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USS Conestoga (1861)

USS Conestoga (1861)

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USS Conestoga was originally a civilian side-wheel
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

 towboat
Towboat
Not to be confused with the historic boat type with the same name, also called horse-drawn boat.A towboat is a boat designed for pushing barges or car floats. Towboats are characterized by a square bow with steel knees for pushing and powerful engines...

 built at Brownsville, Pennsylvania
Brownsville, Pennsylvania
Brownsville is a borough in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, United States, officially founded in 1785 located 35 miles south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River...

, in 1859. She was acquired by the U.S. Army in June 1861 and converted to a 572 ton "timberclad" river gunboat for use by the Western Gunboat Flotilla, with officers provided by the Navy.

Civil War service


Conestoga's first combat action took place in September 1861 when she engaged CSS Jackson
CSS Jackson
CSS Jackson was a gunboat of the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War.Built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849 as Yankee, the fast side-wheel river tug was purchased at New Orleans on 9 May 1861 by Capt. L. Rousseau, CSN, then strengthened and fitted for service in the Confederate Navy, and...

 near Lucas Bend, Kentucky. Other skirmishes punctuated the routine of river patrol service into 1862. In February, she participated in an expedition up the Tennessee River
Tennessee River
The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles long and is located in the southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley. The river was once popularly known as the Cherokee River, among other names...

 that led to the capture of Forts Henry
Battle of Fort Henry
The Battle of Fort Henry was fought on February 6, 1862, in western Tennessee, during the American Civil War. It was the first important victory for the Union and Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Western Theater....

 and Donelson
Battle of Fort Donelson
The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11 to February 16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The capture of the fort by Union forces opened the Cumberland River as an avenue for the invasion of the South. The success elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S...

. Later in the month, she saw action at Columbus, Kentucky
Columbus, Kentucky
Columbus is a city in Hickman County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 229 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Columbus is located at .According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , all of it land....

, a Confederate strong point on the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

.

During the rest of her service, Conestoga continued to operate along the rivers. She took part in the bombardment of Saint Charles, Arkansas, in June 1862 and was formally transferred to the Navy in October of that year. In April and July 1863, she was involved in expeditions to Palmyra, Tennessee
Palmyra, Tennessee
Palmyra is an unincorporated community in Montgomery County, Tennessee, United States. It is located along State Route 149 southwest of Clarksville. The town has its own post office with the ZIP Code of 37142. Palmyra has a rich civil war history where MAJ GEN Joseph Wheeler of the Confederate army...

, and up the Red River, Louisiana
Red River Campaign
The Red River Campaign or Red River Expedition consisted of a series of battles fought along the Red River in Louisiana during the American Civil War from March 10 to May 22, 1864. The campaign was a Union initiative, fought between approximately 30,000 Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen....

. The following March, she went up Louisiana's Black and Ouachita River
Ouachita River
The Ouachita River is a river that runs south and east through the U.S. states of Arkansas and Louisiana, joining the Tensas River to form the Black River near Jonesville, Louisiana.-Course:...

s. Soon after, on 8 March 1864, USS Conestoga was sunk in a collision with USS General Price.

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