Tuesday, June 16, 2009

USS Princeton (PG-13)

Figure 1: USS Princeton (PG-13) photographed in 1898, probably when first completed. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Gunboat USS Princeton (PG-13) anchored at Farm Cove, Sydney Harbor, Australia, in September 1912. Click on photograph for larger image.
NOTE: This photograph and a great description of USS Princeton can be found at: http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cacunithistories/USS_Princeton.html

Figure 3: USS Princeton (PG-13) 13 February 1899 in harbor at Port Suez, Egypt, dressed with flags and flying a Turkish flag at its mainmast. Click on photograph for larger image. Courtesy Camden People web site at: http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-JohnHDialogue.htm

Figure 4: USS Princeton (PG-13) circa 1900 at Shanghai, China. Courtesy U.S. Warships of World War I. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: USS Princeton (PG-13) circa 1903 at Manila, the Philippines. Click on photograph for larger image. Courtesy Camden People web site at: http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-JohnHDialogue.htm

Named after a town in New Jersey, USS Princeton (PG-13) was a 1,103-ton Annapolis class composite (made out of both wood and steel) gunboat that was built by J. H. Dialogue & Son at Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned on 27 May 1898. The ship was approximately 168 feet long and 36 feet wide, had a top speed of 11 knots, and had a crew of 147 officers and men. Princeton was armed with six 4-inch guns, two 1-pounders, and one machine gun.

After completing acceptance trials 7-25 July 1898, Princeton sailed to Key West, Florida, where she was assigned to the US North Atlantic Fleet. On 2 August, she was sent to patrol the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and the coast of Guatemala. Princeton returned to Key West on 13 August and remained in this area until 1 January 1899, when she went back north to New York.

In early 1899, Princeton was ordered to the Far East and left New York for Cavite, the Philippines, and sailed there via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. The gunboat reached Cavite on 16 April and patrolled the waters off the Philippines with USS Petrel (PG-2) 4-15 May. Shortly after that, Princeton took Senator A. J. Beveridge on a tour of the Philippines and later that month began blockading the ports of St. Vincent and Musa in an effort to prevent arms and supplies from reaching Filipino rebels in those areas. As rebel activities increased on the island of Luzon, Princeton transported and landed American troops at San Fabian 2-7 November 1899. She also transported US cavalrymen as well as captured arms, carried dispatches, and brought supplies to US Marines at Subic Bay. Princeton assisted in the capture of the Babuyan and the Batan Islands on 13 January 1900 and she continued patrolling the waters off Luzon until 10 February. Princeton later acted as the station ship at Iloilo and Cebu from 5 March to 21 June 1900.

During China’s horrific Boxer Rebellion, Princeton patrolled off the coast of China from Hong Kong to Woosung. Her patrols lasted from 26 June to 29 November 1900, but she returned to the Philippines on 4 December. Princeton remained there until 13 April 1903 and was ordered back to California. She was decommissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 12 June 1903. The gunboat was re-commissioned on 12 May 1905 at Mare Island and was attached to the Pacific Squadron. Princeton left 4 June and became the station ship at Panama City, where she stayed until 24 October. On 2 December 1905, Princeton sailed back to Mare Island and began patrolling off America’s Pacific coast from San Diego all the way north to Esquimalt, British Columbia. She remained on the West Coast until she was ordered to patrol the waters off Magdalena Bay, Mexico, on 3 January 1907.

Princeton went to Corinto, Nicaragua, on 17 March 1907 during that country’s political turmoil and her main mission was to protect American lives and property there. She also assisted in transporting troops during the crisis. Princeton returned to San Diego on 30 May and was decommissioned once more on 3 July 1907 at Bremerton, Washington. Re-commissioned yet again on 5 November 1909 at Bremerton, Princeton returned to Central America and on 28 November was ordered to join the Nicaraguan Expeditionary Squadron. Princeton was stationed in Central America from 20 December 1909 to 21 March 1911 and mainly patrolled the area between San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and La Union, El Salvador. She returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard on 20 June 1911 for an overhaul.

From 1911 to 1915, Princeton became the US Navy station ship at Tutuila, American Samoa. On 11 July 1914, while patrolling off the coast of Samoa, Princeton hit an uncharted rock during a storm. The resulting hole caused considerable flooding and the ship began to go down by the bow, so much so that the forward gun deck was awash. But the efficient crew managed to keep the ship afloat and Princeton was able to get underway after the collision and steam back to Tutuila for repairs.

Princeton returned to San Francisco on 18 September 1915 and was decommissioned and laid up until 20 February 1917, when she was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yard for repairs. She then was commissioned “in ordinary” at Puget Sound on 16 January 1918 and was used as a training ship at Seattle, Washington, from 9 May 1918 to 25 April 1919, when the old gunboat was decommissioned for the last time. USS Princeton was struck from the Navy List on 23 June 1919 and was eventually sold to Farrell, Kane, & Stratton of Seattle, Washington, on 13 November 1919.

Ships like Princeton were considered obsolete for fleet operations when they were built. By the time Princeton was commissioned in 1898, steel warships had taken over from wooden and iron warships in most navies around the world. But composite gunboats, ships made out of both wood and steel, still had a place in the US Navy at the turn of the century. These modestly priced warships were just as capable of “showing the flag” and bringing a substantial amount of firepower to bear as their modern (and more expensive) all-steel counterparts. Their heavy use of sail power gave them great range and made them economical, since their steam engines were not used as much and, therefore, consumed less coal. These ships also were cheap and easy to maintain compared to steel warships. Finally, even after being replaced by all-steel gunboats, these composite vessels still were able to make a valuable contribution as training ships. Princeton proved that sometimes the most modern and expensive warships are not always needed for the everyday tasks a major navy has to perform.