USS Cincinnati was built in 1861 under a War Department contract by James Eads, Carondelet, Missouri, and commissioned at Mound City, 1llinois on 16 January 1862, naval Lieutenant G. M. Bache in command.
Assigned to duty with the Army in the Western Gunboat Flotilla under naval Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, Cincinnati participated in the attack and capture of Fort Henry (6 February 1862); the operations against Island No. 10 (12 March-7 April 1862); the engagement with the Confederate gunboat fleet at Plum Point Bend and the bombardment of Fort Pillow (10 May 1862). This important series of operations was aimed at splitting the Confederacy. During the last engagement Cincinnati, the lead vessel, was repeatedly struck by enemy rams and sunk.
Raised and returned to service, Cincinnati was transferred to the Navy Department on 1 October 1862 with other vessels of the Western Gunboat Flotilla. She participated in the Army-Navy operation against Port of Arkansas and installations on the White River in January 1863, then was ordered to the Yazoo River where she took part in Steele's Bayou Expedition (14-27 March 1863). Joining the attack on the Vicksburg batteries (27 May 1863), Cincinnati came under heavy fire and was sunk for the second time, suffering 40 casualties. According to Harper's Weekly at the time:
- She went gallantly into action, rounded the point, and blazed away at the rebel batteries, but the latter were not idle, and all the guns that could be brought to bear—rifled and smooth bore — opened on her. Her tiller -ropes were shot away, and she got some heavy shot into her sides. The pilot was killed at the wheel, and her commander took his place. All the men at the wheel were wounded, but Lieut. Bache escaped unharmed.
- She started up the river, as she made a great deal of water, rounded again the point of the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, and was struck by a plunging 10-inch smooth-bore or 7-inch rifled shot ; she then commenced to sink, and her captain ran her inshore, where she sank to her hammock netting. The officers and crew saved nothing.
- According to the captain the Cincinnati lost about thirty men in killed and wounded, and 15 to 20 drowned.
It was during this engagement that Landsman Thomas E. Corcoran, Boatswain's Mate Henry Dow, Seaman Thomas Jenkins, and Seaman Martin McHugh each received the Medal of Honor for their duty at their battle stations as the ship was sinking, and their rescue of fellow sailors who were wounded or couldn't swim while the sunken vessel was still under fire.
Raised again in August 1863 Cincinnati returned to patrol duty on the Mississippi River and its tributaries until February 1865 when she was transferred to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. She patrolled off Mobile Bay and in the Mississippi Sounds until placed out of commission 4 August 1865 at Algiers, La. She was sold at New Orleans 28 March 1866.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.