Tag Archives: BB-2

Warship Wednesday Feb 12, the Big Mass

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out 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.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Feb 12, the Big Mass

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

Here we see the war veteran USS Massachusetts fitting out at the New York Navy Yard, 1904, USS Indiana (BB-01), her sister, is in the background. The second official US battleship, the Massachusetts had an interesting life including service against the Spanish, Germans, and a few stops in between before finally taking a beating from the Army.

Note the LOW freeboard...

Note the LOW freeboard…

Built by William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co. in Philadelphia at a cost of $3-million, she and her sisters Indiana and Oregon were the young nations first all-steel seagoing battleships. Of course this term was relative as the ships could hardly take to sea due an extremely low free-board that threatened to swap them in heavy sea states.

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Ordered in 1890, she was laid down on 25 June 1891 and commissioned 10 June 1896, her construction drawn out almost six years which is evident to the new type of ship that she was. Just 350-feet long, she would be considered a small frigate today except for the fact that she was a massive 11,500-tons when fully loaded. This was because the ship was crammed with 4 double ended Scotch boilers,  two vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines, a dozen 13-inch and 8-inch guns, forty smaller cannon and five torpedo tubes.

This was all clad in a total of up-to 18-inches of  Harveyized steel and conventional nickel-steel armor, she was crewed by some 400+ officers and men.

The men in the late 1890s, were darlings of the media and some of their pictures remain in the Library of Congress, showing an interesting aspect of the ordinary lives of bluejackets more than a century ago.

bluejackets on BB-2 getting some officially sanctioned boxing in

bluejackets on BB-2 getting some officially sanctioned boxing in

According to the history of the ship, “To the men who served on her she was more than just a battleship. The men polished her brass fittings and cleaned her wooden deck because she was their home and their protector. They proudly sailed the seas knowing that they were aboard one of the most powerful and beautiful ships on Earth. But these men did not always have it easy, they had to constantly feed the coal burners to keep the ship powered, clean the guns and ammunition and then check and recheck them to maintain battle-readiness.

U.S.S. Massachusetts, fire room 1897 note the chalk on the boiler hatches

U.S.S. Massachusetts, fire room 1897 note the chalk on the boiler hatches

“They lived in small quarters, sailed through rough seas and were away from daily comforts. Yet throughout these difficult tasks and times, recreation was encouraged. The Navy learned long ago that it was important to keep up the men’s spirits in the face of such demanding times. Before retiring to their hammocks for the evening, the men were sometimes allowed to purchase small amounts of beer. They also formed a football team and held boxing matches to help relieve tensions aboard, and on holidays special dinners were cooked for those not lucky enough to be at home with family. Overall, those who lived, worked and died in her service know that Massachusetts was a fine ship”

Marine guards c1897

Marine guards c1897. White gloves and spiked Prussian style helmets were standard for the Army too in many units at this time. 

BB-2 sailors in summer whites

BB-2 sailors in summer whites

Inside one of her turrets

Inside one of her turrets. Note the old school Donald Ducks

Capable of steaming at up-to 16-knots, she was fast for her time.

off tow ar
When war broke out in 1898 with Spain, her beautiful white and buff paint scheme switched to haze grey and she went off to the beat of the drums, joining the Flying Squadron under Commodore Winfield Scott Schley for the blockade of Cuba. Missing the main fleet battles due to having to be coaled, she did cause the old Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes to scuttle and assisted with the occupation of both Puerto Rico and Cuba.

The 3000-ton largely disarmed Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, sunk in Santiago, Cuba 1898 after scuttling following an engagement with the USS Massachusetts

The 3000-ton largely disarmed Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, sunk in Santiago, Cuba 1898 after scuttling following an engagement with the USS Massachusetts. She cruiser suffered no less than three direct hits from her 13-inch shells.

Over the next several years she was something of a cursed ship, grounding herself on no less than three occasions as well as suffering explosions in her turret and boiler rooms.

By 1910 she was used only for gunnery training and annual summer midshipmen s cruises around the Eastern seaboard and Caribbean. In 1917 when WWI became very real for the US, she was pressed into service to train naval gun-crews which she did admirably. With the end of the war came the end of her usefulness and in 1919 she was simply renamed the very awe-inspiring and creative  ‘Coastal Battleship No.2′ before being struck on 22 November 1920. The next year she was turned over to the Army, who desperately wanted a battleship to poke holes in

Her guns and coal stores were removed as was anything that was useful. But thats ok, as the Army just wanted her armor intact anyway.

Her guns and coal stores were removed as was anything that was useful. But that’s OK, as the Army just wanted her armor intact anyway.

Scuttled in shallow water near Pensacola, she was within range of the US Army Coastal Artillery positions at Forts Pickens and Fort Barrancas as well as by mobile railway artillery and tons of ordnance were fired at the old ship through 1925 when the Army offered her back to the Navy. The Navy said thanks but no thanks and instead used her for occasional bombing runs by pilots flying out of NAS Pensacola  as late as the 1950s when she finally slipped under the waves for good.

She is now owned by the state of Florida who maintains her as an artificial reef.

As such she is a very popular dive.


Displacement: 10,288 long tons (10,453 t; 11,523 short tons)
Length:     350 ft 11 in (106.96 m)
Beam:     69 ft 3 in (21.11 m)
Draft:     27 ft (8.2 m)

Two vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines
4 double ended Scotch boilers later replaced by 8 Babcock & Wilcox boilers
9,000 ihp (6.7 MW) (design)
10,400 ihp (7.8 MW) (trial)


15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph) (design)
16.2 kn (30.0 km/h; 18.6 mph) (trial)

Range:     4,900 nmi (9,100 km; 5,600 mi)
Complement:     473 officers and men

4 × 13″/35 gun (2×2)
8 × 8″/35 gun (4×2)
4 × 6″/40 gun removed 1908
12 × 3″/50 gun added 1910
20 × 6-pounders
6 × 1 pounder guns
5 × Whitehead torpedo tubes

Armor:     Harveyized steel

Belt: 18–8.5 in (460–220 mm)
13″ turrets: 15 in (380 mm)
Hull: 5 in (130 mm)

Conventional nickel-steel

Tower: 10 in (250 mm)
8″ turrets: 6 in (150 mm)
Deck: 3 in (76 mm)

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