The Civil War in Missouri

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James B. Eads’ Patent Model for “Improved Turret for War-Vessels.” Patent No. 35,088, April 29, 1862.

1862
MHM Collections

James B. Eads was responsible for the construction of most of the ironclad gunboats that patrolled western waters during the Civil War. His boatyards at Carondelet, Missouri, and Mound City, Illinois, completed the first seven gunboats—Carondelet, St. Louis, Louisville, Pittsburg, Cairo, Mound City, and Cincinnati—in the fall of 1861. These ironclads helped Union forces capture Forts Henry and Donelson in west Tennessee and Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River in early 1862.Eads’ title for his patent implies an improvement for a gun turret, but what he applied for was an improved design to provide protection for the pilot, wheel, smokestacks, and lookout in one ironclad tower at the stern of a gunboat. Eads’s design was used on the next two gunboats he built, the Osage and Neosho, a lighter class of ironclad that also included a single gun turret but had a more shallow draft and lower profile in the water than his first seven city-class gunboats.