USS Key West (1862)

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Mississippi Squadron Gunboats.jpg
USS Key West at left
History
US flag 34 stars.svgUnited States
Name: USS Key West
Namesake: Key West, Florida
Ordered: as Key West No. 8
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: 1862
Acquired: 16 April 1863
Commissioned: 26 May 1863
Out of service: 4 November 1864
Stricken: 1864 (est.)
Fate:
  • scuttled during combat
  • 4 November 1864
General characteristics
Displacement: 207 tons
Length: 156 ft (48 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Depth of hold: 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m)
Propulsion:
Speed: not known
Complement: not known
Armament: six 24-pounder howitzers

USS Key West (1862) was a steamer acquired by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. She was used by the Union Navy as a convoy and patrol vessel on Confederate waterways, only to be sunk, along with Elfin and Tawah by Confederate shore batteries.

Contents

Key West was built in 1862 at California, Pennsylvania, as Key West No. 8; purchased by the Navy from W. S. Evans et al. at Cairo, Illinois, 16 April 1863; and commissioned 26 May, Acting Master E. M. King in command.

Assigned to operations on the Tennessee River

The wooden stern-wheel steamer departed Cairo that day for patrol duty in the Tennessee River, supporting Union Army efforts and protecting Federal positions in the Tennessee Valley from Confederate Cavalry raids. Frequently, as she patrolled the river and escorted transports and supply ships, her guns engaged hit-and-run batteries and bands of riflemen.

Retiring downstream after being outgunned

On 10 October 1864, as troops debarked at Eastport, Mississippi, from three transports Key West and Undine had escorted from Clifton, Tennessee, a hidden Confederate 6-gun battery at Eastport and a 3-gun battery near Chickasaw opened fire on the Union ships. After the Southern guns had set two of the transports on fire and damaged Key West with two rifle shots, the Union ships reluctantly retired downstream out-of-range.

Tawah, Key West and Elfin lose a duel with superior Confederate batteries

On 2 November at Johnsonville, Tennessee, Key West assisted Tawah in recapturing transport Venus, taken along with Undine and Cheeseman by the Confederates there 30 October. On 4 November Key West, Tawah, and Elfin were caught in a narrow, shallow section of the river near Johnsonville by a Confederate force under General Nathan B. Forrest. After a vigorous action in which Key West was hit 19 times by rifled artillery, the three Union gunboats, riddled and almost out of ammunition, were set afire and scuttled.

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