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USS Keokuk


USS Keokuk in the ways
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Career
Launched:6 December 1862
Commissioned:March 1863
Fate:sunk on 8 April 1863
General Characteristics
Displacement:677 tons
Length:159.5 feet
Beam:36 feet
Draft:8.5 feet
Speed:9 knots
Complement:92 officers and men
Armament:two 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore cannon
USS Keokuk, an experimental ironclad steamer, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the city in Iowa. Her keel was laid down at New York City by Charles W. Whitney, with the name Moodna (sometimes incorrectly spelled "Woodna"). she was renamed while under construction, launched in December 1862 sponsored by Mrs. C. W. Whitney, wife of the builder, and commissioned in early March 1863 with Commander Alexander C. Rhind in command.

The embodied some unusual concepts: her two stationary, cylindrical gun towers, each pierced with three gun ports, which often caused her to be mistaken for a double-turreted monitor; and her armor of horizontal iron bars alternating with strips of wood.

The new ironclad departed New York on 11 March and steamed south to join the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron for the attack on Charleston, South Carolina, and arrived at Newport News, Virginia, two days later. She got underway again on 17 March but returned to Hampton Roads for repairs when her port propeller fouled a buoy. She stood out of Hampton Roads again 22 March and arrived Port Royal, South Carolina, on 26 March.

As the day of attack on Charleston approached, Keokuk and USS Bibb[?] were busy laying buoys to guide Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont[?]'s ironclad flotilla, which included USS New Ironsides[?] and seven monitors, into the strongly fortified Confederate harbor. The Union ships crossed the Stono Bar[?] on 6 April but were prevented from attacking that day by hazy weather which obscured targets and blinded pilots.

The attack began at noon on 7 April, but difficulties in clearing torpedoes from the path of Du Pont's ironclads slowed their progress. Shortly after three, they came within range of Fort Moultrie[?] and Fort Sumter; and the battle began. Southern obstruction and a strong flood tide made the ironclad virtually unmanageable, while accurate fire from the forts played upon them at will. With the Union formation scrambled, Keokuk was compelled to run ahead of crippled USS Nahant[?] to avoid fouling her in the narrow channel. This brought her less than 600 yards from Fort Sumter, where she remained for half an hour receiving the undivided attention of the Confederate guns.

Keokuk was struck by about ninety projectiles, many of which hit at or below her waterline. Her experimental armor was completely inadequate to protect her from this onslaught and she was "completely riddled." She was able to withdraw and anchor out of range, and her crew kept her afloat through the night. When a breeze came up on the morning of 8 April 1863, Keokuk began taking on more water, filled rapidly, and sank off Morris Island. She had given one month of commissioned service.

References This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.



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