WESTERN GUNBOAT FLOTILLAColor Key = UNION VESSELS CONFEDERATE VESSELS
CUMBERLAND AND TENNESSEE RIVER
Black Text = Tennessee River Activity Green Text = Cumberland River Activity
September 16, 1861
CONESTOGA captured the Confederate steamers V. R. Stephenson and Gazelle on the Cumberland River in Kentucky.
October 5, 1861
On a reconnaisance patrol up the Tennessee river, CONESTOGA discovered that the Confederates were building a fort (Henry) just across the Kentucky border in Tennessee.
October 12, 1861
CONESTOGA ascended the Tennessee River on a reconnaissance of Ft. Henry. After spending the night and the following morning examining the fort, she returned to her station off Paducah to report. Lieutenant Phelps also reported rumors that the Confederates were in the process of converting three steamers to ironclads on the river above Ft. Henry.
October 14, 1861
CONESTOGA ascended the Cumberland River some 60 miles before shoal water forced her to drop back down to Eddyville, KY, where she anchored for the night. The following morning, upon hearing that local Unionists had been driven from their homes, Lieutenant Phelps warned the townspeople of the consequences of further persecution of loyal citizens.
October 14, 1861
This date would again find CONESTOGA up the Tennessee. This time having aboard Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, U.S.A. (the Commanding Officer at Paducah), on a personal reconnaissance of the river below Ft. Henry.
October 17, 1861
General Smith sent Phelps and the CONESTOGA back up the Tennessee for the purpose of capturing the ferry boat Henry at Hopkinsville which was reported to have frequently been used by the Confederates.
October 19, 1861
A rise in the Cumberland River allowed Phelps and the CONESTOGA to reach a point approximately nine miles below the Tennessee line where he captured two flats loaded with flour which were suspected of being destined for the Confederate Army at Bowling Green.
October 20, 1861
On a patrol up the Cumberland River, CONESTOGA discovered that the Confederates were building a fort (Donelson) just across the Kentucky border in Tennessee near Dover.
October 26, 1861
Union troops, accompanied by CONESTOGA, land at Eddyville, KY, for an attack on Confederate forces at Saratoga.
October 30, 1861
In an effort to restrict Union gunboat operations, the Confederates sank several barges in the Cumberland river below Fort Donelson.
November 6, 1861
Upon returning from a patrol of the Tennessee River in the ironclad NEW ERA, Commander William D. Porter reported that Fort Henry could be taken by Naval attack.
November 18, 1861
CONESTOGA engaged and silenced a Confederate battery at Canton, KY.
January 17, 1862
CONESTOGA and LEXINGTON reconnoiter the Tennessee river below Fort Henry.
January 21, 1862
Lieutenant S. L. Phelps advises Flag Officer Foote that the mortar scows, then under construction would be "the most destructive adversaries" in the pending attack on Fort Donelson.
January 22, 1862
Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, USA, accompanied LEXINGTON on a reconnaissance of the approaches to Fort Henry.
January 28, 1862
Telegrams from General Grant and Flag Officer Foote, together with an erroneous report that a large Confederate force was to be transferred to the district, finally convinced General Halleck to authorize the attack on Fort Henry.
January 30, 1862
CONESTOGA and LEXINGTON again reconnoitered the Tennessee river below Fort Henry in final preparation for the attack. Lieutenant Phelps reported the sighting of "...numerous bouys, evidently marking the location of some kind of explosive machine or obstruction.."
February 2, 1862
Although all of Flag Officer Foote's iron-clads were ready for combat, there were only enough seamen to provide crews for CARONDELET, CINCINNATI, ST LOUIS and NEW ERA--which had been converted to an iron-clad and renamed ESSEX. The fleet that would attack Fort Henry, consisted of the four ironclads and the wood-armored gunboats TYLER, LEXINGTON and CONESTOGA left Cairo early in the morning. ST LOUIS and ESSEX preceed the fleet to Pine Bluff, KY, to cover a division of Grant's troops aboard the Aleck Scott and several other transports which were to be landed on the east bank of the Tennessee River to block the Confederate's escape.
February 4, 1862
Having fought against the flood current of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers for two days, the Union fleet anchored six miles below Fort Henry.
February 5, 1862
As the troops were debarking from the transports to occupy the high ground on the Kentucky side which would ensure the fort's fall, Flag Officer Foote in CINCINNATI, with General Grant aboard, took his ironclads upriver to reconnoiter the Confederate batteries. The Union fleet exchanged a few shots with the fort's guns during which ESSEX received one shot that penetrated her armor.
February 6, 1862
After an all-night struggle using steam power and heavy anchors to maintain position, the Union crewmen were rewarded with the sight of the bouys of the Confederate Torpedoes floating harmlessly past their ships. The heavy current of the still-rising river had swept them from their moorings, thus removing a potentially serious threat to the attackers.
Learning that he was about to be attacked, Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, CSA, commander of the fort's garrison, sent the steamers DUNBAR and LYNN BOYD upriver to embark two Confederate regiments stationed at Paris Landing, TN.
As Grants forces struggled over muddy roads toward positions surrounding their objective, General Tilghman realized that it was only a matter of time before Fort Henry fell--either to the Union forces or the encroaching river. Leaving artillery crews in the fort to hold off the Union advance, he escorted the rest of his force out of the area and sent them safely off on the route to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, 10 miles away.
Shortly before noon, the Union fleet approached with the ironclads in a battle line with ESSEX on the right, CARONDELET in the center and the CINCINNATI and ST LOUIS lashed together on the left. (See Tactics) . The three wooden gunboats were arrayed behind the ironclads. When the fleet had approached to within 2,000 yards, the flag-ship CINCINNATI opened fire on the Confederate emplacements which was promptly and vigorously returned. As the steadily-firing fleet closed to within 600 yards, a shot pierced the boilers of ESSEX. Twenty-eight men were scalded by the escaping steam--5 of whom died--causing her to drift away out of action.
At this time the fort was already partially innundated by floodwaters and, after 13 of his 17 guns were dismounted by Union fire in less than two hours, General Tilghman deemed situation to be hopeless and ordered the white flag raised above the fort.
After the battle, Admiral Foote returned to Cairo, IL, with three of the ironclads which had suffered numerous though minor damages, leaving CARONDELET at Fort Henry to support General Grant.
Of this event, General Albert Sydney Johnston, CSA, warned: "The capture of [Ft. Henry] by the enemy gives them the control of the Tennessee River, and their gunboats are now ascending the river to Florence . . . Should Fort Donelson be taken it will open the route to the enemy to Nashville . ." Forseeing that Fort Donelson and the Cumberland River would, indeed, fall into Union hands, General Johnston also wrote; "The slight resistance at Fort Henry indicates that the best open earthworks are not reliable to meet successfully a vigorous attack of ironclad gunboats." He, therefore, ordered all Confederate troops to the south side of the river lest they be cut off.
February 7, 1862
While Grant's forces march overland to invest Fort Donelson, CARONDELET advances up the Tennessee River to destroy a railroad bridge.
[See Official Report]
Brigadier General John A. McClernand wrote to Flag Officer Foote: "As an acknowledgement of the consummate skill with which you brought your gunboats into action yesterday . . . I have taken the liberty of giving the late Fort Henry the new and more appropriate name of Fort Foote. Please pardon the liberty I have taken without first securing your concurrence, as I am hardly disposed to do, considering the liberty which you took in capturing the fort yesterday without my cooperation."
Learning of the Union advance, the Confederates burned APPLETON BELLE and two other steamers to prevent her falling into Union hands.
CONESTOGA, LEXINGTON and TYLER embark on an expedition up the Tennessee River.
Approximately 25 miles upriver, the flotilla's progress was temporarily halted by a railroad bridge. After an hour, the draw of the bridge was raised and the gunboats proceed upriver a few miles before their progress was again halted by the SAMUEL ORR lashed to another ship and burning fiercely. Fearing an explosion, the lead gunboat CONESTOGA backed downriver some 1,000 yards. The burning vessel, which had apparently been loaded with munitions, blew up shortly thereafter, the concussion from which caused minor damage to the watching Union ships.
At this point TYLER, which had remained behind at the railroad bridge gathering up abandoned Confederate supplys (Note: Among the captured items were several papers of Lt Isaac N. Brown--late of the U.S. Navy--now signing himself as "Lieutenant, C.S.N", who was in charge of Confederate ship-building in the area.), caught up with her sister ships and the flotilla again progressed upriver.
That night, when the three Federals reached Cerro Gordo, TN, they discovered the steamer EASTPORT, which had been abandoned by the Confederates who were in the processing of converting her to an ironclad. The crew of TYLER immediately set about collecting the large quantity of materials lying on the bank which had been intended for use on the new Confederate warship.
February 8, 1862
CONESTOGA and LEXINGTON proceeded upriver, passing Eastport, MS. As they neared the Alabama state line, they captured the loaded steamers SALLIE WOOD and MUSCLE. With their prizes in tow, the Union ships again headed upriver and crossed into Alabama. Near Florence, at the foot of the Mussel Shoals, they came in sight of SAM KIRKMAN and two other steamers which the Confederates immediately set on fire. After driving off the defenders, landing parties from CONESTOGA and LEXINGTON captured as much as their ships could carry of stores from the still-burning steamers and the nearby banks. Having then reached the highest navigable point on the river, the prize-laden Union ships returned downriver, reuniting with TYLER at Cerro Gordo that evening.
That same day, General Grant ordered CARONDELET to steam down the Tennessee and up the Cumberland River to support his attack against Fort Donelson.
February 9, 1862
Having learned of a Confederate encampment just upriver at Savannah, TN, CONESTOGA and TYLER steamed to that place. However, the camp was found to be deserted and the ships' crews once again captured what they could carry and destroyed the rest. They then dropped back down river to Cerro Gordo and, taking the captured Confederate vessels in tow, departed for Fort Henry.
February 10, 1862
CONESTOGA, LEXINGTON and TYLER arrived at the aforementioned railroad bridge with two of the captured steamers--MUSCLE having sprung an irreparable leak and sank.
[See Official Report]
February 12, 1862
CARONDELET arrived at Fort Donelson and, neither hearing nor seeing any evidence of General Grant's attack, fired one shot into the fort to let them know she had arrived. She then retired downstream to her anchorage.
Meanwhile, General Halleck, having heard of General Grant's plan to use only one gunboat, sent a wire to Flag Officer Foote ordering him to send two--three, if possible--additional gunboats to support the land attack and provide protection for the troop transports moving up the river. Foote, however, forced by the condition of his ships to delay responded; "I shall do all in my power to render the gunboats effective in the fight, although they are not properly manned . . . If we could wait ten days, and I had men, I would go with eight mortar boats and six armored boats . . ."
February 13, 1862
At General Grant's request, CARONDELET again attacked the fort until a Confederate shot pierced her armor and bounced around inside her casemate causing minor damage but wounding ten of her crew.
February 14, 1862
Flag-Officer Foote arrived aboard ST LOUIS with the newly-commissioned LOUISVILLE and PITTSBURG. Accompanied by LEXINGTON and TYLER, the fleet approached the fort in the same formation used against Fort Henry . However, Fort Donelson was a much more formidable obstacle. It was situated on a 100-foot bluff overlooking the river, armed with 65 heavy guns and protected by well-designed fortifications.
As the Union fleet advanced upriver, changing speed frequently to reduce the Confederate gunners' accuracy, fire from the enemy emplacements tore into them heavily. The executive officer of the ST LOUIS would later describe the atmosphere on the gun deck of an ironclad as "something appalling to weak nerves, and never before heard in battle. The working of the ponderous machinery, the explosions of guns and the concussion of heavy missiles against its armor made the huge ship tremble in every timber, and the bedlam of sounds was confusing and deafening." When they were approximately 400 yards from the fort, the lead boats, ST LOUIS and LOUISVILLE both suffered hits to their steering gear, causing them to drift downstream out of action. This allowed the Confederate gunners to concentrate their fire on CARONDELET and PITTSBURG. Two shots pierced PITTSBURG's hull below the armor and she began taking on water rapidly. As her commander attempted to turn her around, she collided with CARONDELET, damaging the latter's rudders and causing her to drift away helplessly. In going ahead to clear CARONDELET, PITTSBURG came within 350 yards of the Confederate guns who pounded her mercilessly. However, the ironclad gamely withstood the punishment long enough to rejoin her wounded consorts downstream.
February 15, 1862
Foote, himself wounded in the arm and ankle by heavy flying splinters, took his battered fleet back to Cairo leaving CARONDELET, the least damaged of them, at Fort Donelson to maintain control of the river.
Foote, in a later letter to his wife, would attest to the beating the gunboats took stating; "...I tell you the last was a bad fight. I stood one side of a gun when five out of six were knocked down, and I only escaped serious wounds. I was touching the pilot with my clothes when he was killed..."
That same afternoon, the Confederates launched an all-out attack on Grant's right flank aimed at breaking through the investment lines and escaping. When the attack failed, the fort's 12,000-man garrison was trapped, with the exception of General Nathan B. Forrest's cavalry which managed to slip away undetected that night.
February 16, 1862
Recognizing their situation, the Confederate generals at Fort Donelson conceeded to General Grant's demand for their unconditional surrender. Although the Navy failed to inflict serious damage to the fort, Major General Wallace, USA, would report that they; "...distracted the enemy's attention, and I fully believe it was the gunboats...that operated to prevent a general movement of the rebels up the river or across it, the night before the surrender."
That afternoon, several of the gunboats steamed past the fort and destroyed the Tennessee Iron Works above Dover.
February 17, 1862
CARONDELET returned to Cairo with news of the surrender of Fort Donelson. Whereupon Foote sent CAIRO and eight mortar rafts upriver to Fort Donelson to prepare for an advance on Nashville, informing Washington "I leave immediately with a view of proceeding to Clarksville [TN]. . . The other boats are badly cut up and require extensive repairs."
February 18, 1862
Foote arrived at Fort Donelson in CONESTOGA to confer with General Grant.
February 19, 1862
Foote left the fort with CONESTOGA and CAIRO for a reconnaisance upriver. As they neared Clarksville, TN, the two-vessel flotilla discovered that Fort Defiance had been abandoned by the Confederates who left a white flag flying over it.
The exaggerated reputation of the Union gunboats was evident in the message sent by Colonel W. H. Allen, CSA, at the approach of the Federal vessels, which read; "Gunboats are coming; they are just below point; can see steamer here. Will try and see how many troops they have before I leave; I will have to go in a hurry when I go."
Flag Officer Foote immediately notified Army headquarters; "The Cumberland is in a good stage of water and General Grant and I beleive we can take Nashville."
February 20, 1862
As Foote was completing preparations to attack Nashville, General A. S. Johnston, CSA, was busily evacuating that city. Having received information (which later proved false) that the Confederates were reinforcing Columbus, KY, in preparation for an attack against Paducah, KY, or Fort Henry, General Halleck sent instructions to General Grant ordering him not to allow any of the gunboats to move above Clarksville. General Halleck wished to have Foote's gunboats available to help repel the expected Confederate attack. At this point, a dissappointed Foote elected to return to Cairo and repair his battle-ravaged ships.
February 23, 1862
On a reconnaissance cruise to Eastport, MS, TYLER seized a Confederate cache of wheat and flour at Clifton, TN.
February 25, 1862
General Halleck, upon learning that the rumors of a Confederate attack in western Tennessee were false, gave orders for the occupation of Nashville. CAIRO escorted seven transports carrying troops under Brigadier General Wm. Nelson, USA, up the Cumberland river from Paducah, KY. Arriving concurrent with advance units under General Don Carlos Buell, the Union force found that Nashville had recently been hurriedly deserted by the Confederates. In yet another display of southern "Gunboat Fever," a Nashville newspaper printed; "We had nothing to fear from a land attack, but the gunboats are the devil.".
February 26, 1862
A 13-man Confederate expedition was sent to Nashville. The objective was to set fire to the transport Minna Tonka, which was being used to ferry Union troops across the river, then cut her loose, allowing her to drift into the Union gunboats anchored below. The mission was abandoned when the southern raiders discovered that their intended target was moored with heavy chains and heavily guarded.
March 1, 1862
LEXINGTON and TYLER silenced Confederate batteries at Pittsburg Landing, TN, then landed a party of sailors and Army sharpshooters to destroy a nearby house and determine enemy strength in the area. In the ensuing land engagement, several of the shore party were killed or wounded. The loss of badly-needed experienced sailors prompted Flag Officer Foote to admonish his Commanders; "I must give a general order that no commander will land men to make an attack on shore. Our gunboats are to be used as forts, and as they have no more men than are necessary to man the guns, and as the Army must do the shore work, and as the enemy want nothing better than to entice our men on shore and overpower them with superior numbers, the commanders must not operate on shore, but confine themselves to their vessels."
March 4, 1862
TYLER returned to Cairo, IL, from a reconnaissance cruise to Pittsburg Landing with news of Confederate troop strengths in southern Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
March 9, 1862
TYLER attended a "recruiting party" at Savannah, TN, during which several local citizens joined her crew. Meanwhile, LEXINGTON again shelled the area around Pittsburg Landing but her fire was not returned.
March 11, 1862
The steamer GOLDEN GATE arrived at Savannah, announcing that the main body of General Grant's army was just behind her. Shortly thereafter, the Federal fleet, accompanied by the gunboats TYLER and FANNY BULLET, hove into view. A local citizen described the scene as follows; " The fleet included up to a hundred steamers, laden to the guards with soldiers, cattle, and munitions of war." The "..decks were dark with blue coated soldiers. Bright brass cannon glittered on the foredeck, where the batteries were loaded, and the band played their most soul-stirring airs. The transports sent forth vast volumes of smoke, which shadowed and sooted the atmosphere from hill to hill across the river valley. They docked at Savannah on both sides of the river for a mile, at places four or five deep." That evening, TYLER made a reconnaissance trip upriver to Ptttsburg Landing which the Confederates had net been able to re-occupy due to the constant presence of LEXINGTON.
March 15, 1862
Malaria, dysentery, and typhoid were soon ravaging the Union troops--especially those still aboard the transports. Several local buildings were occupied as temporary hospitals and the hospital ships CITY OF MEMPHIS took 410 men to St. Louis while LOUISIANA took some 300 to Mound City, IL.
March 16, 1862
General Grant arrived at Savannah and, at the suggestion of general Sherman, ordered all but one division of troops to re-embark the transports which took them upriver to Pittsburg Landing.
March 21, 1862
TYLER and LEXINGTON discovered two small Confederate batteries in the hills below Eastport, MS. After firing several shells (none of which exploded due to faulty fuses) at them without a reply, the two gunboats continued their patrol of the river. Of the Confederate emplacements, Lieutenant Gwin commanding TYLER reported; "I have made no regular attack on their lately constructed batteries, as they are of no importance to us, our base of operations being so much below them. I have deemed it my duty, however, to annoy them, where I could with little or no risk to our gunboats."
March 25, 1862
CAIRO seized guns and materiel left at Fort Zollicoffer, six miles below Nashville, which the retreating Confederates had abandoned the previous month.
March 30, 1862
As the Union troops at Savannah and Pittsburg Landing settle in, TYLER and LEXINGTON continuously patrolled the river between Cerro Gordo, TN, and Eastport, MS.
April 6, 1862
During breakfast at Savannah, General Grant was informed of the outbreak of fighting upriver, whereupon he immediately boarded the steamer TIGRESS and departed for the scene of combat which would become known as the "Battle of Shiloh."
That afternoon, shelling from TYLER and LEXINGTON played a crucial role in helping to repel a Confederate flanking maneuver along the Tennessee River. During the night, the two gunboats lobbed one shell into the Confederate camps approximately every 10 minutes, thus depriving the troops of badly needed rest. From their anchorage near Pittsburg Landing, the two gunboats poured nearly 400 shells into the Confederate lines between 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. the following morning. Though the actions of the gunboats in this momentous battle seem limited, the importance of their contribution was later described by Major General Leonidas Polk, CSA, whose troops were; ". . .within from 150 to 400 yards of the enemy's position, and nothing seemed wanting to complete the most brilliant victory of the war but to press forward and make a vigorous assault on the demoralized remnant of his forces. At this juncture his gunboats dropped down the river, near the landing where his troops were collected, and opened a tremendous cannonade of shot and shell over the bank, in the direction from where our forces were approaching." And by General P. G. T. Beauregard, CSA, who reported; "The enemy, moreover, had broken [the Confederate troops'] rest by a discharge at measured intervals of heavy shells thrown from the gunboats; therefore, on the following morning the troops under my command were not in condition to cope with an equal force of fresh troops, armed and equipped like our adversary, in the immediate possession of his depots and sheltered by such an auxiliary as the enemy's gunboats."
April 8, 1862
News of the battle had reached many of the northern cities and the Western and U.S. Sanitary Commissions dispatched the steamers LOUISIANA, D. A. JANUARY, IMPERIAL, EMPRESS, TYCOON, MONARCH, LANCASTER No. 4 and SUPERIOR to the area. These vessels had been converted to serve as hospital ships and were loaded with medical supplies, doctors, surgeons, nurses and civilian volunteers to care for the casualties . Soon the Tennessee, Ohio and upper Mississippi rivers were teeming with ships transporting the sick and wounded to northern hospitals.
April 12, 1862
Tyler and Lexington escorted an expedition led by General Sherman aboard the transports Tecumseh and White Cloud up the Tennessee River to Chickasaw Landing where the troops were landed to destroy a railroad bridge near Iuka, MS.
April 19, 1862
TYLER captures ALFRED ROBB at Florence, AL.
This month marked the beginning of a critical point in the war. On the Mississippi, the Western Flotilla was teaming up with the Ellet Ram Fleet to destroy the Confederacy's River Defense Fleet in a hard-fought engagement at Memphis, TN. Their victory gave the Union control of the river as far south as Vicksburg, MS. Meanwhile, the powerful concentration of Federal forces which had prevailed at Shiloh moved south and captured Corinth, MS, on the Tennessee River. It then split, with Grant pushing toward Vicksburg along a path roughly parallel to the Mississippi while Buell's troops turned eastward in the general direction of Chattanooga, TN.
To check the advance of these Union forces which were penetrating deep into the Confederate heartland defenders of the South struck back with guerrilla attacks, cavalry raids, and prolonged counter thrusts by whole armies. All these measures were designed to sever Northern lines of communication and supply. Union railroads, overland convoys of wagons, and supply ships quickly became favorite Confederate targets, and the importance of maintaining Union control of the rivers grew apace to assure Federal troops a steady flow of supplies and munitions. Responsibility for keeping the Ohio and its tributaries safe for waterborne Union logistics was placed on the gunboats of the Western Flotilla.
June 6, 1862
The newly-commissioned ALFRED ROBB reported for duty at Pittsburg Landing, TN, thus beginning a 3-year carreer of patrolling the tributary rivers.
August 20, 1862
Commodore Charles H. Davis recognizing that ". . . the gunboat service of the upper rivers had suddenly acquired a new importance" charged Fleet Captain Pennock with taking these small warships under his "special care" with Lt. LeRoy Fitch in immediate command.
August 31, 1862
The transport W. B. Terry ran aground at Duck River Shoals, TN, and was captured by Confederate troops. The Terry was the first vessel captured by the Western Gunboat Flotilla.
September 1, 1862
Congress passed a law stating that "the spirit ration in the Navy of the United States shall forever cease."
February 3, 1863
ALFRED ROBB and SILVER LAKE joined several other Union gunboats in beating off a fierce attack by some 4,500 Confederate troops against the small Federal garrison in Fort Donelson, TN.
April 2, 1863
ST. CLAIRE is disabled during fighting at Woodbury, TN, but is rescued by the transport, Luminary.
May 11, 1863
While CHAMPION and QUEEN CITY protect Cerro Gordo, TN, COVINGTON, SILVER CLOUD and ARGOSY continue upriver to Eastport, MS, to support Major General Rosecrans in preparation for an anticipated Confederate offensive.
June 19, 1863
In an operation intended to disperse troops under Colonel Biffle, CSA, which had been firing on Union shipping in the area, sixteen crewmen and several cannon from ALFRED ROBB were landed at Cerro Gordo, TN. Once the battery was in place, ALFRED ROBB and SILVER CLOUD dropped out of site downriver to await a hoped-for Confederate attack. Colonel Biffle obliged at 4:30 a.m. by charging the Union emplacement with some 400 troops. Furious close-range fire from the Federal guns soon broke up the attack with only minor losses to the gun crews.
October 26, 1863
HASTINGS assisted General Sherman's troops in crossing the Tennessee river at Eastport, MS, during operations culminating in the Battle of Chattanooga.
November 8, 1863
HASTINGS helped fend off a Confederate cavalry attack on Paducah, KY.
November 10, 1863
PEOSTA, having been commissioned into the Navy, entered service on the Tennessee River. She would serve the Union throughout the war.
December 20, 1863
Cannon fire from PEOSTA disperses a group of Confederate guerillas at Point Pleasant, TN.
Following the Federal victory at Chickamauga, it became important to control the upper Tennessee River. Since none of the Union gunboats could cross the rapids at Muscle Shoals, AL, General Sherman had four vessels built in eastern Tennessee at Bridgeport (ed. note: From its mouth on the Ohio River, the Tennessee River courses southward through Kentucky and Tennessee, through the northeast corner of Mississippi then easterly across the entire width of northern Alabama before turning northward into Tennessee again near Chattanooga and the northwest corner of Georgia). The GENERAL GRANT, GENERAL BURNSIDE, GENERAL THOMAS and GENERAL SHERMAN were manned by the Army but their officers were assigned by the Navy. Along with the re-fitted STONE RIVER they began service in mid-summer and would spend their entire careers in the upper Tennessee.
March 12, 1864
Cannon fire from PEOSTA disperses Confederate guerillas at Pittsburg Landing, TN.
March 19, 1864
Crewmen from PEOSTA and TAHWAH destroy a cache of Confederate supplies at Saltillo, TN.
March 25, 1864
PEOSTA and PAW PAW are actively involved in repelling General Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack on Paducah.
May 23, 1864
Sixteen armed sailors from PEOSTA capture several horses belonging to the "Hayes Guerrillas" at Hamburg Landing, TN.
June 19, 1864
As General Sherman maneuvered toward Atlanta, leaving Confederate General J. B. Hood's forces to his rear, PEOSTA and UNDINE, along with other Union gunboats began a period of stepped-up patrols of the Tennessee River.
October 10, 1864
KEY WEST and UNDINE convoyed three transports carrying 1,200 troops to Eastport, MS. As the infantry were disembarking, a Confederate masked battery opened fire from a nearby hill. The two gunboats returned the accurate southern fire but were soon forced to retire with the transports and troops. This proved to be the first indication that General Hood was moving toward Nashville, TN.
October 28, 1864
An attempt by CSA units under General Hood to cross the Tennessee river at Decatur, AL was thwarted when GENERAL GRANT and STONE RIVER dispersed an 8-gun battery in a heated exchange from a distance of 500 yards. The Confederates were forced to march eastward to Tuscumbia before finding a safe crossing.
October 30 1864
In another effort to check the Union army's advance through Georgia, Maj. Gen. Forrest led a 23-day raid culminating in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville, TN. Swinging north from Corinth, MS, toward the Kentucky border and temporarily blockading the Tennessee River at Fort Heiman, Forrest then moved southward along the Tennessee River's west bank, capturing the transports Ceeseman, Maizeppa and Venus and the gunboat, UNDINE. Two 20-pound Parrot guns were then mounted on the stern of the Venus.
November 4, 1864
Forrest began positioning his artillery just below a narrow slot across the river from the Federal supply base and landing at Johnsonville, TN. Union troops discovered the Confederates finishing their entrenchments and battery emplacements in the afternoon. The KEY WEST, TAHWAH and ELFIN arrived and forced Forrest to abandon his captured gunboats, following which, with the land batteries across the river, they engaged the Confederates in an artillery duel. The Confederate guns, however, were so well positioned that the the Federals were unable to hinder them. In fact, the Confederate artillery fire disabled the gunboats.
USN Commander Leroy Fitch had sent six gunboats up from Paducah, KY, which attemped to join the fight but were unable to pass through the slot and eventually retired.
Fearing that the Confederates might cross the river and capture the transports at the supply depot, the Federals set fire to them. At the time the boats were torched, the wind extended the fire to the piles of stores on the levee and to a warehouse loaded with supplies. Seeing the fire, the Confederates began firing on the steamboats, barges, and warehouses to prevent the Federals from putting it out. Although Forrest withdrew to Corinth, MS, that night, control of the lower Tennessee river was effectively returned to the Confederates.
December 3, 1864
Elements of Hood's left flank reached the Cumberland River and emplaced a battery at Bells Mills about 18 river miles below Nashville. To allieviate this threat, Commander Fitch sent CARONDELET and several gunboats downriver from Nashville. Under cover of darkness, the Union ships advanced to a point directly across the river from the Confederate emplacement at which the ironclad opened fire at point blank range and continued shelling until the enemy guns were silenced. When dawn came the Union attackers found the Confederate position abandoned.
December 6, 1864
While convoying several transports from Nashville to Clarksville, NEOSHO and CARONDELET discovered that the Confederate batteries at Bells Mills had been re-occupied. NEOSHO attacked the emplacement from a distance of 20 to 30 yards but her fire could not reach the Confederate guns on the high banks. After several hours NEOSHO retired but soon returned to attack from a point below the batteries while CARONDELET enfiladed the position from above. By nightfall, the southern batteries were only partially silenced. CARONDELET and NEOSHO who had taken over 100 hits without serious damage, returned to Nashville along with the other gunboats and transports.
December 7, 1864
Admiral S. P. Lee, who replaced Admiral Porter when the latter was detached to take command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, attempted to bring CINCINNATI to Nashville to support Commander Fitch but was unable to pass the rapids above Clarksville.
December 12, 1864
GENERAL GRANT and GENERAL BURNSIDE engaged a Confederate shore battery above Decatur, AL.
December 15, 1864
Commander Fitch, with CARONDELET and NEOSHO, returned to Bells Mills and held the Confederate gunners' attention while a Union cavalry unit surprised and captured the southern batteries with very little resistance. The following day Hood's army was defeated and began its retreat southward.
December 22, 1864
GENERAL THOMAS and the other gunboats on the upper Tennessee supported the Federal re-occupation of Decatur, AL, then steamed downriver to the upper Mussel Shoals while Admiral Lee in CINCINNATI rushed upriver to the lower shoals to cut off Hood's retreat. Most of the Confederate troops, however, were able to cross the river between the two rapids and the remnants were later incorporated into other southern armies.
The defeat of General Hood's army would prove to be the last major action along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The Union gunboats in this area would spend the remainder of the war transporting men and materiel for operations further south and occaisionally returning fire of small Confederate units and scattered bands of guerillas.
January 6, 1865
GENERAL GRANT silences a Confederate shore battery at Beard's Bluff above Guntersville, AL.
January 9, 1865
GENERAL GRANT returns to destroy the town of Guntersville, AL, as punishment for hostile actions against the Union.
January 27, 1865
The transport Elipse explodes at Johnsonville, TN, killing 30 of the 70 Union soldiers aboard.