USS Tyler, a 575-ton "timberclad" gunboat, was converted from the commercial side-wheel steamship A.O. Tyler, which had been built in 1857 at Cincinnati, Ohio. Acquired in June 1861 for the Army's Western Gunboat Flotilla, she was commissioned in September with officers provided by the Navy. One of the first Federal warships on the Western Rivers, Tyler saw extensive action on the Mississippi and its tributaries throughout the Civil War, beginning in early September 1861 when she engaged CSS Jackson near Hickman, Kentucky. During 1861 and early 1862, she participated in operations on the Ohio, Upper Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, firing her guns at Confederate forces on several occasions and participating in the capture of a number of enemy vessels and strategic positions.
In April 1862, the Tyler played an important role in the Battle of Shiloh. In June, she joined other Union gunboats in operations on the Yazoo River, where she had a running battle with the Confederate ironclad Arkansas on 15 July 1862. Over the following year, the Tyler was further employed on the Yazoo and in support of Army campaigns in Arkansas. She was formally transferred from the Army to the Navy in October 1862. From mid-1863 to the end of the Civil War she was mainly active in the Arkansas area and engaged an enemy shore battery at Clarendon, Arkansas, on 24 June 1864. Tyler was placed out of service soon after the end of the great conflict and was sold in August 1865.
The gun boats of the Western Flotilla, including the U.S.S. Tyler, closed off the rivers to Confederate advances and helped commerce to continue along the rivers.
Campaigns where U.S.S. Tyler participated:
- 1861 - Soon after being commissioned, the Tyler participated in the attack on the Confederate forces in Hickman and Columbus in Kentucky, doing battle with the CSS Jackson.
- Nov. 1862 - the Tyler escorted troops transports for an assault on Belmont, Missouri. Along with USS Lexington, the Tyler bombarded Columbus until forced by a Confederate counterattack to cover the withdrawal of the Union troops.
- Feb. 1862 - the Tyler assisted in General Ulysses S. Grant's advance up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, helping in the capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, securing western Kentucky for Federal forces.
- April 1862 - In the Battle of Shiloh, when Confederate forces under General Albert Sydney Johnston surprised Grant's troops in southwestern Tennessee near Pittsburg Landing and began pushing them back into the river, the Tyler and the Lexington brought their guns to bear when the Confederates attempted to protect their right flank by anchoring it on the river bank. The two ships delivered a devastating enfilading fire that forced the Southern right flank to fall back. Grant's troops took advantage of the withdrawal to mount a general advance supported by naval ordnance. Thus, victory ensued where debacle seemed imminent. Grant said of this battle, "in this repulse much is due to the presence of the gunboats."
- April 1862 - the Tyler moved farther south where she captured the Confederate transport Albert Robb and burned another Southern ship, Dunbar.
- Dec. 1862 - During the first phase of the siege of Vicksburg, the Tyler participated in the joint Army-Navy expedition up the Yazoo River to establish a landward advance on the Confederate stronghold. That expedition lasted from 7 December 1862 until 3 January 1863.
- May 1863 - the Tyler joined another expedition up the Yazoo, and it resulted in the fall of the important fortifications on Haynes Bluffs on 1 May. That operation was the gunboat's last major role in the reduction of Vicksburg which surrendered to Union forces on 4 July 1863.
- 1863-1865 - the Tyler participated in the invasion of Arkansas, operating principally on the White River. Her last major combat with the Confederates came on 24 June 1864 far up the White River near Clarendon, Arkansas, when she engaged the Southern shore batteries which damaged and captured the gunboat Queen of the West.
- April 1865 - the Tyler was pressed into rescue duty with a volunteer crew to assist in the SS Sultana disaster, north of Memphis on 27 April 1865, as her regular complement had recently been discharged
Scope of this project:
The purpose of this project is to identify those sailors and officers who served aboard the Tyler from its commission in September 1861 to its decommission in 1865.