Begun in October 1862, the Neuse was an Albemarle-class ironclad, 158 feet long and thirty-four feet wide, with a draft of eight feet. The casemate was armored with four inches of iron plating and housed two 6.4-inch Brooke rifles. The hull, constructed at Whitehall, North Carolina, was sent downriver to Kinston, North Carolina, for completion and outfitting in late spring of 1863. Due to difficulty in procuring transportation for the iron plating, the project fell behind schedule. In February 1864, Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke detailed carpenters and mechanics to assist with the project and provided men to complete the crew. Command of the vessel was transferred from Lt. William Sharp to Lt. Benjamin P. Loyall.
On April 22, 1864, Hoke requested that the Neuse assist in an attempt to recapture New Bern, North Carolina. One-half mile down the river for which she was named, the ironclad grounded and could not be freed. The Neuse River rose in mid-May, and the Neuse returned to its moorings. In August 1864, command transferred from Loyall to Capt. Joseph Price. Defeated at the Battle of Wyse Fork, March 8-10, 1865, Gen. Braxton Bragg ordered Confederate troops to evacuate Kinston. To cover the Confederate's retreat and prevent his vessel from falling into enemy hands, Price and his crew shelled the advancing Federals on March 12, 1865 and then scuttled the Neuse.