Warship Wednesday Mar. 22, 2017: The Cowboy Monitor
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 their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday Mar. 22, 2017: The Cowboy Monitor
Here we see the Arkansas-class monitor USS Wyoming (Monitor # 10) on a postal card published by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, California, featuring a tinted photograph of the vessel taken in her prime, circa 1902-1908. It should be noted that Wyoming was the last seagoing monitor ordered for the U.S. Navy, ending a string of vessels that began in 1861.
John Ericsson’s steam-powered low freeboard ironclad, USS Monitor, with her “cheesebox on a raft” rotating turret design in the early days of the Civil War, led to an entire fleet of river, harbor, coastal and seagoing takes on the same concept that saw some 60~ monitors take to the builders’ yards (though not all were completed) by 1866.
By 1874, ostensibly as part of the “great repairs” the Navy ordered the first “modern” monitor, USS Puritan (M-1), a 6,000-ton beast with a quartet of 12‑inch guns and 14-inches of armor that acquitted herself in service during the Spanish-American War– though she was obsolete at the time.
However, the Navy still piled on the monitor bandwagon, completing four vessels of the Amphitrite-class, the one-off USS Monterey, and (wait for it) the four-ship swan song of the type: USS Arkansas (M-7), Connecticut/Nevada (M-8), Florida (M-9), and our hero, Wyoming (M-10).
These craft were 255-feet overall and weighed 3,350-tons full load but drew a gentle 12.5-feet of seawater. Armed with a single Mark 4 turret with a dual mounting of 12″/40 caliber Mark 3 guns along with four 4″ singles and some 6-pounders, they were slathered in as much as 11-inches of Harvey steel armor. Four boilers, when new, could push the ships’ steam plant to make these hogs touch 13-kts on trials, which was good for 1898. Not great, but good.
Each of the class was laid down at approximately the same time (the Span-Am War was on at the time and ships were needed, dammit), but in different yards. Arkansas at Newport News, Nevada at Bath in Maine, Florida at Crescent Shipyard, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Wyoming— the only one on the West Coast– at Union Iron Works, San Francisco. Though technically Nevada was commissioned (as Connecticut at first) on 5 March 1903, Wyoming was the last of the class ordered and was accepted months before, entering service on 8 December 1902.
Her total cost, $1,624,270.59– some $500,000 more than Arkansas yet $200,000 under the price paid for Connecticut/Nevada.
She was a handsome if dated, ship.
In October 1903 after her shakedown, Wyoming was dispatched to Panamanian waters along with the cruiser Boston, where she landed a few Marines to look after Washington’s interests.
Panama at the time was part of Colombia though separatists, eager to restart the failed French canal effort with U.S. help, wanted to change that. With Wyoming on hand to provide literal gunboat diplomacy of the Teddy Roosevelt era, on November 13 the U.S formally recognized the Republic of Panama and told Colombia about it later. As the biggest Colombian Navy ship in Panama’s Pacific waters was the 600-ton gunboat Bogota (one 14-pounder gun, eight 6-pounders), which the Wyoming vastly outmuscled, the Colombians agreed.
Meanwhile, the gunboat USS Nashville (PG-7), operating on the Carribean coast of Panama, prevented the Colombians in Colon from using the railway to reinforce their forces there, leaving them in an untenable situation. The new Republic of Panama gave the U.S. control of the Canal Zone on 23 February 1904, for $10 million in accordance with the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty.
From DANFS on her Panamanian Vacation:
The monitor accordingly arrived in Panamanian waters on 13 November (1903) and sailed up the Tuira River in company with the protected cruiser Boston, with a company of Marines under Lt. S. A. M. Patterson, USMC, and Lt. C. B. Taylor, USMC, embarked, to land at “Yariza” and observe the movements of Colombian troops.
The presence of American armed might there and elsewhere ultimately resulted in independence for the Panamanians. During that time, Wyoming anchored at the Bay of San Miguel on 15 December. The following day, a boat with 11 Marines embarked left for the port of La Palma, under sail. While Boston departed the scene on the 17th, Wyoming shifted to La Palma on the following day. There, Lt. Patterson, USMC, with a detachment of 25 Marines, commandeered the steamer Tuira and took her upriver. While the Marines were gone, a party of evacuated American nationals came out to the monitor in her gig.
Meanwhile, Patterson’s Marines had joined the ship’s landing force at the village of Real to keep an eye on American interests there. Back at La Palma, Wyoming continued to take on board American nationals fleeing from the troubled land and kept up a steady stream of supplies to her landing party of Bluejackets and Marines at Real. Ultimately, when the need for them had passed, the landing party returned to the ship on Christmas Eve.
Wyoming remained in Panamanian waters into the spring of 1904 keeping a figurative eye on local conditions before she departed Panama Bay on 19 April, bound for Acapulco.
After this, Wyoming returned to quiet service off the West Coast and in 1908 was converted from being coal-fired to using oil fuel– the first ship to do so in the fleet.
In 1909, her name was stripped from her to be given to a new battleship and she was dubbed USS Cheyenne. Likewise, at about the same time Arkansas switched her name to USS Ozark, Nevada— renamed for the second time in a decade– to USS Tonopah, and Florida to USS Tallahassee.
By 1910, Wyoming/Cheyenne was on the reserve list and being used by the Washington Naval Militia off Bremerton until late 1913.
Brought back into regular fleet service, Cheyenne was used as a submarine tender for the 2d SUB Div in Puget Sound, Mare Island, San Francisco, and San Pedro between August 1913-April 1917, only interrupting them for two trips down to rowdy Mexico, then involved in a civil war, to evacuate U.S and foreign nationals trapped in the volatile region.
When the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917, our rough and ready West Coast monitor continued her service until late in the war she was ordered to the Atlantic for the first time in her service. There, Cheyenne served as a tender for submarines operating in the Gulf of Mexico area, and for nine months in 1919 was again active off Mexico, resting with her quiet guns in Tampico harbor.
In 1920, Cheyenne was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, then used as a pierside training hulk in Baltimore for Fifth Naval District Naval Reserve Force members until 1926, carrying the hull number IX-4 on the Naval List before she was mothballed at Philadelphia. She was sold for scrapping in April 1939.
As such, she was the last monitor on the U.S. Navy’s battle line, surviving all her sisters and cousins by more than 15 years.
3,225 long tons (3,277 t) (standard)
3,356 long tons (3,410 t) (full load)
255 feet 1 inch (77.75 m) (overall)
252 ft. (77 m) (waterline)
Beam: 50 ft. (15 m)
Draft: 12 ft. 6 in (3.81 m) (mean)
4 × Thornycroft boilers
2,400 indicated horsepower (1,800 kW)
1,739 ihp (1,297 kW) (on trials)
2 × Vertical triple expansion engines
2 × screw propellers
12.5 knots (23.2 km/h; 14.4 mph) (design)
12.03 kn (22.28 km/h; 13.84 mph) (on trial)
Complement: 13 officers 209 men
2 × 12 in (305 mm)/40 caliber breech-loading rifles (1×2)
4 × 4 in (102 mm)/40 cal guns (4×1)
3 × 6-pounder 57 mm (2.2 in) guns
Side belt: 11–5 in (280–130 mm)
Barbette: 11–9 in (280–230 mm)
Gun turret: 10–9 in (250–230 mm)
Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm)
Conning tower: 8 in (200 mm)
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