Basically this practice is unique only because a cotton (not common "armoring" material) was used. The practice of protecting civilian ships with everything available to make them at least somewhat combat-capable is pretty common.
cotton-cladding of vessels actually preceded the civil war. I've read an account of a steamer in Texas being cotton clad during the first war with Mexico. I also read somewhere that a vessel in Alabama had been cotton-clad even earlier. There were several variations of cotton cladding. The most basic simply piled cotton bales upon a vessels deck and relied on the weight of the bale to secure it. As field artillery and naval guns began using heavier loads and shells, it became prudent to erect a wooden bulkhead behind the bale to keep it in place. The bales were subject to deterioration over time, so it later became common to build an exterior barricade as well as a rear barricade to protect the bales. The original Texas cotton-clads of the civil war were quick modifications of river and coastal steamers and basically piled bales aboard in a manner similar to pre-war transport practice between the growing areas and the ports. One real concern was potential vulnerability to fire from a heated solid shot. Union vessels cotton clad had orders from Adm Porter to soak the bales with water before going into action. There were also hybrid systems in which compressed cotton bales were bulkheaded and the outer bulkhead faced with ironing from thin boiler iron to reversed T-rails (Arkansas). Union rams initially used compressed hay bales to protect their pilot houses at the battle off Memphis in June of 1862.
It was a public broadcasting style documentary on YouTube.There was a thread several weeks ago titled "Loading Cotton Onto Vessals"or something like that. A most Interesting one at that. The subject of CottonClads was briefly adressed. There were several ships adressed including the CSS Webb . And now you got me curious about that "show about Texas in the Civil War" you recently watched. Was it Televised?
About 10 years ago I found this entry in a source in Arkansas: File 6, Article 1776, 11/27/64 "Sacks of oats protected US steamers guards." You wonder why they didn't use sandbags, but it was probably the weight which might have run 80-100 lbs/bag.
The Mill Boy was not a cottonclad nor was it gathering cotton to "clad" any other vessel. It was a privately owned boat trading for profit. It may well have been taking on cotton illegally.An interesting article about cotton being loaded on a ship appeared in the News of the War in the Southwest Column in the New York Times dates 22 December 1862.
... “The Steamer Millboy while taking on Cotton at Commerce Mississippi was surprised by Blythe’s Rebel Calvary and was fired upon. 3 persons killed...”
It's also a good way of transporting what I assume was horse fodder, not breakfast oats !About 10 years ago I found this entry in a source in Arkansas: File 6, Article 1776, 11/27/64 "Sacks of oats protected US steamers guards." You wonder why they didn't use sandbags, but it was probably the weight which might have run 80-100 lbs/bag.
Here is J.A.Cotton (correct spelling) She never carried the CSN designation. There is an earlier thread on this vessel.KianGaf
Cotton bale armored steamboats were fairly common as it was a poor man way of protection. A liberal use of railroad iron rails was a great addition making a common river steamboat fairly formidable. One of my favorite was the CSN COTTON that briefly served the Confederacy on the Teche River here in South Louisiana. Cloaked in cotton bales and her forward casement of wood covered with railroad iron rails with her 32 pound rifled gun casemated inside at the bow section. In a gun fight she held off several Federal gunboats as she exposed only her armored bow. My favorite all time has to be the USN QUEEN OF THE WEST later to be CSN QUEEN OF THE WEST which was an awesome vessel. She would burn to death on Grand Lake, Louisiana from an amazing one Federal shell explosion with those cotton bales causing considerable conflagration.