USS Key West, a 207-ton stern-wheel "tinclad" river gunboat, was built in 1862 at California, Pennsylvania, as the civilian steamer Key West No. 3. Purchased by the Navy in April 1863, she was converted to a gunboat and commissioned the following month as USS Key West. She was assigned to patrol and escort duties on the Tennessee River, where she protected Union forces from Confederate raids. On 10 October 1864, Key West received damage in gunnery actions with enemy batteries during an expedition to Eastport, Mississippi. Early in November, she took part in an operation to recapture a transport steamer at Johnsonville, Tennessee, in company with the "Tinclads" Elfin and Tawah. Near there on 4 November 1864, the three gunboats were trapped by Confederate artillery. After a vigorous engagement, Key West and her two consorts were burned to prevent capture.
This page features our only view of USS Key West.
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Photo #: NH 1793
Mississippi Squadron Gunboats
Off the Naval Station at Mound City, Illinois, circa 1863.
Ships present include USS Key West (1863-64) at left, with her number ("32") painted on her pilothouse; at least ten other "Tinclad" gunboats; one "City" class ironclad (just astern of Key West; and one "Timberclad" gunboat (seen beyond the ironclad's stern).
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
Online Image: 40KB; 740 x 395 pixels
30 November 1999