Civil War Ironclads


When the Civil War broke out, neither side were prepared for naval battles on the western rivers. The inevitable result was an urgent and innovative period of warship experimentation. Before the war, James Buchanan Eads (1820-1887), an inventive self-taught engineer living in St. Louis and familiar with the Mississippi River, proposed that the U.S. government … Read more

The Life and Times of Mark Twain


In the early 1890s the financial situation was becoming serious. The Paige compositor, Webster & Company, and the cost of maintaining the Nook Farm lifestyle at the Hartford House, brought Sam to the brink of personal bankruptcy. To reduce their living costs, Sam closed down the Hartford House in June of 1891 and … Read more

Mark Twain Friends


Rev. Joseph Twichell ~ 1888 Quote: ~ Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell (November 30, 1838 – December 20, 1918), writer and pastor, was Mark Twain’s closest friend for over forty years, and appears in A Tramp Abroad as “Harris”. They met at a church social after the Civil War when Hopkins was pastor of Asylum … Read more

Start of the Civil War


The war between the States began on April 12, 1861, at Charleston, South Carolina. Within weeks, civilian river traffic on the Mississippi River had been suspended. The steamboat UNCLE SAM was the last steamboat to make the run up to St. Louis before the Union blockade took full effect. It was fired upon, stopped, … Read more



Log Raft on the Mississippi In the 1800s large rafts of logs and sawn lumber were floated down the Mississippi River from the pine forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The earliest lumbering was probably on the Wisconsin River, where Pierre Grignon had a sawmill operating in 1822. Log rafts and sawn lumber rafts … Read more

Mississippi River System


  Quote:~ The Mississippi River and its basin has shaped the history of North America, influencing Indian life, exploration, military campaigns, pioneering and settlement, politics, folk and high culture, civil rights, and economic development. Home to diverse and distinctive species of flora and fauna, it was first civilized between 500 AD and 1500 AD by agrarian, … Read more

Ending of the Civil War Era


Grant resolved to move his soldiers south of Vicksburg down the Louisiana side of the river, cross the Mississippi, and attack Vicksburg from the south. Although this meant the Union fleet would risk passing downstream beneath Vicksburg’s Mississippi River batteries to get in position south of the city to ferry the army across … Read more

Mark Twain Piloting


Young Sam Clemens Quote: ~ When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. When a circus came … Read more



Broadhorn or Kentucky Boat on Ohio ~ circa 1788 In May, 1782, Pennsylvania farmer, Jacob Yoder, became the first person to successfully navigate a flatboat from Brownsville to New Orleans, delivering flour, and effectively demonstrating how the waterways could be used to reach distant markets and to settle the West. Flatboats or Flats were … Read more



Fur Traders’ Keelboat Keelboats were long, narrow craft, usually about seventy-feet in length, though the first keelboats used by explorers and fur traders were smaller. They had a keel providing stability, especially for upriver travel. Unlike flatboats, they were designed to return up the river. As many as twenty-five men would work … Read more

Introduction to Mark Twain


Samuel Clemens, born on November 30, 1835, the sixth child of John and Jane Clemens, in a cabin in the small settlement of Florida, Missouri.   The family moved to nearby Hannibal in 1839, where Sam spent his boyhood in the presence of the broad Mississippi, and the captivating steamboating times that would … Read more