Center wheel steamer New Era was renamed Essex (q.v.) early in December 1861.
(StwStr: t. 157; l. 137’1”; b. 29’6”; dr. 4’; dph. 4’6”; a. 6 24–pdr. how.)
New Era, a wooden stern-wheel steamer built at Wellsville, Ohio in 1862, operated on the Ohio River out of Pittsburgh, Pa., until purchased by the Navy at Cincinnati 27 October 1862; and commissioned at, St,. Louis, ‘Mo. in December 1862, Acting Master Frank W. F. Flanner in command.
New Era arrived off Columbus, Ky., 24 December 1862 to support the army garrison there threatened by a large Confederate force. Confederate possession of Columbus would have seriously disrupted the flow of supplies to the Union fleet and troops then operating against Vicksburg. When the threat subsided, she returned to Cairo.
On 3 January she headed down stream again and the next day, with ten other Union gunboats, got underway up the White River in Arkansas, with army troops under Gen. W. T. Sherman, to capture Fort Hindman. On the 11th, Rear Adm. D. D. Porter ordered New Era to take on board, from Baron de Kalb and Cincinnati, men wounded during the expedition for transportation to a hospital ship at the mouth of the White River; then to proceed to Island No. 10 to relieve Carondelet.
New Era was next stationed near Island No. 10 inspecting river boats out of St. Louis and other Northern ports to prevent illegal trade with the Confederacy. She captured steamer W. A. Knapp carrying a contraband cargo 4 February and took steamers Rowena and White Cloud under similar circumstances on the 13th. Curlew became her prize on the 28th.
Acting Lt. Henry A. Glassford relieved Executive Officer William C. Hansford of command 4 March; and New Era captured steamer Ruth carrying contraband and Confederate mail on the 12th. Besides taking ships, she also made frequent arrests of smugglers, subversive agents, and other lawbreakers. Her duty on the Upper-Mississippi bore striking resemblance to that of ships on “Market-Time” patrol off Viet Nam over a century later.
On 16 June New Era proceeded to a point above Island No. 10 to destroy 9 boats and barges collected there for a Confederate attack on the Island.
Through the remainder of the war the steamer operated on the upper Mississippi and its tributaries protecting Union communications on the waterways. She decommissioned at Mound City, III., 28 June 1865 and was sold at auction there to W. S. Mepham 17 August 1865.