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Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Robert Gibb

Robert Gibb was as Scottish as they came, born in Laurieston, near Falkirk 28 October 1845, and educated in Edinburgh. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy and exhibited his first of more than 140 works there in 1867. It should come as no surprise that he was one of the great chroniclers of Highlanders in the field.

His first stab at the military genre came with Comrades in 1878, depicting men of the 42nd Highlanders (The Black Watch) in the Crimea.

The original version of this work was painted by Gibb in 1878 and is currently unlocated. The painting became iconic. While reading a life of Napoleon, the artist made a sketch of the retreat from Moscow. The dominant group of three figures in the foreground was then isolated and adapted to form an independent composition depicting a young soldier whispering his dying message to a comrade who seeks to comfort him in the snowy wastes of the Crimean winter. Photo credit: The Black Watch Castle & Museum

The Thin Red Line, oil on canvas, by Robert Gibb, 1881, showing the stand of a handful of the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Balaclava stopping 2,500 massed Russian cavalry. Currently on display at the National War Museum of Scotland, the venue notes “The Thin Red Line is one of the best known of all Scottish historical paintings and is the classic representation of Highland military heroism as an icon of Scotland.”

Saving the Colours; the Guards at Inkerman (1895 – Naval and Military Club, London)

Alma: Forward the 42nd. This 1888 oil on canvas by Scottish artist, Robert Gibb (1845–1932), depicts the Battle of Alma, in Sebastopol, Crimea on the 20th September 1854. Black Watch, in full review order, are advancing towards enemy guns on heights above, with Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell (later Lord Clyde) shown giving the historic order from which the painting is titled. In left foreground are two Russians, and in distance stretch of sea with fleet in action. The painting was gifted to Glasgow Museums collection by Lord Woolavington in 1923. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Besides the Crimea, he also portrayed the Scots at Waterloo.

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, 1815. Men of the Coldstream Guards and the Scots Guards are shown forcing shut the gates of the chateau of Hougoumont against French attack, with Lieutenant-Colonel James MacDonell forcing back the gate to the left. The moment of crisis shown in the painting came when around 30 French soldiers forced the north gate and entered into the chateau grounds. Before others could follow, the gates were forced shut again, and the French soldiers still inside were killed. Wellington himself had said the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at the chateau. Photo credit: National Museums Scotland

Late in his life, he also painted the Highlanders in the Great War.

He produced Backs to the Wall at age 84. In this painting, the artist shows a line of khaki-clad Scottish troops standing defiantly at the critical moment, bayonets fixed– with the specters of fallen comrades behind them.

The work was inspired by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig’s famous Special Order of the Day at the time of the Great German Offensive of April 1918.

There is no other course open to us but to fight it out.  Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement.  With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.  The safety of our homes and the Freedom of mankind alike depend upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.

Backs to the Wall, 1918, painted 1929 oil on canvas. Gift from W. J. Webster, 1931 to the Angus Council Museums.

Gibb held the office of King’s painter and limner for Scotland for 25 years and was Keeper of the National Gallery of Scotland from 1895 until 1907.  The artist died at his home in Edinburgh in 1932, and he was given a full military funeral with an honor guard provided by the Black Watch.

Many of his works are on display across the UK and are available online.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Horse soldiers never die

A division of the Blues and Royals sabre squadron, part of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (All photos via MoD)

The British Army’s Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) traces its lineage back to the 1660s– to King Charles II’s Life Guards and the Earl of Oxford’s Blues — and its horse-mounted unit, after the reforms of 1992, now consists of one 75-member sabre squadron plus a mounted band from each regiment of the Household Cavalry (the red tunic wearing Life Guards and the black tunic wearing Blues and Royals), each with their distinctive cuirass and plumed “Albert” helmet.

Life Guards in red, Blues and Royals in Black

Based at their Hyde Park Barracks, they are on “public duty” which consists of ceremonial operations around London and the royal estates to include state visits, Investitures, the opening of Parliment, etc. The standard unit is a 25-man mounted division, though this can be halved. All told, the force, with their H/HS complete with staff, vets, saddlers and farriers, amounts to about 350 officers, NCOs and troopers.


Last week they had their annual inspection by Major General Ben Bathurst, the General Officer Commanding the Army in London and the Queen’s Household Troops, but this one was different:

“For the first time in recent memory, the Regiment were joined by their cavalry cousins from the Swedish Livgardet and Danish Gardehusarregiment. The Swedish Life Guards and Danish Guard Hussar Regiment each fielded an officer and senior non-commissioned officer, dressed in their equivalent ceremonial uniforms, to ride in the parade.”

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

NH 99353-KN

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.

Puritan shelling Matanzas on the 27 April 1898. She would remain in the fleet until 1922 in one form or another.

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.

Panoramic view of shipways and outfitting area, 1900. USS Wisconsin (Battleship # 9) is fitting out at left. Ships on the ways are (from left to right): USS Paul Jones (Destroyer # 10); USS Perry (Destroyer # 11); USS Wyoming (Monitor # 10); USS Ohio (Battleship # 12); and the S.S. Californian. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. The original print is in the Union Iron Works scrapbook, Volume II, page 157. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75110 Click to big up

This is not a ship you want to speed in! (Monitor # 10) Making 12.4 knots during trials, off San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. The original print is in the Union Iron Works scrapbook, Volume II, page 166. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75118

(Monitor # 10) Making 12.4 knots during trials, near San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75117

(Monitor # 10) View on board, looking forward, showing water coming over her bow while she was running trials off San Francisco, California, in October 1902. Note the ship’s twelve-inch gun turret at right. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1971. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 75119

She was a handsome if dated, ship.

(Monitor # 10) Moored off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 12 February 1903. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 43870

(Monitor # 10) Moored off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in February 1903. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 44264

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.

USS Cheyenne (Monitor # 10) Moored off Bremerton, Washington, while serving as a training ship for the Washington State Naval Militia, circa 1910-1913. The original is a screened sepia-toned image, printed on a postal card. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55116-KN

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.

(Monitor # 10) With a submarine alongside, circa 1918-1919. The submarine is probably one of the Division 3 boats tended by Cheyenne: K-3, K-4, K-7 or K-8. Location may be Key West, Florida. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 45436

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.

Cheyenne (IX-4), inboard at left; S-12 (SS-117), outboard at left; and Dale (DD-290) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania, 14 June 1926, during the National Sesquicentennial exhibit there. The small boat and Sailor, in the foreground, are on life-saving service to protect exhibit visitors. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 55117. Collection of Vice Admiral Dixwell Ketcham, USN.

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.

Specs:


Displacement:
3,225 long tons (3,277 t) (standard)
3,356 long tons (3,410 t) (full load)
Length:
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)
Installed power:
4 × Thornycroft boilers
2,400 indicated horsepower (1,800 kW)
1,739 ihp (1,297 kW) (on trials)
Propulsion:
2 × Vertical triple expansion engines
2 × screw propellers
Speed:
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
Armament:
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
Armor:
Harvey armor
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)

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 it place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of The Met

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art very graciously just released 375,000 works into the public domain as Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. While about 200,000 are online, and as a whole, they represent just a fifth of the Met’s huge collection, there are some interesting pieces in the trove with a military background. These include over 70 plates from Goya’s haunting ‘The Disasters of War’ (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and dozens more from Stefano della Bella’s ‘Peace and War’ (Divers desseins tant pour la paix que pour la guerre).

Here are some pieces I found remarkable.

Deck of a Warship Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, Blåkrog 1783–1853 Copenhagen) 1833

The “Kearsarge” at Boulogne Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris) 1864

A Bit of War History: The Recruit Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

A Bit of War History The Veteran Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York) 1866

The full collection is here.

Enjoy!

Warship Wednesday Mar. 15, 2017: Taxi from Devil’s Island

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. 15, 2017: Taxi from Devil’s Island

Here we see a colorized postcard of the first protected cruiser in the French Navy, the one-off “croiseur cuirassé” Sfax as she appeared in the early 1890s. She never had a chance to fire her guns in anger, but for one brief period was the most famous ship in the world.

Ordered from the Arsenal de Brest in 1881, the ship was an answer to the powerful new steam cruisers being fielded by the British at the time. The French in the late 1870s were still building sail-rigged wooden hull warships that would have been at home in the Crimean War. For instance, the iron-beamed/oak planked Lapérouse-class cruisers, just 2240-tons, could make 15 knots and carried a battery of 5.5 in M1870M muzzleloading guns– but not a single sheet of armor.


Intended as a commerce raider, our 4,561-ton ship had an iron hull with steel frames in a cellular construction, but her half-dozen 6.4-inch M1881 model (black powder breechloaders) and ten smaller 5.5-inch guns gave Sfax a significant punch– especially when her prey was intended to be a merchantman. A dozen coal-fired boilers powered two horizontal steam expansion engines exhausted through twin stacks that drove twin screws while a bark rig provided extra endurance when the wind picked up. Most importantly, she had an armored belt some 60mm thick in four layers of steel.

To be clear, Sfax was an evolutionary step.

As noted by Eric Osborne in his excellent work on Cruisers and Battle Cruisers, “This vessel embodied features that had largely been discontinued in other navies such as a hull composed of iron rather than steel and a full sailing rig. Nevertheless, its protective deck provided adequate protection and its maximum speed of 16.7 knots allowed it to function effectively as a cruiser where the poor motive power of past French designs had ruled out this possibility.”

Completed June 1887, Sfax had a happy but short life, sailing on a European tour followed by a trip to French colonies overseas– her likely stomping grounds if she ever was to assume her wartime role as a modern privateer against an enemy of the Republic. She was the fastest cruiser in the fleet for about three years.

The follow-on one-off cruiser Tage (7,450-tons), completed in December 1890, was some 50 percent larger than Sfax and carried about the same armor and armament but was able to eek out 19 knots due to her 12,500 shp steam suite. The 5,900-ton experimental protected cruiser Amiral Cécille, completed the same year, made 21 knots but thinned her armor to do so. By 1894, the four-ship Amiral Charner-class cruisers weighed about the same as Sfax but could only make 17 knots– her speed– due to the fact they carried a more modern gun battery and 90mm of armor.

To modernize the rapidly marginalized Sfax, in 1895, her masts and sailing rig, never efficient, were removed and replaced by two smaller ones. Her 6.4-inch guns were upgraded to newer models and she was given more reliable torpedo tubes. Painted white as was the custom of the time for warships, she emerged rather different.


Now, let us speak briefly of one Captain Alfred Dreyfus, of the French Army.

This young career military man had graduated the École Polytechnique in 1880 and by 1889 a trained artillery officer, was assigned to a government arsenal. After graduation from the War College, he was being groomed for the General Staff.

Then, scapegoated largely due to being Jewish, Dreyfus was falsely convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans in December 1894– though evidence showing that one Maj. Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy was the spy later surfaced. Branded a traitor, Dreyfus was stripped of his rank, publicly humiliated, and cast off to the infamous Devil’s Island prison in French Guyana.


However, his story did not end there, and the subsequent decade-long call for his vindication, now known to history as the Dreyfus Affair, was the People vs. OJ Simpson case of its day and drew international attention. People hung on every update and were polarized into pro-Dreyfus and anti-Dreyfus camps– there was no middle ground. And this was not just isolated to France. As noted by Robert K. Massie in his book Nicholas and Alexandria, a nurse by the name of Mrs. Eger was so engrossed in an argument over Dreyfus that she left one of the Tsar’s children in the bath so long the poor Grand Duchess took to flight through the Alexander Palace sans clothes. In London, the Illustrated News carried regular front updates.

In short, people really cared about Dreyfus.

Called for retrial after five years in a green hell, a fast ship from the French Navy– our very own Sfax— was dispatched to bring him home.

Sfax called on Cayenne, the colonial port in Guyana on 8 June 1899, and landed him on the Quiberon Peninsula in Brittany on the night of 1 July in stormy weather, spending a total of 20 days underway from South America to metropolitan France, stopping for coal and provisions along the way.

Dressed in a blue suit and wearing a cork helmet, the cashiered former captain boarded the ship that would take him back to Europe.


During that time, though returning for another trial, Dreyfus was considered a prisoner and confined to his cabin save for three daily walks on Sfax‘s deck. At all times, he had an armed sentry within reach, keeping a careful eye. Officers and men were forbidden to speak to him, though he was messed from the officer’s wardroom.


As described by William Hardin’s Dreyfus: The Prisoner of Devil’s Island:

The prisoner spent his time reading and writing, though sometimes he looked long out of the port-hole, apparently plunged deep in though. His baggage consisted of two portmanteaus, containing linen books, several packages of chocolate, small biscuits and several bottles of toilet vinegar. He generally went to bed at seven, arose around midnight to smoke a cigarette, and got up regularly at five o’clock in the morning.


Dreyfus left Sfax and lost his retrial, though he was later acquitted in 1906. Rejoining active service, he was awarded the Legion of Honour for the royal green weenie and retired to the reserve list the next year as a major with full benefits. The Great War called him back to active duty, where the artillerist rose to the rank of Lieut. Colonel, notably serving in the artillery supply train at Verdun.

He died in 1935 and was given a full military funeral including a parade past the Bastille. At least two statues, holding his broken sword in salute, endure in his honor.


For more information on Dreyfus, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du judaïsme has some 3,000 documents on his case available online in French.

As for our cruiser, Sfax receded into history. Thoroughly obsolete, she was stricken in 1906 and scrapped soon after.

Specs:


Displacement: 4 561 GRT
Length 300 ft. (91.57 meters)
Beam 49 feet (15.04 meters)
Draught 25 feet (7.67 meters)
Propulsion     2 steam engines (12 cylindrical boilers), 6,500 hp, twin shafts
Range: 5,000nm on 980 tons of coal
Sailing rig: three-masted barque (1.988 m² or 2380 sq.yds. sail area), removed 1895
Speed 16.7 knots max
Complement: 486 officers, men and Marins with room for one “traitor”
Armor: Belt and bridge, 60 mm
Armament:
6 × 1 160 mm gun (cal.28-mod.1881) on upper deck level with two in embrasures forward and the others in sponsons amidships and aft. Updated to M1887 models in 1895.
10 × 1 139 mm gun (cal.30-mod.1881) on the main deck amidships between the sponsons
2 × 1 47 mm gun (DCA M1885)
10 × 1 37mm Hotchkiss guns
5 × 1 350mm torpedo tubes, one bow mounted, four on beam

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!

Bioluminescence via LHD

170305-N-LI768-160 ARABIAN SEA (March 3, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) transits the Arabian Sea. The ship is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin M. Langer/Released)

Warship Wednesday Mar. 8, 2017: The old Spanish maiden of Annapolis (and Santiago)

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. 8, 2017: The old Spanish maiden of Annapolis (and Santiago)

Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy, 1941. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 61231 (click to big up)

In honor of International Women’s Day, of course we had to have a warship named in honor of a member of the more civilized half of our species. As such here we see the Alfonso XII-class unprotected cruiser Reina Mercedes of the Armada Española. Named after Mercedes of Orléans, the first wife of Spain’s King Alfonso XII who died just two days after her 18th birthday, our cruiser would go on to live a longer but no less tragic existence.

The three 3,042-ton Alfonso XII-class cruisers were designed in the 1880s for colonial service in the Caribbean and Pacific, where Spain still had remnants of Empire. Steel hulled with 12 watertight bulkheads, they were to be modern steam warships capable of 17 knots, which was fast for the day. However, their bank of 10 cranky cylindrical boilers handicapped these ships their whole life and they rarely achieved such speed. Like many ships of the day, they were given an auxiliary sail rig of three masts, two fully rigged, one schooner rigged.

Armed with a half-dozen 6.3-inch/35cal (160mm) M1883 bag-loaded breech loading guns made by the Spanish Hontoria Company, theoretically capable of 10,000m shots at maximum elevation, they could deal sufficient punishment to all but a determined capital ship. However, this model gun was adapted from a French black powder design(M1881) that did not translate to smokeless powder too well and, at least in Spanish service, proved much slower to load and fire safely than comparable German Krupp or British Elswick designs of the period.

Augmenting these big guns were smaller batteries of Hotchkiss 57mm/40 cal and 47mm/22 guns for torpedo boat defense and a set of five 356mm tubes for Whitehead guncotton torpedoes (more on these later).

ALFONSO XII (Spanish cruiser, 1887-1900) Caption: This ship is distinguished from her sisters, REINA MERCEDES and REINA CRISTINA, by her figurehead which featured a lion on each side of the bow. Description: Catalog #: NH 46867

The Alfonsoes also took a while to build, being the first steel ships constructed in their respective yards. Both Alfonso XII and sistership Reina Cristina were laid down at Arsenal del Ferrol the same day in 1881 but took a decade before they entered service. The hero of our tale, the only example of the class laid down at Arsenal de Cartagena, was commissioned in 1892, fully 11 years after steel was first cut. Never really cutting edge, Reina Mercedes was pushing obsolescence as she began her career.

Made the flagship of the modest Spanish naval forces operating in Cuba, she left for that Caribbean colony in 1893, joining Alfonso XII which had been there since the previous year–and was urgently needed to help fight the growing local insurgency.

Artist’s rendering of the ALFONSO XII attacking Cuban Insurgents

Sister Reina Cristina made for the Philippines where she became the flagship of Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasaron.

On 26 May 1897, the U.S.-flagged Red D Line chartered coastal passenger liner SS Valencia (1,598-tons) was plying her way off the Cuban port of Guantanamo when she encountered Reina Mercedes at sea on a dark night. The Spanish cruiser lit up the Valencia with her spotlights but allowed her to proceed.

SS Valencia in 1901. Ironically, she would be used to carry U.S. troops to Cuba during the war in 1898

Three days later, after discharging cargo and passengers, the Valencia and Reina Mercedes again met at sea, this time in daylight. Although no state of war existed between the U.S. and Spain (though tensions were high) Reina Mercedes fired first a blank round then a warshot from a mile behind the American steamer, the latter falling just 80 yards behind the stern of Valencia. It was an international incident for sure and helped ratchet up the pregame for the Spanish-American War.

Speaking of which, when the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor in Feb. 1898, Alfonso XII was just 200m off her bow and was partially damaged. Her crew was involved in rescuing the battleship’s survivors, treating them in the cruiser’s sick bay, and guarding the battleship’s wreck. They later marched in the funeral cortege during services ashore in Havana for those who had perished.

When war broke out in April 1898, Regina Mercedes was immobilized as a station ship at Santiago de Cuba with a hull full of busted boilers. Soon, she would become blockaded in the harbor by the U.S. North Atlantic Squadron under Rear Admiral William T. Sampson.

With Gen. William Rufus Shafter’s troops laying siege to the city on land, on the night of 2–3 June 1898, eight volunteers aboard the 3,300-ton converted Norwegian steamship SS Solveig, then in service as the collier USS Merrimac, sailed into Santiago harbor with the intention of sinking the vessel as a blockship, trapping the Spanish fleet for good.

That’s where the crippled Regina Mercedes and her iffy 6.3-inch guns came in.

Bracketing the Merrimac with shells, torpedoes from the cruiser were credited in helping to sink the American ship just off Socapa Point, short of blocking the harbor entrance. To be sure, the muzzles of the destroyer Pluton, cruiser Vizcaya and shore based howitzers contributed, but Mercedes counted the most. Merrimac was the only U.S. ship sunk in the Span-Am War, and all eight U.S. heroes were picked up by Mercedes alive.

The endgame for our cruiser, at least in Spanish service, came just 72 hours later when on 6 June 1898 the U.S. warships on blockade came close enough to bombard the harbor, hitting the moored Reina Mercedes at least three dozen times with large caliber shells. Commader Emilio de Acosta and five sailors were killed, 12 more wounded. Very lucky for the amount of punishment. After this date, the Spanish moved as much of the working armarment off the ship as they could (more on this below).

After the destruction of Admiral Cervera’s squadron on 3 July 1898 and with Mercedes the only real warship left afloat at Santigo, it was decided to do something with the battered girl.

Incapable of any service, the Spanish salvaged what they could, emplacing at least four of her 6.3inch Hontorias in a battery on shore at Socapa, and decided to use her to block the harbor themselves– to keep the Americans out!

On 5 July, Mercedes sailed forth, unarmed, under steam from just two boilers, and with a skeleton crew, to plug the channel. However, she was caught by a searchlight from the early Indiana-class battleship USS Massachusetts (BB-2) of some 11,500-tons and armed with 4 × 13”/35 guns, who quickly landed at least three direct hits from her 13-inch shells on the little cruiser.

Her crew scuttled the cruiser in shallow water, her decks barely awash, but fell just short of blocking the channel.

Vain attempt of the Spanish to block Santiago harbor alter the battle by running the Cruiser REINA MERCEDES ashore in the narrow channel. LESLIE´S WEEKLY, VOL. LXXXVI

Wreck of the Spanish Reina Mercedes, Santiago, Cuba. Ca. 1898 Accession #: 2014.56

Wreck of REINA MERCEDES. Estrella Battery, Santiago, Cuba, 1898. From the collection of Rear Admiral C.H. Taylor. Catalog #: NH 111950

Wreck of the Reina Mercedes at Santiago harbor, 1898, Detroit Publishing Co. LC-D4-21534

The 3,000-ton largely disarmed Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, sunk in Santiago, Cuba 1898 after scuttling following an engagement with the USS Massachusetts

The Spanish emplaced four batteries made in large part of Reina Mercedes‘ guns and crew:

1. The Upper Socapa Battery used three relic-quality iron 8-inch guns as well as two of the stricken cruiser’s 6.3-inchers. It is believed that one of the Hontorias here achieved a hit on the USS Texas on 23 June, killing the Sailor Blakely and wounding eight bluejackets. It was the first time a U.S. ship was hit during the war in Cuban waters.

2. Her men also helped crew the Estrella Battery near Morro Castle which mounted another two ancient 8-inchers, a 4.7-inch bronze cannon, and some 3-inch breechloaders.

3. Across the harbor mouth, they manned four Hotchkiss and two Nordenfelt small guns taken from Mercedes in an earthwork at the water’s edge dubbed the Lower Socapa Battery.

4. The Punta Gorda Battery, a mile up the bay from Morro Castle, held two more of Mercedes 6.3-inch Hontorias, two modern 6-inch Meta howitzers and a pair of 3.5-inch breechloaders. Lines of water-based Bustamante sea mines were electrically controlled from firing stations ashore.

A pair of 6-in Rapid Firing Guns in the Socapa Batteries, on the west side of the entrance to Santiago Harbor. Photographed soon after U.S. forces occupied Santiago in mid-July 1898. USS Brooklyn (CA-3) is offshore, at the extreme left. These guns are probably 16cm (6.3) Hontoria guns, removed from the cruiser Reina Mercedes. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 2265

Her sistership, Reina Cristina, was the Spanish flagship in the Battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898, and was lost in that one-sided action.

Spanish sailors aboard the cruiser Reina Cristina in prayer before battle, on April 24, 1898. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command)

Class leader Alfonso XII— trapped in Havana during the War– returned to Spain after the conflict, where she was decommissioned in 1900 and sold for breaking in 1907.

Images of Reina Mercedes on the bottom proved popular for a generation as postcards.

Note the empty 6″ gun sponsons and lack of boats.

Then, of course, there is the rest of the story.

You see, Regina Mercedes was a survivor. Between 2 January and 1 March 1899, the U.S. Navy raised her and cleaned her up. A prize of war.

Spanish Cruiser REINA MERCEDES Caption: The day after her raising, in Santiago Harbor, Cuba 1898. If you note her bow scroll work, this would be restored and maintained for another 50 years. She later was commissioned in the U.S. Navy. Description: Catalog #: NH 61270

Leaking considerably from scuttling charges and dozens of shell holes, Reina Mercedes was towed to Norfolk Navy Yard, arriving 27 May 1899, for temporary repairs.

The Spanish Cruiser “Reina Mercedes” in Simpson Dry Dock at Norfolk: This vessel arrived at the yard May 27, 1899. As she was leaking considerably, she was placed in dock for the purpose of repairing damage to herbottom. This work was still in progress June 30, 1899. No other work was done on her.

Departing Norfolk 25 August 1900, again in tow, Reina Mercedes arrived Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H., on 29 August for refitting.

USS REINA MERCEDES, still looking kinda like a cruiser Caption: Photographed January 1901. Description: Catalog #: NH 61230

It was first planned to convert the old cruiser to a seagoing training ship; but, after much delay, the Navy Yard received orders on 10 December 1902 to complete her as a non-self-propelled receiving ship.

In 1905, she was recommissioned as USS Reina Mercedes. Departing Portsmouth in tow 21 May 1905, Reina Mercedes was taken to Newport, R.I., to be attached to the receiving ship Constellation; and, save for a visit to Boston and to New York in 1908, served there until 1912.

1907 postcard, likely taken at Newport. Note the extensive changes to her profile from the 1901 image above. She has lost one of her stacks and two new masts have replaced her three-mast scheme. Also, her gun deck had been extensively built-up and covered as is common on a receiving ship of the era. BAH in 1907 was a lot different from what it is now! Description: Catalog #: NH 108307 .

Towed to Annapolis in 1912 to serve as a barracks ship (and brig for wayward mids) she was issued hull number IX-25 as a miscellaneous unclassified vessel in 1920. There, she was jokingly called the “fastest ship in the Navy” because she was always tied fast to her pier. In her own way, she served through both World Wars as a commissioned naval vessel.

USS Reina Mercedes (IX-25) at US Naval Academy, Annapolis, when used as detention ship for midshipmen undergoing punishment for serious infractions, 1926. Accession #: S 348-C(1)

Captured Spanish American War ship Reina Mercedes (IX-25), left, used as enlisted barracks quarters at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, 1944 or 1945. By this time she was certainly one of the very few ships in the Navy that still had Victorian-era bow scrolls. The former sail training ship USS Cumberland (II) (IX-8) is in the foreground and would be towed away for scrapping in 1946. Accession #: UA 559.04

In 1920, when the Spanish battleship Alfonso XIII called at Annapolis, the old cruiser flew the flag of Spain as a gesture of goodwill.

As noted by the USNI, life on her was different:

For a number of years, the Reina Mercedes acted as a sort of brig — though not in the truest sense — for Naval Academy midshipmen. Those punished for serious infractions of the Academy Regulations were confined to the ship for periods of a week to a month or more, attending drills but sleeping in hammocks and taking their meals aboard. This punishment was abolished in 1940, substituted instead for restricting midshipmen to their rooms in Bancroft Hall.

After 1940 the ship was used as living quarters for unmarried enlisted personnel assigned to the Naval Academy, as well as the captain of the ship — who was also the commanding officer of the Naval Station, Severn River Naval Command — and his family. The most famous of these commanders was William F. “Bull” Halsey. Because of this latter arrangement, the Reina Mercedes held the unique distinction of being the only ship in the Navy to have ever permit the commanding officer and his dependents living aboard permanently.

Towed to Norfolk every decade or so (1916, 1927, 1932, 1939, and 1951) to have her hull cleaned and repainted, she was kept in good condition for her role and you can expect any brightwork was kept in gleaming condition by her visiting midshipmen. However, after a while, the metal was too thin to do anything with and she was struck from the Naval Register, 6 September 1957 and disposed of in a sale to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, MD., for scrapping. Certainly, she was among the last warships to see action in 1898 that was still in naval service in any fleet.

About all that is left of her is maritime art.

However, at least some of her guns landed at Santiago in 1898 are still in Cuba to this day and remain a tourist attraction at San Juan Hill.

Specs:

Displacement: 3,042 tons
Length: 278 ft. (85 m)
Beam:     43 ft. (13 m)
Draft:     20 ft. 0 in (6.10 m) maximum
Engines: 10 boilers, 4400 h.p. 1 shaft
Sailing rig: Three masts, two fully rigged, one schooner rigged
Speed:     17 kn max, 9 knots typical
Endurance:
500 tons of coal (normal),
720 tons of coal (maximum)
Complement: 370
Armament: (All removed 1898-99)
6 × 6.3-inch (160 mm) M1883 Hontoria guns mounted in sponsons
8 × 6-pounder (57mm) Hotchkiss quick-firing guns
6 × 3-pounder (47mm) Hotchkiss revolvers
5 × 14-inch (356 mm) torpedo tubes (2 bow, 2 beam, 1 aft), Whitehead torpedoes
Armor: Hope and dreams

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