Tag Archive | battle of Manila Bay

Warship Wednesday, Aug.7, 2019: The Muddy Seabird of Manila Bay

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, Aug.7, 2019: The Muddy Seabird of Manila Bay

NHHC Collection Photo # NHF-049-G.01, Nathan Sargent Collection

Here we see a beautiful tinted (not colorized) photo of the 4th rate barquentine-rigged gunboat USS Petrel (PG-2) somewhere on Asiatic Station in 1896. While striking in this image, this one-of-a-kind warship would spend a winter holed up in a mud fort in restless territory before going on to burn a Spanish fleet to the waterline.

Ordered with $247,000 under the 1885 Congressional funding act for the Navy Department, Petrel was one of the smatterings of new steel-hulled warships built for the rapidly modernizing fleet that was only just shaking off the cobwebs of two decades of post-Civil War doldrums. Laid down in 1887 at Baltimore’s Columbian Iron Works & Dry Dock Co., our 188-foot-long gunboat had a thin coat of armor (7 to 9mm) along her watertight deck. Fitted with an auxiliary sailing rig, her primitive twin-boiler/single-engine/single screw plant could make 11 knots on a good day. With a mean draft of just 11 feet, 7 inches, she could poke her nose in lots of coves, bays, and harbors otherwise off-limits to larger warships. This would prove useful in her career.

For armament, she carried four 6-inch guns mounted two per side on sponsons as well as an array of 3- and 1-pounder rapid-fire guns to ward off torpedo boats.

6″ (15.2 cm) 35-caliber gun on protected cruiser USS Newark (C-1). An inclined-recoil mounting, possibly Mark 3 Central Pivot. Petrel carried four such guns, pretty big medicine for an 800-ton gunboat. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Photograph. Library of Congress Photograph ID LC-D4-20655.

Commissioned 10 December 1889, Petrel was the U.S. Navy’s third warship named after the small long-winged sea bird with the two previous vessels being an armed 1840s schooner and a Civil War-era tinclad steamer, respectively, the latter of which was lost during the Yazoo River expedition.

Our ship when new:

USS Petrel Edward Hart Photo 1889, Detroit Postcard co LC-D4-32201

And a second Edward Hart Photo/DPC photo from the other side, this one NH 89487

And the postcard itself!

By September 1891, our Petrel was ordered to the Asiatic Station, where she would call home through most of her career. She spent nearly a decade poking around Chinese, Korean and Japanese waters, protecting U.S. interests, with occasional trips to the Pribilof Islands in the Alaskan Territory to discourage seal poachers.

USS PETREL (PG-2) (1899-1920) in Japanese waters, during the 1890s. Note her rigging and canvas. Collection of Shizuo Fukui, copied from Dr. S. Watanabe’s Album. The photo was provided by William H. Davis. NH 42706

It was during this time that her crew dutifully grew the files of the ONI by taking rather decent photos of the various naval vessels they came across in the exotic ports of the Far East. Such as the Thai cruiser HTMS Makut Rajakumarn (1887):

MAKUT RAJAKUMAR (THAI “Cruiser, ” 1887.) Caption: Built at Hong Kong of steel in 1887. 650 tons, length 175 feet, speed 14 knots, guns 2 40-PDRS, 5 20- PDRS. This spelling of her name was taken from her stern. Photo by G.R. Lambert & CO. of Singapore, received by ONI in May 1892 from USS PETREL; probably at Bangkok. NH 94239

As part of her gunboat diplomacy of the era, Petrel intervened during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, spending a winter iced in at the mouth of the Liao River, holed up in an improvised breastwork fort with the smaller British gunboat HMS Firebrand.

USS PETREL (PG-2) at right, and HMS FIREBRAND Being laid up for the winter at Miuchwang, China, 1894-95. Note piles of earth around the ships used to make fortifications for protection during the winter. NH 75705

From the Naval War College:

In October 1894, the third USS Petrel (PG-2), a fourth-rate gunboat, was dispatched to Newchwang (also known as Yingtze, Yingkou, and Yenkow), China, in order to protect the city’s foreign residents. Special problems arose because the city is located on the Liao River, which is closed to navigation from November until April by ice floes. Since it was necessary to remain there all winter, they beached the vessel and constructed a fortress around it large enough to include all the foreign residents.

It was reported that, although the American force never confronted hostile Chinese or the Japanese forces, its presence prevented the outbreak of rioting on several occasions and strengthened the local government’s authority. The governor, the foreign consuls, and residents agreed that “Fort Petrel” had given them a significant advantage in their efforts to protect life and property. The Petrel arrived at Newchwang on 12 November 1894, just as the winter freeze was setting in, and it departed with the spring thaw on 24 April 1895.

Laid up for the winter, inside the mud fort at Miuchwang, China 1894-95. Masts of British gunboat FIREBRAND are in the background. Note heavy security precautions. Photographed on Christmas Day, 1894, note Christmas trees at mast tops. NH 75704

After that, she continued her rounds.

Photographed in Chinese Waters, 1890s. Courtesy Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (MC) NH 44478

When the U.S. and Spain collided in war on 21 April 1898, Petrel was in Hong Kong and quickly made ready for combat with Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron. She sailed for the Spanish-held colony of the Philippines by the end of the month.

At Hong Kong, 15 April 1898, shortly before the beginning of the Spanish-American War. Note crewmen aloft watching the rowing launches racing past in the foreground, also shipping and Chinese junks in the distance. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral Montgomery M. Taylor. NH 42707

Headed into Manila Bay, Spanish RADM Patricio Montojo squadron had seven cruisers of various sizes as well as an equal number of gunboats and armed auxiliaries along with several shore defenses and coastal artillery batteries. Against this seemingly imposing force, Dewey could count his flagship, the large protected cruiser USS Olympia, three smaller cruisers (Baltimore, Raleigh, and Boston) as well as the gunboats Concord and our Petrel, who was the smallest in the good Commodore’s battle line.

Of course, the battle proved very one-sided as Montojo’s fleet was a paper tiger, composed of small, unprotected ships (four of his “cruisers” only went about 1,100-tons and had smaller sized guns than Petrel) while the Spanish harbor defenses were similarly ineffective.

It was over fast and all Montojo’s warships were effective losses while Dewey’s force was almost completely unscathed.

USS Petrel, this NHHC photo, recently rediscovered by the Navy, was a lot of some 350 glass plates described as taken during the Battle of Manila Bay and the Span-Am War.

Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898. With Manila, Philippines, in the top center, and the Spanish fleet in the upper right, the U.S. Navy ships listed descending on the left to bottom are: Colliers; USS McCullough; USS Petrel; USS Concord; USS Boston; USS Raleigh; USS Baltimore; and USS Olympia – signaling “Remember the Maine.” Color lithograph by Rand McNally. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Petrel’s skipper, LCDR Edward Parker Wood (USNA 1867), reported that his ship fired her first shot at 5.22 a.m. and the last one, before hauling off for breakfast, was fired at 7.30 a. m. while the second part of the action occurred from 11.30 a. m. to 12.30 p. m., “at which latter time the Spanish flag on the arsenal sheers in Cavite was hauled down.” The gunboat fired about one-third of her magazine stores including 113 6-inch common shells, three 6-inch armor-piercing shells, 82 6-inch full charges, 34 6-inch reduced charges, 313 3-pounder shells and 176 1-pounders.

In the first part of the action, Wood noted:

“The greater part of our great-gun fire was at the Reina Christina and Castilla, the former steaming around the harbor and the latter anchored about 500 yards off Sangley Point; but the other and smaller vessels were fired at when opportunity offered. Especially was the fire of the rapid-fire guns aimed at a yellow launch, which was apparently a torpedo boat trying to turn our flank. The navigator, Lieut. B. A. Fiske, was stationed in the top with a stadimeter to determine the distance and report upon the efficiency of the fire.”

The second part:

At 11, when the signal was made to get underway, the Petrel followed Olympia and stood well in. While steaming across the fire the signal was hoisted for the Petrel to pass inside.

This vessel left her station, passed outside of Baltimore, and rounded Sangley Point about 500 yards outside of where Castilla was burning. The fire was then directed at the Don Antonio de Ulloa, and when it was found that she was sinking and deserted, the ship passed farther inside and opened fire upon the ships behind the inner breakwater and whose masts were seen above government buildings. During the firing on the Ulloa a white flag with a Geneva cross was discovered in range with her, and I stood in further so as to get it out of range. After the first two or three shots fired through the public building at ships behind the mole, the Spanish flag was, at 12.30 p.m., hauled down and a white flag run up. The surrender was immediately signaled to fleet and firing ceased.

Petrel was then ordered to deliver the coup de grace to what was left of the Spanish fleet:

In obedience to a signal from flagship to destroy all shipping in the harbor, Lieutenant Hughes was sent with a whaleboat crew of seven men, this whaleboat being the only one on the ship which would float, and set fire to the Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, General Lezo, and Marques del Duero. Afterward, Ensign Fermier was sent to set fire to the Velasco and El Correo.

The Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, and Don Juan de Austria were aground and full of water when they were fired. Their outboard valves were opened, and the ships allowed to fill. The breech plugs of 4-inch guns had been taken off and could not be found. During the night the magazines of the Don Juan de Austria blew up.

The Manila was not burned because the Spanish officers begged that she be not destroyed because she was unarmed and a coast-survey vessel. Lieutenant Fiske and Passed Assistant Engineer Hall raised steam on the ship this morning, the 4th instant, and brought her out. At the time she was aground. The Don Antonio de Ulloa was sunk, and the Reina Christina and Castilla were burning in the outer harbor.

Lieutenant Fiske was sent ashore and brought off two tugboats, the Rapido and Hercules, and three steam launches.

One of her crew, German-born Franz A. Itrich, Chief Carpenter’s Mate, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the firing, one of just 66 issued for the Navy during the Spanish-American War.

Halftone reproduction of an artwork by E.T. Smith, 1901, depicting a boat party from USS Petrel setting fire to Spanish gunboats near the battle’s end. The party was under the direction of Chief Carpenter’s Mate Franz A. Itrich, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for this operation. Copied from Deeds of Valor, Vol.II, page 354, published by the Perrien-Keydel Co., Detroit, Michigan, 1907. Photo #: NH 79948

In all, Petrel suffered no casualties during the battle and the ship received no damage. However, during the scrap, the discharge of the after 6-inch guns shattered her gig and first whaleboat which were later “replaced by two taken from the enemy.”

Not a bad morning’s work when it came to a fleet-to-fleet action.

Petrel would continue to serve in the occupation of the island chain throughout 1899. She joined Boston in shelling Panay Island in February of that year before landing a force of 48 men to occupy Cebu. In October, Petrel joined USS Callao (a captured Spanish gunboat which had been commissioned in U.S. service) in supporting the Marine Corps assault on Neveleta by bombarding ahead of the advancing Marine column.

Chief Petty Officer calling the roll. Stereo photo copyright by B.W. Kilburn, 1900. Note barefoot bugler at left sea chest and Gatling gun at right. She would send several landing parties ashore in China and the Philippines in the course of her career. Photo courtesy of CDR. D.J. Robinson, USN (RET), 1981. NH 91825

After the conflict died down, Petrel suffered an extensive below-deck fire that began in her sail room and spread to a magazine. The blaze claimed the life of her skipper, LCDR Jesse M. Roper, who was overcome by smoke on his second descent into the burning compartment to rescue downed bluejackets and suffocated before help could reach him. The Wickes-class destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) was later named in his honor.

Also honored for their actions that day were three men– Seaman Alphonse Girandy, Marine PVT Louis Fred Theis (aka Louis Fred Pfeifer), and Seaman Thomas Cahey– who ultimately received the Medal of Honor. Each of the latter’s citations states, “Serving on board the U.S.S. Petrel, for heroism and gallantry, fearlessly exposing his own life to danger for the saving of others, on the occasion of the fire on board that vessel, March 31, 1901.”

Decommissioned after the fire at Cavite and laid up there for a decade, Petrel only returned to fleet service on 2 May 1910, under command of CDR (later RADM and commander of the Asiatic Fleet in the 1930s) Montgomery Meigs Taylor. He was not the only admiral who would learn his trade on Petrel. During her career, the gunboat would see at least 23 commanders, of which at least four would garner stars.

Upon returning to service, Petrel underwent a final refit and modernization, landing her old 6-inchers in place of four more modern 4″/40cal singles. A couple years later, her worn boilers were replaced by four new ones. Her listing at the time from Jane’s:

Transferring to the East Coast for the first time in two decades, Petrel would spend from 1912 to 1917 largely in the Caribbean, with much of that as a station ship at Gitmo.

USS Petrel (PG-2) baseball team, circa 1913 to 1915. NHF-086.01

USS Petrel (PG-2) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as station ship circa 1915-1917. Note she seems to still have a white scheme. UA 560.06

When the U.S. entered the Great War, Petrel was given depth charges and assigned to the American Patrol Detachment at Boston, although she would range into the Caribbean and Latin American waters on her counter U-boat efforts.

In floating drydock at the New Orleans Naval Station, January 1918. Note SP boats. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1967 NH 43471

In floating drydock at the New Orleans Naval Station, January 1918. Note SP boats and her now dark haze gray scheme. Courtesy of John G. Krieger, 1967 NH 43471

Petrel decommissioned at New Orleans 15 July 1919 and was struck from the Naval Register 16 April 1920. She was subsequently sold to Snare & Treest, New York, 1 November 1920, for breaking.

Her plans rest today in the National Archives as do her logs. She is memorialized in maritime art:

“USS Petrel gun vessel” via Illustrated London News Dec 6, 1890

Oil on canvas by Francis Muller. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC. Donation of Commodore J.H. Hellweg. Navy Art Accession #: 51-027-A. NH 88068-KN

Her name was used for the 4th (and thus far last time) for the Chanticleer-class submarine rescue ship USS Petrel (ASR-14), which commissioned 24 September 1946. This hardy vessel, like her predecessor, would give over 30 years of hard service to her country and, after a further decade on James River’s red lead row, was scrapped in 2003.


Unofficial deck and outboard profile plans, published in the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1893. NH 70049

Displacement: 867 tons
Length: 188 ft
Beam: 31 ft
Draft: 11 ft 6 in
Machinery: 2 cylindrical boilers (4 after 1914). Horizontal, back-acting compound engine with a 33-inch stroke, 1,045 hp. Single screw.
Speed: 11.4 kts (11.55 trials)
Range: 4,000 nautical miles at 10 knots with 200-ton coal load (100 tons normal load)
Complement: 10 officers and 112 enlisted as designed. 142 by WWI
Armor: 7-9mm on watertight deck
4 × 6″/35cal (152 mm) Mk III guns
2 × 47mm (3-pounder) Hotchkiss Mk I guns
1 × 37mm (1-pounder) “Hotchkiss Long” RF gun
2 x 37mm (1-pounder) Hotchkiss 5-barrel revolving cannons
2x .45-70 Gatling guns
4 × 4″/40cal (102 mm) Mk VI guns
2 × 47mm (3-pounder) Hotchkiss Mk I guns
2 × 37mm (1-pounder) “Hotchkiss Long”

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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.


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,

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 assess 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 Bussard-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.

Members of McCulloch’s crew pose with a Spanish shore gun disabled during Battle of Manila Bay at Corregidor. Courtesy of U.S. Navy.

Her service in the Far East with Dewey inspired a poem by H.M. Barstow to counter her image in stateside papers as only a “tender” or “dispatch boat.”

U.S. Revenue Cutter McCulloch, tender to the Admirals Fleet poem 1898

Arriving back in the U.S. at the end of 1898, 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

USRC 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

McCulloch in Seward, Alaska Territory

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 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 Officer 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.”


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
4 x 6pdr (57mm); 1 torpedo tube (as built)

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