Onondaga (1863)

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Onondaga (1863)
Builder: Continental Iron Works, Brooklyn[1]
Ordered: 26 May, 1862[2]
Purchased: 7 March, 1867[3]
Laid down: 1862[4]
Launched: 29 July, 1863[5]
Completed: Early 1864[6]
Commissioned: 15 June, 1869[7]
Stricken: 2 December, 1904[8]
Sold: 1904 or 1905[9][10]
Fate: Broken up
Onondaga was a monitor completed for the U.S. Navy in 1864 and subsequently purchased by France.


Onondaga was part of the large ironclad construction program undertaken by the U.S. Navy in the aftermath of the Monitor's famous victory over the Virginia at Hampton Roads. She was contracted to George W. Quintard, manager of Manhattan's Morgan Iron Works, on 26 May, 1862. Morgan Iron Works built the Onondaga's machinery, but Quintard subcontracted her hull to the Continental Iron Works across the East River in Brooklyn.[11]

Onandaga was launched on 29 July, 1863, after being christened by Sally Sedgwick, daughter of former U. S. Representative Charles Baldwin Sedgwick. She was completed in early 1864.


U.S. Navy

This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Onandaga commissioned at New York Navy Yard on 24 March, 1864 with Captain Melancthon Smith in command, and was immediately prepared for action. She departed New York on 21 April in company with the gunboat Mattabesset for Hampton Roads, arriving two days later. Once at Hampton Roads she joined the James River Flotilla supporting General Grant's drive on Richmond. Alongside the Mahopac she engaged rebel batteries at Howlett's, Virginia on 24 November and again on 5-6 December.

The new year saw a reduction in the Federal naval force deployed on the James River as Admiral David D. Porter prepared to assault Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Onondaga was the only monitor left opposed to the Confederate States Navy's James River Squadron. The Confederates took advantage of this redeployment to launch an attack with their own ironclads.

When the Southern force steamed down river to attack the weakened Union forces there afloat, Onondaga dropped downstream to a position affording her greater maneuverability. She and her supporting gunboats awaited the Southern attack only to have the Confederate thrust blunted when their ironclads Virginia and Richmond, gunboat Drewry, and torpedo boat Scorpion all ran aground trying to pass obstructions at Trent's Reach. Drewry blew up under fire from the Onondaga and supporting Union shore batteries, and the Scorpion was abandoned under similar heavy fire. The two Rebel ironclads managed to withdraw upriver when they were refloated the next day.

Onondaga continued her support of Union troops until the Confederates abandoned Richmond over the first three days of April 1865, followed soon by General Lee's surrender at Appomattox and the end of hostilities. No longer needed in Virginia, she steamed north and decommissioned at New York on 8 June, 1865. She was subsequently transferred to League Island and laid up League Island, Pennsylvania.

French Navy

In expectation of her return to his ownership, George W. Quintard began negotiations to sell Onondaga to France, who were anxious to acquire her and the ironclad ram Dunderberg. These negotiations were carried out with some haste, as part of France's desire to purchase Onondaga was to prempt Prussia from doing so.[12][13] When Onondaga was sold back to George W. Quintard on 12 July, 1867 by Act of Congress he transferred the monitor to her French buyers.[14] After purchase she was towed from New York to Halifax on 2 September 1867, and remained there until the summer of 1868.[15]

Onondaga left for France at the end of June 1868 accompanied by the transport Européen, arriving at Cherbourg on 2 July after a sixteen day crossing from Halifax. The poor seakeeping qualities inherent in the low-freeboard monitors meant the Européen had to tow the Onondaga for part of the crossing.[16][17] She ran trials in May 1869.[18]

After the Franco-Prussian War the Onondaga was retained in reserve at Brest for many years. Navy Minister Jean-Louis de Lanessan declared in his 1890 book that Onondaga and her fellow third-class coast defense ships Bélier and Bouledogue were "without any use" owing to their insufficient speed, protection, and armament.[19]

Onondaga was reactivated for trials in April 1898. The timing was probably not coincidental as the U.S. Navy was reactivating its own monitors for defensive duties in the oncoming war with Spain.[20]

Onondaga was stricken on 2 December, 1904 and sold shortly afterwards.[21][22]


Dates of appointment are provided when known.


As Completed[23][24]

  • Two 15 inch smoothbores
  • Two 150-pounder muzzle-loading rifles


  • Four 240 cm breech-loading rifles

See Also


  1. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 121.
  3. Silverstone. Civil War. p. 5.
  4. Silverstone. Civil War. p. 5.
  5. Silverstone. Civil War. p. 5.
  6. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  7. Silverstone. Civil War. p. 5.
  8. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  9. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  10. Moreau (ed). Revue universelle 1905. The pagination in this volume is eccentric, restarting several times. The article relating to the Onondaga is on page 10 of the section with the header "La vie partout" under the heading "Échos militaires".
  11. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  12. Loir. Marine française. p. 240.
  13. Dislère. La Marine Cuirassée. p. 41.
  14. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  15. la Flotte de Napoléon III - Gardes-côtes cuirassés.
  16. Figuier. p. 544.
  17. Lepotier. p. 284.
  18. la Flotte de Napoléon III - Gardes-côtes cuirassés.
  19. La marine française 1890. pp. 118-119. "L'absence de vitesse, l'insuffisance de protection et d'armement font des trois derniers garde-côtes dont je viens de parler des engins san aucune utilité.".
  20. la Flotte de Napoléon III - Gardes-côtes cuirassés.
  21. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  22. Moreau (ed). Revue universelle 1905. See above for specific location information.
  23. Bauer and Roberts. Register of Ships. p. 42.
  24. Silverstone. Civil War. p. 5.
  25. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 299.


  • Bauer, K. Jack and Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. New York: Greenwood Press.
  • Chesneau, Robert; Kolesnik, Eugene (editors) (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Dislère, P. (1873). La Marine Cuirassée. Paris: Gauthier-Villars.
  • Figuier, Louis (1869). Les Merveilles de la Science ou Description Populaire des Inventions Modernes. Paris: Furne, Jouvet et Cie.
  • Lanessan, Jean-Louis (1890). La marine française au printemps de 1890. Paris and Nancy: Berger-Levrault et Cie.
  • Lepotier, Adolphe Auguste Marie (1972). Cherbourg, port de la Libération. Cherbourg: Éditions France-Empire.
  • Loir, Lieutenant de vaisseau Maurice (1893). La marine française. Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie.
  • Moreau, Georges (ed.) (1905). Revue universelle: receil documentaire universel et illustré, année 1905. Paris: Librairie Larousse.
  • Roberts, William H. (2002). Civil War Ironclads: The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Ropp, Theodore (1987). Roberts, Stephen S. ed. The Development of a Modern Navy: French Naval Policy 1871-1904. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: Civil War Navies, 1855-1883. New York: Routledge.

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