Drive On: James Eads & the Mississippi Ironclads

Drive On: James Eads & the Mississippi Ironclads

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Drive On: James Eads & the Mississippi Ironclads

James Buchanan Eads is best known for building his famous bridge spanning the Mississippi river at St. Louis, Missouri. Eads Bridge was the first steel arch bridge to cross the "Mighty Mississippi" river, which helped create a vital link between the East and West. What many people do not know, is that James Eads built another "first" at St. Louis during the American Civil War. This documentary, "Drive On: James Eads & the Mississippi Ironclads" tells the story of Eads building the first United States ironclad gunboats in 1861. You may know of the Civil War sea battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (Merrimack) ironclads at Hampton Roads, Virginia - But did you know that a full month before their historical sea battle, Eads City class ironclad gunboats had already helped capture Fort Henry from the Confederates.

On a Saturday afternoon in October 1861, a large crowd gathered at the Eads Boatyards to observe the launching of the first U.S. ironclad built in the Western Hemisphere. As the gunboat was gradually lowered into the Mississippi River, one observer commented that the operation went so smoothly "...that we found the boat floating gracefully upon the water, and nobody hurt". (contemporary news account)

The USS Carondelet represented the dawn of the modern US Navy with her steam engines, iron plating and rifled cannons which fired shells instead of solid shot. The soldiers and sailors took to calling the ironclads, "turtlebacks" due to the gunboats shallow draft line and armor plated casement.

The documentary focuses on James Buchanan Eads and the important role he played in building the first United States ironclads. Listen to historians (Louis S. Gerteis, David Hinze, and Ronald Bolte) tell us about James Eads and how he built the City class ironclads. We start off with a brief history about James Eads and how he won the contract to build the ironclads. We continue with the building of the gunboats based on Samuel Pook's designs at the Eads Boatyards. We visit the Vicksburg National Military Park home of the only remaining James Eads City class ironclad, the USS Cairo. Then we learn more about how the ironclads were able to prove their worth in the Western Theatre of operations during the American Civil War. We conclude with a brief summary of James Eads contributions to America.

The documentary is titled "Drive On", because James B. Eads stated that 'fortune favors the brave' and "Drive On! ... is my motto". We want more people to learn about James Eads, an extraordinary man who helped build America. Viewers who have enjoyed Ken Burns Civil War, the Battlefield Detectives and the American Experience series by PBS will find this documentary informative.

The documentary may be available for instant video download.
CONSIDER buying the physical DVD in order to see the Bonus Features: Cannon firing demonstration by Civil War re-enactors, and the curator of the USS Cairo Museum Elizabeth H. Joyner delivering a mini-biography about James Eads and the history of the USS Cairo, and a video slideshow of the only remaining City class ironclad on display at the USS Cairo Museum, Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi. Bonus Features not included with rental or purchase downloads.

Televised Broadcasts:
Documentary is available for commercial broadcast.
Contact producers at

Our documentary about Bob Cassilly's larger than life turtle sculptures, "The Turtle Park Story" was selected for the St. Louis International Film Festival and distributed through libraries, DVDs and broadcast cable television.

We intend to distribute the "Mississippi Ironclads" documentary on television, home video, the internet, and various educational venues.

Title #351587
Format: DVD-R