USS Massachusetts (1860)

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Career (US) 100x35px
Laid down: date unknown
Launched: 1860
Acquired: 3 May 1861
Commissioned: 24 May 1861
Decommissioned: 22 September 1865
Struck: 1867 (est.)
Fate: sold, 1 October 1867
General characteristics
Displacement: 1,515 tons
Length: 210 ft 10 in (64.26 m)
Beam: 33 ft 2 in (10.11 m)
Propulsion: steam engine
Speed: 11 knots
Complement: not known
Armament: one 22-pounder gun
one 42 cwt. pivot gun
four 82 cwt. guns
Armor: iron

USS Massachusetts (1860) was a large steamer acquired by the U.S. Navy prior to the American Civil War.

She was used by the Union Navy as a gunship in the blockade of Confederate ports. At war's end, she was outfitted as a cargo ship and served in that capacity until finally decommissioned.

Massachusetts, an iron screw steamer built at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1860, was purchased by the Union Navy 3 May 1861 from the Boston & Southern Steamship Co., and commissioned 24 May 1861 at Boston, Commander Melancton Smith in command.

Civil War service

Assigned to the Gulf Blockading Squadron, Massachusetts steamed south 10 May 1861 to anchor off Key West, Florida, departing there 8 June for Pensacola, Florida.

The next day she took her first prize, British ship Perthshire, near Pensacola. She captured Achilles 17 June and 2 days later took Naham Stetson off Pass a l’0utre, Louisiana, and on the 23d captured Mexican schooner Brilliant and the Confederate blockade running schooners Trois Freres, Olive Branch, Fanny, and Basile in the Gulf of Mexico.

While Massachusetts was absent, the South had fortified Ship Island, and the batteries fired on her when she returned from Pensacola. She engaged the Confederate guns until she ran out of ammunition.

On 13 July she seized schooner Hiland near Ship Island, and next day engaged steamers Arrow and Oregon off Chandeleur Islands, forcing them to withdraw. Massachusetts captured blockade-running sloop Charles Henry near Ship Island 7 August and gained information on Fort Pike, which guarded the entrance to Lake Pontchartrain for the South.

After repairs in early September, Massachusetts fortified Chandeleur Island and set up a light there 13 September. A landing party from the ship took possession of Ship Island 17 September, thereby providing the Union Navy with a valuable shelter during storms and the base from which Admiral David Farragut would launch his attack on New Orleans, Louisiana. Returning to Ship Island 20 September, Massachusetts attacked, causing the South to burn the barracks and desert Ship Island passage.

Massachusetts operated near strategically important Ship Island through the remainder of the year. She thwarted Confederate efforts to transport freight through the passage 2 December, captured a small fishing boat 12 December, and turned back Oregon, Pamlico, Gray Cloud, and Florida at Mississippi Sound 19 December.

Early in 1862 Massachusetts steamed northward to decommission at New York City 28 February. Pitted out as a transport and supply ship, she recommissioned 16 April and operated along the Atlantic coast until decommissioning at New York City 3 December.

Massachusetts recommissioned 10 March 1863 and but for a brief period in ordinary late that summer served the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron through the end of the war. She captured sloop Parsis in Wassaw Sound 12 March and with Commodore Perry captured blockade runner Caledonia 30 May 1864 south of Cape Fear after a 2 hour chase. In August she aided steamers Gettysburg and Keystone State in the capture of Confederate steamer Lilian.

On 19 March 1865 Massachusetts struck a torpedo (mine), which failed to explode, in Charleston Harbor.

Post-war decommissioning

She decommissioned 22 September 1865 at New York City and was sold there at public auction 1 October 1867. Documented 11 February 1868 as Crescent City, she served American commerce until 1872.


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