USS Mississippi

The USS Mississippi was the first steam frigate built by the Navy and the first ship to bear the name Mississippi. Her keel was laid down at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1839, commissioned 22 December 1841 and launched 1842.

She joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron in early 1862 and participated in the Battle of Forts Jackson and St Phillip and the capture of New Orleans.

On 14 March 1863, the Mississippi was part of the fleet engaging the fort at Port Hudson, Mississippi. She ran aground while passing the fort and her crew was unable to refloat her. Orders were given to destroy her engines, spike the guns and set fire to her before abandoning ship to prevent her falling into the hands of the Confederates. When the fire finally reached the magazine, she blew up and sank. Many sources give 64 as the number of sailors and marines killed when the Mississippi's magazine blew up, however from comparing the names names on the Navy muster rolls for the Mississippi and the lists of missing to rendezvous index cards and pension applications and from the notes written on the USMC muster roll, only 18 actually died. Many of the names that were initially listed as missing or killed became prisoners of war when they swam ashore and were later paroled.

Two sailors and one Marine were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions that day: Seaman Andrew Brinn, Boatswain's Mate Peter Howard, and Sergeant Pinkerton R. Vaughn, USMC.

Two survivors of the sinking of the Mississippi were and would be historical names in Navy history. One earned his honors before the action before Port Hudson, Quartermaster William Conway and his act of defiance at the surrender of the Pensacola Navy Yard on 12 January 1861; and her Executive Officer, George Dewey, would make history at the Battle of Manila Bay on 27 April 1898.

  • USS Mississippi on NavSource

  • Deaths

      Name Rate/Rank Date of Death
    ⚔ øWilliam H. AustinCoal Heaver14 March 1863
    ⚔ ø ✎Patrick BannonPrivate, USMC14 March 1863
    Rudolph BrockOrdinary Seaman18 February 1862
    ⚔ øJames H. BurnsFireman 1st Class14 March 1863
    Paul DavidSeaman15 August 1862
    ⚔ øStephen DowneyLandsman14 March 1863
    James H. DuffyFireman 2nd Class23 September 1863
    ⚔ øJohn EaganCoal Heaver14 March 1863
    ⚔ øGeorge HenryOrdinary Seaman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øGeorge N. HowardOrdinary Seaman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øGeorge JacksonLandsman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øEphraim R. JonesOfficer's Steward14 March 1863
    ⚔ øJohn Keating1st Class Boy14 March 1863
    ⚔ øDavid N. KellyPrivate, USMC14 March 1863
    ⚔ øRobert L. KellyActing Master14 March 1863
    ⚔ øAndrew MatthewOrdinary Seaman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øJohn McElroyOrdinary Seaman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øMoses ObertonLandsman14 March 1863
    George SandersonCorporal, USMC24 April 1862
    ⚔ øLewis ScottLandsman14 March 1863
    ⚔ øJoseph N. SullivanPaymaster's Steward14 March 1863
    ⚔ øWilliam TalbotPrivate, USMC14 March 1863
    William H. WoodsCorporal, USMC24 April 1862


    killed in action
    prisoner of war
    died of disease or injury
    died of yellow fever
    ø died due to vessel loss
    died in ordnance accident
    buried on land in marked grave
    buried/lost at sea
    🎖 Medal of Honor recipient
    transcribed letters of sailor/marine posted

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