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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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DANFS - USS Calhoun
(Side wheel steamer: tonnage 508; armament 2 32-pounders, 1 30-pounder rifle)


John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), of South Carolina, was a leading proponent of States' rights. He served his State and country with distinction in the House of Representatives 1811-17, and as Secretary of War 1817-25, Vice President 1825-32, Senator 1832-44 and 1845-50, and Secretary of State 1844-45.

Calhoun was built in 1851 at New York as Cuba, was commissioned as a privateer by the Confederates on 15 May 1861, and while operating as a Confederate privateer and blockade runner, was captured by Colorado off Southwest Pass, La., 23 January 1862. Commissioned for Federal service under Lieutenant J. E. DeHaven, she joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron 19 March 1862.

In her service on patrol off the Passes of the Mississippi River Calhoun established herself as one of the most successful blockading ships, taking part in the capture of 13 ships before 5 May 1862, when she steamed up the Mississippi for duty in Lake Ponchartrain. Here she continued to add to her score, chasing and capturing a steamer, a gunboat, two schooners, and a sloop. Later in the year, she sought out and captured another sloop in Atchafalaya Bay.

In early November, Calhoun stood up Berwick Bay and Bayou Teche with two other steamers to engage Confederate shore batteries and the steamer CSS Cotton, barricaded on the Teche. Remaining in the Berwick Bay area on patrol, Calhoun and her consorts climaxed their extremely successful operations 14 April 1863 when they attacked the cotton-clad steamer CSS Queen of the West. One shot from long range from Calhoun turned the Confederate ship into a torch, and a major threat to Union forces in the area was destroyed. Calhoun continued to add to her distinguished record with her participation in the attack on Fort Butte-a-la-Rose on 20 April, and in August, was ordered to base on Ship Island, from which she continued her active and aggressive bombardments of shore positions, and took four more prizes. In the furious assault on Fort Powell the last 2 weeks of February 1864, Calhoun flew the flag of Admiral D. G. Farragut.

Turned over to the United States Marshal at New Orleans on 6 May 1864, Calhoun was sold on 4 June to the U.S. Army.

18 March 2002