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Louisville I (Ironclad Centerwheel Gunboat)

1862-1865

The largest city of Kentucky.

The first U.S. Navy ship named Louisville. Union sidewheel steamer Manitou of the Mississippi Squadron captured Confederate steamer Louisville on the Little Red River, Ark., on 13 July 1863, and she was subsequently renamed Cuachita. The second U.S. Navy ship named Louisville, therefore, American Line steamship St. Louis (q.v.), served during the Spanish‑American War under her merchant name, and was taken over for a second time on 25 April 1918, renamed Louisville (Id. No. 1644), and served from 1918-1919 (http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/s/st-louis-iii.html). The third Louisville, a light cruiser (CL‑28), was reclassified to a heavy cruiser (CA-28) on 1 July 1931, and served from 1931-1959 (http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/louisville-ii.html). The fourth Louisville, an attack submarine (SSN-724), has served since 1986 (http://www.csp.navy.mil/subssquadrons/louisville/louisville_homepage.shtml).

I

(Ironclad centerwheel gunboat: displacement 468; length 175'; beam 51'6"; armament 6 32‑pounders, 3 8-inch, 4 42‑pounders, 1 12‑pounder)

The first Louisville, an ironclad centerwheel steamer, was built at St. Louis, Mo., by James B. Eads in 1861, under contract with the War Department; was accepted on 15 January 1862; and commissioned on 16 January 1862, Comdr. Benjamin M. Dove in command.

Part of the War Department's flotilla on the western rivers, Louisville assisted the Army in the capture of Port Donelson on the Cumberland River, from 14 to 16 February 1862. From 1 to 5 March, she aided in the occupation of Columbus, Ky., known as the "Gibraltar of the West." Departing Cairo, Ill., on 14 March, she served in the capture of Island No. 10 and New Madrid, Mo., through 7 April, and helped to prevent southern ships from ascending the river.

In May, Louisville was ordered to Fort Pillow and participated in the Battle of Memphis on 6 June. Commanded by Rear Adm. Charles H. Davis, her squadron captured and sank the Confederate Mississippi flotilla. On 15 June, she attacked the upper batteries at Vicksburg, before shifting efforts to the White River, departing Helena, Ark., on 5 August. Escorting Benton and Bragg to the mouth of the river, she met little resistance. On 1 October, she was transferred to the Navy.

After escorting transport Meteor, and disembarking troops at Bledsoe's and Hamblen's landings on 21 October, Louisville returned to Helena to join the gunboat fleet of the Mississippi Squadron.

She joined Baron De Kalb, Cincinnati, Glide, Lexington, New Era, Romeo, Rattler, and Signal later in the month on an expedition up the White River in support of Gen. William T. Sherman's army. Louisville captured steamer Evansville near Island No. 36 on 1 November.

Louisville aided in the capture of Fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, from 4 to 11 January 1863, and formed part of the expedition through Steele's Bayou, 14 to 28 January. She was ordered to the Yazoo River on 31 January and moved to stop Confederate soldiers from felling trees across the bayou on 21 March. She then turned her attention to the batteries on the river, running past those at Vicksburg on 16 April, and engaging the lower ones on 29 April. She joined Pittsburg, Mound City, and Carondolet on that date, silencing the guns of the fort on Grand Gulf and helping to establish the siege which forced Vicksburg's surrender.

From 12 March to 22 May 1864, Louisville joined in the expedition up the Red River, La. On 2 June she engaged Confederate batteries seven miles below Columbia, Ark., silencing the guns. She landed Union troops at Sunnyside on 6 June, and anchored off Shipwith's Landing on 20 June, to learn that Confederate troops had traveled upriver with a heavy force, crossing Cypress Creek and Bartholomew's Bayou on 20 June with cavalry, infantry, and artillery. On learning that Parsson's brigade had reached a point 10 miles back of Gaines' Landing, providing reinforcements, Louisville departed immediately for that point, and helped break up the Confederate attack.

Louisville continued service on the Mississippi until decommissioning on 21 July 1865. She was sold at public auction at Mound City on 29 November 1865.

Updated and expanded by Mark L. Evans

Published: Wed Jul 29 09:41:39 EDT 2015