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
This page features all the views we have related to USS
Massachusetts and the civilian steamship Massachusetts
(later Crescent City).
Photo #: NH 63878
Massachusetts (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
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
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".