The Union River Fleet

"Mr. ¬°ami's Ii. Ends, of St Louis, has proposed tis a means ofdefense... the employment of the bouts owned by the wrecking company of which he is a member, and has advised that said boats be taken by the Government and properly armed and equipped for that service ...It is ordered that the subject be referred to General McCtellan, who will consult with Mr. Each and with such naval officer as the Navy Department may send out for thai purpose, and then, as he shall find best, lake order Jor the proper preparation of the boats. "

Rodgcrs was allocated access to naval personnel, but everything else had to be arranged through (he Army.

While Rodgers and Eads discussed plans for the creation of an ironclad flotilla, Pook inspected three sidewheel steamers on the Ohio River which Rodgers had selected as potential gunboats for "naval service in these waters." Pook agreed with Rodgers's selection, and on |une H the US Government duly purchased the Lexington, Tyler, and Conestoga in Cincinnati for $62,000.

As warships, the trio were less than ideal. Observers dubbed them "bandboxes." Their engines were located above the waterline, and their high sides made them easy targets. Pook supervised their conversion, lowering their engines, reducing their superstructure, and reinforcing their hulls to allow the vessels to carry heavy guns. Oak bulwarks five inches thick protected the gun crews from small arms fire. By the end of June 1X61 this initial work had been completed, although Rodgers and Pook criticized the standard of workmanship of the Cincinnati yard which undertook the conversion. As the water level of the Ohio dropped due to seasonal factors, Rodgers ordered the gunboats to be brought down to Cairo, together with (he shipyard workers, but they only got as far as Louisville, Kentucky, before they were trapped by the falling waters. Lieutenant Seth L. Phelps arrived in Louisville to take charge of the stranded vessels. Two other officers (Lieutenant Roger Stembe and Master Joshua Bishop) tasked with command of the riverboats began to recruit naval volunteers in Cincinnati. The Army did little to help.

The gunboat USS Tyler was the most powerful of the three timberclad gunboats which saw service in the Union river fleet. She can be distinguished from the USS Lexington by the midships position of her smokestacks, and from the USS Conestoga by her shorter hull.

Gunboat Uss Tyler Images

The gunboat USS Tyler was the most powerful of the three timberclad gunboats which saw service in the Union river fleet. She can be distinguished from the USS Lexington by the midships position of her smokestacks, and from the USS Conestoga by her shorter hull.

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