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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Petrita

 

A Spanish, feminine proper name, Petrita retained her Mexican name during her service in the U.S. Navy.

 

(Sw Str: dp. 200; a. 1 gun)

 

Early in the morning of 23 October 1846, a small squadron under Commodore Matthew Perry steamed into a sleepy Mexican town located 7 miles up the Grijalva River. Frontera (now Alvaro Obregon) was caught by surprise. Leaving the steam frigate Mississippi at the mouth of the river because of her draft, the squadron captured 2 steamers and a number of coastal schooners. The most important capture was Petrita, a small but swift American built steamer. She was added to the squadron which was composed of the steamers McLane and Vixen, and schooners Bonita and Nonata. Early the next morning Perry sailed farther up the Grijalva River to attack the town of San Juan Bautista (now Villa Hermosa). At 9 a.m. the Squadron passed the abandoned Fort Acacchappa, where it stopped long enough to spike the guns. It was 12 noon when the Vice Commodore arrived at his destination. Capturing 5 more vessels, the squadron bombarded San Juan Bautista. Not being able to garrison the town because of the lack of men, Perry withdrew to Anton Lizardo, and island just south of Vera Cruz.

 

Petrita was inactive for the remainder of 1846 and the first part of 1847. This was due to a coal shortage and violent storms called “northers” which occur during the winter months. On 7 March 1847, Commodore David Conner and General Winfield Scott made a reconnaissance of Vera Cruz in Petrita. She ran close to Fort Sari Juan de Ulua and was straddled by gunfire. However, no damage was sustained. Petrita participated in the Vera Cruz amphibious assault. Commodore Conner’s plan was to have the large warships tow landing craft from Anton Lizardo to Isla Sacrificios, a distance of a few miles. The small steamers would then pick up the tow and run the landing craft in to shore. Sloop Saint Marys transferred her tow to Petrita, and she safely towed them in. By 10 p.m. more than 10,000 troops had been landed. The operation was a complete success.

 

Suffering from engine defects, Petrita was inactive for the remainder of the war. In 1848 Petrita was lost off Alvarado. All hands were saved.