The USS Santee moored at the United States Naval Academy, 1905
|Launched:||16 February 1855|
|Commissioned:||9 June 1861|
|Out of service:||2 April 1912|
|Length:||190 ft (58 m) (between perpendiculars)|
|Beam:||45 ft (14 m)|
|Depth of hold:||14 ft 5 in (4.39 m)|
|Complement:||480 officers and enlisted|
USS Santee (1855) was a wooden-hulled, three-masted sailing frigate of the United States Navy. She was the first U.S. Navy ship to be so named and was one of its last sailing frigates in service. She was acquired by the Union Navy at the start of the American Civil War, outfitted with heavy guns and a crew of 480, and was assigned as a gunboat in the Union blockade of the Confederate States. She later became a training ship for the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rated at 44 guns, she was laid down in 1820 by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, but due to a shortage of funds, she long remained uncompleted on the stocks. She was finally launched on 16 February 1855, but not commissioned until 9 June 1861, Captain Henry Eagle in command.
On 8 August, the frigate captured the schooner C. P. Knapp in the gulf some 350 miles south of Pensacola and escorted the blockade runner to that port. On 27 October, Santee took her second prize, Delta, off Galveston; the hermaphrodite brig had attempted to slip into Galveston with a cargo of salt from Liverpool.
Shortly before midnight on 7 November, boats left the frigate and entered Galveston Bay hoping to capture and burn the Confederate armed steamer, General Rusk. However, in attempting to avoid detection, the boats ran aground.
Since he had lost the advantage of surprise, the expedition's commander, Lt. James Edward Jouett, cancelled his plans to attack General Rusk and turned his attention to the chartered Confederate lookout vessel, Royal Yacht. After a desperate hand-to-hand fight, he captured Royal Yachts crew, set the armed schooner afire, and retired to Santee with about a dozen prisoners.
During the action, one man from the frigate was killed and two of her officers and six of her men were wounded, one mortally. A young 15-year-old sailor named James Henry Carpenter was wounded in the thigh and mentioned in dispatches due to his actions. Carpenter would become Santees acting Master's mate and would serve again on Santee when she served as a school ship for the United States Naval Academy. Another of Santees sailors, George H. Bell, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in the action.
In January 1862, when the Union naval force in the Gulf of Mexico was divided into two squadrons, Santee was assigned to Flag Officer David Farragut's new West Gulf Blockading Squadron. Under the new organization, Santee continued to blockade the Texas coast, primarily off Galveston, until summer. Then, because scurvy had weakened the frigate's crew and the enlistments of many of her sailors had expired, the ship sailed north. She reached Boston, Massachusetts on 22 August and was decommissioned on 4 September.
Refitted at the Boston Navy Yard, the ship was recommissioned there exactly a month later and sailed for Newport, Rhode Island, to serve as a school ship at the United States Naval Academy which had been moved there from Annapolis, Maryland, for security during the Civil War. At Newport, midshipmen lived, studied, and attended classes in frigates Santee and Constitution as they prepared for positions of leadership in the Union Navy.
After the close of the Civil War, the Naval Academy returned to Annapolis, Maryland, and Santee, carrying midshipmen, sailed for that port and moored near Fort Severn on 2 August 1865. There, she continued her duty as school ship which she had performed at Newport. The following year, she became a gunnery ship and was used by midshipmen to master the art of naval gunnery. About the same time, the frigate began to be used as a barracks ship for midshipmen being punished and for new fourthclassmen receiving their first taste of Navy life.
Before dawn on 2 April 1912, after a half a century of duty as an educator, Santee sank at her mooring. Efforts to refloat the frigate proved unsuccessful.
She was sold to Joseph G. Hitner, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 2 August 1912, the anniversary of her arrival at Annapolis. After six months of effort, she was finally raised; and, on 8 May 1913, Santee departed the Severn River under tow and proceeded to Boston, Massachusetts, where she was burned for the copper and brass in her hull.