Warship Wednesday Nov. 18, 2015: The Brooklyn Stinger of the Calico King

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off 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. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.
– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Nov. 18, 2015: The Brooklyn Stinger of the Calico King

656923

Here we see the steam gunboat USS Scorpion (PY-3) in her gleaming white scheme in an image taken in 1899. She may not look it, but when the Detroit Photographic Co. snapped this photo, the mighty Scorpion was already a killer.

Mr. MCD Borden (not Franz Ferdinand)

Mr. MCD Borden (not Franz Ferdinand)

Ordered by Massachusetts textile magnate Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden, commonly referred to at the time as “the Calico King” due to his huge factories in the Fall River area, Scorpion began life in 1896 as the very well-appointed steam yacht Sovereign built by the private yard of John N. Robins in South Brooklyn, New York to a design by J. Beaver Webb.

The rakish vessel, a 212-footer at the waterline (250-foot oal) with twin masts and twin screws powered by 2500shp of triple expansion engines, she could touch 15 knots with ease and, when running light in just ten feet of seawater, surpass that when needed.

The New York Times wrote she was, “supposed to be the fastest craft of its size on the Atlantic seaboard, and all the Jersey Central Railroad commuters between Seagirt and Atlantic Highlands know all about it.”

Borden entered her into the New York Yacht Club, where he was an esteemed member and she sailed under his care with the Seawanhaka Yacht, South Side Sportsmen’s, and Jekyll Island Clubs as well.

When war with Spain came, Borden did the patriotic thing and placed his yacht at the Navy’s service, who promptly hauled her to the New York Navy Yard, painted her haze gray, added a quartet of 5″/40 guns located on her sides, fore and aft of the superstructure– the heaviest battery fitted to any yacht converted for service during that conflict, and commissioned her four days later as USS Scorpion on 11 April 1898.

12130301

While only a yacht, her powerful 5″ guns, typically reserved for cruisers, made her a brawler able to dish out some heavy blows and the Navy Department had just the man to conn her. You see Scorpion’s skipper was German-born LCDR Adolph Marix (USNA Class of 1868) and the former executive officer of the battleship USS Maine whose explosion in Havana four months earlier had sparked the war.

Adolph_Marix on ScorpionBy May she was off the coast of Cuba and spent an eventful ten weeks capturing lighters, assisting with landings, enforcing blockades and patrolling the shallows and high seas alike with the Flying Squadron.

On July 18, she was part of a 7 ship attack force, including two gunboats of shallow draft—Wilmington and Helena; two armed tugs—Osceola and Wampatuck; and two converted yachts—Hist and Hornet that sailed into the heavily fortified Spanish base at Manzanillo and, with using her big 5-inchers to good effect, kept the Spanish coastal batteries tied down while the smaller ships destroyed five Spanish gunboats, three blockade runners and one pontoon in less than four hours with little damage to themselves.

When the war ended, Scorpion was recalled to New York, painted white and refitted with a smaller armament while Marix left on his way to become a Vice Admiral. He wasn’t the only one. Over the course of her 31 years in the Navy, she had a staggering 21 skippers to include a Medal of Honor winner and no less than five who went on to become admirals.

In October 1900. Description: Catalog #: NH 2742 Copyright Owner: Naval History and Heritage Command

In October 1900. Description: Catalog #: NH 2742 Copyright Owner: Naval History and Heritage Command

Another Detroit Publishing Co. shot, this one from 1903, with her laundry hanging. LOC# http://www.loc.gov/item/det1994010972/PP/

Another Detroit Publishing Co. shot, this one from 1903, with her laundry hanging. LOC

View of officers and men circa 1904. Note the six pounder Description: Catalog #: NH 83748

View of officers and men circa 1904. Note the six-pounder Description: Catalog #: NH 83748

Photograph of ship, with diary entry and roster of officers. Lieutenant Commander Richard G. Davenport was aboard as passenger. Description: Catalog #: NH 43803

Photograph of ship, with diary entry and roster of officers. Lieutenant Commander Richard G. Davenport was aboard as passenger. Description: Catalog #: NH 43803

As you may have guessed, Borden never got the Scorpion back and the Navy paid good money for her. She spent six years with the North Atlantic Squadron as a dispatch ship and flag waver small enough to venture into backwater ports around the Caribbean and protect U.S. interests.

NH 83747

Speaking of which, by 1908 she was on her way to Europe. Keeping the svelte gunboat with her 60-70 man peacetime crew in semi-permanent anchor in the Bosporus near the Dolma Bagtchi Palace, she became the station ship in Constantinople. There she remained, leaving to take the occasional Black Sea or Med cruise, for a decade.

NH 103045

Several times she took part in international actions, helping to assist earthquake victims in Messina, Italy; landing armed sailors to guard the U.S. Legation in Constantinople during riots in the city; and venturing into the disputed Balkan ports during the tumultuous events that led up to the Great War.

Speaking of which, when the U.S. entered WWI on the side of the Allies, the humble Scorpion faced the might of the German-cum-Ottoman battlecruiser Goeben and, a suddenly a stranger in a strange land, was peacefully interned on 11 April 1917 without a fight, her breechblocks removed and a guard posted.

View taken at Constantinople, Turkey, in 1919 of ship's officers. Front row (L-R): Lieutenant Samuel R. Deets, USN; Commander Richard P. McCullough, USS; Lieutenant Leonard Doughty, USN. Back row: Lieutenant George P. Shields (MC), USN; Paymaster Clarence Jackson, USN; Lieutenant William O. Baldwin, USN; Lieutenant Gale A. Poindexter, USN. Description: Courtesy of LCDR Leonard Doughty, 1929 Catalog #: NH 50276

View taken at Constantinople, Turkey, in 1919 of ship’s officers. Front row (L-R): Lieutenant Samuel R. Deets, USN; Commander Richard P. McCullough, USS; Lieutenant Leonard Doughty, USN. Back row: Lieutenant George P. Shields (MC), USN; Paymaster Clarence Jackson, USN; Lieutenant William O. Baldwin, USN; Lieutenant Gale A. Poindexter, USN. Description: Courtesy of LCDR Leonard Doughty, 1929 Catalog #: NH 50276

When the war ended, she rearmed and remained as the flag of the U.S. High Commissioner to Turkey, keeping her place in now-Istanbul until 1920 when the influx of White Russian exiles and tensions with Greece forced her relocation to Phaleron Bay, Greece, where she remained on station until recalled back to the states 16 June 1927.

Anchored off the Dolma Bagtche Palace, Constantinople, probably during the early 1920s. Description: Original negative, given by Mr. Franklin Moran in 1967.Catalog #: NH 65006 Copyright Owner: Naval History and Heritage Command.

Anchored off the Dolma Bagtche Palace, Constantinople, probably during the early 1920s. Description: Original negative, given by Mr. Franklin Moran in 1967.Catalog #: NH 65006 Copyright Owner: Naval History and Heritage Command.

1925

1925

Decommissioned, Scorpion sat on red lead row for a couple years, a Spanish-American War vet in a fleet of 1920s modern marvels.

On 25 June 1929, she was sold for her value in scrap. Very few artifacts remain from her other than some postal covers.

Her name has gone on to become something of an albatross for the submarine force. USS Scorpion (SS-278), a Gato-class submarine, was lost in 1944 to a mine in the Yellow Sea while USS Scorpion (SSN-589), a Skipjack-class submarine, was lost in an accident in 1968. In each case there were no known survivors and her name has been absent from the Naval List for 47 years.

As for Borden, he passed away in 1912 at age 69 while his beloved Sovereign/Scorpion was in Europe. His leviathan American Printing Company outlived them all, but by 1934 was shuttered because of the Great Depression.

Specs:

Displacement: 775 long tons (787 t)
Length: 212 ft. 10 in (64.87 m)
Beam: 28 ft. 1 in (8.56 m)
Draft: 11 ft. (3.4 m)
Installed power: 2 × WA Fletcher Co, Hoboken NJ triple expansion steam engines; 2500 IHP total; powered by twin Babcock and Wilcox 225# boilers. (as built) later Four Yarrow boilers, two 1,400ihp vertical inverted triple expansion steam engines, two shafts.
Propulsion: Twin screw
Speed: 14 kn (16 mph; 26 km/h)
Complement: 35 (civilian service) 90 (1898) 60 (1911)
Armament:
(1898) – Four 5″/40 guns
(1905) – Six 6-pounder (57mm) guns and four 6mm Colt machine guns
(1911) – Four 6 pounders in rapid fire mounts

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/membership.htm

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 unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

The Writer in Black

News and views from The Writer in Black

Stephen Taylor WW2 Relic Hunter

World War 2 Historian, Relic Hunter and expert in identification of WW2 relics

USS Gerald R. Ford

Mission Ready, Qualified & Competent, On Time Execution!

The Unwritten Record

Exploring History with the National Archives Special Media Division

Stuff From Hsoi

Writing about whatever interests me, and maybe you.

Louisville Gun

Thoughts and Musings on Gun Control & Crime

Ted Campbell's Point of View

An old soldier's blog, mostly about Conservative politics and our national defence and whatever else might interest me on any given day

CIVILIAN GUNFIGHTER

Identifying the Best Training, Tools, and Tactics for the Armed Civilian!

MountainGuerrilla

Nous Defions!

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913

JULESWINGS

Military wings and things

Western Rifle Shooters Association

Stop the Bad People. Help the Good People. Aid the needy people, where possible.

Meccanica Mekaniikka Mecanică

The Mechanix of Auto, Aviation, Military...pert near anything I feel relates to mechanical things, places, events or whatever I happen to like. Even non-mechanical artsy-fartsy stuff.

Eatgrueldog

Where misinformation stops and you are force fed the truth III

The LBM Blogger

Make Big Noise

Not Clauswitz

The semi-sprawling adventures of a culturally hegemonic former flat-lander and anti-idiotarian individualist who fled the toxic Smug emitted by self-satisfied lotus-eating low-land Tesla-driving floppy-hat-wearing lizadroid-Leftbat Coastal Elite Califorganic eco-tofuistas ~ with guns, off-road moto, boulevardier-moto, moto-guns, snorkeling, snorkel-guns, and home-improvement stuff.

%d bloggers like this: