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NavSource Online: "Old Navy" Ship Photo Archive

USS Varuna (I)

Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Civil War Medal
Personal Awards

William McKnight, Coxwain, USN.
Screw Gunboat:
  • Laid down in late January or early February 1861 as a merchant steamer at the Mallory Yard, Mystic, CT.
  • Launched in September 1861
  • Purchased by the Navy at New York City, 31 December 1861
  • Commissioned USS Varuna in February 1862, CDR. Charles S. Boggs in command
  • Varuna was assigned to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, 10 February 1862 joining the squadron, 6 March 1862
  • While assigned to the Squadron Varuna participated in COMO. Farragut's daring nighttime dash past Confederate Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the lower Mississippi, 24 April 1862
  • At the height of the battle, Varuna was rammed twice fatally by CSS Governor Moore and struck twice again immediately thereafter by the cottonclad ram CSS Stonewall Jackson.
  • Varuna continued to fight until her guns were submerged
    Displacement 1,300 t.
    Length 218'
    Beam 34' 8"
    Depth 18' 3"
    Draft unknown
    Speed unknown
    Complement unknown
    eight 8" guns
    two 30-pdr Parrott rifles
    Propulsion steam

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    Size Image Description Contributed
    Varuna 95k Sepia wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1904 of USS Varuna. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 57822
    Tommy Trampp
    Essex 79k "Panoramic View of the United States Fleet passing the Forts on the Mississippi, on its way to New Orleans, April 19th, 1862."
    Contemporary line engraving published in "The Soldier in our Civil War", Volume I. It depicts the Federal ships shortly before they began the passage of the forts, with the Confederate gunboats waiting upstream. Individual U.S. Navy ships (as identified in text below the engraving) are:
    USS John P. Jackson;
    USS Mississippi;
    USS Pensacola;
    USS Hartford (Flagship);
    USS Iroquois;
    USS Westfield;
    USS Cayuga; and
    USS Varuna;
    US Naval History and Heritage Command Photo # NH 59063
    Robert Hurst
    Kineo 158k
    "The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862"

    Colored lithograph, published by Currier & Ives, 1862. The original print bears the following descriptive text: "Destruction of the Rebel gunboats, rams and iron clad batteries by the Union Fleet under Flag Officer Farragut. The attack was commenced on the 18th of April and continued until the 25th resulting in the capture of Forts Jackson, St. Phillip, Livingston, Pike and the city of New Orleans, as well as the destruction of all the enemy gunboats, rams, floating batteries (iron clad), fire rafts, booms and chains. The enemy with their own hands destroying cotton and shipping valued at from eight to ten millions of dollars. 'The sight of this night attack was awfully grand, the river was lit up with blazing rafts filled with pine knots and the ships seemed to be fighting literally amidst flames and smoke.'" In this view, ships are identified as (starting at top left center, up the river, running down to the right, then across toward the left): Confederate steamers; USS Cayuga (leading the Union column), USS Pensacola, burning confederate steamer, USS Varuna, USS Oneida, USS Mississippi (engaging the ram CSS Manassas), USS Richmond, USS Kineo, USS Hartford (flagship, in collision with a fire raft), USS Brooklyn and USS Winona. A Confederate fire raft is in the lower right. Fort St. Phillip is shown at right and Fort Jackson at left.
    Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.
    Tommy Trampp
    Varuna 137k Line engraving published in "Virtue", depicting the battle, which took place on the lower Mississippi River during the night of 24 April 1862. A key to the forts and specific U.S. and Confederate ships is given at the bottom of the view. The ships include USS Varuna (in action with Confederate gunboats), USS Brooklyn, USS Pawnee (not shown), USS Hartford (Farragut's flagship, with a fire raft alongside), USS Pensacola, USS Mississippi, CSS Louisiana (exploding), CSS Manassas and Federal mortar vessels.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 59071
    Robert Hurst
    Varuna 95k Line engraving published in "The Soldier in Our Civil War", Volume I. depicts USS Varuna in the center, being rammed by a Confederate ship identified as "Breckinridge" (at left) while engaging CSS Governor Moore (at right) during the battle off Forts Jackson and St. Philip, 24 April 1862. The side-wheel steamer identified here as "Breckinridge" (General Breckinridge), is more probably CSS Stonewall Jackson.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 59077
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Varuna 70k Line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 1862, depicting USS Varuna sinking at right, after she was rammed by CSS Governor Moore during the battle off Forts Jackson and St. Philip, 24 April 1862. The Governor Moore is shown at left, beached and burning after being severely damaged by the Union fleet.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 59076
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Varuna 114k Line engraving, published circa the 1860s, depicting USS Varuna continuing to fire at Confederate forces as she sank, during the battle off Forts Jackson and St. Philip, below New Orleans, Louisiana, 24 April 1862.
    US Naval History and Heritage Command photo # NH 504
    US Naval History and Heritage Command
    Governor Moore
    124k CSS Governor Moore beached and in flames, 24 April 1862. The Union ships are from left to right:
    USS Oneida
    USS Pinola
    the sunken USS Varuna
    USS Iroquois and in the foreground
    USS Pensacola.
    Drawing from an 1888 Century Company New York Publication
    Tommy Trampp

    USS Varuna (I)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
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    Last Updated 13 November 2020