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
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.
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.
By 1906, with 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. 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
Deodoro in 1910
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 in the Gulf of Mexico. Note her very dark overall scheme. This photograph was acquired by the 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-dreadnoughts afloat.
Displacement: 3,162 tons standard
2 shaft triple expansion engines, 2 screws
8 Lagrafel d’Allest boilers, 236-tons coal
3,400 ihp (2,500 kW)
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)
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
Armor: (All Harvey steel)
Belt: 11-13 inches
Deck: 2 inches
Conning tower: 4 inches
Casemate: 3 inches
Main Turret face: 8.7 inches
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