Indiana class battleships (1898)

USA (1893)
Indiana, Oregon, Massachusetts

The first American battleships

In 1890 there was a transition between the “old navy” inherited from the secession war, and a “new navy” born from naval thinking, but not yet fuelled by ideas of imperialism like those professed by Alfred T Mahan. However the lack of experience in high seas battleships (the last one was the USS Dictator, a very large sea going monitor back in 1863) meant the US navy policy board started working in stages and in 1889 drawn a design for a coastal, or short range battleship, a bit similar to the units built by Germany at that time, or Scandinavian countries.

USS Indiana after 1898, in grey livery.

However, modest as it was this BB-1 (Battleship 1) was the very first piece of an ambitious naval construction plan, aiming at delivering 33 battleships and 167 smaller ships for the US Navy. It was very much recognizing by the United States Congress as an attempt to end the isolationist policy ruling US foreign relations since the end of the civil war, and the design was refused this year, but accepted the next year the building of three coast defense battleships, of which the Indiana was the lead ship. This design was very much a measure to ease Congress vote rather than a design was really pleased the Navy. It was a compromise for moderate endurance, relatively small displacement and low freeboard but ended as a ship under-protected and under-armed compared to European equivalents and as Conways put it: “attempting too much on a very limited displacement.” The problem was two close copies were built.


The 1890 order was passed on 30 June 1890 to William Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia for $3 million initially, but she costed $6 million in the end. In addition slow delivery of armour plates delayed the completion by one year and the ship was launched 28 February 1893 and completed for service on 20 November 1895, six years after the design was first drawn. The launching ceremony was an event, attended by 10,000 including President Benjamin Harrison, members of the congress and Indiana state representatives. Her sea trials began in March 1895, in ideal conditions for performances as side armor, guns, turrets and conning tower has not been installed yet. They really started in October.

USS Indiana forecastle, showing the original heavy mast, later replace by a cage mast.

Indiana’s design

The Indiana was a typical pre-dreadnought design, with two main turrets fore and aft, a central island bristling with turrets, barbettes, and lighter guns under masks, a military mast and tall funnels. The hull emphasized lateral protection, had a spur and indeed a low freeboard which meant in the North Atlantic, a wet bridge at all times. The USS Indiana displaced 10,288 long tons (10,453 t), for a Length of 350 ft 11 in (106.96 m) overall and 358 ft (109 m) at the waterline, a beam of 69 ft 3 in (21.11 m) and 27 ft (8.2 m) of draft.
She was propelled by double ended Scotch boilers, two sets vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines directing two shafts, for a top speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) and a 4,900 nmi (9,100 km; 5,600 mi) range. Her complement was 32 officers and 441 men.

Blueprint of the Oregon

Indiana’s armament comprised two twin 13 in (330 mm)/35 caliber guns, four twin 8 in (203 mm)/35 cal guns, four 6 in (152 mm)/40 cal guns (removed 1908), twelve 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal guns (added 1910), twenty 6-pounder 57 mm (2.2 in) guns, six 1-pounder 37 mm (1.5 in) guns, and four 18 inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes. Protection was made of Harveyized steel with a belt 18–8.5 in (460–220 mm) strong, turrets 15 in (380 mm) thick, 5 in (130 mm) on the hull. Conventional nickel-steel was also used on the conning tower (10 in (250 mm)), secondary turrets (6 in (150 mm)) and the deck: 3 in (76 mm).

USS Indiana (BB1)

Oregon and Massachusetts design differences

USS Massachusetts was laid sown also at William Cramp and Sons, in the second slip, one month later Indiana in June 1891. She was launched 10 June 1893 and completed 10 June 1896, the delay being the delivery of armor plates. The two were very close (same blueprints) and at the exterior, only the funnel’s height betrayed these. An interesting fact was the belt armor design was based on the designed draft, 24 feet (7.3 m) with a normal load of 400 long tons of coal on board. However it appeared that with additional weight and coal this would increase to 27 feet (8.2 m), submerging the armor belt, making it useless. The load of coal was taken in consideration in the next Illinois design by Walker policy board. The two ships had the same engine room but eight Babcock boilers including four superheaters were added in 1907 to replace older Scotch models on Massachusetts. She had a top speed of 16.2 kn (30.0 km/h; 18.6 mph) with 10,400 ihp (7,800 kW) while USS Oregon reached 16.8 kn (31.1 km/h; 19.3 mph) with 11,000 ihp (8,200 kW). USS Oregon was laid down at Union Iron Works on 19 November 1891, launched in 26 October 1893 and completed 16 July 1896.

The Indiana class in action: From 1898 to the interwar

All three battleships were the rare ones to see action in two wars, 1898 and 1917-18, separated by almost the same gap as ww1 and ww2. The war of 1898 was almost the last “romantic” war, full of dashing and bravado over, easy victory of a young nation over a crumbling old empire. Due to their very design, their contribution to the war effort in 1917-18 was limited.

USS oregon in dydock, 1898

USS Indiana

There is nothing notable before the Spanish-American war in 1898 (see details of the battle of Santiago de Cuba). She was then flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron, bearing the colors of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson. She raided the port of San Juan, bombarding it, before rallying Commodore Schley’s Flying Squadron which had found Cervera in Santiago. She arrive two days later but did not chased Cervera as being in the extreme eastern position. However she later catch destroyers Pluton and Furor when they emerged from the entrance and destroyed them. From 1899 to 1903 she alternated training exercises with the fleet before being decommissioned after a career less than 8 years. She was recommissioned three years later as dedicated training ship, having just received new modern boilers, and a cage mast replacing her ancient heavy mast. She was against decommissioned in 1914, and reactivated in 1917, for gunners training. On 31 January 1919 came her final decommission, her name being passed to BB-50 while she was renamed Coast Battleship Number 1. She ended in shallow water as a torpedo target and aerial bombing tests ship in November 1920 and her remains were refloated and sold for scrap in 1924.

USS Indiana in Drydock, 1898.

USS Massachusetts

She conducted training exercises on the eastern coast soon after completion, and in 1898 was placed in the Flying Squadron under Commodore Winfield Scott Schley. She blockaded the port of Santiago but was missing when the battle started, as she was back to Guantánamo Bay in the night to resupply. She joined Texas which was shelling the Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes, scuttled to block the entrance. After the war she spent her career with the North Atlantic squadron, patrolling the Atlantic coast and eastern Caribbean. Before her decommission she was used as a training ship for Naval Academy midshipmen in 1906. She received new boilers and a cage mast, and was back as a “reduced commission” training ship in May 1910. She then joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in September 1912, was decommissioned in May 1914, then back again in June 1917 as a gunner training ship. Decomm. again 31 March 1919, renamed Coast Battleship Number 2, scuttle in 1921 off the coast of pensacola, sunk as an artillery target for Fort Pickens. However as her hulk found no buyer she layed there as an artificial reef since then. Now a diver’s attraction and property of the state of Florida (Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves).

USS Massachusetts sinking in 1921

USS Oregon

She joined the Pacific Station after a voyage around South America to the East Coast in March 1898 (in preparation for war with Spain), covering 14,000 nautical miles in just 66 days. The press noted the feat buy also found it a great argument against any opponents to the completion of the Panama Canal. However she was back in North Atlantic Squadron under Rear Admiral Sampson, taking part in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba and chasing together with the cruiser Brooklyn the Spanish Cruiser Colon. She earned the nickname “Bulldog of the Navy” because of her ploughing bow, in marine slang “having a bone in her teeth”. She was afterwards refitted in New York City, then returned to the pacific, served a year in the Philippine–American War, then joined China, Wusong during the Boxer Rebellion (May 1901) and returned to drydock in the USA for an overhaul. She was back in the pacific in March 1903, was decommissioned from April 1906 to August 1911, and was placed into reserved in 1914. In January 1915 she was back in service, joining San Francisco for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, then replaced in reserve. She was eventually recommissioned for the last time in April 1917, and escorted transport ships during the Siberian Intervention. She also was a reviewing ship for President Woodrow Wilson (Pacific Fleet at Seattle) and was retired for good in October 1919 and was transferred in 1925 to State of Oregon, starting a life of war memorial. However in 1941 given her scrap value she was sold as IX-22 and partly recycled. Her stripped hulk served as a supply barge at Guam, but in 1948 because of a typhoon, broke loose, drifted away and was recovered and resold 15 March 1956 in a shipbreaker in japan.

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.

American Torpedo Boats (1885-1901)

USA – 35 boats

Prologue: Early precursors (1800-1870s)

The invention of the “Torpedo”

Of course the torpedo was invented only in 1866 by Robert Whitehead, so just a year after the end of the Civil War, but the prototype was first created in 1863 by the Austro-Hungarian officer Ivan Lupis. Called salvacoste it has many shortcomings that were solved by Whitehead and made practical. Before that, the “torpedo” named after an electric ray sub-specy was essentially a naval mine. A towed gunpowder charge was first tested operationally by Robert Fulton in 1800 with its submarine Nautilus. There were other attempts of mining ships in the war of 1812, in the Crimean War in 1855.

USS Spuyten Duyvil, US Navy dedicated spar-torpedo vessel, 1863.

Torpedo ships of the American Civil War

But a real impetus came from the American Civil War, in particular with air-filled demijohn and powder charges that exploded on contact, later carried by spars. The spar-torpedo boat became in effect a precursor of the torpedo-boat, as the carrier was generally small and fast. That was a dangerous endeavor, reckless and desperate form of warfare to say the least, practiced by the Confederates to try to balance the huge advantage of the Union navy.

An enlarged CSS David was started, but captured at Charleston in 1865 before completion.

USS Cairo was sunk in 1862 by such contact mine. 30 feet (9.1 m) long spar was also carried by the HL Hunley, first “submarine” (propelled by a manned crankshaft). Despite sinking twice (with all hands), the innovative boat succeeded in destroying USS Housatonic.

HL Hunley
HL Hunley, the most famous Confederate submarine

CSS David
CSS David, famous Confederate torpedo-ram

CSS David daguerreotype

USS Spuyten Duyvil. Despite its overwhelming superiority on the Confederates, the Union navy also built a spar-torpedo boat in 1964.

USS Alligator, 1862. This Union fleet (and first American sub) boat was capable of operating divers, carrying two limpet mines.

CSS Atlanta
Confederate river ironclad CSS Atlanta (1863), carrying a spar torpedo at the front.

CSS Chicora
Confederate river ironclad CSS Chicora (1862), carrying a spar torpedo at the front.

Other ships of the “Old Navy”

After the famous Monitor, the US Navy built other, less known classes like the Passaic, Miantonomoh, Canonicus, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, Casco or the remarkable Dictator, a sea going monster. But other smaller ships has been converted to be used as torpedo rams, notably to destroy Confederate boats barrages on the James River. In addition to the Spuyten Duyvil (see above), two large experimental, iron-hulled ships were also built after the war in 1873, the Alarm and Intrepid. Both were too slow for their intended role.

USS Alarm, 1873 spar-torpedo vessel.

Unusual ships of the “New Navy”

Two interesting ships were built in the 1880-90s, one was not torpedo-carrying but experimented with another idea: launching dynamites with pneumatic guns. The USS vesuvius (we will come back on this very unique design) had three Zalinsky 55 feets pneumatic guns at the front on an open barbette. The projectiles weighted 980 Ibs, with 500 Ibs dynamite warheads. Launched in 1888 its only action with the not convincing bombardment of Santiago ten years later. However the USS Katahdin could have been a torpedo-ram in the European tradition. Launched in 1893, it had a very sloped hull, cigar-shaped, with a iron hulled backed by wood. But instead of TTs or a spar, she was fitted with four 6-pdr quick firing guns. Its most interesting feature was its hull was fitted with ballasts so she could be submerged before ramming.

Spanish destroyer Furor. The American Civil War broke out in 1898, but none of the commissioned TBs were ever put to action due to the distance both of Cuba and the Philippines. They did provide however an harbor coastal defence in the unlikely case of a retaliation by the metropolitan Spanish Navy on the US Coast.

American Torpedo Boats (1885-1899)

The famous Stiletto was not a very successful boat. Its contemporary namesake is an Experimental stealthy pentamaran capable of 60 knots.

A short lived experiment

For 15 years, the US Navy ventured into this kind of boat, not without reticence as many in the fleet advocated not for a defensive but more “active” stance on the international scene. Indeed Alfred Thayer Mahan became president of the Naval War College by default in 1886 and befriended with future president Theodore Roosevelt in 1888. Both had the same views about the duty of the US Navy. But whatever the case, by 1895 TBs were definitely out of the picture as the first American destroyers, more promising, took their place. The move was decidedly towards a “fleet in being”.

US Navy TBs Specifics

There are nevertheless specifics about American TBs. First, series were largely semi-experimental, with gradual improvements on small orders of 2-3 ships. In total, 35 had been built, and many were one-off experiments. The lightest has been the first Stiletto at 31 tons, the heaviest were the Nicholson serie, of 218 tonnes. Their average displacement was about 160 tons. They were fitted with either Thornycroft, Normand, Mosher or Seabury or locomotive boilers, used VTE engines (vertical triple expansion) and in rare cases, VQE (Quadruple expansion). The fastest has been the Dahlgren, at 31 knots, but average speed was 25 knots.

Stiletto, the first American TB.

Standard armament was composed of two to three 18 in Torpedo Tubes and one to three 1-pdr QF guns. They nearly all presented a front turtleback and some tumblehome all along their hull because of expected North Atlantic rough seas. Their average range however only allowed for short sorties of 50 miles, due to limited coal supplied, reaching 80 tonnes on the Nicholson.


They were many small shipyards involved, some more than the others. The most active in this area was Herreshoff, which turned seven TBs, including the first one, and will later rose to fame as the builders of eight consecutive successful defenders of the America’s Cup from 1893 to 1934. There is a museum accessible from Providence and Boston. Bath Iron Works (Kennebec River, Bath, Maine), launched five ships, Columbian iron Works (Baltimore, Maryland) five, followed by less known yards like Iowa Iron works (TB2), Moran (TB8), Wolff & Zwicker (TB12-13), Charles Hillman (TB17), George Lawley (TB27-28), Lewis Nixon (T29-30), WR Trigg (TB-31-33), and Gas Engine & Power and CL Seabury (which also built boilers) delivered the very last one, USS Wilkes alias TB35 in 1901. Only one was delivered by a foreign yard, world’s famous specialist Schichau in 1897, USS Somers, commissioned just a few days before the Spanish-American War.

USS Stiletto, illustration by the author

To simplify things, we will treat these TBs in three series: The “small” and “medium” TBs prior the the Spanish-American war of 1898 and the large post-war models of the Blakely class commissioned up to 1905.

The “light group” 1886-1898

USS Cushing, TB1.

USS Stiletto
The first one was called WTB1 to mark its experimental nature. Laid down at Herreshoff in 1885, launched in 1886 and commissioned in 1887 it was small (28.64 x 3.50 x 0.91m, 31 tons), had a flat deck, ram, but no TT. Instead it carried two Howell torpedoes, but only from 1898. It was fitted with an Almy boiler coupled with a vertical compound engine that turned a unique shaft, produced 395 ihp for a whooping 18.5 knots. Coal was limited to just four tons, and coastal rides. Shortly after its introduction in service, it was stranded ashore after a collision with a steam launch. This was a single funnel, wood-hulled boat that was confined to runs and experimental works. Bad steamer, her 1897 fuel trials were a failure. After being mothballed for some years, she was sold for scrap in 1911.

USS De Long.

Coastal TBs of the Talbot & Mackenzie class
Among the smallest American TBs, these two classes (Talbot, Gwin, Mackenzie, McKee) were authorized under the act of 10.6.1896. The first two (Herreshoff) had a single funnel, two single TTs far apart – one front of the funnel, one aft, and were both commissioned in April 1898. The Gwin was later used as a Ferry as Cyane in 1914 while the other was used from 1900 for oil fuel tests and decommissioned in 1925.

USS MacKenzie.

The two MacKenzie were quite different, 65 tons, same length at 30.94m but larger at 3.89m vs 3.81m, but the latter had a larger draught at 1.29 m vs. 0.99m. They also had Thornycroft instead of Normand boilers. Apart their two funnels and same three 18 in TTs, they had all a single 1-pdr gun but the USS McKee which had two. They also had two funnels. Both served as target ships, from 1912 (MacKee) and 1916 (MacKenzie).

USS Talbot, TB15

Talbot class specifications

Dimensions 30.48 x3.81 x0.99 m
Displacement 46t FL
Crew 12
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 VTE, 2 Normand boilers, 850 ihp
Speed 20 knots (38 km/h; xx mph), coal 9 tons
Armament 2 TT 18 in, 1 x1pdr QF gun.

USS Foote, illustration by the author

The “medium group” prior to 1898

This was by far the largest, with the singls USS Cushing, Ericsson, Rowan, Morris, and Somers, and the classes Foote, Porter, Dahlgren, and Davis.

USS Dahlgren, TB9.

USS Cushing
The first official TB commissioned for service was the TB1, built by the same yard after many design revisions. It was laid down in April 1888, launched in January 1890 and completed in April the same year. She had two funnels far apart, ram bow, turtle back (the first), two broadside training 18 in TTs, and one fixed forward into the bow. Armament was heavy, with three 6-pdr guns. The TB1 was sunk as a practice target in 1920. She was used for experimental work.

USS Cushing, starboard side, 1891.

USS Ericsson (1894) was heavier (120 rather than 116 tons), and very similar but for its armament back to three lighter 1-pdr guns. It can reach 24 knots. From 1912 it was used as a target and sunk.

The Foote class (1896) comprised also the Rodgers and Winslow. They were commissioned in 1897-98. They had two funnels far apart, three TTs on each broadside and a third aft, and three 1-pdr gun. 142 tons, 48.76 m long, and two had Mosher instead of Thornycroft boilers but two shafts for 2000 ihp, and can run at 25 knots. They were sold in 1911-1920.

The Porter class (1896) from Herreschoff were 165 tons, 53.50 m long (175 feets) ships capable of 27.5 knots and armed with four 1-pdr guns. The first was sold in 1912, the second in 1920.

The Dahlgren class (1899) were 146 tons boats, 46.13 m long (151 feets), with a different armament of four 1-pdr but only two TTs, centerline, aft and far aft. They had Normand boilers and were the fastest of them all, reaching 1 knots. Details of their superstructure and funnels were also reminiscent of French designs. The Craven ended as target in 1913, the other served through WW1.

The Davis class (1898) comprised also the USS Fox (TB-13). These 1550 tons ships had two vertical triple expansion engines, coupled with Thornycroft boilers and were capable of 23 knots. They had three TTs in the usual disposition. Fox was sold in 1916, the other in 1920 after being decommissioned in 1913.

USS Rowan was a 182 tons ship authorized under the act of 2.3.1895, and had funnels and TTs arranged like the Porter, but a raised forecastle. She was decommissioned in 1912 but only sold in 1918.

USS Morris was a relatively light TB of 105 tons, 42.35 m (139’6”) long, with two funnels not far apart, and Normand boilers. She was capable of 23 knots and carried the usual armament of three TTs and three 1-pdr guns.

The USS Somers was German built at Schichau, as a private speculation, carried by the steam SS Manhattan on its way to US waters. She had a single funnel and three masts, two training TTs on the deck, and one submerged TT at the bow. It was 17.5 m (156 feets) long for 143 tons and its locomotive boilers fed a VQE engine which developed 1700 ihp, for 23 knots. Like other TBs in reserved she was renamed TB N°9 to left the name for a new destroyer.

USS Foote.

Post war group: USS Blakeley class

This relatively homogeneous class counted the USS Blakely , USS DeLong, Nicholson, O’Brien, Shubrick, Stockton, Thornton, Tingey, and Wilkes (TB-27-35). They were assimilated because of the same 04.05.1898 order, but differed as much as their shipyards own specs: Their displacement ranged from 165 (Tingey) to 220 tonnes (O’Brien), but all measured 53.35 meters overall and 5.38 m in width (175′ and 17’8”) but with a underwater height of 1.42 to 1.98 m (6’6”). Their armament was also uniform, with the same three 18 in TTs (port, starboard, far aft) and three 1-pdr QF guns, but three 3-dpr for the Shubrick sub-class (Stockton, Thornton). Average top speed was 25 knots but Wilkes was the faster of them all, at 27 knots.

USS Blakeley, TB-27 underway off Grant’s tomb.

Nicholson sub-class specifications

Dimensions 53.35 x5.18 x1.96 m
Displacement 218-220 tons FL
Crew 28
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 shafts VTE, 3 Mosher boilers, 3000 ihp
Speed 25 knots (47 km/h; xx mph), coal 80 tons
Armament 3 TT 18 in, 3 x1pdr QF guns.

USS Fox, David class (TB-13), 1898.

American TBs in ww1

About 20 were left in service when the war broke out. Some were quickly converted as target ships, others were just mothballed and played no significant part in the operations but potentially some coastal patrols. They were not equipped for ASW warfare in any case. A good example of an “active carrer” was the USS Tingey (TB-34): She joined the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla (Norfolk Navy Yard), laying tied up at pier side, doing a few sorties to ensure its operational readiness. By 1908, she was part of the 3d Torpedo Flotilla, and next year “the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet”. She moved however late this year to Charleston, S.C., staying in reserve. In 1917, she was sent to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and decommissioned from 8 March to 7 April 1917. She patrolled the coastal waters of the 1st Naval District and was eventually renamed in September 1918 “Coast Torpedo Boat No. 17”, then decommissioned at Philadelphia on 30 January 1919, struck from the list and sold. USS Gwin and Morris survived until 1924-25.

USS MacKenzie.


Although the story of American TBs prior to ww1 seems like a footnote, quickly swapping over long-range destroyers instead, there was a revival of the concept in WW2, at the occasion of the Pacific War, shaped as the mass-built “PT boat” from Elco, Higgins and assimilated wooden type Motor torpedo boats, which disrupted Japanese shipping and sunk many military ships.


USS Stiletto.

USS Bagley (TB-24), the first to carry a floatplane.

USS David (TB-12).

USS Ericsson.

USS Bailey, TB-21.

USS Farragut, TB-11 off Mare Island Navy Yard circa 1899.

USS Goldsborough, TB-20.

USS Manley (TB-23), mothballed.

USS Porter (1898).

USS Morris, TB-14.

USS Rowan – TB-8.

USS Stringham (TB-19).

USS Somers (TB-22).


WW1 American Gunboats

42 ships (1889-1914)

Overview of American Gunboats in ww1

Yorktown class gunboats
Among the first ships built for the “new navy”, the “old” one being the one built by the Union to blockade the Confederate states in 1861-65, the Dolphin and the ships that followed has been seen as cheap alternative to cruisers. They were, in fact, small protected cruisers, which duty was essentially to “show the flag” on distant overseas stations, freeing the main fleet to be available for large scale oceanic actions.

So these gunboats (and its there only the ocean-going ones, not the riverine gunboats of that era) saw a lot of the world, most participated in the war of 1898 before ww1. They often featured near-obsolete barquentine rigging like most foreign ships of the same type because of the lack of coaling facilities far from home waters. They also had a long carrier, through the interwar and up to ww2 for some, often converted as school ships, revenue cutters and coast guards depending of a Secretariat of State and not the Navy. Also included in this chapter are captured Spanish gunboats, often of small tonnage, in the Philippines and Cuba as a result of the “splendid little war” of 1898.

USS Dolphin (1886)

First ship of the “new navy” she was authorized under the act 3.3.1883, at first classified as a dispatch boat, with light barque rig with no head gear, later rigged as a three-masted schooner, and then reduced to two masts. She served for most of her career as a dispatch ship for the secretary of the Navy. Its upper deck forecastle 6 in had a full traverse, later replaced by two 4in/40 QF guns each side, and its artillery reduced to one 6-pdr (47mm) and six 3-pdr (37mm)
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1486 tons, 78 x 9.7 x 4.3m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl boilers, 1 shaft VC, 2255 ihp 16 kn.
-Crew: 152
-Armament (origin): 6 x 6in/30 (152mm), 2 x 6-pdr (76mm), 4 x 47mm revolver

Yorktown class gunboats (1889)

Yorktown class gunboats
The Yorktown class units, initially classified as light cruisers, had a comfortable armament. The other two units of this class, Concord and Bennington, were put into service in 1891. The first was reclassified as an all-purpose ship, then a depot ship, and finally a customs ship from 1914. The USS Bennington suffered a terrible fire from Boilers in 1905 and was removed from the lists and sold in 1910.
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1700 tons and 1920 pcs, 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 x 4in (127mm), 4 guns x 3in (76mm), 2 x 6pdr (47mm), 4 x 37mm.

Petrel class gunboats (1888)

The Petrel and Bancroft were barquentine-rigged. The former had later its mainmast removed and armament reduced to 4 x 4in/40 QF guns. Originally the guns were mounted in sponsons before the forecastle and poop. On the USS Bancroft (which was lighter at 839 tonnes), guns were mounted port and starboard between the forecastle and poop. She became a revenue cutter Itasca and TTs were removed in 1899.
-Displacement: 867 tons, 900 FL
-Dimensions: 57.3 x 9.44 x 3.5m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl. boilers, 1 propeller, 1000 ihp, 11.4 kn max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 x 4in (127mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 6pdr (47mm), 4 x 1pdr (37mm)

Machias class gunboats (1891)

The two USS Machias and Castine gunboats were real small cruisers, designed for long crossings. They were commissioned in 1893 and 1894, but never fired a shot in anger, and spent a peaceful career without notable story during the Great War. USS Castine served as submersible tanker from 1909, her armament reduced. The Machias was sold to the Mexicans in 1920, which employed her until 1935.
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1045 tons, 62 x 4.6 x 4 m
-Propulsion: 4 Babcock boilers, 2 propellers, 1250 hp and 16 knots max.
-Crew: 198
-Armament: 6 x 4in (127 mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

USS Nashville (1895)

USS Nashville
The USS Nashville was a high-tonnage patrol gunboat designed to serve the coasts of South America and the Gulf of Mexico. After a career without history, it was canceled in 1921.
-Displacement: 1085 tons
-Dimensions: 62 x 4.6 x 4 m
-Propulsion: 2 Babcock boilers, 2 propellers, 1250 hp and 13 knots max.
-Crew: 198
-Armament: 6 x 4in (120 mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

Wilmington class gunboats (1895)

The large patrol boats Wilmington and Helena had a good habitability and considerable artillery. The first survived as a training vessel under the name of IX-30 Dover until 1946, the second was struck off in 1932. They had a low draft and could therefore operate on the rivers.
-Displacement 1400/1700 tons FL
-Dimensions 76,42 x 12,47 x 2,74 m
-Propulsion: 6 boilers, 2 screws, 1900 hp 15 knots.
-Crew: 199
-Armament: 6 x 127 mm, 4 x 76mm, 4 x 37mm

USS Wilmington
Illustration of the Wilmington class

Annapolis class gunboats (1896)

Four ships total: Annapolis, Vicksburg, Newport and Princeton, authorized 2.3.95, laid down as PG-10-13 in 1896, launched in December the same year and commissioned in 1897 (may 98 for Princeton). Originally they were barquentine-rigged, with a clipper bow and long bowsprit, like composite-built vessels assimilated as sloops. 4 in guns (120 mm) were mounted fore and aft on the upper deck, reductions were later made, down to six 4-in guns in 1919.

Newport was a training ship 1907-1931, Vicksburg was renamed Alexander hamilton by the coast guard.
Annapolis participated in the 1898 Spanish-American war, 15th conferred with a group of friendly Cubans and engaged in a brief gun duel with an enemy shore battery near the eastern end of the Baracoa, and later resumed duty at Guantanamo Bay. She participated in the Battle of Nipe Bay, assisted landings at Puerto Rico, and later the Far Eastern fleet. Refitted at Mare Island, California in 1907. Then based at Tutuila, American Samoa. She was decomm. in 1911, recom. in 1912 to participate in the coast of Nicaragua events. She then patrolled the Mexican coast as “Pancho” Villa was most active. She was part of the American Patrol in 1918, based in Louisiana. Then she joined the Pennsylvania Nautical School was served there until 1940.

-Displacement 1400/1700 tons FL
-Dimensions 76,42 x 12,47 x 2,74 m
-Propulsion: 6 boilers, 2 screws, 1900 hp 15 knots.
-Crew: 199
-Armament: 6 x 127 mm, 4 x 76mm, 4 x 37mm

Wheeling class gunboats (1896)

Launched at Union Iron Works in march 1896, and completed in September and October 1897.
-Displacement: 1700 tons and 1920 FL
-Dimensions: 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 guns of 127mm, 4 guns of 76mm, 2 of 47mm, 4 of 37mm.

USS Topeka (1881)

Former SS Diogenes purchased 22.4.1898 from Thames Iron works, and was a two-funneled, two-masted schooner, with iron hull, classed by the British as an unarmoured cruiser. Her initial provision of six 4in guns was later reduced to four. She was recommissioned in US service in June 1898 and became a prison ship in 1907.
-Displacement: 2372 tons
-Dimensions: 76 x 10.66 x 5.41 m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl boilers, 2 shaft HTC, 2200 ihp, 16 knts.
-Crew: 152
-Armament (origin): 8 x 4in (127mm), 2 x 6pdr (76mm), 2 x 3pdr (47mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

Isla de Luzon class (1886)

Captured Spanish gunboats. Both scuttled at the battle of Manila, salved, repaired, and pushed in US service bu 1900. Its original armament comprised 4-in guns on the forecastle, poop and a deck protected by 2-1/2 to 1 inch of armour. Babcock and Wilcox Boiler were fitted in 1911. This ship served with the Louisiana and Illinois naval militias and after 1918 became a naval torpedo station as a yard craft. The Isla de Cuba was scuttled at the battle of Manilla. Recommissioned in January 1911. Quite similar to Isla de Luzon, they were near sister-ships. She was sold to Venezuela in 1912 and renamed Mariscal Sucre, surviving to ww2.
-Displacement: 1020 tons
-Dimensions: 59.4 x 9.14 x 3.47m
-Propulsion: 2 cyl boilers, 2 shaft VTE, 535ihp, 16 knts.
-Crew: 137
-Armament: 4 x 4in/40 (127mm), 4 x 6pdr, 3 TT 457mm aw.

Don Juan De Austria (1887)

Don Juan de Austria
Protected cruiser built at Cartagena, Spain (the two above were from Armstrong), for colonial service. Sunk at the battle of Manila, salved, repaired. She has been recommissioned in 1900, and her main armament was modified to four 4in/40 QF guns, and she served with the Michigan naval militia from 1907 up to 1917. She was sold for scrap in 1919.
-Displacement: 1700 tons and 1920 FL
-Dimensions: 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament: 6 guns of 127mm, 4 guns of 76mm, 2 of 47mm, 4 of 37mm.

Dubuque class gunboats (1904)

Authorized under act 1.7.1902, they were modern two-funneled, two-masted (with much reduced rigging), with a composite hull, bowsprit, and rated as sloops. Both PG17 and PG18 (“Patrol Boat”) has been built at Gas engine & Power and CL. Seabury, completed in june 1905. The 4in guns were mounted port and starboard on the upper deck. Served on the great lakes from 1922, with their armament reduced and from 1940s, passed onto the cadets naval reservists, but employed actively as armed guards for merchant shipping on the Great lakes, numbered IX-9 and IX-23. Both were sold in 1946 as scrap metal.
-Displacement: 1084 tons
-Dimensions: 61 x 10.6 x 4m
-Propulsion: 2 B&W boilers, 2 shaft VTE, 1250 ihp, 13 knts.
-Crew: 184
-Armament: 6 x 4in/50 Mk7 (127mm), 4 x 6-pdr (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm).

Small gunboats (ex-Spanish) (1886-95)

These 17 ships from various builders (Clydeband, Manila ship. co., Cavite, Hong Kong and Whampoa, had a displacement ranging from 106 (Alvarado) to 370 tons (Villalobos), a top speed limited to 7-11 knots (19 for Alvarado), armed often with a unique 6-pdr (76 mm) or one or two 3-pdr and a complement of 1-pdrs in some cases. All were taken in the Philippines and commissionned from 1899 to 1902. They served as coastal patrol boats until sold 1911-1933, some used as targets. They kept their original names and were listed as Albay, Alvarado, Arayat, Calamianes, Callao, Ectano, Leyte, Manileno, Mariveles, Mindoro, Pampanga, Panay, Paragua, Quiros, Samar, Sandoval, and Villalobos. Interestingly enough, the second USS panay was involved in an incident, a Japanese attack while it was anchored in the Yangtze River outside Nanking, China on 12 December 1937. A famous movie with Steve McQueen was later inspired by this story.


The Gunboats on wikipedia
About USS Petrel on navsource
-Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.

Delaware class battleships

USA (1908)
USS Delaware, North Dakota

USS North Dakota

The Delaware class in short

Dreadnought battleships of the Delaware class were launched in 1909 and completed in 1910, and can be seen as the first “true” dreadnoughts of the American Navy, since the preceding South Carolina were a bit of compromise between the old and new designs. They were in tonnage, dimensions, and especially speed, more in line with this type of modern battleship.

-The USS Delaware (BB-28) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding, 11 November 1907, launched 6 February 1909 commissioned 4 April 1910, and decommissioned on 10 November 1923, Broken up at Boston the next year.
-The USS North Dakota (BB-29) was laid down 16 December 1907 at Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, launched 10 November 1908 and commissioned 11 April 1910. It was decommissioned 22 November 1923 and Broken up at Baltimore, 1931.


In 1908 indeed, the 16,000 long tons (16,257 t) limit imposed on capital ships by the United States Congress was waived, allowing new designs to be built (although still with a budget capped to
6 million USD). The Bureau of Construction and Repair undergone a serie of modifications and by 1909, the ships were the first in US naval history to exceed 20,000 long tons (20,321 t). Outside a length allowing an extra pair of 12 in cannons (305 mm), the Delawares reintroduced a full-fledged medium-caliber weapon for anti-torpedo boat defense, another critic of the previous design.

Blueprint of the class

This secondary artillery however was of 5-inch (127 mm), less than 152 to 160 mm adopted by European navies, but the guns were faster, and will imposed themselves as a standard throughout the XXth century. The Delawares were also capable of 21 kn (24 mph; 39 km/h) versus 18.5 kn (21 mph; 34 km/h) on the previous ships, more in line with modern dreadnoughts. At first drawn with classical simple masts, the latter were converted to their completion in cranes for lifeboats. Their “corbel” type masts were a recurring feature of American BBs until the 1940s.


This was probably the less revolutionary of the three aspects: The armored belt ranged was 9 to 11 in (229 to 279 mm) thick, on the more important areas of the ship (from A turret to Z turret). Barbettes had between 8 and 10 in (203 and 254 mm) of armor. Main gun turrets base and “well” was armored with 4 to 10 in (102 and 254 mm). The front and rear sections of the main barbette received thinner armor to save weight. The gun turrets were 12 in (305 mm) thick, conning tower 11.5 in (292 mm) thick but deck armor was quite thin at 1.5 in (38 mm) but 2 in (51 mm) over the engines and ammo magazines. Indeed engagements were thought to be less than 10,000 yd (9,144 m). At such distances, high angles deck impacts would be rare.

USS North Dakota firing a broadside


Long story short, North Dakota was fitted with steam turbines, whereas Delaware retained triple-expansion engines. US turbines the did not bring frank advantages in output or speed over triple-expansion (TE) systems. They were also much less fuel-efficient, a crucial flaw for the Pacific, as the US lacked an extended network of coaling stations, unlike Great Britain.


They also received two additional 305 mm pieces (one more turret), bringing the total to 10 as the British HMS Dreadnought, but crucially, all the turrets were in the centerline, allowing a better broadside, with all guns to bear, but at the cost of chase and retreat firepower. These 12-inch/45 caliber Mark 5 guns had a rate of fire of 2-3 rpm, with 870 lb (395 kg) shells, of AP or HE types declared obsolete by 1915. Propellant charge was 310 lb (141 kg) in silk bags, muzzle velocity was 2,700 ft/s (823 m/s).

Like the previous class, the front artillery was mounted fore in a superfiring pair, while the rear turrets were disposed in such a way that one in-between was sacrificed and cannot fire in retreat but in high angle only, and with care, its blast knocking the Z turret each time. This center-line disposition was optimized for broadsides. There was another design challenge imposed by the weight of the artillery, 437 long tons (444 t) per turret, imposing some hull stress management. This was partly solved by deepening the hull.

5in (127 mm) casemate

However, they were also critics about their 5-inch/50 caliber Mark 6 barbettes, far too low, putting the efficiency of these secondary guns at the mercy of gales. In fact they were extremely wet at all times.
These guns however compensated by a rate of fire of 6 to 8 rounds per minute. Three types of ammo were in store: “light” AP shell of 50 lb, “heavy” AP round of 60 lb and the common Mark 15 shell of 50 lb. The latter had a muzzle velocity of 3,000 ft/s (914 m/s), vs 2,700 ft/s (823 m/s) for the heavy AP ones. The Bliss-Leavitt 21-inch Mark 3 Model 1 torpedo were installed underwater on both sides, and had an explosive charge of 210 lb (95 kg) of TNT, and could achieve a range of 9,000 yd (8,230 m) at 27 kn (31 mph; 50 km/h).

Later in wartime, an anti-aircraft artillery was installed, two 3-inch/50 caliber anti-aircraft (AA) guns in Mark 11 mounts in 1917. Maximum ceiling 30,400 ft (9,266 m) at 85 degrees.

The Delaware class in action

Prior to the war, the Delaware shown it could run at full speed for 24h, and endure the stress of it during trials, the first American warship to do so. She spend her career in fleet exercises with the US Atlantic Fleet, and did trips to Europe, South America, the Caribbeans, taking part in the Second battle of Vera Cruz in April–May 1914. The North Dakota also served with the Atlantic Fleet and her sister-ship, paid a visit to Europe in 1910, took part in the invasion of Vera Cruz in 1914.

USS North Dakota in the Panama canal

USS Delaware and North Dakota in 1914-18

Both ships served in the Atlantic during the war, however the North Dakota remained stateside, barely leaving the coastal waters. This was due probably to its somewhat unreliable turbines and ordered by rear admiral Hugh Rodman, the naval commander of the American expeditionary force. She started in 1917 a new mission of training gunners and naval engineers. When the war started for the US in April 1917, USS Delaware trained on the eastern coast before eventually join the US Navy’s Battleship Division Nine deployed in Europe, under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman. She then was assigned on 7 December to the 6th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. She eventually returned to the US on July 1918.


The Delaware made only two more cruises, in 1922 and 1923 (a long trio to Europe, and up to Gibraltar) before returning and being decommissioned and disarmed in Boston Navy Yard in November. North Dakota made a second trip to Europe, mostly in the Mediterranean Sea. She was tasked with the return of the remains of the Italian ambassador, Vincenzo Macchi di Cellere (died 20 October 1919 in Washington, DC). She then returned and participated in aerial bombing demonstrations off the Virginia Capes in 1921. In 1923, she made a third trip to Europe with midshipmen from the Naval Academy aboard, stopping in Spain, Scotland, and Scandinavia. But like her sistership she was relegated to the surplus naval forces targeted by the Washington Naval Treaty. Unlike the Delaware after being disarmed in 1923 she was converted into a target ship, redesignated as “unclassified”, and used as a target until 1931, scrapped afterwards.

USS North Dakota in Malta

-Displacement: 20 400t, 22 060t FL
-Dimensions: 158,20 m x26 m x 8,3 m ()
-Propulsion: 12 Babcock et Wilcox boilers, 2 screws, 2 Curtis turbines, 25 000 hp, 21 knots.
-Armour: Belt, barbettes 250 mm, turrets, conning tower 305 mm.
-Armement: 10 x 12in (305 mm) (5×2), 14 x 5in (127 mm), 2 TT (side, sub) 21 (533 mm).
-Crew: 880 sailors and officers


Profile of the Delaware in 1914

North Dakota before the war

USS Delaware rear battery

USS Delaware in 1920

USS Delaware in full speed trials after completion. She sustained 24h at 21 knots without any problems with its TE engines.

Pennsylvania class armoured cruisers

USA (1903)
USS Pennsylvania, 6 ships

The first 1900 Armoured cruisers serie

The Spanish-American War showed the numerical inferiority of the US Navy and triggered a wave of new constructions, including new classes of armoured cruisers. Ordered in fiscal years 1900 (ACR-4/6) and 1901 (ACR-7/9) and succeeding Tennessee-class ships they were called the “Big Ten”. Intended to operate in the battle line with battleships but their role was changing even after entering service.

USS South Dakota 1915, notice the cage mast

The 1904’s report Navy’s Bureau of Navigation after the Russo-Japanese War concluded that armored cruisers role were auxiliaries to battleships, and they can serve with these battleships, though not replacing them. Since most battleships were concentrated in the Atlantic, 3-4 armored cruisers were assigned to the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines, to counter Japan’s rising naval power.
The new armoured cruisers were named Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Colorado, Maryland and South Dakota and rebaptised as new dreadnoughts were given these names (see later). They had been built at William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, Union Iron Works, San Francisco, and Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia (two each), launched 1903-1904 and in service by 1905-1908.

USS Pennsylvania's Eugen Ely landing on USS Pennsylvania, in 1911
USS Pennsylvania’s Eugen Ely landing on USS Pennsylvania, 04/18/1911.


Captain Sigsbee, argued for adequate armor protection at the cost of speed. Belt armor was 6 in (152 mm) waterline, (127 mm) upper belt, the turrets 6.5 in (165 mm) faces. The protective deck was 4 in sloped (102 mm) 1.5 in (38 mm) flat. The conning tower was 9 in (229 mm)
The Pennsylavia series has originally to be armed with four 8-inch (203 mm)/40 caliber Mark 5 guns (twin turrets fore and aft) replaced later with 45 caliber Mark 6 guns by 1911 (a result of a gun burtsing on USS Colorado in 1907). This was completed by fourteen 6-inch (152 mm)/50 caliber Mark 6 in side casemates. Light armament included eighteen 3-inch (76 mm)/50 caliber QF guns, twelve 3-pounder (47 mm (1.9 in)). Outside the 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) saluting guns, there were two 18-inch (457 mm) submarine torpedo tubes.

USS Huntington (Former Pennsylvania)
USS Huntington (Former Pennsylvania)

Propulsion was assured by two inverted vertical four-cylinder triple-expansion engines served by 16 coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers (32 Niclausse on Pennsylvania and Colorado) giving 250 psi (1,700 kPa) for a total of 23,000 ihp (17,000 kW) and 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). On trials South Dakota achieved 22.24 kn (41.19 km/h; 25.59 mph) at 28,543 ihp. Coal carried originally was about 900 tons, later increased to 2,000 tons.


In 1911 the main 40 caliber guns were replaced with four 45 caliber Mark 6 guns in Mark 12 turrets
and also from 1911 military foremasts were replaced with cage masts. The USS Pennsylvania was given an after flight deck used on 18 January 1911 by pilot Eugene Ely (second takeoff from a ship)
From 1915 to April 1917, USS Huntington was given catapults for seaplanes (on the after turret) and carried up to four aircraft, and an observation balloon for convoy escort duty. All was cancelled in late 1917.

USS Huntington’s reconnaissance Balloon trials, Pensacola FL, 1917.

From 1917, all but four 6-inch guns were removed (reallocated on merchant ships) also as to avoid lower casemates flooding (probably a cause for USS San Diego sinking in July 1918). 3-inch QF guns were reduced to ten but two AA 3-inch/50 caliber added. Power was also affected as in 1919 the 32 Niclausse boilers in Pittsburgh (ex-Pennsylvania) and Pueblo (ex-Colorado) were replaced by 20 Babcock & Wilcox boilers along with other changes in 1921 with “modified Niclausse” boilers. In 1922, Pittsburgh’s forward funnel and associated boilers were removed. Modernization were thought of but never performed.

USS San Diego, ex-California January 1915.

Active career

The Pennsylvania class spent the years prior to 1917 patrolling Latin America and the Western Pacific. Colorado landed troops in a 1912 intervention in Nicaragua. In early 1917, the ships operated in the South Atlantic and the Pacific, and transferred to convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic. USS
USS Pittsburgh remained in the Pacific, to search for German commerce raiders. The first Medal of Honor was awarded to shipfitter Patrick McGunigal for rescuing a balloon pilot. USS San Diego was sunk on 19 July 1918, (mine) off Fire Island, New York.

USS California in 1907

The six ships were rechristened between 1912 and 1920 Pittsburgh, Huntington, San Diego, Pueblo, Frederick, and Huron, notably to leave these names to the new Dreadnoughts in construction.

Most ships were decommissioned or relegated as “receiving ship” in the early 1920s; Pittsburgh and Huron continued on to 1930. All were sold for scrap in 1930-1931 (London Naval Treaty tonnage limits). Huron was converted as a floating breakwater in Powell River, British Columbia (lost in a storm 1961).

USS Colorado in 1907

-Displacement: 13 700t, 15 140t FL
-Dimensions: 504 x 69 x 26 feets (153,6 m x 21,2 m x 7,95 m)
-Propulsion: 16 Babcock & Wilcox/32 Niclausse boilers, VITE steam engines, 2 screws 23,000 ihp (17,000 kW) and top speed 22 knots.
-Armour: 1.5 in (38 mm) flat (belt) to 9 in (229 mm) Conning Tower.
-Armement: 4 x 8in (208 mm), 14 x 6 in (152 mm), 18 x 3in (76 mm), 12 x 3pdr (47 mm), 2 saluting guns, 2 TT 18 in (427 mm) sub sides.
-Crew: 830 sailors and officers

Src: The Pennsylvania class on Wikipedia

USS Frederick, ex-Maryland in 1918.

Illustration of the USS Pittsburg in 1915.

South Carolina class battleships

USA (1908)
USS South Carolina, Michigan

The first American dreadnoughts

These first American dreadnoughts were considered hybrid ships, of dimensions and construction similar to those of previous conventional battleships, while having a monocaliber configuration. For budgetary reasons, the Senate demanded that its tonnage remain limited to 16,000 tons, with a speed of 16 knots, only sufficient in comparison with the future battle-cruisers in project. But these compromises made the USS South Carolina and the USS Michigan relegated to the pre-dreadnoughts category, and saw little action in ww1.


Development history

As a new breed, the BB-26 was also the 26th battleship in line with the latest design, the USS Mississippi-class. These two ships were 13,000 tonnes, but faster (17 knots), still armed with only 2×2 12 inches guns, and a mix of 8 in (203 mm), 7 in (178 mm) to deal with cruisers, and 3 in (76 mm) to deal with TBDs. There were 116 m (382 feets) in lenght, 23 m (77 feets) in width. All these elements are given for comparison. These were launched in September and December 1905 and commissioned in 1908. However their design still inspired a lot the following BB-26.


Just like their British counterparts, American naval theorists proposed that a ship mounting a homogeneous battery of large guns would be more effective in battle. This started with the Naval War College conference of 1904 that compared three Bs designs. Prior to that already Naval Institute’s Proceedings 1902 magazine article from Lieutenant Matt H. Signor proposed a mixed 2×3 13 in (330 mm), and 2×3 10 in (254 mm) of th same 40 calibers, for a total of four triple turrets arrangement.

It was criticized by the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C&R) as unfeasible. However Homer Poundstone, USN Lieutenant Commander was the driving force between the all-big-gun design, arguing his case directly to President Theodore Roosevelt. His design however was a twelve 11-inch (279 mm) guns, 19,000 tons ship, (Proceedings 1903), the same year Vittorio Cuniberti’s design was out in Jane’s. His design was eventually accepted after the 1904 Newport Conference.


The Congress however only gave an agreement for a Connecticut class-derived design at least 2,000 long tons (2,032 t) smaller than foreign standards like the HMS Dreadnought. This obliged to take many compromises and shortcuts in design and received as expected a cold reception by most naval architects. Eventually both were ordered almost the same day (17-18 December) at William Cramp and Sons and the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, launched in May and June 1908 and commissioned in January and March 1910 (The Michigan keel was laid down earlier, it was also commissioned earlier, the class is therefore also called “class Michigan”).


The design was managed by Rear Admiral Washington L. Capps, which however did the best he could with these limitations.
One of these shortcuts was the re-use of the 12-inch (305 mm)/45 caliber Mark 5 guns already found on the Connecticut and Mississippi classes. Although of a proven design they lacked range compared to their British equivalents. Of course the main innovation was their superfiring arrangement. Next to these, the intermediary 178-203 mm artillery has been deleted in favor of the only 3 inches rapid-fire guns to deal with destroyers and TBDs, twenty-two in all, placed in casemates. In addition here were two underwater side torpedo tubes.


Armour scheme was described by Siegfried Breyer (a naval author) as “remarkably progressive”. However it still lacked horizontal and underwater sufficient protection. It ranged from 254 to 305 mm (10-12 in). Propulsion was covered by 229-279 mm (9-11 in), forward magazines front by 203-254 mm (8-10 in). Casemates were 8-10 in, deck varied from 1 to 2.5 in (64 to 25 mm).Turrets and the conning tower were given of course the thickest armour at 8 to 12 inches (face/side/roof; 305–203–63.5 mm). Barbettes were given also 8-10 in and total weight amounted to 31.4% of the design displacement. It was a bit more than the next three battleship classes which were larger and roomier.

The biggest drawback however was found in the propulsion: As limitations were drastic there was simply no room for larger engines. Therefore the same amount of power was not secured. Although it suggested to reduced the number of boilers by 1/3, turbine propulsion was also considered and eliminated for the same reason. The Bureau of Engineering only suggested more compact boiler rooms by eliminating the centerline bulkheads.


The final result was four Curtis direct-current turbogenerators (200 kW (268 hp)) coupled with twelve coal-fired superheating Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers (Vertical triple expansion steam engines) which produced 16,500 hp (12,304 kW) for two screws to propel the ship at 16 knots maximum. Each ship, with its slow speed and squeezed off design costed the American taxpayer $7,000,000.

Active carrer

USS Michigan

The Michigan was the first Christened at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation’s yard, by the daughter of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Truman Handy Newberry. The event was considered of such significance that many prominent individuals were present, the governor and lieutenant-governor of Michigan, the governor of New Jersey, the mayor of Detroit, and the secretary of the Interior Department, naval admirals and constructors. Trials of the Michigan took place at the navy’s traditional testing grounds off Rockland, Maine, from 9 June 1909, but ran aground a sand bar and needed more time for trials completion because of damaged propellers. It nevertheless made USA the third country to operate a dreadnought after UK and Germany this summer, after its august sea trials at the Delaware Capes.


It was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, and started a cruise down to the Caribbean Sea, and later training maneuvers off New England in the summer of 1910, following by a training cruise to Europe, sailing with her sister ship to Portland, UK, and Cherbourg, France. Then back to the Caribbean, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on 10 January 1911. Two days after she was back to Norfolk, and trials of the over-the-horizon naval guns triggered the need for a spotter aircraft.
The next two years were followed by East coast exercises. By November 1912, back to the Gulf of Mexico, with many stops on the way, then Veracruz, Mexico and back to Hampton Roads in December, then patrols off the east coast until the first half of 1913. In the summer she was back because of the Mexican Civil War (Tampico, 15 July, cruising until January 1914). It was then back to New York City and transferred to Norfolk.

The next month she was back to Guacanayabo Bay, Cuba, and the next month supported the United States occupation of Veracruz, landing a battalion of Marines. Then followed East coast patrols for the next three years. On 6, April 1917, with the war declaration, she was assigned to Battleship Force 2 (the reserve force) due to its slow speed. She spent time training naval recruits and escorting convoys. On 15 January 1918, however Michigan was cruising off Cape Hatteras when she was caught into a sever gale that knocked over the forward cage mast, killing 6 and injuring another 13 men. The significance of this was not lost for future US BBs designs. Shen later trained gunners in the Chesapeake Bay, lost a screw while in escort and later in repairs until the armistice.


In late 1918 and 1919 USS Michigan ferried back home troops with the Cruiser and Transport Force. She was back for an overhaul from May to the end of the summer 1919 in Philadelphia. In 1920 she was transferred to Honolulu, Hawaii, via the Panama canal. Back to Philadelphia she was decommissioned until 1921, then took part in a cruise to the Caribbean, and then was embroiled in a near-mutiny led by an officer in charge (Clark Daniel Stearns) which instituted a series of sailors’ committees to ease tensions between the crew and officers, later on judged under Marxist influence and dismissed. In May, the did another trip to Europe and in 1922 it was decided under the Washington Naval Conference to scrap it together with her sister ship.

USS South Carolina

This ship was christened by Frederica Ansel, daughter of South Carolina’s governor, and launched in July, 1st, 1908 at the William Cramp & Sons shipyard in Philadelphia. After a reception in NY by president Theodore Roosevelt, USS South Carolina spent time training naval militia, then was down to the Danish West Indies and Cuba (April 1910) and in November took a trip to Europe with the 2nd Battleship Division, stopping at Cherbourg and Portland. After maintenance she was back to conduct battle training off the coast of New England. After a stop to NY, she sailed for another European tour with stops in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Kronstadt. On the way back she was saluted by German Kaiser Wilhelm II hosting the annual Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) sailing regatta.


In summer she was back to Chesapeake Bay for exercises, then late 1911 was present at a naval review in New York City. In 1912 she sailed for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then back to Norfolk, then cruised off the east coast this summer, and was presented in a visit by the German battlecruiser SMS Moltke and light cruisers Bremen and Stettin in New York. Later in the year she was part of the Special Service Division for a tour of the Caribbean, including Veracruz.

Early 1913 she was guarding the just inaugurated Panama canal, being based at Colón. Manoeuvers at Guantanamo Bay followed, then another East coast cruise, trained US Naval Academy midshipmen and later took part in 1913 to the force sent to safeguard US interests in the Mexican civil war. In January 1914 she was back for exercises off Culebra Island and landed a contingent of Marines ashore in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She coaled at Key West and then sailed to Veracruz, to cover the occupation. For the next years she alternated training exercises off Cuba, maneuvers off Newport, and periodic maintenance in Philadelphia.

When the US entered war she was part of patrols from April to August 1917, then joined pre-dreadnoughts of the Atlantic Fleet began escorting convoys to France. In September 17, she lost her starboard propeller and needed repairs in Philadelphia. Then she performed gunnery training, until Germany signed the Armistice of 11 November 1918. After that she carried over 4,000 soldiers home. In 1920 she was sent to Hawaii, then sailed back stopping in Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego, then Philadelphia through the canal again. She sailed to Europe in May 1921, with visits in Christiana, Norway, and Lisbon, Portugal. Decommissioned in late 1922 following the scrapping decision from the Washington Naval Conference, she was however only sold for scrap on 24 April 1924 to be dismantled. Her silver service is now on display at the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion since 1947.

-Displacement: 16 000t, 17 617t
-Dimensions: (138m x 24,5m x 7,5m)
-Propulsion: 12 chaudières, 2 hélices, 16500 cv. et 18,5 Noeuds max.
-Armour: Belt, barbettes 250 mm, turrets, conning tower 305 mm.
-Armement: 8 x 305 mm (8 in), 22 x 76 mm (), 2 TT 533 mm sub sides.
-Crew: 870 sailors and officers

Src: The South Carolina class on Wikipedia

illustration of the USS South Carolina
Rendition profile of the USS South Carolina