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Warship Wednesday, June 28, 2017: The Kansas cruiser, by way of Peru

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

Warship Wednesday, June 28, 2017: The Kansas cruiser, by way of Peru

Color-tinted postcard of a photograph copyrighted by Enrique Muller, 1905. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 63653-B-KN

Here we see the Lima-class gunboat USS Topeka at anchor in Long Island Sound, New York, circa 1904. Ships present in the background include the destroyer tender USS Prairie (left) and a torpedo-boat destroyer. By this time, Topeka was already almost 25 years old, had switched flags and names a confusing number of times, and had 25 years of service ahead of her.

She and her sister had a rather odd story rooted in Latin American naval lore.

To understand the Topeka, first, we need to understand the ironclad turret ship Huáscar.

Built for a princely £81,000 in England at Laird Brothers to a design by British ironclad wonk Captain Cowper Coles, she was commissioned scarcely a year after the U.S. Civil War for the Peruvian Navy. At 1,900-tons and capable of 12-knots in the open ocean, she carried a pair of 10-inch guns in a Coles-patented revolving gun turret and was protected by as much as seven inches of armor. The Peruvians were very happy with the vessel and she was the fleet flag.

Marina de Guerra del Perú. Es el BAP Huáscar, 1879

However, in a four against one ironclad face-off during the Battle of Angamos on 8 October 1879, in the War of the Pacific, Huáscar was captured by the stronger force of the Chilean Navy. Peruvian Admiral and naval hero Miguel Grau Seminario was killed as was 32 of her crew.

The loss of the big ironclad sent agents from Peru to Europe looking for not one but two modern ships to replace her in the battle line. A string of talks to buy first the armored frigate Roma from Italy, then the armored ship Danmark from the Danes, and finally two old British-made ironclads from the Ottomans, were frustrated by the actions of Chilean diplomats abroad.

Finally, through some hoodwink and the equivalent fee of £200,000 (collected by popular subscription from the public), the Peruvians were able to have two cruisers built at the Howaldtswerke shipyard in Kiel, Germany–disguised under a Greek shipping company and completed as the freighters Socrates and Diogenes. At about 1,800-tons, these 250-foot long vessels were about the same size as the lost Huáscar and could make 16.2 knots, making them a good bit faster, but they were unprotected.

The unarmed ships were completed by Howaldtwerke in 1881, and the two “Greek” freighters shipped for England where they were to be outfitted with a suite of four Armstrong 4-inch guns and various smaller Hotchkiss pieces, then sail as the Peruvian Navy cruisers BAP Lima and BAP Callao respectively.

However, this was not to be.

Once in Britain, the Chileans pressured the Queen’s government to impound the ships there for the duration of the war. After the conflict ended, the Peruvians were only able to afford one of the vessels and, in 1889 after an eight-year saga, finally called Lima home while Callao was left swaying in England, unwanted and signed over to the Thames Iron Works in lieu of nearly a decade of dock rental and upkeep on the pair.

Lima, as completed for the Peruvians

There, the German-built and unused formerly Peruvian cruiser sat for nearly another decade as the Brits offered her to prospective buyers without much luck– though she was nearly purchased by Japan in 1895 for use against China– with Thames even going through the trouble of overhauling her in 1896. She was made ready at the time for an armament of six 4.7-inch Armstrongs (two forecastle, four in broadside sponsons) 10 six-pounders, and six three-pounders.

Then came a rather exciting little conflict known to history as the Spanish-American War, and Thames was able to make a deal with agents working on behalf of Washington– garnering the distinction, as reported by the May 7th, 1898 Western Electrician, of “being the only vessel of the kind ever purchased by telephone.”

The U.S. Navy purchased 102 ships on the open market in early 1898 for a total of $18,243,389.29. The cheapest of these, the 16-year old 100-ton commercial tug Hercules (commissioned as USS Chickasaw) was picked up for just $15,000. The most expensive, the brand new British Armstrong-built 3,800-ton Brazilian Navy cruiser Amazonas (commissioned as USS New Orleans, a former Warship Wednesday alumni), was bought for $1.43 million. This made Diogenes/Callao a comparative deal at $170,327.50 (the odd number attributed to the exchange rate with pounds sterling).

Purchased on 2 April 1898 (more than two weeks before the actual Declaration of War by the U.S. Congress), Diogenes/Callao was renamed USS Topeka, and placed in commission the same day, Lt. John J. Knapp in command. She was the first U.S. ship named for the Kansas capital city.

Two weeks later she cleared Falmouth in an unarmed state, headed to the New York Naval Yard where she was painted gray, picked up 6 4-inch/40 cal guns, six 3-pounders, a pair of one-pounders, and a Colt 1895 machine gun.

USS Topeka Halftone of a photograph taken in 1898, at the time of the Spanish-American War. Copied from The New Navy of the United States, by N.L. Stebbins, (New York, 1912). Donation of David Shadell, 1987. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 98239

USS Topeka at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, 30 June 1898. Note the scrollwork on her bow. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63398

USS Topeka off the New York Navy Yard, 1898. Courtesy of Howard I. Chapelle, Smithsonian Institution. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 806

By 11 July, Uncle’s newest warship joined the blockading forces off Havana, ordered to assume station off Bahia de Nipe, located on the northeastern shore of Cuba almost directly opposite Santiago de Cuba on the island’s southeastern coast.

USS Topeka at anchor in 1898. Note the extensvie awnings on deck and the broadside 4″ guns about amidships. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 60333 Colorized by Postales Navales

Her time off Cuba was exciting, though only lasted about a month, as noted by DANFS:

On 17 July, she and Maple captured the Spanish sloop Domingo Aurelio off Bahia de Nipe. Four days later, Topeka joined Annapolis, Wasp, and Leyden in a foray into Bahia de Nipe. The four warships encountered no real resistance from the Spanish and, therefore, easily captured the port and sank the Spanish cruiser [actually a sloop, 920t, 6×6.2″] Jorge Juan, abandoned by her crew.

Following the capture of the Bahia de Nipe littoral, Topeka steamed to Key West with dispatches. She returned to Cuban waters on 28 July and remained until 5 August, when she again steamed to Key West. She made one more voyage to Cuba in mid-August, visiting Port Francis on the 14th before heading north on the 15th.

The action with the Jorge Juan is described more in the Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine of the day, which holds the Spanish vessel had both her masts shot away and was awash when the Americans took her over following a sharp action.

Over the next several years, Topeka assisted as a control ship for new warship trials, participated in wireless telegraphy experiments, exercised gunboat diplomacy in the waters of the Dominican Republic and Panama when U.S. interests were threatened, embarked on a training cruise to the Mediterranean, and performed other tasks as needed.

Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts Navy Yard waterfront, circa 1900. Ships present include, from left to right: USS Olympia, USS Topeka, and USS Constitution. Note the boats in the foreground. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55965

Photographed by J. Geiser, Algiers, Algeria, 1900, during her Med cruise. Note she now has a gleaming peacetime white scheme and gilt bowscrolls. The original photograph is printed on silk. Collection of Rear Admiral William C. Braisted, USN(MC). Courtesy of Dr. William R. Braisted. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 91532

Topeka was placed out of commission on 7 September 1905 and assigned duty as station ship at Portsmouth where she served as an auxiliary to the converted collier USS Southery, then serving as the prison ship for the Portsmouth Naval Prison, which was under construction.

By 1915, the Navy had disposed of most of the 102 SpanAm War ships taken up from trade, selling them for a total of just $1.167 million, about 5 percent of the amount Uncle had paid. Topeka was one of the few still afloat by then.

Starboard view, while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. Note her masts have been stepped and her sponson casemates are now blocked in, one seen with windows fitted. Photo via Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy gunboat USS Topeka (Patrol Gunboat #35) while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. Note the sailors performing knotting and splicing. The white sleeve stripes denote them as being under discipline. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy Lot 5369-3:

U.S. Navy gunboat USS Topeka (Patrol Gunboat #35) while serving as a detention ship at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, 1915. U.S. Navy sailors performing a 3” gun drill. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels Collection Lot 5369-5 from National Museum of the U.S. Navy Lot 5369-6

When the U.S. entered World War I, Topeka was converted to a training ship and thousands of new recruits walked her decks before the Armistice. Around this time, she was re-engined with a pair of Ward boilers replacing her four German ones and two 1,000ihp DeLaval geared turbines replacing her old horizontal compound engines.

The 38-year-old gunboat was called in off the bleachers once more and, on 24 March 1919, Topeka was recommissioned at Boston, CDR Earl P. Finney in command. However, it was not to last. After a brief patrol off the Gulf coast of Mexico, she was again placed out of commission on 21 November 1919 at Charleston Navy Yard. Designated PG-35 in 1920, then IX-35 (the designation for unclassified miscellaneous auxiliaries) the next year. In 1922, she was put on the market for sale and after “no satisfactory bids were forthcoming” the Navy decided to keep the old girl a bit longer.

Transferred to Philadelphia, she was used as a pierside trainer until 1930 when she was stricken for good to remove her tonnage from the U.S. Navy’s tally sheet under the London Naval Treaty and free it up for a more valuable use. She was sold for scrap in May.

Topeka‘s bell currently sits on the parade deck of the Marine Corps Security Force Company Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while one of her 4″40 cals (American Ordnance Co. no. 152) used to sink the Spanish sloop-of-war Jorge Juan in 1898 is at the Washington Naval Yard.

NMUSN174 - Pre WWI - American - 4 inch 40 Caliber Rifle - 1898 from 'USS Topeka'

Topeka’s name has gone on to grace a WWII light cruiser (CL-67) and a nuclear attack submarine (SSN-754), the former scrapped in 1975 and the latter in active commission since 1989.

As for her sister, Lima, the Peruvian cruiser was used in the 1890s as a diplomatic vessel and notably visited Valparaiso, Chile, to repatriate the mortal remains of Admiral Grau along with the 32 fallen Peruvian crew members from Huáscar, and other war heroes including Col. Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes, the patron of the Peruvian Army. Lima was disarmed in 1926 and retained as a tender for the Peruvian submarine flotilla until she was stricken in 1950.

LIMA (Peruvian Cruiser, 1881-1940) Caption: Photographed late in her career with a reduced rig and built up bridge area. Description: Courtesy Comandante Cosio and Dr. R. L. Scheina. Catalog #: NH 87837

Lima was later apparently used by the government as a public-school ship at the Amazon city of Iquitos for a time and her final fate has faded into history, though one Spanish source claims she was still stranded in the river as late as 1999.

As for Huáscar, she served the Chilean Navy through 1897 and today is one of the few early ironclad era warships still afloat, serving for the past several decades as a museum.

Jose Vinagre Espamer picture of the ironclad turret ship Huascar

Specs:

Displacement: 1,800 designed, 2,255 long tons (2,291 t) normal
Length: 259 ft. 4 in (79.04 m)
Beam: 35 ft. (11 m) at the waterline
Draft: 16 ft. 5 in (5.00 m) aft
Propulsion: 4 cylindrical boilers, 2 engines, 1800shp, 2 shafts, 300 tons coal (re-engined about 1915)
Speed: 16.2 knots
Complement: 167 officers and enlisted
Armament:
(Designed, never fitted)
4x 4-inch Armstrong
(1898)
6 × 4″/40 cal
6 × 3-pounder guns
2 × 1-pounder guns
1 × Colt machine gun (M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun)
(1915)
4x 3″/23 guns
(1921)
Disarmed

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Go for a ride on a Boomer

The Navy just released this really great 11-minute doc about life aboard the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) as she takes part in a regularly-scheduled patrol in the Atlantic Ocean. Entitled “On Our Depth One-Six-Zero Feet” it is sure to become a classic in future generations and is notably devoid of rah-rah-rah, simply giving the viewer a “fly on the wall” experience.

Commissioned in 1996, the motto of the Kings Bay-based Trident slinger is Cedant Arma Toga, “Force must yield to law”

In carrier news…

The huge new RN carrier and pending flag, HMS Queen Elizabeth, prepares to sail from Rosyth dockyard for the first time to begin sea trials after seven years of construction. The 65,000-ton carrier is the largest warship ever constructed for the Royal Navy.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, left, next to the stricken Harrier carrier HMS Illustrious while under construction. The Queen is more than three times Lusty’s size.

Meanwhile, the Ford-class supercarrier PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) has reached 50 percent structural completion this week with her 70-foot long lower stern lifted into place at Newport News Shipbuilding using the company’s 1,050-metric ton gantry crane. The carrier is on track to be completed with 445 sectional lifts, 51 fewer than Ford and 149 less than USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), the last Nimitz-class carrier.

Warship Wednesday, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

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

Warship Wednesday, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

Here we see the Uragan/Bronenosets-class monitor Strelets as she appeared in the heyday of her career in the late 19th Century in the Baltic Fleet of the Tsar’s Imperial Russian Navy. A byproduct of a strange time in Russian-U.S. history, she somehow endures today.

The Misinterpreted Russian Navy Mission in the US Civil War that may have accidentally helped the North win the conflict.

In 1863, it looked as if the mighty British Empire may intervene in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. War fever had come to London early in the conflict after the “Trent Affair” while British firms such as Enfield and Whitworth sold tremendous amounts of arms of all kinds to Confederate agents which were in turn often smuggled through the U.S. naval quarantine via British blockade-runners. Confederate raiders including the notorious CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah were constructed in English harbors. British war tourist Colonel (later General Sir) Arthur Fremantle in 1863 had just returned from three months in both the U.S. and Confederate commands fighting the war and loudly pronounced that the Confederates would certainly be victorious.

Relations between the United States and Tsarist Russia were warmer than with many other European nations at the time. Cassius Marcellus Clay, a well-known abolitionist, was ambassador to the court of Tsar Alexander II during the conflict. It was Clay’s report on the Tsar’s Emancipation of 23 million serfs in 1861 that helped pave the way for Lincolns own Emancipation Proclamation of the four million slaves the next year. American engineers and railway organizers were helpful in starting the early Russian railway system. Clay openly encouraged a military alliance and  thought of Russia as a hedge between possible British intervention on the Confederate side.

On 24 September 1863, two separate Russian naval squadrons arrived in U.S. waters unannounced on both the East and West Coasts.

The Russian Atlantic fleet had sailed from the Baltic and arrived at New York under command of RADM Lesovskii with three large frigates and a trio of smaller vessels. The fleet included the new and fearsome 5,100-ton U.S.-built screw frigate Alexander Nevsky with her 51 60-pounder naval guns.

Crew of the Russian Frigate Osliaba – Alexandria, VA, 1863

The Russian Pacific fleet that arrived on the West Coast at San Francisco was under command of RADM Popov and consisted of four small gunboats with a pair of armed merchant cruisers.

The ships were saluted and allowed entry as being on a friendly port call. The American media and political machine immediately interpreted the reason for these naval visits as clear Russian support for Lincoln.

The real reason, however, seems to be something quite different.

Poland, largely occupied by Russia, was in open revolt in the summer of 1863. The crisis that followed included the possibility that Britain and or France would intervene on the side of the insurgent Poles. The Tsar, fearing his isolated Pacific and Atlantic naval squadrons would be seized or destroyed by superior British or French units in the event of war, sent them into neutral U.S. ports to seek refuge. This fact was held from the Americans and the fleets’ Russian officers simply stated that they were in American ports for “not unfriendly purposes.”

The respective admirals of the Russian squadrons had sealed orders to place themselves at the disposal of the U.S. government in the event of a joint British or French intervention on both Russia and the United States. In the event of Russia entering war with the Anglo-French forces alone then the Russian ships were to sortie against the commercial fleets of those vessels as best as they could and then seek internment.

Several historians claim that the British government saw this mysterious visit by the Russians in U.S. waters as an open confirmation of a secret military pact between the two future superpowers. This interpretation further helped deter foreign recognition of the Confederate cause and resulted in the extinguishing of the South’s flame of hope. It can also be claimed that it stalled British intervention in the Tsar’s problems in Poland with the thought that it could result in a U.S. invasion of Canada.

When the Polish crisis abated in April 1864, the Russian fleets were recalled quietly to their respective home waters. The dozen Tsarist warships had conducted port calls and training cruises in U.S. and neighboring waters for almost seven months during the war while managing to avoid the conflict altogether. In the late fall of 1863, with rumors of Confederate raiders lurking on the West Coast, Popov reassured to the governor of California that he and his fleet would indeed protect the coast of their de facto ally if the raiders did appear.

The U.S. Navy, on the cutting edge of ironclad steam warship design, passed along plans and expertise to their Russian colleagues who had no such vessels. By 1865, the Tsar had a fleet of 10 ultra-modern 200-foot long ironclad battleships based on the monitor USS Passaic. These ships, known to the Russians as the Uragan/Bronenosetz class were a match for any European navy of the time– at least in their home waters.

In 1867, Russian Ambassador Baron Stoeckel advised US Secretary Seward that the Russian government would entertain bids for the failing colony of Alaska, which was rapidly accepted. Cassius Clay, still in Russia, helped to conduct the negations from inside the Winter Palace. The Russians even rapidly transferred control of the territory, which was seen by many to be worthless nearly a year before Congress ratified the transfer and in effect, couldn’t give it back.

This odd incident of the Russian fleets’ visit may have prevented what would have certainly been one of the planet’s first and possibly oddest of world wars. The real reasons for the Russian interlude were only uncovered and publicized nearly 50 years later in 1915 by military historian Frank Golder.

But let’s get back to the monitors

These modified Passaic-type ships were low in the water, single turret “cheesebox on a raft” style armored ships that could be fearsome in coastal waters. Their wrought-iron armor, stacked in 1-inch plates, varied between a single plate on deck to 10 inches on the turret, which was filled with a pair of 9-inch smoothbore guns with 100 shells each. The steam-powered turret took 35 seconds to make a full rotation.

A pair of boilers vented through a single stack pushed a 460ihp engine to about 8-knots when wide open, though in actuality they rarely broke 6.

As they had a very low freeboard indeed (just 18 inches above the waterline when fully loaded) the ships were intended for the defense of the Gulf of Finland and St. Petersburg, with memories of the Anglo-French fleet ruling the Baltic during the Crimean War still a recent memory.

Ten vessels were built, all with colorful names: Uragan “Hurricane,” Tifon “Typhon,” Strelets “Sagittarius,” Edinorog “Unicorn,” Bronenosets “Armadillo,” Latnik “Cuirassier,” Koldun “Sorcerer,” Perun (the Slavic god of lightning and thunder), Veshchun “Snake Charmer,” and Lava.

The hero of our story, Strelets, while named for a zodiac symbol for Sagittarius, was the Tsarist terminology for the early corps of musketeers established in the 16th century and retained until Peter the Great decided they were getting too big for their collective britches after a series of palace coups by the Moscow-based units.

“Streltsy” . Sergei Ivanov 1909

Laid down at the Galernyi Island Shipyard, Saint Petersburg on 1 December 1863, just weeks after her plans had been obtained in the U.S., she was commissioned 15 June 1865, built at a cost of 1.1 million rubles alongside sister Edinorog. The pair were the last of the 10 completed.

Sistership Edinorog. Note how low the freeboard was.

Their eight remaining sisters were completed in a series of four other yards, with all joining the fleet by the summer of 1865.

Russian monitor Veshchun as completed. She was built from sections at the Cockerill yard in Seraing, Belgium. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84753

Russian monitor Lava as completed. She was built at the Nevsky factory. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84754

Monitors at Kronstadt. Watercolor by A. A. Tronya

By 1868, the 9-inch smoothbores were replaced by 15-inch Dahlgren-style guns built to U.S. plans at the Aleksandrovsk gun factory, for which just 50 shells could be carried in her magazine.

However, these guns were soon obsolete and were in turn replaced by Krupp-designed, Obukhov-made M1867 229/14 breechloaders. One of these guns was the subject of an explosion near the breech in 1876 that claimed the lives of five.

Diagram showing the location of sailors in the tower of the monitor Sagittarius at the time of the breakthrough of the powder gases on August 10, 1876

This led to another armament replacement in 1878 with 229/19 M1877 rifles augmented by a pair of 45-mm rapid-fire guns on an increasingly cluttered deck to which 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon were also later added.

Rapidly obsolete in the twilight of the 19th Century, on 1 February 1892 Strelets and the rest of her class were deemed “coastal defense ships” and by 1900 all 10 sisters were withdrawn from service and disarmed.

While many were soon scrapped, Strelets was reclassified as a floating workshop at Kronstadt on 22 February 1901 and was retained by the fleet until Christmas Eve 1955.

As such, she witnessed the Baltic Fleet sail away to destruction in the Russo-Japanese War in (1904-05), supported operations against the Germans (1914-1917) in the Great War, witnessed the Red Fleet rise in the Revolution, withstood the British in the Russian Civil War, survived the storming of Kronstadt by the Reds in 1921, lent her shops to the Red Banner Fleet against the Finns (1939-40) then the Germans again (1941-45)– in all spending over 90 years on the rolls in one form or another.

After leaving naval service she was retained in a variety of roles in and around Leningrad/St. Petersburg and in 2015 was found in floating condition, her internals still showing off those classic Civil War lines.

She has since been recovered by a group terming itself “The Foundation for Historic Boats” who, together with the Russian Central Military History Museum, are attempting to restore her to a more monitor-like condition. She could very well be the oldest monitor remaining afloat.

At rest near the cruiser Aurora

For more information in that, click here.

Specs:


Displacement: 1,500–1,600 long tons (1,524–1,626 t)
Length: 201 ft. (61.3 m)
Beam: 46 ft. (14.0 m)
Draft: 10.16–10.84 ft. (3.1–3.3 m)
Installed power:
460hp 2-cylinder direct-acting steam engine, 1 shaft, 1 4-lop. screw
2 rectangular Morton boilers, 1 stack
Speed: 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph)
Range: 1,440 nmi (2,670 km; 1,660 mi) at 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) with 100 tons coal
Complement: 1865: 96 (8); 1877: 110 (10); 1900, assigned support personnel
Armament:
1865: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) smoothbore guns
1868: 2 × 15 in (381 mm) smoothbore Rodman guns
1873: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x45mm guns
1890: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x 47/40, 2x 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon
1900: Disarmed
Armor: wrought Izhora iron
Hull: 5 in (127 mm)
Gun turret: 11 in (279 mm)
Funnel base: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 8 in (203 mm)

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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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Of pikes, cutlass and bearskin caps

Some 202 years ago this week, a 10-ship squadron of the newly established U.S. Navy under the command of Commodore Stephen Decatur was taking the fight to the Barbary Coast pirates.

Sailing from New York in May, on 18 June they captured the Algerian frigate Mashuda of 46 guns, then the next day bagged the 22-gun brig Estedio.

The below uniform plate shows seamen and officers as they appeared in the most peculiar ship-to-ship fighting attire of the campaign.

From the NHHC:

Although the uniform instructions of 1813 had provided for the dress of officers of the United States Navy, no provisions were included for clothing the enlisted personnel. However, the dress of the men was reasonably standard, for all ships carried clothing in “slop stores” under control of the purser. Clothing was procured under contract at the Navy Yards, stored and issued to the vessels. The invitations to bid on clothing contracts listed blue and white trousers, shirts, vests, jackets and glazed hats. This clothing is shown in paintings and sketches of the period and was very much like that worn by the Royal Navy.

The standard arms of seamen were the pike and cutlass shown in the painting. The weapons were stored aboard ship in racks on deck so they were readily available to the men in time of combat. The pike corresponded basically to the musket and bayonet of the Marines attached to the ship for close fighting. The boarding helmets are typical of the period which were described in Samuel Leech’s Thirty Years from Home, or a Voice from the Main Deck, published in Boston in 1843. Leech was a British seaman, captured on board the Macedonian in 1812, who later enlisted in the United States Navy. When he signed on the brig Syren June 1813, he noted that all hands were supplied with “stout leather caps, something like those used by firemen. These were crossed by two strips of iron, covered with bearskins, and were designed to defend the head, in boarding an enemy’s ship, from the stroke of a cutlass. Strips of bearskin were likewise used to fasten them on, serving the purpose of false whiskers, and causing us to look as fierce as hungry wolves.”

The officer shown is a warrant, wearing the short blue coat, with a rolling collar, prescribed for boatswains, gunners, carpenters and sailmakers under the 1813 uniform order. The straw hat is the warm weather version of the black round hat specified for the forward warrant officers in full dress. The round hat was also worn by commissioned officers in undress and many contemporary portraits of the War of 1812 show this headgear along with the short jacket. This was a more suitable garb for shipboard duty than the undress coat of the 1813 order which was a tail coat like that of full dress, but with a rolling cape or turndown collar instead of the formal standing one. While commissioned officers were directed to wear white trousers in full dress, the warrants wore blue trousers. However, it had been the practice for some time to wear white trousers in undress or service dress in tropical climates even though they were not covered by the regulations.

Tutahaco of the Hisada may be no more

The Navy ordered 29 Hisada-class district harbor tugs, large (YTBs) in the tail-end of WWII. These chunky little 100-footers could plug away at 12 knots and were assigned across several different Naval Districts on all coasts to render towing, fire fighting and other services of her type to vessels of all size. In the 1960s, they were reclassified as district harbor tugs, medium (YTM) and, by the late 1980s, were increasingly stricken and transferred to the Maritime Administration for disposal.

One, USS Nanigo (YTB/YTM-537), was lost while unmanned and under tow in 1972. Others were transferred or withdrawn until the last, USS Accohanoc (YTB-545/YTM-545), which was the tender to the Essex-class carrier USS Lexington (AVT-16) in Pensacola, was put to pasture in 1987.

As far as I can tell the last of the breed, USS Tutahaco (YTB/YTB-524), who spent most of her career at Guantanamo Bay, was sold in 1986 then turned into a live-aboard yacht, moored on the Halifax River at Ormond-by-the-Sea, Florida.

By 2015, the 70-year-old tug was repainted haze gray and was to be established as a floating museum on the Halifax.

However, the Coast Guard since February had to respond to leaking fuel oil from the vessel, deploying hundreds of feet of containment boom and absorbent boom around the tug.

The tugboat Tutahaca (sic) is surrounded by boom Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, on the Halifax River in Ormond-By-The-Sea, Fla. The tugboat leaked bilge oil into the river, and the boom is used to contain the oil. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Savannah.

The tugboat Tutahaca (sic) is surrounded by boom Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, on the Halifax River in Ormond-By-The-Sea, Fla. The tugboat leaked bilge oil into the river, and the boom is used to contain the oil. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Savannah.

Now, they have removed the aging vessel altogether.

That hull growth…

From the Coast Guard’s presser:

The Tutahaco was deemed a maritime threat to the environment after finding significant amounts of oil, PCBs, lead and asbestos.

“The Tutahaco is in a dilapidated condition,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Svencer, the incident commander for the removal. “Not only was it a threat to the environment, but to the community, and that’s our primary concern.”

The Coast Guard hired T&T Salvage to hoist the vessel onto a barge where it will be transported to All Star Metals in Brownsville, Texas to remove the hazardous contaminates.

Warship Wednesday, June 14, 2017: The newly found enforcer of Dewey’s squadron

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

Warship Wednesday, June 14, 2017: The newly found enforcer of Dewey’s squadron

Commissioned in 1897, the McCulloch was the largest of a new breed of revenue cutters and the only one with three masts.

Here we see the one-of-a-kind barquentine-rigged steel-hulled cruising cutter McCulloch of the Revenue Cutter Service as she appeared while in the U.S. Navy attached to one Commodore Dewey on the Asiatic station in 1898. While I generally try to alternate U.S. and foreign ships on Warship Wednesday, and generally only do about 4-5 Coast Guard cutters a year, bear with me this week as the McCulloch is very much in the news again after being lost for the past 100 years.

Named after Hugh McCulloch, the gold-standard-loving Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, and Grover Cleveland, the cutter McCulloch followed the longstanding tradition of the USRCS of naming large cutters after past Treasury bosses.

The message of President Abraham Lincoln nominating Hugh McCulloch to be Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, 03/06/1865, via The U.S. National Archives.

McCulloch passed away at his home in Maryland in May 1895 and his name was assigned to the newly ordered 219-foot cutter then being built at a price of $196,500 by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

McCulloch was rather fast, at 17.5 knots on trials with a twin boiler-fed triple-expansion steam engine, and could carry a quartet of deck guns (up to 5-inchers in theory, though only 6-pdr 57mm mounts were fitted) arranged in sponsons and located in the bow and stern quarters of the ship, as well as a single bow-mounted 15-inch torpedo tube for an early Whitehead-style fish. She was a composite design, with a steel hull sheathed in wood, and carried both her steam suite and an auxiliary sail rig.

Four near-sisters of what was known as the “Propeller-class” at the time were built during the same period, each to slightly tweaked designs, in an effort to modernize the aging RCS fleet. McCulloch was slightly larger and enjoyed more bunker space as a result. McCulloch maintained her distinction as the largest revenue cutter, and later USCG cutter, during her 20-year career.

Her shorter sisters:

Gresham, a brigantine-rigged 206-foot, 1,090-ton steel-hulled steamer built by the Globe Iron Works Company of Cleveland, OH for $147,800
Manning, a brigantine-rigged 205-foot, 1,150-ton composite-hulled steamer, was built by the Atlantic Works Company of East Boston, MA, for a cost of $159,951.
Algonquin, brigantine-rigged 205.5-foot, 1,180-ton steel-hulled steamer built by Globe for $193,000.
Onondaga, brigantine-rigged 206-foot, 1,190-ton steel-hulled steamer built by Globe for $193,800.

McCulloch, note her bow tube just above the waterline. Photo by Edward H. Hart, Detroit Publishing, via State Historical Society of Colorado, LOC LC-D4-20618

Commissioned 12 December 1897, McCulloch was placed under the command of Captain D.B. Hogsdon, RCS.

Captain Daniel B. Hodgsdon, US revenue cutter service, Reproduced from “Harper’s Weekly,” volume 43, 1899, page 977. NH 49012.

With the Spanish-American War looming, she was dispatched to join Dewey in the Far East via the Med, being the most modern and combat-ready vessel in the cutter service. Arriving at Singapore 8 April 1898, she was the first cutter to venture into the Indian Ocean or complete the Suez Canal.

Sailing with Dewey’s force of four cruisers and two gunboats, McCulloch was tasked to be something of the squadron’s all-purpose dispatch ship: scouting over the horizon, watching the squadron’s rear, keeping an eye on the supply ships Nanshan and Zafire, and being available for tow work as needed.

She did, however, make ready her guns once the balloon went up and, as the squadron penetrated Spanish-held Manila Bay on midnight of 30 April, she fired her guns in one of the first actions in the Pacific theater of that war.

From DANFS:

Just as McCulloch brought El Fraile Rock [now Fort Drum ] abaft the starboard beam, the black stillness was broken. Soot in the cutter’s stack caught fire and sent up a column of fire like a signal light. Immediately thereafter a battery on El Fraile took McCulloch under fire. [The cruiser] Boston, in column just ahead of the cutter, answered the battery, as did McCulloch, and the Spanish gun emplacement was silenced.

Frank B. Randall, R.C.S., Chief Engineer of the Revenue Cutter McCulloch, died from the effects of heat and over-exertion while trying to stop the blaze from the smokestack of the McCulloch, and should rightfully be considered a death from the engagement, though in the subsequent rush to smother Dewey with a “no Americans were killed” moniker for the upcoming battle which began at 0540 on 1 May, he is often overlooked. He was buried at sea, with military honors, the following day.

Chief Engineer F.B. Randall, U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, an engraving reproduced for publication in “Harper’s Weekly” for September 30, 1899, page 975

McCulloch took part in the fleet engagement, minding the supply vessels from molestation from Spanish shore batteries and small craft. She also prevented the British steamer Esmeralda (1,989t) from leaving the harbor, on orders from Dewey.

Immediately after the battle, as Dewey had ordered the submarine cable from Manila to Hong Kong cut, he used McCulloch to convey messages to the latter location to communicate with Washington, giving the cutter the honor of carrying the news to the world of the great Battle of Manila Bay. Arriving at Hong Kong on 3 May, with Dewey’s aide, Lt. Brumby aboard to cable the report to the U.S., Hogsdon, sent his own.

From the USCG Historians Office:

U. S. STEAMER McCulloch,
Manila Bay, May 3, 1898.

SIR: Regarding the part taken by this vessel in the naval action of Manila Bay at Cavite, on Sunday morning, May 1,
1898, between the American and Spanish forces, I have the honor to submit the following report:
Constituting the leading vessel of the reserve squadron the McCulloch was, when fire opened, advanced as closely as was advisable in rear of our engaged men of war, in fact, to a point where several shells struck close aboard and others passed overhead, and kept steaming slowly to and fro, ready to render any aid in her power, or respond at once to any signal from the Olympia. A 9-inch hawser was gotten up and run aft, should assistance be necessary in case any of our ships grounded. At a later hour during the day, just prior to the renewal of the attack by our squadron, I intercepted the British mail steamer Esmeralda, in compliance with a signal from the flagship, communicated to her commander your orders in regard to his movements, and then proceeded to resume my former position of the morning, near the fleet, where I remained until the surrender of the enemy. I desire to state in conclusion that I was ably seconded by the officers and crew of my command in every effort made to be in a state of readiness to carry out promptly any orders which might have been signaled from your flagship.
Respectfully, yours,

D. B. HODGSDON
Captain, R. C. S., Commanding

On a return trip from Hong Kong, the cutter brought Philippine Insurgent leader Emilio Aguinaldo back to the islands from his exile– which was to prove a mixed result for the U.S.

While patrolling Manila Bay, she helped access the Spanish situation there and, in an individual fleet action on 29 May, captured the Spanish Albay-class gunboat Leyte (151t, 98-feet, 1x87mm, 1x70mm) with 25 officers and men aboard as well as 200 soldiers and a small amount of gold. That humble vessel would later be pressed into service as the USS Leyte and work around Cavite yard until sold for scrap in 1907.

Spanish Albay-class canonero Leyte

It was not only the Spanish the cutter had to worry about. With ships of the Kaiser’s navy poking around, McCulloch followed orders from Dewey to chase off the much larger cruiser SMS Irene (5,500-tons, 14x159mm guns) with a shot across the bow on 27 June. She ship was there ostensibly to pick up any German expats in the area and, while she did evac some noncombatants on Isla Grande, none of the Kaiser’s subjects were to be found.

"U.S.S. McCulloch firing a shot across the bow of the German cruiser Irene" by Frank Cresson Schnell, 1898, LOC LC-DIG-det-4a14436

“U.S.S. McCulloch firing a shot across the bow of the German cruiser Irene” by Frank Cresson Schnell, 1898, LOC LC-DIG-det-4a14436. Note the cutter is shown in perspective as being much larger than the German, when in fact the truth was the other way around.

On 5 July, the cruiser USS Raleigh fired a shot across the bow of the German Bussdard-class cruiser SMS Cormoran in a similar incident.

McCullough remained in Manila Bay through November, participating in the final fall of the city that August.

Arriving back in the U.S. at the end of the year, she reverted to Treasury service. She did bring back with her a quartet of 37mm (1-pdr) revolving cannon from the Spanish cruiser Reina Cristina as war trophies presented to the ship and her crew by Dewey, which today rest outside of Hamilton Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Right into drydock at San Francisco, California, circa 1899. Note her single screw Catalog #: NH 72407

Photographed circa 1900. You can see her torpedo tube molded into the bow. Note: Rigging has been retouched in this print Description: Catalog #: NH 46471

USRC McCulloch (1897-1917) Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1900. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 46474

USSR McCULLOCH (1897-1917) Photographed by Vaughan & Keith, San Francisco, California, circa 1900. Halftone print. Description: Catalog #: NH 46472

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1900. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 46473

Off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1900. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 46473

For the next two decades, the cutter lived a much more sedate life, cruising from the Mexican border northward from her station in San Francisco until being ordered to Alaskan waters from 1906-12 as part of the Bearing Sea Patrol where she did everything from rescue lost fishermen to enforce the law in gold rush port towns to regulate the sealer exclusion zones in the Pribilof Islands.

In Alaskan waters during the time of Jack London’s books. She is likely dressed for a national holiday, probably July 4

Returning to California she cruised the West Coast until war broke out in April 1917.

USRC McCulloch Caption: At San Diego, California, before World War I. Description: Courtesy of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973. Catalog #: NH 92209

Note the difference in profile. In 1914, USRC Cutter McCulloch was ordered to Mare Island Navy Shipyard where the cutter’s boilers were replaced, the mainmast was removed and the bowsprit shortened. In 1915, McCulloch became a US Coast Guard Cutter when the US Revenue Cutter Service and US Life-Saving Service were combined to create the United States Coast Guard. Credit: Gary Fabian Collection via NOAA

Transferring once again to Navy service, she prowled the coast just in case German surface raiders popped up (remember the raider Seeadler was active at the time and captured three American-flagged schooners in June-July in the Southeast Pacific, and the raider Wolf had poked her nose into the West Pac).

However, McCullough was not destined to take another German ship under fire in time of war, as on the morning 13 June 1917, three miles northwest of Point Conception, California, she collided with the Pacific Steamship Company’s steamer Governor (5,474-tons) in dense fog.

One crewman, Acting Water Tender John Arvid Johansson, lost his life but all other hands were saved while the cutter sank in just 35 minutes. Johansson, trapped in his bunk when the collision occurred, never stood a chance.

“I heard the signal to abandon ship and went up on deck through the companionway onto the main deck to go to my station when I heard someone singing out for help. It was Johanson [sic] and he was all doubled up in the wreckage about three feet from where his bunk was. He was out against the ice boxes. There was nobody else around, so I took some of the wreckage away and there was a piece of wood eight inches long stuck in his side. The master-at-arms passed the word for men to carry him to a surf boat.” Robert Grassow, Carpenter, USCG Cutter McCulloch. Credit: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park_ K036.07068.1o

Note, she has twin masts, a scheme she only carried in 1917. Also note the fog bank. A court of inquiry showed that the cutter had stopped in the fog and turned her signals on, while SS Governor was making 14 knots.

At the time, the vessel was deemed lost in water too deep to permit any salvage effort. A naval board of inquiry in March 1918 placed the blame for the collision on the Governor, who was barreling through the fog bank at 14 knots in a dangerous area known as the “Cape Horn of the Pacific.”

During the collision with the McCulloch, there were 429 passengers and crew aboard the Governor with no reported injuries. The big steamer was found at fault for not obeying the “rules of the road” and agreed to a settlement payment to the U.S. government of $167,500 in December 1923.

As for her classmates: Cleveland-built sisters Algonquin and Onondaga had been sold in 1930 and 1924 respectively and disposed of. Boston-built Manning likewise was sold for scrap in 1931. Gresham, sold by the Coast Guard in 1935 for scrap was required by the service in WWII for coastal patrol, then became part of the Israeli Navy before disappearing again in the 1950s and was last semi-reliably seen in the Chesapeake Bay area as late as 1980.

However, we are not done with McCulloch.

On Tuesday 13 June, 2017, RADM Todd Sokalzuk, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, and Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Regional Maritime Heritage Coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, announced that USCGC McCulloch CG-3 had been found and identified.

During a joint NOAA – USCG remotely operated vehicle (ROV) training mission in October 2016, the science team confirmed the historic remains of McCulloch off Point Conception. Working off the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s R/V Shearwater, a VideoRay Mission Specialist ROV was deployed to survey and characterize the archaeological remains of this historically significant shipwreck in America’s U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy’s military history.

The helm, or steering station, was located on the upper-deck of the flying bridge of the USCG Cutter McCulloch. The helm’s steering shaft interfaced with a second helm located in the protected pilothouse one deck below. Both helms were connected to a steam steering machine that provided power-assisted steering, so the ship could be piloted from either station. Because the flying bridge was unprotected from the weather, that helm had to be constructed of a nonferrous metal. Its wooden handles have succumbed to wood-boring organisms.Credit: NOAA/USCG/VideoRay

The first diagnostic artifact discovered at the shipwreck site of the USCG Cutter McCulloch is the 15-inch torpedo tube molded into the bow stem. Metridium anemones drape the bow stem and are found on other sections of the wreck where there is exposure to prevailing currents. Credit: NOAA/USCG/VideoRay

McCulloch and her crew were fine examples of the Coast Guard’s long-standing multi-mission success from a pivotal naval battle with Commodore Dewey, to safety patrols off the coast of California, to protecting fur seals in the Pribilof Islands in Alaska,” said Sokalzuk. “The men and women who crew our newest cutters are inspired by the exploits of great ships and courageous crews like the McCulloch. I extend the Coast Guard’s heartfelt thanks to our partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for helping us locate this important piece of our heritage and assisting us in preserving its legacy.”

McCulloch rests on the ocean floor off of Point Conception near the 1917 collision site.

Officials have not determined plans for the next phase of exploration of the shipwreck. McCulloch is not located within a NOAA Marine Sanctuary, but the ship is U.S. government property and is protected under the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004. No portion of any government wreck may be disturbed or removed.

On the East Coast, McCulloch’s memory is maintained as well.

Every USCGA and NOAA Corps cadet pass these almost every day

Remember, the guns she brought back from Manila Bay are at the USCGA are the following pieces of maritime art.

McCulloch in the Battle of Manila Bay, her four 6-pdrs barking. By Donald J. Phillips

McCulloch heading off the Germans at Manila Bay by Donald J. Phillips

USRC McCulloch; painting, Coast Guard Academy Museum Art Collection, “Here McCulloch, with her while hull and buff superstructure and stack, makes way under steam and full sail. In the first years of the twentieth century the masts and sails (with a few exceptions), coal-fired boilers, and iron hulls gave way to steel, oil and diesel fuels, and turbine propulsion, closely emulating the maritime technological advancement of the US Navy. Nevertheless, the cutters remained distinctive vessels, easily recognizable from their Navy counterparts due to their “form following function” designs as well as the colors adorning their hulls.”

Specs:

Plans with overlay information by NOAA

Displacement: 1,280 tons
Length: 219′
Beam: 33′ 4″
Draft: 14′
Machinery: Triple-expansion steam, 21 1/2″, 34 1/2″, and 56 1/2″ diameter x 30″ stroke; 2400hp to a single shaft. Two boilers, 200 psi.
Rig: Barquentine with nine sails, later two “military” masts without rigging by 1914
Performance: 17.5 knots at trial
Complement: 68 Officers and Men as designed. 130 in 1914
Armament:
4 x 6pdr (57mm); 1 torpedo tube (as built)

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