USS Essex was an ironclad river gunboat that was converted in stages from the steam ferry New Era. Originally constructed at New Albany, Indiana, in 1856, the ship was purchased by the United States Army in September 1861 for its Western Gunboat Flotilla.
Modified into a 355-ton “timberclad” gunboat, USS Essex was heavily damaged by enemy gunfire and her boiler burst during an attack on Fort Henry, Tennessee, on February 6, 1862. Eleven crew members were killed and 23 wounded in the engagement.
During repairs, William D. Porter, the ship’s commander, spared little expense (most without official authorization) in turning the Essex into one of the most powerful ironclads on the Western Rivers. The Essex returned to service in time to participate in operations against Vicksburg, Mississippi. She helped repel an attack on Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 5, 1862, and the following day engaged the Confederate ram Arkansas; that ship developed engine trouble and was destroyed by her crew.
The Essex remained active on the rivers for the remainder of the Civil War. She participated in the bombardment and capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, and, in 1864, took part in the Red River Expedition.
USS Essex was decommissioned in July 1865, sold to private interests in November 1865 and scrapped in 1870.
Categories: War & Conflict
Subject: Transportation; Civil War 1861 - 1865
Contributing Institution: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Accession Number: LC-DIG-stereo-1s02823
Rights: No known restrictions on publication.
Region: St. Louis Metro
Photograph Date: March 1863