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Cumberland (1843-1862)

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USS Cumberland, a 1,726-ton sailing frigate, was built between 1825 and 1843 at the Boston Navy Yard. She was commissioned in November 1843 and served for the next few years in the Mediterranean. She was in the Home Squadron in 1846-48, sometimes as its flagship, and participated in Mexican War operations during this time. Cumberland made two more deployments to the Mediterranean in 1849-51 and in 1852-55.

In 1855-56, Cumberland was converted to a sloop of war, allowing her to carry a battery of heavier, though fewer, guns. She was flagship of the Africa Squadron in 1857-59 and was again flagship of the Home Squadron in 1860.

As the secession crisis turned warlike in the spring of 1861, Cumberland was at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, and was towed to safety when that facility was burned and abandoned on 20 April. Thereafter, she served on Civil War blockading duty off the Confederacy's Atlantic coast, taking part in, among other things, the capture of Forts Hatteras and Clark in late August 1861. Cumberland was anchored off Newport News, Virginia, on 8 March 1862, when the ironclad CSS Virginia came out to attack Federal warships in Hampton Roads. In a battle that decisively demonstrated the power of the armored steam-powered warships against the earlier wooden sailing types, Cumberland was rammed and sunk by the Virginia. Her own guns were unable to significantly hinder the Confederate ironclad, and she was incapable of sailing away from the encounter.

This page features, or provides links to, all our views of USS Cumberland (1843-1862).

For views of USS Cumberland's battle with CSS Virginia, see:

  • CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862.

    For views of Cumberland's acting commanding officer during this battle, and of another officer who lost his life in the action, see:

  • Commander George U. Morris, USN (1830-1875), acting commanding officer of USS Cumberland; and
  • Chaplain John L. Lenhart, USN (1805-1862), Chaplain of USS Cumberland, who was killed in this battle.

    USS Cumberland is also depicted, though inaccurately, in some views included in our coverage of the Action between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, 9 March 1862.

    Photo #: NH 64089-KN (Color)

    USS Cumberland (1843-1862)

    Colored lithograph by N. Currier, 1843, entitled: "U.S. Frigate Cumberland, 54 Guns. The flag ship of the Gulf Squadron, Com. Perry."

    Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.



    Photo #: NH 57518

    USS Cumberland (1843-1862)


    Halftone reproduction of a wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, circa 1900, depicting the ship after her 1855-56 conversion from a frigate to a sloop of war.



    Photo #: NH 61867

    USS Cumberland (1843-1862)


    Docked between the Ferry House and the Paymaster's building (at right), at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, probably in September 1860.
    The reverse of the original print is marked "H.K. Halsey, Sept., 1860".

    Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation; Raymond Stone Collection.



    Photo #: NH 59179

    "Destruction of the United States Navy-Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, by Fire, by the United States Troops, on April 20, 1861"


    Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1861, providing two scenes of the burning of Norfolk Navy Yard and the destruction of ships located there.
    Ships shown in the lower scene (as identified below the print), from left to right: USS United States (afire); tug Yankee with USS Cumberland (underway, leaving the area); USS Merrimack (afire in left center distance); USS Pawnee (underway, leaving the area), and USS Pennsylvania (afire).



    Photo #: NH 66576-KN (Color)

    "Bombardment of Forts Hatteras & Clark, by the U.S. Fleet"
    "Under the command of Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham, on the 28th and 29th of August 1861"

    Colored lithograph by J.P. Newell after a drawing by Francis Garland, Seaman on USS Cumberland, published by J.H. Buford, Boston, Massachusetts, 1862.
    Features identified below the image are (from left to right): USS Susquehanna; transport Fanny; Fort Hatteras; USS Harriet Lane; Fort Clark; USS Cumberland; steamer Adelaide; USS Minnesota; steamer George Peabody; USS Wabash; USS Pawnee; and USS Monticello.
    Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.



    Photo #: NH 59210

    "Naval Skirmish between the Rebel Iron-plated War Steamer Yorktown, and a portion of the Federal Fleet anchored in James River, Va., off Newport News."


    Line engraving published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated", 1861. It probably depicts the action of 13 September 1861.
    Ships shown are (from left to right): USS Louisiana, CSS Patrick Henry (ex-Yorktown), USS Savannah and USS Cumberland.



    Photo #: NH 57926

    "Lieutenant Gordon, of the Frigate Cumberland, Rescuing the 9-inch Sawyer Gun from the Burning Steamer Cataline."


    Line engraving published in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Magazine", 1861, depicting an incident in Hampton Roads, Virginia, in late 1861. The Sawyer gun was eventually emplaced on the Rip-Raps and used to bombard Confederate positions on the water approaches to Norfolk, Virginia.



    Photo #: NH 55529

    United States Navy Frigate


    Oil painting on wood, owned in 1938 by Charles E. Goodspeed of Boston, Massachusetts. In a letter of 14 May 1938, Captain D.W. Knox, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of Naval Records and Library, speculated that the painting depicts USS Cumberland (1843-1862) off Boston Light circa the mid-1840s.
    See Photo # NH 55529-A for a detail from this painting, showing the forward portion of the ship.

    Courtesy of Charles E. Goodspeed, 1938.



    Photo #: NH 80855

    United States' Centennial Exhibition, Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1876


    Photograph by Edward L. Wilson and W. Irving Adams, showing part of the U.S. Navy's exhibit at the exhibition, featuring a U.S. flag; Charles O. Cole's portrait of Dick Libby (see Photo # KN-582); models of drydocks, with a monitor in the one at left; heavy iron bars bent by the Boston Navy Yard's bending mill; and a monument made of wood from ships lost in the Norfolk-Hampton Roads area during the Civil War, including (from top to bottom): CSS Florida, USS Cumberland, USS Merrimack, USS Delaware, USS Columbia, USS Columbus, USS Pennsylvania, USS United States and USS Raritan.

    Copied from the book "Photographic Views of the Naval Department of the United States, International Centennial Exhibition of 1876", held by the Navy Department Library in 1974.



    For views of USS Cumberland's battle with CSS Virginia, see:

  • CSS Virginia destroys USS Cumberland and USS Congress, 8 March 1862.

    For views of Cumberland's acting commanding officer during this battle, and of another officer who lost his life in the action, see:

  • Commander George U. Morris, USN (1830-1875), acting commanding officer of USS Cumberland; and
  • Chaplain John L. Lenhart, USN (1805-1862), Chaplain of USS Cumberland, who was killed in this battle.

    USS Cumberland is also depicted, though inaccurately, in some views included in our coverage of the Action between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, 9 March 1862.

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