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Warship Wednesday, May 16, 2018: Schermerhorn’s contribution to naval history

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, May 16, 2018: Schermerhorn’s contribution to naval history

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 53955

Here we see the pride of the New York Yacht Club, the steam patrol yacht Free Lance, in her newly-applied gray military scheme on duty off New York City, probably in August 1898. The brand-new pleasure craft would, oddly enough, be called upon not once, but twice, to defend her country.

But first, let us speak of that great knickerbocker, Frederick Augustus Schermerhorn.

As a young man, Schermerhorn came from a prominent Empire State family and, after a string of private schools and tutors, was accepted at what was then Columbia College for the Class of 1865. However, as the Civil War evolved, he promptly dropped out of school at the ripe old age of 20 in 1864 and sought an appointment to West Point, which was denied. Not to be outdone, he applied to a series of New York volunteer units and was enrolled to the roster of the newly-formed 185th New York Volunteer Infantry regiment’s C Company in the fall of 1864 and shipped off to the Petersburg Campaign in Northern Virginia.

Portrait of a soldier F. Augustus Schermerhorn standing, via the Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth collection

By the end of the war, the bloodied and decorated 1st Lt had been breveted a captain and was assigned as the aide-de-camp of MG Charles Griffin, the V Corps commander during its final campaign, and was present in the yard when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. In all, Schermerhorn served less than a year, but it was a hell of a year.

MG Charles Griffin and staff officers posed in front of the Cummings House. Our fellow is to the right

Returning to New York after the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, Schermerhorn went back to school, picking up his mining degree from Columbia in 1868, and continued his service with the famed “Blue-Bloods” of the 7th New York Militia regiment for another several decades. By 1877, he was a Columbia trustee and member in most of the clubs and societies in The City that meant anything including the Riding, Knickerbocker, Metropolitan, and Tuxedo clubs. He rose to become a Director of the N. Y. Life Insurance and Trust Co.

The good Mr. Schermerhorn was duly nominated and confirmed by the membership to the New York Yacht Club on 25 March 1886 and by 1897 was elected to a position as a flag officer with that esteemed organization, a post he held through at least 1903. During his time with the NYYC, he was one of the backers of the 1893 (eighth) America’s Cup contender Colonia but was beaten by Nathanael Greene Herreshoff’s Vanderbilt-backed centerboard sloop Vigilant.

Schermerhorn’s Colonia via Detroit Publishing Co, LOC LC-D4-21915

Moving past cutters, Schermerhorn commissioned Mr. Lewis Nixon of Elizabethport, NJ’s Crescent Shipyard to construct him a beautiful screw steam schooner designed by A. Cary Smith for personal use. As noted by the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers at the time, his new ship, Free Lance, was 108-feet on the waterline and 137 from figurehead to taffrail with a cross-section “different from all other steam yachts” due to its long bow and lapped steel plating. A pair of Almy water tube boilers drove a 600 IHP triple expansion steam engine.

Yacht Free Lance in civilian livery, 11 June 1896, most probably on Long Island Sound. Note her guilt bow scroll and extensive canvas awnings over her twin deck houses. Also note her yacht ensign on the stern, NYYC pennant on her foremast, and Schermerhorn’s Maltese Cross pennant on her after mast. Photo via Detroit Publishing Co. 8×10 glass negative photographed by Charles Edwin Bolles LOC# LC-D4-62113

Her 25 September builder’s trials report made the Oct. 12, 1895 issue of Forest and Stream which noted that with a forced draft and 200-pounds of steam she was able to clear 19 miles in 62 minutes. By the turn of the century, she regualry hit 17 knots in civil use and utilized the novel Thorne-patent ash ejector, which gave steady work for her stokers.

However, the Free Lance only got two seasons in before war came with Spain, and Schermerhorn freely volunteered the services of his yacht to the Navy, which were promptly accepted.

The armed yachts of the Spanish-American War are fascinating reading as they were often very handsome sailing ships such as past Warship Weds alum Peter Arrell Brown Widener’s custom-built schooner-rigged Josephine and Massachusetts textile magnate Matthew Chaloner Durfee’s rakish and very well-appointed steam yacht, Sovereign.

At the time the Navy needed to rapidly expand and among the ships acquired for Spanish-American War service were no less than 29 armed and hastily converted yachts, primarily drawn from wealthy Northeast and New York Yankees such as our very own Mr. Schermerhorn. A baker’s dozen of these former pleasure craft were rather large ships, exceeding 400 tons. With relatively good gun-carrying capacity and sea-keeping capabilities, these bigger craft saw service off Cuba where they were used as auxiliary cruisers, scouting vessels, and dispatch ships.

Others, such as our newly commissioned USS Free Lance, were used in what was termed the Auxiliary Naval Force, keeping a weather eye for Spanish raiders just over the horizon of the increasingly undefended U.S Eastern Seaboard.

USS Free Lance underway off New York City, probably in August 1898. A small sailboat is just astern of Free Lance, and USS New York (Armored Cruiser # 2) is in the background. Also, note that her awnings have been stripped away, she is no longer flying her yachting pennants, and she has guns on her pilot house and stern. NH 53953

Her armament: a pair of .65-caliber Royal Navy contract 1870s-vintage Mark I 10-barrel Gatling guns mounted atop the yacht’s pilothouse and on her stern, reportedly picked up through the offices of local NYC military surplus guru Francis Bannerman.

USS Free Lance (1898-1899), Gatling Gun Crew, 1898. Note the “Free Lance” bands on their flat caps, the .45-70 rounds and Springfield Trapdoor bayonets on their Mills belts, and the gun’s hopper which held 20 rounds. Detroit Publishing Company.

Each Gatling gun weighed 725-pounds, not including the mount and fired a 1,421-grain projectile at 1,427fps. The rate of fire (theoretically) was 1,200 rounds per minute but the gun was limited by the speed that assistant gunners could drop rounds down the beast’s top-mounted Bruce Feed-style chute.

USS Free Lance (1898-1899), Petty Officers 1898. Detroit Publishing Company

With her unconventional armament and small relative size, she was used as a harbor patrol craft during the conflict, commissioned as USS Free Lance, 12 May 1898.

USS Free Lance at anchor off New York City, probably in August 1898. Note the small sailboats in the left background and Free Lance’s pilot house-mounted Gatling gun. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 53954

Her term of service was short, decommissioning on 24 August 1898 after just 14 weeks on active duty.

Returned to her owner, when WWI came the aging Schermerhorn once more contributed his love to the Navy, with the yacht leased for $1 on 19 July 1917 and commissioned as USS Freelance (SP-830) with no space between the two words. This was because from 1905 on, her name was spelled “Freelance.”

Freelance Underway, prior to World War I. This yacht served as USS Free Lance in 1898 and as USS Freelance (SP-830) in 1917-1918. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 102819

Under command of Ensign J. B. Nevins, USNRF, and armed with a pair of recycled 3-pounder guns (Gatling’s were reserved for museums by 1917) she was once more put in service patrolling in the New York area. Her DANFS record is slim.

USS Freelance (SP-830) In port during the World War I era. The original print is in National Archives’ Record Group 19-LCM. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 101720

Freelance was decommissioned on Christmas Eve 1918 and returned to her owner the same day. Schermerhorn passed in March 1919, age 74, during a speech he was giving before the Union Club and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

His epitaph is Psalm 37:37: “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.”

Schermerhorn’s 1915 portrait by August Franzen is in the Smithsonian‘s National Portrait Gallery.

I cannot find what became of his cherished Free Lance, but I would like to think she is still in Gotham somewhere, perhaps on the bottom of the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard, which in a way would be fitting.

Specs:
Displacement 132 t.
Length 137 feet overall
Beam 20′ 8″
Draft 7′ 6″
Propulsion: One 600ihp steam engine (3cyl, 11,17&29×20 Crescent), one shaft. Two Almy WT boilers
Speed 14 knots in naval service, almost 19 on trials
Complement 18 (military service)
Armament: Two .65-caliber Gatling guns (1898)
Two 3-pounders (1917)

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!

Warship Wednesday, May 2, 2018: The 1,000-ton consular insurance policy

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, May 2, 2018: The 1,000-ton consular insurance policy

NHHC Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-12 (2000×1444)

Here we see the rather fetching schooner-rigged Patrol Gunboat No. 15, the Wheeling-class USS Marietta, at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note her white hull and extensive small boat arrangement that included a two-masted 28-foot gig whaleboat and two 26-foot steam cutters as well as miscellaneous smaller dinghies. Marietta was celebrated as an integral part of the new all-steel steam Navy at the turn of the new century.

Laid down at Union Iron Works, San Francisco, the two 1,000-ton unarmored steel-hulled gunboats of the Wheeling-class were ordered in 1895 and intended for use as station ships to show the flag in America’s interests overseas. Able to float in just 12-feet of seawater, they could visit small backwater ports and perform caretaker roles to far-flung consular posts across Latin America, the Pacific station and the Caribbean on their own, while their quartet of 4-inch guns gave a moment of respite against unrest. Capable of plugging along at 13-knots, they could revert to their auxiliary sail rig when coal was scarce.

The two sisters were built side by side and commissioned within three weeks of each other in the summer of 1897 and were beautifully appointed.

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note Jack; figurehead; USS BROOKLYN (CA-3) in the background, left. #: 19-N-12-19-13

One of the ship’s sideboards, featuring the seal of the city of Marietta, Ohio. Catalog 19-N-12-19-9

At the New York Navy Yard, circa 1902. Note flag. Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-11

“Ships of the new Navy” Painting by F. Muller. White-hulled steel ships of the late nineteenth century which replaced the sailing ships of a bygone era and generally the types of ships which fought successfully in the Spanish-American War. Shown, left-right: USS MARIETTA (PG-15), gunboat built in 1897; USS PURITAN (BM-1), monitor built in 1896; USS ILLINOIS (BB-7), battleships built in 1898; USS IOWA (BB-4), battleship in 1896; USS STRINGHAM (TB-19), torpedo boat built in 1899. NH 76314-KN

USS Marietta (PG-15) photographed in 1897-98. Copied from the Journal of Naval Cadet C.R. Miller, 1898, page 67. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 46643

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) with her casemated battery swung out. The photograph was taken circa 1897. Catalog #: 19-N-12-19-10

Marietta was the third and (thus far) last warship to carry that name on the U.S. Navy List, following in the wake of a 28-oar 5-gun rowboat ordered by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 and a Civil War-era monitor that was accepted but never commissioned.

Marietta soon became part of the Spanish-American War.

From DANFS:

Marietta departed San Francisco 19 March 1898 for Callao, Peru, to arrange for the coaling of Battleship Oregon (BB‑3) which was steaming to join the North Atlantic Squadron off Cuba. Moving on to Valparaiso, Chile, 31 March, the gunboat was joined by Oregon 6 April and together the two warships proceeded through the Straits of Magellan and up the east coast of South America, separating at Bahia, Brazil 11 May. Marietta arrived Key West, Fla., 4 June, then joined the blockade of Havana Harbor.

When the war ended, she remained on the East Coast and was used to help clear mines from Cuban waters until she was needed again.

In what became known as the Bluefields Expedition, she was dispatched to the Mosquito coast of Nicaragua at the outset of unrest there that had the local consulate worried as it involved several American and European adventurers who were soon to have their necks stretched by the Nicaraguans. She arrived on 24 Feb 1899 and landed a small force of about 50 sailors and Marines that remained ashore for about a week until things cooled down, co-opting with a similar force landed by the British.

Bluefields, Nicaragua, view taken in 1899, shows personnel from the joint Anglo-American landing force put ashore there to protect their nationals. Note the Colt M1895 “potato digger” light machine gun and the straight-pull Model 1895 Lee Navy 6mm rifles. The British were under the command of Captain Burr #4, the US force was under Commander Frederick M Symonds USN #2 commanding officer of USS MARIETTA (PG-15). NH 83794

By the end of 1899, it was decided her shallow draft and heavy armament (for a ship her size) could prove useful in fighting on the other side of the globe and Marietta arrived in Manila 3 January 1900. Operating in support of American forces ending the Philippine insurrection, the busy gunboat acted as a patrol and convoy escort vessel in the islands, assisting and cooperating with the Army in military expeditions and landings until ordered home 3 June 1901 for duties with the North Atlantic Squadron until moving into ordinary in 1903 for a refit.

The next year she operated off Central America, protecting American interests in Panama during that nation’s revolution against Colombia, which led to the Canal becoming a wholly American operation for the remainder of the Century. Marietta then spent nearly a decade around the Caribbean, “calling at numerous Latin American ports and protecting American lives and property from damage.”

Marietta, June 1908 Arriving at Curacao, Venezuela, by Bain News Service via Library of Congress photo LC-B2-457-14

Lot-3305-26 U.S. Navy gunboat USS Marietta (PG 15), starboard view. Photographed by K. Loeffler, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By 1912, pushing age 20 and outclassed by most things afloat, the hard-used gunboat which had circumnavigated the globe and mixed it up in two hemispheres was taken out of front-line service and turned over to the New Jersey Naval Militia for use as a training ship.

When the Great War erupted in Europe, she was returned to the Navy and served on Neutrality Patrol duties in the Atlantic before seeing the elephant once more in the 1916 Vera Cruz crisis in Mexican waters, again landing armed bluejackets for service ashore.

When the U.S. entered WWI for real in April 1917, Marietta was up-armed and assigned to the Atlantic Fleet patrol force for convoy duty, eventually crossing the big water to Brest, France where she served on anti-submarine patrol under the command of CPT Harry G. Hamlet, U.S. Coast Guard (a future Commandant of that service), with a mixed crew of Navy vets, Coasties, and new recruits.

USS Marietta (Patrol Gunboat #15), new fore top-mast and shrouds, at the Boston Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, May 31, 1917. USS Constitution is to her right. She performed convoy duties during World War I in the Atlantic and off Europe.19-LC-14-2:

USS MARIETTA (PG-15), camouflaged and dressed with flags, while serving in European waters, 1918. Catalog #: NH 94977

USS MARIETTA (PG-15) photographed in 1918, probably in European waters. Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983. NH 94976

She appeared to be a happy and popular little gunboat during this wartime period, with several snaps of her crew preserved to history.

Sailor imitates Charlie Chaplin on the forecastle, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 95010

Crewmen in whites pose amidships with sea bags and her commissioning pennant, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94994

Crewmen in whites pose amidships with sea bags and her commissioning pennant, circa 1918-19. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94994

Crewmen in blues lounging on the forecastle, circa 1918-19. Note base of 4″/40 gun, at right. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94989

Three sailors pose by the forward 4″/40 deck gun circa 1919. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 95013

Crewmen scrubbing hammocks or awnings, on the forecastle circa 1918-19, while in a European port. Note bell and gear of 4″/40 gun at left, anchor and 3-pounder gun at right, and mattress splinter protection around the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94991

A “tall and short” photo of a chief petty officer and sailor on board, circa 1918-19. The chief is equipped for shore patrol duties– note the baton. Description: Courtesy of Paul H. Silverstone, 1983 NH 94993

In 1919, on a convoy home out of the Bay of Biscay to Boston, the 150-foot converted menhaden trawler USS James (SP-429) began taking on water in heavy seas. Marietta, under her Coast Guard skipper, moved to rescue her two officers and 45 men in the maelstrom.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s office on Hamlet:

With high seas threatening to crash the two vessels together, he skillfully and courageously maneuvered his ship alongside James and was instrumental in saving all on board. In recognition of his gallant conduct, the Secretary of the Treasury awarded him the Congressional Gold Lifesaving Medal and he received a Special Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy entitling him to wear the Silver Star upon his service ribbon.

On the way back to the East Coast, Marietta was involved in a fender-bender with the nominally larger Wickes-class destroyer USS Stevens (DD-86) at Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, the latter supporting the NC seaplane transatlantic flight efforts.

Marietta, worn out and unrepaired, was decommissioned 12 July 1919 at New Orleans and sold the following Spring for her value in scrap. Rumor is she was repurposed as a banana boat, plying in Central American waters in the 1920s and 30s, but I can’t confirm that from Lloyds.

As for her sister, Wheeling was used as a training ship after the Great War for a while and eventually as a berthing barge for motor torpedo boat crews during WWII. She was sold for scrap 5 October 1946. The Navy certainly got their dollars’ worth out of them.

In the National Archives, the Trial Board records of both Marietta and Wheeling are on file as is their logbooks and the court documents from the Stevens incident.

Specs:

Picture postcard from the Hugh C. Leighton Co. of Portland, ME, courtesy of Tommy Trapp via Navsource http://www.navsource.org/archives/12/09015.htm

Displacement 1,000 t., 1914 – 990 t.
Length 189 ‘ 7″
Beam 34′
Draft 12’
Propulsion: Two Babcock and Wilcox boilers, two 518ihp vertical triple expansion steam engines, two shafts.
Speed 13 knots.
Complement 140 as built, 1914 – 163
Armament:
(As built)
6×4″ gun mounts
1×3″ gun mount
4×6-pounders
2×1-pounders
Colt .30-caliber “potato digger” machine gun
(1905)
6×4″ rapid fire mounts
2×1-pounder rapid fire mounts
Colt machine gun
(1911)
6×4″/40 rapid fire mounts
4×6-pounder rapid fire mounts
2×1-pounder rapid fire mounts

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!

Rough Rider Krag at auction

Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill by Frederic Remington: Theodore Roosevelt leads the charge on his horse, Little Texas. K Troop officer, Woodbury Kane is the brown-uniformed officer in the foreground with pistol in right hand and saber in his left. To the upper right of Lt Kane is a hat-less African-American Buffalo Soldier from either the 9th or 10th Cavalry that got mixed in along with the Rough Riders as all of them raced to the top of Kettle Hill.

Last weekend, Skinners had an early 1895-production Springfield Model 1896 Krag Saddle-Ring carbine up for grabs. Few of 1896s were made, just 22,493– with only a handful being 1895-marked. With their handy 22-inch barrel and 41-inch overall length, the five-shot”half-capsule” fixed magazine, bolt action repeater had a magazine cut-off to allow single .30-40 Krag rounds to be fed to keep the stumpy horse gun topped off.

It was also the last saddle ring (due to its ring and bar sling attachment) carbine ever made for the U.S. government– the end of an era. It even had a cleaning rod that was stored in the butt trap.

Another thing that made this gun special is that it was SN 27892, known to be issued to Alvin C. Ash, a trooper in G Troop of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.

More in my article at Guns.com

As noted by Springfield Armory, who has a similar 1895-marked M1896 (SN 30023) in their collection, TR and his buddy Leonard Wood (now remembered with Fort named after him) really worked to get them:

“Wood and Roosevelt had to put forth some effort to obtain the Krag carbine for the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry; this was the first-line cavalry weapon, and it had been in service only two years when the Spanish-American War broke out. All the carbines issued to the Rough Riders were new, unused weapons, even though many of them were manufactured in 1895. The mechanism of the Model 1896 Carbine had been improved in a number of respects over that of the Model 1892 Rifle, many of which were in the hands of regular infantry troops at Santiago.” – Franklin B. Mallory MAN AT ARMS, July/August 1989

In the end, Ash’s Krag went for $30,750, with most of that being the premium for a Rough Riders-connected named piece, as Saddle Rings of the same vintage normally go for about a 1/10th of that.

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018: The Saint and the Terror

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, Feb. 21, 2018: The Saint and the Terror

Catalog #: NH 59924

Here we see the U.S. Mail Steamer Saint Paul of the American Line in her guise as the auxiliary cruiser USS Saint Paul, photographed at the end of the Spanish-American War. The 11,612-ton ocean liner was the fastest thing on the Atlantic merchant trade when put in service, was the first to carry a wireless (and she needed it!) and served in two real-live shooting wars, with mixed results.

Saint Paul, a twin-screw steel passenger liner of the newest sort, along with her sister Saint Louis were ordered by the Philadelphia-based International Navigation Company (led by robber baron Clement Acton Griscom) for use by that firm and their subsidiary American Line and Red Star Line flags. As such, they were something of a keynote in U.S. merchant history. They had 17 watertight compartments (two decades before Titanic), could carry up to 1,540 passengers in a variety of styles (350 1st class, 290 2nd, 900 3rd), and were ultra-modern.

As explained by Kenneth J. Blume, they were the first large liners built in the U.S since 1857 (other large passenger liners were all European in origin) and were ordered to take advantage of subsidies set aside in the Merchant Marine Act of 1891. Further, he says “they were the last such large passenger liners built in the United States until the 1930s.”

Built at William Cramp & Sons Building & Engine Company, Philadelphia (yard # 277 and 278), these ships used quadruple expansion engines fed by double-ended boilers capable of speeding them forward at 20-knots (making International Navigation the first to offer such service across the Atlantic). Further, they had a more “modern” appearance than preceding liners, with two stacks and plumb bows. Built to last, they were completed by the same yard that was at the time working on the cruisers USS Minneapolis (C 13) and Brooklyn (ACR 3) as well as the battleship Iowa (BB 6)

Quadruple expansion engines of SS St. Louis (1894) in the workshop of William Cramp & Sons where they were built. Published in Howell’s Steam Vessels and Marine Engines. p. 11, 1896.

Steamliner SS Saint Paul of the International Navigation Co. 1895. Photo by Johnston, J. S. (John S.) postcard by Detroit Publishing Co.in the collection of the LOC. https://www.loc.gov/item/det1994011748/PP/

Famously, our new ocean liner ran aground off the New Jersey coast in January 1896 and required an extensive $400,000 effort to free her. Meanwhile, the rescue of her passengers and crew was national news for several months.

“THE STRANDING OF THE AMERICAN LINER ST. PAUL ON THE NEW JERSEY COAST, NEAR LONG BRANCH”, published in “Harper’s Weekly” February 1896.

However, she was back in business and in April 1896 she crossed the Atlantic from New York to Southampton in just six days. Over the next two years, she would repeat her crossing 36 times along the same route, which is impressive by any standard.

Her peacetime passenger service came to a halt due to events in Cuba.

At 21:40 on 15 February 1898, the armored cruiser USS Maine suffered a terrible explosion in Havana Harbor while exercising tense gunboat diplomacy with Spain over Cuba, leading to the death of 266 Navy and Marine personnel.

Though the cause of the explosion would not be known anytime soon, the press whipped the event up to the point of conflict.

When war came, the Navy took up dozens of craft from trade including four large passenger liners for conversion to auxiliary cruisers from the American Line/International Navigation Co: the SS New York (which became USS Harvard), SS City of Paris (who became the matching USS Yale) as well as Saint Louis and Saint Paul, the latter pair of which served under their given names.

On 12 March 1898, Saint Paul was taken up for service by the Navy and, sailing to Newport for crew and conversion to an auxiliary cruiser, Capt. Charles Dwight Sigsbee (formerly commander of the stricken Maine) raised the national ensign and took down the American Line house colors. She commissioned on 20 April. The fast liner was given a coat of gray paint, armed with six 5″/40 Mark 4 guns, another six Hotchkiss 6-pounders, and six 3-pounders in a fit-out that lasted just 14 days. Could you imagine a similar thing today?

USS St. Paul (1898) View looking aft on her forecastle, following conversion to an auxiliary cruiser, 1898. Note 5-inch guns, capstans, winch and other deck gear as well as two Marines. The original photograph was taken by C.H. Graves and published on a stereograph card. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC, 1979) U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Photo #: NH 89086

Ready for service by the first part of May, the new USS Saint Paul would see the elephant, and soon.

But first, let’s talk about a little Spanish Terror.

In the lead up to the conflict, in 1896 the Spanish Navy ordered a half-dozen Furor-class torpedo destroyers from the shipyards of J & G Thompson of Clydebank in Scotland. These nimble 229-foot 380-ton ships could make 28-knots (when their machinery worked) and carried two 350mm torpedo tubes as well as four Nordenfelt popguns.

A Spanish Terror Class Destroyer in British Waters in about 1897. An unidentified example of the ship class, photographed in about 1897-1898 in British waters and very likely in builders’ hands. Six sisters were built in 1896-1897 by Thompson on the Clyde: AUDAZ (1897-1927), OSADO (1897-1927), PROSERPINA (1897-1931), TERROR (1896-1927), FUROR (1896-1898), PLUTON (1896-1898). NH 88619

NH 111967 Spanish Torpedo Boat Destroyer TERROR

On 28 April 1898, the Spanish Navy’s 1st Squadron, of four cruisers (Infanta Maria Teresa, Vizcaya, Almirante Oquendo, and Cristóbal Colón) and three sister-ship destroyers (Pluton, Terror, and Furor) set out from the Cape Verde Islands for the Caribbean, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, then a Spanish colony. RADM Pascual Cervera y Topete’s mission was to rendezvous with other Spanish ships, engage the American squadron blockading Cuba, and ultimately to attack the United States.

Spain’s torpedo-boat flotilla en route from the Canaries to Puerto Rico. William Sontag. NYPL collection 1898. Terror shown in front

The loose Spanish ships sowed panic on the Eastern seaboard as every coastal town just knew they would wake up to Spanish bombardment at any time. However, Cervera’s fleet was in bad shape, with fouled bottoms, dangerously defective (or in some cases even uninstalled) guns, untrained crews, and poor engineering plants. Terror, carrying the flag of Capt. Fernando Villaamil Fernandez-Cueto (destroyer flotilla commander), and commanded by Lt. Francisco de la Bocha y Pérez, was nursing boiler problems.

Saint Paul sortied out from Philadelphia to look for Cervera on 5 May.

The Flying Squadron, under the command of Commodore Winfield S. Schley, joined the search for the Spanish fleet while the fleet four detailed ships, Saint Paul, her American Line companion auxiliary cruiser USS Yale, the similar USS Harvard, and USS Minneapolis, patrolled the waters off Santiago just in case Cervera made it to the Cuban hub.

In the meantime, the Spanish squadron popped up at the French colony of Martinique on 10 May 1898 and, with Terror‘s engines fully immobilized, the little destroyer that couldn’t was left behind while Cervera beat feet to Santiago, Cuba. Alone, the intrepid Lt. Bocha managed to cobble together Terror‘s condemned piping and nurse her solo to San Juan a week later.

Meanwhile, our hero liner-cruiser Saint Paul found the British steam collier Restormel, which was chartered to bring 2,400-tons of badly needed fresh Cardiff coal to Cervera and captured the same just outside of Santiago on 25 May after firing two blanks and one war shot from her 5-inch battery. She later arranged for the steamer to go to Key West as a prize. The British captain reportedly told his American captors he was glad the U.S. wound up with his valuable cargo since the Spaniards did not lift a finger to prevent his capture even though he was under the heavy guns of Castle Morro and a promised battleship escort into Santiago never materialized.

“I am glad you Yankees have the coal since those duffers inside didn’t have the nerve to come out and back me up with their guns when we were right within range,” he reportedly said as the prize crew of bluejackets and leathernecks from Saint Paul came aboard.

Saint Paul next appeared off Fort Caimanera near Guantánamo, where her 5-inch gunners helped plaster the Spanish shore batteries there from just 1,000 yards off the beach. By early June she was off San Juan along with USS Yosemite and the new cruiser USS New Orleans.

The trio effectively blockaded that Spanish Puerto Rican port, which held the aforementioned Terror as well as the ineffective 1,200-ton Velasco-class unprotected cruiser Isabel II (4×4.7-inch guns), and the two 500-ton 3rd class gunboats General Concha (3×4.7inch) and Ponce de Leon. On the morning of 22 June, while a German tramp steamer made for open ocean, the three Spanish warships made a move to test the harbor blockade and Saint Paul was there. A short and ineffective artillery duel resulted in the two larger Spaniards turning back while Terror made a David vs. Goliath torpedo run on our liner.

The auxiliary cruiser St. Paul repulsing the Spanish torpedo-boat destroyer Terror off San Juan de Puerto Rico, June 22, 1898, by Henry Reuterdahl, NYPL Collection

The run ended badly for the unsupported Terror, who never got closer than 5,400 yards to the big American before two 5-inch shells perforated her, one in the engine room. Listing, immobile and taking on water, the stricken torpedo destroyer had to be beached by towing as Saint Paul watched. For Terror, her war was over.

The damaged Spanish destroyer Terror at San Juan. She was allowed to return to Spain when the war ended.

Isabel II, General Concha, and Ponce de Leon again tried to force the American cordon on 28 June to make a hole for an incoming blockade runner, but after an ineffective artillery duel at long range from Saint Paul, the effort was called off. It was the last naval action at San Juan and the Spanish ships finished the war at anchor, eventually sailing home when peace was concluded.

For Saint Paul, she was recalled to New York in July and, reverting to her original design, brought first the 4th and later the 8th Ohio Volunteer regiments to the theater, carrying over 1,300 troops each trip.

This image shows the ST. PAUL embarking troops for Puerto Rico. Her superimposed gun sponson which she was outfitted with while operating as an auxiliary cruiser can be seen overhanging the side of the vessel. Via SpanAm War.com http://www.spanamwar.com/Stpaultroops.htm

It was some of the first major joint Army-Navy operations since the Civil War, and improvisation was key, with troops moving ashore via sugar lighters and cargo nets.

Troops transferring to sugar-lighters at sea. There was a heavy ground swell and the boat rose and fell alongside, making it a difficult task. NH 108558

Each sugar-lighter held one company of men. NH 108559

Her last trip from Puerto Rico, in August, was to bring soldiers home to New York. From there, she steamed to Cramp’s to be disarmed and refitted for merchant service, decommissioned and released by the War Department on 2 September. Her very active wartime life lasted less than five months.

Saint Paul was also notable as the first merchant ship fitted with a Marconi wireless, in 1899. On November 15 of that year Guglielmo Marconi issued The Transatlantic Times, the first newspaper ever published at sea, using information received by radio transmission from his wireless telegraph station on the Isle of Wight.

By November 1898, she was back on the Southampton run, which was her regular route, carrying passengers, mail, and coin. For example, on one 1902 run, she brought “670 passengers eastbound, 1.173 mailbags and $200.000 in gold” to England from New York. It was her bread and butter and in her career she completed more than 200 such crossings across two decades.

William M. Vander Weyde photo of ladies waving bon voyage as St. Paul leaves the pier, from the George Eastman Kodak Museum.

Photographed circa the 1890s or early 1900s. Description: Courtesy of the Saint Paul “Minnesota Dispatch,” 1963. Catalog #: NH 92841

SS St. Paul Bain News Service, 1915, via LOC

ST. PAUL sails, 8/7/14 (LOC)

Then it was back to peacetime liner operations for an uneventful (for us) 19 years other than a 1908 collision with the British Arrogant-class cruiser HMS Gladiator, killing 27 RN personnel and sending the smaller 5,700-ton manowar to the bottom off the Isle of Wright. A British high court held Gladiator responsible.

Then, war came once again.

Saint Paul was taken over by the War Department for use as the troop transport Knoxville on 27 October 1917, making 12 rushed crossings over the Atlantic carrying the boys “over there” to fight the Huns over the next five months. For such duty, the fast transport was given a Navy gun crew to man four newly-installed 6″ guns and painted in Thayer’s quarter-shading camo process. She was credited with carrying more than 30,000 GIs to France.

The Navy, in turn, arranged for the former auxiliary cruiser’s transfer in April 1918 to the sea service and, designated USS Saint Paul (SP 1643), was taken back into Navy service. While being further converted, on 28 April, she flooded and capsized in the North River in New York.

Lot-10821-4: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: First stage of pumping and rolling operation. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. (2017/08/04).

Lot-10821-2: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: As she lay on the bottom

Lot-10821-3: USS Saint Paul (ID# 1643), salvage operations of the auxiliary cruiser during 1918. Shown: 6-inch gun on the starboard side of the foredeck.

Salvage operations continued into 1919 and she was eventually returned to the American Lines in floating condition. Returning to service in the low-rent steerage trade, she was still too uneconomical to run at a profit and by 1923 was retired. She was towed across the Atlantic by Jacob van Heemskerk and broken up at the former naval dockyard at Wilhelmshaven in Weimar Germany, where labor at the time was dirt cheap.

As for her sister, Saint Louis, she also served in the Great War as the armed transport USS Louisville (there was another USS St. Louis in the fleet at the time), but was gutted in a fire in 1920 and scrapped in 1924. As it turned out, the proud “20-knot” liner never made it back to carry civilian passengers after their second war.

Their company likewise faltered. The American Line itself was defunct by 1932 as was the Red Star Line by 1935. The International Navigation Co. endured in a way, merging in 1931 with the Roosevelt Steamship Company under the United States Lines banner.

Curiously, Saint Paul‘s nemesis, the Spanish Terror, outlived her. Returning to Spain following the loss of Puerto Rico in 1899, she was repaired and served in the Spanish Navy in North Africa and European waters until she was retired in 1924.

Our liner is, of course, remembered in various period maritime art.

Specs:
Displacement: 11,612 in commercial service, 14,910 long tons (15,150 t) as aux cruiser
Dimensions 535’6” (bp) x 63′ x 27’5”
Machinery 2 screws, VQE, 6 D/E & 4 S/E boilers, IHP 20000,
Speed: 19.25 knots practical but made 22 knots after funnel caps removed in 1900
Coal: 2677 tons
Complement 281 crew + 1540 passengers as liner,
1898: 357 Navy, 50 Marines
Armament: (1898)
6 5”/40 Mark 4 rapid-fire guns (four fwd, two aft) in open mounts with 600 rounds
6 6 pdr. Hotchkiss with 1800 rounds
6 3 pdr. Nordenfeldt guns (two on promenade deck, four on wings) with 1800 rounds
Extensive small arms locker for Marine detachment
(1917-18)
6 6″/50 Mark 6 guns repurposed from old battleships and cruisers.

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