Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, July 18, 2018: The hardest working cheesebox
Here we see the single-turreted, coastal monitor USS Passaic, a proud addition to the steam and iron Union Navy during the Civil War that went on to become a staple of U.S. maritime lore for the rest of the century and retire to Florida in her old age. In fact, this image was taken in 1898, as she stood to in Key West to fight the Spanish, if needed.
Designed by famed engineer John Ericsson to be an improved version of original USS Monitor, Passaic was the first of her class of what was to be 10 “cheesebox on a raft” ships that were larger (200-feet oal over 176-ft of the Monitor) included more ventilation, a tweaked topside layout, bigger guns (a 15-inch Dahlgren along with an 11-incher, whereas Monitor just had two of the latter), and marginally better seakeeping.
Subcontracted to six different East Coast yards (there was a war on, after all) our class leader was built by Continental Iron Works, Greenport, New York, which is appropriated for a vessel named for a town in New Jersey possibly best known today as the birthplace of Dick Vitale.
She was commissioned 25 November 1862, just after Grant began his First Vicksburg campaign, and was soon after toured by President Lincoln and members of his cabinet.
Before seeing action, Passaic was being towed by the State of Georgia to Beaufort, North Carolina, deep in Confederate-contested waters, along with Monitor, which was being towed by Rhode Island. On the day after Christmas, the ships ran into severe weather off Cape Hatteras– forcing Passaic‘s crew to take to her pumps to correct leaking (have you seen the freeboard on these?) and was only saved after her crew tossed her shot overboard to help make weight. In the end, she made Beaufort on New Year’s Day, 1863, while Monitor famously went down during the storm.
Similarly, Passaic‘s classmate, USS Weehawken, sank at anchor in just a moderate gale later that year, taking four officers and 27 enlisted men to the bottom with her– half her crew. Monitors were downright dangerous in any sea.
Nonetheless, quickly making a name for herself, Passaic soon captured a blockade runner (the schooner Glide) and attacked strategically important Fort McAllister near Savannah, Georgia, a major Federal objective.
By April 1863, Passaic was in action off Charleston, where she took several hits to her turret she would carry with her for the rest of her career– and prove photogenic for Brady organization shutter bugs!
After being patched up in New York, by July Passaic was back on the Union blockade line off Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, carrying the flag of none other than RADM John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren himself for his opening attack on Fort Moultrie– which would take another 18 months to finally break.
In June 1865, the hardy monitor was laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard just two weeks after Kirby Smith officially surrendered his command– the last major one in the Confederacy– down in Galveston. Passaic was lucky. Classmate USS Patapsco was sunk by a mine on 15 January 1865 in Charleston Harbor. Of the seven others in the class, all were similarly put in ordinary, many lingering at League Island Navy Yard in the Delaware for decades as the Navy that built them simply ran dry of money.
Passaic was the exception to this and she got regular work after a while. Repaired and recommissioned in Hampton Roads, 24 November 1876, she went on to serve first as a receiving ship at the Washington Naval Yard and then a training vessel at Annapolis for young minds, a job she maintained until 1892.
By 1893, Passaic was on loan to the Massachusetts Naval Militia, then shipped back to Southern waters to do the same for the Georgia Naval Militia.
There, in 1898, when war came with Spain, she was dusted off and recommissioned into the Navy proper although her muzzle-loading black powder armament was quaint for the period. Towed from Savannah to Key West, she served as a harbor defense craft with the Naval Auxiliary Force just in case the Spanish got froggy.
Similarly, her old and long-put-to-pasture classmates saw a similar call-up from decades of reserve. USS Montauk, crewed by Maine militia, was assigned to guard the harbor of Portland. Nahant steamed– for the first time since 1865– to New York City for six months along with Sangamon. USS Catskill served off New England. USS Nantucket, manned by North Carolina volunteers, was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina. On the West Coast, USS Camanche, long used by the California Naval Militia, was tasked to guard the Bay Area.
It was to be the last adventure for these old boats. As for Passaic, she never left Florida. Towed to Pensacola after the Spanish surrendered, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap the following year. By 1904, none of her sisters remained.
She is remembered in maritime art.
Her plans are in the National Archives while her name was recycled in WWII for a Cohoes-class net laying ship, which was later transferred to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s.
Displacement:1,335 tons std, 1875 Fl
Length: 200 ft overall
Beam: 46 ft
Draught: 10 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 2 Martin boilers, 1-shaft Ericsson vibrating lever engine, 320 ihp
Speed: 7 knots designed, 4-5 actual.
Complement: 75 (1863)
1 × 15 in Dahlgren smoothbore, 1 × 11 in Dahlgren smoothbore in a single dual turret.
Side: 5 – 3 in
Turret: 11 in
Deck: 1 in
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The last sitting Russian Imperial family of the House of Romanov–Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei– as well as four members of their still faithful suite– were ushered to the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16-17 July 1918.
Told they were to be moved to a more secure location as the White Russian Army of Adm Kolchak and his allied Czech Legion were just miles to the East and coming fast, something far worse occurred and a squad of Cheka men armed with a peculiar collection of handguns from around the world soon filled the room to carry out one of the most barbaric regicides in modern history– which was appropriate for a Civil War that left more than 1.5 million dead and the old Russian Empire shattered into a dozen jagged pieces.
The head of the squad, Jacob Yurovsky, used a Colt M1911 SN 71905 from a 1914 U.S. Army contract, while his eager assistant, Peter Ermakov, used a Mauser C96 in 7.63mm.
Other guns used in the execution included two Browning semi-autos in .25ACP and .32ACP, at least one more C96, several Nagant M1895 7.65mm revolvers, and an old S&W .44 top-break. While the revolvers were standard Russian military arms and the Colt likley made it into the country in 1917 during the brief alliance between the Provisional Government in Petrograd and Washington, the Mausers and Brownings were readily available on the commercial market in Russia before the war.
Many of the guns, given relic status after the event by the Communists, are still in Russian museums today.
When Glock dropped their “crossover” coyote-framed G19X onto the commercial market late last year, a lot of people went apeshit. Some complained that the concept, which blended a shortened Gen 5 G17 frame with a G19 tophalf and added some decent upgrades (like steel night sights and tweaked internals) should have instead done exactly the opposite to even mocked up a G26/G19 blend.
I have had one since the beginning– a T&E gun that I put 2,000 rounds through and really dug. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought it from Smyrna at the end of the eval period and I carry it often.
I’m apparently not the only one, as Glock announced last week that they have delivered over 100,000 of the pistols to the hungry market– proving that it wasn’t the clown shoes of modern handgun offerings that detractors said it would be.
“The Glock 19X has helped reinvigorate the polymer pistol market. Its demand and popularity has exceeded our expectations” said Flint Virgets, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Lipsey’s, the nation’s leading wholesale firearms distributor last week.
Kirk Kjellberg’s Ideal Conceal, a folding double-barreled derringer that mimics the profile when closed of a smartphone, is now shipping.
Promised two years ago at the ~$395 MSRP, I caught up with them at SHOT in January where they were closer to market at $500(ish).
But wait, because the Trailblazer Firearms Co. says they have released some 6,000 of their single-shot .22LR Lifecards– much the same concept as Ideal Conceal but more credit-card-sized– into the wild.
More on that here.
In May 2013, Cody Wilson, through his Austin-based company Defense Distributed, created the Liberator, a nearly entirely 3-D printed, single-shot .380 ACP pistol for which he freely shared the plans for online. In the first two days, the files were downloaded nearly 100,000 times. Then the federal government, specifically the State Department under John Kerry, demanded the plans for the Liberator be pulled from the website until further notice under international arms regulations, citing “the United States government claims control of the information.”
Wilson, allied with the Second Amendment Foundation, challenged that logic in court and won the settlement announced this week that will see DefDist once again post 3-D gun files starting Aug. 1 via Defcad.com. “The age of the downloadable gun begins.”
And they aren’t just about the Liberator anymore:
More in my column at Guns.com.
Here we see the Illinois-class pre-dreadnought type battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-9) drawing 23 feet of water in Gatun Lake, Panama, 16 July 1915.
Obsolete within five years of her commissoning, she served with her two sisteres, Illinois and former Warship Wednesday alumn Alabama on the epic Great White Fleet and then, after a modernization in 1909 that left her looking more haze gray as seen above, she was used for training until 1919 when she was laid up for good and scrapped without ceremony in 1922.
In 1944 another battleship entered the fleet with the same name, which had a rather longer life.
Live fire from aircraft, a submarine, and land assets participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise sank the long-decommissioned ex-USS Racine (LST-1191) on 12 July in the Pacific Ocean. Ex-Racine was sent to the bottom at the end by aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 192 (VFA-192) at 8:45 p.m. in waters 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauaʻi, Hawaii.
The SINKEX featured live firing of surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army, fired from Barking Sands. This marks the first time the U.S. Army and JGSDF have participated in a sinking exercise during RIMPAC as well as the first participation by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
A torpedo from an unnamed submarine is shown at the 5:40 mark breaking her back. You can see her distinctive bow doors in several scenes, as well as her 1970s-era twin 3″/50 dual purpose gun mounts, still installed.
Racine, an 8,700-ton Newport-class of Landing Ship, Tank, was commissioned in 1971, decommissioned on 2 October 1993 as the Navy was getting out of the LST business and, after a planned transfer to Peru fell through, was set aside for use as a target while in inactive reserve at Pearl Harbor. She earned one battle star for her Vietnam service.
According to the Navy:
Each SINKEX is required to sink the hulk in at least 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet) of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land. Surveys are conducted to ensure that people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.
Prior to the vessel being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process, including the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping, and reservoirs.
A U.S. Navy environmental, safety and health manager and a quality assurance supervisor inspect the environmental remediation conducted in preparation of a vessel’s use in a SINKEX. Upon completion of the environmental remediation, the manager and supervisor provide signed certification of the work in accordance with EPA requirements.