Ironclad USS Galena 1862 - 1872
Civil War Gunboat Union Navy Ship
USS Galena , a 950-ton ironclad gunboat, was built at Mystic, Connecticut. Commissioned in April 1862 as the second of the U.S. Navy's first three armored warships, she was immediately sent to Hampton Roads, Virginia, to join the Navy's pioneer ironclad Monitor in containing CSS Virginia . On 8 May, Galena attacked enemy shore batteries on the James River, part of an intended drive up the river to take Richmond, the Confederate capital city.
After the Virginia was destroyed, Galena and other Union warships steamed up the James on 15 May to bombard Fort Darling, located at Drewry's Bluff about eight miles below Richmond. In a sharp action, Confederate gunners badly damaged Galena , killing twelve of her crew and demonstrating the inadequacy of her relatively thin iron armor. Despite her injuries, the ship remained in the James River area through the next four months, shelling enemy shore positions on several occasions in support of General McClellan's army during the flow and ebb of its campaign on the Virginia Peninsula. After Galena left the James in September 1862, she was stationed in Hampton Roads until May 1863, when she went to Philadelphia for repairs and alterations.
Recommissioned in February 1864, Galena had been stripped of her iron plating, given a heavier gun battery and enlarged sail rig. Now a conventional unarmored steam warship, in May she joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron's pending assault on Mobile Bay, Alabama. She was one of the ships that ran past the Bay's defending Fort Morgan on the morning of 5 August 1864. During that action, she assisted USS Oneida to safety after that ship was disabled by Confederate gunfire. Later in the month, Galena took part in the siege that led to Fort Morgan's surrender.
Galena served in the East Gulf Blockading Squadron in September-November 1864. After four months of shipyard repairs, she served on Virginia's James and Nansemond Rivers through the end of the Civil War. She decommissioned in June 1865 and was thereafter inactive except for a brief time in the spring of 1869. USS Galena was broken up in 1872 at the Norfolk Navy Yard, where a new and somewhat larger Galena was built under the administrative fiction of repairing the original.
Line engraving, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting the ship as she appeared when first completed, with a two-masted schooner rig.
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Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861, page 669, while the ship was under construction at Mystic, Connecticut.
Details of this depiction are inaccurate, especially the elongated gun ports shown fore and aft of the smokestack.
Watercolor by Oscar Parkes
depicting the ship as she appeared in mid-1862, while serving on the James River, Virginia. .
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Line engraving, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862
depicting the ship's gun deck as it appeared when she was first completed.
Photograph looking forward along the ship's port side, shortly after her 15 May 1862 action with Confederate batteries at Drewry's Bluff, on the James River, Virginia.
Among the items visible are the muzzles of two of Galena 's IX-inch Dahlgren smoothbore guns; her unique horizontally-laid interlocking iron side armor; armored gunport shutters; boat davits; members of her crew; and at least one plugged hole from enemy shot (near the waterline in bottom left center).
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Photograph taken on board by Matthew Brady, shortly after the 15 May 1862 action with Confederate batteries at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia.
This view looks forward on the starboard side of the spar deck, and shows holes in Galena 's smokestack (in left center) made by Confederate cannon fire. Among the other items seen are boat davits, canvas windsails, the elevated wooden conning platform and the lookout position on the foremast.
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Line engraving, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862
depicting the ship's midship's hull section, the arrangement of her horizontally-laid interlocking side armor, and one of her armored gun ports.
Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861
depicting the ship's hull section amidships. She was then under construction at Mystic, Connecticut.
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