The first Columbia, a ship-rigged sailing frigate, was built at Washington Navy Yard. Her keel was laid in 1825 but she was not launched until 9 March 1836.
On her first cruise from May 1838 to June 1840 with Lieutenant George A. Magruder in command, Columbia rounded the Cape of Good Hope to become flagship of Commodore George C. Read in the East Indies. She returned to the United States by way of Cap e Horn, one of the first U.S. naval ships to circumnavigate the globe.
Columbia served as flagship of the Home Squadron from January to May 1842; cruised on Brazil Station between July 1842 and February 1844 and in the Mediterranean from May to December 1844. She returned to the Brazil Station as flagship between November 1845 and October 1847, and was placed in ordinary at Norfolk Navy Yard upon her return home. Except for a cruise as flagship of the Home Squadron from January 1853 to March 1855, she remained at Norfolk until the outbreak of the Civil War. Columbia was scuttled and burned by Union forces to avoid her capture by Confederates upon the surrender of Norfolk Navy Yard 21 April 1861. Following the close of the war she was raised and sold at Norfolk 10 October 1867.