We all know that there were some pretty interesting ships participating in the US Civil War. The below panoramic view of the Charleston Harbor, published on 5/2/1863 can serve as a testament to that. First in line of the ironclads below is:
USS Keokuk was an experimental ironclad screw steamer of the United States Navy named for the city of Keokuk, Iowa. She was laid down in New York City by designer Charles W. Whitney at J.S. Underhill Shipbuilders, and launched in December 1862.
1862 USS Keokuk
1862 USS Keokuk
- The launch was sponsored by Mrs. C. W. Whitney, wife of the builder.
- USS Keokuk was commissioned in early March 1863 with Commander Alexander C. Rhind in command.
- She was originally named Moodna (sometimes incorrectly spelled "Woodna"), but was renamed while under construction.
- Could it be that "Woodna" was her original name?
- Or, could it bee that Moodna or Woodna was a totally different ship?
- USS Keokuk (1862)
USS Keokuk was one of the first warships to be of completely iron construction, with wood used only for deck planks and filler in the armor cladding. Her hull construction consisted of five iron box keelsons and one hundred 1-inch-thick by 4-inch-deep iron frames spaced 18 inches between centers. The frames included integral iron cross beams for the decks, with no transverse wood timbers as used on the Monitor. Her bow and stern sections were flooding spaces to allow raising and lowering her waterline.
- Her two stationary, conical gun towers, each pierced with three gun ports, housed one 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun each on a shortened and rounded rotating wooden slide carriage.
- Her tower and casemate armor was made up from 1-inch-thick by 4-inch-deep horizontal iron bars alternating with planks of yellow pine of the same dimensions, sheathed with layers of overlapping, flush-bolted 1⁄2-inch rolled iron plates.
- A total thickness of this composite armor, including the hull skin proper, was 5.75 inches (146 mm).
- The deck was made of 5-inch wood planks overlaid with 1⁄2-inch-thick iron plate.
- She had two twin-cylinder main propulsion engines, each 250 hp. In total, Keokuk had nine steam engines providing power to various systems.
- The First Battle of Charleston Harbor began at noon on April 7, but difficulties in clearing torpedoes from the path of Du Pont's ironclads slowed their progress. Shortly after 3 p.m., they came within range of Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter; and the battle began.
- USS Keokuk was struck by about ninety projectiles, many of which hit at or below her waterline.
- Commander Rhind reported his ship as being hit by a combination of solid shot, bolts, and possibly hot shot.
- As predicted by her chief engineer, her thin composite armor was completely inadequate to protect her from this onslaught and she was "completely riddled" in the words of Commander Rhind.
- However, she was able to withdraw under her own power and anchor out of range, thanks in part to the skills of her black pilot, Robert Smalls, a former slave and pilot of CSS Planter.
- Her crew kept her afloat through the night, but when a breeze came up on the morning of April 8, 1863, Keokuk began taking on more water, filled rapidly, and sank off Morris Island.
- She had given one month of commissioned service.
KD: Unfortunately, I was unable to find a single photograph of our USS Keokuk. Did they have any photography equipment to snap a photo or two, or fifty of this ship? I think they did. Yet, searching for photographs produced nothing. If you find anything, please share.
- The most remarkable thing about this ship is obviously her design.
- Where a design like this could come from in 1862?