Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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USS Lexington (1861-1865)

Please see below for item level images and donated collections containing photographs of USS Lexington (1861-1865)

USS Lexington (1861-1865), a sidewheel steamer built at Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1861, was purchased by the War Department and converted into a gunboat at Cincinnati, under the direction of Comdr. John Rodgers.

The gunboat, operated by the Navy, joined the western flotilla at Cairo, III., 12 August 1861. On 22 August she seized steamer W. B. Terry at Paducah, Ky., and on 4 September, with USS Tyler, she engaged Confederate gunboat Yankee (also known as Jackson) and southern shore batteries at Hickman and Columbus, Ky. USS Lexington (1861-1865)'s next action came on the 10th when she and Conestoga silenced a Confederate battery and damaged Yankee at Lucas Bend, Mo., while covering a troop advance. An 8-inch shell from USS Lexington (1861-1865) exploded in Yankee's starboard wheelhouse causing severe damage.

After accompanying an expedition to Owensboro, Ky., 22 to 25 September USS Lexington (1861-1865) again engaged the batteries of Columbus 7 October. With Tyler a month later, she protected General Grant's army during the battle of Belmont silencing enemy batteries which opposed the landings. When a large number of fresh Confederate troops threatened Grant's men, well directed fire of grape and canister from USS Lexington (1861-1865) and USS Tyler scattered the southern reinforcements enabling the Union soldiers to reach safety on their transports.

USS Lexington (1861-1865) continued to support Army operations in the Tennessee River until steaming down the Mississippi with USS Conestoga, USS St. Louis, and USS Mound City to enter the White River, Ark., 14 June. While the Union gunboats, were capturing St. Charles, Ark., 17 June a direct hit exploded USS Mound City's steam drum scaling many of her men. The injured crewmen were treated on USS Lexington (1861-1865) as she pushed 63 miles further upriver to Crooked Point Cut-off where fall water forced her to turn back. The gunboat then returned to the Mississippi to protect Army transports from guerilla bands which attacked from the riverbanks.

On 7 April USS Lexington (1861-1865) and five other gunboats steamed over the falls toward Shreveport to support General Banks who was advancing up the valley. On 15 June 1864 Lexington seized the Confederate steamers Mattie, M. Walt and R. E. Hill, at Beulah Landing, Miss., with cotton on board. She repulsed an attack on White River Station, Ark., 22 June 1864. For the rest of the war she continued patrol and convoy duty. USS Lexington (1861-1865) arrived at Mound City, III., 5 June 1865 and decommissioned there 2 July 1865.

For a complete history of USS Lexington (1861-1865) please see its DANFS page.