Barataria-I was seized by the Union Army at New Orleans shortly after Flag Officer Farragut's task force from the West Gulf Blockading Squadron captured that city on 25 April 1862. The Union Army used the steamer through the end of the year and transferred her to the Navy on 1 January 1863.
The steamer was outfitted at New Orleans and armed with two 24 pounder howitzers so that she might serve as a gunboat in the shallow inland waters of Louisiana—such as Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurepas. Although few records of her service have survived, it seems that Barataria was used primarily to support operations of Army troops commanded by Major General Godfrey Weitzel in Louisiana's coastal inland waters. While on such a mission, the gunboat commanded by Acting Ensign James F. Perkins struck a snag in Lake Maurepas at the mouth of the Amite River early on the morning of 7 April 1863. Throughout that day, her small crew assisted by Union soldiers of the 6th Michigan Volunteers fought off Confederate guerilla attacks while also jettisoning equipment to lighten ship. However, even sacrificing her bow gun and emptying her boiler failed to refloat Barataria by sunset. Then, lest she fall into enemy hands, Perkins put the torch to the stranded stern wheeler; and her magazine exploded soon after all hands had escaped in small boats.
See also Barataria-II.