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Crank em out

Here we see a beautiful example of perhaps the best .45-70 chambered Gatling design, the Colt-produced Model 1890.

This wonder, fitted with 10 31-inch octagon barrels, could let those big buffalo-killer sized rounds rip at 525 rounds per minute, which would produce a giant billow of burnt black powder in the process. Weighing in at 200-pounds (sans bipod) this thing was a beast to run but had all the bells and whistles of a modern Gatling design including the Murphy Stop and the Bruce Feed.

This particular specimen sold last week at auction (Rock Island) for $54K.

Individual U.S. Army officers bought a few of Dr. Richard J. Gatling’s guns in the Civil War in .42-caliber and .58-caliber, and later the Army adopted the gun in 1866 and later morphed into the Model 1874, 1876, 1877, 1883 and 1889 guns chambered in .45-70.

On the lead-up to the Spanish-American War, the Army purchased 53 Gatling Guns in .45-70 over a three-year program: 18 M1890s, 17 M1891s, and 18 M1892s, and were the last in that caliber ordered by Uncle Sam.

The M1893 models and later were chambered in .30 Government (.30-40 Krag)– Lt. John “Gatling Gun” Parker famously took a quartet of M1895s to San Juan Hill in 1898 while the Marines had much lighter and more modern M1895 Colt–Brownings in 6mm. Not to be dissuaded, the Army ordered even more Gatlings in 1900 and even converted them to run the 30.06, keeping them in service until the cusp of WWI.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother

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, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother

Here we see the modified Bogatyr-class 1st class protected cruiser Ochakov (Очаков) of the Tsarist Navy as she appeared when first commissoned. She went by several different names and flew a myriad of different ensigns in her time, including that of the first Red admiral and the last White Russian general.

Ordered as part of the Imperial Russian Navy’s 8-year building plan, the German yard of AG Vulcan Stettin won the contract to design and build a class of protected cruisers that, for the time of the Spanish-American War, were modern. The basic design was a 6,000-ton ship with a main battery of 152mm guns, a secondary battery of a dozen 75mm guns, six torpedo tubes (four on deck and two submerged), the capability to carry sea mines and make 23-knots. In short, the Tsar’s admiralty described these ships as “a partially armored cruiser, resembling a high-breasted battleship in appearance, and in fact is a linear, lightly armored ship.”

Bogatyr. Colorised photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

The cruisers of this type were rightly considered the best representatives of the class of medium armor deck cruisers of their day.

Only class-leader Bogatyr was built in Germany. Follow-on vessels Oleg and Vityaz were built in two Russian yards in St Petersburg, intended for the Baltic Fleet, while two others, Kagul (we’ll call her Kagul I, for reasons you will see later) and Ochakov were constructed in the Black Sea– the latter at the Lazarev Admiralty Yard in Sevastopol. As the five cruisers were built in five different yards spread across the continent, it should come as no surprise that they were all slightly different.

Laid down within 14 months of each other, they were envisioned to commission about the same time, however Vityaz was destroyed by fire on the builder’s ways in 1901 and scrapped, leaving the other four ships to enter service between August 1902 and October 1905, with the hero of our tale, Ochakov, named after a city in Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, joining the fleet on 2 October 1902 though, suffering from several defects in her electrical system and boilers, she was still in what could best be described as extended builder’s trails as late as November 1905.

OCHAKOV (Russian Protected Cruiser, 1902-1933). View made on deck looking aft toward the ship’s twin 6-inch mount and the bridge. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1986. Description: Catalog #: NH 101049

Trapped in the Black Sea due to Ottoman control of the Straits, Ochakov, and Kagul I did not participate in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 though sister Oleg fought at the Battle of Tsushima and managed to barely escape to be interned in the Philippines while Bogatyr sortied from Vladivostok for commerce raiding during the conflict.

Speaking of the Black Sea Fleet in 1905, something happened that you may have heard of:

Caught up in the anti-Tsarist backlash that resulted from defeat in the Pacific and loss of two out of three Russian fleets, the country was thrown into the what is described as the Russian Revolution of 1905. Some two months after the war ended, one of the darkest chapters of that unsuccessful episode was The Sevastopol Uprising.

There, one Lt. Pyotr Petrovitch Schmidt, from an Odessa-based naval family of German decent (his father fought at Sevastopol during its great siege in the Crimean War), was something of a rabblerouser.

Schmidt

A graduate of the Naval Officers’ Corps in Saint Petersburg (53rd out of 307, class of 1886) he was soon dismissed to the reserves in 1889 after spending much of his time with the frozen Baltic Fleet on the sick list, but rejoined the warm Black Sea Fleet in 1892 only to transfer into the merchant shipping service in 1900, going on to command several steamers. Recalled to the colors for the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, he was given command of the coal transport Irtysh which was sailing for the Pacific to be sunk at Tsushima but before it left Russian waters he was thrown in the brig for insulting a fellow officer but later let out to rejoin his ship. However, by the time the fleet made it to Africa, he was back on the sick list and sent to the Black Sea Fleet to help hold it down for the duration of the war, nominally given command of Torpedo Boat No. 253.

Stripped of most effective officers and NCOs to man the other ill-fated Russian task forces and left with ships full of raw recruits and untalented leaders, the Black Sea Fleet in late 1905 was a powder keg of inefficiency that led to the famous mutiny of the battleship Potemkin in June, which was quickly put down and the ship recaptured, the 42 men considered to be in the thick of it thrown in the brig on the minelayer Prut.

Enter Schmidt, stage left.

He formed the “Union of Officers-Friends of the People in Sevastopol” and in October 1905 led a crowd to the Odessa city prison to protest the arrest of local revolutionaries and began distributing leaflets. This landed him in the jail alongside the other reds, but he was quickly released. He was cashiered at the rank of Captain 2nd Rank.

However, by 11 November, representative crew members from at least seven Black Sea Fleet warships were attending Schmidt’s group’s fiery meetings, with some calling for outright rebellion. The new sailors’ soviet elected him as their leader.

By 13 November, with an estimated 2,000 sailors and longshoremen in mutiny across Odessa, the officers of the Ochakov beat feet and left the mutineers in charge. The leaderless crew signaled that Schmidt should join them and he did, arriving at around 2 p.m. on 14 November with his 16-year-old son in tow and Imperial shoulder boards still on his uniform. Understrength– just 350 crew, with few senior NCOs and no officers remained– the unfinished warship was clearing for an uncertain fight.

Then they went to get the Potemkin‘s locked up leaders:

Having thrown out the Admiral’s flag on Ochakov and gave the signal: “I command the fleet, Schmidt”, with the expectation of immediately attracting the whole squadron to this insurrection, he sent his cutter to the “Prut” in order to release the Potemkin people. There was no resistance. “Ochakov” received the sailors-convicts on board and went around with them the whole squadron. From all the courts, there was a welcome “Hurray.” Several of the ships, including the battleships Potemkin [which had been renamed St. Panteleimon, the patron saint of accidents and loneliness] and Rostislav, raised a red banner; at the latter, however, it only fluttered for a few minutes.

By the morning of the 15th, Schmidt fired off a telegram to Tsar Nicholas II:

“The glorious Black Sea Fleet, sacredly devoted to the people, demands Your Majesty to immediately call a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, and no longer obeys orders of Your ministers. Commander of the Fleet P. Schmidt.”

While he initially had seven other warships answering his signals, and his little red fleet was a sight that no doubt gave every Bolshevik a lump in their throat, they realistically had no chance.

Over the course of the day, one by one the ships took down their red flag, leaving only the cruiser and a destroyer as the only rebels. Gen. Meller-Zakomelsky, the Tsar’s commander ashore, trained every gun in the harbor– including some 12-inch pieces– on the Ochakov and the gunners were loyal. An ultimatum was issued. The battleship Rostislav, with her 254mm guns and Vice Admiral Alexander Krieger aboard, closed to within 900m of the cruiser.

At 1600, the shore batteries and Rostislav opened fire, riddling the cruiser with at least 2 254-mm and 16 152-mm shells. She was able to get six shots off in return, which missed. A fire soon broke out on Ochakov, and Schmidt stopped the fight, lowered the national ensign and red flag, then hoisted a white one. It was all over in 20 minutes. Schmidt and 35 of the sailors thought key to the uprising were carted off in chains.

In March 1906, Schmidt and three men from Ochakov (sailors AI Gladkov, NG Antonenko, Quartermaster S. P. Priknik) were executed by a firing squad on windswept Berezan Island at the entrance of the Dnieper-Bug Estuary by the crew of the gunboat Terets.

Thrown into a shallow grave, it was unmarked until 1924 when the Soviets began erecting monuments to the people’s heroes of 1905. Of the other 300~ survivors of her red crew and the men that were recycled from the Potemkin mutineers, 14 were exiled to Siberia, 103 imprisoned at hard labor at terms several years, and 151 sent to labor battalions to serve the rest of their original enlistment.

As for Ochakov, her magazines flooded to prevent her from going in one quick puff of smoke, she smoldered for two days but did not sink. Towed into the yard for repairs, the blackened ship had 63 shell holes in her hull and superstructure and several compartments with human remains.

To erase her memory from the fleet, the ship was extensively reconstructed and, oddly enough, given the name of her sister– Kagul, which was in turn renamed Pamyat’ Merkuriya in March 1907.

Returning to the fleet, Kagul II as we like to call her (ex-Ochakov), was a much different ship. She proved relatively effective, rebuilt with lessons learned from her plastering by the fleet in 1905 and from against the Japanese.

She also became a test bed for seaplane use for reconnaissance and scouting purposes.

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

When the Great War came, the two cruisers served as the eyes of the Black Sea Fleet and hunted for the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau, bombarded fired the Turkish coast, covered mine laying expeditions (and themselves laid several of their own mine barriers) and captured or sank a number of Ottoman and later Bulgarian coasters.

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

After her Great War redemption, again came the revolution.

On 15 March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated after a week of riots and mutinies by the Imperial Guard in Petrograd. The Baltic Fleet, Northern Fleet and Pacific Squadron followed suit in swearing allegiance to the Provisional Government, as did the Black Sea Fleet. Memories of the 1905 Mutiny in Odessa and Sevastopol were still strong and, at the end of the month with a red flag on her mast once more, Kagul (II) became Ochakov again, her sailor’s committee in charge.

With the decline of the Russian war effort against the Central Powers, and Lenin and Co removing the Provisional Government in November, the country dropped out of the conflict with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Ceded to German/Austrian control as part of the pact, Ochakov was captured by the Germans in May and remained in nominal service to the Kaiser until the British arrived on 24 November, two weeks after the Armistice.

Turned over to the anti-Bolshevik White Army forces, the largely crewless warship became part of Lt. Gen. Anton Denikin’s Armed Forces of the South of Russia, which led to the cruiser being renamed after that force’s early leader, General Lavr Kornilov (who himself was zapped by Red artillery in April 1918).

In 1919, after Denikin’s attack upon Moscow faltered, he fell back to the Black Sea and evacuated the remnants of his forces from Novorossiysk to the Crimea where Lt. Gen. Piotr Wrangel took over the force, our cruiser included.

The endgame of Wrangel’s effort came in November 1920 when 140,000 soldiers, Cossacks, monarchists and general White Russian diaspora left the Crimea on everything that could float. Wrangel, on his yacht Lucullus, led the working ships of the Black Sea Fleet including two battleships, two cruisers (including our subject), 15 destroyers/escorts, and five submarines first to Constantinople and then to Bizerte in French North Africa where they arrived in December.

There, the fleet in being remained for four years under RADM. Mikhail Berens until its disarmament after the recognition by France of the Soviet Union on 29 October 1924, when her old Cross of St. Andrew was hauled down as ownership had been transferred to the Soviets. After inspection by emissaries from Moscow, Ochakov/Kornilov never left Tunisia and was instead sold as scrap in 1933. Some of her guns were later likely used in French coastal defenses.

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian "Wrangel-Fleet." From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian “Wrangel-Fleet.” From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

Of her sisters, Bogatyr was scrapped in Germany in 1922 after the Reds sold her for spare change along with a number of other Baltic Fleet vessels while Oleg was written off by the Bolsheviks as a combat loss 17 June 1919 after she was torpedoed and sunk by Royal Navy speedboat CMB-4 commanded by Captain Augustus Agar at Kronstadt. As for Kagul I (Pamiat’ Merkuria) she was unable to sortie with Wrangel’s last fleet and, captured at Sevastopol, was renamed Komintern and refitted with material salvaged from Bogatyr and Oleg, later fighting the Germans in WWII until her loss in 1942.

The name Ochakov was celebrated in the Soviet Union, going on to grace a Kara-class cruiser in 1969. Based in the Black Sea (where else?) she was decommissioned in 2011 but later sunk as a blockship to piss off the Ukrainians in 2014.

The more things change.

Specs:

Displacement: 7800 fl
Length: 439 ft. 8 in
Beam: 54 ft. 6 in
Draft: 20 ft. 8 in
Propulsion:
2 shaft vertical triple-expansion steam engines
16 Normand-type boilers
23,000 hp
Speed: 23 knots
Endurance: 5320 (10) on 1194 tons coal
Complement: 30 officers and 550 sailors
Armament:
(As built)
12 × 152mm (6 in/44cal) Obuhovsky/Canet guns (2 twin turrets and 8 single guns), 2160 rounds
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, singles, 3600 rounds
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 Sea mines
(1917)
10x 130mm/53cal singles
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, single
2x 64mm landing guns
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
2 x Maxim machine guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 sea mines
Armor:
Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Turrets: 127 mm (5.0 in)
Casemates: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Conning tower: 140 mm (5.5 in)

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Air blast injuries likely killed the crew of the Hunley

The mystery of the Hunley‘s last crew has been solved. A paper by University of Florida researchers supported by the US Army MURI program and others has come to the conclusion, after repeatedly setting blasts near a scale model of the human-powered submersible, that the crew was killed by the blast wave from their torpedo, crushing their lungs and giving them TBIs. That explains why they were all found at their stations, with no broken bones, and the submarine was relatively intact.

Abstract:

The Hunley set off a 61.2 kg (135 lb) black powder torpedo at a distance less than 5 m (16 ft) off its bow. Scaled experiments were performed that measured black powder and shock tube explosions underwater and propagation of blasts through a model ship hull. This propagation data was used in combination with archival experimental data to evaluate the risk to the crew from their own torpedo. The blast produced likely caused flexion of the ship hull to transmit the blast wave; the secondary wave transmitted inside the crew compartment was of sufficient magnitude that the calculated chances of survival were less than 16% for each crew member. The submarine drifted to its resting place after the crew died of air blast trauma within the hull.

Full study here

156 years ago today: The polyglot Garibaldi at Bull Run

On 21 July 1861, some 30,000~ Americans met on the field of battle south of Washington D.C. and let the cork out of the bottle on the epic bloodletting of the Civil War. Until then, although there had been a number of sharp incidents, peace was still an option. After the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as Battle of First Manassas, there was no turning back.

One of the more colorful units on the fields of Prince Williams County that day was the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, best known as the “Garibaldi Guard.”

The unit was formed just nine weeks earlier by the flamboyant Hungarian Col. Frederick George D’Utassy who, at the ripe old age of 37 claimed prior wartime service as a field and staff officer in several European armies prior to his immigration to the states, and worked as a language professor (speaking 12 of them fluently). The regiment was a foreign legion of sorts comprising 11 companies of men of different national heritage from New York’s streets: three German, three Hungarian, one Swiss, one Italian, one French, one Spanish, and one Portuguese.

As such, they looked unlike any other U.S. infantry force at the time.

COL D'Utassy and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the Uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

COL D’Utassy, short guy center, and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

The Guard attached into the 1st Brigade (Col. Louis Blenker) of the 5th Division (Col. Dixon S. Miles) and was in reserve at Manassas– but by most accounts they gave good service in helping cover the Union retreat.

They fought for the rest of the Civil War (often among themselves) and were disbanded 1 July 1865. The regiment suffered a total of 274 fatalities during the conflict, most from disease or by prisoners who died in Confederate POW camps.

As for D’Utassy, he was court-martialed in 1863 for “fraud and conduct prejudicial to military discipline” after selling the position of Major in his regiment, forging muster rolls, and forging accounts. He was discharged 29 May 1863 and, after a brief stint in Sing-Sing, became an insurance salesman.

Warship Wednesday, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

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, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Here we see the Butler-class destroyer escort USS Corbesier (DE 438) in an undated photo, likely somewhere in the Pacific in late WWII. She was named after an extremely well-known (for his time) expert with a blade.

“Cutlasses, lads!” was a standard call to prepare to repel boarders going back to the Continental Navy with Colonial armorer Richard Gridley and John Bailey reportedly crafting a number of these curved short swords for Washington’s fleet.

As described by JO2 Meckel in 1957’s “The Cutlass Carved Its Niche in Our Navy’s Annals,” the fledgling U.S. Navy ordered small lots of cutlasses from sword makers Nathan Starr of Middletown, Connecticut; Lewis Prahl of Philadelphia; and Robert Dingie of New York.

Starr later made three different 2,000-cutlass lots in 1808 (for $2.50 each), 1816 ($3.00) and 1826 ($4.25)– talk about inflation! These were needed in large numbers as frigates such as the USS Constitution were authorized no less than 156 cutlasses.

These early swords were later augmented and then replaced by the Ames Cutlass in two variants (1842 and 1860) with the latter, remaining in service amazingly through WWII.

The 1860 Ames was 32-inches long with a 26-inch blade, and was in service from 1860 through 1949! This example marked U.S.N. D.R. 1864, is in the National Park Service collection.

Moving from the Barbary Wars and War of 1812 to the Civil War, the Navy’s love affair with the cutlass remained intact, even as armor plate, steam engines, Gatling repeaters, torpedoes (mines) and rifled naval guns moved combat into modern terms.

With the need to remain trained in these traditional edged weapons, you need a sword master.

Enter one very dapper Antoine Joseph Corbesier, a man skilled at the noble art of attack and parry with a sword.

As noted by DANFS, Corbesier was born 22 January 1837 in Belgium and, after service with the French, emigrated to America.

As described by Fencing Classics, “A brief advertisement in the New York Tribune, from October 19, 1863, places him in New York during the time of the Civil War, where he was a teacher at the New York Fencing Club before opening his own school.”

By 1865, the 28-year-old European fencer was Sword-Master of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and, had made such an impression on the very gruff Admiral David Dixon Porter, then Superintendent, that Porter endorsed Corbesier’s 76-page text on sword fighting published in 1868.

“Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” soon became the standard tome for the use of naval cutlasses in the U.S. Navy and the influence can be seen for decades, along with other works he produced on the bayonet.

USS GALENA, 1880-92. Caption: Left flank cut, during cutlass practice. Description: Catalog #: NH 53998

Left flank cut, from Corbesier’s book

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices on board USS MONONGAHELA at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

Left face cut, from Corbesier’s book

Meanwhile, new ships coming on line, even though they were modern steam vessels lit by electric light, were still given their (reduced) allotment of cutlasses which, in naval tradition, would remain aboard until the ship was removed from the Naval List, ensuring the swords would float around through the Spanish-American War, Great War, and even into WWII.

Cutlass exercise Caption: Aboard a U.S. Navy warship during the later 1800s. Post card photo. Description: Catalog #: NH 80750

USS Enterprise (1877-1909) Ship’s Apprentices pose by the port side quarterdeck ladder, while Enterprise was at the New York Navy Yard, circa spring 1890. Photographed by E.H. Hart, New York City. Note the figure-eight Apprentice mark visible on the uniforms of several of these men, and cutlass fan on the cabin bulkhead at left. Stern of receiving ship Vermont is partially visible in the left background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 54215

USS CHICAGO (1889-1935) Caption: View on the gun deck, about 1890. Note cutlass and rifle racks, with 6″/30 broadside guns beyond. Description: Catalog #: NH 55124

Cutlass practice between Marines and sailors in an image right out of Corbesier’s book-1890s-aboard the early protected cruiser USS Newark (C-1). LOC photo via Shorpy colorized by Postales Navales

By special act of Congress, after more than 40 years of instruction at the Academy, Corbesier was given the rank of first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps 4 March 1913.

Lieutenant Antoine J. Corbesier, USMC, taken sometime between 1913-15. Catalog #: NH 51707

He died in the Naval Hospital at Annapolis on 26 March 1915, where he lived at the time.

His obituary ran in several nautical journals of the day, the below from Seven Seas Magazine.

Even with the great swordsman gone, the Navy kept the cutlass on tap, and they continued to see service in far flung ports when needed, even apparently being broken out once or twice in China as late as the 1930s.

On the eve of the Great War, the Navy attempted to replace the Civil War-era Ames Cutlass with the new M1917 Naval Cutlass, based on the Dutch Klewang boarding sword, though its adoption seems more miss than hit.

Then came this:

JJ55-3/1510, 15 October 1942
ACTION: ALL SHIPS AND STATIONS

1.Officers of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, shall no longer be required to possess swords as part of their uniform equipment.

2.The various uniform regulations will be modified accordingly.

3.It is expected that a form of dirk will, in due course, be adopted as uniform equipment in lieu of the sword.

4.Due to the urgent need for metals, it is suggested that officers, who may so desire, turn in their swords for scrap.-SecNav. Frank Knox.

This order, as noted by NHHC Curator Mark Wertheimer in 2003, did not affect cutlasses still in unit and vessel armories, and they “remained an ordnance allowance item until 1949” indeed, being done away with in by NavOrd Inst. 4500-1 in November 1949. Reportedly, some Marines even carried them ashore in the Pacific for use as machetes during the jungle fighting of WWII.

However, the swordsman may have been gone, and his weapons headed for the literal scrap heap, but he was not forgotten.

On 11 November 1943 at Dravo shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware, a Cannon-class destroyer escort was named USS Corbesier (DE-106) in his honor. She went on to be commissioned as the Free French Naval ship Sénégalais (T-22) on 2 January 1944, which is fitting to a degree based on Corbesier’s French military service in the days of Napoleon III.

Sénégalais went on to seriously damage German submarine U-371 just five months after she was taken over by the French, taking a German homing torpedo in the exchange.

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship's smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371, but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship’s smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371 but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

The French ship went on to serve that Navy until 1965, being scrapped in Germany.

Meanwhile, a second USS Corbesier, (DE-438), a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort, was launched in 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. Commissioned 31 March 1944, she sailed for the Pacific and performed ASW missions and general escort duties.

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

On 23 January 1945, with sisters Conklin (DE-439) and Raby (DE-698), Corbesier sank the Japanese submarine I-48 off Yap Island.

From Combined Fleets:

23 January 1945:
15 miles NE of Yap Island. At 0310, USS CORBESIER (DE-438) makes a radar contact at about 9,800 yds. The target is heading 210 degrees at 18 kts. After CORBESIER closes to investigate, I-48 dives. At 0336, CORBESIER obtains a sound contact and fires a salvo of Mk.10 “Hedgehog” projector charges but misses. CONKLIN and RABY (DE-698) join the chase. CORBESIER makes five more Hedgehog attacks, all with negative results, finally, losing the contact.

At 0902, CORBESIER regains contact and executes another “Hedgehog” attack, again with negative results. At 0912, CORBESIER reestablishes sound contact with the sub, but loses it before an attack can be made. CONKLIN makes a new “Hedgehog” attack at 0934, from a distance of 550 yds. Seventeen seconds later, four or five explosions are heard from an estimated depth of 175 ft. At 0936, a violent explosion occurs, temporarily disabling CONKLIN’s engines and steering gear. Huge air bubbles come up alongside; soon thereafter oil and debris surface. Large quantities of human remains are likewise sighted.

17 miles N of Yap. A motor whaleboat from CONKLIN picks up pieces of planking, splintered wood, cork, interior woodwork with varnished surfaces, a sleeve of a knitted blue sweater containing flesh, chopsticks and a seaman’s manual. I-48 is sunk with her 118-strong crew and four kaiten pilots at 09-55N, 138-17.30E

It wasn’t gentlemanly swordplay, but it was no less deadly.

Corbesier went on to serve off Okinawa, parrying attacks from Japanese kamikaze off Okinawa. She completed the war with two battle stars, and berthed at San Diego, was decommissioned in 1946. She was scrapped in 1972.

The Navy has not named another vessel after Adm. Porter’s sword master.

They did bring back the officer’s dress sword in 1952, in 2011 CPOs were granted the authority to carry a mil-spec cutlass on certain occasions, and today the (ceremonial) use of the sword is instilled in the Marine’s Corporal’s Course, so there is that.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph Bednarik, with Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, instructs Marines on proper sword manual during Corporals Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb 22, 2016. Sword manual is an honored tradition in which Marines command troop formations during formal ceremonies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Bekkala, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)

And yes, there are still a few old-school Ames-style cutlasses around, which would warm Corbesier’s heart.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tenika Fugate, assigned to USS Constitution, raises a cutlass during a color guard detail in Old Town during Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Brown)

His “Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” is in the public domain, has been digitized, and is widely available, ensuring that it will endure.

And of course, if you are passing through the Naval Academy, stop by the Cemetery and Columbarium, and visit Lot 394 to pay your respects.

Yet, “If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven’s scenes; They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines,” holds true, the swordsman may still be holding class.

Specs:

(DE 438)
Displacement: 1,350/1,745 tons
Length: 306 ft. (93 m) overall
Beam: 36 ft. 10 in (11.23 m)
Draught: 13 ft. 4 in (4.06 m) maximum
Propulsion: 2 boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h)
Range: 6,000 nmi at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 14 officers, 201 enlisted
Armament:
2 × 5 in (130 mm)
4 × 40 mm AA (2 × 2)
10 × 20 mm guns AA
3 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
1 × Hedgehog
8 × K-gun depth charge projectors
2 × depth charge tracks
(though likely no cutlasses)

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!

Robert Gould Shaw’s sword, thought lost to history, found in attic

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw clutched the sword in his hand until he was killed in battle by enemy troops at the murderous assault on Fort Wagner. (Photo by Stuart C. Mowbray/MHS)

Descendants of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, killed leading the 54th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War, recently stumbled across his sword.

Last week the Massachusetts Historical Society announced they had acquired a collection of Shaw’s papers, photographs, and relics, to include his engraved Wilkinson sword, which he was carrying when he was killed.

“To have located ‘the holy grail of Civil War swords’ is a remarkable discovery,” said MHS President Dennis Fiori in a statement. “Through an amazing research effort, our curator and staff were able to put together a detailed timeline to authenticate the sword.”

The sword, a Wilkinson given to him by his uncle when the 25-year-old was promoted to full colonel of volunteers just weeks before the grim frontal attack that claimed his life, was found in an attic by descendants of his sister.

More here.  

Gould’s actions, and the 54th, would be retold in 1989’s Glory.

A special Combat Gallery Sunday: The original Fighting Irish, on the eve of the Wheatfield, 154 years ago

Absolution Under Fire, By Paul Wood, via the Snite Museum of Art Notre Dame. Note the drummer boys in distinctive Zouave uniforms and the famous green harp flag. Click to bigup

On July 2nd 1863, minutes before the Irish Brigade would charge the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, Father William Corby gave absolution to the men. Corby would later become President of Notre Dame University and the following quote from Col. St. Clair Mulholland comes from their web page on Corby:

Colonel St. Clair Mulholland was attached with the Irish Brigade and later gave this account of Corby’s famous absolution [Originally published in the Philadelphia Times, reprinted in Scholastic, April 3, 1880, pages 470-471]:

There is yet a few minutes to spare before starting, and the time is occupied in one of the most impressive religious ceremonies I have ever witnessed. The Irish Brigade, which had been commanded formerly by General Thomas Francis Meagher, and whose green flag had been unfurled in every battle in which the Army of the Potomac had been engaged from the first Bull Run to Appomattox, was now commanded by Colonel Patrick Kelly, of the Eighty-eighth New York, and formed a part of this division. The brigade stood in columns of regiments closed in mass. As the large majority of its members were Catholics, the Chaplain of the brigade Rev. William Corby, CSC, proposed to give a general absolution to all the men before going into the fight. While this is customary in the armies of Catholic countries of Europe, it was perhaps the first time it was ever witnessed on this continent… Father Corby stood upon a large rock in front of the brigade, addressing the men; he explained what he was about to do, saying that each one would receive the benefit of the absolution by making a sincere Act of Contrition, and firmly resolving to embrace the first opportunity of confessing his sins, urging them to do their duty well, and reminding them of the high and sacred nature of their trust as soldiers and the noble object for which they fought. The brigade was standing at “Order arms,” and as he closed his address, every man fell on his knees, with head bowed down. Then, stretching his right hand towards the brigade, Father Corby pronounced the words of absolution. The scene was more than impressive, it was awe-inspiring. Near by, stood General Hancock, surrounded by a brilliant throng of officers, who had gathered to witness this very unusual occurrence and while there was profound silence in the ranks of the Second Corps, yet over to the left, out by the peach orchard and Little Round Top, where Weed, and Vincent, and Haslett were dying, the roar of the battle rose and swelled and reechoed through the woods. The act seemed to be in harmony with all the surroundings. I do not think there was a man in the brigade who did not offer up a heartfelt prayer. For some it was their last; they knelt there in their grave-clothes — in less than half an hour many of them were numbered with the dead of July 2.

 

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