The Star of the West was built in 1852 for Cornelius Vanderbilt, and was launched June 17th 1852. It was a 1,000 ton steamer with a wooden hull, two masts, and a side paddle wheel. She worked for the United States Mail Steamship Company running between New York City, Havana Cuba, and New Orleans, Louisiana until January 1861.
A week after South Carolina had seceded from the Union, the USS Star of the West was fired on when she tried to enter Charleston Harbor on January 9th 1861. Cadets from the Citadel fired a warning shots across the Stars’ bow as she was attempting the get supplies to the garrison at Fort Sumter. The Star was hit three times. She gave up trying to get to Fort Sumter and returned to her home port in New York Harbor.
The Star then went to work as troop transport, picking up seven companies of Union troops at Indianola, Texas. She was captured April 18th 1861 while anchored in Matagorda Bay by Confederate Colonel Earl Van Dorn. Taken to New Orleans her name was changed to CSS St Philip. The Confederates had her sunk near Greenwood to block the Union flotilla from making it up river to Vicksburg.