Warship Wednesday April 30. Of Great Repairs and Shallow Waters: the USS Monadnock

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will
profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday April 30. Of Great Repairs and Shallow Waters: the USS Monadnock

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

Here we see the USS Monadnock, (BM-3), sitting in calm waters off the Chinese coast in 1901. Yes, that is really how low a freeboard this ship had.

During the Civil War, the twin turreted ironclad USS Monadnock was built 1863-64 by the Boston Navy yard as a 250-ft, 3300-ton,
Miantonomoh-class monitor. Completed just seven months before the end of the war, she didn’t see much action as soon afterward was sent (very slowly) to the West Coast all the way around South America (as there was no Panama Canal). Arriving there at Vallejo, California and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard where she decommissioned 30 June 1866 due to lack of funds.

The original wooden‑hull, double-turreted, 1863 ironclad monitor USS Monadnock, complete with a Ericsson vibrating lever engine and pair of Civil war standard 15-inch smoothbore Dahlgren guns, circa 1866 in the Mare Island channel. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.

The original wooden‑hull, double-turreted, 1863 ironclad monitor USS Monadnock, complete with a Ericsson vibrating lever engine and pair of Civil war standard 15-inch smoothbore Dahlgren guns, circa 1866 in the Mare Island channel. USN photo courtesy of Darryl L.
Baker.

Well, the fresh young ship was allowed to rot at her moorings and by 1874 was nothing but semi-submerged junk.

Then she was ‘repaired.’

Robeson: When I say repair, I do mean, 'scrap and rebuild from scratch'

Robeson: When I say repair, I do mean, ‘scrap and rebuild from scratch’

You see, then Secretary of the Navy George Robeson knew that the service was a mere specter of its former self by 1874, and war with Spain was looming in one form or another (although did not materialize fully until 1898). With no money for new ships, he set about ‘repairing’ the old monitors  USS Puritan and the four Miantonomoh-class vessels (including Monadnock). Of course, the repairs started with selling the ships along with nine other hulks  to scrappers and using the money to pay four private shipbuilders to make new ones under the old names with a smile and a wink, but hey, you have to get it done somehow, right?

Well the ‘new‘ monitor Monadnock was laid down again right there in Vallejo as her namesake was scrapped and recycled very near her. With money tight even for ‘repairs,’ the ship languished in the new works of one Mr. Phineas Burgess of whose Continental Iron Works had one ship clogging the ways– Monadnock. With checks from the Navy few and far between, the yard closed, some $120,000 in debt. It was then in 1883 that the Navy finally agreed to get the long-building ironclad off the builder’s way and in 1883 she was quietly and without ceremony launched and towed to the Mare Island Naval shipyard– (again) if you go with the premise that the was still the old Monadnock.

The new monitor being fitted out in the historic dry-dock at Mare Island. This dock still exists and may soon house the old cruiser relic (and Dewey's flagship) Olympia.

The new monitor being fitted out in the historic dry-dock at Mare Island. This dock still exists and may soon house the old cruiser relic (and Dewey’s flagship) Olympia.

The new ship and her three sisters were extremely close in size to the ironclad monitors they replaced– some 262-feet long and 3990-tons (due to more armor). The fact that these ships often incorporated re-purposed amenities from the old Civil War monitors proved a further nice touch.

USS Mondanancok 1896 San Fransisco in her gleaming white scheme

USS Mondanancok 1896 San Fransisco in her gleaming white scheme. Click to embiggen

Her teeth were four of the new and very modern for their time 10″/30 (25.4 cm) Mark 2 guns, the same type used on all of her class as well as the follow-on Monterey class monitor M-6) and the famously ill-fated armored cruiser USS Maine (1895). These 25-ton guns, some 27.4-feet long, could fire a 510-pound shell out past 20,000 yards at about 2-3 rounds per minute (although that was with a very well rehearsed crew). With her 14-foot draft, she could stick to the shallows and avoid larger battleships while her guns, capable of penetrating up to 7-inches of steel armor at close range, were thought capable of sinking any smaller ship that could breach those shallows.

Naval cutlass practice under the monitors guns.

Naval cutlass practice under the monitors guns.

Monadnock and her sisters carried some 360 shells for their large guns as well as some 17-tons of  rather smokey ‘brown powder’ propellant charges to fire them. To keep torpedo boats away, the monitor carried a pair of 4-inch breech-loaders as well as numerous small deck guns and machine-guns that changed over time. Even if they did get close, she had up to 11.5-inches of steel armor plate.

In short, she was a fire-breathing turtle.

Finally completed 20 February 1896, after just 22-years of ‘repair’, the Monadnock had a unique set of twin triple expansion steam engines that gave the ship a speed of 11.6-knots, a full knot and change faster than her three sisters. When war broke out with Spain in 1898, she was ordered to reinforce the small squadron of Commodore Dewey in the Far East.

Stern shot of the monitor USS Monadnock off the Mare Island Navy Yard, CA, June 1898, ready for her voyage to the Philippines. The old monitor 800-ton Passaic-class monitor USS Camanche (1864-1899), at the time training ship for the California Naval Militia, is visible beyond Monadnock's after turret.  (Photograph courtesy of the US Navy Historical Center)

Stern shot of the monitor USS Monadnock off the Mare Island Navy Yard, CA, June 1898, ready for her voyage to the Philippines. The old monitor 800-ton Passaic-class monitor USS Camanche (1864-1899), at the time training ship for the California Naval Militia, is visible beyond Monadnock‘s after turret. (Photograph courtesy of the US Navy Historical Center)

Leaving California on 23 June, towed by the new and efficient coaler USS Nero (AC-17), the pair made the journey from Mare Island to Manila Bay in just seven weeks. Her near-sister, the monitor USS Monterey (BM-6), left fully two weeks before her towed by the coaler USS Brutus (AC-15) yet only beat Monadnock/Nero by a single day.

Doesn't that look fun? They probably had a long line of volunteers who would rather have been in the rowboat than the monitor.

Doesn’t that look fun? They probably had a long line of volunteers who would rather have been in the rowboat than the monitor.

Considering the low free-board, row-boat like beam to length ratio, and the fact that monitors were never designed to operate at sea (the original USS Monitor foundered just after her commissioning), the 8000-mile trip was epic. With their cramped and overheated engine-room (in which temperatures measured over 140-degrees on a thermometer suspended from a fishing pole on deck) these ships were miserable for the stokers and water tenders.

crossing

Once in Philippine waters, (Dewey had already captured Manila without Monadnock or Monterery), the two monitor were very busy. Too late to fight the Spanish, they did however, fire their guns in several battles supporting the US troops in hot actions across the wild archipelago including notably the 1899  Battle of Caloocan, where Monadnock was credited largely with transforming that rebel stronghold as “What was once a prosperous town was in a few minutes wiped out of existence.”

Unexploded 10" (25.4 cm) shell fired by USS Monadnock during her service in Philippine waters. Original caption read "Unexploded ten-inch shell after penetrating a six-foot trench and killing three of the enemy" Photograph copyrighted by Perley Fremont Rockett of San Francisco Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-USZ62-118717

Unexploded 10″ (25.4 cm) shell fired by USS Monadnock during her service in Philippine waters. Original caption read “Unexploded ten-inch shell after penetrating a six-foot trench and killing three of the enemy” Photograph copyrighted by Perley Fremont Rockett of San Francisco Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-USZ62-118717

Both Monadnock and Monterey, with the luxury of their low free board and ability to burn crap coal, found themselves often in Chinese waters, patrolling the wild Yangtze all the way to Shanghai. She watched the interned Russian fleet including the damaged cruisers Zhemchug, Aurora, and Oleg in 1905 that only narrowly escaped Adm Togo and made sure that they sat out the rest of the Russo-Japanese war. When the Russian battleship Potemkin erupted in mutiny that summer, the Monadnock and her crew paid extra close attention to prevent the glum sailors of the Tsar, under the unpopular but politically connected Rear-Admiral Oskar Enkvist, from spreading the banner of the Red Flag to Manila harbor.

The three Tsarist protected cruisers, with their 28 rapid fire 4.7 and 6-inch guns, could have smothered the heavily armored Monadnock in medium caliber shells, but each of the American monitor’s 10-inchers could have effected enough of a beating on the very lightly armored Russian ships to have made it a good fight. It should be noted that two of the Russian cruisers were sunk during World War One in very one-sided fights against lesser craft, while the Aurora is preserved as a monument ship in St. Petersburg today.

A French image of her in Chinese waters. Note the extensive canvas awnings and small boats.

A French image of her in Chinese waters. Note the extensive canvas awnings and small boats.

Largely replaced in this role by purpose-built river gunboats in China who needed a much smaller crew, the monitors were taken off of patrol duties by 1912. There Monterey languished and was eventually towed to Pearl Harbor while Monadnock served as a tender for submarines at Cavite harbor until 24 March 1919 when she was decommissioned. There is evidence her hulk was used as a receiving ship of sorts for a few more years until she was struck from the Navy list 2 February 1923, and her hull was sold for scrap on the Asiatic Station, 24 August 1923 at a still young age of just 27.

Seems a waste for a vessel that took 22 years to construct, but then again, she was much more at home in the 1860’s than the 1920’s.

Specs:

plan mondanack

Displacement: 3,990 tons
Length:     262 ft 3 in (79.93 m)
Beam:     55 ft 5 in (16.89 m)
Draft:     14 ft 6 in (4.42 m)
Propulsion:     2 × Triple expansion generating 1,600 hp., 2 screws (Monadnock only)
Her sisters had 2 × Compound
Speed:     Monadnock: 11.63 knots, rest of class 10.1
Range:     1,370nm @ 10 kn (19 km/h) with 250-tons coal
Complement: 156 officers and enlisted
Armament:
Four 10 inch (254 mm) breechloading guns
Two 4 inch (100 mm) rapid fire guns
Two 6 pounder (57 mm) rapid fire guns
Two 3 pounder (47 mm) rapid fire guns
Two 37 mm Hocthkiss guns
Seven one pounder gun
One Colt revolving guns
Armor:
Armor belt – 180 mm, iron..
Conning Tower – 190 mm
Chimneys and ventilators – 100 mm to height of .9 m
Deck – 40 mm
Turrets – 292 mm (fixed portion) and 190 mm (movable portion)
Double bottom under boilers and engines.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International.

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and
their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of
contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are
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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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