Tuesday, May 5, 2009
USS Topeka (PG-35)
Figure 1: USS Topeka (1898-1930) off the New York Navy Yard, 1898. The receiving ship USS Vermont is visible at right, beyond Topeka's bow. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Topeka (1898-1930) off the New York Navy Yard, 1898. Courtesy of Howard I. Chapelle, Smithsonian Institution. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Topeka (1898-1930) at anchor in 1898. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Topeka (1898-1930) halftone of a photograph taken in 1898, at the time of the Spanish-American War. Copied from "The New Navy of the United States," by N.L. Stebbins, (New York, 1912). Donation of David Shadell, 1987. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Topeka (1898-1930) at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, 30 June 1898. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Topeka (1898-1930) at Algiers, Algeria, circa late 1900. Photographed by J. Geiser, Algiers. The original photograph is printed on silk. Collection of Rear Admiral William C. Braisted, USN(MC). Courtesy of Dr. William R. Braisted. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Topeka (1898-1930) photograph copyrighted by Enrique Muller, 1904, showing the ship anchored in Long Island Sound, New York. USS Prairie is in the left background. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Topeka (1898-1930) color-tinted postcard of a photograph copyrighted by Enrique Muller, 1905. It shows Topeka at anchor in Long Island Sound, New York, circa 1904. Ships present in the background include USS Prairie (left) and a torpedo-boat destroyer (right). U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: View of the Boston Navy Yard waterfront, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 1900. Ships present include, from left to right: USS Olympia, USS Topeka, and USS Constitution. Note the boats in the foreground. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the capital of Kansas, USS Topeka was a 2,755-ton gunboat that originally was built in 1881 for Peru as the steamer Diogenes by George Howaldt at Kiel, Germany. The ship never entered service and eventually was acquired by the Thames Iron Works, London, England. On 2 April 1898, after almost 20 years of inactivity, the ship was purchased by the US Navy just prior to America’s entry into the Spanish-American War. The ship was named USS Topeka and was placed in commission that same day. The unarmed steamer left Falmouth, England, on 19 April and arrived at Tompkinsville, NY, on 1 May. The next day she was sent to the New York Navy Yard to be converted into a gunboat. After a complete overhaul lasting almost two months, the gunboat was ready for action. Topeka was approximately 259 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had a crew of 167 officers and men. She was armed with six 4-inch guns, six 3-pounders, two 1-pounders, and one Colt machine gun.
Topeka left New York on 30 June 1898 and, after stopping for five days at Key West, Florida, she continued her journey south to join the American naval blockade of Cuba. On 11 July, Topeka joined the blockade of Havana and then was sent to patrol the coast of Bahia de Nipe, in northeastern Cuba. On 17 July, Topeka and USS Maple captured the Spanish sloop Domingo Aurelio off Bahia de Nipe and four days later Topeka, along with USS Annapolis, USS Wasp, and USS Leyden, were ordered to attack Bahia de Nipe. The four American warships encountered some cannon fire from shore while entering the port, but they quickly silenced it with their own guns. They also sank the Spanish gunboat Jorge Juan, which was lying at anchor near shore. Once the port was captured, Topeka was sent to Key West with dispatches, but she returned to Cuba on 28 July and remained there until 5 August, when she was sent back to Key West. The gunboat made one more trip to Cuba on 14 August before being ordered back to the United States.
In late 1898 and early 1899, Topeka patrolled the Caribbean and then was placed in reserve at the Boston Navy Yard. In August 1900, the gunboat was re-commissioned as a training ship and was equipped with a sailing rig to give new sailors experience in both sail and steam power. She was assigned to the Mediterranean from November 1900 to early January 1901 and then steamed to the Azores and the West Indies. Topeka was assigned to the Caribbean region for the next five years, protecting American lives and property in such trouble spots as Haiti, Venezuela, Santo Domingo, Hispaniola, and the Dominican Republic. In January and February 1904, Topeka steamed along the coast of Panama just after the revolution there separated that new country from Colombia, paving the way for the construction of the Panama Canal.
Topeka was decommissioned at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in September 1905 and remained there as a station ship and as a prison ship for more than 10 years. For a brief time in mid-1916, Topeka acted as a receiving ship at the New York Navy Yard and then returned to Portsmouth, where she was used as a training ship during World War I. After being re-commissioned in March 1919, Topeka spent most of that year patrolling the coast of Mexico. The gunboat underwent a major overhaul at Charleston, South Carolina, in November 1919, and then received the new hull number of PG-35 in July 1920. A year later, Topeka was again re-designated IX-35 and on 1 July 1922, she was put up for sale. But, since no satisfactory bids were made for the ship, Topeka was withdrawn from the market on 29 September. The old gunboat then served as a Naval Reserve training ship at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 1923 to 2 December 1929, when she was decommissioned for the last time. Now almost 50 years old, the US Navy struck USS Topeka from the Navy List on 2 January 1930 and she was sold for scrap in May of that same year.
This was an amazing career for a ship that was not originally built to be a gunboat and also languished in a foreign port for almost 20 years before being purchased by the US Navy. Topeka then went on to serve in the US Navy for more than 30 years, a remarkable record considering she almost was obsolete when the Navy purchased her in 1898.
Posted by Remo at 8:35 AM