Category Archives: Spanish american war

The National Matches Not Remembered

The U.S. Army today is, by most accounts not written in Chinese or Russian, the most modern and advanced in the world. However, that was not always the case.

Back in the 1890s, the 26,000-man force was scattered around the country in 80 small garrisons and was one of the smallest on the globe– Belgium could boast a larger military. Moreover, it had little depth in time of war.

There was no Army Reserve as it would not be formed until 1908.

The National Guard, likewise, was not authorized by Congress until 1903.

Instead, each state had its own local militia system dating back to the colonial era which was very hit and miss– mostly miss– in terms of training and equipment. Even this force had to volunteer for federal service and then be hastily organized on the fly. This led to an embarrassing showing in 1898 when it came time to mobilize 125,000 of these volunteers to augment the far-flung Army and take the field against the Spanish in Cuba and Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.

Further, the marksmanship of Spanish regulars, armed with top-of-the-line Mauser pattern bolt-action rifles firing smokeless cartridges, was often devastating compared to the American’s more dated Krag rifles and single-shot Springfield Trapdoor models, both fed with black powder ammo. It turned out that less than half of the militia– which made up the bulk of the U.S. military– had received peacetime “target practice of any description.”

No two alike! As exemplified by these members of the 16th Pennsylvania Volunteers kneeling, with their obsolete Springfield Trapdoor rifles raised during the Spanish-American War, peacetime marksmanship training was lacking at the time. Luckily for them, the 16th would see only limited combat and lost more men to disease than gunfire. (Photo: Library of Congress)

In the reckoning that came after the Spanish-American War, a new Mauser-pattern rifle (the Springfield M1903) was adopted, and the Army was greatly expanded. The Army Reserve and National Guard were formed to make standardization and mobilization to back up the regulars much easier, and a decision was made to enhance and promote military rifle marksmanship. That latter task resulted in the National Board of the Promotion of Rifle Practice; a preparedness organization founded under the direction of Spanish-American War vet, President Theodore Roosevelt. The Board in 1903 moved to begin the National Matches, a military marksmanship competition for a national trophy held at Camp Clark in Sea Girt, New Jersey.

These Sea Girt matches, a new novelty, was chronicled by the Bain News Service as they were national news, all of the below via the LOC:

Two years later, the Board was authorized to sell surplus military rifles to rifle clubs around the country so that the pool of trained marksmen could be expanded outside of those wearing uniforms. By 1907, the enlarged National Matches were moved to a larger facility at the more centrally located Camp Perry, Ohio.

Of interest in this photo from Perry in 1907 is the use by the shooter in the foreground of a Pope sight micrometer, attached to the rear sight elevation leaf. Harry Pope’s micrometers, unlike most of the several varieties that were made and sold, were intended to be left in place while the rifle was being fired. Photo via American Rifleman

1908 California rifle team at Camp Perry, Ohio. Site of the National Shoot. 5×7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

In 1916, with the country again looking at entering a large war with a better-trained European power, the National Board of the Promotion of Rifle Practice morphed into the newly formed Director of Civilian Marksmanship or DCM.

The final version of the DCM was an Army-run, government-owned and financed operation, with the Pentagon giving it a shoestring $4.3 million annual budget, or about $10 million in today’s dollars.

According to a 1990 GAO report, the group had just 36 employees but still managed to support 165,000 civilian shooters in 1,945 affiliated clubs nationwide. The DCM in 1989 sold just 6,000 surplus M1 Garand Army rifles to affiliated club members, but had another 24,000 assorted rifles loaned to the clubs themselves, and sold or donated some 37 million rounds of ammunition– almost all .22 rimfire– to its associated members and clubs. It also supported 365,000 Boy Scouts via marksmanship programs, largely through the donation of ammo to their summer camps. Besides sponsoring 135 rifle and pistol matches around the country that year, the DCM also hosted 3,650 competitors at Camp Perry for the National Matches.

However, the Army felt the program was “of limited value” at a time when the post-Cold War defense budget was shrinking dramatically and the Clinton administration in 1996 ended the DCM, converting it into the privatized CMP, with much the same mission but under a new format.

And they still hold the National Matches at Camp Perry.

Warship Wednesday, July 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 6, 2022: Dispatches from the New Navy

Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 69187

Above we see the one-of-a-kind steel-hulled dispatch boat USS Dolphin (later PG-24) off New York City, about 1890. Note the Statue of Liberty in the right background. A controversial warship when she first appeared, she later proved to have a long and star-studded career.

Dolphin was part of the famed “ABCD” ships, the first modern steel-hulled warships of the “New Navy” ordered in the early 1880s along with the protected cruisers USS Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago. While the ABC part of this quartet was built to fight, running 3,200 tons in the case of Atlanta and Boston and 4,500 tons for Chicago, with as much as 4-inches of armor plate and a total of eight 8-inch, 20 6-inch, and two 5-inch guns between them, Dolphin was, well, a lot less of a bruiser.

Laid down on 11 October 1883 as an unarmored cruiser by John Roach and Sons, Chester, PA, Dolphin hit the scales at just 1,485 tons with a length of 256 feet (240 between perpendiculars). Her armament was also slight, with a single 6″/30 Mark 1 (serial no. 1), three 6-pounders, four 3-pounders, and two Colt Gatling guns.

6″/30 (15.2 cm) Mark I gun on the protected cruiser USS Atlanta circa 1895. Note three-motion breech mechanism and Mark 2, Muzzle Pivot Mount inclined mounting. Dolphin was to carry one of these, but it wasn’t to be. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-USZ62-60234

However, although all the ABC cruisers would successfully carry 6″/30s along with their other wild mix of armament, it was soon seen that Dolphin was too light for the piece and she transitioned to two 4″/40 (10.2 cm) Mark 1 pieces as her main armament.

Equipped with four (two double-ended and two single-ended) boilers trunked through a centerline stack pushing a single 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine on a centerline shaft, she also had a three-mast auxiliary sail rig, a hermaphrodite pattern carried by all the ABCD ships. With everything lit and a clean hull, it was thought she could make 17 knots on a flat sea, something that was thought to equal 15 knots in rough conditions.

Brooklyn, NY. Dock No 2 with USS Dolphin (dispatch boat) showing her hull shape, masts, stack, and screw. USN 902198

Unofficial plans, USS Dolphin, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. By Deutsch Lith and Ptg Co., Photo-Lith, Balto. NH 70119

However, in the spring and summer of 1885, the ship was the subject of much controversy. The first of the ABCD ships nearing completion, she could not make her target speed under any condition, barely hitting 14 knots, and incapable of sustaining that for over six hours. Meanwhile, the Herreshoff-built steam yacht Stiletto was hitting 24.8 knots and the Cunard steamship Etruria was logging over 19 sustained across a 72-hour period.

That, coupled with the issue of armament, led to a special board directed by President Chester A. Arthur’s SECNAV Bill Chandler to inspect and evaluate Dolphin, which was accordingly reclassified as a dispatch boat rather than a cruiser.

A subsequent board formed by President Cleveland’s incoming SECNAV William C. Whitney, consisting of Capt. George E. Belknap, Commanders Robley D. Evans, William T. Sampson, and Caspar F. Goodrich (all of which became famed admirals); Naval Constructor Francis Bowles, and one Mr. Herman Winters, was formed to criticize the first board later that fall, and by early 1886 it was deemed Dolphin had caulking and planking issues, a few defective steel trusses, and her plant was never able to make the designed 2,300 hp on her original boilers. Further, it was thought her powerplant and battery were too exposed to any sort of fire to be effective in combat.

The papers were filled with drama, with the New York Times archives holding dozens of stories filed on the subject that year.

“Cruelty” Dolphin: “What! go to sea, Secretary Whitney! Why, that might make me seasick!'”– says the caption of this Thomas Nast cartoon published in Harper’s weekly, satirizing the mediocre performance during sea trials of the USS Dolphin, one of four vessels ordered by Congress in 1883 to rebuild a United States Navy that was in disrepair. Secretary of the Navy William Whitney refused to accept the new ship, setting off a well-publicized political controversy and eventually driving the shipbuilder into bankruptcy. Via the NYPL collection.

“John Roach’s little miscalculation” Illustration shows Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney, handing a boat labeled “Dolphin” to James G. Blaine who shies away, refusing to accept it; in the background, John Roach, a contractor, who built the ship “Dolphin”, is crying because the Cleveland administration has voided his contract. Published in Puck, May 20, 1885, cover. Art by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Via LOC

Completed on 23 July 1884, Dolphin was only commissioned on 8 December 1885, while the Navy would work out her issues and pass on her lessons learned to the other new steel warships being built.

Notably, her skipper during this period was Capt., George Dewey (USNA 1858), later to become the hero of Manila Bay.

The first of the vessels of the “New Navy” to be completed, Dolphin was assigned to the North Atlantic Station, cruising along the eastern seaboard until February 1886 when it was deemed, she was ready to undertake longer runs, embarking in a stately three-year, 58,000-mile deployment and circumnavigation of the globe under CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde (USNA 1865). America had to show off her new warship via foreign service.

Accordingly, as noted by DANFS, “she then sailed around South America on her way to the Pacific Station for duty. She visited ports in Japan, Korea, China, Ceylon, India, Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Spain, and England, and the islands of Madeira and Bermuda, before arriving at New York on 27 September 1889 to complete her round-the-world cruise.”

USS Dolphin, some of the ship’s officers, with a monkey mascot, circa 1889, likely picked up on the way round the globe. Odds are the officer holding him is CDR George Francis Faxon Wilde. Decorated as a midshipman at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Wilde would go on to command the monitor USS Katahdin, the cruiser USS Boston during the Span Am War, and the battleship USS Oregon then retire in 1905 as head of the Boston Navy Yard. NH 54538

This trip, with the ship proving her worth, led to her appearing in the periodicals of the day in a much more impressive take. 

Dispatch-vessel Dolphin from The Illustrated London News 1891

Harpers Weekly cover USS Dolphin

Harper’s Weekly January 1886 USS Dolphin in sails

By the time she arrived back home, the Navy’s other steel ships were reaching the fleet and they all became part of the new “Squadron of Evolution.”

USS Dolphin (1885-1922); USS Atlanta (1886-1912); and USS Chicago (1889-1935) off New York City, about 1890. NH 69190

As with most Naval vessels of the era, Dolphin would spend her career in and out of commission, being laid up in ordinary and reserve on no less than three times between 1891 and 1911, typically for about a year or so. Today the Navy still conducts the same lengthy yard periods but keeps the vessels in commission.

In April 1891, Dolphin was detached from the Squadron of Evolution and the Navy made $40,000 available for her cabins to be refitted to assume the task of Presidential yacht from the older USS Despatch, a much smaller (560 ton) vessel that was in poor condition.

She would continue this tasking off and on mixed with yearly fleet exercises and experiments for the rest of her career.

Speaking to the latter, in April 1893, she embarked pigeons from the Naval Academy lofts, the Washington Navy Yard’s loft in Richmond, and of Philadelphia Navy Yard then released them while steaming off Hampton Roads. The birds all made it back to their nests, covering 98 miles, 212, and 214 miles, respectively, delivering short messages penned by the daughter of SECNAV Hilary A. Herbert.

The same year, she took part in the bash that was the Columbian Naval Review in New York, where Edward H. Hart of the Detriot Post Card Co. captured several striking views of her with her glad rags flying.

Dolphin LC-D4-8923

Dolphin LC-D4-20362

LC-D4-20364

In 1895, she carried out a survey mission to Guatemala

She carried President William McKinley and his party to New York for the ceremonies at Grant’s Tomb on 23 April 1897.

Grant Tomb dedication, 1897: View of Grant’s tomb, Claremont Heights, New York City, in the background, and the USS Dolphin and tugboats in the foreground. J.S. Johnston, view & marine photo, N.Y. LOC LC-USZ62-110717

Then came war.

1898!

In ordinary when the USS Maine blew up in Havanna, Dolphin recommissioned on 24 March 1898 just prior to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. She then rushed south to serve on blockade duty off Havana, Cuba, a mission she slogged away on during April and May.

It was during this period she captured the Spanish vessel Lola (31 tons) with a cargo of fish and salt.

She covered her white and buff scheme with a more warlike dark grey. 

U.S. Navy gunboat/dispatch vessel USS Dolphin (PG-24), port bow. Photographed by J.S. Johnston, 1898. LOC Lot-3370-8

USS Dolphin overhauling Schooner Kate [Kate S. Flint] with an unknown young woman in white. Dolphin in distance. Santiago de Cuba. 1898 Stevens-Coolidge Place Collection via Digital Commonwealth/Massachusetts libraries system.

A second view of the same centered on Dolphin.

On 6 June she came under fire from the Morro Battery at Santiago and replied in kind. Less than two weeks later, on 14 June, Dolphin bombarded the Spanish positions in the Battle of Cuzco Well, near Guantanamo Bay, carrying casualties back to the American positions there.

Sent back to Norfolk with casualties, she arrived there on 2 July and the war ended before she could make it back to Cuba.

U.S. Navy dispatch vessel, USS Dolphin, port view with flags. Lot 3000-L-5

Good work if you can get it

Her wartime service completed; Dolphin would spend the next two decades heavily involved in shuttling around dignitaries. This would include:

  • Washington Navy Yard for the Peace Jubilee of 14 May to 30 June 1899.
  • New York for the Dewey celebration of 26 to 29 September 1899.
  • Alexandria, Va., for the city’s sesquicentennial on 10 October 1899.
  • Took the U.S. Minister to Venezuela to La Guaira, arriving in January 1903.
  • From 1903 through 1905 she carried such dignitaries as the Naval Committee, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral and Mrs. Dewey, the Philippine Commissioners, the Attorney General, Prince Louis of Battenberg and his party, and President T. Roosevelt on various cruises.
  • Participating in the interment of John Paul Jones at the Naval Academy, and the departure ceremonies for the Great White Fleet, in 1908.

Early in August 1905, she carried the Japanese peace plenipotentiaries from Oyster Bay, N.Y., to Portsmouth, N.H., to negotiate the settlement of the Russo-Japanese War.

Footage exists of her role in the event.

She also was used in survey work during this time, completing expeditions to Venezuela and the southeast coast of Santo Domingo, in addition to carrying inspection boards to survey coaling stations in the West Indies.

She also had a series of updates. For instance, in 1910, she had her original single/double-ended boilers replaced with cylindrical boilers. In 1911, she had her 6-pounder mounts deleted due to obsolescence, and in 1914 her 4″/40s were removed as well. She also had her masts reconfigured from three to two in the early 1900s.

USS Dolphin steaming alongside USS Maine (BB-10), with the Secretary of the Navy on board, circa 1903-1905. Note she still has her figurehead bow crest. Description: Collection of Mr. & Ms. Joe Cahn, 1990. NH 102421

USS Dolphin docked at the western end of the Washington Navy Yard waterfront, District of Columbia, circa 1901. The view looks north. The old experimental battery building is on the right. NH 93333

USS Dolphin (PG-24) photographed following the reduction of her rig to two masts, during the early 1900s. Note her bowcrest figurehead is now gone. NH 54536

Back to haze grey! USS Dolphin (PG 24), which was used as a dispatch ship of the Naval Review for President William Taft in New York City, New York, on October 14, 1912. Note the battleship lattice masts in the distance and the torpedo boat to the right. Published by Bain News Service. LC-DIG-GGBAIN-10794

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in the crow’s nest of the dispatch boat USS Dolphin off Old Point Comfort, VA during the Naval review. 10/25/1913. National Archives Identifier: 196066910

ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt on the USS Dolphin in 1913, observing gunnery trials of the fleet

USS Dolphin view looking forward from the bridge, taken while the ship was at sea in February 1916. Note ice accumulated on deck and lifelines. The original image is printed on postal card stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2005. NH 103039

War (again!)

Sailing from the Washington Navy Yard on 2 April 1917 to take possession of the recently purchased Danish Virgin Islands, four days later, Dolphin received word of the declaration of war between the United States and Germany. Arriving at St. Croix in the now-USVI on 9 April, she would carry the new American Governor-General James Oliver to and St. John on 15 April for a low-key flag-raising ceremony. The islands had initially been handed over in a ceremony on 31 March between the Danish warship Valkyrien and the American gunboat USS Hancock, but Oliver’s arrival on Dolphin sealed the deal.

Remaining in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean region to protect merchant shipping from German raiders and U-boats, Dolphin would pick up a camouflage scheme as she served as flagship for the very motley American Patrol Detachment at Key West, gaining a new 4″/50 gun and depth charges to augment her surviving 6-pounders.

USS Dolphin at Galveston, Texas, 1 March 1919. Photographed by Paul Verkin, Galveston. Note that the ship is still wearing pattern camouflage nearly four months after the World War I Armistice. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. NH 104949

She would remain in her quiet backwater into June 1920, when she was finally recalled to the East Coast and a short overhaul at Boston.

USS Dolphin (PG-24) at dock at Boston Navy Yard, MA, September 1920, back to a grey scheme. She had been designated a Patrol Gunboat, PG-24, 17 July 1920. S-553-J

Now 35 years old and with the Navy in possession of many much finer and better-outfitted vessels, Dolphin would have one last cruise. As the flagship of the Special Service Squadron, she joined the gunboat USS Des Moines (PG-29) in October 1920 to represent the U.S. at the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Straits of Magellan. The next year, she would attend the anniversary of Guatemalan independence.

Dolphin arrived at Boston Navy Yard on 14 October 1921. She was decommissioned on 8 December 1921 and was sold on 25 February 1922 to the Ammunition Products Corp. of Washington, DC. for scrapping. Rumors of her further service in the Mexican navy are incorrect, confusing a former steamer originally named Dolphin for our dispatch ship.

Epilogue

Few relics remain of Dolphin. Like most of the American steel warships, in 1909 she had her ornate bow crest removed and installed ashore. It was photographed in Boston in 1911 and, odds are, is probably still around on display somewhere on the East Coast.

Figurehead, USS Dolphin photographed in the Boston Navy Yard, 15 December 1911. NH 115213.

Her bell popped up on eBay in 2019 with a kinda sketchy story about how it got into civilian hands.

The National Archives has extensive plans on file for her. 

As for her name, the Navy recycled it at least twice, both for submarines: SS-169 and AGSS-555, the former a V-boat that earned two battlestars in WWII and the latter a well-known research boat that served for 38 years– the longest in history for a US Navy submarine.

Speaking of WWII, importantly, between 1915 and 1917, our USS Dolphin’s 18th skipper was one LCDR William Daniel Leahy (USNA 1897) who, interacting with then ASECNAV Franklin D. Roosevelt, would become close companions. Although retired after service as CNO in 1939, Leahy would be recalled to service as the personal Chief of Staff to FDR in 1942 and served in that pivotal position throughout World War II. It is rightfully the little dispatch ship’s greatest legacy.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt in conference with General Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Admiral William D. Leahy, while on tour in the Hawaiian Islands., 1944. 80-G-239549

Specs:
Displacement 1,485 t.
Length 256′ 6″
Length between perpendiculars 240′
Beam 32′
Draft 14′ 3″
Speed 15.5 kts.
Complement 117
1910 – 152
1914 – 139
Armament: Two 4″ rapid fires, three 6-pounder rapid-fire guns, four 3-pounder rapid-fire guns, and two Colt machine guns
1911 – Two 4″/40 rapid-fire mounts and five 3-pounder rapid-fire guns
1914 – Six 6-pounder rapid-fire mounts
1921 – One 4″/50 mount and two 6-pounders
Propulsion two double-ended and two single-ended boilers (replaced by cylindrical boilers in 1910), one 2,253ihp vertical compound direct-acting engine, one shaft.


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That straight-pull, tho

116 Years Ago: Gun drill at Newport, Rhode Island, July 5, 1906.

Photographed by Enrique Mueller. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. PR-3-Box-33-5

Note the white summer jumpers, which were at the time service dress, and broad dixie cups (rather than flat caps) as well as landing force leggings and belts, the latter complete with bayonet scabbards. Besides the trio of 3-inch landing guns in use, and the cutlasses of the blue-coated officers, the rifles appear to be M1895 Lee Navy models.

A straight-pull .236-caliber rifle designed by James Paris Lee and built by Winchester, only about 15,000 were made, with most of those going to the Navy.

U.S. Navy sailor from the 1900s with Lee rifle in landing party gear, posing by a landing gun.

Marine Barracks Norfolk, Virginia. No date on the photo but are armed with 1895 Lee Navy Rifles

Unpopular, it nonetheless saw service with the Navy and Marines in the Spanish–American War (some were in the USS Maine’s small arms locker) and securing of the Philippines as well as in the Boxer Rebellion. Supplemented by the Krag and finally replaced by the M1903 Springfield after 1907, the Navy had a few Lees still on hand well into the 1920s when they were finally disposed of.

Warship Wednesday, May 25, 2022: I’m Not as Good as I Once Was

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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 25, 2022: I’m Not as Good as I Once Was, But…

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 43761-A

Above we see USS Worden (Torpedo Boat Destroyer # 16) of the Truxtun class of such green-painted stiletto-hulled vessels, in the Hampton Roads area in 1907. An unidentified white-hulled four-stack armored cruiser is visible in the left distance. Seen as a modern warship on the forefront of technology at the time, Worden was part of the force welcoming the Great White Fleet home from overseas and would later be shown off to eager crowds at the Hudson-Fulton Celebration two years later. Well past her prime in 1942, Worden would still be ready to serve.

The three Truxtuns were among the original 16 TBDs authorized by Congress, during the SpanAm War, on 4 May 1898, and were the most advanced of the designs. Just 259 feet long overall, they could float in a single fathom of water due to their 600-ton (full load) displacement. Powered by four Thornycroft boilers powering twin VTE engines, they had 8,300 hp on tap and could make 29.9 knots. Equipped with two 3″/50s 12-pounders and a full half-dozen 57mm 6-pounders, the Truxtuns were seen as capable of making short work of lighter torpedo boats while their two single 18-inch Whitehead torpedo tubes– on turnstiles aft to stern– allowed them to substitute for the latter while keeping up with a blue water fleet.

Truxtun class via Oct 1902 Marine Engineering Magazine

Our subject was the first warship named for RADM John Lorimer Worden, USN. Appointed a midshipman at age 18 in 1834, he gained fame as the first skipper of the USS Monitor and commanded that famed “cheesebox on a raft” in the first clash of armored warships, fighting the Confederate ram Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) to a standstill in 1862. Worden later attained the rank of Rear Admiral while serving as the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in the early 1870s and was the first president of the United States Naval Institute.

Retired in 1886 after 52 years of service, RADM Worden was granted sea pay for life by a grateful Congress, passing in 1897.

All three of the Truxtun class– Truxtun (DD-14), Whipple (DD-15), and Worten (DD-16) were ordered from the Maryland Steel Company at Sparrows Point in one block. Laid down side-by-side in November 1899 and launched on the same day in 1901, they were accepted and commissioned by the Navy in a staggered program in the last quarter of 1902, with Worten joining the fleet on New Year’s Eve. Like Worten, all were named for noted naval figures, a practice gratefully still followed for most American tin cans for the past 120 years.

Worden passed her final acceptance test on 18 July 1903 and began duty with the 2nd Torpedo Flotilla, based at Norfolk.

On her builder’s trials in September 1902 off Barren Island, Worden did better than her 29-knot sisters, hitting 30.50 knots. She remained one of the speediest ships in the fleet. In June 1907, she walked away from her competitors on a 250-mile speed and service test from New York’s Scotland Light to Hampton Roads, besting five other destroyers.

USS Worden Description: (Torpedo Boat Destroyer # 16) Underway during the North Atlantic Fleet review, 1905. Photographed by the Burr McIntosh Studio. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, Rodgers Collection. NH 91222

A great period image of officers and crew of USS Worden (DD-16), 1906. Judging from the single torpedo tube and the elevated 3″/50, this is over the destroyer’s stern. As she only carried a 50-60 man crew, this is likely the whole complement. Note there are just two officers up front– an ensign and a lieutenant– and a bow-tie-wearing boatswain in the background. Also note the African-American sailor by the gun ring and the mix of uniforms including both blues and whites, flat caps and Donald Ducks, topside gear, and stokers’ utilities. Navy Museum Northwest Collection. Catalog #: 2014.36

However, the fleet was low on men and high on hulls, having gone through a massive expansion in the early 20th Century under Teddy Roosevelt. With that, the still-young destroyer was placed in reserve at the Norfolk Navy Yard in November 1907, a role she would maintain for the next seven years except for a brief reactivation to take part in the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in the summer of 1909, and a stint as a pier-side trainer for the Pennsylvania Naval Militia at Philadelphia in 1912.

Hudson-Fulton Celebration September-October 1909 Crowd observes warships anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, during the festivities. The four-funneled destroyer in the left foreground is USS Worden (Destroyer # 16), with several torpedo boats anchored astern. The British armored cruisers beyond are HMS Argyll (at left) and HMS Duke of Edinburgh (right center). Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold, USN. NH 101529

In 1914, she was detailed as a tender to the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force with a job moonlighting as a recruiting prop, continuing in such as role until the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917. In the meantime, on 24 February 1916, the Navy Department ordered that destroyers No. 1 through 16 were “no longer serviceable for duty with the fleet” and reclassified them as “coast torpedo vessels.”

War!

Shaking off her submarine tender duties, the reactivated Worden joined Division B, Destroyer Force, and spent the rest of 1917 in New York.

Meanwhile, the British Admiralty decided it was finally time to try the convoy system to help curb the onslaught of the German U-boat scourge. If only they could get hundreds of new escorts to help with that at all levels…

In early 1918, the “obsolete” Worden, refitted for “distant service,” got underway for Europe in company with a whole crew drawn from the original 16 destroyers that had been downgraded to CTVs. This included Hopkins (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 6), Macdonough (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 9), Paul Jones (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 10), and Stewart (Coast Torpedo Vessel No. 13). The little five-pack steamed, via Bermuda, to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, arriving at the end of January.

Reaching Brest on the 9 February, Worden then started clocking in with her associates in the business of escorting coastal convoys and hunting for the Hun. As summed up by DANFS, “During the remaining nine months of World War I, Worden maintained a grueling schedule escorting convoys between ports on the French coast.”

Her sisters Truxtun and Whipple, which had arrived in Brest in late 1917, had much the same war experience, coming to the rescue of the exploding munition ship Florence H. off Quiberon Bay and together saving half her crew, as well as tangling with German submarines directly.

All three sisters survived the conflict and headed back home from “Over There” in early 1919, given orders to assemble at Philadelphia along with the rest of the older tin cans left on the Navy List.

“They did their bit” Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania. Old destroyers in the Reserve Basin, 13 June 1919, while awaiting decommissioning. Note the truck and life rafts on the pier. These ships are (from left to right): USS Worden (Destroyer # 16); USS Barry (Destroyer # 2); USS Hull (Destroyer # 7); USS Hopkins (Destroyer # 6) probably; USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1); USS Stewart (Destroyer # 13); USS Paul Jones (Destroyer # 10); and USS Decatur (Destroyer # 5). Ships further to the right cannot be identified. Courtesy of Frank Jankowski, 1981. NH 92301

Worden was placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 13 July 1919– joining her two sisters who were likewise decommissioned earlier the same month– and all three stricken from the Naval Register on 15 September 1919.

Come, Mr. Tally Man…

3 January 1920, after just six months on red lead row, ex-USS Worden and her two sisters were sold cheap– pennies on the pound– to one Joseph G. Hitner, head of Philadelphia’s Henry A. Hitner’s Sons Ironworks. Now, Hitner was in the scrap business and had bought and recycled several ships from mothballs including 11 small Bainbridge-class destroyers, the old battleship Wisconsin (BB-9), the cruiser Raliegh (C-8), and the monitors Miantonomoh and Tonopah, but he hit on something different for the Truxtuns.

He decided to sell them for conversion to motor fruit carriers.

It made sense as the vessels were shallow enough to maneuver through the narrow fruit company waterways such as the Snyder Canal in Panama, and, with their engineering suite reduced and armament removed, were still fast and economical enough to get the job done. With their old magazines and one of their boiler rooms turned into banana holds, they could hold as many as 15,000 stems of fruit.

The ships were rebuilt, scrapping their old VTE suites and boilers for a pair of economical 12-cylinder Atlas Imperial Diesels– a company known for outfitting tugs and trawlers– generating 211 NHP and allowing a sustained speed of 15 knots. This removed all four of their coal funnels, replacing them with a number of tall cowl vents and a single diesel stack aft. So reconstructed, their weight was listed as 433 GRT with a 264-foot length and 14-foot depth of hold. The crew was reduced to an officer and 17 hands. Painted buff above the waterline to help reflect heat, they still had their greyhound lines.

SS Truxton – the former USS Truxton (DD-14) after conversion to a banana boat

A Truxtun-class TBD/CTV recycled as a banana boat

The 1920s were part of the “Banana Boom,” an era that saw the importation of the Gros Michel AKA “Big Mike” variety of the fruit– now all but extinct– skyrocket. In 1872, just a half-century prior, only 300,000 bunches had reached American shores. By 1920, this jumped to 39 million. In 1928 alone, some 64 million bunches of bananas were exported to the U.S. from Caribbean countries, with Honduras and Jamaica supplying half of that total.

Southern Banana Company at Pier 19, Galveston 1920 via Galveston Historical Foundation

During the boom, over 20 companies were in the business of bringing the curved yellow fruit to the U.S., and Worden and her sisters would work for several of them.

Worden along with her sisters Truxtun and Whipple was registered in 1921 by Robert Shepherd in Nicaragua and soon used on the banana runs to Galveston and New Orleans, flying the flag of the Snyder Banana Company of Bluefields.

In 1922, the boats had been impounded by R.A. Harvin, the United States Marshal in Texas, after a libel proceeding, and sold at public auction to one Harry Nevelson, who in turn quickly resold them to the Mexican-American Fruit Company, and sometime shortly after they were sailing for the Southern Banana Co.

By 1925, the trio was all part of the Vaccaro brothers’ upstart New Orleans-based Standard Fruit & S S Co (now part of Dole).

By 1933, Lloyds listed her as owned by the American Fruit & S S Corp — later adjusted to “Seaboard S S Corp (Standard Fruit, Mgrs)” in subsequent listings– out of Bluefields, Nicaragua with a tonnage of 546 GRT.

1933 Llyods

By 1939, the owners’ column had been lined out and she was listed as owned by the Bahamas Shipping Company and with tonnage adjusted to 433 GRT.

1940 Lloyd’s

Then came another war.

While Worden’s early war record is not available, her owners took great pain to try to make her as neutral as possible. This included a gleaming white livery with her Nicaraguan colors and name highlighted. She was under charter to the Winn-Lovett Grocery Company (now Winn-Dixie) to run bananas and assorted other fruits from Central America to Florida.

It was in this trade that Worden came across a fearsome sight some 80 years ago this month.

While about 10 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, the 6,548-ton British-flagged freighter La Paz, carrying a mixed cargo of fertilizer, china, and several hundred cases of scotch from Liverpool to Valparaiso via Halifax and Hampton Roads, came across U-109, an experienced Type IXB U-boat, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich “Ajax” Bleichrodt. Sailing from Lorient under 2. Flottille on her 5th War Patrol, the German submarine had already chalked up a half-dozen Allied steamers in the previous year.

Firing two torpedoes, one of which hit the British steamship, La Paz‘s crew made for the lifeboats. Bleichrodt’s crew intercepted a radio message from the nearby Worden referencing the torpedoing as the U-boat was submerging and he apparently logged the latter down as his victim.

The torpedoed freighter, probably M.S. La Paz, off the east coast of Florida (80 10’W; 28 10′), 1 May 1942. Note the oil slick. Three lifeboats astern indicate that the ship is being abandoned. The Nicaraguan banana freighter Worden is standing by in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-177164

The banana boat (ex-USN destroyer) Worden with her name, homeport (Bluefields, Nicaragua), and nationality (the Nicaraguan colors can be seen painted just behind her name) prominently displayed, takes the torpedoed British freighter, La Paz, in tow on 1 May 1942 off the Florida coast. U.S. Navy Photograph # 80-CF-1055.8B, Still Pictures Branch, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md, caption via Navsource.

La Paz was beached seven miles off Cocoa, Florida, her flooded stern hard aground, and Worden went on her way. The wounded freighter was later towed to Jacksonville, repaired, and returned to service five months later under U.S. Maritime Commission control. In the meantime, Brevard County residents aided in the salvaging of the La Paz, hauling ashore some Johnny Walker for their efforts.

Via State Archives of Florida

As detailed by Bill Watts:

The decision to remove the La Paz’s cargo provided the young men of Cocoa the opportunity for one of their greatest wartime adventures—one that is still fondly recalled at almost every Mosquito Beaters’ meeting. The draft and war industries had depleted the supply of labor for the area, so the insurance representatives decided to hire boys from Cocoa High School to unload the cargo. It was hard work, but the boys went at it with a will. Soon, the china and most of the fertilizer were unloaded; then it was time to unload the scotch whiskey.

As Speedy Harrell tells the story, the boys were overawed by the large stacks of cases of whiskey, but they went to work. Sometime during the process of unloading some of the boys decided that nobody would miss a bottle or two, so they “liberated” a few bottles and buried them under the beach sand to be retrieved later. Eventually, according to Speedy, the bottles hidden under the sand became so numerous that it was impossible for anyone to walk on that area of the beach without causing a gentle clinking noise as the bottles banged into each other.

According to Röwer’s Axis Submarine Successes of World War II, U-109 sank Worden just after hitting La Paz. However, this is subject to much debate. Nautical historian Eric Wiberg says this came as a “result of confusion over radio transmissions. Worden was simply responding ‘in the clear’ via short wave radio to distress calls from La Paz.” Further, the photos circulating of Worden assisting La Paz belay the likelihood of her sinking at the same time and date. Notably, Uboat.net does not list Worden on U-109’s tally sheet.

Likewise, DANFS states plainly: “Although Bleichrodt claimed both ships as sunk, Worden with a torpedo meant for La Paz, both ships survived, La Paz salvaged and resuming service, the fruit carrier continuing in that trade into the post-war period.”

With that, though, while there seems to be no proof that Bleichrodt sent our plucky banana boat to the bottom, her final end is unknown.

In fact, she continued to show up in Lloyds throughout the 1940s and 1950s, eventually ending up under a Panamanian flag as part of the Consolidated Shipping Company in 1955. Not a bad run for a little torpedo boat destroyer.

Worden’s 1956 Lloyds Steamer listing

While listed by one source as broken up in 1956, I’d like to think her old hulk may be in some back river port in Central America somewhere, rusting quietly away on a sandbar as her deck offers shelter to shorebirds, reports of her demise greatly exaggerated.

Epilogue

Of Worden’s sisters, Truxtun was still in the banana trade in 1938 when she suffered an engine room fire off Haiti that left her a hulk there. Considered a total loss because of a lack of insurance to cover the cost of towing and repair, she was sold to Joseph Nadal and Company of Haiti and presumed scrapped.

Whipple, meanwhile, remained in the stables of the Nassau-based Bahama Shipping Co. alongside Worden into 1953, then dropped from the list shortly after, likely when BSC dissolved.

1949 Lloyd’s shipping biz listing for the Bahama SC, showing Whipple and Worden as their only vessels

Worden’s engineering drawings and plans are in the National Archives.  Meanwhile, Tulane has several documents from her banana boat era. 

Besides our torpedo boat destroyer, the Navy has named three ships in honor of RADM Worden: the Clemson-class destroyer USS Worden (Destroyer # 288, later DD-288) which served from 1920-1931 (then ironically was also converted into the Standard Fruit Co. banana boat MV Tabasco and lost on a reef in the Gulf of Mexico in 1933); the Farragut-class destroyer USS Worden (DD-352) of 1935-1944; and the Leahy-class destroyer leader USS Worden (DLG-18, later CG-18) of 1963-2000.

A starboard bow view of the guided-missile cruiser USS WORDEN (CG 18) underway, 8/1/1987. DN-SC-89-08861. Via NARA.

It is time for a fifth Worden.


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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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.

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Warship Wednesday, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, April 27, 2022: Sparks Paratus

U.S. National Archives Local Identifier 26-G-01-19-50

Here we see the U.S. Revenue Cutter U.S. Grant, in her original scheme, seen sometime late in the 1890s, likely off the coast of New York. With the Union general and 18th President’s birthday today– coincidentally falling on National Morse Code Day– you knew this was coming, and interestingly, the above cutter, which had served during the SpanAm War, was the first post-Civil War U.S. vessel named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant.

Built at Wilmington, Delaware at the yards of Pusey & Jones Corp in 1871, Grant was a one-off Barque-rigged iron-hulled steam cutter ordered for the Revenue Cutter Service at a cost of $92,500. With the Revenue Marine/Cutter Service one that typically ran quick little sloops and schooner-rigged vessels between 1790 and 1916 when it became part of the newly-formed U.S. Coast Guard, Grant was one of the few built for the seagoing service with three masts.

Some 163-feet in length (overall) the 350-ton ship was the largest of four new steam cutters– the other three were paddle-wheelers– authorized by Congress in 1870 as part of a plan by N. Broughton Devereux, head of the Revenue Marine Bureau, in an effort to revitalize the force that had languished in the days immediately after the Civil War despite having been the sole federal agency tasked with patrolling the broad and wild seas off Alaska.

Cutter Grant via the New York Historical Society

Despite the massive amounts of left-over Civil War ordnance being sold as surplus, Grant was given a battery of four bronze M1841 24-pounder muzzleloading howitzers– field guns that had been considered obsolete at Gettysburg– and a small arms locker made up of rare .46 caliber (rimfire) single-shot Ballard carbines. She was known to still have this armament into the early 1890s. Her crew consisted of about 35 officers, engineers, and men.

Her shakedown complete just after Christmas 1871, Grant was assigned to the New York station on 19 January 1872 a cruising ground that covered from Montauk Point to the Delaware.

For the next 20 years, she maintained a very workaday existence in the peacetime Revenue Service. This included going out on short patrols of coastal waters, assisting with the collection of the tariff, catching the occasional smuggler, responding to distress calls (helping to save the crew of the reefed Revenue Cutter Bronx in 1873, saving the schooner Ida L. Howard in 1882, the British steam-ship Pomona bound from this port for Jamaica in 1884, and the demasted three-masted schooner William H. Keeney in 1887), policing posh ocean yacht races (even hosting her namesake President aboard in July 1875 for the Cape May Regatta), taking President Rutherford B. Hayes’ Treasury Secretary John Sherman (Gen. William T. Sherman’s brother) for a tour of all Revenue Cutter stations along the east coast in 1877, searching for lost cargo (notably spending a week in December 1887 along with the sloop-of-war USS Enterprise on the hunt for a raft of logs towed from Nova Scotia hat had departed its line off New England), suppressing mutinies (the steamer Northern Light in November 1883), and getting in the occasional gunnery practice.

In 1877, Grant had the bad fortune of colliding with the schooner Dom Pedro off Boon Island on a hot July night. Standing by, the cutter rescued all nine souls aboard the sinking vessel and brought them safely into Boston. An inquiry board found the Dom Pedro, who had no lights set while in shipping lanes at night, at fault.

In July 1883, Grant inspected– and later seized under orders of the U.S. Attorney’s office and at the insistence of the Haitian government– the tugboat Mary N. Hogan, which had reportedly been fitting out in the East River as a privateer under finance from certain British subjects to carry arms to rebels in Haiti.

Grant would serve as a quarantine vessel hosting Siamese royalty, as well as Hawaiian Queen Kapiʻolani and Princess Liliʻuokalani, the latter royals stopping in New York on their way to attend the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in London.

From November 1888 through April 1889, Grant had her steam plant replaced at the DeLamater Iron Works docks– the same plant that had constructed the steam boilers and machinery for the ironclad USS Monitor.

Shortly afterward, Grant landed her ancient Army surplus howitzers for a pair of brand-new rapid-fire Mark 1 Hotchkiss Light 1-pounders, from a lot of 25 ordered by the Revenue Cutter Service from a Navy contract issued to Pratt & Whitney of Hartford.

Unidentified officers around an early 1-pdr on the gunboat USS Nahant. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20046.

Her skipper at the time, a man who would remain with Grant for the rest of her career, was Captain Dorr Francis Tozier. Something of a legend in the service already, the Georgia-born Tozier received his commission from Abraham Lincoln one month before the president’s assassination and was awarded a Gold Medal by the President of the French Republic “for gallant, courageous, and efficient services” in saving the French bark Peabody in 1877, while the latter was grounded on Horn Island in the Mississippi Sound.

Tozier, 1895

In July 1891, it was announced that the 11 large sea-going cutters of the RCS would switch to a white paint scheme– something that the modern Coast Guard has maintained ever since.

In October 1893, as part of beefing up the Bearing Sea Patrol which enforced a prohibitory season on pelagic sealing as well as protecting the Pac Northwest salmon fisheries, the East Coast-based cutters Perry (165 ft, 282 tons, four guns)– which had been based at Erie Pennsylvania to police the waters of Lake Ontario– along with our very own Grant, were ordered to make the 16,000-mile pre-Panama Canal cruise from New York to Puget Sound, where they would be based. The two vessels would join the cutters Rush, Corwin, Bear, and Wolcott, giving the RSC six vessels to cover Alaskan waters, even if they did so on deployments from Seattle.

The re-deployment from Atlantic to Pacific was rare at the time for the RSC, as vessels typically were built and served their entire careers in the same region. Sailing separately, the two cutters would call in St. Thomas, Pernambuco, Rio, Montevideo, Stanley, Valparaiso (which was under a revolutionary atmosphere), Callao, and San Diego along the way.

Leaving New York on 6 December, Grant arrived at Port Townsend on 23 April 1894, ending a voyage of 73 days and 20 hours, logging an average of 8.45 knots while underway, burning 358 pounds of coal per hour.

Late in her career, with an all-white scheme. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. Oliver S. Van Olinda Photographs and Ephemera Collection. PH Coll 376, no UW22223

1898!

Rather than chopping as a whole to the Navy as the Coast Guard would do in WWI and WWII, President McKinley’s Secretary of the Treasury, John D. Long, implemented a plan to transfer control of 20 cutters “ready for war” to the Army and Navy’s control during the conflict with Spain.

Supporting the Army, from Boston to New Orleans, were seven small cutters with a total of 10 guns, crewed by 33 officers and 163 men, engaged in patrolling, and guarding assorted Army-manned coastal forts and mine fields.

A force of 13 larger revenue cutters, carrying 61 guns, staffed by 98 officers and 562 enlisted, served with the Navy. Eight of these cutters, including the famed little Hudson, served under the command of ADM Simpson off Havanna while the cutter McCulloch served with Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron for the conquest of the Philippines. Meanwhile, four other cutters (ours included) served with the Navy on the Pacific coast, keeping an eye out for potential Spanish commerce raiders, and filling in for the lack of Navy vessels along the West Coast at the time.

The four cutters patrolling the Pacific:

Arriving at San Francisco from Seattle on 7 April 1898, U. S. Grant and her crew were placed under Navy control four days later, on 11 April, operating as such through June.

Dispatched northward once again to search for a rumored Spanish privateer thought seeking to prey on the U.S. whaling and sealing fleet in Alaskan waters ala CSS Shenandoah-style, Grant found no such sea wolf and returned to the Treasury Department on 16 August, arrived back in Seattle on 18 September.

Back to peace

Returning to her peacetime duties and stomping grounds, Grant ran hard aground on an uncharted rock off Saanich Inlet just northwest of Victoria on 22 May 1901. Abandoned, she languished until her fellow cutters Perry and Rush arrived to help pull her off, patch her up, and tow her to Seattle for repairs.

Portside view of Revenue Cutter Grant at anchor without her foremast, likey after her wreck in 1901. Port Angeles Public Library. SHIPPOWR206

Fresh off repairs, in December she was part of the search for the lost Royal Navy sloop HMS Condor, which had gone missing while steaming from Esquimalt to Hawaii. Never found, it is believed Condor’s crew perished to a man in a gale off Vancouver. Grant recovered one of her empty whaleboats, along with a sailor’s cap and a broom, from the locals on Flores Island, with Tozier, the cutter’s longtime skipper, trading his dress sword for the relics. The recovered boat was passed on to the British sloop HMS Egeria, and Tozier’s sword was later replaced by the Admiralty, a matter that required an act of Congress for Tozier to keep.

Switching back to her role as a law enforcer, Grant was busily interdicting the maritime smuggling of opium and Chinese migrants from British Columbia to the Washington Territory in the early 1900s.

She also was detailed to help look for one of the last of the Old West outlaws, Harry Tracy, “the last survivor of the Wild Bunch.” After a shootout that left six dead in 1902, Tracy was at large in the region, taking hostages and generally terrifying the citizenry.

The Seattle Star, Volume 4, Number 113, 6 July 1902

By early 1903, with Tracy dead, it was announced the aging cutter would be sold.

The San Juan islander February 19, 1903

To tame the airwaves!

Grant, mislabeled as “USS” at Discovery Bay off Washington’s Strait of Juan de Fuca, October 1903. NOAA photo

Nonetheless, as part of a maintenance period, Grant was fitted by the Pacific Wireless Company while berthed in Tacoma with experimental Slaby Arco equipment to receive wireless messages. Regular use of wireless telegraphy by the Revenue Cutter Service was inaugurated by Grant on 1 November 1903. This was an important achievement for the service, as the Navy had only three ships with wireless equipment installed at the time.

As detailed by the Coast Guard Historian’s office: 

Tozier’s initial wireless tests proved successful, allowing the Grant to keep in contact with the Port Townsend Customs House throughout its patrol area—a 100-mile radius from the cutter’s homeport. After testing and adjustment of the new equipment, the Grant was ready for its first practical use of wireless for revenue cutter duties. On April 1, 1904, the Grant switched on its wireless set and began a new era of marine radio communication between ship and shore stations.

The new wireless radio technology proved very effective in directing revenue cutters and patrol boats in maritime interdiction operations. However, it took another three years to convince Congress of the importance of “radio” (which superseded the term “wireless telegraph” in 1906) to both its law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions. In March 1907, Congress finally appropriated the $35,000 needed to fund wireless installations on board 12 cruising cutters.

However, Grant would not get a chance to use her new radio equipment much, and by 1906 she was reported condemned, although still in service.

The San Juan Islander, Volume 15, Number 49, 6 January 1906

Grant’s last official government duty, in February 1906, was to solemnly transport bodies from the Valencia accident from Neah Bay to Seattle for burial. The affair, the worst maritime disaster in the “Graveyard of the Pacific” off Vancouver Island, left an estimated 181 dead.

Epilogue

Grant was sold from government service in 1906 to a Mr. A.A. Cragen for $16,300, and then further to the San Juan Fishing and Packing Co. who rebuilt her as a halibut fishing steamer. The old cutter was wrecked for the last time in 1911 on the rocks of Banks Island.

Her logs are in the National Archives but, sadly, have not been digitized. 

As for her longtime skipper Tozier, while stationed in Seattle he became a renowned collector of local artifacts. As related by the Summer 1992 issue of Columbia Magazine:

The assignment gave Tozier the opportunity to put Grant into remote rivers and harbors where natives were as eager to trade the things they made and used as their forefathers had been to trade fur pelts. He became imbued with collecting fever, realizing that his was a rare opportunity to bring out from the wilderness, to be seen, preserved, and appreciate, the elements of a civilization that was rapidly being superseded by that of the white settlers.

Captain Dorr F. Tozier, USRC Grant, top row right. He brought the cutter around the Horn from New York in the 1890s and remained in command for 14 years. Here he is visiting Numukamis Village on Barclay Sound, Vancouver Island, BC. Photograph by Samuel G. Morse. 21 Jan. 1902. Courtesy of the WA. State Historical Society. # 1917.115.217

In all, once retired from the RSC in 1907, Tozier sold his collection of some 10,000 artifacts including 2,500 baskets, 100 stone chisels and axes, carved jade pipes, harpoons, war clubs, knives of copper, ivory, shell and iron, a war canoe, and “12 mammoth totems, each weighing between 600 to 20,000 pounds.” In all, the collection weighed 60 tons and required 11 large horse-drawn vans to move to the Washington State Art Association’s Ferry Museum in 1908.

A fraction of Capt. Tozier’s artifacts, c. 1905. Model canoe, house posts, sculptures, part of a house front, masks, and a replica of a copper. The collection was first exhibited at the Ferry Museum (Tacoma,) then removed to Seattle in 1909, and finally to the National Museum of the American Indian under the Smithsonian, WA. DC. This photo c. 1905 courtesy of the WSHS #19543.19

When the Ferry Museum was dissolved in the 1930s, the collection was scattered and spread out across the world, with some pieces making their way to the Smithsonian.

Speaking of museums, the last pistol owned by the Outlaw Tracy is on display at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn, Washington. Bruce Dern portrayed him in the 1982 film Harry Tracy, Desperado.

As for Grant’s name, neither the RCS nor its follow-on USCG descendant reissued it.

The Navy only felt the need to bestow the moniker post-1865 to a successive pair of unarmed Great War-era transports before finally issuing it during the centennial of the Civil War to a James Madison-class FBM submarine, USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631), which served from 1964 to 1992.

The Coast Guard, however, did mention our old revenue cutter in its last HF CW transmission, sent by station NMN from Chesapeake, Virginia, at 0001Z on April 1, 1995. As an ode to the first wireless message transmitted in 1844, “What hath God wrought,” the message concluded with, “we bid you 73 [best regards]. What hath God wrought.”

Specs:

Displacement: 350 tons
Length: 163’
Beam: 25’
Draft: 11’ 4”
Machinery: Barque rigged steamer, vertical steam engine, two boilers, one screw, 11 knots max
Complement: 35-45
Armament:
4 x M1841 24-pounder guns, small arms (1871)
2 x Hotchkiss MK 1 37mm 1-pdrs, small arms (1891)


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are 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.

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Warship Wednesday, April 6, 2022: The Forlorn Hope

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, April 6, 2022: The Forlorn Hope

Photo by F.A. Roe, U.S. Navy First Lieutenant, via the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 286

Here we see the recently commissioned Hartford-class screw sloop-of-war USS Pensacola (23 guns) as she appeared in November 1861, off Alexandria, Virginia, dressed and yardarms manned as she is receiving President Lincoln. The image is labeled that the vessel, soon to be on the way to the Gulf of Mexico to join Flag Officer Farragut’s newly created West Gulf Blockading Squadron, is the “Forlorn Hope” of Farragut’s fleet. She would prove a valuable, if somewhat irritating, addition to his force.

Though dubbed sloops by the Navy, if commissioned in any other fleet of the era, the Hartfords would be considered steam frigates. Generally of 225 feet in length with a fully loaded displacement pushing 3,000 tons, they were only gently smaller than the preceding five Merrimac-class steam frigates which went 250-feet and about 4,000 tons.

USS Hartford Spar & Sail Plan, Department of the Navy. Bureau of Construction and Repair. 1862-1940, via National Archives. National Archives Identifier (NAID) 117877200

Built of live oak, the Hartfords were fast on either their sail rig (three masts with two yards on each) or steam plant, capable of hitting 11 knots even with only half the horsepower of the Merrimacs. With 13 gun ports on each side of the below-deck gun deck and room for a topside pivot gun fore and aft, the class was generally able to ship about 20-24 pieces, leaning heavily on IX-inch Dahlgrens. For example and Pensacola was ultimately completed with 16 such smoothbores in broadsides as well as a single XI-inch pivot, although she would sail in late 1861 with a mix of 23 guns mounted.

Under a design by John Lenthall, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Construction, the five sloops of the class were built at five different Navy yards close to the cities they were named after– Hartford at Boston, Lancaster at Philadelphia, Richmond at Norfolk, Brooklyn at New York, and Pensacola at Pensacola– meaning they were all slightly different from each other. Specifically, they all had engineering plants that were to be built locally to their respective yards, which, in the 1850s, was almost as ill-fated as having two classes of littoral combat ships built simultaneously.

With that, several of the ships were completed successfully while Pensacola, her hull complete and masts raised, had to be towed in December 1859 to Washington Navy Yard for installation of machinery that was built there to a design by Edward Dickerson and noted inventor Frederick Ellsworth Sickels that was supposed to be top-notch and “produce the highest possible effect from the given amount of fuel and with the least possible weight.

However, as described through the scholarship of Edward A. Mueller in Warship International Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring, 1968), pp. 96-111 (22 pages), it fell far short:

Following the start of the Civil War and, with all four of the other Hartfords off fighting down South, Pensacola languished in Washington, despite being listed as commissioned in full on 16 September 1861, while the bugs were worked out. This included hosting Lincoln for a short sail to Alexandria in mid-November 1861 while still fitting out.

In the end, she was only able to pass her trials on 3 January 1862, making 8.8 mph on the Potomac. Her final cost was $308,460, well over twice that of any of her sisters, with the much more mechanically reliable Hartford only running $114,400.

Holy stovepipe hat, Batman! USS Pensacola off Alexandria, Virginia, in 1861. Photographed by James F. Gibson. Courtesy of Library of Congress NH 63260

Her skipper, Capt. Henry White Morris, the superintendent of engines and operations at the Washington Navy Yard, seemed a logical choice. The grandson of Robert Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Capt. Morris had joined the Navy at age 13 and by 1861 he had been in the navy for 41 years with 17 of those on sea duty.

Dispatched to join Farragut in the Gulf, at last, she broke down on the way in the Florida Keys for over a week– run aground– but eventually made Ship Island off the Mississippi Sound in early March 1862 and made ready to venture up the Mighty Mississip with the squadron on the push to capture New Orleans.

Flag-officer Farragut’s Gulf Squadron, and Commodore Porter’s Mortar Fleet Line engraving published in Harper’s Weekly, 1862, depicting some of the ships involved in the campaign to capture New Orleans. Identified ships are (from left to right): Richmond, Pensacola, Colorado, Hartford (Farragut’s flagship), and Octorara. NH 59137

Headed to the Crescent City

However, her cranky machinery was in such bad shape that she was instructed to use her sails only– on an upriver trip fraught with muddy bars, confusing currents, and the very real threat of enemy action– while tugs stood by if she got stuck. 

Of course, they would have to run the gauntlet that was the Confederate-held Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip 40 miles up the river from the mouth, two lines of river obstructions, a score of fire rafts, as well as a fleet of armed river craft, “cotton clads,” and the much-feared steam ram CSS Manassas, the rebel ships mounting some 33 guns between them.

What could possibly go wrong?

To help lighten the load, Pensacola landed most of her coal, provisions, and anything else she could sail without in an effort to raise her draft. The sloop, along with the similarly troubled paddle frigate USS Mississippi, made it over the bar at the mouth of the Mighty Miss on 8 April, then would be in the forefront of the push past Forts Jackson and St. Philip just two weeks later.

Farragut would put the ailing sloop up front, the second ship in line. 

The push, which could have gone horribly wrong, was famously successful, even though the Confederate artillery boss at the forts reported firing no less than 1,591 shells at Farragut’s fleet including “675 VIII-inch solid shot, 171 VIII-inch shells, 13 XIII-inch shells, and 142 X-inch mortar shells.”

“The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862” color lithograph, published by Currier & Ives, 1862. Depicts Farragut’s fleet passing Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, below New Orleans. USS Cayuga is seen in the top left center leading the Union column past burning Rebel steamers while USS Pensacola is directly after with USS Mississippi in the third spot and the rest of Farragut’s squadron– including three of Pensacola’s better-known sisters: Harford (the old man’s flagship), Richmond, and Brooklyn, following. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection NH 76369-KN

Morris’s report to Farragut, filed off New Orleans four days after the fact, making a short reference to the CSS Manassas’s failed attempt to ram the sloop and the brutal artillery duel between the warship and the forts.

Pensacola surely got some sweeping hits in on the cotton-clad CSS Governor Moore, a steamer raked with fire by the Union squadron, practically shooting away all of Moore’s upper hamper. The rebel gunboat drifted helplessly to shore, where her captain, pilot, and a seaman set her afire.

Of her 300~ man crew, Pensacola came off light for the amount of fire that was thrown her way by the Secesh, suffering four killed, and 32 wounded.

Four of her crew would earn the Medal of Honor for the fight, Quartermaster Louis Richards, Seaman Thomas G. Lyons, Captain of the foretop James McLeod, and “Boy” Thomas S. Flood.

— Richards served as quartermaster on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attacks upon Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and at the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Through all the din and roar of battle, he steered the ship through the narrow opening of the barricade, and his attention to orders contributed to the successful passage of the ship without once fouling the shore or the obstacles of the barricade.

— Served as seaman on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip, 24 April 1862. Carrying out his duties throughout the din and roar of the battle, Lyons never once erred in his brave performance. Lashed outside of that vessel, on the port-sheet chain, with the lead in hand to lead the ship past the forts, Lyons never flinched, although under heavy fire from the forts and rebel gunboats.

— Captain of the foretop, and a volunteer from the Colorado, McLeod served on board the U.S.S. Pensacola during the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Acting as gun captain of the rifled howitzer aft, which was much exposed, he served this piece with great ability and activity, although no officer superintended it.

— Served on board the U.S.S. Pensacola in the attack on Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. Swept from the bridge by a shell which wounded the signal quartermaster, Flood returned to the bridge after assisting the wounded man below and taking over his duties, “Performed them with coolness, exactitude and the fidelity of a veteran seaman. His intelligence and character cannot be spoken of too warmly.”

As noted of the overall operation by Capt. Theodorus Bailey, who commanded one of the gunboat divisions during the fight to pass Forts Jackson and St. Philip:

In the face of casemated forts, fire rafts, ironclad steam rams, and a fleet of gunboats, we have swept the Mississippi of its defenses as far as Baton Rouge and perhaps Memphis. The United States flag waves over Forts Jackson, St. Philip, Livingston, and Pike, and also the city of New Orleans. We fought two great battles; that of the passage of the forts and encounter with the ironclads and gunboats has not been surpassed in naval history. We have done all this with wooden ships and gunboats.

Reaching New Orleans shortly after passing the forts, at 2 pm on 25 April, Farragut formally accepted the surrender of the Crescent City from the city’s civilian leaders.

The next morning, Pensacola landed Captain Morris with two squads of marines and a few Sailors, and the small force raised the Union flag over the rebel-occupied former U.S. Mint on Esplanade Avenue in the Vieux Carre. It was the signpost that New Orleans had, unofficially at least, rejoined the Union.

The rest of the War

In July 1862, Morris, Pensacola’s first skipper, was promoted to Commodore and, in poor health, was allowed leave to return home to New York where he died soon after.

Pensacola, handicapped by her machinery, was left to the role of a sort of station ship for the next two years following the capture of New Orleans. She remained as a guard vessel on the Lower Mississippi, watching for blockade runners and policing fishing boats.

Sent to New York Navy Yard, where she decommissioned on 29 April 1864– just missing the Battle of Mobile Bay where three of her sisters ran past Forts Gains and Morgan with Farragut and fought a much stronger rebel ram than the Manassas to a standstill– Pensacola was laid up and her machinery replaced with that which had been purchased by the Navy for canceled sloop-of-war USS Wanaloset. She was still in New York when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.

West Coast

Recommissioned 16 August 1866, the much improved Pensacola could finally stretch her sea legs.

With that, she rounded Cape Horn and became part of the Pacific Squadron, often serving as her flagship as she patrolled along the West coasts of North and South America, and as far out to sea as the Kingdom of Hawaii.

USS Pensacola off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1866-1868. Note she has at least 10 guns runs out. Courtesy of Mr. John Sardo, Mare Island Naval Shipyard. NH 76104

She continued this routine for the next 17 years, going into ordinary twice (1870-71 and 1873-74) during that period to refit, inheriting the only gently-used two funnels and boilers from the stricken Confiance-class screw sloop USS Benecia.

USS Pensacola, firing her guns port broadside. Note her new profile that included two short funnels, which she would carry between 1875 and 1888, and now has three yards on each mast rather than two. LC-DIG-GGBAIN-10057

While these were the salad days of her career, members of Pensacola’s crew would earn two more Medals of Honor in this quiet peacetime era: Seaman Patrick Regan and Henry Thompson, in 1873 and 1878, respectively, each for rescuing a man from drowning.

Chile, Town of Coquimbo, showing probably the USS Pensacola, an observer in the War of the Pacific, in 1879. LOC LC-DIG-npcc-20198

She was extensively photographed around 1880, with views of her decks captured in detail for posterity.

View of the starboard reinforced gun deck, during the 1880s, including rifles stored overhead and fire hoses to the right. Note the IX-inch Dahlgren Shell Guns. With some 1,185 such pieces cast at Alger, Bellona, Fort Pitt, Seyfert, McManus & Co., Tredegar, and West Point foundries, they remained one of the most numerous Civil War-era American guns well into the 1880s. With a 9-inch bore and a tube weight of 9,200-pounds, they could fire 90-pound shells or 150-pound solid shot up to 3,450 yards at maximum (15-degree) elevation. NH 63563

View of the spar deck, after an abandon ship drill, during the 1880s. NH 63564

View of the captain’s or flag officer’s cabin. Very swank. Note the spyglasses on the dressed table. NH 42876

European Station

Her Pacific days came to an end, at least for a while, when in June 1883 Pensacola was ordered to Norfolk, the long way. Sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, she transited the Suez Canal, then steamed through the ancient waters of the Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic to arrive in Hampton Roads on 4 May 1884. After a year of refit, she sailed to Europe with a new skipper in April 1885

Her skipper, from 1885 through 1888 while on European Station, was a young Captain George Dewey (USNA 1858), later of Battle of Manila Bay fame. Dewey of course was familiar with Pensacola as he had been a newly-minted lieutenant on the USS Mississippi when that steam frigate was behind Pensacola in line on the push past the muzzles of the guns of Fort St. Philip.

USS Pensacola ship’s officers, with an Italian commander, at Naples, Italy, circa spring 1886. RADM Samuel R. Franklin and Captain George Dewey are third and second from left in the second row. NH 42872

There are also superb photographs of her Bluejackets and Marines conducting gunnery training and formations, landing drills, practicing repelling boarders, and having cutlass practice on her deck in February 1888, with Dewey looking on.

Ship’s marines paraded for inspection, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Captain George Dewey, her Commanding Officer, is right-center, between hatch and skylight. NH 42885

Marine guard paraded with fixed bayonets, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Second Lieutenant Joseph H. Pendleton is in the left-center foreground. Note binnacle, hatches, and full hammock rails. NH 42890

Crew paraded for battalion drill, with rifles, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note officers’ swords. NH 42884

Landing force battalion drill on the spar deck, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note hatches “cleared for action” with railings removed. NH 42883

Two crewmen fencing with cutlasses, as others watch, probably upon her return to the U.S. in February 1888. Note revolver worn by one of the combatants. NH 42894

Crew drilling at repelling boarders, probably at the time she returned to the U.S. in February 1888. The photo is taken looking forward from the quarterdeck. NH 42878

USS Pensacola after pivot gun in action during a drill, probably upon the ship’s return to the U.S. in February 1888. The Gun is an old Parrott rifle, converted to breech-loading. Note skylight and rigging details. NH 42881

The ship’s gunner, and the quarter gunners, pose with a landing force field piece, circa 1885-1888. NH 42889

Science!

Arriving back stateside from her European vacation in February 1888, Pensacola saw a further refit during which one funnel was removed and her second-hand boilers were replaced with new ones built for the canceled screw frigate USS Ontario.

Then came a lengthy cruise to the coast of Africa, to which she carried a team of scientists of the United States Eclipse Expedition.

As described by the Smithsonian, the embarked big brains included: astronomer David Peck Todd of Amherst College and the U.S. Naval Observatory, Mr. Carbutt (Photographer); Prof. Abbe (meteorologist); Eben Jenks Loomis (naturalist) from the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac office (as well as a special assistant to the USNO); William H. Brown (osteologist and naturalist) as well as his brother A. H. Brown (assistant); and Mr. Preston (“observer of magnetics and determinations of gravity”).

The 242-day scientific cruise called at St. Paul de Loanda in Portuguese West Africa, Faial in the Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, Freetown, and Cape Town before heading back by way of St. Helena, Ascension, Barbados, and Nonsuch Island (Barbados), mixing both groundbreaking science experiments and data collection with such mundane naval tasks as gunnery practice.

One Herman S. Davis, an assistant astronomer on the trip, was a bit of a shutterbug. 

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, screw steamer, at Cape Town Docks, South Africa. Note that she is back to her single-funnel profile. Table Mountain is in the background. Photographed by Herman S. Davis, who was the assistant astronomer of the expedition

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, screw steamer, the enlisted crew on deck. Photographed by Herman S. Davis. LOC Lot 7360-3

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola, target practice off St. Helena, February-March 1890. Photographed by Herman S. Davis. Lot 7360-15

Same as the above, Lot 7360-16.

As described by Albert Bergman in his journal A Man Before the Mast, the crew was very involved in the experiments and collection process:

Besides the force we had working on the boats, twenty to thirty sailors were detailed to work on shore under the direction of Professor Bigelow, to dig ditches, build foundations, fitting instruments, artificial houses, etc. Another party was detailed under Lieutenant Heilner, to transport the stores to the Eclipse Station. Ten voluntary marines were sent on shore to guard the camp from wild beasts and savages. The latter were found to be plenty.

U.S. Navy Expedition to observe the 1889 solar eclipse from Africa. USS Pensacola Marines on watch, not looking like they are 24 years past the Civil War. A poem by “a sailor” reads, “At last, we had almost finished, and expected a little rest, for those astronomers are hard enough / to work with at the best.” Photographed by Herman S. Davis. Lot 7360-6

The Smithsonian notes:

Along with the magnetic, gravity, and astronomical observations performed, specimen collecting included, but was not limited to entomology, zoology, and ichthyology. A large number of fish were collected at the island locations by William H. Brown. Myriapoda, spiders, and other insect specimens were also brought back by the expedition team.

Layup and semi-retirement in sunny California

In August 1890, Pensacola was dispatched back to her old stomping grounds on the West Coast, arriving at San Francisco on 10 August 1891.

US Navy screw steamer, USS Pensacola, junior officers on deck. Note the sails and rigging. Photographed by Edward H. Hart for Detroit Publishing Company, between 1890 and 1901. LC-DIG-DET-4a13971

U.S. Navy screw steamer USS Pensacola, hoisting the launch. Detroit Publishing Company Postcard, 1890-1912. Lot 3000-G-21

Following a short cruise to Hawaii, the aging steam sloop decommissioned at Mare Island on 18 April 1892.

After a six-year layup, she was reactivated as part of the naval surge that came with the Spanish-American War.

While Dewey was busy in the Philippines, however, Pensacola was destined to be used only as a training ship for Naval apprentices, then, transitioned to a receiving ship at Yerba Buena Training Station.

Pensacola off Mare Island, California, ready to proceed to Goat Island as a naval receiving ship, 1898. NH 63566

Pensacola as a receiving ship at Yerba Buena, California, 1902. NH 63565

Decommissioning on 6 December 1911, Pensacola was struck from the Navy Register on 23 December.

The old girl was unceremoniously stripped and burned near Hunter’s Point the following May.

Epilogue

Little exists of Farragut’s Forlorned Frigate these days.

Her helm wheel was saved and, after being on display on the decks of the old Truxtun-Decatur Naval Museum for decades, is now mounted on a wall of the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard.

One wooden helm steering wheel with eight spokes from the USS Pensacola (1859). A metal inlay along the top and bottom of the rim of the wheel reads: “(arrow) LEFT – RUDDER – RIGHT (arrow)”. A metal plaque attached to the middle of the wheel is engraved: “THIS STEERING WHEEL WAS / ORIGINALLY INSTALLED ON THE / STEAM SLOOP OF WAR PENSACOLA / LAUNCHED AT PENSACOLA NAVY YARD / 15 AUG 1859 AND STRICKEN FROM THE / NAVY LIST 23 DEC. 1911. THIS WHEEL WAS IN / USE ON THE PENSACOLA WHEN THAT / VESSEL WAS WITH FARRAGUT’S / SQUADRON IN THE PASSAGE OF FORTS / JACKSON AND ST. PHILIP, APRIL 1862, / AND IN THE BATTLES OF / NEW ORLEANS / AND / MOBILE BAY.” NHHC 1952-3-A

She is also remembered in period maritime art.

USS Pensacola and the CSS Governor Moore, oil by Worden Wood, American, 1880–1943, in the Yale University Art Gallery.

Side view of the warship USS Pensacola at anchor in the Mississippi River at New Orleans with riverbank and structures in the background. The painting shows small service vessels at the stern of the warship and the landing party going ashore. Captain W. Morris with two squads of marines, probably the landing party going ashore, replaced the Confederate flag with the United States flag at the U.S. Mint in the Vieux Carre on April 26, 1862. The Pensacola, one of the Union ships that arrived at New Orleans on April 25, 1862, was in the fleet of Admiral David G. Farragut during the occupation of New Orleans during the Civil War. In the Louisiana Digital Library.

Meanwhile, assorted logs and research from the 1889 United States Eclipse Expedition are in libraries and collections around the country.

Her sisters likewise lived very long– and lucky– lives.

  • Hartford, Farragut’s flagship, was kept as a relic by the Navy until she literally sank at her moorings in 1956.
  • Brooklyn— the scourge of the Mississippi Sound and the Biloxi fishing fleet– retired in 1889 and was sold after having well served her country for over three decades.
  • Lancaster, who served in the Pacific during the Civil War, like Pensacola was recommissioned in 1898 and saw one last war (albeit as a receiving ship) then continued to serve as a quarantine ship on the East Coast as late as 1933.
  • Richmond, who past the Forts in 1862 with Pensacola and company, served as an auxiliary to the receiving ship USS Franklin until after the end of World War I and was sold for breaking in 1919.

As for the old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, the flag Pensacola rose was hauled down almost immediately by troublemaking New Orleanian William Mumford, along with three other men. As noted by the Louisiana State Museum, “Mumford, a well-educated but reckless man with a love of drink, defiantly wore shreds of the flag in his buttonhole. He eventually was arrested and sentenced by U.S. Army General Benjamin Butler to be hanged in front of the mint on June 7, 1862.”

Butler is not well-liked in New Orleans to the current day.

The Mint building, after the facility closed in 1909, was used by the Veterans Bureau as well as both the Navy and Coast Guard for decades, along with other federal agencies, until the state took it over– peacefully this time– in the mid-1960s. Under the stewardship of the Louisiana State Museum Board is now the New Orleans Jazz Museum. 

Finally, while our USS Pensacola was the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, the has not been the last, followed by a Great War transport ship (AK-7/AG-13), a “Treaty” cruiser (CL/CA-24) that saw so much service in WWII that she was nicknamed the “Grey Ghost” by Tokyo Rose on her way to earning 13 battle stars, and a Cold War-era Anchorage-class dock landing ship (LSD-38) that served 28 years with the Navy and is still in service with Taiwan after at least 22 years under that country’s flag.

In my opinion, it is past time to reinstall a USS Pensacola to the Navy List.

Specs: (1861)

Displacement 3,000 t.
Length 130′ 5″
Beam 44′ 5″
Draft 18′ 7″
Speed 9.5 kts.
Complement: 259 officers and enlisted (1861)
Armament:
1 x 11-inch Dahlgren smoothbore
16 x 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbores


If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

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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.

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No Snow Days for the Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery noted this week it is witnessing its first snowfall of the year with a series of photos that show quiet stillness and dignified respect.

(Photos by: Elizabeth Fraser, U.S. Army/ Arlington National Cemetery)

The above memorial is the mast of the lost USS Maine (Battleship No. 10), sunk in 1898, an event that sparked the Spanish-American War. It was dedicated at the cemetery in 1915 after the warship was raised. 

Among the images were some of the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.

Drawn from volunteers of the Fort Myer-based 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” they are equipped with Vietnam-era M14 rifles rather than the more current M16 or M4 variants. Sergeants of the Guard carry one of four custom M17 9mm pistols, specially crafted for the unit by Sig Sauer. 

Warship Wednesday, April 7, 2021: The Curious Confederate of Barcelona

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, April 7, 2021: The Curious Confederate of Barcelona

Here we see the Spanish bark-rigged screw steam corvette (corbeta) Tornado as she sits high in the water late in her career in the port of Barcelona, circa the 1900s. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she had one of the most (in)famous sisterships in 19th Century naval history and would dip her hand in a bit of infamy of her own.

In 1862, as the Confederate Navy was scrambling for warships of any kind, Lt. George T. Sinclair, CSN, was dispatched to Britain to work with CDR James Dunwoody Bulloch, the Confederacy’s chief foreign agent in Liverpool, to acquire a humdinger of a commerce raider. Coupled with a scheme to trade bulk cotton carried by blockade-runners out of Rebel ports for English credit and pounds sterling, Bulloch during the war had paid for the covert construction and purchase of the commerce raiders CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah as well as the less well-known CSS Florida.

CSS Alabama enters Table Bay at 10:00 AM August 5, 1863. She is increasing speed to capture the Sea Bride before she can escape to within one league of S.African territorial waters. This painting was commissioned by Ken Sheppard of South Africa. Via the CSS Alabama Assoc

Many consider the vessel that Sinclair and Bulloch ordered, which was drawn to a variant of the plans for the CSS Alabama, to be sort of a “Super Alabama.” Whereas the ‘Bama ran 220-feet overall and light with a 17-foot depth of hold and 1,050-ton displacement, her successor would be 231-feet and run 1,600 tons with larger engines and a battery of three 8-inch pivot guns (Alabama only had a single 8-inch pivot) and a 5-gun broadside.

When completed and armed, the Super Alabama was to take on the identity of the CSS Texas. However, to keep the construction secret, Bulloch arranged with the Clydebank firm of James and George Thomson of Glasgow to build her as a clipper under the name of Canton, then later Pampero, ostensibly for the Turkish Government, with an expected delivery date of October 1863.

Launched but lacking a crew, the English government was pressured after Thomas H. Dudley, United States Consul in Liverpool, discovered a near twin of the CSS Alabama was in the final stages of construction, and by late November a British man-o-war was anchored alongside the “Pampero.” On 10 December 1863, the yard’s owners and the ship’s agents were charged with violations of the Foreign Enlistment Act, wrapping the vessel up in legal proceedings for the rest of the war.

Drawing of the ‘Pampero’ published in The Illustrated London News 1864

In October 1865, six months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox but while the CSS Shenandoah was still raiding Yankee whalers in the Pacific, the Canton/Pampero/Texas was awarded to the bearers of the cotton bonds issued by Bulloch and company that had been used to finance the vessel then sold to the shipping firm of Galbraith & Denny.

The thing is, all the fast ships in European ports that could mount a hastily installed armament were at that time being bought up by the Empire of Spain or the Republic of Chile, who were engaged in a war in the Pacific. The Chilean agents, led by an interesting fellow by the name of Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, beat the Spanish to the punch and bought Pampero for £75,000 in February 1866, with the vessel soon entered on the Chilean naval list as the corvette Tornado, subsequently sailing for Hamburg.

Over the next several months, the Spanish played a cat-and-mouse game as the Tornado and a second ship with a similar backstory, the corvette Abtao (former CSS Cyclone) attempted to be armed and outfitted, moving around European ports just one step ahead of their pursuers.

By the evening of 22 August, the Spanish 1st class steam frigate Gerona (48 guns), caught up with the unarmed Tornado at Madeira off the Portuguese coast and, after a short pursuit and four warning shots, the Chilean vessel, helmed by retired RN officer Edward Montgomery Collier, struck its flag.

Ángel Cortellini Sánchez ‘s “Captura de la corbeta de hélice Tornado por la fragata de hélice Gerona”, 1881, via Museo Naval de Madrid 

With the Armada Española

The next day, Tornado sailed for Cadiz with a prize crew and soon joined the Spanish fleet. After taking part in the September 1868 naval revolt, the vessel was dispatched to service in Havana in 1870. There, she was involved in the so-called Virginius affair in 1873.

For those not aware, Virginius had an interesting Confederate connection to Tornado, being built originally in Glasgow as a blockade runner then surviving the war and being used briefly by the Revenue Cutter Service.

VIRGINIUS (Merchant steamer, 1864-1873) Built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1864 as a blockade runner. 1864-1867: SS VIRGIN; 1867-1870: U.S. revenue cutter VIRGIN; 1870-1873: SS VIRGINIUS. For more data, see Erik Heyl, Early American Steamers, vol. I. Watercolor by Erik Heyl, 1951. NH 63845

For three years starting in 1870, Virginius was used to run rebels under Cuban insurgent Gen. Manuel Quesada from the U.S. to the Spanish colony, with the somewhat tacit blind-eye and occasional support of the U.S. Navy. In October 1873, the steamer, skippered by Captain Joseph Fry, (USNA 1846, ex-USN, ex-CSN) and with a mixed British and American crew, was carrying 103 armed Cuban rebels when Tornado encountered her six miles off the Cuban coast.

Pursuit of Virginius by the Spanish gunboat Tornado, October 30, 1873.

Spanish man-of-war Tornado chasing the American steamer Virginius nypl.digitalcollections

1873 el Virginius, pirata estadounidense, es abordado por la corbeta española Tornado

The resulting chase and one-sided battle were short, with Fry striking his flag and Virginius sailed to Santiago de Cuba under armed guard.

There, the Spanish treated the crew and the insurgents as outlaws and pirates, executing 53 against the wall at the Santiago slaughterhouse, including Fry and the teenage son of Quesada, the lurid details of which were well-publicized by the press in the states, souring the relations between Washington and Madrid and pouring the foundation for the Spanish-American War.

Moving past Virginius

As for Tornado, she continued to serve the Spanish fleet for generations.

In 1878, she and the cruiser Jorge Juan stalked the pirate ship Montezuma, a mail steamer that had been taken by mutineers and Cuban rebels who turned to privateer against the Spanish. After a pursuit that spanned the Caribbean, Tornado found the Montezuma burned in Nicaragua.

Returning to Spain in 1879, Tornado was used as a training ship taking part in several lengthy summer cruises around the Med for the next few years, including escorting King Alphonso XII. By 1886, the aging bark was disarmed and used at Cartagena as a torpedo school for the rest of the century.

Home for boys

In 1900, Tornado was moved to Barcelona and assigned a new task– that of being a floating schoolship and barracks for orphan lads whose fathers had been lost at Manila Bay, Manzanillo, San Juan, and Santiago against the Americans. Remember, while U.S. naval historian largely covers these engagements as a tactical walkover and highlights Dewey, Sampson, and Schley as heroes, they left thousands of homes back in Spain missing a father.

Museu Maritim de Barcelona: The Tornado’s orphan cadets

Tornado would remain in Barcelona, moving past the education of the sons of 1898 to taking in general orphans and those of lost mariners and fishermen. Enduring well into the Spanish Civil War, she was sent to the bottom on 28 November 1938 by an air raid from Nationalist forces. Her wreck was scrapped in 1940.

Today, the Museu Maritim de Barcelona has her name board, recovered from the harbor in 1940, on display.

Via Museu Maritim de Barcelona

She is also remembered in a variety of maritime art.

Via Museu Maritim de Barcelona

For more on the Tornado, please read, “The Capture of Tornado: The History of a Diplomatic Dispute,” by Alejandro Anca Alamillo, Warship International, Vol. 45, No. 1 (2008), pp. 65-77. Keep in mind that old issues of WI are available on JSTOR to which access is open to INRO members.

Specs:
Displacement: 2,100 tons
Length: 231 ft
Beam: 33 ft
Draft: 16 ft
Machinery: Four boilers, 328 hp steam engine, one prop
Speed: 14 knots
Range: 1,700 miles
Complement: 202 men
Armament: (Spanish 1870)
1 × 7.8 in Parrott gun
2 × 160/15 cal gun
2 × 5 in bronze gun
2 × 3″/24 cal Hontoria breechloading guns

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, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see the Elswick-built Chacabucu-class protected cruiser USS New Orleans (later CL-22) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1900s. Prominently displayed is the cruiser’s elaborate stern decoration, which looks a lot like the Brazilian national emblem, and for good reason.

As part of a general Latin American naval build-up, Brazil ordered four cruisers in 1894 from Armstrong, Whitworth & Co from a design by British naval architect Philip Watts at ₤265,000 a pop. These ships, with a 3,800-ton displacement on a 354-foot hull, were smaller than a frigate by today’s standards but in the late 19th century, with a battery of a half-dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Marks IX guns and Harvey armor that ranged between 0.75 inches on their hull to 4.5-inches on their towers, were deemed protected cruisers.

For batting away smaller vessels, they had four 4.7-inch (120mm) Armstrongs, 14 assorted 57 mm and 37mm quick-firing pieces, and three early Nordenfelt 7mm machine guns. To prove their worth in a battle line, they had three torpedo tubes and a brace of Whitehead 18-inch fish with guncotton warheads. They would be the first ships in the Brazilian fleet to have radiotelegraphs and were thoroughly modern for their time.

However, their four Vosper Thornycroft boilers and turbines, augmented by an auxiliary sailing rig, could only just make 20 knots with everything lit on a clean hull.

The lead ship of the class, laid down as Chacabucu (Elswick Yard Number 629) for the Brazilian government in March 1895, was sold to the Chileans just six months later with her name duly switched to Ministro Zenteno after a hero of the latter country. The second vessel, Almirante Barroso (Yard No. 630), was ordered in November 1894 and commissioned on 29 April 1897. Yard Nos. 631 and 676 were to be Amazonas and Almirante Abreu.

Amazonas in British waters on builder’s trials with no flags. Photo via Vickers Archives.

When things got squirrelly between the U.S. and Spain in early 1898 over Cuban independence and the lost battleship USS Maine, American purchasing agents were active in Europe both to A) expand Uncle Sam’s fleet, and B) prevent the Spaniards from doing the same.

This led to an agreement to buy from Brazil the old dynamite cruiser Nictheroy, though without her guns, and the two nearly complete cruisers outfitting on the Tyne. Lt. John C. Colwell, the naval attaché in London, personally took delivery of both British-built cruisers at Gravesend, England on 18 March, just a month after the loss of Maine and still a month before the American declaration of war.

With that, Nictheroy became USS Buffalo, Amazonas very quickly became USS New Orleans –the first time the name was carried by an active warship on the Navy List– and Almirante Abreu would eventually join the fleet as USS Albany. New Orleans, ready to go, would be sailed across the Atlantic by scratch crews from the cruiser USS San Francisco while English engineers handled the machinery, recording her Brazilian name in her logbook for the crossing.

USS New Orleans arrives off the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, after crossing the Atlantic. Note oversize commissioning pennant flying from her mainmast, and Brazilian Navy paint scheme. She had been purchased from Brazil on 16 March 1898, while still under construction in England. Sailing on her inaugural Atlantic crossing was a 15-man Marine det commanded by 1LT George Barnett, a future 12th Commandant of the Corps. NH 45114

She proved a popular subject with photographers, after all, she was a brand-new cruiser that descended seemingly from Mars himself, on the eve of the nation’s first conflict with a European power since 1815.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Docked at the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, immediately after her maiden voyage from England. The receiving ship USS Vermont is at the left. Note New Orleans’ extra-long commissioning pennant. NH 75495

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans. The photo is listed as an “8-inch gun crew” although it is a 6″/50 (15.2 cm) Mark 5 Armstrong gun. Perhaps the caption was propaganda. Note the Marine in marching order and the bosun to the left with his pipe in his pocket. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912.

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans, six-inch gun. Note the small guns in the mast. Also, the man photobombing to the right of the frame, likely the photographer (Edward H. Hart) due to his bespoke hat. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, possibly 1898.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Photographed during the Spanish-American War, 1898. Note the change in her scheme from the Brazilian pattern. NH 45115

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans (1898-1930, later PG-34, CL-22) leaving Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Spanish-American War. Photographed by Edward H. Hart, published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1898. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-DET-4A13959

Her Span Am War service was significant, shipping out of Norfolk three weeks after the declaration and meeting the Flying Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 30 May. The next day, our new cruiser, along with USS Massachusetts (Coast Battleship No.2) and USS Iowa (Coast Battleship No.4) reconnoitered the harbor, exchanging heavy fire with both Spanish ships and shore batteries.

Attack on Santiago, 31 May 1898 by USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-2), USS IOWA (BB-4), and USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) by W.B. Shearer. USN 903384

New Orleans went on to spend the rest of her war on blockade duty, shuffling between Guantanamo Bay and San Juan. On 17 July 1898, she captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues trying to sneak into the latter and sent her, under a prize crew, to Charleston, South Carolina. The steamship was owned and claimed by La Compagnie Generale Transatlantique out of Harve, which later became the subject of a lengthy court case that, in the end, left the New Orleans’s crew without prize money.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Halftone photograph, taken during the Spanish-American War and published in the book War in Cuba, 1898. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. NH 85648

Immediately after the conclusion of hostilities, she took part in the Peace Jubilee in New York, visited her namesake “hometown” in the Crescent City, then sailed for the Philippines via the Suez, arriving just before Christmas 1899, where she would remain on station for four years.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans on Asiatic Station, 1902. Shown is CPT (later RADM) Charles Stillman Sperry (USNA 1866), skipper, and his XO, LCDR James T. Smith. Note the ornate triple ship’s wheels in the background. Donation of Walter J. Krussel, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Laid up from 1905 to 1909, she recommissioned in 1910 with a new suite of American-pattern guns and headed to the Far East once again, with a gleaming new scheme worthy of TR’s Great White Fleet.

LOC LC-D4-5521

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Photographed before World War I in her white scheme. Note signalman atop the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973.NH 92171

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans, quarter-deck over the stern. Note her searchlights and torpedo-busting guns in the tower. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912

Officers, crew, and mascot of USS New Orleans at Yokohama (CL-22), Japan, 1910. Note the flat caps and cracker jacks of the sailors; fringed epauletted body coats and cocked hats of the officers; outfits that were much more 19th Century than 20th. Via the Yangtze River Patrol Association.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Flying a “Homeward Bound” pennant, circa 1912. Halftoned photo original view was courtesy of “Our Navy” magazine. NH 45118

By 1914, she was back in North American waters, spending time– along with most of the other surface assets of the fleet– in Mexican waters, patrolling that country’s Pacific coast in a haze gray scheme. This was a mission she would continue for three years, alternating with trips back up to Puget Sound where she would serve as a training vessel for the Washington State Naval Militia.

USS New Orleans CL-22. March 1916 crew photo taken during an overhaul at PSNS. Note the difference in uniforms from the China photo taken just six years prior. Via Puget Sound Navy Museum.

When the U.S. entered the Great War, she was transferred to the Atlantic, arriving at Hampton Roads on 27 August 1917. From there, she escorted a convoy carrying Doughboys and materiel to Europe. However, with plenty of ships on tap in the British Isles, the funky third-class cruiser received orders once more for the Pacific, reaching Yokohama from Honolulu on 13 March 1918.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) En route to the Asiatic Station, early in 1918, note her dark gray scheme. NH 45120

It was about this time that the Western Allies decided to intervene in the affairs of civil war-torn Russia, landing troops in Vladivostok in the Pacific as well as Archangel and Murmansk in the White/Barents Seas.

U.S. Soldiers parade in Vladivostok, Aug. 1918, a mission that would span four years and involve New Orleans for most of that. 

New Orleans would remain off and on as a station ship in Vladivostok until 17 August 1922, as the city’s population had quadrupled from 90,000 to more than 400,000 as refugees from the anti-Bolshevik White Russian forces and the Czechoslovak Legion, the latter formed from Austro-Hungarian Army POWs in Siberia, swelled the port, seeking to escape the oncoming Reds. Sheltered under the guns of American, British, French, and Japanese ships, the city remained the last large holdout from Moscow’s control, only being secured by the Red Army in October 1922 with the withdrawal of the hated “Interventionists.”

Czech Maj. Gen Radola Gajda and Captain E. B. Larimer on the deck of USS NEW ORLEANS, Vladivostok, 1919. A former Austrian and Montenegrin army field officer, Gajda helped the Russians raise the Czech legions in 1916 and would later become a high-level commander in the White Army in Siberia– even leading a coup to get rid of its overall leader, Russian Adm. Alexander Kolchak. Gajda would escape Vladivostok for Europe and briefly become the Chief of the General Staff for the Czech Army in the mid-1920s. Note his Russian cossack-style shashka saber with a knot as well as a mix of Russian, Austrian and Montenegrin medals. NH 1097.

Her last mission completed, and her tonnage held against the fleet in future naval treaties, New Orleans returned to Mare Island on 23 September, after calls en route at Yokohama and Honolulu, and was decommissioned on 16 November 1922. Stricken from the Navy List on 13 November 1929, she was sold for scrapping on 4 February 1930 to D. C. Seagraves of San Francisco, California.

As for her sisters, Chacabucu/Ministro Zenteno remained in Chilean service until 1930 and was scrapped while about the same time the Brazilian Barroso was disarmed and turned into a floating barracks, ultimately being written off sometime later, date unknown.

Zenteno and Barroso, Jane’s 1914 listing.

Albany missed the Span Am War, being commissioned in the River Tyne, England, on 29 May 1900. Sailing for the Far East from there where she would serve, alternating cruises back to Europe, until 1913 she only went to the U.S. for the first time for her mid-life refit. Recommissioned in 1914, Albany served off Mexico, gave convoy duty in WWI, and ended up with sister New Orleans briefly in Russia. With the post-war drawdown, she was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922 at Mare Island and sold for scrap in 1930.

Epilogue

Our cruiser is remembered in period maritime art.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

Her plans are in the National Archives.

A single 4.7-inch Elswick Armstrong gun from each of these English-made Brazilian cruisers in U.S. service is installed at the Kane County, Illinois Soldier and Sailor Monument at the former courthouse in Geneva, Illinois.

SECNAV has done a good job of keeping a “NO Boat” or “NOLA boat” on the Naval List for roughly 103 of the past 122 years.

The second completed USS New Orleans would also be a cruiser, CA-32, leader of her seven-hull class of 10,000-ton “Treaty Cruisers” built in the early-to-mid 1930s. The class would give very hard service in WWII, with three sunk at the horrific Battle of Savo Island. However, USS New Orleans (CA-32) was luckier, earning a remarkable 17 battlestars, going on to be laid up in 1947 and stricken/scrapped in 1959.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) In English waters, about June 1934. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. NH 71787

The third USS New Orleans was an Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, LPH-11, commissioned in 1968. After a 30-year career, she was decommissioned and later disposed of in a SINKEX in 2020.

A vertical view of the amphibious assault ship USS NEW ORLEANS (LPH-11) underway. CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck, 6/16/1988. PH2 Weideman/DNST8807549.

The fourth New Orleans is a Pascagoula-built San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, LPD-18, that has been in the fleet since 2007.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 21, 2020) A rigid-hull inflatable boat, right, transits the Philippine Sea from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). New Orleans, part of America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team is operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serves as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

Specs:

Jane’s 1914 listing for Albany and New Orleans.

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Remember The Maine! Revolver edition

From the Artifact Collection, Naval History, and Heritage Command:

NHHC 1960-45-C

One double-action Colt “New Navy” [ Model 1892 Army and Navy Colt] Revolver. The revolver shows extensive damage and loss of material due to exposure to water. The trigger guard, cylinder center pin and the muzzle, including the front sight, are all missing. The trigger and hammer spur are thin and weak as are major portions of the frame. The revolver is completely non-functional due to corrosion and loss of material. The hard rubber grips are present and in relatively good condition aside from some discoloration. The grips both carry the Colt assembly number of 310 hand engraved on the reverse side. The Colt serial numbers for the Navy Model 1895 revolvers fall in the 16XXX to 18XXX range. Based on information available from Colt, the serial numbers 16310, 17310 and 18310 were all assigned to Model 1895 revolvers manufactured in 1895. This would indicate that the grips are at least appropriate to this revolver, if not original.

The heavily corroded condition of this revolver is attributed to the approximately thirteen years it spent underwater aboard the wreck of the USS Maine (ACR-1). In 1898, an explosion caused the Maine to sink in Havana Harbor, Cuba. The ship was raised and salvaged from 1910 to 1912, at which time material was removed as souvenirs and for memorials. It is assumed that the revolver was recovered at this time as the ship was subsequently towed out to sea, scuttled and sunk.

When the USS Maine (ACR-1) was fitted out in 1895 it was provided with the latest design in small arms, including the Colt “New Navy” revolvers. Small arms were carried aboard ship primarily for the use of the US Marine detachment and the ship’s company when engaged in landing party operations. Officers, Petty Officers and personnel such as signalmen, buglers and color bearers would be armed with revolvers while part of a landing force. The Officer of the Deck and the Master at Arms would also carry a sidearm while performing their duties aboard ship.

Notably, the A-SECNAV when Maine went down, Teddy Roosevelt, resigned his post and, with the help of a few of his hard-charging (although horseless) cowboy friends, climbed San Juan Hill (actually Kettle Hill) during the resulting Span-Am War, with one of Maine’s recovered Colts in his holster, brought away to Key West by a survivor.

TR’s historic gun went missing from Saginaw Bay for 16 years and showed up at a gun “buy back” before it was recovered by the FBI. 

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