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Essex Gbt

Essex II

(Gbt: t. 614; 1. 159'; b. 47'6"; dr. 6'; cpl. 124;
a. l 32-pdr., 3 9" sb., 1 10" sb.)

The second Essex, an ironclad steamer, was built at St. Louis, Mo., in 1856 for use as a ferry. Originally New Era she was renamed Essex following purchase by the War department on 20 September 1861. Converted into an ironclad gunboat by James B. Eads of St. Louis, she was assigned to duty with the Western Flotilla, an organization maintained, operated, and controlled by the Army but commanded by a naval officer.

Essex, Commander W. D. Porter took part in an expedition up the Cumberland River in November 1861. On 11 January 1862, Essex and St. Louis engaged Confederate gunboats in the Tennessee River near Lueas Bend, Mo. In company with six other gunboats commanded by Flag Officer A. H. Foote, she cooperated with the Army in capturing Fort Henry, Tenn., on 6 February. In this action Essex suffered serious damage to her boiler and resulting injury to her crew, forcing her to retire from a battle in which she had participated effectively.

After extensive repairs she returned to duty to participate in the assault on Vicksburg on 13 July 1862. Nine days later she ran past the hammering batteries of Vicksburg and attacked the Confederate ram, Arkansas, inflicting considerable damage. On 6 August ~he joined with the Army in repelling a Confederate attack on Baton Rouge, LA., and the next day attacked Arkansas again; during the engagement, Arkansas broke down and drifted ashore where she was destroyed by her crew.

The entire Western Flotilla, including Essex, was turned over to the Navy on 1 October 1862 in compliance with congressional enactment and thereafter was named the Mississippi Squadron.

Essex acted in the capture of Port Hudson, LA., from 8 May to 8 July 1863. The daily bombardment of the area by Essex and Mortilla brought about eventual surrender of that city. On 9 July she engaged the enemy at Donaldsonville and although damaged in the battle, carried out her patrol duty at this point through 6 March 1864 when she sailed with the fleet into the mouth of the Red River and assisted in the capture of Fort de Russy on 15 and 16 March.

On 17 April Essex got underway from Vicksburg where she arrived 6 days later. On 4 May she preceded to Memphis, Tenn., where she remained for the duration of the war. Essex was decommissioned at Mound City, Ill., on 20 July 1865, and sold on 29 November 1865.