USS Pittsburgh (often spelled Pittsburg) was built under War Department contract by James B. Eads, St. Louis, Missouri in 1861; and commissioned in January 1862, Lt. Egbert Thompson in command.
Joining Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s Western Gunboat Flotilla in river patrol duty, Pittsburgh attacked Fort Donelson 14 February 1862, and was damaged by counter-fire. The support from the gunboats contributed greatly to the capture of the strategic fort two days later.
Repaired, she attacked Island No. 10 on 3 April, then ran its batteries by dark 7 April being lashed by a heavy thunderstorm as well as the island’s 73 guns. This daring feat made it possible for her and Carondelet to demolish batteries below New Madrid that same day, clearing the way for the Army to cross the Mississippi.
Pittsburgh gave continued service in the lengthy series of operations which wrested control of the lower Mississippi from the Confederacy. Her flotilla, previously under Army control, came under naval command 1 October 1862. Highlights of her service were the operations against Plum Point Bend, Fort Pillow and Memphis in April, May and June 1862; the Steele’s Bayou Expedition of March 1863; and the passing of the Vicksburg batteries 16 April 1863. She led the attack on the batteries at Grand Gulf 29 April, and was heavily damaged during the five-and-a-half hour engagement which secured Union control of an important stretch of the river, making it possible for Grant to cross the river and attack Vicksburg from the rear. The strong Confederate river fortress surrendered 4 July allowing President Abraham Lincoln at last to report, “The Father of Waters flows unvexed to the sea.”
Patrol and bombardment missions on the Mississippi were interrupted the following year when Pittsburgh joined in the Red River Expedition from March to May 1864. At the close of the war, she decommissioned at Mound City, and was sold there 29 November 1865.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.