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USS Baron DeKalb (1861)

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Title: USS Baron DeKalb (1861)  
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Language: English
Subject: James Buchanan Eads, Battle of Saint Charles, Ships built in Missouri, John V. Johnston, Charles S. Kendrick
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

USS Baron DeKalb (1861)

USS Baron DeKalb
Career (US)
Ordered: as St. Louis
Builder: James B. Eads Yard, St. Louis, MO
Cost: $89,000 USD
Laid down: August 1861
Launched: October 12, 1861 at Carondelet, Missouri
Commissioned: January 31, 1862
Renamed: September 8, 1862 as Baron DeKalb
Struck: July 13, 1863
Identification: Yellow band on stacks
Fate: sunk by mine, July 13, 1863
General characteristics
Class & type: City-class
Type: River casemate ironclad
Displacement: 512 tons
Length: 175 ft (53 m)
Beam: 51 ft 2 in (15.60 m)
Draught: 6 ft (1.8 m)
Propulsion: steam engine - Center Wheel, 2 horizontal HP engines (22" X 6"), 5 boilers
Speed: 9 mph (14 km/h)
Complement: 251 officers and enlisted
Armament: (see section below)
Armour: 2.5" on the casemates,
1.25" on the pilothouse

USS Baron DeKalb (1861) was a City class ironclad gunboat constructed for the Union Navy by James B. Eads during the American Civil War.

The USS Baron DeKalb, named after General Baron DeKalb of Hüttendorf near Erlangen, in present-day Bavaria, was originally named Saint Louis, and was one of seven City class ironclads built at Carondelet, Missouri and Mound City, Illinois, for the Western Gunboat Flotilla[1]

These ironclads were shallow draft with a center driven paddle wheel. They were partially armored and slow and very hard to steer in the currents of rivers. This ironclad was also vulnerable to plunging fire and also by hits in their un-armored areas. Called "Pook Turtles" for the designer, they did yeoman service through 4 years of war and were present at almost every battle on the Mississippi River and its tributaries.


  • Built in Missouri in 1861 1
  • Civil War service 2
    • Assigned to Union Army operations 2.1
    • Reassigned to the Union Navy 2.2
    • Sunk by mine 2.3
  • Chronology 3
  • Armament 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Built in Missouri in 1861

Originally built as the St. Louis, the stern wheel casemate gunboat was built by James B. Eads, at the Union Marine Works at Carondelet, Missouri, for the U.S. War Department. She was launched as St. Louis, Missouri, October 12, 1861 and joined the Western Gunboat Flotilla.

Civil War service

Assigned to Union Army operations

During 1862 St. Louis, under the command of Lieutenant Lieutenant L. Paulding USN, was attached to Rear Admiral Rear Admiral Andrew Hull Foote's squadron and participated in the Battle of Lucas Bend and the capture of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River (February 6, 1862). She served as flagship for the squadron when it assisted the Union Army at the capture of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River (February 14–16, 1862). Between April and June 1862, she operated against Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

St. Louis was renamed Baron De Kalb September 8, 1862. This change was apparently in anticipation of the vessel's transfer from the War Department to the Navy Department, there already being a USS St. Louis in commission with the Navy.

Reassigned to the Union Navy

On October 1, 1862 Baron De Kalb was transferred to the Navy Department. During December 21–28 she took part in the Yazoo Expedition and participated in the action at Drumgould's Bluff (December 28). Four of Baron De Kalb's sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in the expedition: Ordinary Seaman Peter Cotton, Captain of the Forecastle Pierre Leon, Boatswain's Mate John McDonald, and Boatswain's Mate Charles Robinson.[2][3]

During 1863 Baron De Kalb took part in the capture of Arkansas Post (January 10–11); expedition up the White River (January 12–14); Yazoo Pass Expedition (February 20 – April 5); action at Fort Pemberton (March 11–13); action at Haines' Bluff (April 29-2 May, May 18); action at Yazoo City, Mississippi (20–23 May); and the Yazoo River Expedition (24–31 May).

Sunk by mine

On July 13, 1863 Baron De Kalb was sunk by a mine (then called a "torpedo") in the Yazoo River, one mile below Yazoo City, Mississippi.



Like many of the Mississippi theater ironclads, Baron Dekalb had its armament changed multiple times over life of the vessel. To expedite the entrance of Baron DeKalb into service, she and the other City-class ships were fitted with whatever weapons were available; then had their weapons upgraded as new pieces became available. Though the 8 in (200 mm) Dahlgren smoothbore cannons were fairly modern most of the other original armaments were antiquated; such as the 32-pounders, or modified; such as the 42-pounder "rifles" which were in fact, old smoothbores that had been gouged out to give them rifling. These 42-pounder weapons were of particular concern to military commanders because they were structurally weaker and more prone to exploding than purpose-built rifled cannons. Additionally, the close confines of riverine combat greatly increased the threat of boarding parties. The 12-pounder howitzer was equipped to address that concern and was not used in regular combat.[4]

Ordnance characteristics
January 1862 October 1862 December 1862 Early 1863
• 3 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 4 × 42-pounder rifles
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle
• 3 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 2 × 42-pounder rifles
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 2 × 30-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle
• 2 × 10-inch smoothbores
• 3 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 2 × 42-pounder rifles
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 2 × 30-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle
• 1 × 10-inch smoothbore
• 2 × 9-inch smoothbores
• 2 × 8-inch smoothbores
• 6 × 32-pounder rifles
• 2 × 30-pounder rifles
• 1 × 12-pounder rifle

See also


  1. ^ The Western Gunboat Flotilla was a unique "joint service" organization. The gunboats were built using funds from the War Department, were manned by Navy personnel, and were under the ultimate command of the U.S. Army theater commander.
  2. ^ "Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (A–L)". Medal of Honor Citations.  
  3. ^ "Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients (M–Z)". Medal of Honor Citations.  
  4. ^ Angus Konstam, (2002), Union River Ironclad 1861-65, Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard 56, ISBN 978-1-84176-444-3

External links

  • Baron de KalbPictures of USS
  • Building the City Class Ironclads Documentary

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