The Civil War Connections Blog

Short Lived Ironclad

Hey there folks and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: like most people, I am perfectly aware that Sunday is technically the beginning of a new week. However, despite the best efforts of calendars, I still occasionally forget that fact and revert to my childhood idea that Monday is actually the start of the week.

Why can’t the start of the week be on Monday? It’s much easier to remember that way! This is a big deal!


As General McClellan slowly transported his 90,000 men from Hampton Roads to Fredericksburg, ironclads like the USS Monitor and USS Galena helped guard the troop transport ships as they ferried men between the two areas. We all know what happened to our dear friend the USS Monitor as the war progressed (and if for some reason you don’t, then stay tuned to the blog for the rest of the year), but what happened to the USS Galena? Many of you may remember my post from May 14th, where the USS Galena got mauled by a Confederate fort in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff. Afterwards, her use as an ironclad was… debatable.

A stronger word than “debatable” may be necessary.


See, the USS Galena had such thin armor that it failed to offer almost any protection. Also, only the sides of the ship were armored: her top decks were not, so anyone shooting down on her from a higher elevation (like the gunners at Drewry’s Bluff) could just bypass her sad little armor anyway. As a result, iron-made ironclads like the USS Monitor became the norm as the US Navy shifted to using them as heavy warships. Iron-plated wooden ships like the USS Galena remained useful, but would never again be in the same league as the premier ironclads.

“Ericsson’s Premier League Ironclad Warships” has a nice ring to it…


The USS Galena stayed in Hampton Roads for much of the war, and during late 1863 she got a retrofitting that removed all of her iron plating and made her a plain old wooden ship. Her cannon armament was simultaneously increased though, so at least she had some bite left in her. She saw action at the Battle of Mobile Bay, where she played a supporting role at the rear of the fleet. After the war, the USS Galena was scrapped. The future of the navy lay with iron-hulled ships, and wooden vessels just weren’t worth it anymore.

The USS Galena after being retrofitting as a wooden ship.


Well that’s all for today folks. Tune in next time for more Civil War history, and have a good week!