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Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Franz Schmidt

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

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Franz Schmidt

Franz Schmidt was a German postcard artist probably best known for his series of city cards published from 1910-14 showing buildings and sites around his hometown of Nuremberg.

Nassauer Haus Nurnberg Germany, Franz Schmidt 1910.

Nassauer Haus Nurnberg Germany, Franz Schmidt 1910.

However, when the Great War popped off, Schmidt was commissioned to produce a series of “fighting man” style postcards for Trautmann & von Seggern of Hamburg (T&S) showing German troops in action in 1914-15.

While I cannot find much information on Schmidt’s background or how he obtained the study for the martial series (i.e. whether he used models, traveled to the front, relied on newspaper imagery) they are very well done and mostly correct, even if they are clearly propaganda. Each shows a good example of early war uniforms including piping, brass buttons and covered Pickelhaube and Czapka.

The below come from The Rare Book Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library has a massive collection of WWI postcards (nearly 10,000!)

Battle of St. Quentin. German soldiers on horseback, carrying swords, are riding toward English and Scottish infantry.

Battle of St. Quentin. German soldiers on horseback, carrying swords, are riding toward English and Scottish infantry.

Color image on a postcard showing a German infantryman holding his rifle, standing in the woods.

Color image on a postcard showing a German infantryman holding his rifle, standing in the woods.

Color image on a postcard showing a German Marine on a beach, carrying a rifle over his shoulder.

Color image on a postcard showing a German Marine on a beach, carrying a rifle over his shoulder.

German 77mm field artillery defend from French cavalry in battle near the Aisne

German 77mm field artillery defend from French cavalry in battle near the Aisne

German gunner at a gun park. He is standing in front of cannons, holding an artillery short sword

German gunner at a gun park. He is standing in front of cannons, holding an artillery short sword

German troops attacking Indian troops at Ypres, in West Flanders. Througout the war the Germans made a big deal of the fact that both France and Britain utilized colonial troops who the German media characterized as savages-- while they played up their own native Askari troops in Africa.

German troops attacking Indian troops at Ypres, in West Flanders. Throughout the war the Germans made a big deal of the fact that both France and Britain utilized colonial troops who the German media often characterized as savages– while they played up their own native Askari troops in Africa.

German soldiers fighting French soldiers at Neufchâteau

German soldiers fighting French soldiers at Neufchâteau

Hussar standing with his horse in a city that has been bombed. In his hand is a lit cigar

Hussar standing with his horse in a city that has been bombed. In his hand is a lit cigar.

Landstrum soldier at a railway station. There is snow on the ground, and a train sits on a track in the background.

Landstrum soldier at a railway station. There is snow on the ground, and a train sits on a track in the background.

Postcard showing a member of the German uhlan cavalry on horseback with lance.

Postcard showing a member of the German uhlan cavalry on horseback with lance.

Schmidt’s cards from time to time pop up online on eBay and others, typically at low ($5-$10) prices.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Warship Wednesday January 11, 2017: Yugoslavia’s second brief battleship

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday January 11, 2017: Yugoslavia’s second brief battleship

Photographed by B. Circovich of Trieste, in a print obtained by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, District of Columbia on 24 June 1899. Note the large anchor at the ship's bow. NH 88935

Photographed by B. Circovich of Trieste, in a print obtained by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, District of Columbia on 24 June 1899. Note the large anchor at the ship’s bow. NH 88935

Here we see the one-of-a-kind barbette ironclad Austrian battleship SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf of the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine, likely in the mid-1890s. A beautiful vessel when commissioned, she was rapidly outclassed but held an important role both in the twilight of the Austrian Empire and in the birth of the Yugoslav Navy.

Designed by naval engineers Viktor Lollok and Josef Kuchinka of the Marinetechnischen Komitees der k.u.k. (MTK), the team who would build the first Austrian armored cruiser and other really well done projects, Austrian Adm. Maximilian Daublebsky von Sterneck first ordered a pair of coastal defense battleships that would, in the end, suck out more than two whole years’ worth of the Navy’s budget (not just the shipbuilding budget, but the whole thing).

First laid down was Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf, named after the apple of Emperor Franz Joseph I’s eye, his only son.

This guy

This guy

The 6,829-ton battleship was stubby, at 320-feet long and tubby at 63-feet across the beam, giving it a length to beam ratio about 1:5, but at least she could float in 24-feet of seawater. When designed in 1881, the top speed for the new ship, 15.5-knots, seemed adequate, especially when it was kept in mind that she had a double-hull, up to 12-inches of steel armor, and extensive watertight compartmentalization.

She was fitted with three Krupp 12-inch (30.5 cm/35 cal) guns in open forward (port and starboard) and rear centerline mounts much like the French ships of the time. This particular size gun was in use with the British (Majestic-class), American (USS Texas and Iowa) and Russian (Chesma-class, Georgy Pobedonosets-class, Navarin) fleets, leaving the Austrians in good company.

Her aft 12-incher

Her aft 12-incher

Over a dozen smaller caliber QF guns kept torpedo boats at bay.

kronprinz_erzherzog_rudolf

Launch of the ship at Marinearsenal Pola on 6 July 1887.Description: Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87057

Launch of the ship at Marinearsenal Pola on 6 July 1887.Description: Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87057

Photographed at Pola on 6 July 1887 shortly after launch. Note that the ship's midships armor belt has not yet been fitted. Catalog #: NH 88920

Photographed at Pola on 6 July 1887 shortly after launch. Note that the ship’s midships armor belt has not yet been fitted. Catalog #: NH 88920

She was completed September 1889 and was commissioned some nine months after her namesake sensationally died in a suicide pact with his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, at the Mayerling hunting lodge, breaking old Franz Josef’s heart and leaving the Archduke Franz Ferdinand as heir to the throne–  a man whose own death would spark World War I.

schiff_sms_kronprinz_erzh_rudolf
The smaller SMS Kronprinzessin Erzherzogin Stephanie (4995-tons, 280-feet, 2x305mm guns, 2 masts) would be built in Trieste to a much modified (cheaper) design and commissioned in 1889 as the last Austrian barbette ironclad.

Together, the cost of these two ships would force the Austrian Navy to put battleship orders on hold until the 5,785-ton Monarch-class coastal defense battleship SMS Budapest was ordered in May 1892 and funded so frugally that the yard took over six years to complete.

This left Rudolf as the most heavily armed and armored ship in the Austrian fleet for a decade, and she was used extensively to show the flag.

RUDOLF is the single masted ship in the center. The large ship at left is CUSTOZA. The stack and mast to starboard of RUDOLF belong to MONARCH, and the ship to starboard of her is smaller near-sister KRONPRINZESSIN ERZHERZOGIN STEPHANIE. Photographed at Pola. Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87062

RUDOLF is the single-masted ship in the center. The large ship at left is CUSTOZA. The stack and mast to starboard of RUDOLF belong to MONARCH, and the ship to starboard of her is smaller near-sister KRONPRINZESSIN ERZHERZOGIN STEPHANIE. Photographed at Pola, 1900. Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87062

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection NH 87058

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection NH 87058

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87059

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87059

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87061

Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization, Karl Gogg collection. NH 87061

Rudolf, along with Stephanie and two other smaller vessels, spent part of 1890 in the Baltic and North Sea operating with the German Navy as a squadron. They later visited Italy and Spain to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World in 1892, and made calls in ports across Europe.

When Budapest and the rest of her respective class were commissioned in the late 1890s, Rudolf and little sister Stephanie were largely withdrawn to second-rate service.

By 1908, the Austrians were looking to sell the then 20-year-old vessels which were badly in need of a refit to South American interests, with no takers.

Relegated to coastal defense with a reduced crew, World War I found Rudolf as a station ship in Cattaro Bay, where she remained throughout the war tending submarines.

Photographed circa 1915 as a sad, gray station-ship in the Gulf of Cattaro. The sub in the foreground is SMS U-3 or U-Courtesy of the INT'L Naval Research Org., Karl Gogg Collection #14-20.NH 87063

Photographed circa 1915 as a sad, gray station-ship in the Gulf of Cattaro. The sub in the foreground is SMS U-3 or U-4. Courtesy of the INT’L Naval Research Org., Karl Gogg Collection #14-20.NH 87063

As station ship in the Gulf of Cattaro in World War I. Note the crew manning the anti-submarine defense gun in the foreground. NH 42823.

As station ship in the Gulf of Cattaro in World War I. Note the crew manning the shore gun in the foreground. NH 42823.

In February 1918, after months of inaction and inspired by what was going on at the time in Bolshevik Russia, the fleet at Cattaro– Rudolf included– mutinied. Idle hands in a frozen port with little food will do that to you.

The mutiny lasted three days until it fell apart after modern battleships showed up from Pola and German U-boats threatened to send any ship flying a red flag to the bottom. During the incident, Rudolf was on the receiving end of a few rounds from a shore battery (perhaps the one shown above) still loyal to the Emperor. At the end of the affair, four ringleaders were executed and 392 mutineers court-martialled from across the naval division in port.

Interrupting the legal matters, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire imploded a few months later, the Emperor handed over the entire Navy to the newly formed Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (KSCS, later Kingdom of Yugoslavia) on 29 October 1918. Nobody told the Italians what happened and on 1 November, Italian frogmen sank the mighty (now-Slovenian) battleship

The problem was that nobody told the Italians what happened and on 1 November, Italian frogmen sank the mighty (now-Slovenian) battleship Viribus Unitis at anchor in 1918, in effect, the largest loss ever suffered by the Yugoslav Navy.

When the Allies arrived to occupy the ports a few days later, they promptly took over the former Austrian ships and held them through 1920, in the end sinking or taking away as prizes the best of the lot– including Stephanie who was transferred to Italy as a war prize and was eventually broken up for scrap in 1926.

As allowed by the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Allies tossed Yugoslavia the scraps nobody wanted to include a dozen small torpedo boats, some slowpoke river monitors, a couple of auxiliaries and the ex-SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf, which still had a couple of holes in her from the mutiny and hadn’t moved in years.

The Yugoslavs took over the old lady in March 1921 and, after renaming her Kumbor, she became the default flagship of the new force, for the record being the largest ship they ever operated post-Armistice Day.

The honeymoon was short-lived.

She was sold for scrap sometime in 1922, with the Yugos not having another seagoing warship until they bought the old 2,953-ton German protected cruiser Niobe in 1925.

Today little remains of Rudolph/Kumbor other than maritime art, of her on a much better day when she carried the withering ensign of her dying empire to a far off land.

Squadron drill of SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf at front, SMS Kronprinzessin Erzherzogin Stephanie, SMS Kaiser Franz Joseph I and SMS Tiger at Kiel, 1890, oil on canvas by Alexander Kircher, via wiki

Squadron drill of SMS Kronprinz Erzherzog Rudolf at front, SMS Kronprinzessin Erzherzogin Stephanie, SMS Kaiser Franz Joseph I and SMS Tiger at Kiel, 1890, oil on canvas by Alexander Kircher, via wiki

Specs:

kronprinz-erzherzog-rudolf-1889-plansDisplacement: 6,829 metric tons (6,721 long tons)
Length:     320 ft. 3 in o/a
Beam:     63 ft. 3 in
Draft:     24 ft. 3 in
Installed power:
10 × fire-tube boilers
6,000 ihp (4,500 kW)
Propulsion:     2 × triple-expansion steam engines, 580-tons coal
Endurance: 2600nm at 10 knots
Speed:     15.5 kn (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph)
Crew:     447–450
Armor: (Harvey steel)
Belt: 305 mm
Deck: 95 mm (3.7 in)
Barbettes: 254 mm (10.0 in)
Armament:
3 × 30.5-centimeter (12.0 in) guns
6 × 12 cm (4.7 in) guns
7 × 47 mm (1.9 in) QF guns
2 × 37 mm (1.5 in) QF guns
4 × 40 cm (16 in) torpedo tubes

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

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has it place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Springfield Armory still has 2/3rds of the first M1917 rifles

The 30.06 caliber Model 1917 Enfield was developed from the .303 British Pattern 1914 (P.14) rifle. Currently on the Springfield Armory museum collection, there are two Model 1917 Enfields with Serial #1.

In the above photo, the top rifle was made by Winchester in New Haven, Connecticut, while the bottom rifle was made by Eddystone Arsenal in Chester, Pennsylvania. Approximately 2.2 Million Model 1917 Enfields would be produced between 1917 and 1918, and remain in service through WWII and with overseas American allies to this day (The Danish Sirius Patrol still uses it as the M17/M53 rifle).

The rifles were cranked out extremely fast, with the assembly record being 280 rifles a day for an individual craftsman while the assemblers in the various plants averaged 250 rifles per day per man.

The cost of the Model 1914 Enfield to the British Government was $42.00 each. These modified Enfields cost the United States Government, due to standardization methods, approximately $26.00 each.

Eddystone made 1,181,910 rifles with #1 being SPAR 3191 in the Museum’s collection

Winchester made 465,980 rifles with #1 being SPAR 3192 . It was presented to President Woodrow Wilson on 23 January 1918.

Winchester M1917 SN#1 on the rack at Springfield. Note how blonde the stock is on "Woodrow's" gun

Winchester M1917 SN#1 on the rack at Springfield. Note how blonde the stock is on “Woodrow’s” gun

Unfortunately, Springfield does not have Remington’s M1917 SN#1.

As the company was the first to start production, they likely shipped it right out. The earliest Remington M1917 rifle I can find is serial number of 137, which was likely made the first day of production. This gun is in the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va.

sn-137-remington-m1917-first-day-of-production

 

Welcome aboard, Spuds

Happy New Year!

On this day in 1914, Lt. Theodore Gordon Ellyson, (USNA 1905), better known to his friends as Spud, was named Naval Aviator Number One.

lt-theodore-ellyson-naval-aviator-1
After service on a number of battleships and cruisers, Ellyson served on the early submarine USS Shark (SS-8) before commanding the more advanced USS Tarantula (SS-12) with her massive six person crew.

At the end of 1910 he was sent to Glenn Curtiss’ flying school and left the ground on 28 January 1911 under his own control– the first U.S. Navy officer to do so. Ellyson later made the first successful launch of an airplane (A-3) by catapult at the Washington Navy Yard 12 November 1912.

After WWI service, Ellyson was tragically killed on 27 February 1928, his 43rd birthday, in the crash of a Loening OL-7 in the Chesapeake Bay while on a night flight from Norfolk to Annapolis. His body washed ashore and was recovered two months later.

Spuds is buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery.

Warship Wednesday Dec. 28, 2017: Mexico’s mighty (lonely) battleship

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Dec. 28, 2017: Mexico’s mighty (lonely) battleship

Catalog #: NH 93255

Catalog #: NH 93255

Here we see the former Brazilian armored ship Marshal Deodoro in the service of the Mexican Navy as Anáhuac sometime between 1924-38, photographed in the Gulf of Mexico, under the Mexican flag. This photo was acquired by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, probably a commercial postcard purchased in Mexico– an early example of open source intel.

Though not much of a brawler, the Anáhuac can be considered Mexico’s sole entry into the world of battleships.

Originally ordered as the Ypiranga in 1898 from F C de la Méditerranée, La Seyne, France, the cute 3,162-ton ship at the time was classified as a battleship. The lead ship was named after Brazil’s first president, Marshal Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca, while the name of Brazil’s second president, Marshal Floriano Peixoto, both of whom had died within the decade before,graced the follow-on sistership.

They had 13-inches of Harvey armor, a pair of 9.2-inch guns in single fore and aft turrets, and could make 15-ish knots. A myriad of smaller guns kept torpedo boats away while a pair of 5.9-inch howitzers could bombard the shoreline.

Built with the lessons learned at the recent battles of Santiago and the Yalu, naval writer C. Fields in an 1899 Scientific American article said of the class, “Though, of course, unable to contend with a battleship of the ordinary size, yet the Marshal Deodoro would prove a formidable opponent to any armor-clad of an approximating displacement and also to a cruiser much more numerously gunned.”

Via Scientific American, c.1899.

Via Scientific American, c.1899.

Commissioned in 1900, these two pocket battlewagons were much larger and more modern than anything else in the Brazilian fleet. Further, they were downright handsome.

marshal-deodoro-brasil-brazil-coastal-defense-battleship

By 1906, with a depression in Brazil, Marshal Deodoro and Marshal Floriano were the only operational armored warships afloat in the country. However, a coffee boom followed by a rubber boom soon had the nation’s treasury overflowing and a series of modern dreadnoughts (the first ordered besides for the U.S. and British Royal Navy) were purchased beginning in 1907.

Brazilian Torpedo Launch. In Rio de Janeiro harbor, Brazil, during the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's visit there while en route to the Pacific, circa 12-22 January 1908. The Brazilian cruiser in the center distance is either Marshal Deodoro or Marshal Floriano. The torpedo gunboat in the left distance is a member of the Brazilian Tupy class. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Photo #: NH 101481

Brazilian Torpedo Launch. In Rio de Janeiro harbor, Brazil, during the U.S. Atlantic Fleet’s visit there while en route to the Pacific, circa 12-22 January 1908. The Brazilian cruiser in the center distance is either Marshal Deodoro or Marshal Floriano.  Note she is all-white now rather than with a black hull as shown above. The torpedo gunboat in the left distance is a member of the Brazilian Tupy class. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Photo #: NH 101481

This ship is either Marshal Deodoro (launched 1898) or Marshal Floriano (launched 1899). A U.S. Navy battleship is partially visible in the right background. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. Photo #: NH 101480

This ship is either Marshal Deodoro (launched 1898) or Marshal Floriano (launched 1899). A U.S. Navy battleship is partially visible in the right background. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold. Photo #: NH 101480

In 1912, an effort was made to modernize the ships; replacing their French coal fired boilers with new oil burning Babcock & Wilcox models, giving the pair a little more range.

However, once Brazil’s new dreadnoughts were delivered, this left the obsolete armored coastal defenders to be shuffled off to training missions and use as tenders. Floriano was soon hulked and eventually scrapped in 1936 by the Brazilians while Deodoro, in better condition, was sold to the Republic of Mexico in 1924 who promptly commissioned her as the Anáhuac, after the ancient (Aztec) name of the Basin of Mexico.

A 3,000-ton SpanAm War era pre-dreadnought growing long in the tooth, the Mexicans used Anahuac primarily for training purposes for a decade in the Gulf of Mexico, though the U.S. Navy proved very interested in her movements.

Photographed together at Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. ANAHUAC (at left), in commission from 1898 to circa 1935, was the former Brazilian MARECHAL DEODORO, acquired in April 1924. The NICOLAS BRAVO (at right) was in commission from 1903 to 1940. Bravo was the deciding factor in the first battle of Tampico in 1914. The U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, probably as a postcard on public sale, acquired this photograph. Description: Catalog #: NH 93257

Photographed together at Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. ANAHUAC (at left), in commission from 1898 to circa 1935, was the former Brazilian MARECHAL DEODORO, acquired in April 1924. The NICOLAS BRAVO (at right) was in commission from 1903 to 1940. Bravo was the deciding factor in the first battle of Tampico in 1914. The U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, probably as a postcard on public sale, acquired this photograph. Description: Catalog #: NH 93257

Photographed in the Gulf of Mexico. Note her very dark overall scheme. This photograph was acquired by U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, probably as a postcard on public sale. Description: Catalog #: NH 93256

Photographed in the Gulf of Mexico. Note her very dark overall scheme. This photograph was acquired by U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, probably as a postcard on public sale. Description: Catalog #: NH 93256

In 1938, on the cusp of WWII, Anahuac was sold for scrap and at the time was likely one of the last 19th century French pre-drednoughts afloat.

Specs:

Photo: Blueprints.com

Photo: Blueprints.com

Displacement: 3,162 tons standard
Length:     267-feet
Beam:     47.24-feet
Draught:     13.74-feet
Propulsion:
(as built)
2 shaft triple expansion engines, 2 screws
8 Lagrafel d’Allest boilers, 236-tons coal
3,400 ihp (2,500 kW)
(1912)
2 shaft triple expansion engines, 2 screws
8 Babcock & Wilcox oil-firing boilers, 440-tons oil.
3,400 ihp (2,500 kW)
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 200
Armament:
2 × Armstrong D 9.2 inch, 45 caliber guns in 2 single turrets
2 x 5.9-inch howitzers
4 x 4.7 inch, 50 caliber guns in casemates
6 x 6-pounder (57mm) Hotchkiss guns
2 x 1-pounder Hotchkiss in masts
2 x 17.7 (450mm) submerged torpedo tubes
Armour: (All Harvey steel)
Belt: 11-13 inches
Deck: 2 inches
Conning tower: 4 inches
Casemate: 3 inches
Main Turret face: 8.7 inches

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.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has it place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday Dec. 21, 2017: The pirate chaser of Lake Michigan

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Dec. 21, 2017: The pirate chaser of Lake Michigan

Photo: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

Photo: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Click to big up

Here we see the one of a kind Cutter Tuscarora, of the Revenue Cutter Service, as she sails mightily around the Great Lakes in the early 1900s– note her twin 6-pdr popguns forward.

The mighty Tuscarora, in all of her 178-feet of glory, gave over three decades of service, fought in a World War, and even caught what could be considered the last American pirate.

Laid down at the William R. Trigg Company, Richmond, Virginia in 1900, she was commissioned 27 December 1902 (114 years ago next Tuesday to be exact), and was named after a Native American nation of the Iroquois confederacy.

A steel-hulled ship built for a service still shaking off wooden hulls and sailing rigs, Tuscarora was built for the USRCS for what was seen as easy duty on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior in what was then known as the Great Lakes Patrol, replacing the larger USRC Gresham (1,090-tons, 205-feet) which was removed from the Lakes by splitting her in half in 1898 to take part in the Spanish-American War.

Just 620-tons, she could float in 11-feet of freshwater and cost the nation $173,814 (about $4.7 million in today’s figures, which is something of a bargain). As her primary job was that of enforcing customs and chasing smugglers, her armament consisted of a couple of 6-pounder (57mm) naval pieces that were pretty standard for parting the hair of a wayward sea captain who wouldn’t heave to or to sink derlicts.

Revenue cutter TUSCARORA At Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa 1908. NH 71060

Revenue cutter TUSCARORA At Milwaukee, Wisconsin, circa 1908. NH 71060

Based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she made regular calls on the Chicago area and, like all other craft on the freshwater Lakes, was laid up each winter. Replacements for her crew were generally recruited from Milwaukee by custom.

Tuscarora led a relatively uneventful life, policing regattas, entertaining local sightseers, provided support to U.S. Life Saving Service stations, assisting distressed mariners, exchanging salutes with the occasional British (Canadian) customs vessel, and waiting for the ice every winter.

But there was a guy in the Frankfort, Michigan, area, a former Navy bluejacket and one-time Klondike prospector by the name of Captain “Roaring” Dan Seavey who was a hell raiser. A big man for his day, Dan was also known to pack a revolver and when the mood or spirits struck him, shoot out street lights or occasional window encountered on his travels.

Then, he took to the water.

You see, sometime around the early 1900s, Seavey picked up a  battered 40 to 50-foot two-masted schooner with no engines that he named Wanderer, and became downright notorious.

Seavey

Seavey, sometime in the 1920s

He ran anything he could across the Lakes for a buck. Reportedly, he used the Wanderer as an offshore brothel and casino and basically did anything he wanted– to a degree.

He would set up fake lights to entice coasters to wreck, then be the first one on hand for salvage rights, goes the tale.

Word is he sank a rival venison smuggler (hey, it was Lake Michigan) with a cannon somewhere out on the lake and made sure no one lived to tell the tale.

Photo of Dan Seavey's schooner Wanderer, courtesy Door County Maritime Museum via the Growler mag http://growlermag.com/roaring-dan-seavey-pirate-of-the-great-lakes/

Photo of Dan Seavey’s schooner Wanderer, courtesy Door County Maritime Museum via the Growler mag

In June 1908, he took over the 40-foot schooner Nellie Johnson in Grand Haven, Michigan in an act that could be termed today, well, piracy.

In short, it involved getting the skipper drunk and leaving with the boat and her two complicit crew members while the Johnson‘s master slept it off.

However, unable to sell her cargo of cedar posts in Chicago, Seavey poked around with the pirated ship in tow for over two weeks– and Tuscarora, under the command of Captain Preston H. Uberroth, USRCS, with Deputy U.S. Marshall Thomas Currier on board, poked around every nook and cranny until they found Nellie Johnson swamped but with her cargo intact, and Seavey on the run.

From an excellent article on Seavey in Hour Detroit:

There was a stiff breeze that day and Seavey was grabbing every bit of it he could with the Wanderer’s two sails. With the Wanderer now in sight, it might have now been no contest, but Uberroth wasn’t taking any chances. The Tuscarora’s boilers were so hot the paint burned off the smokestack. The final chase lasted an hour, ending, according to some reports (which many now doubt true), with a cannon shot from the Tuscarora over the bow of the Wanderer, finally bringing Seavey to a halt.

If reporters made up the cannon shot, they weren’t the only ones caught up in the action. Currier was quoted as saying, “I have chased criminals all my life, but this was the most thrilling experience of many years. I never before chased a pirate with a steamship, and probably never will again, but of all the jolly pirates Seavey is the jolliest.”

Whatever happened, Uberroth sent an armed crew aboard, placed Seavey in irons, and brought him to the Tuscarora, which then made for Chicago.

“Seavey was surprised, to say the least,” accord to Currier. “He said that we would never have caught him had he had another half-hour’s start.”

It was sensational news at the time and went coast to coast, with Seavey maintaining that he won the Nellie Johnson in a poker game and everyone just had the wrong idea. When the owner of the

When the owner of the Nellie Johnson failed to appear in federal court in Chicago, Seavey was set free to sail the fringes of the law for decades.

As for Tuscarora, she got back to work, responding to a very active season of distress calls on Lake Superior and surviving being grounded off Detour, Michigan with a government wrecking crew from Sault Ste sent to help refloat her without much damage other than to her pride.

u-s-revenue-cutter-tuscarora-viewed-at-an-angle-from-the-front-along-one-side-1905

In late 1912, she took part in the search for the lost Christmas tree boat Rousse Simmons, and served as a safety ship for John G. Kaminski, the first licensed pilot in Wisconsin, as he flew his primitive Curtiss A-1 Pusher aircraft over the water in an exhibition near Milwaukee.

In 1913, Tuscarora was part of the Perry Battle of Lake Erie Centennial Fleet, which toured the Great Lakes alongside the replica of Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship Niagara.

Ships seen are (from left to right): U.S. Revenue Cutter Tuscarora; USS Wolverine (Pennsylvania Naval Militia ship); a converted yacht, probably one of those assigned to Great Lakes state Naval Militias; and the Niagara replica. Courtesy of Tom Parsons, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 104256

Ships seen are (from left to right): U.S. Revenue Cutter Tuscarora; USS Wolverine (Pennsylvania Naval Militia ship); a converted yacht, probably one of those assigned to Great Lakes state Naval Militias; and the Niagara replica. Courtesy of Tom Parsons, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 104256

In 1916, she became part of the new U.S. Coast Guard and was rebuilt, bringing her displacement to 739-tons, which deepened her draft considerably.

image-of-four-sailors-manning-an-anti-aircraft-gun-on-the-u-s-revenue-cutter-tuscarora-anchored-on-lake-michigan-in-chicago-illinois-chicago-daily-news-1905

Upon declaration of war on April 6, 1917, the United States Coast Guard automatically became a part of the Department of the Navy and the now-USS Tuscarora (CG-7) picked up a coat of haze gray, a 3-inch gun in place of one of her 6-pdrs, and made for the Boston Naval District, arriving on the East Coast in October.

The Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum has the papers of Kenosha resident John Isermann, a cutterman QM2 who served on Tuscarora during World War I.

Patrolling off Rhode Island and Connecticut, she came to the assistance of the USS Helianthus (SP585) in December and an unnamed schooner in January 1918 while on the lookout for German submarines. When in port at Providence, the crew was detailed to guard munitions and assisted with testing underwater weaponry at the Naval Torpedo Station at Goat Island, near Newport, Rhode Island. Setting south, she met transports bound for France out of Hampton Rhodes in February and picked up a set of depth charges and throwers in March of that year.

On March 13, 1918, Tuscarora rescued 130 from the beached Merchants and Miners Line steamer SS Kershaw (2,599-tons) off East Hampton, Long Island via breeches buoy after picking up her SOS from 15 miles away.

Kershaw

Kershaw

(Kershaw was later refloated only to be sunk in a collision with the Dollar Liner SS President Garfield in 1928 on Martha’s Vineyard Sound)

The next day, Tuscarora took the old broken down Velasco-class gunboat USS Don Juan de Austria under tow to bring her into Newport.

The ship then escorted a small convoy to Bermuda, then put in at Guantanamo Bay and Key West, reporting a submarine contact in May 1918. She finished her service

She finished her service at Key West and, returned to the Treasury Department at the end of hostilities, landed her depth charges, picked up a fresh coat of white paint, and resumed her permanent station at Milwaukee on 6 October 1920.

u-s-revenue-cutter-tuscarora-wiconsin-veterans-museum

However the saltwater was calling to her and, with the onset of Prohibition nonsense, she was transferred to Boston again in 1926 to help patrol “rum row” and keep Canadian motherships from meeting with local rumrunners just off shore.

By 1930, she was reassigned to Florida where she was under temporary loan to the Navy in 1933 for the Cuban Expedition.

This came about when Fulgencio Bastista led the “Sergeant’s Revolt” on 4-5 September 1933 and forced then-Cuban dictator, General Gerardo Machado to flee Cuba. President Roosevelt sent 30 warships to protect our interests in Cuba. Due to a shortage of vessels on the east coast, the Navy requested that Coast Guard cutters assist in the patrols in Cuban waters. Because of the shenanigans, our hardy Lake Michigan pirate buster spent nearly three months at Matanzas and Havana taking part in gunboat diplomacy.

At the end of her useful life and a new series of 165-foot cutters being built as a WPA project for small shipyards, Tuscarora was decommissioned 1 May 1936.

In 1937, she was sold to Texas Refrigerator Steamship Lines for use as a banana boat, a job she apparently was ill-suited for, as in 1939 she was sold again to the Boston Iron & Metal Company, Baltimore, Maryland, for her value as scrap.

As for “pirate” Seavey, he may have smuggled alcohol during Prohibition– at the same time he was a Deputy U.S. Marshal sometime after the Wanderer was destroyed by fire in 1918.

He died in a nursing home in 1949.

seaveygravestone

However, there is a distillery that pays homage to Dan today with his own brand of maple-flavored rum produced in the Great Lakes area.

roaring-dans-rum

“Although the facts and fiction of Dan’s life have become twisted over the years, we do know Dan was the only man ever arrested for piracy on the Great Lakes,” says the distillery— who runs an image of Tuscarora in memorandum.

Specs:

image-of-the-tuscarora-gunboat-in-water-at-chicago-illinois-1909
Displacement 620 t.
1916 – 739 t., 1933- 849 t.
Length 178′
Beam 30′
Draft 10′ 11″
1916 – 15′ 3″
Propulsion: VTE, 2 Babcock & Wilcox single end boilers, one shaft.
Maximum speed 14.2 kts as built, 12 sustained
Complement 65
1916 – 64
Armament: 2  57/45 Hotchkiss 6-pdr Mk II/III or Driggs-Schroeder Mk I (as built)
1917: 1 x 3″/50 Mk 2 low angle, 1x6pdr, machine guns, depth charges
1919: 1 x 3″/50 Mk 2

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Old school master key

12-gauge-winchester-model-1897-shotgun-this-pump-action-smoothbore-was-reportedly-utilized-by-a-florida-police-department-as-an-entry-weapon-for-raidsHere we see a 12 gauge Winchester Model 1897 shotgun as modified for military service then subsequently whittled down sometime later. This pump-action smoothbore was reportedly utilized by a Florida police department as an entry weapon for raids and is currently in the collection of the National Firearms Museum.

The trench gun, likely passed on after World War II from military stores, is a really well done chop, with the brass buttplate being moved up to the end of the abbreviated stock.

As noted in Canfield’s excellent U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II, some 20,000 M1917 Trench Guns were ordered during the Great War and as many as 48,000 subsequently modified ’97s during the second, all with the ventilated hand-guard, sling swivels and Enfeld bayonet adapter.

After 1945, with the Army purchasing upwards of 500,000 commercial shotguns of all kinds for training and constabulary use during the conflict, among the first surplused out was the Winchester trench brooms– making them exceedingly rare in original condition today.

Western Rifle Shooters Association

Good luck, Mr. President.

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