Photographs of the USS Camanche

April 6, 2013 | American, Civil War

One of the most famous ships in American naval history is the USS Monitor, one of the first ironclads. But the Monitor was more than just a single ship. The United States built dozens of monitors on a similar pattern. One of these was the USS Camanche, and it is special in that the Library of Congress contains a series of images that document its career.

The Camanche was destined for the defense of the West Coast, but San Francisco didn’t have the infrastructure to manufacture and build the ship. So she was prefabricated in New Jersey, then taken apart and loaded aboard the Aquila and sent around Cape Horn. The Aquila completed the long voyage safely, but when she arrived in San Francisco she sank in port during the heavy storm. A salvage crew was sent out from the east, and they were able to re float the Aquila. The parts for the Camanche were also retrieved, making her perhaps the only ship to sink and be salvaged before she was even begun.

The Deck

The Deck

Turret Engines

Engines to control the rotation of the turret

Laying the Deck Armour

Laying the Deck Armour

The Ship's Propeller

The Ship’s Propeller

The Ram

The Ram

The Camanche was reassembled in San Francisco, California. She was launched on November 14th, 1865, and commissioned May, 1865. However, by this time the Civil War was over, and immediate naval threats to the West Coast were gone. Nonetheless, the ironclad would remain in the area, decommissioned, for several decades. She returned to active service in 1896 to serve as a training ship for the California militia. In 1898 she was reactivated for a short time during the Spanish-American War, but she saw no service. She was sold on March 22,1899. Her fate is unknown, though photographs probably show her in San Francisco in 1902.

Launch of the Monitor

Launch of the Monitor

The Camanche in Port in San Francisco

The Camanche in Port in San Francisco

USS Camanche at the Navy Yard

USS Camanche at the Navy Yard

You can read more about the ship’s career in this article.

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