The USS Varuna was a steamship purchased by the Navy on 31 December 1861, commissioned early in 1862 and ordered to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron on 10 February 1862. She arrived on station on 6 March 1862.
The Varuna was a participant in the 24 April 1862 Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, during which she was rammed by Confederate vessels and sunk. Her CO, CDR Charles S. Boggs was widely lauded in Northern newspapers for sailing the Varuna into a "nest of rebel gunboats" and sinking six of them before his own ship was rammed and sank into the Mississippi River while firing her guns until the waters overtook the Varuna's gundeck with some comparison of him to his famous uncle, James Lawrence and his order of "Don't give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks." Except for the three who died in the action and are entombed with the vessel at the bottom of the Mississippi, all of her crew were saved.
Her loss was memorialized in a poem by George Henry Boker that first appeared in the Philadelphia Press on 12 May 1862.
Eight sailors received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the Battle of Forts Jackson & St. Phillip:
Seaman Thomas Bourne
Landsman Amos Bradley
Captain of the Forecastle John Greene
Third Class Boy George Hollat
Seaman William Martin
Quartermaster John McGowan
Coxswain William McKnight
Second Class Boy Oscar E. Peck
|Name||Rate/Rank||Date of Death|
|⚔||Charles Herfurth||Seaman||24 April 1862|
|✚||William Joyce||Landsman||20 May 1862|
|⚔||Daniel McPherson||Ordinary Seaman||24 April 1862|
|⚔ ✎||Andrew H. Smith||Landsman||24 April 1862|