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Steamship Types

Side-wheel Steam Frigate

The first Mississippi, a side-wheel steamer, was laid down by Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1839; built under the personal supervision of Commodore Matthew C. Perry; commissioned 22 December 1841, Capt. W. D. Salter in command; and launched several weeks later. Built in 1841, this 229 foot long barque-rigged side-wheel steamer had two coal-burning side-lever steam engines that turned two paddle wheels, each 28 feet in diameter. She carried two 10-inch and eight 8-inch Paixhans shell guns and a crew of 257 men. Commodore Perry has became known as the father of the steam Navy because of his strong commitment to introducing steam ships in to the Navy. The first US Navy steam ship was the Fulton. The Mississippi and her sister ship, the Missouri, were the US Navy's first ocean-going side-wheeled steamers and it's first ocean-going steam driven capital ships.
After several years of service in the Home Squadron, during which she performed experiments crucial to development of the steam Navy, Mississippi joined the West Indian Squadron in 1845 as flagship for Commodore Perry. Attempts by the United States and other nations to establish formal relations with Japan were repeatedly rebuffed. In response to this situation, in March 1852, President Millard Fillmore ordered Matthew C. Perry to command the U.S. Navy's East India Squadron and to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. Perry initially delivered President Fillmore's request for a treaty to a representative of the Japanese emperor in July 1853. Perry returned with a larger force in 1854, arriving in Edo (Tokyo) Bay, and obtained the signature of Japanese authorities to the Treaty of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. Commodore Perry, with the steam-frigate Powhatan, as his flag-ship, Captain W.J. McCluney; the sloop-of-war Macedonian, Captain J. Abbot; the steam-frigates Susquehanna, Commander F. Buchanan, and Mississippi, Command S.S. Lee; the sloop-of-war Vandalia, Commander John Pope; and the store-ships Southampton, Lieutenant Commanding J.J. Boyle, and Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding J.J. Glasson, arrived at Yedo bay, Japan, on the 13th of February 1854.
(SwStr: dp. 3,220; l. 229'; b. 40'; dr. 19'; a. (1841) 2 10", 8 8")


USS Missouri, a 3220-ton steam frigate of the Mississippi class, was built at the New York Navy Yard. Commissioned early in 1842, over the next year she demonstrated the then-new steam propulsion technology in the Washington, D.C., area and operated in the Gulf of Mexico. In August 1843, Missouri left the U.S. to convey a U.S. diplomat to Alexandria, Egypt. While at Gibraltar on 26 August 1843, she was accidently set afire, exploded and sank, fortunately without loss of life. Missouri's sunken hulk was later demolished to clear the harbor.


The first Powhatan was launched 14 February 1850 by the Norfolk Navy Yard and commissioned 2 September 1852, Capt. William Mervine in command. She was Commodore Matthew C. Perry's flagship during his November visit to Whampoa. On 14 February 1854 she entered Yedo (Tokyo) Bay with the rest of the squadron and was Perry's flagship when the treaty was signed 31 March 1865. Powhatan remained active throughout the Civil War. In October 1865 she sailed from Boston with Tuscarora and Vanderbilt, escorting monitor Monadnock to California via Cape Horn. After the war Powhatan was the flagship of the South Pacific Squadron 1866-1869. In March 1866 she was sent to Valparaiso to protect American interests during the Spanish attack. From 1869 to 1886 she was attached to the Home Squadron and was flagship from 15 September 1869 until 30 December 1870 and again from 4 July 1877 until 10 December 1879. She ended her long and conspicuous career by making numerous cruises in Cuban waters to protect American commerce: July-August 1880, February-May 1882, January-May 1883, January-May 1885, and January-February 1886.
(SwStr: t. 2,415; dp. 3,765; l. 253'8"; b. 45'; dr. 18'6"; s. 11 k.; cpl. 289 Y a. I XI-inch D.sb., 10 IX-inch D.sb., 5 12-pdrs.)

Side-wheel Steam Gunboat

USS Mohongo, name ship of a class of seven 1370-ton iron "double-ender" side-wheel steam gunboats, was built at Jersey City, New Jersey. Commissioned in May 1865, she departed late in that month on a cruise around South America to join the Pacific Squadron. During May 1866, she was stationed at Callao, Peru, protecting U.S. interests during the war between Spain and Peru. In August, she proceeded north to become part of the North Pacific Squadron.

Screw Steam Frigate

USS Princeton, a 1046-ton screw steamer built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, was commissioned in September 1843. Her designers, John Ericsson, Captain Robert F. Stockton and John Lenthall, fitted her with the Navy's first screw machinery and two very heavy shell guns. On 28 February 1844, while demonstrating one of these guns for distinguished visitors during a cruise near Washington, D.C., the cannon exploded, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer and several others. Following this accident, Princeton operated off Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard until 1847, when she went to the Mediterranean for two years. Upon her return in mid-1849, her timbers were found to be rotten, and she was broken up. Her engines were used in constructing a new USS Princeton a few years later.


USS Merrimack, a 4636-ton 40-gun steam frigate, was built at the Boston Navy Yard. Commissioned in February 1856, she made her initial deployment to European waters, visiting ports in England, France and Portugal before returning to the U.S. in early 1857. Following repairs, in October 1857 Merrimack was sent around South America to become flagship of the Pacific Squadron, a role she played until November 1859. Completing this cruise at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, the frigate decommissioned in February 1860. Merrimack was still there, receiving repairs to her troublesome machinery, when the state of Virginia seceeded from the Union in mid-April 1861.
(ScFr: t. 3,200; l. 275'; b. 38'6"; dph. 27'6"; dr. 24'3"; s. 12 k.; a. 14 8", 2 10", 24 9")


USS California, a 3954-ton Guerriere class screw steamer, was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, as part of an extensive mid-Civil War program of large warship contruction. Originally launched as Minnetonka in July 1867, she was renamed in May 1869, well before entering commissioned service in December 1870. In March 1871 California began a voyage around South America to join the Pacific Squadron. Over the next two years, she operated in the eastern Pacific and also cruised to Hawaii. Built at a time when supplies of properly seasoned wood had been largely exhausted by earlier wartime construction, California's timbers rapidly deteriorated, a serious problem shared by most of her contemporaries. She was decommissioned in early July 1873 and sold in May 1875, just four and a half years after completion.


USS Niagara, a 5540-ton (displacement) steam screw frigate built at the New York Navy Yard, was commissioned in April 1857. Designed for speed, especially when under sail, she was the Navy's largest ship when built, considerably heavier, much longer, and somewhat wider than the other steam frigates constructed at about the same time. In June 1862 Niagara went to Boston for repairs. Despite her great size she was relatively lightly armed, and much of the shipyard work that followed was intended to enhance her battery of heavy guns. Recommissioned in October 1863 with a considerably changed appearance, it was soon discovered that she was badly overloaded, necessitating removal of most of the new armament. For nearly two decades she was laid up at the Boston Navy Yard, while proposals to rebuild her as an armored warship were considered but not implemented. USS Niagara was sold for scrapping in May 1885.
(StFr: dp. 5,540; l. 328'10"; b. 55'; dr. 24'5"; cpl. 251; a. 12 11" D. sb.)


From the outbreak of the Civil War, the Lincoln Administration seemed to feel that the British Government's sympathies lay with the Confederacy. The Trent Affair further strained American-British relations, and the terrible toll exacted from Union shipping by commerce-raiding Confederate cruisers built in England forced the Union Navy to make contingency plans for what appeared to be an increasingly likely war with England. With the Royal Navy in many respects considerably more powerful than its American counterpart, the United States Navy decided that-should open hostilities with Queen Victoria's empire break out-it would adopt its traditional strategy of preying on British merchant shipping. To prepare for such an eventually, the Federal Navy Department embarked upon a program of developing very fast seagoing steamships capable of overtaking all ships they might pursue and of escaping from any they might wish to elude.
Ammonoosuc was one of these steamers. Her hull was designed by Benjamin Franklin Delano to hold a pair of extremely powerful engines to be built at New York by the Morgan Iron Works according to plans drawn by Benjamin Franklin Isherwood for the screw frigate Wampanoag. These engines were not ready when Ammonoosuc was launched and the collapse of the Confederacy prompted a significant slowdown on the work as that all but eliminated the Navy's need for fast, new warships. Ammonoosuc was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard sometime during the first half of 1863 and was launched, apparently without ceremony, on 21 July 1864. The engines were finally finished late in 1867, and Ammonoosuc's hull was towed to New York so that they might be installed.
By late in the spring of 1868, the ship was finally ready to go to sea under her own power and-under the command of Comdr. William D. Whiting-departed New York on 15 June for a run to Boston at full speed. Dense fog over much of her course prevented her from proceeding at top velocity during most of the passage, but during one three-hour period she averaged 17.11 knots while moving from Cape Cod to Fort Warren, the highest sustained speed ever attained by a ship up to that time. Nevertheless, since an unusually large proportion of the space within her hull was taken up by her powerful engines and related machinery, the ship was not commissioned. Instead, she was laid up in the Boston Navy Yard. While there, Ammonoosuc was renamed Iowa on 15 May 1869. She was sold at Boston on 27 September 1883 to the firm of Hubel and Porter, of Syracuse, N.Y.
USS Neshaminy, a 3850-ton steam frigate of the first rate, was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, as part of a Civil War program of large, very fast, steam cruisers. Launched 5 October 1865 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she was moved to the New York Navy Yard for installation of her engines, but was never completed. She had two horizontal direct-acting engines of forty-eight inch stroke and eight Martin boilers. Her machinery was built by the Etna Iron Works of New York. The steamer was assigned a battery of two 100-pdr. Parrott rifles, one 6-pdr. rifle, ten 8 inch smoothbores, and four howitzers, but the battery was never mounted. From 1866 through 1868 Neshaminy was at the New York Navy Yard for installation of her engines. In 1869 she was laid up in ordinary at that yard. Her name was changed to Arizona 15 May 1869, and to Nevada 12 August 1869. In 1869 she was examined by a board which found her hull so twisted and her construction so poor that it was decided not to finish her. In 1869, she was twice renamed: initially Arizona and finally Nevada. Under the latter name, she remained laid up incomplete at New York, and at Groton, Connecticut. She remained in ordinary at New York in an incomplete state until June 1874, when she was sold to John Roach for $25,000, in partial payment for rebuilding monitor Puritan.
USS Pompanoosuc, a 4446-ton steam frigate, was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, in 1864 as part of a Civil War program of large, very fast, steam cruisers. She was never launched, and remained on her building ways until scrapped in 1883-84. Her name was changed to Connecticut in May 1869. A colored lithograph, after a drawing by Captain Melancthon B. Woolsey, USN, was published by the Major & Knapp Eng. Mfg. & Lith. Co., 71 Broadway, New York, circa the later 1860s. It depicts the fast cruisers USS Ammonoosuc (1868-1883) and Neshaminy (1865-1874). The same print has also been used to depict the never-launched USS Connecticut, ex-Pompanoosuc.
(ScFr: dp. 3,850; 1. 335'; b. 44'4"; dph. 16'6"; dr. 10'6"; s. 17.11 k.; a. 10 9" sb., 3 60-pdr. r., 2 24-pdr. sb.; cl. Ammonoosuc)





The denomination "CRUISER" applied to a military ship was used for the first time during the War of North American Secession. It was applied to the great corvettes class WAMPANOAG of the federal navy. These corvettes displaced more than 4,000 tons, had a speed of 16 knots and were armed with 17 guns of several calibers. Wampanoag-a screw frigate-was laid down on 3 August 1863 by the New York Navy Yard, N.Y.; launched on 15 December 1864; sponsored by Miss Case, daughter of Capt. Augustus Ludlow Case, second-in-command of the navy yard; and commissioned on 17 September 1867, Capt. J. W. A. Nicholson in command.
Commerce raiding by CSS Alabama and CSS Florida, both built in English yards, reached a point in 1863 where continued peaceful relations between the United States and Great Britain were seriously jeopardized. As a result, Congress responded by authorizing construction of a new class of screw frigates as part of the naval procurement bill of that year. These vessels, designed to be the fastest in the world, were intended for use in hit-and-run operations against British ports and commerce in the event of war. Wampanoag was the lead ship of this class.
Wampanoag contained numerous design features unprecedented in American naval construction. Her hull -designed by clipper ship architect B. F. Delano- was unusually long and tapered relative to the vessel's beam. Her machinery, developed by controversial Naval Engineer B. P. Isherwood, was unique for its geared steam engine in which slow-moving machinery coupled to fast-moving propulsion gear. Tremendous debate caused by this design delayed construction, preventing Wampanoag from being completed in time to serve in the Civil War.
The screw frigate finally left New York for sea trials on 7 February 1868. On 11 February, she commenced speed tests, running flat-out in rough weather from Barnegat Light, N.J., to Tybee Island, Ga. She covered the distance of 728 statute miles in 38 hours for an average sustained speed of 16.6 knots, at one point making 17.75 knots. Another naval vessel, American cruiser Charleston, did not equal this record for 21 years. From 22 February 1868 to 8 April, Wampanoag was deployed as flagship of the North Atlantic Fleet. On 5 May 1868, she decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard. Wampanoag was renamed Florida on 15 May 1869.
The controversy generated by the frigate's unconventional design reached a peak in 1869 when a naval commission examined and condemned the vessel. Rear Admiral R. M. Goldsborough, Commodore Charles S. Boggs, and Engineers E. D. Robie, John W. Moore, and Isaac Newton judged the ship unacceptable for active duty in the Navy. They complained of her unusually large machinery spaces, heavy coal consumption, and found particular fault with her narrow breadth relative to her length. The commission said this caused inordinate rolling and straining of the vessel. As a result, Florida remained in ordinary at New York for five years before departing on 5 March 1874, bound for New London, Conn., to become a receiving and store ship at the naval station there.
(ScFr: dp. 4,215; l. 355'; b. 45'2"; dr. 19'; s. 18 k.; a. 10 8" sb., 2 100-pdrs., 2 24-pdr. how., 2 12-pdr. how., 1 60-pdr. r. pivt.; cl. Wampanoag)


USS Trenton, a 3900 ton steam frigate, was built at the New York Navy Yard and commissioned in February 1877. The largest warship begun for the Navy in the years between the Civil War and the beginning of "New Navy" steel ship construction in 1883, Trenton served extensively as a flagship, primarily on overseas stations. She deployed across the Atlantic soon after commissioning to become flagship on the European Station, where she primarily operated in the Mediterranean Sea but made annual cruises to visit Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic ports. Late in January 1888, Trenton left the east coast for the last time, bound around Cape Horn to become flagship on the Pacific Station. In a period of rising tensions with Germany over that Nation's actions in Samoa, she arrived at Apia, Samoa, in March 1889. On the 15th and 16th of that month a violent hurricane hurricane assaulted the exposed anchorage there, wrecking Trenton and USS Vandalia, as well as two German gunboats. Determined to be beyond economic recovery, USS Trenton was broken up where she rested.
(ScStr: dp. 3,800; 1. 253'; b. 48'; dr. 20'6" (mean); s. 14% k.; cpl. 477; a. 11 8" mlr., 2 20-pdr. blr.)

Screw Sloop of War

Hartford was launched 22 November 1858 by the Boston Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss Carrie Downes, Miss Lizzie Stringham, and Lt. G. J. H. Preble; and commissioned 27 May 1859, Captain Charles Lowndes in command. After shakedown out of Boston, the new screw sloop of war, carrying Flag Officer Cornelius K. Stribling, the newly appointed commander of the East India Squadron, sailed for Cape Hope and. the Far East. Upon reaching the Orient, Hartford relieved Mississippi as flagship. In November she embarked the American Minister to China, John Elliott Ward, at Hong Kong and carried him to Canton, Manila, Swatow, Shanghai, and other Far Eastern ports to settle American claims and to arrange for favorable consideration of the Nation's interests. Her presence, as a symbol of American sea power, materially contributed to the success of Ward's diplomatic efforts. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Hartford was ordered home to help preserve the Union. 'She departed the Strait of Sumda with Dacotah 30 August 1861 and arrived Philadelphia 2 Decemlber to be fitted out for wartime service. She departed the Delaware Capes 28 January as flagship of Flag Officer David G. Farragut, the commander of the newly created West Gulf Blockading Squadron. On 14 March 1863, Farragut succeeded in running upstream past Port Hudson in his flagship, the screw-sloop Hartford, in company with the small gunboat Albatross. The Hartford was powerful and fast, but being an ocean-going warship, she was ill-suited to conditions on the Mississippi. She measured 225 feet long by 44 feet wide and had a draft in excess of seventeen feet--far too deep for safe navigation on the western rivers. Her three masts looked absurd on the Mississippi, but her twenty-seven-gun armament commanded respect. Farragut's greatest contribution to the Vicksburg campaign was to blockade the mouth of the Red River until Porter's gunboats got below, thus severing a major military and commercial artery of the Confederacy.
(ScSlp: t. 2,900; l. 225'; 'b. 44'; dr. 17'2" ; s. 13.5 k.; cpl. 302; a. 20 9'' D.sb., 2 20-pdr. P.r., 2 12-pdrs.)


The second Vandalia-a screw sloop-was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard, Mass., in 1872 and commissioned there on 10 January 1876. Vandalia was soon deployed with the European Squadron and spent most of the next three years cruising in the Mediterranean along the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey. She put into Villefranche, France, in October 1877, and left on 13 December with the former President, General Ulysses S. Grant, as a passenger. During the next three months, the screw sloop of war touched at ports in Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece before President Grant disembarked at Naples on 18 March 1878. After making several more Mediterranean cruises, Vandalia received orders to return to the United States later that year. She put into Boston on 13 January 1879 and departed on 7 April, bound for Norfolk, Va., and duty with the North Atlantic Squadron. Vandalia remained with the North Atlantic Squadron for five years. During this time, she performed patrol, reconnaissance, and convoy escort duty off the eastern seaboard of the United States.
ScSlp: dp. 2,033; lbp. 216'; b. 39'; dph. 20'; a. 8 guns; cl. Swatara)


CSS Alabama, a 1050-ton screw steam sloop of war, was built at Liverpool, England, for the Confederate Navy. She was barkentine rigged, with long lower masts, which enabled her to carry large fore and aft sails, as jibs and trysails, which are of so much importance to a steamer, in so many emergencies. Her sticks were of the best yellow pine, that would bend in a gale, like a willow wand, without breaking, and her rigging was of the best of swedish iron wire. The scantling of the vessel was light, compared with vessels of her class in the federal navy, but this was scarecely a disadvantage. Her armament consisted of six 32-pounders in broadside and two pivot guns amidships, one (a 100 pounder rifled Blakely) was on the forecastle and one (a smooth bore 8 inch gun) was abaft the mainmast. After leaving England in the guise of a merchant ship, she rendezvoused at sea with supply ships, was outfitted as a combatant and placed in commission on 24 August 1862. Commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes, Alabama cruised in the North Atlantic and West Indies during the rest of 1862, capturing over two-dozen Union merchant ships, of which all but a few were burned. Among those released was the mail steamer Ariel, taken off Cuba on 7 December with hundreds of passengers on board. Alabama began the new year by sinking USS Hatteras near Galveston, Texas, on 11 January 1863. She then moved into the South Atlantic, stopped at Cape Town in August, and went on to the East Indies, seizing nearly 40 more merchantmen during the year, destroying the majority and doing immense damage to the seaborne trade of the United States. The Confederate cruiser called at Singapore in December 1863, but soon was back at sea to continue her commerce raiding. However, Alabama was increasingly in need of an overhaul and only captured a few ships in 1864. On 11 June of that year, Captain Semmes brought her to Cherbourg, France, for repairs. The Union steam sloop Kearsarge soon arrived off the port, and, on 19 June the Alabama steamed out to do battle. In an hour of intense combat, she was reduced to a sinking wreck by the Kearsarge's guns. As Alabama disappeared beneath the surface, her surviving crewmen were rescued by the victorious Federal warship and by the English yacht Deerhound. Her wreck was located by the French Navy in the 1980s.
L/B/D: 220 31.9 14 (67.1m 9.7m 4.3m). Tons: 1,050 tons. Hull: wood. Comp.: 148. Arm.: 6 32pdr, 1 110pdr, 1 68pdr. Mach.: direct-acting engine, 600 ihp, 1 screw; 13 kts. Built: Laird Bros., Ltd., Birkenhead, Eng.; 1862.


USS Monongahela, a 2078-ton steam screw sloop built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, was commissioned in January 1863. Her first service was on the lower Mississippi River, where she was heavily engaged at Port Hudson and elsewhere. From mid-1863 to the end of the Civil War, Monongahela participated in the Gulf of Mexico blockade. On 5 August 1864, she played an active role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, ramming the Confederate ironclad Tennessee. Following the War, Monongahela was assigned to the West Indies. On 18 November 1867, she was cast ashore at St. Croix, Virgin Islands, by a tidal wave and was only refloated six months later. In 1873, after extensive repairs, she began six years' service in the Pacific, the western Atlantic and in Asiatic waters.
Monongahela was converted to a sailing storeship in 1883-84, with her engines removed to increase storage space. From then until 1890, she served as supply vessel at Callao, Peru. Monongahela's next role was as a ship-rigged sail training ship for apprentice seamen and, from 1894 to 1899, for the U.S. Naval Academy's midshipmen. Her training duties ended in 1904, when she became storeship at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Monongahela was destroyed by fire there on 17 March 1908.
(ScSlp: dp. 2,078 t.; l. 227'; b. 38'; dr. 17'6"; s. 8.5 k.; a. 1 200-pdr. P.r., 2 11", 2 24-pdr., 2 12-pdr.)

Screw Steam Gunboat

USS Naugatuck, a 192-ton twin screw steamer built at New York City in 1844, was converted to a gunboat early in the Civil War by Edwin A. Stevens to demonstrate the merits of his ongoing "Stevens Battery" project. Turned over to the Treasury Department and taken into the Revenue Cutter Service, she was loaned to the Navy in the spring of 1862. Naugatuck played an active role in operations in the vicinity of Hampton Roads, Virginia, both to counter local Confederate Navy forces and to support the Union Army's Peninsular Campaign.


USS Kanawha, a 691-ton Unadilla class screw steam gunboat, was built at East Haddam, Connecticut. Commissioned in January 1862, she served along the Confederacy's Gulf of Mexico coast throughout the Civil War. From February 1862 into 1864, Kanawha operated off the entrances to Mobile Bay, Alabama, taking, destroying or assisting in the capture or destruction of some sixteen blockade runners, all but one of them sailing vessels. In the spring of 1864, the gunboat moved to the Texas coast, where she eliminated three more blockade runners, including the steamer Matagorda. With the end of the conflict in May 1865, Kanawha was sent north. She decommissioned in July 1865 and was sold in June 1866. Converted to a sailing bark and renamed Mariano, she was in merchant service until at least 1878.



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