Tuesday, October 20, 2009

USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22)

Figure 1: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) photographed circa March-April 1898, possibly in a British port prior to her departure for the United States. Note rowing craft in the foreground. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) arrives off the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, after crossing the Atlantic. Note oversize commissioning pennant flying from her main mast, and Brazilian Navy paint scheme. She had been purchased from Brazil on 16 March 1898, while still under construction in England. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) docked at the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, immediately after her maiden voyage from England. The receiving ship USS Vermont is at left. Note New Orleans' extra-long commissioning pennant. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) photographed during the Spanish-American War, 1898. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: Halftone photograph of USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22), taken during the Spanish-American War and published in the book War in Cuba, 1898. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) dressed with flags in 1898. Note this British-built cruiser's elaborate stern decoration and the civilian rowboat in foreground. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 7: USS New Orleans (PG-34, then CL-22) in New York Harbor. Copyright by Enrique Muller, October 1899.

Originally named Amazonas for the Brazilian Navy, the 3,769-ton protected cruiser USS New Orleans was built by Whitworth & Company at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, and was purchased by the United States Navy on 16 March 1898. The United States was drifting towards war with Spain and the US Navy was concerned that it didn’t have enough ships to face this potential enemy. The Navy, therefore, bought two protected cruisers (ships that had steel deck armor that protected critical engine compartments from exploding shells) from Brazil while they were still under construction in England. The first ship was called the Amazonas, which was renamed USS New Orleans. The other cruiser was the Almirante Abreu, which was renamed USS Albany. Although Albany was still under construction when purchased, New Orleans was nearly completed by March 1898. New Orleans was commissioned into the US Navy on 18 March at Gravesend, England, just two days after she was purchased. New Orleans and Albany also were the first steel cruisers in the US Navy to have wood-sheathed and coppered hulls. New Orleans was approximately 354 feet long and 43 feet wide, had a top speed of 20 knots, and had a crew of 365 officers and men. She was armed with six 6-inch guns, four 4.7-inch rapid-fire guns, 10 6-pounders, eight 1-pounders, and three torpedo tubes.

When New Orleans was commissioned at Gravesend on 18 March 1898, she was met by the USS San Francisco. Lieutenant Commander Arthur P. Nazro, the executive officer on board San Francisco, was detached from the ship and placed in command of New Orleans for the voyage to the United States. Nazro brought with him five officers and 87 men from the crew of San Francisco, along with 18 Marines under the command of First Lieutenant George Barnett, a future commandant of the US Marine Corps. After nine days of preparations, New Orleans left England and steamed towards the United States. She arrived at Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York, on 15 April 1898. Over the next few days, the men on board New Orleans returned to San Francisco. After taking on a new crew, New Orleans continued its journey to Norfolk, Virginia.

New Orleans left Norfolk on 17 May 1898 and was attached to the US Navy’s “Flying Squadron,” which was sent to confront the Spanish fleet that was moored at Santiago de Cuba. The Flying Squadron was in position off Santiago by 30 May and on the next day New Orleans, along with the battleships USS Massachusetts and USS Iowa, made a bold reconnaissance of Santiago harbor. The American ships exchanged gunfire with Spanish ships and shore batteries before leaving the area. New Orleans assisted in the bombardment of Spanish shore batteries at the entrance of the harbor on 6 June and 16 June, before being sent to Key West, Florida, to replenish her depleted supply of coal. Unfortunately, this trip to Florida prevented New Orleans from taking part in the famous naval Battle of Santiago, which occurred on 3 July.

Throughout the rest of the Spanish-American War, New Orleans was part of the American blockade of Cuba and Puerto Rico. On 17 July 1898, New Orleans captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues. After the war ended, New Orleans went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 20 October to attend the “Peace Jubilee” that was held there and then moved on to New York, where she was overhauled and prepared for peacetime service. The cruiser then was sent to visit her namesake, the city of New Orleans, from 16 to 29 May 1899. After spending the summer participating in naval exercises off the Atlantic coast, New Orleans left New York on 21 October to join the US Asiatic Fleet. She crossed the Atlantic and entered the Mediterranean, eventually transiting the Suez Canal and reaching Manila on 21 December 1899. For the next five years, New Orleans served as the flagship of the US Asiatic Fleet’s Cruiser Squadron and patrolled the waters off China as well as the Philippines. She was replaced by the cruiser USS Baltimore and left Cavite, the Philippines, on 27 December 1904. New Orleans arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 27 January 1905 and was decommissioned on 6 February.

New Orleans was re-commissioned on 15 November 1909 and returned to duty with the Asiatic Fleet. She arrived at Yokohama, Japan, on 25 April 1910 and remained with the Asiatic Fleet until being sent back to the United States in 1912. New Orleans arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 14 February 1912 and was placed in reserve. The cruiser was fully re-commissioned on 31 December 1913 and was assigned to patrol the coast of Mexico during the turbulent spring of 1914, when that country was engulfed in political and military violence. New Orleans then was briefly assigned to the Washington State Naval Militia and served as a training ship until the fall of 1914, when she resumed her patrol duties off the coast of Mexico. New Orleans remained on the West Coast until America entered World War I in April 1917. The cruiser was overhauled at the Puget Sound Navy Yard and then sent to the East Coast via the Panama Canal. She arrived at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 27 August 1917.

New Orleans escorted Allied convoys between New York and Europe until 16 January 1918, when she was sent back to the Asiatic Fleet. New Orleans arrived at Yokohama on 13 March and eventually resumed her duties of patrolling the waters off China and the Philippines. From 17 July to 20 December 1919, New Orleans also served as the station ship at Vladivostok, Russia, in support of an Allied expeditionary force that was sent to Siberia to fight communist troops.

After undergoing repairs at Cavite, New Orleans was sent back to Vladivostok and continued supporting the Allied Expeditionary Force from 20 May to 27 September 1920. New Orleans also was re-designated a patrol gunboat (PG-34) in 1920. However, she was re-designated yet again in 1921 as a light cruiser (CL-22). After continuing her duties with the Asiatic Fleet in other parts of the Pacific, New Orleans returned to Vladivostok and served as the station ship there from 14 February to 17 August 1922. The cruiser steamed to the Mare Island Navy Yard on 23 September and was decommissioned for the last time on 16 November 1922. USS New Orleans was stricken from the Navy List on 13 November 1929 and the ship was sold for scrapping on 4 February 1930.