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Naval Warfare

USS Pennsylvania

Ship-of-the-Line [ 1837 ]

USS Pennsylvania was ordered in 1816 and managed a career into 1861 - at which point she was burned and lost.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/16/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In 1816, the American Congress, attempting to broaden the strength of the United States Navy (USN), authorized the building of nine sailing warships carrying no fewer than seventy-four guns each. Samuel Humphreys took on the charge of constructing one of the number and this became the 130-gun, three-masted USS Pennsylvania. Ordered on April 29th, 1816, the warship saw her keel laid down during September of 1821 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. After funding issues delayed her ultimate completion, she was launched on July 18th, 1837 and commissioned later that year for formal service in the USN.

Under load, Pennsylvania displaced 3,240 tons and was given a running length of 210 feet and beam of 56.8 feet (becoming the largest sailing ship ever constructed by American shipbuilders). Her profile was dominated by the three primary masts each carrying sails of various sizes through a "ship rig" arrangement. While range was essentially unlimited, it was restricted by wind availability, onboard food stores, and general crew morale. Aboard was a typical complement of 1,100.

Primary armament centered on over 100 guns set to fire from either side of the hull (via the "broadside" tactic) from across three floors - the Main Deck, Middle Deck, and Lower Deck. The "Spar Deck" was armed with a pair of 9-pounder cannons for close-in work. Thirty-two 32-pdrs were kept on the Main Deck with thirty serving the Middle Deck, and the remaining twenty-eight weapons on the Lower Deck. In 1842, she took on 12 x 8" (203mm) guns which were spread about the Main, Middle, and Lower decks (four to each deck). All told, USS Pennsylvania (built to carry a maximum of 136 guns if needed) compared favorably to the vaunted British First-Rate warships of the period such as the three-masted HMS Victory of 1778 and her 104-gun arrangement.

USS Pennsylvania completed just one voyage in her decades-long career, this from Delaware Bay to the Norfolk Navy Yard. She saw only brief exposure in the fighting of the American Civil War (1861-1865) where she was burned where she berthed by Union forces on April 20th, 1861 to prevent her capture. By this time, she was relegated to "receiving ship" (a floating platform used to temporarily house incoming sailors).

After the war (and sometime before 1870), the remains of the ship were claimed and ultimately scrapped - bringing about her formal end.©MilitaryFactory.com
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United States
Operators National flag of the United States
United States
National Origin
Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
Project Status
USS Pensylvania
Hull Class
USS Pennsylvania

Offshore Operation
Activities conducted near shorelines in support of allied activities.

210.0 feet
(64.01 meters)
56.8 feet
(17.31 meters)
24.3 feet
(7.41 meters)

None. Three-masted sail arrangement.
8.0 knots
(9.2 mph)
Surface Speed
Essentially Unlimited

1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

90 x 32-pounder guns (32 x on Main Deck, 30 x on Middle Deck, and 28 x on Lower Deck).
12 x 8" (203mm) cannons (Main Deck, Middle Deck, and Lower Deck from 1842 onwards).
2 x 9-pounder guns (Spar Deck).


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Image of the USS Pennsylvania
Image from the Public Domain.

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