The Kanawha was launched 21 October 1861 by G. E. & W. H. Goodspeed, East Hadden, Gonn., and commissioned at New York Navy Yard 21 January 1862, Lt. John C. Febiger in command.
Assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron, the new gunboat arrived off Pass a l'Outre, La., 13 February and a week later was ordered to take station o~ Mobile, Ala., where she soon distinguished herself for vigilance.
She drew first blood with a vengeance 10 April capturing four blockade running schooners in a single day: Southern Independence, Victoria, Gharlotte, and Ouba. The first three had attempted to slip to sea laden with cotton and naval stores while the latter had tfied to run into Mobile with supplies badly needed by the South.
Thereafter, her kills were frequent. She caught schooner R. C. Files carrying cotton out of Mobile 21 April and took British sloop Annie on the 29th between Ship Island and Mobile headed for Cuba. On 17 November near Mobile she and Kennebec chased an unidentified schooner ashore where she was set afire by her crew. Then the guns of the Union ships assured her complete destruction by preventing Confederate coast guards from boarding her to extinguish the Hames.
On 25 March 1863 Kanawha, then commanded by Lt. Comdr. William K. Mayo, took schooner Clara attempting to run the blockade at Mobile. Sehooner Dart attempted to slip into Mobile from EIavana 1 May but fell prey to this vigilant blockader. A fortnight later the same fate befell British brig Comet some 20 miles east of Fort Morgan, Ala. On 17 May Kanawha snared schooner Hunter, laden with cotton for Havana, running out of Mobile. The next day she caught schooner Ripple attempting the same feat.
Dawn of 12 October disclosed steamer Alice aground
under the guns of Fort Morgan and an unidentifled Confederate tug attempting to pull her free. Kanawha, accompanied by tender Fugenie, steamed boldly toward the strongly defended Confederate shore to destroy the Southern vessels; but Fort Morgan's batteries, outranging the guns of the Union ships, hulled Kanawha, forcing the Union ships to retire. Lackawanna and Genessee then headed in to finish the task with their 150-pounders, but before they got in range, the daring tug managed to refloat Alice and escaped with her into Mobile Bay.
On 29 November Kanawha took schooner AIbert, also called Wenona, attempting to carry cotton, naval stores and tobacco out of Mobile. The toll collected by relentless Northern blockaders like Kanawha in capturing Southern blockade runners steadily drained away the life blood of the Confederacy. The loss of ships carrying the products of Southern flelds and forests to foreign markets undermined the South's financial structure and increased her difflculty in purchasing war material abroad. The loss of incoming ships depfived Southern armies of a growing proportion of the shrinking supplies and equipment persuasive Confederate agents did manage to procure.
In the spring of 1864 Kanawha was transferred to the Texas coast. On 8 July, now under Lt. Comdr. Bushrod B. Taylor, she forced steamer Matagorda aground near Galveston. On9 September, after Union troops had been withdrawn from the area, Kanawha reinstituted the blockade of Brownsville, Tex., which had been lifted by Presidential proclamation in mid-February. On 28 December she forced an unidentified sloop ashore near Caney Creek, Tex., and destroyed her. She captured Mary Ellen of Montreal 3 January 1865 as the schooner tried to run into Velasco, Tex. She remained on blockade duty until after the end of the war and was ordered north 27 May. Kanawha decommissioned 5 July and was sold at New York 13 June 1866.