USS Pennsylvania (1837)

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For other ships with the same name, see USS Pennsylvania.
Currier lithograph of USS Pennsylvania, 1846
Currier & Ives lithograph of USS Pennsylvania, 1846
Union Navy Jack
Name: USS Pennsylvania
Namesake: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Ordered: 29 April 1816
Builder: Philadelphia Navy Yard
Cost: $687,026 (exclusive of armament)[1]
Laid down: September 1821
Launched: 18 July 1837
Commissioned: late 1837
Fate: Burned, 20 April 1861
General characteristics
Tonnage: 3,241 tons burden[2]
Length: 210 ft (64 m)
Beam: 56 ft 9 in (17.30 m)
Depth of hold: 24 ft 4 in (7.42 m)
Sail plan: ship rig
Complement: 1,100 officers and men
  • 16 × 8-inch (203 mm) shell guns,
  • 104 × 32 pounder (15 kg) guns

USS Pennsylvania was a three-decked ship of the line of the United States Navy, rated at 130 guns,[1] and named for the state of Pennsylvania. She was the largest sailing warship ever built for the United States, the equivalent of a first-rate of the British Royal Navy. Authorized in 1816 and launched in 1837, her only cruise was a single trip from Delaware Bay through Chesapeake Bay to the Norfolk Navy Yard. The ship became a receiving ship, and during the Civil War was destroyed.


Pennsylvania was one of the "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by the US Congress on 29 April 1816. She was designed and built by Samuel Humphreys in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her keel was laid in September 1821, but tight budgets slowed her construction, preventing her being launched until 18 July 1837. The largest sailing warship ever built for the United States, she had three complete gun decks and a flush spar-deck and her hull was pierced for 136 guns.

Exploding shell guns were replacing solid shot by the time Pennsylvania was fitting out. A Bureau of Ordnance Gun Register for 1846 records her armament as follows:

  • Spar deck: two 9 pounder (4 kg) cannons and one small brass swivel.
  • Main deck: four 8 inch (203 mm) chambered cannons received from Norfolk in 1842, and thirty-two 32 pounder (15 kg) cannons.
  • Middle deck: four 8 inch chambered cannons received from Norfolk in 1842, and thirty 32 pounder cannons.
  • Lower deck: four 8 inch chambered cannons and 28 × 32 pounder cannons.

Pennsylvania shifted from her launching site to off Chester, Pennsylvania, on 29 November 1837 and was partially manned there the following day. Only 34 of her guns were noted as having been mounted on 3 December 1837. She stood downriver for New Castle, Delaware, 9 December, to receive gun carriages and other equippage before proceeding to the Norfolk Navy Yard for coppering her hull. She departed Newcastle on 20 December 1837 and discharged the Delaware pilot on the 25th. That afternoon she sailed for the Virginia Capes. She came off the Norfolk dry dock on 2 January 1838. That day her crew transferred to Columbia.

Pennsylvania remained in ordinary until 1842 when she became a receiving ship for the Norfolk Navy Yard. She remained in the yard until 20 April 1861 when she was burned to the waterline to prevent her falling into Confederate hands. Her wreck was salvaged and broken up.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lenthall, John (27 May 1843). "On the Launch of the Three-deck Ship, the Pennsylvania, in 1837". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 3: 103–04. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b USS Pennsylvania (1837-1861), Online Library of Selected Images, Naval Historical Center


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  • Howard Chapelle, The History of the American Sailing Navy: the Ships and their Development (New York: Norton, 1949)
  • Robert Gardiner, The Line of Battle: The Sailing Warship 1650–1850 (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1992)