USS Monongahela (1862)
USS Monongahela under full sail.
|Builder:||Philadelphia Navy Yard|
|Laid down:||date unknown|
|Launched:||10 July 1862|
|Commissioned:||15 January 1863|
|Out of service:||17 March 1908|
|Fate:||destroyed by fire on 17 March 1908|
|Displacement:||2,078 long tons (2,111 t)|
|Length:||227 ft (69 m)|
|Beam:||38 ft (12 m)|
|Draft:||17 ft 6 in (5.33 m)|
|Sail plan:||Sloop sails|
|Speed:||8.5 kn (9.8 mph; 15.7 km/h)|
|Armament:||1 × 200-pounder Parrott rifle, 2 × 11” guns, 2 × 24-pounder guns, 2 × 12-pounder guns|
USS Monongahela (1862) was a barkentine–rigged screw sloop-of-war that served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War. Her task was to participate in the Union blockade of the Confederate States of America. Post-war, she continued serving her country in various roles, such as that of a storeship and schoolship.
Built in Philadelphia
Monongahela — the first United States Navy ship to bear that name — was built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard and was launched on 10 July 1862; sponsored by Ms. Emily V. Hoover, daughter of Naval Constructor Hoover who superintended the ship’s construction; and commissioned on 15 January 1863, Captain James P. McKinstry in command.
Civil War service
Assigned to bombardment duty
Initially assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron, Monongahela sailed instead to reinforce Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, Alabama, remaining on duty off that port until ordered to attempt to run past Confederate batteries on the Mississippi River at Port Hudson, Louisiana on the night of 14-15 March 1863.
As Army forces ashore conducted a mortar bombardment, the squadron got underway about 22:00, heavier ships Hartford, Richmond, and Monongahela screening the smaller Albatross, Genesee, and Kineo from the forts, with steam frigate Mississippi bringing up the rear.
In the course of the ensuing furious engagement, only Hartford and Albatross succeeded in passing up river, Richmond losing her steam power early in the battle and drifting downstream out of range with Genesee lashed alongside. Monongahela grounded under the guns of a heavy battery, taking a pounding and losing six men killed and 21 wounded, including the captain, until she worked loose with Kineo's aid. While attempting to continue upriver, her overloaded engine broke down, and the sloop was forced to drift downstream with Kineo. Mississippi — grounding at high speed — was hit repeatedly and set afire, eventually blowing up and ending the engagement.
Attack on Port Hudson
On 27 May, Confederate defenders turned back a major assault on Port Hudson following constant bombardment by Monongahela, serving as temporary flagship of Admiral Farragut, and other ships of the squadron. On 7 July, the ship, in company with New London, engaged southern field batteries behind the levee, 12 mi (19 km) below Donaldsonville, Louisiana, Monongahela's new skipper Commander Abner Read being killed in this action. She then departed on 26 October for Brazos Santiago, Texas, to support General Nathaniel Banks’ troops in the capture of that town and Brownsville from 2-4 November, in addition capturing several blockade runners.
Monongahela continued her duty off Texas, covering the landing of 1,000 Union troops on Mustang Island, Aransas Pass, Texas on 16-17 November and supporting a Union reconnaissance at Pass Cavallo on the gulf shore of Matagordas Peninsula from 31 December 1863-1 January 1864. She returned to blockade off Mobile, Alabama, soon after, stopping numerous blockade runners throughout the spring and summer of 1864.
Mobile Bay operations
On 15 July, the warship’s boats conducted a reconnaissance of the Mobile Bay area to determine the Confederate torpedo (naval mines) defenses; and then on 3 August, Admiral Farragut took his stripped-for-action squadron of 18 ships, including four monitors, against those defenses. In the fierce fight and great victory that followed, Monongahela bombarded Confederate forts and then rammed the heavy Confederate ram Tennessee. The sloop succeeded only in damaging herself in the full speed drive into the armored enemy ship, but combined heavy gunfire from the other Union ships forced the Confederate warship to surrender, ending the battle and closing the last major gulf port to the South.
Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf squadron until the end of the Civil War.
Caught in a tsunami
Post-war, Monongahela was assigned to the West Indies Squadron. While on service with the West Indies Squadron, the warship had the unique experience of being landed high and dry almost a mile inland from the shoreline when a tidal wave struck Frederikstad, St. Croix on 18 November 1867.
Following an earthquake, she was hit by a wall of water 25–30 ft (7.620–9.144 m) high and carried over the beach and warehouses to come to rest on an even keel some distance from the water. A working party of mechanics from New York Navy Yard under Naval Constructor Thomas Davidson succeeded in refloating the ship on 11 May 1868, following a four month endeavor. Monongahela was towed to New York City and thence Portsmouth where she was slowly repaired, finally departing in 1873 to join the South Atlantic Station.
Redesignated a training ship
Following a three-year cruise on that duty, the steam sloop served as a training ship off the east coast and then departed for the Asiatic Station, serving in the Far East until need of repairs took her to Mare Island Navy Yard in 1879 where she decommissioned. In 1883, the veteran warship was converted to a supply ship, with all her machinery being removed that fall to make additional room for supplies. During the conversion, her rig was changed to bark to allow her handling by a smaller crew. Monongahela continued her duty on the Pacific Squadron as storeship at Callao, Peru into 1890, and then sailed round Cape Horn to Portsmouth Navy Yard to be fitted out as an apprentice training ship.
Emerging from the refit a full-rigged ship, the old converted sloop joined the Training Squadron in 1891, serving in that capacity until relieving Constellation on 15 May 1894 as U.S. Naval Academy Practice Ship. Making annual cruises each year except for 1898, when the war with Spain intervened, the ship conducted her last Academy cruise from 6 June-4 September 1899, sailing to England and Portugal.
Upon completion of this cruise, Monongahela became training ship for apprentices at the Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, serving for three years in that capacity and cruising to ports throughout Europe’s Atlantic coast and the Caribbean.
Destroyed by fire
- This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.