USS Essex
Civil War Union Naval Ship

USS Essex (1861-1865).
Named New Era during 1861

USS Essex , a 1000-ton ironclad river gunboat, was converted in stages from the steam ferry New Era . Originally constructed at New Albany, Indiana, in 1856, the ship was purchased in September 1861 by the U.S. Army for its Western Gunboat Flotilla. Modified into a 355-ton "timberclad" gunboat, and retaining the name New Era , she took part in an expedition up the Cumberland River in November 1861. Renamed Essex soon thereafter, she received iron armor and other changes and was then actively employed in operations during early 1862, engaging Confederate gunboats near Lucas Bend, Missouri, on 11 January. On 6 February, she was badly damaged by enemy gunfire during an attack on Fort Henry, Tennessee.

During subsequent repairs, Essex ' Commanding Officer, William D. Porter , spared little expense (albeit without official authorization) in upgrading his ship into one of the most powerful ironclads on the Western Rivers. Lengthened, widened, reengined, rearmored and completely altered in appearance, Essex was back in service in time for operations against Vicksburg, Mississippi, in July. On the 22th of that month she ran past the enemy fortress city, engaging and damaging the Confederate ironclad Arkansas along the way. After joining Rear Admiral Farragut's squadron as the only Federal ironclad on the lower Mississippi, she helped repel an attack on Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 5 August and was instrumental in the destruction of the Arkansas the next day.

Essex was formally transferred to the Navy in October 1862 and remained active on the rivers through the rest of the Civil War. She bombarded Port Hudson, Louisiana, and helped with the occupation of Baton Rouge in December 1862. In May-July 1863 she participated in the capture of Port Hudson. She took part in the Red River expedition in March-May 1864. Essex was decommissioned in July 1865. After her sale to private interests in November of that year, she reverted to the name New Era . She was scrapped in 1870.

Coaling at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in late July 1862, just after she reached the lower Mississippi. Ships of Farragut's fleet are in the background.
USS Essex Civil War ironclad river gunboat

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Naval Strategies

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Compare and contrast the strategies of the Southern Secretary of the Navy, Mallory, against his rival in the North, Welles. Mallory used technological innovation and the skill of individuals to bolster the South's seapower against the Union Navy's superior numbers



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The First Ironclad Gunboat Built in America, 1861
Brady & Studio
24 in. x 18 in.
Buy at AllPosters.com
Framed   Mounted






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At a Mississippi River area port, circa 1862-65.
Note: The original caption identified location and date as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in July 1862. However, the presence of a mortar boat (at right) indicates that either the date is later or the location is above Vicksburg if the photo was taken in 1862.

Moored at Memphis, Tennessee, with her awnings up, during the Civil War.
Note mortar boats alongside Essex , also with awnings deployed, and small building atop the bluff, toward the left, marked "Pittsburgh COAL", with the Pittsburgh Coal Company's castle symbol between "CO" and "AL".

Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1904, depicting the ship with Farragut's fleet on the lower Mississippi River, in 1862-63.
Ship in the left background is USS Mississippi (1841-1863). A "90-day" gunboat is in the right distance.

Sketches by William M.C. Philbrick, Carpenter's Mate on USS Portsmouth , showing Essex as she appeared on the morning of 1 November 1862, on the Mississippi River

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Line engraving after a sketch by Alexander Simplot, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862.
Ships are identified below the image as (from left to right): Mound City , Essex , Cairo , Saint Louis , Louisville , Benton , Pittsburg and Lexington


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Collectible Models and childrens playsets
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Take command of either Confederate or Union troops and command them to attack from the trees, rally around the general, or do any number of other realistic military actions.


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Civil War A Nation Divided

Rally the troops and organize a counterattack -- Your strategic decision and talent as a commander will decide if the Union is preserved or if Dixie wins its independence

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Union Monitor Civil War Ironclads
Union Monitor 1861-65
The first seagoing ironclad was the USS Monitor, and its profile has made it one of the most easily recognised warships of all time. Following her inconclusive battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia on March 9, 1862, the production of Union monitors was accelerated. By the end of the year a powerful squadron of monitor vessels protected the blockading squadrons off the Southern coastline, and were able to challenge Confederate control of her ports and estuaries
Confederate Subs
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Interesting information and many excellent illustrations. It addresses the CSA David class torpedo boats and the Hunley (and its predecessors), as well as Union examples such as the Alligator and the Spuyten Duyvil

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Sources:
U.S. National Park Service
U.S. Library of Congress
US Naval Archives


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