The first Colorado was named for the Colorado River; the second and third ships named Colorado were named for the 38th State, admitted to the Union on 1 August 1876.
(ScFr: dp. 3,425; l. 268'6"; b. 52'6"; dr. 23'9"; s. 9 k.; cpl. 646; a. 2 10", 24'9", 14 8")
The first Colorado, a steam screw frigate, was launched 19 June 1856 by Norfolk Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss N. S. Dornin; and commissioned 13 March 1858, Captain W. H. Gardner in command.
Putting to sea from Boston 12 May 1858 Colorado cruised in Cuban waters deterring the practice of search by British cruisers until 6 August when she returned to Boston and was placed in ordinary until 1861.
Colorado was recommissioned 3 June 1861 and sailed from Boston 18 June to join the Gulf Blockading Squadron. On 14 September an expedition under Lieutenant J. H. Russell from Colorado cut out the schooner Judah believed to be preparing for service as a privateer and spiked one gun of the battery at the Pensacola Navy Yard, losing three men in the raid. On 11 December another expedition was sent to Pilot Town and succeeded in capturing a small schooner and two men. Colorado assisted in the capture of the steamer Calhoun (or Cuba) 23 January 1862 off South West Pass at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and a week later engaged four Confederate steamers. She returned to Boston 21 June 1862 and was decommissioned from 28 June to 10 November 1862.
Colorado sailed from Portsmouth, N.H., 9 December 1862 to rejoin the blockading force off Mobile, Ala., 13 March 1863. She shared in the capture of the schooner Hunter 17 May 1863. Returning to Portsmouth Navy Yard 4 February 1864, she was again placed out of commission from 18 February to 1 September 1864.
Clearing Portsmouth 6 October 1864, she joined the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and cruised off the coast of North Carolina until 26 January 1865. During Colorado's participation in the bombardment and capture of Fort Fisher from 13 to 15 January 1865, she was struck six times by enemy fire which killed one man and wounded two.
From 3 February to 25 May 1865 Colorado was again out of commission at New York Navy Yard. Ordered to the European Squadron as flagship, she sailed 16 June and cruised off England, Portugal, and Spain, and in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas until she departed Cherbourg 23 July 1867 for New York where she was placed in ordinary from 7 September 1867 to 15 February 1870.
Colorado cruised on the Asiatic Station from 9 April 1870 to 15 March 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 shore batteries from two Korean forts on 1 June 1871 and when no explanation was offered, a punitive expedition destroyed the forts and inflicted heavy casualties on the Koreans on 10 June. Clearing Hong Kong 21 November 1872, Colorado sailed by way of Singapore and Capetown for New York, arriving 11 March 1873. She was again out of commission from 25 March to 2 December 1873.
Colorado sailed from New York 12 December 1873 to cruise the North Atlantic Station, and became flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron on 27 August 1874.
Returning to New York 30 May 1875 Colorado was placed out of commission 8 June. From 1876 to 1884 she was used as receiving ship at New York Navy Yard. She was sold 14 February 1885.