Today in History:

Congress (1842-1862)

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USS Congress, a 1,867-ton sailing frigate, was built between 1839 and 1842 at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine. Commissioned in May 1842, she made a Mediterranean cruise in that year and into 1843, then served off the South American east coast until early 1845. After a refit, she was sent to become flagship of the Pacific Squadron, remaining there until mid-1848. During that cruise, Congress took an active role in the war with Mexico.

From June 1850 until June 1853, the frigate served as flagship of the Brazil Squadron. Congress next deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for two years' duty as flagship, beginning in June 1855 and concluding in November 1857. On her next assignment, from 1859 until mid-1861, she was again the Brazil Squadron flagship.

The outbreak of the Civil War brought Congress back to U.S. waters, where she spent her remaining days. She joined the blockade of the Confederacy's Atlantic coast in September 1861. On 8 March 1862, while anchored off Newport News, Virginia, USS Congress was attacked by the ironclad CSS Virginia. After suffering heavy casualties in a one-sided action with a opponent that was virtually invulnerable to her guns, the veteran frigate was forced to surrender. She was subsequently destroyed by fire and the explosion of her powder magazine.

This page features, or provides links to, all our views of USS Congress (1842-1862).

For views of an embroidered sea bag apparently made by one of Congress's crew, see:

  • USS Congress -- Embroidered Seabag.

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

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

    For views of Joseph B. Smith, who was Congress' acting commanding officer when she was lost, see:

  • Lieutenant Joseph B. Smith, USN (1826-1862).

    USS Congress 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 590

    USS Congress (1842-1862)


    Nineteenth Century photograph of a painting by Vandenburg, depicting the frigate under sail in heavy seas.



    Photo #: NH 55326

    USS Congress (1842-1862)


    Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century photograph of an artwork titled "U.S. Frigate Congress 1842".



    Photo #: NH 74536

    USS Congress (1842-1862)


    Sketch by Fred S. Cozzens, copied from his book "Our Navy -- Its Growth and Achievements", 1897.



    Photo #: NH 55325

    Warships in Rio de Janeiro Harbor, Brazil


    Lithograph by Martinet, depicting the Brazilian ships Armacao and Nitherohy at left, HMS Alfred in the right center foreground and USS Congress (1842-1862) in the right distance. Date is during the 1840s or 1850s, when Congress was serving in the South Atlantic or passing through on her way to or from the Pacific.

    Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, April 1936.



    Photo #: NH 93579

    USS Congress (1842-1862)


    Artwork by J. Glen Wilson, Royal Navy, 1852, depicting the frigate at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October (presumably 1852). The work is inscribed: "Presented by Captain Henry N. Denham, R.N., Commdg. H.M. Frigate Arnold ... Commodore I. McKeever, Commdg. U.S. Brazil Squadron".

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



    Photo #: NH 1310-KN (Color)

    USS Congress (1842-1862) (right)
    and
    USS Susquehanna (1850-1883) (left distance)

    Oil painting by DeSimone, depicting the ships at Naples in 1857.

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



    Photo #: NH 1430

    USS Congress (1842-1862)
    (right)
    and
    USS Susquehanna (1850-1883) (left distance)

    Oil painting by DeSimone, depicting the ships at Naples, about 1857.

    Collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936.



    Photo #: NH 55327

    USS Susquehanna (1850-1883)
    (left)
    and
    USS Congress (1842-1862)

    Oil painting, probably by DeSimone, depicting the ships at Naples in 1857.
    Note local rowing craft in the foreground.

    Courtesy of Mr. K. Scofield, July 1939.



    For views of an embroidered sea bag apparently made by one of Congress's crew, see:

  • USS Congress -- Embroidered Seabag.

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

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

    For views of \Joseph B. Smith, who was Congress' acting commanding officer when she was lost, see:

  • Lieutenant Joseph B. Smith, USN (1826-1862).

    USS Congress 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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