Military Wiki
USS Oneida (1861)
Sinking of USS Oneida.jpg
The sinking of the USS Oneida off the port of Yokohama, Japan, Sunday, 23 January
Career Union Navy Jack
Name: USS Oneida
Ordered: February 1861
Builder: New York Navy Yard
Launched: 20 November 1861
Commissioned: 28 February 1862
Fate: Wrecked, 24 January 1870
General characteristics
Type: Screw sloop-of-war
Displacement: 1,488 long tons (1,512 t)
Length: 201 ft 5 in (61.39 m)
Beam: 33 ft 10 in (10.31 m)
Draft: 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m)
Propulsion: Steam engine
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 186 officers and enlisted
Armament: • 3 × 30-pounder guns
• 2 × 9 in (230 mm) guns
• 4 × 32-pounder guns
• 1 × 12-pounder gun

The second USS Oneida was a screw sloop-of-war in the United States Navy. During the Civil War, she destroyed the CSS Governor Moore and served in blockade operations. She was attached to the Asiatic Squadron from 1867–1870. She sank in 1870 outside Yokohama, Japan after the British steamer City of Bombay struck her and sailed off without rendering assistance. Japanese fishing boats saved 61 sailors but 125 men lost their lives. The American government made no attempt to raise the wreck and sold it to a Japanese wrecking company. The company recovered many bones from the wreck and interred them at the their own expense. The Japanese erected a memorial tablet on the grounds of Ikegami Temple in Tokyo and held a Buddhist ceremony in the sailor's memory in May 1889.


Oneida was authorized by Act of Congress, February 1861, and built at the New York Navy Yard; launched 20 November 1861; and commissioned 28 February 1862, Captain Samuel Phillips Lee in command.[1]

Service history

Civil War, 1862–1865

Shortly after commissioning Oneida sailed from New York and joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by Flag officer David Farragut. On 24 April she participated in the attacks on Forts Jackson and St. Philip below New Orleans, Louisiana, and drove off the Confederate ram which sank steam gunboat USS Varuna. Oneida destroyed CSS Governor Moore in a following engagement, the same date.[1][2]

On 27 April Oneida destroyed obstructions in the Mississippi River above Carrollton, Mississippi, helping prepare the way for the Vicksburg campaign. In both passages of the Confederate works at Vicksburg, 28 June 1862, and 15 July 1862, by the Union Fleet under Admiral Farragut, Oneida was second in line.[1][2]

In August 1862, under command of Commander George H. Preble, Oneida sank the steamer Lewis Whitman loaded with wounded troops. Early in the following month she failed in an attempt to stop the passage of CSS Florida into Mobile, Alabama.[1][2]

From 15 October 1863 to 23 August 1864, under the command of Captain C.V. Gridley, Oneida served in blockade operations off Mobile, where on 5 August she participated in the Battle of Mobile Bay and the subsequent capture of CSS Tennessee. At a later date she witnessed the surrender of Fort Morgan at Mobile. Oneida decommissioned 11 August 1865 at New York.[1][2]

Seven sailors and one marine from Oneida were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at the Battle of Mobile Bay. These men were:[3][4]

Asiatic Squadron, 1867–1870

Gravestone to the dead of the U.S.S. Oneida on the grounds of Ikegami Temple in Tokyo. There was once metal lettering on the stone, but they were apparently pried off and melted for the war effort during World War II.

Recommissioned in May 1867, she was attached to the Asiatic Squadron and continued in that capacity until January 1870.[1][2]

Sailing out from Yokohama, Japan on 24 January 1870, Oneida was struck by the British Peninsula & Oriental steamer City of Bombay, at 6:30 pm near Saratoga Spit. The starboard quarter was cut off Oneida and she was left to sink, as the City of Bombay steamed on without rendering assistance. Oneida sank at 6:45 pm in 20 fathoms (37 m) of water with the loss of 125 men, 61 sailors being saved in two Japanese fishing boats. The British captain of City of Bombay was apparently suspended and the ship itself was libeled, meaning that steamer and other ships of the P.& O. Line kept away from American ports.[1][2]

The wreck of the Oneida was sold at public auction at Yokohama 9 October 1872, to Mr. Tatchobonaiya. Inside the wreckage were found many of the bones of the dead sailors, which were interred, at the expense of the salvagers, on the grounds of Ikegami Temple in Tokyo. In Jinrikisha Days in Japan (1891), Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore tells the story, writing:

...[the American] government made no effort to raise the wreck or search it, and finally sold it to a Japanese wrecking company for fifteen hundred dollars. The wreckers found many bones of the lost men among the ship's timbers, and when the work was entirely completed, with their voluntary contributions they erected a tablet in the Ikegami grounds to the memory of the dead, and celebrated there the impressive Buddhist segaki (feast of hungry souls), in May 1889. The great temple was in ceremonial array; seventy-five priests in their richest robes assisted at the mass, and among the congregation were the American admiral and his officers, one hundred men from the fleet, and one survivor of the solitary boat's crew that escaped from the Oneida.
The Scriptures were read, a service was chanted, the Sutra repeated, incense burned, the symbolic lotus-leaves cast before the altar, and after an address in English by Mr. Amenomori explaining the segaki, the procession of priests walked to the tablet in the grounds to chant prayers and burn incense again.[5]

Current Status

According to records regarding the Oneida, it was leaving port carrying payment for sales of ammunition and gunpowder to the Japanese government. Around 1955, Takeshita Hisao led an effort to salvage the loaded payment, as well as other artifacts from the Oneida wreck. Artifacts including coins, ammunition shells, rifles, and further bones from deceased sailors and passengers were found. The recovered steam gauge was later donated to the United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka. In 2010, a special aired 9 November on Fuji Television made a further effort at salvage with the help of Takeshita's family and one of the divers from the 1955 effort. The show's salvage team located a shipwreck that matched descriptions of the Oneida, and efforts continue to discover more about the wreckage and remaining contents.[6]

See also


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