Adirondack was laid down in 1861 by the New York Navy Yard; launched on 22 February 1862; sponsored by Miss Mary Paulding, a daughter of Flag Officer Hiram Paulding, the Commandant of that navy yard; and commissioned on 30 June 1862, Comdr. Guert Gansevoort in command.
Although Adirondack was originally slated for duty in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, events in the Bahamas changed her fate. Before she sailed for the gulf, news reached Washington that the British-built screw steamer Oreto had arrived at the island of New Providence and, although constructed under the pretext of being a merchantman destined for service under the Italian Government, was in reality a cruiser which was then being fitted out as a Confederate commerce raider. Thus, on 11 July, Welles ordered Gansevoort to proceed in Adirondack to the West Indies to investigate the report.
The new Union screw-sloop of war departed New York on 17 July and headed for the Bahamas. Six days out, she chanced upon a schooner and, after a two-hour chase, boarded the stranger which proved to be a Baltimore-built vessel named Emma which was operating out of Nassau under a British colonial register. Since the schooner's master had only recently arrived in the West Indies in command of the blockade runner Ann E. Barry, and since Emma was laden with ". . . articles of great need in the so-called Confederate States," Gansevoort sent her to Philadelphia under a prize crew.
Two days later, on the morning of the 25th, when in sight of Nassau but still". . . beyond the territorial jurisdiction of . . . the British Empire," Gansevoort ". . . discovered shortly after daylight a steamer standing in for Nassau." He again gave chase and fired upon the fleeing ship; but, this time, his quarry's speed enabled her to reach the neutral port safely.
Some two hours later, a boat from the Royal Navy sloop of war Greyhound pulled alongside Adirondack as she approached Nassau and delivered a letter to the American steamer protesting her role in the recent chase and informing Gansevoort that the elusive steamer was named Herald and had been". . . struck two or three times with shot ..." during the action. Shortly thereafter, Adirondack anchored in the roadstead off Nassau harbor, and Gansevoort sent Greyhound's, commanding officer a written reply to the protest, justifying his course of action. He then went ashore where he learned that Herald—commanded by ". . . the notorious rebel Coxetter, formerly captain of the rebel privateer Jeff. Davis"—had returned from Charleston laden with cotton after delivering a cargo of ammunition to that Confederate port.
Since Adirondack had encountered extremely severe weather during her passage out from New York, she remained at Nassau for three days undergoing voyage repairs and replenishing her coal bunkers. Gansevoort took advantage of his ship's stay in port to learn of conditions there before sailing for the Virginia capes on 28 July. Upon arriving at Hampton Roads on 4 August, he reported that Oreto was indeed a Confederate cruiser, but that she was then ". . . in charge of a prize crew from the Greyhound, and proceedings have been instituted in the admiralty court of the Bahamas for her condemnation for a violation of the foreign enlistment act of Great Britain . . . ." His dispatch to Washington also stated that sentiment in the Bahamas was strongly in favor of the South. Thus the outcome of the judicial action against the warship—which would later be freed and win fame as the Southern raider Florida—was in doubt.
On 12 August, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles ordered Adirondack to proceed to Port Royal, S.C., to report to Rear Admiral Du Pont for duty in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The next day, a report reached Washington that another British built cruiser— which would later prey on Union shipping as Alabama-—had slipped out of England and was heading for Nassau. Anxiety over this new threat prompted Welles to send Adirondack back to the Bahamas to investigate. Nevertheless, before this message reached Hampton Roads, the steamer had sailed for Port Royal in compliance with her orders of the 12th. Word of her new mission finally caught up with her there on the 18th and she got underway for Nassau that afternoon.
All went well until the morning of the 23d when Adirondack struck a reef off the northeast point of Man of War Cay of the Little Bahama Bank group. The shock immediately disabled her engine, and daylong efforts by the ship's crew,with the aid of local wreckers, proved futile. That evening, with her back broken and her keel forced up through the engine room, the ship bilged. Fortunately, she suffered no personnel casualties.
In September 1917, Adirondack—a steel-hulled river passenger steamer built in 1896 at Brooklyn, New York, by J. Eaglis and Sons—was chartered by the Navy from the Hudson Navigation Co., of Pier 32, North River, New York City. Delivered to the Navy on the 25th of that month, Adirondack—assigned the identification number (Id. No.) 1270—was officially requisitioned on 16 October 1917 for service as a floating barracks to quarter a portion of the men assigned to the Receiving Ship, New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. She performed this service in a noncommissioned status through the end of World War I and was returned to her owner on 24 January 1919. Her name was struck from the Navy list the same day.
Adirondack then resumed her pre-war operations, serving as a passenger steamer with the Hudson Navigation Co. She was finally abandoned due to age and deterioration during the fiscal year which ended on 30 June 1924.