A city in southwestern Tennessee; so named because it is situated upon the Mississippi River in a manner similar to the capital city of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt on the Nile. In the Civil War, Memphis fell 6 June 1862 to Union naval forces led by Flag Officer Charles H. Davis and was an important Federal base for the rest of the war. The first Memphis retained her merchant name.
(ScStr: t. 791; l. 227'; b. 30'1"; dph. 11'5"; s. 14 k.; a. 7 guns)
The second Memphis, a 7‑gun screw steamer, built by William Denny & Bros., Dumbarton, Scotland, in 1861, was captured by side wheel gunboat Magnolia while running the blockade from Charleston, S.C., with a cargo of cotton 31 July 1862; purchased by the Navy from a prize court at New York 4 September 1862; and commissioned 4 October 1862, Acting Volunteer Lt. Pendleton G. Watmough in command.
Assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Memphis sailed for Charleston and began service 14 October with the capture of British steamer Ouachita bound for Havana. She continued patrol through 1862 into 1863. On 4 January she joined side wheel steamer Quaker City in taking Confederate sloop Mercury with a cargo of turpentine for Nassau. The 31st of that same month Confederate ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora made a dash out of Charleston Harbor into the midst of the blockading ships. Screw steamer Mercedita was rammed and disabled by Palmetto State while side wheel steamer Keystone State was next attacked and left for Memphis to take in tow. The two rams then retired.
By March of the following year, Memphis was operating in the North Edisto River, S.C. On 6 March 1864 Confederate torpedo boat David attemped a run on the Union blockader. The spar torpedo struck Memphis’ port quarter but did not explode. After her second torpedo misfired, David retreated upstream out of range of her foe’s heavy guns. Memphis uninjured, continued her blockading duties to the end of the Civil War.
On 6 May 1867 Memphis was decommissioned and sold to V. Brown & Co., at New York, 8 May 1869. Renamed Mississippi, the screw steamer operated as a freight ship until 13 May 1883 when she was gutted by a dock fire at Seattle, Wash., and her wreck abandoned.