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Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C0105

Here we see the three-masted bark-rigged “kleiner geschutzter kreuzer” (small protected cruiser) SMS Geier of the Imperial German Kaiserliche Marine photographed at the beginning of her career around 1895. A well-traveled Teutonic warship named after the German word for “vulture,” she would repeatedly find herself only narrowly avoiding some of the largest naval clashes of her era.

The final installment of the six-ship Bussard-class of colonial cruisers, all of which were named after birds, Geier and her sisters (Falke, Seeadler, Condor, and Comoran) would today be classified either as corvettes or well-armed offshore patrol vessels. With an 1800~ ton displacement (which varied from ship to ship as they had at least three varying generations of subclasses), these pint-sized “cruisers” were about 275-feet long overall and could float in less than three fathoms. While most cruisers are built for speed, the Bussards could only make 15-ish knots when everything was lit. When it came to an armament, they packed eight 10.5 cm (4.1″) SK L/35 low-angle guns and a pair of cute 350mm torpedo tubes, which wasn’t that bad for policing the colonies but was hopeless in a surface action against a real cruiser.

Geier’s sister, SMS Seeadler, in a postcard-worthy setting. The six ships of the class ranged from the West Indies to Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Much more exotic duty than the typical Baltic/North Sea gigs for the High Seas Fleet

Constructed between 1888 and 1895 at four different Northern German yards, the half-dozen Bussards were a very late 19th Century design, complete with a three-masted auxiliary barquentine rig, ram bows, and a wooden-backed copper-sheathed hull. They carried a pair of early electric generators and their composite hull was separated into 10 watertight compartments. Despite the “geschutzter” designation given by the Germans, they carried no armor other than splinter shields.

The only member of the class built at Kaiserliche Werft, Wilhelmshaven, Geier was laid down in 1893 and commissioned 24 October 1895, with Kaiser Wilhelm himself visiting the ship on that day.

SMS “Geier” der kaiserlichen deutschen Marine

SMS “Geier”, Kaiser Wilhelm II. spricht zur Besatzung

SMS “Geier”, Kleiner Kreuzer; Besichtigung des Schiffes durch Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Notably, Geier was the largest and most developed of her sisters, using a slightly different gun arrangement, better engines and 18-inch torpedo tubes rather than the 14s carried by the preceding five ships of the class.

All six Bussards were subsequently deployed overseas in Willy’s far-flung colonies in Africa and the Pacific, a tasking Geier soon adopted. Setting off for the West Indies, she joined the German squadron of old ironclads and school ships that were deployed there in 1897 to protect Berlin’s interests in Venezuela and Haiti.

The next year, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (later Vizeadmiral) Hermann Jacobsen, Geier was permitted by the U.S. fleet during the Spanish-American War to pass in and out of the blockaded Spanish ports in Cuba and Puerto Rico on several occasions, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds to evacuate neutral European civilians.

The unprotected cruiser SMS Geier entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, in 1898, during the SpanAm War

However, Jacobson dutifully kept a log of ships that ran the American blockade and their cargo as well as conducted a detailed analysis of the damage done to the Spanish ships at the Battle of Santiago. These observations were later released then ultimately translated into English and published in the USNI’s Proceedings in 1899.

By 1900, Geier was operating in the Pacific and, operating with the German East Asia Squadron, was in Chinese waters in time to join the international task force bringing the Manchu Dynasty to its knees during the Boxer Rebellion. She remained in the region and observed the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, notably poking around at Chemulpo (Inchon) where the Russian protected cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz were scuttled after a sharp engagement with a superior IJN force under Baron Sotokichi.

GEIER Photographed early in her career, before her 1908-1909 refit that reduced her Barkentine Rig to Brigantine Standard. NH 88631

Returning to Germany in 1909 for repair and refit, her rigging was changed from that of a three-mast barquentine to a two-mast topsail schooner while her bridge was enlarged, and her boilers replaced.

Geier with her late-career schooner rig

Recommissioned in 1911, she was assigned to the Mediterranean where she spent the next couple years exercising gunboat diplomacy in the wake of the Moroccan Crisis while eating popcorn on the sidelines of the Italian-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, all of which involved a smattering of curious naval actions to report back to Berlin. By 1914, although she had never fired a shot in anger, our Vulture had already haunted five significant wars from Tripoli to Korea and Cuba, very much living up to her name.

To catch us up on the rest of the class, by the eve of the Great War, the Bussards was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor in 1914 were converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Meanwhile, in the German Chinese treaty port of Tsingtao (Qingdao), Cormoran was laid up with bad engines.

Speaking of which, when the lamps went out across Europe in August 1914, Geier was already en route from Dar es Salaam in German East Africa (where she had been relieved by the doomed cruiser Konigsberg) to Tsingtao to join Vizeadmiral Count Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron in the Pacific.

Once the balloon went up, she was in a precarious situation as just about any British, French, Russian or Japanese warship she encountered could have sent her quickly to the bottom. Eluding the massive Allied dragnet, which was deployed not only to capture our old cruiser but also Von Spee’s much more serious task force and the downright dangerous SMS Emden (which Geier briefly met with at sea), Geier attempted to become a commerce raider and, taking on coal from two German merchant ships, managed to capture a British freighter, SS Southport, at Kusaie in the Eastern Carolines on 4 September. After disabling Southport’s engines and leaving the British merchantman to eventually recover and report Geier’s last position, our decrepit light cruiser missed her rendezvous with Von Spee’s squadron at Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas and the good Count left her behind.

Alone, short on coal and only a day or so ahead of the Japanese battleship Hizen (former Russian Retvizan) and the armored cruiser Asama, Geier steamed into Honolulu on 17 October, having somehow survived 11 weeks on the run.

After failing to leave port within the limits set by neutral U.S. authorities, she was interned on 8 November and nominally disarmed.

Bussard Class Unprotected Cruiser SMS Geier pictured interned in Hawaii, she arrived in Honolulu on October 17th, 1914 for coaling, repairs and freshwater– and never left

Meanwhile, the Graf Spee’s East Asia Squadron had defeated the British 4th Cruiser Squadron under RADM Christopher Cradock in the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, sinking the old cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth and sending Cradock and 1,600 of his men to the bottom of the South Atlantic. A month later, Spee himself along with his two sons and all but one ship of his squadron was smashed by VADM Doveton Sturdee’s battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

Our Vulture had evaded another meeting with Poseidon.

As for Geier, her war was far from over, reportedly being used as a base for disinformation (alleging a Japanese invasion of Mexico!) and espionage (tracking Allied ship movements) for the next two years.

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

Finally, in February 1917, the events came to a head.

According to the U.S. NHHC:

German reservists and agents surreptitiously utilized the ship for their operations, and the Americans grew increasingly suspicious of their activities. Emotions ran hot during the war and the Germans violated “neutrality,” Lt. (j.g.) Albert J. Porter of the ship’s company, who penned the commemorative War Log of the USS. St. Louis (Cruiser No. 20), observed, “with characteristic Hun disregard for international law and accepted honor codes.” Geier, Korvettenkapitän Curt Graßhoff in command, lay at Pier 3, moored to interned German steamer Pomeran when a column of smoke began to rise from her stack early on the morning of 4 February 1917. The ship’s internment prohibited her from getting steam up, and the Americans suspected the Germans’ intentions.

Lt. Cmdr. Victor S. Houston, St. Louis’ commanding officer, held an urgent conference on board the cruiser at which Cmdr. Thomas C. Hart, Commander SubDiv 3, represented the Commandant. Houston ordered St. Louis to clear for action and sent a boarding party, led by Lt. Roy Le C. Stover, Lt. (j.g.) Robert A. Hall, and Chief Gunner Frank C. Wisker. The sailors disembarked at the head of the Alakea wharf and took up a position in the second story of the pier warehouse. Soldiers from nearby Schofield Barracks meanwhile arrived and deployed a battery of 3-inch field pieces, screened by a coal pile across the street from the pier, from where they could command the decks of the German ship. Smoke poured in great plumes from Geier and her crewmen’s actions persuaded the Americans that the Germans likely intended to escape from the harbor, while some of the boarding party feared that failing to sortie, the Germans might scuttle the ship with charges, and the ensuing blaze could destroy part of the waterfront.

The boarding party, therefore, split into three sections and boarded and seized Pomeran, and Hart and Stover then boarded Geier and informed Graßhoff that they intended to take possession of the cruiser and extinguish her blaze, to protect the harbor. Graßhoff vigorously protested but his “wily” efforts to delay the boarders failed and the rest of the St. Louis sailors swarmed on board. The bluejackets swiftly took stations forward, amidships, and aft, and posted sentries at all the hatches and watertight doors, blocking any of the Germans from passing. Graßhoff surrendered and the Americans rounded-up his unresisting men. 1st Lt. Randolph T. Zane, USMC, arrived with a detachment of marines, and they led the prisoners under guard to Schofield Barracks for internment.

Her crew headed off to Schofield Barracks for the rest of the war, some of the first German POWs in the U.S. (Hawaii State Archives)

Wisker took some men below to the magazines, where they found shrapnel fuzes scattered about, ammunition hoists dismantled, and floodcocks battered into uselessness. The Germans also cunningly hid their wrenches and spans in the hope of forestalling the Americans’ repairs. Stover in the meantime hastened with a third section and they discovered a fire of wood and oil-soaked waste under a dry boiler. The blaze had spread to the deck above and the woodwork of the fire room also caught by the heat thrown off by the “incandescent” boiler, and the woodwork of the magazine bulkheads had begun to catch. The boarders could not douse the flames with water because of the likelihood of exploding the dry boiler, but they led out lines from the bow and stern of the burning ship and skillfully warped her across the slip to the east side of Pier 4. The Honolulu Fire Department rushed chemical engines to the scene, and the firemen and sailors worked furiously cutting holes thru the decks to facilitate dousing the flames with their chemicals. The Americans extinguished the blaze by 5:00 p.m., and then a detachment from SubDiv 3, led by Lt. (j.g.) Norman L. Kirk, who commanded K-3 (Submarine No. 34), relieved the exhausted men.

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

The Germans all but wrecked Geier and their “wanton work” further damaged the engines, steam lines, oil lines, auxiliaries, navigation instruments, and even the wardroom, which Porter described as a “shambles.”

As such, she was the only German Imperial Navy warship captured by the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Coupled with the more than 590,000 tons of German merchant ships seized in U.S. ports April 1917, Geier was reconditioned for American service and eventually commissioned as USS Schurz, a name used in honor of German radical Carl Schurz who fled Prussia in 1849 after the failed revolution there. Schurz had, in turn, joined the Union Army during the Civil War and commanded a division of largely German-speaking immigrants in the XI Corps at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga, rising to the rank of major general.

[Of XI Corps’s 27 infantry regiments, at least 13 were “Dutch” (German) regiments with many German-born/speaking commanders prevalent. Besides Schurz, brigades and divisions of the XI Corps were led by men such as Col. Ludwig Blenker and Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, formerly officers of the Royal Armies Bavaria and the Duchy of Brunswick, respectively.]

Postwar, Schurz was a senator from Missouri, where a large German population had settled, and later served as Interior Secretary in the Hayes Administration.

Don’t let his bookish looks fool you, although Schurz was a journalist who served as editor of the New York Evening Post, he also fought in the German revolution and saw the elephant several times in the Civil War.

Under the command of LCDR Arthur Crenshaw, the new USS Schurz joined the fleet in September 1917 and served as an escort on the East Coast. Her German armament landed; she was equipped with four 5-inch mounts in U.S. service.

USS Schurz off the foot of Market Street, San Diego, California, in November-December 1917. Note the U.S. colors. Courtesy of the San Diego Maritime Museum, 1983 Catalog #: NH 94909

While on a convoy from New York for Key West, Fla., on 0444 on 21 June 1918, she collided with the merchant ship SS Florida southwest of Cape Lookout lightship, North Carolina, about 130 miles east of Wilmington.

As noted by the NHHC, “The collision crumpled the starboard bridge wing, slicing into the well and berth deck nearly 12 feet, and cutting through bunker no. 3 to the forward fire room.” One of Schurz’s crewmen was killed instantly, and 12 others injured. The 216 survivors abandoned ship and Schurz sank about three hours later in 110-feet of water.

A later naval board laid the blame for the collision on Florida, as the steamer was running at full steam in the predawn darkness in the thick fog without any lights or horns and had failed to keep a proper distance.

USS Schurz was stricken from the Navy list on 26 August 1918, and her name has not been reissued. The Kaiserliche Marine confusingly recycled the name “Geier” for an auxiliary cruiser (the former British merchant vessel Saint Theodore, captured by the commerce raider SMS Möwe) as well as an armed trawler during the war even while the original ship was interned in Hawaii with a German crew pulling shenanigans.

Of SMS Geier‘s remaining sisters in German service, Seeadler was destroyed by an accidental explosion on the Jade in April 1917 and never raised, Cormoran had been scuttled in Tsingtao and captured by the Japanese who scrapped her, and Condor was broken up in 1921.

Today, while she has been extensively looted of artifacts over the years the wreck of the Schurz is currently protected as part of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and she is a popular dive site.

NOAA divers swim over the stern of the USS Schurz shipwreck. Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

East Carolina University conducted an extensive survey of her wreckage in 2000 and found her remarkably intact, with her boilers in place as well as brass fasteners and copper hull sheathing with nails still attached.

Specs:

Displacement, full: 1918 tons
Length: 275 ft oal, 261 wl
Beam: 34 ft. 10.6
Draft: 15 feet 4.74 mean 5.22 deep load
Machinery: 2 HTE, 4 cylindrical boilers, 2880 hp, 2 shafts
Coal: 320 tons
Speed: 15.5-knots max
Range: 3610nm at 9kts
Complement: 9 officers, 152 men (German) 197 to 217 (US)
Armor: None
Armament
(1895)
8 x 1 – 4.1″/32cal SK L/35 single mounts
5 x 1-pdr (37mm) revolving cannon (removed in 1909)
2 x 1 – 450mm TT with 5 18-inch torpedoes in magazine
(1917)
4 x 5″/51cal U.S. mounts

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.

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Filed Under: Other Navy Ships Named for Coasties

With the news earlier this month that SECNAV will be naming one of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers after the late (great) Capt. Quentin Walsh, USCG, I’ve seen several news sources– both mainstream and in the military blogosphere— say this is the first occasion that the U.S. Navy has named a warship after a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Simply not true.

To the best of my knowledge, there are at least three other occasions (and likely more that I can’t think of) that have predated them.

1. USS Newcomb (DD-586), a Fletcher-class destroyer is named for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb of the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard’s predecessor. After Civil War service in the Navy, Newcomb was commissioned as an officer in the USRCS and in 1898 while in command of the plucky little USRC Hudson, came to the assistance of the crippled torpedo boat USS Winslow during the Battle of Cárdenas in the war with Spain.

Cutter HUDSON rescues the USS Winslow from Spanish land batteries off Cardenas Bay, Cuba

He was given a special Congressional Gold Medal for his part in the Spanish–American War– the only one issued by Congress for the conflict. USS Newcomb only made it to the Pacific in 1944, but received 8 battle stars for World War II service, having been present from Saipan to Okinawa. At the former, she sank Japanese submarine I-185, and on 4 July 1944 “her well-directed fire broke up a Japanese banzai attack north of Garapan.”

2. Canadian-born S1C Douglas Albert Munro, USCGR, was 22 when he gave his last full measure at the Second Battle of the Matanikau on Guadalcanal in September 1942 when he was placed in charge of the extrication of a force of the 7th Marines that had been overrun by the Japanese. He was killed while using the boat he was piloting to shield a landing craft filled with Marines from Japanese fire and received the MOH for his “extraordinary heroism,” endorsed by Halsey himself. His dying words before he slumped into the great beyond were, “Did they get off?”

Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal by Bernard D’Andrea.

The Butler-class destroyer escort USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422) was named in his honor in 1944, serving in both WWII and the Korean War. Further, the Coast Guard has named two large sea-going cutters after Munro, who is the service’s only MOH recipient.

3. DDG-133 was named earlier this year for former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. Of course, the fact that he served as the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995 likely had more to do with that than his time in the Coast Guard (1959-60) and USCGR (1960-68), but nonetheless, it was mentioned in the calculus of the decision by SECNAV for bestowing his name to a $1 Billion+ cruiser-sized destroyer.

190506-N-DM308-001 WASHINGTON (May 6, 2019) An artist rendering of the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sam Nunn (DDG 133). (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released)

Honorable mention:

Then, of course, there is the case of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who as Secretary of the Treasury founded the Revenue Marine (the Coast Guard’s ancestor) in 1790. While the Revenue Cutter Service/USCG has named at least four ocean-going cutters after the storied Revolutionary War hero and service founder– one of which was lost to a U-boat in WWII– the Navy has also counted a warship with the same name on the Navy List: the ballistic missile submarine USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617), from 1963 to 1993.

Any others that you know of? Please share with me so we all do!

The Terror of Castillo San Felipe

Osprey’s June offerings, to include US Navy Battleships 1886–98: The pre-dreadnoughts and monitors that fought the Spanish-American War by Paul Wright, looks on point when it comes to maritime art.

From the book, highlighting the monitor USS Terror:

Sampson’s North Atlantic Squadron arrived off San Juan, Puerto Rico, the morning of May 12, 1898, and opened fire at 0516hrs. Captain Nicoll Ludlow’s monitor USS Terror (BM-4) is seen close to shore, shelling the San Juan fortification of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and coming under return fire from Spanish coastal artillery. Wind and seas were high, causing ships to roll and hurting US gunnery. Dense white smoke so obscured targeting that Sampson eventually ordered: “use large guns only.” Terror, fifth in the US column, unleashed 31 10in/30-caliber rounds in three passes, including one that scored a “most vicious” direct hit on a Spanish artillery battery. Terror retired at 0815hrs, having suffered no casualties. Sampson’s squadron had lost a total of two killed and three wounded. Spanish casualties came to seven killed and 52 wounded, including civilians.

A “Great Repair” (wink wink) of the 1863-vintage Miantonomoh-class monitor USS Agamenticus, the 263-foot-long Terror was constructed slowly over a 22-year period by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia/ New York Navy Yard. Carrying a pair of 10″/30cal Mark 1 Mod 1s, Terror had only been placed in full commission in 1896. She was not very successful, as her engineering suite broke down extensively, was good for 12 knots when wide open and working correctly, and a low freeboard shipped water over the deck in any sea state.

Terror‘s SpanAm War duty was to be the highlight of her active career and, hopelessly obsolete the monitor was decommissioned and placed in ordinary on 25 February 1899. A spell as a training ship at Annapolis later gave her a modicum of post-war work. She ended her career as a test hulk at Indian Head and was (believed) scrapped sometime in the 1930s.

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2019: The good doctor’s fine ‘Frida

NH 73392

Here we see the fourth-rate scout patrol vessel USS Elfrida at the New York Navy Yard, circa 1899, just after the Spanish-American War. A steel schooner with fine lines, she looks like a gentleman’s yacht that would be more at home on Lake Champlain if it was not for her mix of 3-pdr and 1-pdr deck guns.

Speaking of which…

Prior to the dustup with the decaying Spanish Empire, Elfrida was the personal pride of one Dr. William Seward Webb, founder of Shelburne Farms and President of the Wagner Palace Car Company of New York (that latter of which later became Pullman).

This guy:

Webb came from the best family.

His father, a Whig, held the rank of general (as did his grandfather) and was minister to Austria, Brazil and other points of interest– importantly brokering a deal with Napoleon III to get French troops out of Mexico. Webb’s older brother was the likewise meticulously groomed and well-dressed Union Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Webb, who famously earned the MOH at Gettysburg at the head of the Philadelphia Brigade on Cemetery Ridge.

When your brother has a monument at Gettysburg, your dad got the French out of Mexico, and your granddad picked up a star from Washington himself, you may come from an illustrious family.

Studying medicine in Europe, the younger Webb acquired a love of Mozart and Schutzen target rifle shooting, both of which he brought back to the U.S., usinb the latter as “Inspector General of Rifle Practice” for the Vermont militia with the state rank of colonel.

Built at a cost of $100,000 by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company Wilmington, Delaware (the same firm built yachts for customers such as Charles Morgan, William Astor, and W. K. Vanderbilt) Elfrida was launched at the yard on 13 April 1889.

She was reportedly the “first steam yacht ever built with both a detachable stern and bow” so that Webb could use her on to pass through the narrow canals to Lake Champlain. She went just 117-feet long overall, closer to 102 at the waterline.

Finished in paneled red mahogany, “Colonel” Webb’s double stateroom was aft and three others were set aside for guests– each with its own lavatory. The crew had another trio of staterooms forward but had to share a head.

Electrically lit and steam-heated, the very modern schooner carried telegraph for use when close to line and used a triple expansion engine as an “iron mainsail” complete with a steam plant consisting of a compact Hazelton vertical water tube boiler that generated 160 pounds of steam. Her speed was about 10ish knots.

Photograph of the Webb family steam yacht Elfrida, with the crew, docked at Steam Yacht Elfrida at Quaker Smith Point at Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain. Julie Edwards (Shelburne Farm’s archivist) writes on 06-03-2008 that the image ( depicts Elfrida I, the darker hulled vessel and the image would date c. 1888-1898. UVM photo SF1026

A favorite of the Lake Champlain Yacht Club (which still exists today) Elfrida was the commodore’s ship for the regatta off Plattsburg, New York in August 1897 attended by no less a personage as President William McKinley along with Vice President Garret Hobart in tow.

Webb also apparently packed a fairly loud “yacht gun,” as one did, to celebrate during “the season.”

When the “Splendid little war” came just the very next summer, Webb did his personal duty and sold Elfrida on 18 June 1898 to the Navy for the relatively paltry sum of $50,000. Refitted at New York Navy Yard with a single 3-pounder 47mm gun and a pair of 1-pounder 37mm pieces, she was commissioned less than two weeks later, on 30 June, and immediately put to service on coastal patrols between New York and New London.

As the war was short and the Spanish never made it up to the Northeast, she was placed out of commission 14 September 1898, service in her first war complete.

DANFS says she was used by the Naval Militia in Connecticut and New Jersey to train seagoing militiamen from 1899 to 1908 in the days prior to the establishment of the Navy Reserve. Typical summer cruises would range a week or two and often proved eventful, with the New York Times reporting one such 1903 voyage encountering a “frightful” storm at sea.

In 1908, our 20-year-old armed patrol yacht was decommissioned and her powerplant swapped out for a new 200ihp engine powered by two boilers with an increased speed of 14 knots.

By 20 August 1909, along with the old torpedo boat USS Foote (TB-3), Elfrida was assigned to the North Carolina Naval Militia, a force she belonged to as a drill and school ship until the U.S. entered the Great War in April 1917. While there, her armament was upgraded to a single 6-pounder 57mm rapid-fire mount.

USS ELFRIDA at New Bern NC circa 1909-13 as North Carolina naval militia ship. Postcard via Valentine Souvenir Co. NH 94934

North Carolina Naval Militia, Elizabeth City Detachment, 1907. BM2 Leonard K. Rutter, standing on the far left, back row, has his uniform preserved at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

In 1914, the 32 ships allocated to the 19 various Naval Militias were diverse and somewhat motley. These ranged from the old cruiser USS Boston (3,000 tons, 2×8 inch, Oregon Naval Militia) and the shallow draft monitor USS Cheyenne (3,255 tons, 2×12 inch, Washington Naval Militia) to the downright puny yacht USS Huntress (82 tons, 2×3 pdrs, Missouri NM) and everything in between. Notably, several of the ships were on the Great Lakes training reservists in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. Like Elfrida, most had a SpanAm War pedigree.

When Congress declared war on the Kaiser in April 1917, the remobilized Elfrida (SP-988) returned to the active fleet and resumed her 1898 mission of coastal patrol, rated, along with the old 100-ton ex-Spanish Navy gunboat USS Sandoval as, “suitable for harbor defense only.”

On 25 August 1917, she suffered an explosion while making the passage from Norfolk to Yorktown, Virginia, killing one and injuring two others. This likely limited her wartime career and, after a stint assigned to the 5th Naval District to patrol to take charge of a fleet of motorboats tending the submarine nets at York River Upper Barrier, she was demobilized at the end of 1917. Before the war was even out, she was decommissioned 31 March 1918 and sold 11 May 1918.

Her final fate is unknown.

As for the esteemed Dr. Webb, he passed in 1926, aged 75, but his model farm at Shelburne, Vermont, where Elfrida was often docked, is today a National Landmark non-profit institute that does research into sustainable farming techniques.

Elfrida‘s plans and those of 207 other Holling & Hollingsworth built vessels, are in the collection of the Mariners’ Museum Library in Newport News.

Specs:

Her 1914 Jane’s entry, under North Carolina’s Naval Militia

Displacement: 164 to 173 tons
Length (between perps) 101′ 6″
Length (on deck) 117′ 0″
Beam molded 18′ 0″
Depth at side 12′ 6″
Draft: 7′ 9″
Machinery (As built)
Engine triple expansion engine 10½”xl6″x24″/ 16″ 200hp, Hazelton boiler
Dia. of wheel 6′ 4″
Pitch 8′ 6″
Coal: 12 tons, as built (listed as 23 max in Navy service)
Speed: 10.5 knots as built, 14 knots after 1909.
Crew: Unk in civilian service, likely 20-25 in Naval service.
Armor: None
Armament:
(1898)
1 x 47mm 3-pounder
2 x 37mm 1-pounders
*Note, Jane‘s listed this as standard through her career
(1911)
1 x 57mm 6-pounder

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.

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Warship Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019: Nimitz’s first Ranger, or, the wandering ghost of the Nantucket coast

Collection of Francis Holmes Hallett via NHHC NH 93484

Here we see “Sunset on the Pacific,” a colored postcard circulated around 1910 showing the Alert-class gunboat USS Ranger (PG-23) at anchor looking West. The bark-rigged iron-hulled steamer would have an exceptionally long life that would see her serve multiple generations of bluejackets of all stripes.

One of the narrow few new naval ships built after the Civil War, the three-ship class was constructed with funding authorized by the 42nd Congress and listed at the time as being a Sloop of War. Powered by both sail and steam, they were 175 feet long, displaced 541 tons and were designed to carry up to a half-dozen era 9-inch guns split between broadsides. The trio were the last iron warships to be built for the U.S. Navy, with follow-on designs moving to steel.

While under construction, the armament scheme was converted to a single 11-inch smoothbore Dahlgren rifle, two 9-inch Dahlgrens, one 60-pounder Parrott, a single 12-pounder “boat” howitzer that weighed only 300-pounds in its carriage, and one Gatling gun– the latter two of which could be sent ashore by a naval landing party to conduct business with the locals as needed. Speaking of which, she could afford to send her small Marine detachment as well as up to 40 rifle-armed sailors away as needed to make friends and influence people.

Alert, Huron, and Ranger were all completed at the same time, with the middle ship lost tragically on her first overseas deployment off the coast of North Carolina 24 November 1877 near Nag’s Head.

Ranger was constructed at Harlan & Hollingsworth, and, commissioned 27 November 1876, was the 4th such vessel to carry the name.

The preceding two Rangers saw service in the War of 1812 while the original was the 18-gun ship sloop built in 1777 and commanded by no less a figure than John Paul Jones for the Continental Navy. Famously, on 14 February 1778, that inaugural Ranger received a salute to the new American flag given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay.

Poster calling for volunteers for the crew of USS RANGER, Captain John Paul Jones, then fitting at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for her cruise into European waters. It quotes the resolution of Congress of 29 March 1777 establishing pay advances for newly recruited seamen. Description: Courtesy of Essex Institute Salem, Mass., owners of the original poster. NH 52162

Once our new, 4th, Ranger was commissioned, she was assigned to the Atlantic Station briefly before setting sail for the Far East where she would join the Asiatic Station, leaving New York for the three-month voyage to Hong Kong on 21 May 1877 via the Suez.

USS RANGER photographed before 1896. From Bennett, “Steam Navy of the U.S.” NH 44604

The crew of USS RANGER. Historical Collection, Union Title Insurance Company, San Diego NH 108286

Returning to the states in 1880, she was converted for survey work at Mare Island and spent the two decades slow-poking from Central America to the Northern Pacific and back while engaged in hydrographic duties. A ready ship in an area where no other U.S. flags were on the horizon during that period, she often waved the Stars and Stripes as needed in backwater Latin American ports while alternating between getting muscular with trespassers in the Bearing Strait and Alaskan waters.

While laid up between 1895 and 1899, the 20-year-old gunboat was modernized and landed her Civil War-era black powder shell guns and Gatling for a much more up-to-date battery of six 4-inch breechloaders and an M1895 Colt “potato-digger” machine gun.

USS RANGER, now with a gleaming white hull, photographed after she received 6 4-inch breech-loading rifles in 1897. After this refit, she could be distinguished from her sister ALERT by her funnel casin NH 44605

USS RANGER off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1898, with her cutters in the water. NH 71743

USS Ranger Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, circa 1900. CDR Wells L. Field was her skipper at the time. The original print is color tinted, lightly. NH 73386

By 1905, with the Russians and Japanese getting all rowdy in the Yellow Sea and adjacent areas– with resulting battered Russian ships increasingly hiding out in the U.S.-controlled Philippines– Ranger received a refit at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and set sail for Cavite for her second stint on the Asiatic Station. However, a cranky propulsion plant kept her largely in ordinary until she was sent back to the U.S. in 1908, arriving in Boston on 12 December via the Suez Canal. She was decommissioned the same day and laid up in Charlestown.

With a perfectly good 30-year-old three-master in the harbor and little regular work she could accomplish, the Navy turned Ranger over to the state of Massachusetts for use as the pier side training ship for the Massachusetts Nautical Training School in Boston on 26 April 1909, a role she would maintain until the Great War.

When the U.S. entered the international beef with the Kaiser in April 1917, Uncle eventually remembered he had the ole Ranger on the Navy List and called her back to active service as a gunboat along the New England coast, renaming her USS Rockport in October. This changed again just four months later to USS Nantucket.

USS Nantucket (PG-23, ex-Ranger) anchored off Naval Air Station Anacostia, District of Columbia, on 7 July 1920. Note her wind sail ventilators. 80-G-424466

In July 1921, she was reclassified from a gunboat to an auxiliary with the hull number IX-18 and loaned back to the Massachusetts Nautical School. Over the next 19 years, she became a regular fixture around Boston and the waters up and down the Eastern seaboard.

USS NANTUCKET (PG-23) then loaned to the State of Massachusetts for use at Massachusetts Nautical School, 1933 Description: Courtesy of Mr. Gershone Bradford Catalog #: NH 500

Leslie Jones the renowned photographer with the Boston Herald-Traveler, must have been taken with the Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket during his tenure with the paper and he captured her on dozens of occasions in the 1920s and 30s.

USS Ranger, later USS Rockport and USS Nantucket (PG-23 IX-18), was a gunboat of the United States Navy seen at Charleston Navy Yard. Photo by Leslie Jones Boston Public Library

Training ship Nantucket with the wind in her sails. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1923, firing a salute. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket leaving Boston Harbor for a cruise around the world 1923-05-17 Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Mass. nautical training ship Nantucket preparing for around the world trip at Charlestown Navy Yard 4.29.1928. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Secretary of the Navy Curtis Dwight Wilbur aboard training ship Nantucket in the late 1920s. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket 1928 at berth at North End waterfront note battleship in the background. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets hauling line on the deck of the training ship Nantucket off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Bow view of the training ship Nantucket in drydock at Navy Yard. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket: landing force drill with bayonets. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Provincetown Harbor Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket in Charlestown Navy Yard 1930. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Sailors in the rigging of the training ship Nantucket at the Navy Yard, Jan 1931. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

USS Nantucket, Mass. Training ship, at Navy Yard Jan 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Training ship Nantucket being reconditioned from a barkentine to a bark at Charlestown Navy Yard April 1932. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

Cadets working with sextants on the deck of the training ship Nantucket while off Provincetown. Boston Public Library Leslie Jones Collection

When the clouds of war came again in 1940, Nantucket was taken back over by the Maritime Commission on 11 November 1940 for as a school ship at the new Merchant Marine Academy established at Kings Point, NY, after which her name was removed from the Navy Register for good.

Renamed T/V Emery Rice in 1942, the high-mileage bark gave all she could until she was damaged by the unnamed hurricane of September 1944, and after that was relegated to use as a floating museum ship.

At age 82, Ranger/Rockport/Nantucket/Rice was stripped and sold for scrap in 1958 to the Boston Metals Co. of Baltimore.

During her time in the Navy, she had nearly a dozen commanders (four of which would go on to wear stars) in addition to training legions of sailors and young officers for maritime service for two different schools. One of the most significant to do his time on the old girl was none other than later Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, who served on the ship as a newly-minted ensign from 12 August to 12 December 1908, on her trip home from the PI to Boston, before young Chester began instruction in the budding First Submarine Flotilla.

Besides her records maintained in the National Archives Ranger‘s original engine — the only example of its type known to be still in existence—was saved from destruction and is on display at the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point as a national landmark.

As noted by the As noted by the AMSE

The horizontal compound engine of the Emery Rice is a unique survivor typical of the period 1840 to 1880. The 61-ton back-acting engine has an unconventional configuration in that its two cranks lie close to their cylinders and two off-center piston rods straddle the crank-shaft in a cramped, but efficient, arrangement.

The cylinder bores are 28.5 and 42.5 inches. The stroke is 42 inches. With saturated steam at 80 pounds per square inch gauge and a condenser having 26-inch mercury vacuum, 560 indicated horsepower were produced at 64 revolutions per minute. The engine was designed by the bureau of steam engineering of the U.S. Navy and built by John Roach & Sons of Chester, Pennsylvania, for the U.S.S. Ranger, as the iron-hulled ship was first known.

Dr. Joshua M. Smith, Ph.D., director of the museum, kindly provided the below for use with this post.

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Photo: American Merchant Marine Museum

Interestingly, two subsequent USS Rangers, coastal escorts SP-237 and SP-369, would be in service at the same time during the Great War–while our Ranger was serving as Rockport/Nantucket! The next Ranger was one of the ill-fated Lexington-class battlecruisers and never made it to commission. Finally, her name was recycled for not one but two famous aircraft carriers, CV-4 (1934-47) and CV-61 (1957-2004), the latter of which was only scrapped in 2017. Hopefully, there will be another soon.

As for her sisters, 60 sailors from the wreck of the Huron are buried together in Section Five of the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in well cared for lots while the ship herself is protected by federal mandate in her watery grave. A highway marker near Nag’s Head mentions her loss.

Alert continued to serve in the Navy as a submarine tender until she was decommissioned 9 March 1922 after a very respectable 47 years of service. She was sold three months later for scrap and I can find no trace of her today. During her time in service, Alert had 23 official captains, including future RADM. William Thomas Sampson, known for his later victory in the Battle of Santiago. Our subject outlived her by more than three decades.

As for King’s Point, the institution is still in cranking out USMM officers today and Ranger‘s original school, the Massachusetts Nautical School, is now the Massachusetts Maritime Massachusetts Maritime Academy located in Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod– Ranger‘s old stomping ground.

Specs:
Displacement: 1,202 long tons
Length: 175 ft. (53 m)
Beam: 32 ft. (9.8 m)
Depth of hold: 15 ft. (4.6 m)
Draft: 13 ft. (mean)
Installed power: Five boilers driving 1 × 560 ihp, 64 rpm compound back-acting steam engine
Propulsion: 1 × 12 ft. diameter × 17.5 ft. pitch propeller, auxiliary sails
Speed: 10 knots under steam
Complement: 138 officers and enlisted (typically including a 15 man Marine detachment until 1898).
Armament:
(1875)
1x 11 in (280 mm) Dahlgren gun
2 x 9 in (230 mm) Dahlgren guns
1x 60 pdr (27 kg) Parrott rifle
1x 12 pdr (5.4 kg) boat howitzer
1x Gatling gun for landing party
spar torpedoes for her steam launch (provision deleted after 1889)
(1897)
6x 4-inch breech-loading rifles
4x 6-pounder 57mm guns
1x Colt M1895 potato-digger type machine guns for landing party
(1921)
4x 4″/50 mounts

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The Buffalos

Organized on 11 January 1812, wiped out at the Raisin River Massacre, and reconstituted in 1861 to join the Army of the Potomac, the 17th Infantry Regiment was in the forefront of the Civil War, proving key at Fredericksburg. Post-bellum, they remained on the Army’s rolls and, after the Indian campaigns, fought in the Spanish-American War, during which nine men of its C and D companies earned the Medal of Honor at El Caney, Cuba in 1898.

In between WWI/WWII (Presidential Unit Citation for Leyte), Vietnam, and Korean service, the 17th chased Villa in Mexico and was involved in the Philippine Insurrection, fighting at Malolos, San Isidro, Tarlac, and Mindanao between 1899-1900.

The regulars of the 17th Infantry head for action in the Philippine Islands, 1899-1900. Note the Krag rifles and Mills belts (National Archives Identifier 533179)

The regiment’s 4th Battalion is currently part of the 1st Armored Division, where they serve as a mechanized infantry unit. Their nickname is “The Buffalos” after Lt.Gen. William Wilson “Buffalo Bill” Quinn, who commanded the regiment at Inchon and remained their Honorary Colonel for over 40 years after. Their regimental association is here.

Warship Wednesday, Sept, 12, 2018: Of Chucktown, Apra and Camiguin

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018: Of Chucktown, Agana and Camiguin

NH 88407 Photographed by A.J. McDonald

Here we see the U.S. Navy’s one-of-a-kind protected cruiser USS Charleston (C-2) in San Francisco Bay, circa early 1890.

Protected cruisers, generally what would be termed in WWII as light cruisers, were a class all to their own in the late 19th Century and the U.S. Navy was just getting into the business. The first three steel cruisers for the USN– Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago— the so-called “ABC” cruisers, were all ordered in the early 1880s as the country was shaking off the slumber of the Civil War and the Navy’s “Great Repairs” period.

To see what was going on in Europe, a fourth cruiser was to be built to plans purchased from Armstrong in Britain, similar to the Armstrong-built Japanese cruiser Naniwa, which launched in 1885. Some 3,800-tons, she was to be constructed on the West Coast at Union Iron Works in San Francisco.

Just 320-feet long, she was smaller than a frigate of today but had a complicated steam plant of six fire-tube boilers and two engines that allowed a speed of some 19-knots, which was fast-ish for the 1880s. Protected (see where the designation comes from?) by 2-3 inches of steel plate armor, she carried a pair of breechloading 8″/35 guns (one aft and one forward), as well as a half-dozen 6″/30s and a dozen smaller 1-, 3-, and 6-pounder guns. She also had four above-water torpedo tubes.

The crew of Charleston’s after 8″ Gun exercising, circa 1890-93. The 8″/35 was used on the Indiana (B-1), Iowa (B-4) and Kearsarge (B-5) class battleships, as well as the cruisers New York (ACR-2), Brooklyn (ACR-3), Baltimore (C-3) and Olympia (C-6) classes. NH 73390

Compare the above to this image of dapper officers of Japanese protected cruiser Naniwa, Charleston’s half-sister, posing near one of that ship’s two 10-inch (25.4 cm) main guns, 1885.

Charleston further carried some Gatlings and landing guns as she could put her 30-man Marine detachment and as many as 100 of her sailors ashore to act as light infantry.

Ship’s marine guard at the American Legation, Seoul, Korea, during the Sino-Japanese War, Winter of 1894-95. First Lieutenant B. S. Neuman, USMC, in command. Officers on the left of the line, from L. to R.: Naval Cadet W. S. Crosley; Naval Cadet W. G. Powell; Assistant Surgeon R. G. Brodrick; Pay Clerk K. J. Griffin. NH 55561

Confusingly, what was to be the first numbered cruiser USS Newark (C-1), actually was ordered after Charleston, from William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, in 1888. Cramp was also building the cruiser Baltimore (C-3) at the same time to plans purchased from Armstrong, to make things even more confusing. Anyway, back to our ship.

Charleston In drydock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1889, when nearly completed. Note her bow scroll. NH 89724

Only the second U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, the first being a short-lived galley that commissioned in 1798, Charleston commissioned 26 December 1889, CAPT G. C. Remey in command and, after working out some bugs with her engineering plant, sailed for the Far East to become the flag of the Pacific Squadron.

Another view of that big forward 8″ gun. NH 55081

NH 55082 Photographed about 1890.

According to DANFS, She carried the remains of the “Merrie Monarch,” King Kalakaua of Hawaii to Honolulu after his death abroad, and between 8 May and 4 June 1891, took part in the search for the Chilean steamer Itata which had fled San Diego in violation of the American neutrality laws, enforced strictly during the Chilean Revolution.

In 1893 she was back on the East Coast as part of the International Naval Review conducted at New York City 26 April 1893 during the Columbian Exposition before heading to Latin American waters to provide gunboat diplomacy amidst the Brazilian Revolution.

That national ensign, tho

Charleston seemed a popular ship and had good duty, traveling the world from Singapore to Halifax and back several times. The below images show her off Brazil, where she was part of the international force there.

Three-legged race on board Charleston during Thanksgiving Day celebrations at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 1893. Participants include British and German sailors. The onlookers appear to be of mixed nationalities, as well. Courtesy of Captain Henry F. Picking, 24 December 1893. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52452

Men running an obstacle race, during Thanksgiving Day celebrations on board Charleston at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 1893. Assistant Engineer Louis M. Nulton, whose name appears in the lower right of this image, was an officer of the ship at this time. Courtesy of Captain Henry F. Picking, 24 December 1893. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 52451

USS Charleston Thanksgiving Day celebrations on board in November 1893, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. NH 52449

By 1896, already growing increasingly obsolete and in need of an overhaul, she was placed in ordinary in San Francisco.

NH 71753 In dry-dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Work is progressing under electric lights 1896

When war with Spain reared in 1898, she was called out of extended repair and, with the captain of the Mare Island yard, Henry Glass, assigned as her skipper.

Group photo of USS Charleston’s officers at Mare Island in 1898. Glass in the center. Note the collection of lieutenants in their 30s and 40s along with a sole warrant officer in the back row.

Just two weeks later, she sailed for Honolulu where the cruiser met three steamers, City of Peking, the City of Sydney, and the Australia, packed with Marines and U.S. Volunteers headed to the Philipines.

Leaving Honolulu on 4 June, Glass, a 54-year old Union Navy vet who ironically saw hard service on the steam sloop Canandaigua blockading the port of Charleston during the Civil War, opened sealed orders from SECNAV John Davis Long:

Sir: Upon the receipt of this order, which is forwarded by the steamship City of Pekin to you at Honolulu, you will proceed, with the Charleston and the City of Pekin in company, to Manila, Philippine Islands. On your way, you are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam. You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the governor and other officials and any armed force that may be there. You will destroy any fortifications on said island and any Spanish naval vessels that may be there, or in the immediate vicinity. These operations at the Island of Guam should be very brief, and should not occupy more than one or two days. Should you find any coal at the Island of Guam, you will make such use of it as you consider desirable. It is left to your discretion whether or not you destroy it. From the Island of Guam, proceed to Manila and report to Rear-Admiral George Dewey, U.S.N., for duty in the squadron under his command.

Just over two weeks later, Charleston and her convoy sailed to Guam and “sailed boldly into the harbor, firing a challenge at Fort Santa Cruz. Almost at once, a boatload of Spanish authorities came out to apologize for having no gunpowder with which to return the supposed salute. They were astounded to learn that a state of war existed and that the American ships had come to take the island. The next day the surrender was received by a landing party sent ashore from Charleston. With the Spanish governor and the island’s garrison of 59 as prisoners in one of the transports, Charleston then sailed to join Admiral Dewey’s fleet in Manila Bay.”

More on the seizure here, if curious.

When the American and Spanish negotiators finally signed the Treaty of Paris on 10 December, one of its provisions gave possession and control of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the United States. Likewise, CDR (later RADM) Edward D. Taussig of the gunboat USS Bennington took formal possession of Wake Island for the United States with the raising of the flag and a 21-gun salute on January 17, 1899. The only witnesses aside from her crew were seabirds. The ship arrived at Guam at the end of the month and on 1 February the US colors were raised by Taussig at the Government House there. Taussig reportedly found the abandoned Spanish positions, masonry works constructed c.1800 and armed with four or five black powder guns, in poor shape.

Back to Charleston.

Arriving at Manila on 30 June 1898, she was too late to take part in Dewey’s epic naval skirmish that left the Spanish fleet at the bottom of the harbor but did take place in the naval blockade that followed and provided naval gunfire support against first the retiring Spanish Army and then the local insurgents.

NH 55084 At Manila, Philippines, in 1898. She had convoyed the first U.S. troops to Manila in May-June of that year, capturing Guam while en route.

A recently scanned photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C-2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War, likely working up on the way to Hawaii. Note the cutlasses and flat caps. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command/Released)

Ending a short naval career, she proved another first for the Navy when she became the first steel-hulled ship lost by the service after she grounded on an uncharted reef near Camiguin Island, north of Luzon on 2 November.

Wrecked beyond salvage, she was abandoned by her crew, who made camp on a nearby island, later moving on to Camiguin while the ship’s sailing launch was sent for help. Keeping over 300 safe and together for two weeks on a desolate atoll is the stuff of blockbuster movies today but has escaped the attention of Hollywood. Either way, on 12 November, the gunboat USS Helena (PG-9) arrived to rescue the shipwrecked survivors.

She is remembered in maritime art.

U.S. Navy “Second Class Cruisers – 1899” Monitor, USS Amphitrite; USS Atlanta; USS Columbia; USS Charleston, USS Minneapolis. Published by Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The remains of the ship were apparently plundered first by locals and then by groups of better equipped “treasure hunters” armed with explosives in the 1990s and little is thought to endure. The illegal salvors were looking for everything from coins stored aboard following the occupation of Manila to souvenirs bought by her crew in China.

The wreck did not end the career of Glass, who was sent back to the states to take command of the naval training station at San Francisco. By 1901 he was CIC, Pacific Squadron, and served until he was placed on the retired list in 1906 as Commandant, Pacific Naval District, leaving the service as a RADM. He died in 1908, aged 84.

Naval Base Guam has a plaque commemorating him and the Glass Breakwater in Apra Harbor is named in his honor.

The Charleston‘s name was reissued in 1905 to another cruiser (C-22) which served through the Great War, and by the Erie-class gunboat (PG-51) for WWII service. Since then, it has been carried by an amphibious cargo ship (LKA-113) and issued to PCS-Charleston (LCS-18) which is expected to commission later this year. The Navy took delivery of her in Mobile last week.

Austal’s ninth Independence Class LCS, USS Charleston (LCS 18), has completed acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico and has been delivered to the Navy. She is 98-feet longer than her cruiser namesake, though a good bit lighter and without the torpedo tubes and batteries of 6- and 8-inch guns! (Photo: Austal)

As for reefs in the Philippines, they are still claiming warships.

Specs:

NH 75308 Builder’s model Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, 1972. Copied from the Union Iron Works scrapbook, vol. 2, page 8

Displacement 3,730 tons,
Length: 320′ (oa)
Beam: 46′
Draft: 21′ 9″ (Max)
Machinery: 7,500 IHP; 2 Horizontal, Compound engines, 2 screws
Speed: 19 Knots
Crew 300.
Armor, 3″ Shields, 3″ Deck, 2″ Conning Tower.
Armament:
2 x 8″/35 Mark III
6 x 6″/30
4 x 6pdr
2 x 3pdr
2 x 1pdr

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!

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