The Civil War in Missouri

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The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.

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USS Essex

Photograph by J. W. Taft, Memphis, 1861-1865
MHM Photographs and Prints

Converted from the steam ferry New Era at the Carondelet shipyard, the Essex was a large, 1,000-ton river gunboat that entered Union service in 1862. It was one of the most powerful ironclads on the Mississippi, participating in campaigns against Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, and Port Hudson, and famously battling the Confederate ironclad Arkansas. The Essex remained active throughout the war, was decommissioned in July 1865, and was converted back to the New Era.