USS Colorado (1856)

The first USS Colorado, a 3,400-long-ton (3,500 t), three-masted[2] steam screw frigate, was launched on 19 June 1856, by the Norfolk Navy Yard. Named after the Colorado River,[3] she was sponsored by Ms. N. S. Dornin, and commissioned on 13 March 1858, with Captain W. H. Gardner, in command. She was the fifth of the "Franklin-class" frigates, which were all named after US rivers, except for Franklin.

USS Colorado
USS Colorado, 1871.jpg
USS Colorado
United States
Name: Colorado
Namesake: Colorado River
Builder: Norfolk Navy Yard
Laid down: 1856
Launched: 19 June 1856
Sponsored by: Ms. N. S. Dornin
Commissioned: 13 March 1858
Decommissioned: 8 June 1876
Fate: Sold, 18 February 1885
General characteristics
Class and type: none
Type: Screw frigate
Displacement: 3,425 long tons (3,480 t)
Length: 263 ft 8 in (80.37 m)
Beam: 52 ft 6 in (16.00 m)
Draft: 22 ft 1 in (6.73 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Sail plan: Three masts
Speed:kn (10 mph; 17 km/h)
Complement: 674 officers and men[1]
  • 2 × 10 in (250 mm) guns
  • 28 × 9 in (230 mm) guns
  • 14 × 8 in (200 mm) guns
General characteristics 1864
Class and type: none
  • 1 × 150–pounder rifle
  • 1 × 11 in (280 mm) smoothbore guns
  • 46 × 9 in (230 mm) smoothbore guns
  • 4 × 12–pounder howitzers[1]
General characteristics 1871
Class and type: none
  • 2 × 100–pounder rifles
  • 1 × 11 in (280 mm) smoothbore guns
  • 42 × 9 in (230 mm) smoothbore guns
  • 2 × 20–pounder howitzers
  • 6 × 12–pounder howitzers[1]

Pre-Civil WarEdit

Putting to sea from Boston on 12 May 1858, Colorado cruised in Cuban waters deterring the practice of search by British cruisers until 6 August, when she returned to Boston and was placed in ordinary until 1861.

Civil WarEdit

Colorado was recommissioned on 3 June 1861, and sailed from Boston on 18 June, to join the Union Navy's Gulf Blockading Squadron. She was under the task force commander, Commodore William Marvine, acting as his flagship for the Blockade.[2] On 14 September, an expedition under Lieutenant J. H. Russell, from Colorado, cut out the schooner Judah, believed to be preparing for service as a privateer and spiked one gun of a battery at the Pensacola Navy Yard, losing three men in the raid. On 11 December, another expedition was sent to Pilot Town, and succeeded in capturing a small schooner and two men. Colorado assisted in the capture of the steamer Calhoun (or Cuba) on 23 January 1862, off South West Pass, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a week later engaged four Confederate steamers.

In April 1862, Colorado, built for fighting at sea, was prevented from participating in the Battle of New Orleans because her draft was too deep to cross the bar. Nineteen guns and one howitzer were removed and distributed across the fleet.[4] She returned to Boston, on 21 June, and was decommissioned from 28 June-10 November.

Colorado sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 9 December, to rejoin the blockading force off Mobile, Alabama, on 13 March 1863. She shared in the capture of the schooner Hunter on 17 May. Returning to Portsmouth Navy Yard, on 4 February 1864, she was again placed out of commission from 18 February-1 September.

Clearing Portsmouth, on 6 October, she joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and cruised off the coast of North Carolina, until 26 January 1865. Colorado participated in the bombardment and capture of Fort Fisher from 13–15 January. She was struck six times by enemy fire which killed one man and wounded two.

By late 1864, Wilmington, North Carolina, was the only port left to the Confederacy. Its access to the sea was protected by Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

A joint Army-Navy attack in December failed (the First Battle of Fort Fisher, 7–27 December 1864).[4]

A second attack came in January (the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, 13–15 January 1865). Colorado was engaged, and George Dewey played a key role in her success.

Colorado, being a wooden ship, was placed in the line outside the monitors and other armored vessels, but got a full share of conflict. Toward the end of the second engagement Admiral Porter signaled Thatcher[who?] to close in and silence a certain part of the works. As Colorado had already received considerable damage, her officers remonstrated. But Dewey, who had now acquired marked tactical ability, was quick to see the advantage to be gained by the move and the work was taken in fifteen minutes. The New York Times, commenting upon this part of the action, spoke of it as "the most beautiful duel of the war". When Admiral Porter came to congratulate Commodore Thatcher the latter said generously: "You must thank Lieutenant Dewey, sir. It was his move." Nevertheless, Thatcher was promoted to rear admiral. He tried to take Dewey with him as his fleet captain when he went to supersede Farragut at Mobile Bay. This was not permitted, but Dewey was promoted to lieutenant-commander.[4]


Date[1] Prize Name[1] Gross Proceeds Costs and Expenses Amount for Distribution Where Adjudicated Sent to 4th Auditor for Distribution Vessels Entitled to Share
13 Sep 1861 Judith destroyed [1]
6 May 1862 Lewis Whitmore

Post-Civil WarEdit

A posed photograph of U.S. Navy officers holding a council of war aboard Colorado off Korea, in June 1871, prior to the Korean Expedition. The ship's commanding officer, Captain George H. Cooper, is seated at center, and the Asiatic Squadron's commander, Rear Admiral John Rodgers, leans over the table at right.

European SquadronEdit

From 3 February-25 May 1865, Colorado was again out of commission at New York Navy Yard. Ordered to the European Squadron as flagship, she sailed on 11 June, and cruised off England, Portugal, and Spain, and in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas until she departed Cherbourg, on 23 July 1867, for New York, where she was placed in ordinary from 7 September 1867 – 15 February 1870. During this period LCDR Dewey's next tour of duty was in 1867 and 1868, as executive officer on board Colorado.

Asiatic SquadronEdit

Colorado was flagship of the Asiatic Squadron. America had emerged from the Civil War and its foreign policy at the time was to rival the European powers (France, Russia and Britain) in their efforts to establish trade and spheres of influence in China, Japan, and Korea.

Colorado cruised on the Asiatic Station from 9 April 1870 – 15 March 1873. As flagship for Rear Admiral John Rodgers' squadron, she carried the U.S. Minister (to China and Korea) on a diplomatic mission in April 1871.

On 1 June 1871, an unprovoked attack was made on two ships of the squadron by shore batteries from two Korean forts on the Salee River. When no explanation was offered, a punitive expedition known as the Sinmiyangyo was mounted that destroyed the forts and inflicted heavy casualties on the Koreans.

Clearing Hong Kong, on 21 November 1872, Colorado sailed, by way of Singapore and Cape Town, for New York, arriving on 11 March 1873.

North Atlantic SquadronEdit

Colorado sailed from New York, on 12 December, to cruise the North Atlantic Station, and became flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron on 27 August 1874.


Returning to New York, on 30 May 1876, Colorado was placed out of commission on 8 June. From 1876-1884, she was used as a receiving ship at New York Navy Yard. She was sold on 14 February 1885, to a private company; and broken up for salvage material and burned for her copper fastenings.[2]

While the ship was being broken up off of Plum Beach, near Port Washington, Long Island, a fire broke out on the forward decks, which was where boards were being burnt for iron spikes. The fire spread to several other nearby, former navy ships, which were also due to be broken up for salvage, these were Minnesota, Susquehanna, South Carolina, Iowa, and Congress. Along with Colorado, these other ships went down after they were burnt. The company that had been breaking the ships up, Stannard & Co., claimed at the time that the fire may have caused a more than $100,000 loss.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Silverstone, Warships, p. 29.
  2. ^ a b c "USS Colorado Early History".
  3. ^ Chamberlain, Ken (17 March 2018). "Taking a look at the USS Colorado - All of them". Navy Times. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  4. ^ Miller, Francis Trevelyan (1912). The Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume 6, The Navies. Review of Reviews Company. Retrieved 28 January 2015.