The Keokuk in many ways represents the complete antithesis of the Monitor concept. One is tempted to wonder what would have been the result if the Keokuk had been selected as a prototype instead of the Monitor. Just possibly she might have survived an encounter with the CSS Virginia, and had a fleet of Keokuks been sent out against the Confederates . . .
Whereas the hull of the Monitor was low and flat, that of the Keokuk was high and sloping; instead of one heavily armored rotating turret with two guns, she had two lightly armored nonrotating, nearly circular casemates, each sheltering one 9-inch pivot gun, which could fire only through one of three ports at 90-degree angles; instead of one simple engine and one large propeller, she had two extremely complicated engines driving two small propellers; instead of one completely protected anchor, she had two ridiculously exposed ones. Her armor was bizarre—alternate courses of 4-inch iron and wood. Withal, she was oddly beautiful. There was a kind of Victorian elegance about her which the Ericsson boats lacked.
The Keokuk's history was gallant and—short. Designed by C. W. Whitney, built by the Underhill Ironworks in New York City. Laid down April 19, 1862, launched December 6. Commissioned February 24, 1863, sunk at Charleston, South Carolina, on April 8, after being hit 90 times.
Was this article helpful?