For a warship constructed hurriedly during the Civil War, the USS Oneida had an active career. Built in 1861, the 198-foot, 10-inch schooner-rigged screw steamer, survived battles from 1862 to 1864, including service with Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut when he damned the torpedoes at Mobile Bay. Nothing, however, in her active past or sedentary later existence could save her from destruction at the bow of a more technologically advanced ship.
Although the Navy was soon to experiment with iron and steel, the Oneida was made of wood, as was her one-month-older near twin, the USS Kearsarge. That ship won fame for defeating the commerce raider CSS Alabama off Cherbourg, France, just two months before Mobile Bay. Feelings in the United States were strong against Great Britain for violating its neutrality by allowing the Alabama to be built in an English port. By the end of the decade hotheads on both sides of the Atlantic were threatening a new war.