Today in History:

Massachusetts (1861-1867)

Massachusetts, a 1155-ton (burden) iron screw steamship, was built at Boston, Massachusetts in 1860. She was purchased by the Navy in May 1861, soon after the beginning of the Civil War, and placed in commission later in that month as USS Massachusetts. Sent to the Gulf of Mexico to enforce the blockade of the Confederacy, she captured several sailing vessels. While operating in Mississippi Sound in September 1861, she took possession of Ship Island, which was later used as a base by Federal forces, and fought a long-range engagement with a Confederate gunboat.

After leaving the Gulf for repairs early in 1862, Massachusetts was returned to active service in April and employed to carry supplies and personnel between Northern ports and the blockading forces along the southern coast. In 1863 she was assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Massachusetts subsequently had successful encounters with a number of blockade runners, among them the steamer Caledonia, captured on 30 May 1864. While in Charleston harbor, South Carolina, on 19 March 1865 she struck a Confederate mine (or "torpedo" in the terminology of the day), but fortunately the device did not explode.

USS Massachusetts was decommissioned at New York in September 1865, several months after the end of the Civil War. She was sold in October 1867, resumed commercial service early in 1868 under the name Crescent City, and remained in use until 1892.

This page features all the views we have related to USS Massachusetts and the civilian steamship Massachusetts (later Crescent City).

Photo #: NH 63878

(American Steamship 1860-1892)

Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1951, painted for use in his book "Early American Steamers", Volume I.
Completed in 1860, this steamer served as USS Massachusetts in 1861-1867. In 1868, following her return to civilian use, she was renamed Crescent City.

Courtesy of Erik Heyl.

Photo #: NH 59366

"Merchant Steamers Converted into Gun-boats."

Engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", July-December 1861 volume.
It depicts thirteen merchant steamships acquired by the U.S. Navy between April and August 1861 and subsequently converted into warships, plus the steamer Nashville (far left), which became a Confederate cruiser.
U.S. Navy ships, as identified below the image bottom, are (from left to right): Alabama, Quaker City, Santiago de Cuba (listed as "St. Jago de Cuba"), Mount Vernon, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Florida, De Soto, Augusta, James Adger, Monticello, Bienville and R.R. Cuyler.

Online Image: 182KB; 1200 x 470 pixels

Photo #: NH 59009

"View of Ship Island, Louisiana. -- By our Special Artist on Board the 'Sagamore'"

Line engraving, published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting several U.S. Navy ships anchored off the Federal base at Ship Island in early 1862. Ships are (from left to right) Winona, New London, Niagara, Sagamore, Wissahickon, and Massachusetts. Other features identified, in the center and right background, are Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island, the 9th Connecticut and 22nd Massachusetts Regiments and a military camp.

Photo #: NH 42917

Charleston Campaign, 1863-65

Photostat reproduction of a chart of the approaches to Charleston, South Carolina, detailing the locations of the wrecks of U.S. Navy ships Weehawken, Keokuk, Patapsco and Housatonic; the wreck of CSS Georgiana; where USS New Ironsides, Bibb and USS Massachusetts encountered Confederate "torpedoes" on 7 April 1863, 16 March 1865 and 19 March 1865; and the location of other "torpedoes".

Copied from the "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion".