A Scottish immigrant to Illinois, Joseph Brown made his pre–Civil War fortune as a miller and steamboat captain who dabbled in riverboat design and the politics of small towns. When war erupted, he used his connections (including a friendship with Abraham Lincoln) to obtain contracts to build three ironclad gunboats for the U.S. War Department—the Chillicothe, Indianola and Tuscumbia. Often described as failures, these vessels were active in some of the most ferocious river fighting of the 1863 Vicksburg campaign. After the war, “Captain Joe” became a railroad executive and was elected mayor of St. Louis. This book covers his life and career, as well as the construction and operational histories of his controversial trio of warships.