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Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke, 1856-1858: Finding Aid

Published in May 2020

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 17
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke
  • Dates: 1856-1858
  • Size: 0.17 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 139 leaves
  • Creator: Wabash (Frigate)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: U.S.S. Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke were United States Navy steam frigates. The Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke spans from 1856 to 1858. The volume consists of logs for cruises aboard U.S.S. Wabash, dated August 18, 1856-February 22, 1858, U.S.S. Colorado, dated March 13-November 25, 1858, and U.S.S. Roanoke, dated November 26-December 31, 1858.

History of U.S.S. Wabash (Screw frigate)

The first U.S.S. Wabash was laid down on May 16, 1854 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard, launched on October 24, 1855, and commissioned on August 18, 1856, Captain Frederick K. Engle in command.

Wabash departed Philadelphia on September 7, 1856, stopping at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to embark President Franklin Pierce for passage to Annapolis. She arrived at New York on October 23 and sailed on November 28 to become flagship of Commodore Hiram Paulding's Home Squadron. The squadron was instrumental in foiling American filibuster William Walker's expedition against Nicaragua, capturing him in 1857. Controversy over the legality of seizing American nationals in neutral foreign lands prompted President James Buchanan to relieve Commodore Paulding of his command. Wabash was decommissioned on March 1, 1858 at the New York Navy Yard.

Wabash was recommissioned on May 25, 1858 under the command of Captain Samuel Barron, and became the flagship of Commodore E. A. F. La Vallette's Mediterranean Squadron. Future Spanish-American War hero George Dewey, then a midshipman, served aboard Wabash during this cruise. Wabash returned to the New York Navy Yard on December 16, 1859 and decommissioned on December 20.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Wabash was recommissioned on May 16, 1861. Under the command of Captain Samuel Mercer, she departed New York on May 30 as flagship of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Rear Admiral Silas H. Stringham. She captured the brigantine Sarah Starr off Charleston on August 3, and recaptured the American schooner Mary Alice. 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 to take part in the amphibious assault at Hatteras Inlet. Union forces secured Hatteras Inlet with the capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark on August 29, 1861 and took over 700 prisoners, including Wabash's former commanding officer, Captain Samuel Barron. Wabash was later designated the flagship of Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont, the new commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and was sent to the New York Navy Yard for repairs on September 21. After refit, Wabash departed Fort Monroe on October 29, 1861 to spearhead the Federal assault on Port Royal, South Carolina, which was captured on November 7, 1861.

Operating out of Port Royal, Wabash took up station on the Charleston blockade. On March 11, 1862, a landing party led by ship's commanding officer, Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, occupied St. Augustine, Florida. A detachment from Wabash landed and manned a battery which bombarded Fort Pulaski, Georgia on April 10-11, 1862, and a battery of three boat howitzers from Wabash supported Union troops at the Battle of Pocotaligo on October 22.

While in Port Royal Sound, Wabash weathered attacks from C.S.S. Juno on August 5, 1863, and a David-class torpedo boat on April 18, 1864. Wabash departed her station on October 1, bound for the Norfolk Navy Yard and an overhaul, grounding briefly on Frying Pan Shoals en route. Her overhaul was completed by December 16, in time for Wabash to join the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and participate in the attacks on Fort Fisher, North Carolina, on December 24-25, 1864 and January 13-15, 1865.

Wabash returned to Hampton Roads on January 17, 1865, then proceeded to the Boston Navy Yard, where she was decommissioned on February 14, 1865. She was placed in ordinary in 1866 and recommissioned on October 24, 1871, Captain Robert W. Shufeldt commanding. Designated as the flagship of Rear Admiral James Alden and the Mediterranean Squadron, she arrived at Cadiz on December 14, 1871 and cruised the Mediterranean until November 30, 1873. Departing Gibraltar for Key West, Wabash arrived there on January 3, 1874. She was decommissioned on April 25, 1874 at the Boston Navy Yard. In 1875, she was placed in ordinary and served as a receiving ship from 1876 to 1912. Wabash was struck from the Navy list on November 15, 1912 and sold that same day to the Boston Iron and Metal Co.

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History of U.S.S. Colorado (Screw frigate)

The first U.S.S. Colorado, a steam screw frigate, was launched June 19, 1856 by Norfolk Navy Yard, and commissioned on March 13, 1858, Captain W. H. Gardner in command. Putting to sea from Boston on May 12, 1858, Colorado cruised in Cuban waters until 6 August 6 when she returned to Boston and was placed in ordinary until 1861.

Colorado was recommissioned June 3, 1861 and sailed from Boston on June 18 to join the Gulf Blockading Squadron. On September 14, she launched an expedition against the schooner Judah, believed to be preparing for service as a privateer. On December 11, another expedition was sent to Pilot Town, capturing a small schooner and two men. On January 23, 1862, she assisted in the capture of the steamer Calhoun (or Cuba), and a week later engaged four Confederate steamers. She returned to Boston on June 21, 1862 and was decommissioned from June 28 to November 10, 1862.

Colorado sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 9, 1862 to rejoin the blockading force off Mobile on March 13, 1863. She shared in the capture of the schooner Hunter on May 17, 1863. Returning to Portsmouth Navy Yard on February 4, 1864, she was again placed out of commission from February 18 to September 1, 1864.

Clearing Portsmouth on October 6, 1864, she joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and cruised off the coast of North Carolina until January 26, 1865. During the bombardment and capture of Fort Fisher from in January 1865, Colorado was struck six times by enemy fire. She then returned to the New York Navy Yard and was decommissioned from February 3 to May 25, 1865.

Ordered to the European Squadron as flagship, she sailed on June 16 and cruised off England, Portugal, and Spain, and in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. She departed Cherbourg on July 23, 1867 for New York, where she was placed in ordinary from September 7, 1867 to February 15, 1870.

Colorado cruised on the Asiatic Station from April 9, 1870 to March 15, 1873. As flagship for Rear Admiral J. Rodgers' squadron, she carried the U.S. Minister to China on a diplomatic mission to Korea in April 1871. An unprovoked attack was made on two ships of the squadron by two Korean forts on June 1, 1871 and when no explanation was offered, a punitive expedition destroyed the forts on June 10. Clearing Hong Kong on November 21, 1872, Colorado sailed by way of Singapore and Cape Town for New York, arriving on March 11, 1873. She was again out of commission from March 25 to December 2, 1873.

Colorado sailed from New York on December 12, 1873 to cruise the North Atlantic Station, and became flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron on August 27, 1874. Returning to New York on May 30, 1875, Colorado was placed out of commission on June 8. From 1876 to 1884 she was used as receiving ship at New York Navy Yard, and was sold on February 14, 1885.

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History of U.S.S. Roanoke (Screw frigate)

The first U.S.S. Roanoke, a screw frigate, was launched on December 13, 1855 at Norfolk Navy Yard, and commissioned on May 4, 1857, Capt. John B. Montgomery in command.

Assigned to the Home Squadron as flagship, Roanoke's first duty was to return the American filibuster William Walker and his men to the United States. Sailing for Aspinwall, Columbia, on May 30, 1857, Roanoke returned on August 4 with Walker and his followers. Subsequently, Roanoke was sent to Boston Navy Yard where she decommissioned on September 24, 1857.

Recommissioned on August 18, 1858, Roanoke resumed her duties as flagship of the Home Squadron. She devoted the following months to cruising in the West Indies, carrying the U.S. Minister at Bogota, George W. Jones, to Aspinwall and Cartagena. For over a year, she was stationed at Aspinwall awaiting the arrival of a special Japanese envoy to the United States, travelling to Washington to exchange ratifications of the 1858 treaty. Roanoke embarked the delegation on April 25, 1860 and reached Hampton Roads on May 12, where she decommissioned.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Roanoke recommissioned on June 20, 1861. Attached to the North Atlantic Squadron, she destroyed the schooner Mary off Lockwood's Inlet on July 13, 1861. She subsequently took part in the capture of the schooners Albion and Alert, and helped take the ship Thomas Watson off Charleston on October 15, 1861.

During C.S.S. Virginia's attack on Union warships in Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, Roanoke's deep draft prevented her from engaging the Confederate ironclad and kept her out of action the next day when the Virginia engaged the Monitor. Roanoke embarked 268 survivors from the Congress and Cumberland for transport north, and arrived at New York on March 25, and decommissioned the same day.

While being extensively modified by Novelty Iron Works, N.Y., Roanoke was cut down to a low freeboard, had her rigging removed, and was armed with three revolving centerline turrets. She was accepted by the Navy at New York Navy Yard on April 16, 1863. Sea trials indicated that her heavy turrets caused her to roll dangerously, and that her hull was not sufficiently strong to bear their weight and concussion. Recommissioned on June 29, 1863, Roanoke was assigned as harbor defense ship at Hampton Roads through the end of the Civil War.

Roanoke was decommissioned on June 20, 1865 at New York Navy Yard. Retained in reserve, her only postwar service was as flagship of the Port Admiral at New York. Roanoke was recommissioned on January 13, 1874 and remained in reduced commission until again placed in reserve on June 12, 1875. Struck from the list on August 5, 1882, Roanoke was sold for scrapping on September 27m 1883 at Chester, Pennsylvania to E. Stannard & Co. of Westbrook, Connecticut.

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Description of Contents

The Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke, comprising 0.17 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 139 leaves, spans from 1856 to 1858. The volume consists of logs for cruises aboard U.S.S. Wabash, dated August 18, 1856-February 22, 1858, U.S.S. Colorado, dated March 13-November 25, 1858, and U.S.S. Roanoke, dated November 26-December 31, 1858.

The Wabash, under the command of Captain Fred Engle and serving as the flagship of Commodore Hiram Paulding, cruised off the U.S. East Coast and in the Caribbean as part of the Home Squadron, including transporting President Franklin Pierce from Portsmouth to Annapolis in October 1856. The Colorado, under the command of William H. Gardner and serving as the Flagship of James McIntosh, cruised in Cuban and Caribbean waters as a deterrent against British forces. On August 18, 1858, the officers and crew of the Colorado transferred to the Home Squadron's new flagship, U.S.S. Roanoke, which spent most of its time anchored off Aspinwall. The volume includes lists of officers of the U.S.S. Wabash, U.S.S. Colorado, and U.S.S. Roanoke.

The logbook is possibly the product of Midshipman George M. Blodgett, Augustus P. Cooke, or Thomas H. Eastman, all three of whom served aboard all three vessels together.

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The Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke comprises a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Accessioned on February 3, 1872. Accession No. 13832.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Additional documentation in this repository pertaining to U.S.S. Wabash can be found in the Letterbook of the U.S.S. Wabash, 1857, MS 158.

Official logbooks of U.S.S. Wabash, U.S.S. Colorado, and U.S.S. Roanoke may be available in Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, ca. 1801 - 1940, Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798-2007 at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke, MS 17

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

"Colorado I (Screw Frigate)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2015,

"Roanoke II (Screw Frigate)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2005,

"Wabash I (Screw Frigate)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2015,

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in May 2020.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Colorado (Screw frigate)
  • Roanoke (Screw frigate)
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
  • United States. Navy. Home Squadron
  • Wabash (Frigate)

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Ships' logs

Additional Creator/Author

  • Colorado (Screw frigate)
  • Roanoke (Screw frigate)
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Journal of a cruise in the U.S. Steam Frigates Wabash, Colorado, and Roanoke, 1856-1858

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