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Conestoga I (Side-Wheel Gunboat)


The first and second U.S. Navy ships named Conestoga retained the name carried at the time of their acquisition.


(Side-Wheel Gunboat: tonnage 572; armament 4 32-pounders )

The first Conestoga, a side-wheel steamer buiilt at Brownsville, Pennsylvania, in 1859, was purchased in June 1861 for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Assigned to the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla, Conestoga, naval Lt. S. Ledyard Phelps in command, participated in patrol duty and minor skirmishes with Confederate shore units until February 1862. She took part in the crucial capture of Fort Henry on 6 February 1862 with six gunboats, then steamed with the side-wheel gunboats Lexington and Tyler to Florence, Alabama, where the three Union warships captured a half-finished gunboat and two steamers, and destroyed other war material. Conestoga joined in the assault and capture of Fort Donelson from 13 to 16 February, and between 13 June and 9 July in the operations up the White River and the capture of St. Charles, vital phases of the Navy's campaign on the inland waters.

Transferred to the Navy Department on 1 October 1862 with other ships of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, Conestoga continued to operate near the mouth of the Arkansas and White Rivers and on the Mississippi until mid-1863, on patrol and convoy duty and attacking shore installations. Between 19 May and 4 July 1863 she joined in the siege of Vicksburg. She took part in the expedition on the Black, Tensas, and Ouachita Rivers from 12 to 20 July 1863, returning to the Black and Ouachita again from 29 February to 5 March 1864.

On the night of 8 March 1864, Conestoga collided with the side-wheel ram General Price (ex-Laurent Millaudon, ex-CSS General Sterling Price) off Bondurant Point, Louisiana, while on her way to join the expedition up the Red River and sank immediately.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

8 June 2022

Published: Wed Jun 08 18:10:53 EDT 2022