The sternwheel casemate gunboat Cincinnati saw extensive service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including the expedition up Steele’s Bayou and operations on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department.
Built in 1861 in Mound City, Illinois, by the innovative ship designer James B. Eads under orders from U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, the 175-foot Cairo-class vessel displaced 512 tons and drew six feet of water. Its armaments consisted of six thirty-two-pound and three eight-inch smoothbore cannon, four forty-two-pound rifled cannon, and one twelve-pound howitzer. Under operational control of the army and piloted by permanently assigned civilians, the Cincinnati joined the Western Gunboat Fleet in October 1861, commanded by Lieutenant G. M. Bache of the navy. As part of Rear Admiral Andrew H. Foote’s squadron, it served in the capture of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River. During operations against Fort Pillow, the Cincinnati served as the lead vessel and was sunk after suffering several strikes by Confederate rams.
Raised and repaired, the Cincinnati was transferred to the U.S. Navy in October 1862. In January 1863, the Cincinnati served in operations against Arkansas Post and on the White River. Thereafter, it served on the Yazoo River as part of a combined army-navy expedition up Steele’s Bayou by Major General Ulysses S. Grant and Rear Admiral David D. Porter. On May 27, 1863, during the bombardment of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Confederate batteries sunk the Cincinnati for the second time, with a loss of forty casualties.
Raised once again and repaired by August 1863, the Cincinnati served on the Mississippi River and interior rivers until being transferred to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in February 1865. The remainder of its service consisted of patrols in the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama, and in the Mississippi Sounds until it was decommissioned at Algiers, Louisiana, on August 4, 1865. The navy sold the Cincinnati at New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 28, 1866.
For additional information:
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs.html (accessed April 20, 2017).
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 24, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 24, Part 2. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 24, Part 3. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.
Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell
Last Updated: 03/13/2020