Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: ‘Great Scott and huckleberries, look at that!’

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, August 23, 2017: ‘Great Scott and huckleberries, look at that!’

U.S. Navy Catalog #: NH 63740

Here we see the experimental 94-foot USS Stiletto, the fastest torpedo boat in the world at the time, firing an early Howell type torpedo from her bow tube around 1890, likely on the Sakonnet River, Tiverton, Rhode Island, home of the Hotchkiss factory’s torpedo test range.

To understand Stiletto, first, let’s talk about Capt. Nat Herreshoff.

Born in Bristol, Rhode Island in 1848, Herreshoff was a renaissance man of the period when it came to designing steam, sailing and, later, motor yachts. An accomplished sailor as well as a mechanical engineer in the days before Tesla, he ran the famous Corliss Stationary Engine, a 1,000kW dynamo at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Returning to Rhode Island, he started the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol aimed at boat making as well as other endeavors.

As noted by MIT, from whence he came:

“Nathanael G. Herreshoff was a singular genius whose 75-year career produced six America’s Cup winners and hundreds of other highly successful vessels. He introduced modern catamarans and designed highly efficient steam engines…The many Herreshoff boats still winning races today further attest to his legendary standing.”

In May 1876, he built Lightning (HMCo #20), a 58-foot wooden hulled boat powered by a steam plant that broke 20.3-knots on her trials.

She carried two spar-type torpedoes, basically, bombs on sticks held like lances in front of the craft. Drawing just 22-inches of water, she was perfect for harbor and coast defense. Lightning was bought by the Bureau of Naval Ordnance as Steam Launch No. 6, for $5,000 to be used by the Torpedo Board of Ordnance at Newport, Commander George A. Converse, commanding.

Bow view of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.’s SPAR torpedo boat Lightning (Steam Launch No. 6), launched May 1876, and the first torpedo boat purchased by the U.S. Navy. The Lightning is on a wooden cradle in front of an unidentified building, believed to be located at the Naval Torpedo Station, on Goat Island, in Newport, Rhode Island. Note the spar torpedoes in their stored position from where they would be extended before use. Source: John Palmieri, Curator Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

With over 100 floating projects already worked through, in 1884 Herreshoff built Stiletto (HMCo project 118), a 94-foot wood-planked vessel with steel ribs as an experimental “Torpedo boat type, fitted as yacht.”

Unarmed and fitted with a 7-ft by 7-ft Almy boiler that could produce 359 hp on the inverted compound steam plant, the 28-ton vessel broke 26.4-knots in light condition and was originally rigged as a miniature three-masted schooner as a backup with her little masts looking like “walking sticks.”

Stiletto in 1887. Note the Yacht ensign and club pennants. By Nathaniel Stebbins – American & English Yachts, via Wiki

With her black hull and neat little white porthole row, the partially decked knife-shaped steamboat made a splash on the yacht club circuit during the 1885 summer season.

On June 10, while on the Hudson River in New York, she raced the 300-foot Hudson company paddle-wheel steamer Mary Powell which had “never been passed on the river” some 30 miles from West 22nd Street to Sing Sing prison.

The Mary Powell. Photo via the Fred B. Abele Transportation History Collection SC22662, Box 26, Folder 11a

According to a New York Times report from the day, a crew member from the speedy “Queen of the Hudson” Mary Powell called out to the tiny Stiletto, “That blamed little boat’ll bust itself tryin’ to beat us!” just before the race started.

Then, the Stiletto‘s skipper waved goodbye.

The Times:

Needless to say, Stiletto made the 30 mile trip to Sing Sing in something like 77 minutes, smoking her competition.

The next day, she beat the famous racing yacht Atalanta from Larchmont, New York to New London, Connecticut, gaining the title of the fastest ship on the water.

An illustration of the steam yacht Stiletto in her celebrated race against Atalanta, during the American Yacht Club Regatta, from Larchmont to New London, 11 June 1885. Image from The Frank Leslie Illustrated Newspaper. Navsource picture 05040120

With such a glowing record of speed, of course, Stiletto was purchased for the U.S. Navy under an Act of Congress dated 3 March 1887; and entered service in July 1887, attached to the Torpedo Station, Newport where she served alongside her smaller uncle Lightning.

She was commissioned as USS Stiletto, Wooden Torpedo Boat no. 1, WTB-1 (not to be confused with the later Warship Weds alum USS Cushing, a steel-hulled vessel, which was Torpedo Boat no. 1, TB-1) and was the Navy’s first torpedo boat capable of launching self-propelled torpedoes.

Made ready for war, her masts and sailing rigs were removed, wheelhouse reduced to a hatch, and was given a bow tube and trainable deck tube for LCDR John Howell’s Automobile Torpedo. Some 50 Howells had been ordered under contract through the Hotchkiss Ordnance Company of nearby Providence as the Mark I Torpedo. Why not have the Navy’s first real torpedo boat armed with its first real torpedo?

One of Howell’s Mk1 Locomotive torpedoes.

Capable of 25-knots, these early 14.2-inch wide fish had a 96-pound wet gun cotton warhead and could make 600 yards before running down the wind-up flywheel powered engine. Stiletto tested many of these on the company’s range in Tiverton.

They remained in service until 1896 when they had all (save for two, including the one  shown above at the Newport Museum) been expended.

USS STILETTO Firing a torpedo from her deck tube, about 1890. Catalog #: NH 63741

Stiletto (wooden torpedo boat). Starboard side. 1891. Note the drastically different scheme from her 1887 yacht racing days.Photo via National Archives/NH 69210

Stiletto spent her entire naval career at the Torpedo Station, and as noted by the curator of the Herreshoff Museum, she was taken out of the water over the winter for maintenance.

She did, however, make it to Hampton Roads and back to the Hudson periodically for naval reviews and parades.

U.S. Navy ships from left to right: USS Concord (Patrol Gunboat #3), the wooden torpedo boat USS Stiletto, and USS Columbia (Cruiser #12) in New York Harbor, New York. Note the Statue of Liberty behind the warships. Reproduction of artwork by Fred S. Cozzens, 1894. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Lot-3365-2

USS STILETTO in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during a naval review. Courtesy of Erik Heyl. Catalog #: NH 64050

Howell’s last torpedo on the deck of USS STILETTO, 1896. Courtesy of the Newport Artillery Co. Museum, Newport, R. I., 1974. Catalog #: NH 81307

Stiletto. Likely firing a Bliss model fish from her bow tube. Note the different nose shape from the Howell. 1900 via National Archives

NH 63742 USS STILETTO (1887-1911)

USS STILETTO (1887-1911) Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Skerritt Collection of the Bethlehem Steel Co. Archives. Catalog #: NH 64051

From left to right, the USS Porter (TB-6), USS Stiletto (WTB-1), and USS Cushing (TB-1) in Narragansett Bay. Nathanael Herreshoff was on board the Porter when this photograph was taken, and recorded the date in his diary as having been on December 18, 1896. Source: John Palmieri, Curator Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame; http://www.herreshoff.org, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Besides testing the Howell and later Bliss model Whitehead torpedoes after 1891, Stiletto was used for special missions such as “running 12-hour high-speed trips delivering 2 tons of smokeless powder to New York ammunition depots.”

Reboilered in 1891, she was later fitted with an oil-fired suite which proved unimpressive.

By 1897, on the cusp of the Spanish-American War, the Navy had worked out torpedo tactics, had over 300 torpedoes in their magazines and a score of relatively ocean-going steel-hulled torpedo boats, none of which would have been possible without Stiletto.

During the war, she provided coastal defense duties and lingered on for a decade longer, marked for disposal after nearly 25 years as a floating test bed.

Struck from the Navy list on 27 January 1911, she was sold six months later to James F. Nolan of East Boston, Mass., for scrapping.

As for the Howells, in 2013, Space and Naval warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) discovered and recovered a spent Howell off the San Diego coast, near Hotel Del Coronado, during a mine-hunting training exercise with Navy dolphins.of stamped. Stamped “USN No. 24” it is only the third known to exist, with the other two held in the collection of the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Wash. and the Naval War College Museum in Newport.

Specs:

Construction plan for the 94′ Stiletto, HMCo. # 118, via MIT

Displacement: 31 tons
Length: 94-feet
Beam: 11′ 6″
Draft: 4′ 10″
Fuel: 4 tons of egg coal, max
Boiler: sectional water tube-type 7-ft by 7-ft carrying 160-lbs of steam.
Engine: inverted compound condensing-type engine with 12.6- and 21-in diameter cylinders; 359 ihp (450 ihp under forced draft); 1 shaft.
Screw: 4′ diameter. 4 blades; 400 rpm.
Trial speed: 26.4 knots clean. Navy service speed: 18.2 knots
Complement: 6 (in Navy service, as few as three in civilian)
Armament: 2 early torpedoes

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.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, 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!

Advertisements

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

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

Basic ammo load is 210 rounds. How many can you supply with that load, and will those numbers be enough?

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.

The Angry Staff Officer

Peddling history, alcohol, defense, and sometimes all three at once

To the Sound of the Guns

Civil War Artillery, Battlefields and Historical Markers

Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Ethos Live

Naval Special Warfare Command

wwiiafterwwii

wwii equipment used after the war

%d bloggers like this: