Warship Wednesday (on a Friday): The Tennessee peace cruiser

Sorry about the late posting this week, in the effort to get to SHOT Show in Vegas this weekend and with the winter weather making horse care more pressing, its been busy this week!

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 (on a Friday): The Tennessee peace cruiser

Image by Robert M. Cieri via Navsource

Image by Robert M. Cieri via Navsource

Here we see the Denver-class protected cruiser USS Chattanooga (C-16/PG-30/CL-18), port bow view, while in New York harbor, 1905. You can tell by her fine lines and ornamental brightworks, she was meant more to impress colonial locals and less to sink enemy ships.

Though she never fired a shot in anger, the hardy little Chattanooga was around for a quarter century and saw immense changes to the fleet she was a part of, changes that eventually left her out of step, though her relics are now a part of the more asymmetric war on terror.

In 1899, Pax Americana found herself suddenly a colonial power after picking up the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and a host of other scattered territories as part of spoils in the Spanish-American War. Further, President McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution which annexed Hawaii in 1898 while the Tripartite Convention of 1899 split up the Samoan islands between the U.S., Germany and Britain– though neither the native Hawaiians nor the Samoans were really happy about either.

With all of these far-flung possessions added to the 45-state Union, the Navy needed some warships to go wave the flag there without depleting the main battle fleet as outlined by the good Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan. These ships need not slug it out in naval combat with a determined foe, they only needed long legs; a few guns to impress the locals while being capable of sending potential pirates, rabble-rousers and armed merchant cruisers to the bottom; and a high mast to show a flag.

This led to the six-pack of Denver-class vessels, peace cruisers if you will.

USS Des Moines (C-15, CL-17, PG 29), a good postcard reference to the Denver class. Note the schooner rig and fine lines.

USS Des Moines (C-15, CL-17, PG 29), a good postcard reference to the Denver class. Note the schooner rig and fine lines.

The Denvers didn’t have much armor (about the thickness of a good butter knife in most places), nor did they have large guns (10 5″/50 Mark 5 single mounts, able to penetrate just 1.4-inches of armor at 9,000 yards though their 50-pound shells were capable of a 19,000 yard range overall which made them perfect for shelling uprisings on shore or warning off undesirable foreign ships creeping around colonial ports), nor were they particularly fast (they were designed but not fitted with an auxiliary Schooner sail rig).

One of 'Nooga's 5" deck guns, probably port side forward. From the collection of H.G. Froehlich, CPO, USN provided by Herman B. Froelich, via Navsource

One of ‘Nooga’s 5″ deck guns, probably port side forward. From the collection of H.G. Froehlich, CPO, USN provided by Herman B. Froelich, via Navsource

However, they were 308-feet of American soil that could self-deploy and remain on station with little support when needed while still being able to float in 15 feet of seawater.

In short, they were the littoral combat ships of 1899.

The six ships, in what seems to be shipyard welfare from Uncle Sam, were built in six different yards near-simultaneously, all commissioning within about 18 months of each other.

The hero of our story, USS Chattanooga, was laid down at Crescent Shipyard, Elizabethport, New Jersey, a new shipyard whose historical claim to fame was in building the USS Holland (SS-1), the nation’s first official modern submarine and a number of the follow-on A-class pigboats. She was named for the city in Tennessee and was the second Chattanooga on the Navy List, the first being a Civil War steam sloop that was holed and sunk at her dock by floating ice in 1871.

Commissioned 11 October 1904 during the tensions of the Russo-Japanese War, Chattanooga headed for Europe where she joined the squadron there and helped escort the body of Scottish-American Capt. John Paul Jones, late of the Continental Navy, from an unmarked grave in a Parisian cemetery to a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.

Starboard side view, anchored, 12 OCT 1906. Photo 0-G-1035139 from The National Archives.

Starboard side view, anchored, 12 OCT 1906. Photo 0-G-1035139 from The National Archives.

Port side view at anchor in Genoa, Italy in the early 1900's. Giorgio Parodi via Navsource

Port side view at anchor in Genoa, Italy in the early 1900’s. Giorgio Parodi via Navsource

For the next seven years she cruised the Pacific (via the Suez), the Med, the Caribbean and helped train Naval Militia before entering into layup in 1912.

An early 63-foot A-class submarine, likely USS Grampus (SS-4) or Pike (SS-6) on the Willapa River, at Raymond, Washington, circa 1912. The stern of the USS Chattanooga can be seen in front of the sub. Photo provided by Steve Hubbard of the Pacific County Historical Society, Washington State via Pigboats http://pigboats.com/subs/a-boats.html

An early 63-foot A-class submarine, likely USS Grampus (SS-4) or Pike (SS-6) on the Willapa River, at Raymond, Washington, circa 1912. The stern of the USS Chattanooga can be seen in front of the sub. Photo provided by Steve Hubbard of the Pacific County Historical Society, Washington State via Pigboats

When 1914 came about, a new crew manned the rails and brought her back to life for the tensions in Mexico, sailing off the Pacific coast of that country, protecting American interests, chiefly from the port of La Paz through early 1917.

Starboard side view while in San Diego, 1915. Caption on the back of the photo reads: "This photo was taken after were secured from coaling ship and were cleaning her up." Via Navsource

Starboard side view while in San Diego, 1915. Caption on the back of the photo reads: “This photo was taken after were secured from coaling ship and were cleaning her up.” Via Navsource

Nooga's shipboard naval landing party drills with M1909 Benet Mercie light machine guns. During the Mexican crisis, her landing team and those of the other Pacific fleet ships sent to babysit ports in Mexico drilled non-stop, though did not wind up making a landing. Photo via Navsource from the collection of H.G. Froehlich, CPO, USN.

Nooga’s shipboard naval landing party drills with M1909 Benet Mercie light machine guns. During the Mexican crisis, her landing team and those of the other Pacific fleet ships sent to babysit ports in Mexico drilled non-stop, though did not wind up going expeditionary.  A ship Chattanooga’s size could muster 80-100 men for action ashore, a common tactic in those days. Photo via Navsource from the collection of H.G. Froehlich, CPO, USN.

In April 1917 with the U.S. entry into the ongoing Great War with Germany, Chattanooga chopped to the Atlantic Fleet and cruised the Caribbean for enemy shipping for a while before joining in convoy duties across the big pond. While vital, her brief wartime service was unexciting.

Following the end of the conflict, she remained a fixture in European ports with a concentration on the Black Sea, where the former Russian Empire was tearing itself apart in a civil war, and around Greece and Turkey, who were warming up a conflict of their own.

USS CHATTANOOGA (C-16) in a European port circa 1919. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 Catalog #: NH 94980, via Naval History and Heritage Command. She was reclassified as a gunboat, PG-30, 17 July 1920. Her place in the fleet was taken by much more powerful modern cruisers.

USS CHATTANOOGA (C-16) in a European port circa 1919. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983. Catalog #: NH 94980, via Naval History and Heritage Command. She was reclassified as a gunboat, PG-30, 17 July 1920. Her place in the fleet was taken by much more powerful modern cruisers. Note her darker and more smudgy haze gray scheme and simplified rigging. Also note the huge ensign on her mast. That’s what she did.

Chattanooga most importantly helped supervise the liquidation of the former Austro-Hungarian Navy (kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine) in the Adriatic.

She provided support to the Naval Reservist prize crew on the 15,000-ton Radetzky-class pre-dreadnought battleship USS (ex-SMS) Zrinyi at Spalato (Split) in Dalmatia. On the morning of 7 November 1920, Zrínyi was decommissioned and Chattanooga took her in tow across the sea to Italy where, under the terms of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain, Zrínyi was turned over to the Italian government at Venice.

Bluejackets on the American/Austro-Hungarian Radetzky-class pre-dreadnought battleship USS (ex-SMS) Zrinyi, View of the ship's bow, looking forward from the bridge. This photograph was taken at Spalato, Yugoslavia, while the ship was in US Navy custody pending conclusion of peace treaties. The ship was commissioned in the US Navy from 22 November 1919 to 7 November 1920, when it was handed over to Italy. The ship never got underway while in US hands except for the delivery voyage under tow by Chattanooga in November 1920. Photo Catalog #: NH 43536, Naval History and Heritage Command

Bluejackets on the American/Austro-Hungarian Radetzky-class pre-dreadnought battleship USS (ex-SMS) Zrinyi, View of the ship’s bow, looking forward from the bridge. This photograph was taken at Spalato, Yugoslavia, while the ship was in US Navy custody pending conclusion of peace treaties. The ship was commissioned in the US Navy from 22 November 1919 to 7 November 1920, when it was handed over to Italy. The ship never got underway while in US hands except for the delivery voyage under tow by Chattanooga in November 1920. Photo Catalog #: NH 43536, Naval History and Heritage Command

Ordered back to the U.S., Chattanooga was decommissioned at Boston on 19 July 1921 and, though reclassified as a light cruiser, CL-18, the next month, never saw active duty again.

She was stricken in 1929 and sold for her value in scrap the following year. As for her five sisters, one, USS Tacoma was lost January 16, 1924 after she ran aground, while the other four vessels were all laid up like Chattanooga and subsequently scrapped.

While a frigate and later a cruiser were both laid down during WWII with intention of continuing her name, they were not commissioned as such and the Naval List has not seen another Chattanooga since 1929.

However, relics of her do exist and have found new importance.

Plaques commemorating the World War One service of the protected cruiser USS Chattanooga (C-16, PG-30, CL-18) on display in the Douglas MacArthur Memorial, in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. One of the ship's commanders was http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/amacar3.htm Arthur McArthur III, brother of the famed general via Flckr https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/6730482845 Ironically, Mac Arthur also served on the Holland, built in the same shipyard as Chattanooga and the Grampus, shown near the cruiser above.

Plaques commemorating the World War One service of the protected cruiser USS Chattanooga (C-16, PG-30, CL-18) on display in the Douglas MacArthur Memorial, in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. One of the ship’s commanders was Arthur McArthur III, brother of the famed general. Image via Flckr.  Ironically, Art Mac Arthur also served on the submarine Holland, built in the same shipyard as Chattanooga and the Grampus, shown near the cruiser in the 1912 image above.

Her bell, image by the Shelbyville Times-Gazette http://www.t-g.com/story/2233377.html . The bell was made in Chattanooga by the Fischer Evans works. The bell will be displayed at the Navy Ball in Chattanooga this year

Her bell, image by the Shelbyville Times-Gazette. The bell was made in Chattanooga by the Fischer Evans works. The bell will be displayed at the Navy Ball in Chattanooga this year

Her 200-pound bronze magnesium ship’s bell has been first at the Lions Club hall then the recently shuttered American Legion Post 23 in Shelbyville, Tennessee for more than 85-years. Recently, following the terror attack on the Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga that claimed the lives of five naval personnel, a reservist from the base, CS1 Gowan Johnson, was able to track the bell down and reclaim it for the center.

From Stars and Stripes

While the Navy’s reserve center quarters here are being modified, the USS Chattanooga’s bell has found a temporary home inside the National Medal of Honor Museum in Northgate Mall, where it is displayed along with vintage photos of the ship and crew.

“It’s open to the public to view, and touch, if they like,” explains Charles Googe, a museum volunteer.

Meanwhile, Johnson is hard at work preparing the bell for a more permanent home at the Reserve Center. A cast-iron yoke is being fabricated for the bell, he said, and the shrine will be anchored to a black granite base with a plaque honoring the dead. The emblems of the U.S. Navy and Marines also will be part of the exhibit, he said.

“We are thinking that we could toll the bell five times on July 16 when the names are read for the [shootings anniversary] ceremony,” Johnson said.

In the meantime, Petty Officer Johnson has begun to muse about another possibility, now that the Navy is commissioning a new class of ships bearing the names of American cities.

“How about another ship called the USS Chattanooga?” Johnson said.

Perhaps people in high places will get wind of his idea and answer the bell.

Specs:

Denver.png~originalDisplacement:
3,200 long tons (3,251 t) (standard)
3,514 long tons (3,570 t) (full load)
Length:
308 ft. 9 in (94.11 m) oa
292 ft. (89 m)pp
Beam: 44 ft. (13 m)
Draft: 15 ft. 9 in (4.80 m) (mean)
Installed power:
6 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
21,000 ihp (16,000 kW)
Propulsion:
2 × vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines, 4700 shp
2 × screws
Sail plan: Schooner
Speed:
16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph)
16.75 knots (31.02 km/h; 19.28 mph) (Speed on Trial)
Range: 2200 nmi at 10 kts
Complement: 31 officers 261 enlisted men
Armament:
10 × 5 in (127 mm)/50 caliber Breech-loading rifles
8 × 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) rapid fire guns
2 × 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) guns
Armor:
Deck: 2 1⁄2 in (64 mm) (slope)
3⁄16 in (4.8 mm) (flat)
Shields: 1 3⁄4 in (44 mm)

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.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Finally, to see where the Chattanooga ranks among U.S. cruiser development, the U.S. Naval Historical Command put out the below infographic.

Print

Click here for the full size and go here for more historical information on USN cruisers.

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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, Univesity of Guns, Outdoor Hub, 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 US 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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