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USS Indianola (1862-1863)

Please see below for item level images and donated collections containing photographs of USS Indianola (1862-1863)

USS Indianola (1862-1863), an ironclad gunboat propelled by both side wheels and screw propellers, was built at Cincinnati by Joseph Brown. The danger that Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith, whose troops had reached Covington, Ky., just across the Ohio River, would capture Cincinnati, prompted Brig. Gen. Lew Wallace to take USS Indianola (1862-1863), from the contractor before completion 2 September 1862 and have her launched 2 days later. Acting Master Edward Shaw was placed in command of the ship 18 September, and she was reported in commission 9 days later.

USS Indianola (1862-1863) was "armed and ready to defend Cincinnati" 23 October but was not completed. When ready for general service several weeks later, the water level in the Ohio had fallen too much for her to get over the falls at Louisville. USS Indianola (1862-1863) left her anchorage in the Yazoo at 10:15 p.m. 13 February and moved slowly down stream until the first gun was fired at her from the Vicksburg cliffs slightly more than an hour later. USS Indianola (1862-1863) then raced ahead at full speed until out of range of the Confederate cannon which thundered at her from above. She anchored for the night 4 miles below Warrenton, Miss., and early the next morning got underway down river.

Two days later, 16 February, USS Indianola (1862-1863) met prize steamer Era No. 5 manned by the survivors of Queen of the West which had run aground while under heavy fire from Confederate shore batteries at Gordon's Landing in the Red River. Late that afternoon lookouts in Indianola spotted Confederate steamer Webb abreast Ellis Cliffs. She promptly cleared for action and steamed ahead full speed firing at the Southern ship which proved to be barely out of range.  On the evening of 24 February TFe66 and Queen of the West, now Confederate-manned, overtook USS Indianola (1862-1863) and attacked from each side ramming her seven times before the game ironclad, "in an almost powerless condition" ran her bow on the west bank of the river and surrendered.

The loss of USS Indianola (1862-1863) was deeply distressing to the Union. It ended Admiral Porter's efforts to blockade the Red River by detached vessels while keeping the body of his fleet above Vicksburg, and it prompted Farragut's costly run by the South's forts at Port Hudson 14 March 1863. On the brighter side, it set the stage for one of the most successful hoaxes of the war. A dummy monitor was made by building paddle boxes on an old coal barge to simulate a turret which in turn was adorned with logs painted black to resemble guns. Pork-barrel funnels containing burning smudge pots were the final touch added just before the strange craft was cast adrift to float past Vicksburg on the night of USS Indianola (1862-1863)'s surrender, Word of this "river Monitor" panicked the salvage crew working on USS Indianola (1862-1863) causing them to set off the ships magazines to prevent her recapture. After Vicksburg fell, and following long and difficult struggle, USS Indianola (1862-1863) was refloated 5 January 1865 and towed to Mound City 17 January where she was sold.

For a complete history of USS Indianola (1862-1863) please see its DANFS page.