Today in History:

Philadelphia (1861-1865)

USS Philadelphia, a 505-ton (burden) iron-hulled side-wheel steamship, was built at Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1859 as the commercial vessel of the same name. She was seized in April 1861, as the Civil War was beginning, and placed in service to patrol the Potomac River area. At times during the war's first six months she was also employed on transport duty in the Chesapeake Bay area and along the Central Atlantic Seaboard. After October 1861 Philadelphia served in the Atlantic, initially taking part in operations along the coast of North Carolina. She participated in the capture of several important Confederate positions during early 1862.

Philadelphia was transferred to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in August 1863. For the rest of the Civil War she was frequently employed as that Squadron's flagship and participated in operations against Charleston, South Carolina, during some of this time. Decommissioned at Washington, D.C., at the end of August 1865, the ship was sold in mid-September. She soon returned to civilian trade, keeping her original name. Renamed Ironsides in 1869, she was lost by stranding at Hog Island, Virginia, on 29 August 1873.

This page features all the views we have related to USS Philadelphia (1861-1865), and to the civilian steamship Philadelphia.

Photo #: NH 67014

(American steamship, 1859-1873)

Artwork by Erik Heyl, 1956, for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume III.
This steamer served as USS Philadelphia in 1861-1865. She was renamed Ironsides in 1869-1873.

Courtesy of Erik Heyl.

Photo #: NH 60690

USS Philadelphia (1861-1865)

Sepia wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1903.

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC.

Note: The following photograph is identified as having been taken on board USS Philadelphia during the Civil War. However, the ship's structure is rather different than that seen in the above artworks of the ship. This may reflect the subsequent addition of a forecastle deck, or may indicate an incorrect identification.

Photo #: LC-B8171-3414

USS Philadelphia

Ship's officers pose on her fore deck, during the Civil War.
Photographed by the Matthew Brady organization.
Note Philadelphia's deck, partially covered with canvas; her pilothouse with bell mounted on top; and brightly-polished capstan. The gun is a 12-pounder Dahlgren boat howitzer, mounted on a field carriage.

Collections of the Library of Congress.