From: Dictionary of American Fighting Ships
The chief village of the Kiyuksa band of the Mdewakanton Sioux. It was located on the site occupied by the present town of Winona in Winona County, Minn.
(SwGbt: t. 507; l. 158'8"; b. 28'0"; dph. 12'0"; dr. 10'6"; s. 9 k.; a. 1 11" D.sb., 1 20-pdr. P.r., 2 24-pdr. how.)
The first Winona-a sidewheel gunboat constructed in 1861 at New York City by C. & R. Poillon-was launched on 14 September 1861, delivered to the Navy at the New York Navy Yard on 26 November 1861; and commissioned on 11 December 1861, Lt. Comdr. Edward T. Nichols in command
Ordered to the Gulf Blockading Squadron and allocated to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron when Union naval responsibility in the area was divided early the next year, she served at the mouth of and in the Mississippi River for the next seven months. On 24 April 1862, she attempted to pass Forts Jackson and St. Philip but snagged herself on obstructions while the rest of her unit fought its way past the Confederate forts on the river banks and the South's naval forces. Eventually freeing herself, Winona remained below the forts with Comdr. David D. Porter's mortar flotilla while Flag Officer Farragut moved on upriver to capture New Orleans. Four days later, her commanding officer took part in accepting the Confederate capitulation of Fort St. Philip. In May, she moved upstream with the mortar boats to join the investment of the Southern stronghold at Vieksburg.
That siege began in earnest late on the afternoon of 26 June when Farragut's mortar boats began their bombardment. At dawn on the 28th, Winona joined the other ships of Farragut's fleet in steaming past the Vieksburg batteries under a hail of fire to unite with the fleet under Flag Offieer Davis which had been fighting its way down the river from its base at Cairo, Ill. Onee above Vicksburg, Winona and her colleagues settled into a more or less routine schedule supporting the first Vicksburg campaign and attempting to blockade the Confederate ironclad, Arkansas, in the Yazoo River. On 15 July, however, the Southern warship bested a three-gunboat expedition sent up the
Yazoo after her, disabling Carondolet in the river and chasing Queen of the West and Tyler back down the river. Arkansas continued out of the Yazoo and into the Mississippi to begin a bold dash through the 33 ship Union fleet of which Winona remained a unit. Firing as she went, the Confederate warship hurtled through the startled Northern squadron, briefly engaging Winona as she raced past her. Winona responded briefly, but the Confederate ship passed through the gauntlet safely and moored under the protection of the Vicksburg batteries. Soon thereafter, Winona, under tow of Wissahickon, repassed Vicksburg with the rest of Farragut's force and went back to New Orleans.
By late August, the gunboat had joined the blockade off Mobile, Ala. On 4 September, she was one of three ships on station off that important Confederate port. During the day, she and the gunboat Cayuga scampered back and forth investigating ships sighted. At about 1705 that afternoon, the lookout on board Oneida spied the third strange vessel of the day. Winona received orders to investigate and steamed off toward the stranger. Disregarding the gunboat's hail, the stranger-a barkentine-rigged steamer bearing the unmistakable lines of a British gunboat and flying the red British ensign-bore on toward Oneida. Winona came about and gave chase. As the intruder approached, Oneida loosed a warning shot across her bow at about 1800. The unidentified warship did not even slacken speed. Oneid a put two more shots across her bow in quick succession and then began firing into the ship itself. At 1805, the stranger hauled down the British colors and raised the Confederate ensign. At that point Winona commenced firing at what later proved to be the Confederate commerce raider Florida. The chase continued until about 1827 when Florida crossed the bar into Mobile Bay and Winona, Oneida, and Rachel Seamen gave up pursuit because of a combination of growing darkness, shallow water, and the guns of Fort Morgan. Florida had been severely riddled but Lt. John Newland Maffit had succeeded in his audacious dash through the Union blockade in spite of a skeleton crew laid low for the most part by yellow fever and the fact that he was unable to return fire because his guns lacked sponges, rammers, and other necessary equipment. Later, he would repeat the feat on an outward voyage to become a successful commerce raider excelled only by Semmes and Waddell.
Winona, meanwhile, resumed her blockade duty off Mobile. That duty lasted until December when she received orders to return to the Mississippi. On 14 December, while anchored near Profit Island, she was fired upon by a well-concealed Confederate shore battery. Though she returned fire, her's proved ineffective because she had insufficient steam to bring her broadside to bear on the target. After suffering under the deadly accurate Southern fire, she was forced to retire from the engagement.
In April 1863, the gunboat provided support for the campaign against Port Hudson, Miss., one of the two last Confederate strongholds on the river. On 18 June, when a Confederate Army force occupied Plaquemine in Iberville Parish, La., Winona drove them out with gunfire and then moved on to the fort at nearby Donaldsonville to warn the Union garrison assigned there about the proximity of a large Southern force. The Confederates did not attack the fort immediately; and, in the meantime, Winona steamed up and down the river just in case. On two occasions during the following 10 days, she sighted and bombarded relatively large Southern concentrations ashore. When the Confederates finally attacked the fort at Donaldsonville on 28 June, Winona's guns helped to repulse them. At the conclusion of that action, she returned north to participtate in the final stages of the siege of Vicksburg, which finally surrendered on 4 July 1863.
On 25 August, the gunboat arrived in Baltimore, Md., for extensive repairs. She concluded the yard work in February 1864 and departed Baltimore to join the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. For the remainder of the Civil War, that coastal region constituted her area of operations. Though stationed principally on the Charleston, S.C., blockade station, she also operated on the Suwanee River where she captured and destroyed a steamer on 25 March 1864. She also participated in attacks on Forts Rosedon and Beaulieu near Savannah Ga. After the Confederate evacuation and Union occupation of Charleston in February 1865, Winona operated on the Combahee River in Georgia until the end of hostilities in April. She was apparently placed out of commission on 9 June 1865. Laid up first at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard, she was moved to the New York Navy Yard on 22 November 1865. She was sold at New York on 30 November 1865.