USS Monongahela

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Monongahela ScSlp

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Monongahela
(ScSlp: dp. 2,078 t.; 1. 227'; b. 38'; dr. 17'6"; s. 8.5 k.; a. 1 200-pdr. P.r., 2 11", 2 24-pdr., 2 12-pdr. )

The first Monongahela, a barkentine-rigged screw sloop of war, built by the Philadelphia Navy Yard. was launched 10 July 1862; sponsored by Miss Emily V. Hoover, daughter of Naval Constructor Hoover who superintended the ship's construction, and commissioned 15 January 1863, Capt. James P. McKinstry in command.

Initially assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron Monongahela sailed instead to reinforce Rear Adm. David G. Farragut's West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, Ala., remaining on duty off that port until ordered to attempt to run past Confederate batteries on the Mississippi at Port Hudson, La., on the night of 14 to 15 March 1863. As Army forces ashore conducted a mortar bombardment, the squadron got underway about 2200, heavier ships Hartford, Richmond, and Monongahela screening the smaller Albatros&, Genesee, and Kinco from the forts, 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 steampower 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 murderous pounding and losing six men killed and 21 wounded, including the captain, until she worked loose with Kinco's aid While attempting to continue upriver, her overloaded engine broke down, and the sloop was forced to drift downstream with Kineo. Venerable Mississippi, grounding at high speed, was hit repeatedly and set afire, eventually blowing up and ending the engagement.

Two months later, 27 May, Confederate defenders turned back a mayor 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 1863, the ship, in company with New London, engaged southern field batteries behind the levee, 12 miles below Donaldsville, La., Monongahela's new skipper Commander Read being killed in this action. She then departed 26 October 1863 for Brazos Santiago, Tex., to support General Banks' troops in the capture of that town and Brownsville, 2 to 4 November, in addition capturing several blockade runners, Monongahela continued her duty off Texas, covering the landing of 1,000 Army troops on Mustang Island, Arkansas Pass, Tex.

16 to 17 November and supporting a Union reconnaissance at Pass Cavallo on the gulf shore of Matagordas Peninsula 31 December 1863 to 1 January 1864. She returned to blockade off Mobile soon after, stopping numerous blockade runners throughout the spring and summer of 1864.

On 15 July, the warship's boats conducted a reconnaissance of the Mobile Bay area to determine the Confederate mine or torpedo defenses; and then, 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 served well, bombarding Confederate forts and then valiantly ramming 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 mayor gulf port to the South.

Monongahela remained on duty with the West Gulf Squadron until the end of the Civil War, and then 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, 18 November 1867. Following an earthquake, she was hit by a wall of water 25 to 30 feet 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 11 May 1868, following a 4 month endeavor. ~Monongahela was towed to New York and thence Portsmouth where she was slowly repaired, finally departing in 1873 to join the South Atlantic Station.

Following a 3-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 Station 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 15 May 1894 as 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 to 4 September 1899, sailing to England and Portugal. Upon completion of this cruise, J!Monongahela became training ship for apprentices at the Training Station, Newport, R.I., serving for 3 years in that capacity and cruising to ports throughout Europe's Atlantic coast and the Caribbean. Finally detached from the Atlantic Training Squadron 9 May 1904, the old warship served as a storeship at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until totally destroyed by fire 17 March 1908.