The bicameral legislature of the National Government of the United States, consisting of Senate and House of Representatives.
(Fr: dp. 1,867; lbp. 179'; b. 47'10"; dr. 22'6"; cpl. 480; a. 48", 4832-pdr.)
The fourth Congress was launched at the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H., 16 Aug. 1841, and placed in commission under Captain P. Voorhees on 7 May 1842. Her first cruise, starting 15 July, took her to the Mediterranean for service with the Squadron of Commodores C. Morgan and C. Morris. In Dec. 1843 she proceeded to the east coast of South America seizing the Buenos Aires naval squadron blockading Montevideo on 29 September 1844, where she was active until January 1845 in safeguarding U.S. trade. She was placed in ordinary at Norfolk in March.
The frigate was recommissioned on 15 September 1845 as flagship of Commodore R. Stockton and sailed for the Pacific in late October. After landing the United States Commissioner to the Sandwich Islands at Honolulu on 10 June, she proceeded to Monterey Bay where she joined the Pacific Squadron. Captain E. Lavalette assumed command on 20 July employing her along the west coast during war with Mexico. Large detachments of her crew participated in battles on Rio San Gabriel and the plains of La Mesa, and in the occupation of Los Angeles. She assisted in the bombardment and capture of Guaymas, Mexico, in October 1847, and in November furnished a detachment which aided in the occupation of Mazatlan. On 23 August 1848 she departed La Paz for Norfolk arriving the following January to be placed in ordinary.
In May 1850 she was assigned a threefold mission, protection of United States interests between the mouth of the Amazon and Cape Horn, prevention of the use of our national flag to cover the African slave trade, and maintenance of our neutral rights during hostilities among the South American countries. Departing Hampton Roads on 12 June, she arrived at Rio de Janeiro 1 September and assumed duty as flagship of the Brazil Squadron under Commodore I. McKeever until June 1853. She returned to New York on 20 July for decommissioning.
On 19 June 1855 Congress sailed for the Mediterranean and there followed 2 years as flagship of Commodore S. Breese. Sailing from Spezia, Italy, on 26 November 1857 she arrived at Philadelphia on 13 January 1858 and was placed out of commission.
In 1859 Congress was reassigned as flagship of Commodore J. Sands and the Brazil Squadron, remaining in that area until the Civil War precipitated her return to Boston on 22 August 1861.
On 9 September 1861, she was ordered to duty under command of Captain Goldsborough in the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, later to serve under Commander W. Smith, and Lieutenant J. Smith. Congress was anchored off Newport News, Va., on 8 March 1862, when she fell under attack by the Confederate ironclad, Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) and five other small ships. After exchanging broadsides with Virginia, Congress slipped her moorings and ran aground in shallow water. The ironclad and her consorts attacked from a distance and inflicted great damage on the ship, killing 120, including the commanding officer. Ablaze in several places and unable to bring guns to bear on the enemy, Congress was forced to strike her colors. Heavy shore batteries prevented Virginia from taking possession, instead she fired several rounds of hot shot and incendiary causing Congress to burn to the water's edge, and her magazine to explode.
In September 1865, Congress was raised and taken to the Norfolk Navy Yard where she was later sold.