerardus 153, Gerrit 45, Gerret 5, Cornelius 1,) born January 18, 1802: married, January 11, 1827, Elizabeth Torbert, born November 14, 1798, daughter of James and Margaret Torbert. He was a planter, in Bucks County, Penn.
    Children of Thomas L. and Elizabeth Wynkoop:
1160. James Torbert: b. Apl. 8, 1829: m., Jan. 13, 1853, Rachel Cornell, b. Nov. 4, 1831, daughter of William and Margaret (Stevens) Cornell. He was a planter, in Bucks County.
1161. Catharine Langstroth: b. Aug. 11, 1831: m., Feb. 22, 1854, Anthony T. Vansant, a planter in Bucks County. [Van zand = of the sand.]
1162. William: b. July 1, 1835: m. Rachel A. Blaker.
1163. Samuel Torbert: b. Sept. 29, 1837: m. Eliza Conly Snyder.
1164. Thomas Henry: b. Aug. 28, 1841: d. June 17, 1862. He was a member of the 104th Reg. Penn. Vol., and was transferred to the gun-boat Mound City, and was killed by her explosion. There were two rebel batteries, at St. Charles, White River, Ark.; and, at the storming of them, a cannon ball penetrated the vessel, and pierced her boiler. Out of 175 men on the vessel, only 26 survived.

    "Mound City" is the nickname for St. Louis, Missouri, home of the lost city of Cahokia, a city of earthen mounds built by Native Americans before Europeans arrived on this continent.

Terrible Explosion of the Boiler of the Mound City--Great Loss of Life.

Philadelphia Inquirer
Monday, June 23, 1862
Page 1


Engagement at Charles City--Explosion of the Boiler of the Mound City--Terrible Loss of Life--Total Defeat of the Rebels

    Memphis, June 19.--An expedition, composed of the gun-boats St. Louis, Lexington, Conestoga and Mound City, with transports carrying the Forty-third and Forty-sixth Indiana Regiments, under Colonel Fitch, was sent hence some days since to remove the obstructions from the White River. On the 17th the expedition reached St. Charles, 85 miles from the mouth of the river, where the Rebels had erected a battery.
    An engagement ensued, lasting an hour and a half. While the gun boats engaged the batteries, the troops under Colonel Fitch landed a short distance below and proceeded to storm the place. During the cannonading, a ball entered the boiler of the gun-boat Mound City, causing a fearful explosion and loss of life. The crew consisted of one hundred and seventy-five, of whom one hundred and twenty-five were killed and wounded. The following officers are among the killed:--John Kenzie, Jan Scoville, John Green, Henry R. Brown, Jos. Nixon and John Cox. Captain Kelty, the Flag Officer, was badly scalded, but it is thought will recover.
    Colonel Fitch's charge on the battery was a perfect success, driving the enemy out at the point of the bayonet. The Rebel loss is 125 killed and wounded, and 30 prisoners. General Halleck has occupied Holly Springs.
    Chicago, June 21.--The following fuller account of the fight with the Rebel batteries on White River has just been received.
    Memphis, June 19.--The gun-boat Conestoga has arrived with despatches containing the particulars of the engagement at the Rebel fortifications below St. Charles.
    On the 17th, the gun-boats St. Louis, Mound City, Lexington, and Conestoga, and transport New National, having on board the Forty-sixth Indiana Regiment, Col. Fitch, which left here a week ago to open communication with Gen. Curtis' army, and remove the obstructions from White River, ascended that stream. The gun-boat Mound City, Captain Kelty commanding, was about a mile and a half in advance. In a bend of the river near St. Charles, two concealed batteries opened on the Mound City. Her decks were immediately cleared for action, and as soon as the range of the works was obtained, the guns opened fire.
    Capt. Kelty signaled to Col. Fitch to land his force below the fort, which was successfully accomplished. The Lexington and St. Louis shelled the woods, under cover of which Col. Fitch gained the rear of the Rebel position.
    At this juncture a ball from a siege gun on the bluff struck the forward and port side of the Mound City, penetrating the casements and passing through the steam drum. The vessel was filled with the escaping vapor, and nearly every one on board was scalded; only twenty-three of the officers and crew, out of one hundred and seventy-five, escaped from injuries. The scene which ensued was horrible. Many of the crew, frantic with pain, jumped overboard, and some of them were drowned. Boats from the Conestoga, which was coming up at the time to support the Mound City, were sent to their relief; but the Rebels fired on the men in the water with grape and canister from their field pieces, murdering most of those who were attempting to escape.
    Being apprised of the state of affairs in the river, Colonel Fitch's regiment pushed forward and carried the fort by storm at the point of the bayonet. The Rebel works consisted of two batteries, the lower one mounting six field pieces, and the upper one three heavy siege guns, manned by from 400 to 500 men, under command of Colonel Frye, late of the United States Navy. About 200 Rebels are said to have escaped, over 150 are reported killed and wounded, and thirty taken prisoners.
    Among the prisoners is Colonel Frye, who was wounded in the shoulder. He has been brought to Memphis by the Conestoga.
    Captain Kelly, of the Mound City, was severely scalded about the face and hands. He will recover. Second Master Hearth, Third Master Kinzie, Fourth Master Scoville, Master's Mate H. R. Browne, Paymaster -----, Chief Engineer John Cox, and Assistant Engineers John McAffee and Hollingsworth were killed. Pilot Chas. Young was severely scalded, and is reported to have since died. Surgeon Jones and Carpenter Manning were slightly scalded. From eighty to one hundred of our sailors have already been buried, and over twenty are missing.
    Colonel Fitch, report[ed that] but few of his men were wounded and none [died], and but for the unfortunate accident on the Mound City, the Rebel works would have been carried without loss on our side. She can easily be repaired. The Flag Officer has sent to Cairo for another crew. The Rebels have obstructed the channel above, by sinking two large steamboats and a gun-boat, believed to be the Maypol.


    Washington, June 21.--The following was received at the War Department to-day:--
    St. Charles, White River, Ark., June 17, via Cairo, June 21.--To Hon Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War:--On arriving eight miles below here, last evening, we ascertained that the enemy had two batteries here, supported by a force (number unknown) of infantry.
    A combined attack was made at 7 A.M. to-day. The regiment under my command, the Forty-sixth Indiana, landed two and a half miles below the battery, and skirmishers were thrown out, who drove in the enemy's pickets. The gun-boats then moved up and on [command] opened their battery. A rifled-shot from one of the batteries penetrated the steam drum of the Mound City, disabling, by scalding, most of her crew. Apprehensive that some similar accident might happen to the other gun-boats, and thus leave my small force without their support, I signalled the gun-boats to cease firing and we would storm the battery.
    They ceased exactly at the right moment, and my men carried the battery gallantly. The infantry were driven from the support of the guns, the gunners shot at their posts, and their commanding officer, Frye, formerly of the United States Navy, wounded and taken prisoner. Eight brass and iron guns, with ammunition, were captured. The enemy's loss is unknown. We have buried seven or eight of their dead, and other dead and wounded are being brought in.
    The casualties among my command are small, the only real loss being from the escaping steam in the Mound City. She will probably be repaired and ready to proceed with us up the river to-morrow. A full report will be made as early as possible.
    Very respectfully, yours, G. N. Fitch.
    Lieut. Commanding Forty-sixth Indiana Vols.

    The following despatch was received at the Navy Department:--
    United States Flag-Steamer Benton, Memphis, June 19, via Cairo, June 21.--To Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy:--The gun-boat Conestoga, returning from the White river, reports the capture of two batteries, mounting seven guns, at St. Charles, eighty miles from the mouth. The attack was commenced by Captain Kelty, in the gun-boats, who silenced the first battery. The second battery was gallantly carried by Colonel Fitch, at the head of the Forty sixth Indiana Volunteers. A shot caused the explosion of the steam drum of the Mound City, by which a part of her officers and crew were killed and wounded. I write by to-day's mail.     Charles H. Davis,
        Flag Officer.


Philadelphia Free Library
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Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
Reel #7
Apr 1, 1862
Jun 30, 1862
04182 9179

Created July 28, 1999; Revised September 21, 2002
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