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USS Wabash (1855)

USS Wabash (1855) was a steam screw frigate of the United States Navy that served during the American Civil War. She was based on the same plans as Colorado. Post-war she continued to serve her country in European operations and eventually served as a barracks ship in Boston, Massachusetts, and was sold in 1912.Pre-Civil War serviceWabash—the first U.S. Navy ship to bear that name—was laid down on 16 May 1854 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; launched on 24 October 1855, sponsored by Miss Pennsylvania Grice; and commissioned there on 18 August 1856, Captain Frederick K. Engle in command.Wabash departed Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 7 September 1856, stopping at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to embark President Franklin Pierce for passage to Annapolis, Maryland. She arrived at New York on 23 October 1856, sailing on 28 November 1856 to become flagship of Commodore Hiram Paulding's Home Squadron. The squadron was instrumental in foiling the expedition against Nicaragua underway by American filibuster, William Walker, who had dreamed of uniting the nations of Central America into a vast military empire led by himself. Through insurrection, he became president of Nicaragua in 1855 only to have Cornelius Vanderbilt—who controlled the country's shipping lifelines—shut off supplies and aid. A revolt toppled Walker from power, and he was trying for a military comeback before he was captured in 1857 by the Home Squadron. Stateside controversy over the questionable legality of seizing American nationals in foreign, neutral lands prompted President James Buchanan to relieve Commodore Paulding of his command. Wabash was decommissioned on 1 March 1858 at the New York Navy Yard.[edit] First recommissioning, 1858-1859Wabash was recommissioned on 25 May 1858, Captain Samuel Barron in command, and became the flagship of Commodore Elie A. F. La Vallette's Mediterranean Squadron. The future naval hero of the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War, George Dewey—then a midshipman—served aboard the Wabash when she touched at her first port of call, Gibraltar, on 17 August 1858. Dewey would later write in his autobiography that "The Wabash was quite the finest ship of the foreign fleet and also the largest." Wabash returned to the New York Navy Yard on 16 December 1859 and decommissioned there on 20 December 1859.[edit] Civil War service, 1861-1865With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Wabash was recommissioned on 16 May 1861, Captain Samuel Mercer in command, and departed New York on 30 May 1861 as flagship of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Rear Admiral Silas H. Stringham.Wabash captured the brigantine Sarah Starr off Charleston, South Carolina, on 3 August 1861, and recaptured the American schooner Mary Alice, taken earlier by CSS Dixie. By this date, she had also captured the brigantines Hannah, Balch, and Solferino, along with 22 Confederate prisoners from the four vessels.On 26 August 1861, Wabash departed Hampton Roads, bound for Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, to take part in the first combined amphibious assault of the war. Wabash accompanied Monticello, Pawnee, revenue cutter Harriet Lane, the tug Fanny, and two transports, carrying over 900 troops under Major General Benjamin Butler. Union forces secured Hatteras Inlet with the capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark on 29 August 1861. The attacking force suffered no casualties and took over 700 prisoners. Among these was Captain Samuel Barron of the Confederate Navy, the former commander in the United States Navy of Wabash when she served under Rear Admiral La Vallette. Wabash was later designated the flagship of Flag Officer Samuel Francis du Pont, the new commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and was sent to the New York Navy Yard for repairs on 21 September 1861.Wash drawing in grey tones by Clary Ray, circa 1900, showing USS Wabash under steam and sail.After refit, Wabash departed Fort Monroe on 29 October 1861 to spearhead the Federal assault on Port Royal, South Carolina. The assembled invasion fleet was the largest yet organized by the Navy, containing 77 vessels and 16,000 Army troops under Brigadier General Thomas W. Sherman. The combined force secured Port Royal Sound on 7 November 1861 after a furious four-hour battle. Wabash led the battle line in this major strategic Union victory.Wabash now took up permanent station on the Charleston blockade, operating out of Port Royal. On 11 March 1862, a landing party led by ship's commanding officer, Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, occupied St. Augustine, Florida. A detachment of seamen and officers from Wabash landed and manned a battery which bombarded Fort Pulaski, Georgia, on 10 April and 11 April 1862 and was instrumental in forcing that Southern fort to surrender. A naval battery of three 12 pounder howitzers from Wabash supported Union troops at the Battle of Pocotaligo, on 22 October 1862.Confederate vessels twice harassed Wabash while on duty in Port Royal Sound. On 5 August 1863, CSS Juno, a small steamer on picket duty below Fort Sumter, fired upon and ran down a launch from Wabash, capturing 10 sailors and drowning two. The CSS David submarine torpedo boat also attacked Wabash on 18 April 1864. Ensign Charles H. Craven, officer of the deck, spotted the cigar-shaped vessel in time for Wabash to get underway. The David disengaged from the attack in the face of musket fire and round shot discharged from Wabash.Wabash departed her station on 1 October, bound for the Norfolk Navy Yard and an overhaul. En route, she grounded briefly on Frying Pan Shoals, suffering minor damage to her rudder. Repairs and overhaul were completed by 16 December, in time for Wabash to join the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and to participate in the first attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, on 24 December and 25 December 1864. The failure of this initial attempt to take the fort necessitated a second, successful combined operation between 13 January and 15 January 1865. It was during this second attack on Fort Fisher, that corporal Andrew J. Tomlin and ordinary seamen Louis C. Shepard earned the Medal of Honor.Wabash returned to Hampton Roads on 17 January 1865, receiving orders on 25 January 1865 to proceed to the Boston Navy Yard. Wabash was decommissioned at Boston on 14 February 1865.

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