The frigate warship has been a fixture of naval warfare for centuries and, prior to the steel, steam-driven beasts of the 20th Century, warplanners relied on fleets of sailing frigates. While generally varying in both size and role in regards to fleet action, the type was typically of larger dimension than other classes and fielded formidable armament. Their size also allowed for a considerable crew to be carried that included a detachment of fighting marines armed for boarding actions.
USS Congress of the United States Navy (USN) was launched on August 16th, 1841 out of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Maine. She was formally commissioned for service into the USN on May 7th, 1842 and led an active career that spanned into the early 1860s where she was ultimately doomed by events of the American Civil War (1861-1865). At the time of her commissioning she became the fourth ship to carry the "Congress" name for the American Navy.
From 1850 to 1853 the warship was called to combat the human slave trade in South Atlantic waters, primarily near South America. On July 20th, 1853, she arrived in New York waters and was decommissioned. By 1855, the ship was back in sailing service and took a journey to the Mediterranean, returning to the American East Coast in November 1857. She rejoined the fleet in 1859 and served until August 1861.
When the "War Between the States" broke out in 1861, USS Congress remained a viable warship and was pressed into further service when she was returned to active duty in September. She formed part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron of the Union Navy, tasked with denying shipments to-and-from Europe intended for the Southern cause. Her last notable action was a run in with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia - converted from the remains of USS Merrimack. The fighting took place on March 8th 1862 near Newport News, Virginia and the battle saw USS Congress run aground in the commotion. This offered the enemy a perfect opportunity to advance on the disabled ship - leading to 120 aboard Congress being killed. The remaining crew ultimately surrendered but Union offshore guns saved the vessel from capture.
Badly damaged and on fire, USS Congress billowed smoke and burned until her magazine supply exploded, sending her under. It was not until the war ended in 1865 that attempts were made to raise her - and this occurred in September of that year to which her remains were stripped of their usefulness and the rest sold off.
- Blue Water Operations
- Fleet Support
179 ft (54.56 m)
47.9 ft (14.60 m)
22.5 ft (6.86 m)
42 x 32-pounder long guns
8 x 8" Paixhans guns