Lead ship of a class of double-turreted monitors, USS Milwaukee was launched by James B. Eads at Carondelet, Missouri on 4 February 1864; and commissioned at Mound City, Illinois on 27 August 1864, Acting Volunteer Lt. James W. Magune in command.
The new monitor departed Mound City 15 October to join the West Gulf Blockading Squadron and arrived New Orleans on the 27th. There she prepared for action against Mobile. On 22 November Lt. Comdr. James H. Gillis took command of the ship.
Rear Admiral David Farragut had won a decisive victory in Mobile Bay 5 August, closing that port to the South. However, the city was still in Confederate hands. To defend it, the South heavily mined the shallow water which led to the city, filled it with formidable obstructions and erected batteries to shell any ships which managed to penetrate the fixed defenses.
New Year’s Day found Milwaukee in Mobile Bay ready for action. In the following months, with other light‑draft Union ships, she swept mines, bombarded Confederate works, removed obstructions and transported Army troops.
General Canby, the Union Army commander, decided to attack the city from the east by the rivers which connected it with the bay, rather than the west where it was protected by strong ports. To be sure, strong forts also guarded the river approaches, but there the Navy could be of maximum help. The key to the city was Spanish Fort which lay on the east bank of the Blakely River.
Canby began to deploy his forces 17 March, and 10 days later reached Spanish Fort and put it under siege. That day, 27 February, Milwaukee and five other Union ships crossed Dog River Bar to cut communications between the fort and Mobile. On the afternoon of the 28th Milwaukee and Winnebago steamed up Blakely River to attack a Confederate transport supplying Spanish Fort. After forcing the Southern ship back, she dropped down stream but struck a torpedo to port and quickly sank. Her entire crew was saved.
Milwaukee’s hulk was raised in 1868, towed to St. Louis where her material was used in the construction of the bridge across the Mississippi which bears the name of her builder, James B. Eads.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.