USS Galena (1862)

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USS Galena
USS Galena in ironclad configuration in 1862
Career 100x35px
Name: USS Galena
Ordered: 16 September 1861
Builder: H.L. & C.S. Bushnell, Mystic, Connecticut
Laid down: 1861
Launched: 14 February 1862
Commissioned: 21 April 1862
Decommissioned: 2 June 1869
Struck: 1872
Fate: Broken up, 1872
General characteristics
Type: Ironclad screw steamer
Displacement: 738 long tons (750 t)
Length: 210 ft (64 m)
Beam: 36 ft (11 m)
Draft: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Complement: 164 officers and enlisted
Armament: 4 × 9 in (230 mm) Dahlgren guns, 2 × 100-pounder Parrott rifles

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, Commander Alfred Taylor in command.

Civil War


She was towed from New York Harbor to arrive off Fortress Monroe, Virginia on 24 April and joined 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 Virginia, desiring a rematch with 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 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.

File:Federal Ironclad GALENA 1862 lowres.png
USS Galena on 15 May 1862, showing some battle damage.

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.

Corporal John F. Mackie, onboard the USS Galena during the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, was the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military award when he bravely risked his life to lead the gun operation for the remainder of the battle. A marker indicates the location at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia of Mackie's bravery.[1]

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, Galena bombarded City Point while two boats went ashore with a landing force which set fire to the depots. That same day, Major General George B. McClellan came aboard Galena to make a reconnaissance for the position of a new camp which was subsequently established near Harrison's Landing. On 30 June, McClellan was compelled to withdraw down the James and escaped disaster through naval gunfire support and transportation.

On 6 July, 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 badly damaged in the action at Drewry's Bluff — was stripped off, and she was overhauled to operate as a wooden-hulled ship.


USS Galena, after 1864 refit as a wooden sloop

Recommissioned on 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 for blockade duty off Mobile, Alabama, that included the shelling of Fort Morgan and firing upon various blockade runners near the fort.

Battle of Mobile Bay

Galena was a unit of Admiral David Farragut's fleet in the Battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August. 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 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 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 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 on 6 June for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was decommissioned there on 17 June and remained inactive until recommissioned on 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.


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links

pl:USS Galena (1862)