The USS Galena was one of the most impressive ironclad ships during the Civil War. In the Civil War, sea-superiority was of high importance. This 950-ton ironclad gunboat was built in Connecticut at the famous Mystic Island shipyard.
Commissioned in April of 1862 the USS Galena was immediately sent to Hampton Roads Virginia to team up with other warships to help blockade the rebel port.
A short time later the Galena was sent up the James River to the city of Richmond the Confederate capital.
On May 8th the Galena engaged an 11 gun Confederate battery at Rock Wharf Virginia, and a 12-gun battery at Mother Tynes’ Bluff. Galena silenced all but one of the Confederate guns. The ship kept fighting until the Confederate battery was left in flames.
Months passed and the ship saw little action until receiving news that Union gun ships destroyed the Virginia. With no other orders but to patrol the waters of the Atlantic, the Galena was sent off to raid and soften up some of the cities that the Union army was trying to capture.
The USS Galena in 1864 after it’s conversion to a wooden ship
On one occasion as the Union warship steamed along the James River, Confederate gunners badly damaged the ship, killing 12 of her crewmen. The Galena was sent for repairs in City Point. After restoration, the Galena was sent up the James River again to assist General McClellan’s army during the Campaign of the Virginia Peninsula. This time the Galena would be primed and ready for action.
Returning to Hampton Roads in May of 1863 she was then sent over to the large shipyards in Philadelphia for alterations and more repairs. In February 1864 as the Civil War was coming to an end the Galena was retro fitted once more, stripping off her iron plating, enlarging her gun batteries, and installing a sail rig. The Galena had gone from a thinly armored war ship, to one of the fastest and heavily armed Union steam warships in the entire Navy.
In May 1864 the ship joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron based out of Florida. During one battle in which she was assisting the USS Oneida to safety the ship once again was damaged severely, but held on. The ship was decommissioned a few years after the end of the Civil War and later rebuilt as a new ship with the same name. It was a very dependable and sturdy ship prompting the U.S. Navy to give her an honor of the highest order in naval warfare.