USS Galena (1862)

USS Galena (1862)

USS "Galena", an ironclad screw steamer, was one of the first three ironclads, each of a different design, built by the Union Navy during the American Civil War.

She had an unconventional armor plating arrangement which proved ineffective. Designed by famed naval architect Samuel Hartt Pook, her keel was laid down by H. L. and C. S. Bushnell of Mystic, Connecticut. She was launched on 14 February 1862, and commissioned on 21 April 1862 with Commander Alfred Taylor in command.

She was towed from New York Harbor to arrive off Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on 24 April and join Flag Officer L.M. Goldsborough's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Commander John Rodgers relieved Commander Taylor the same day.

"Galena" cleared her decks for action on 4 May and on 7 May when the dreaded Confederate ironclad "Virginia" briefly appeared, but the "Virginia", desiring a rematch with the "USS Monitor", declined to engage her on both occasions, and eventually withdrew after contemptuously firing a single gun to leeward. On 8 May "Galena" stood up the James River with gunboats "Port Royal" and "Aroostook" in an attempt to reach Richmond, Virginia, and compel its surrender. They silenced an 11-gun Confederate battery at Rock Wharf, Virginia, that morning; and in the early afternoon, stoutly engaged a 12-gun battery on Mother Tynes' Bluff, silencing all but one of the Confederate guns. "Galena" engaged this remaining gun until the two gunboats had safely passed, then left with the Confederate battery in flames.

After the feared "Virginia" was destroyed, "Monitor" and "Naugatuck" joined the expedition at James Island on 12 May and on 13 May the force steamed across Harrison's Bar to City Point, where "Galena" stopped two steamers for evidence of contraband. She opened fire the following morning to scatter Confederate sharpshooters waiting in ambush along the river banks.

On 15 May she stood up river leading the expedition to Drewry's Bluff, about eight miles from Richmond. "Galena" was hit twice as she swung to bear her broadside guns on a Confederate battery. She nearly silenced the battery before her shells were expended, but then the Confederate guns opened upon her with terrible effect. Numerous hits perforated her ironclad sides, with 12 men killed and 15 wounded.

She returned down river to City Point. The following days were spent in shelling Confederate soldiers along the river banks and destroying City Point buildings in which Confederates were entrenched. On 27 June 1862 "Galena" bombarded City Point while two boats went ashore with a landing force which set fire to the depots. That same day General George McClellan came on board "Galena" to make a reconnaissance for the position of a new camp which was subsequently established near Harrison's Landing. On 30 June Major General McClellan was compelled to withdraw down the James and escaped disaster through naval gunfire support and transportation.

On 6 July 1862 Commodore Charles Wilkes was ordered to command the James River Flotilla, "Galena" included, as an independent division of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. With gunboats of the flotilla, "Galena" afforded protection to the daily movement of Army transports and supply ships along the James River from Harrison's Bay to the mouth of the Chickahominy River, giving the indispensable protection that left the Confederate troops without ability to move effectively against McClellan's Army of the Potomac along the James River.

"Galena" was detached from the James River Flotilla in September 1862 and assigned picket duty at Hampton Roads and Newport News, Virginia, until 21 May 1863 when she arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was decommissioned for repairs. Her ineffective iron plating which had been so badly shattered in the action at Drewry's Bluff was stripped off; and she was overhauled to operate as a wooden-hulled ship.

Recommissioned 15 February 1864, "Galena" stood down the river on 18 February for the Gulf of Mexico. Becoming icebound at New Castle, Delaware, she was towed out to sea by an ice boat, then developed leaks which forced her to put in at Norfolk, Virginia. She then proceeded to Baltimore, Maryland, for repairs. "Galena" put to sea from Norfolk on 10 May and joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at Pensacola, Florida, on 20 May 1865 for blockade duty off Mobile, Alabama, that included the shelling of Fort Morgan and firing upon various blockade runners near the fort.

"Galena" was a unit of Admiral David Farragut's fleet in the Battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864. Passing through the narrow channel under heavy fire from Forts Morgan and Gaines, "Galena", lashed to the port side of "Oneida", suffered seven hits and one man killed before she entered Mobile Bay for a gallant fleet action of about three hours that left 165 Union dead and 170 wounded while the Confederate losses were 12 killed and 20 wounded. Union monitor "Tecumseh" was destroyed by torpedo in the channel and the Confederate ram "Tennessee" and gunboat "Selma" fell into Union hands.

"Galena" used her power to pass both herself and "Oneida" beyond range of the fort's fire when the latter had her starboard boiler put out of commission by a shell hit. Admiral Farragut wrote concerning the battle: "Notwithstanding the loss of life, particularly to this ship ("Hartford"), and the terrible disaster to the "Tecumseh", the result of the fight was a glorious victory, and I have reason to feel proud of the officers, seamen, and marines of the squadron under my command."

"Galena" provided supporting bombardment for the capture of Fort Morgan on 23 August 1864 and departed Mobile Bay on 31 August to serve as a part of the East Gulf Blockading Squadron out of Key West, Florida. She arrived in Philadelphia from her blockade station on 4 November 1864 and was decommissioned for repair on 22 November.

"Galena" was recommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 29 March 1865 and reached Newport News, Virginia, on 2 April to serve the North Atlantic Squadron as a picket and patrol ship at the mouth of the Nansemond River and in the James River until her departure 6 June for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was decommissioned there 17 June 1865 and remained inactive until recommissioned 9 April 1869 for movement to Hampton Roads, where she was placed out of commission 2 June. Condemned by survey in 1870, "Galena" was broken up in 1872 at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

References

*DANFS|http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/g1/galena-i.htm

*cite book | title = Reign of Iron: The Story of the First Battling Ironclads, the Monitor and the Merrimack | last = Nelson |first = James L. | authorlink = James L. Nelson | isbn = 0060524049

External links

*1862 News Account and Picture of the Completion of the [http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1862/april/iron-clad-steamer-galena.htm Iron-Clad Steamer Galena]


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