USS Roanoke (1855)

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Career United States Navy Jack
Builder: Original: Norfolk Navy Yard
Conversion: Novelty Iron Works
Launched: 13 December 1855
Commissioned: 4 May 1857
Decommissioned: 12 June 1875
Struck: 5 August 1882
Fate: sold for scrap, 27 September 1883
General characteristics
Displacement: Original: 4,772 tons
Conversion: 4,395 tons; 6,300 tons full
Length: Original: 263 ft 8¼ in (80.37 m)
Conversion: 278 ft (84.73 m)
Beam: Original: 52 ft 6 in (16.00 m)
Conversion: same
Draft: Original: 23 ft 6 in (7.16 m)
Conversion: 24 ft 3 in (7.39 m)
Propulsion: 4 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Penn trunk engine, nominal 440 ihp (323 kW)
Speed: Original: 11 knots
Conversion: 6 knots
Complement: Original: 674
Conversion: 350
Armament: Original:
2 × 10 in (254 mm) smoothbore
28 × 9 in (229 mm) smoothbore
14 × 8 in (203 mm) smoothbore
2 × 15 in (381 mm) smoothbore
2 × 11 in (279 mm) smoothbore
2 × 8 in (203 mm) Parrott rifle
Armor: Conversion:
Side: 4½ - 3½ in (11.4 - 8.9 cm)
Turrets: 11 in (27.9 cm)
Deck: 1½ in (3.8 cm)

The second USS Roanoke was a steam frigate in the United States Navy and later converted to an ironclad. Roanoke launched on 13 December 1855 at Norfolk Navy Yard; and commissioned 4 May 1857, Captain John B. Montgomery in command.

Assigned to the Home Squadron as flagship, Roanoke’s first duty was to return the American filibuster and former President of Nicaragua, William Walker, and 205 of his men to the United States. Sailing for Aspinwall, Colombia, (now called Colón, Panamá), on 30 May 1857, Roanoke returned on 4 August with Walker and his followers. Subsequently, Roanoke was sent to Boston Navy Yard where she decommissioned on 24 September 1857.

Recommissioned on 18 August 1858, Roanoke resumed her duties as flagship of the Home Squadron. Roanoke devoted the following months to cruising in the West Indies, carrying the U.S. Minister at Bogotá, George W. Jones, to Aspinwall and Cartagena. For over a year, she was stationed at Aspinwall awaiting the arrival of a special Japanese embassy to the United States. The Japanese delegation, traveling to Washington to exchange ratifications of the 1858 treaty, departed Yokohama on 13 February 1860 in the frigate USS Powhatan and reached Aspinwall by a train across the isthmus on 25 April 1860. The Roanoke embarked the delegation and reached Hampton Roads on 12 May 1860 and was decommissioned.

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, Roanoke recommissioned on 20 June 1861. Attached to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she destroyed the schooner Mary off Lockwood’s Inlet, N.C., on 13 July 1861. The screw frigate subsequently took part in the capture of the schooners Albion and Alert and helped take the ship Thomas Watson off Charleston, S.C., on 15 October 1861.

During the CSS Virginia's (the former USS Merrimack), attack on Union warships in Hampton Roads, 8 March 1862, Roanoke’s deep draft prevented her from engaging the Confederate casement ram and kept her out of action the next day when the Virginia engaged the Union turreted ironclad, USS Monitor. Roanoke embarked 268 men from the USS Congress and USS Cumberland which Virginia had sunk, transported them north, and arrived at New York City on 25 March, and decommissioned the same day.

Ironclad Conversion Service History


Under the direction of the Chief of Naval Construction, John Lenthall and the Chief of Steam Engineering, Benjamin F. Isherwood the Roanoke began an extensive modification at Novelty Iron Works, N.Y. Roanoke was cut down to a low-freeboard ship and given three revolving Ericsson centerline turrets. Instead of the usual series of 1 in. laminated plates for hull armor, Roanoke featured one-piece 4.5 in. slabs. She kept her single funnel but landed her full ship rig, and in her new configuration was accepted by the Navy at New York Navy Yard on 16 April 1863. An ordnance report, dated 31 August 1863, listed her battery as follows: fore turret 1 x 15 in. Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 x 150-pounder rifle; middle turret 1 x 15 in. Dahlgren, 1 x 11 in. Dahlgren; after turret, 1 x 11 in. Dahlgren, 1 x 150-pounder rifle.

Sea trials indicated that her heavy turrets caused her to roll dangerously in a seaway, and that her hull was not sufficiently strong to bear their weight and the concussion of the continuous firing. Recommissioned on 29 June 1863, Roanoke was assigned as harbor defense ship at Hampton Roads, Virginia, a duty she performed through the end of the Civil War.

Roanoke was decommissioned on 20 June 1865 at New York Navy Yard. Retained in reserve, Roanoke’s only postwar service was as flagship of the Port Admiral at New York. Roanoke was recommissioned on 13 January 1874 and remained in reduced commission until again placed in reserve on 12 June 1875. Struck from the list on 5 August 1882, Roanoke was sold for scrapping on 27 September 1883 at Chester, Pennsylvania, to E. Stannard & Co., Westbrook, Connecticut.


Additional technical data from Gardiner, Robert (1979). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905. Conway Maritime Press. p. 120. ISBN 0 85177 133 5. 

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