Thursday, August 27, 2009
Figure 1: The cruiser USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23), in an undated broadside view early in her career, clearly showing the disposition of her main battery and the white and spar color scheme prevalent in the United States Navy early in the 20th century. US Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS New Hampshire (Battleship No. 25) coaling while moored alongside a US Navy fleet collier, at Brest, France, in December 1918. The ship in the left background is USS Albany. Next ship ahead of her is a US Coast Guard cutter. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23) in Villefranche harbor, France, circa 1901-1902. The original image is printed on a postcard published by Michel Photographe, Nice, France. Donation of Charles R. Haberlein Jr., 2007. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: Port side view of USS Albany (PG-36, CL-23) while at anchor at the Astoria, Oregon, Regatta, circa 1915-1916. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Originally named the Almirante Abreu for the Brazilian Navy, the 3,340-ton USS Albany 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 cruisers 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. Unfortunately, Albany was launched in February 1899, much too late to see action in the war with Spain, which ended in August 1898. Albany finally was commissioned in the Tyne River, England, on 29 May 1900 and she and the New Orleans were the first steel cruisers in the US Navy to have wood-sheathed and coppered hulls. Albany was approximately 354 feet long and 43 feet wide, had a top speed of 20.5 knots, and had a crew of 353 officers and men. She was armed with six 6-inch guns, four 4.7-inch rapid-fire guns, 10 6-pounders, four 1-pounders, and three torpedo tubes.
On 26 June 1900, Albany left England and headed for the Philippines. She steamed to Gibraltar, went across the Mediterranean, transited the Suez Canal, crossed the Indian Ocean, and arrived at Cavite in the Philippines on 22 November. For the next seven months, Albany served with the Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines. She also made a voyage to Hong Kong where she was dry docked and repaired from 28 December 1900 to 17 February 1901. After returning to the Philippines and staying there for several months, Albany left Cavite on 3 July 1901 and returned to the European Station, arriving in the Mediterranean on 15 September.
For the next nine months, Albany steamed throughout the Mediterranean, visiting ports in Greece, France, Italy, Spain, and Egypt. She left the Mediterranean and proceeded into the Atlantic on 18 June 1902. Albany made stops at Cherbourg, France, and Southampton, England, and, after a brief interlude where she participated in naval exercises with the battleship Illinois and the cruisers Chicago and San Francisco, Albany sailed to the Baltic Sea on 20 July. While visiting northern Europe, Albany made stops at Stockholm, Sweden; Kronstadt, Russia; and Copenhagen, Denmark. In September 1902, Albany left the Baltic and, after a brief visit to Plymouth, England, returned to the Mediterranean on 12 September. After two more months of travelling around the Mediterranean, Albany was sent to the western hemisphere. She arrived in the West Indies in late November and participated in fleet tactical maneuvers towards the end of that year. On 5 January 1903, Albany headed for the United States for the first time, steaming to Boston, Massachusetts, for an overhaul.
After undergoing repairs at the Boston Navy Yard and then at the New York Navy Yard, Albany left for Europe on 15 February 1903. She sailed briefly in the Mediterranean before transiting the Suez Canal at the end of May and then headed for the Far East. She stopped at Hong Kong for some coal before joining the Asiatic Fleet at Chefoo in northern China. Albany patrolled off the coasts of China, Korea, and Japan, but then set sail for Hawaii on 3 December 1903. After staying in Hawaii for several days, Albany headed back to the western Pacific on 29 December. The cruiser spent some months in both China and the Philippines before returning to the United States in May 1904. Albany arrived at Bremerton, Washington, on 16 June and was placed out of commission at the Puget Sound Navy Yard.
Albany remained out of commission for almost three years. But on 10 June 1907, she was re-commissioned and assigned to the Pacific Fleet. Albany spent the next three years cruising off the coasts of North and Central America. She spent much time protecting American lives and property in politically unstable countries including Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and especially Nicaragua. Nicaragua was her principal area of operations during the first few months of 1910 and she was attached to Rear Admiral Kimball’s Nicaraguan expeditionary force. Albany returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in May 1910 and on 4 August left once again for China. After stopping briefly at Honolulu, Hawaii, and Yokohama, Japan, Albany arrived at Woosung, China, on 15 September. For almost three years, Albany remained in the Far East and visited numerous ports in the Philippines and Japan, as well as China.
On 20 October 1913, Albany left Yokohama and headed for home. She reached San Francisco on 12 November, but returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard and was placed in reserve there on 23 December. After another overhaul, Albany was re-commissioned on 17 April 1914. She spent the next few months off the coast of Mexico after an incident in Tampico led to the American invasion of Vera Cruz. Her assignment there ended in November and on 4 December she again was placed out of commission at Bremerton, Washington. In the spring of 1915, Albany was assigned to training duty with the state naval militias of Washington and Oregon. On 12 May 1916, the cruiser was fully re-commissioned and once again headed for the coast of Mexico, this time as part of the American response to the massacre of American citizens in Columbus, New Mexico, by the bandit Pancho Villa and his men.
During the start of 1917, Albany was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet off the coast of Virginia. In early April 1917, America entered World War I by declaring war on Germany and on 5 July Albany steamed to New York for convoy duty. She became the flagship of Squadron Six, Patrol Force, Atlantic Fleet, and carried the flag of Rear Admiral William C. Watts. For the rest of World War I, Albany escorted merchant ships and troop transports back and forth across the Atlantic. From July 1917 to 11 November 1918, when the war ended, Albany successfully escorted 11 convoys between the United States and Europe.
In 1919, Albany once again was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet. She supported American troops that were sent to Vladivostok, Russia, to assist anti-Bolshevik forces that were fighting in Russia’s Civil War. From 1919 to early 1920, Albany completed several tours of duty at Vladivostok while American troops still were stationed there. She also sent armed landing parties ashore on several occasions to assist the American troops and to bring wounded men back to the ship. When American troops finally were withdrawn from Vladivostok in the spring of 1920, Albany resumed her duties with the Asiatic Fleet and spent the bulk of her time off the coasts of both China and the Philippines.
On 17 July 1920, Albany was designated PG-36, but on 8 August 1921 the ship was reclassified as a light cruiser and was designated CL-23. In July 1922, Albany left China for the last time and headed for home. She arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 6 August and was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922. She remained at Mare Island until 3 November 1929, when her name was struck from the Navy list. On 11 February 1930, USS Albany was sold for scrapping.
The most interesting aspect of Albany’s career is the sheer number of ports and countries she visited while in service with the US Navy. She was the quintessential gunboat, showing the flag and protecting American lives and property all over the world. She visited a wide array of countries, including China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, most of the countries in Central America, as well as all of the major nations bordering the Mediterranean. When not assisting the US Army or the Marine Corps in China, the Philippines, Central America, or Russia, or escorting precious convoys during World War I, Albany and her men visited friendly (and some not-so-friendly) nations. These visits made by Albany and ships like her showed that, without a doubt, the US Navy could project power and guard American interests anywhere in the world.
Posted by Remo at 12:27 PM
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Figure 1: USS Samar (PG-41) anchored in Chinese waters, circa 1913-14. Note the awnings still in use, the trim paint job and the ship "dressed up and over" with flags. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 91362. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Samar (PG-41) moored in the Dagupan River, Luzon, Philippines, circa 1899-1900. Note the tropical awnings for protection against sun and rain (especially as the crew often slept on deck owing to the heat), laundry hanging out to dry, and the fishing village in the background. A sign of her rough service is the poor state of the funnel and hull, both in need of painting. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 44046. Click on photograph for larger image.
Samar was a 243-ton iron gunboat built for the Spanish Navy by the Manila Slip Company at Canacao, the Philippines, and captured during the Spanish-American War by the US Army. Samar was handed over to the US Navy on 9 November 1898 at Zamboanga. The ship was sent to Manila on 13 April 1899 and was commissioned there on 26 May 1899 as USS Samar (Gunboat No. 41). The ship was approximately 121 feet long and 17 feet wide, had a top speed of 10.5 knots, and had a crew of 28 officers and men. Samar was armed with one 3-pounder gun and two 1-pounders.
Samar initially was assigned to assist the US Army in suppressing the Philippine insurrection. She patrolled off the coasts of Negros and Panay in the Philippines and in November 1899 the gunboat escorted an Army Expeditionary Brigade under Brigadier General Lloyd Wheaton to San Fabian in Lingayan Gulf. Samar provided gunfire support to the Army by bombarding insurgent entrenchments on the landing beaches at San Fabian. Samar then steamed to Vigan in northwestern Luzon, where she transported Army troops and was used to maintain communications throughout the region. Samar eventually went to the Cavite Naval Station for an overhaul and then sailed south to Zamboanga in southwestern Mindanao. After patrolling the area for several months from Cebu in the north to the Jolo island group in the south, Samar returned to Cavite and was decommissioned on 23 September 1901.
Re-commissioned on 19 June 1902, Samar steamed south again to Zamboanga where she assisted the US Marines and Army in suppressing the Moro rebellions in the southern Philippines. Samar returned to Cavite in December and participated in fleet maneuvers with the Southern Squadron of the Asiatic Fleet in January 1903. Samar went on to participate in hydrographic surveys off southern Mindanao and supported Army operations at Simpetan. The gunboat returned to Cavite and once again was decommissioned there on 22 August 1904.
Re-commissioned on 11 March 1908, Samar was assigned to the Pacific Fleet’s Third Squadron which was given the task of patrolling the Yangtze River and the Chinese coast near Canton. The gunboat’s primary mission was to protect American lives and property, especially American missionaries and businessmen who were living along China’s coast and near her major rivers. Samar arrived at Hong Kong on 18 April and began patrolling the Chu-Kiang delta between Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton. She also steamed up the Si-Kiang River to Wuchow and then moved north along the Chinese coast to Swatow and Amoy.
Towards the end of 1909, Samar was based at Shanghai, where she patrolled the lower Yangtze River up to Nanking and Wuhu. After anti-foreign riots erupted in Changsha in April 1910 (which resulted in a number of missions and merchant warehouses being destroyed), Samar steamed up the Yangtze River to Hankow and then Changsha to show the flag, help restore order, and rescue any Americans in need of assistance. Samar returned to Shanghai in August and went up the Yangtze River again the following summer, visiting Wuhu in June 1911 but then running hard aground of Kichau on 1 July. The ship was stuck in the Chinese mud for two weeks before breaking free and sailing back down river. Samar returned upriver and visited Hankow in August and Ichang in September. She remained in Ichang that winter, partially because of the low water levels in the Yangtze during the dry season (which made navigating the river extremely difficult), but also because of a rebellion that took place in Wuchang in October 1911 which threatened the entire area. After tensions gradually eased, Samar returned down river in July 1912 and eventually reached Shanghai in October. Samar patrolled the lower Yangtze River after violence broke out there in the summer of 1913, when rival Chinese warlords began fighting each other. After another trip up river to Hankow in February 1914, Samar returned to Shanghai for an overhaul in March.
Samar was assigned to the China Station throughout World War I. Unfortunately, after Samar collided with a Yangtze River steamer in July 1919 (an accident that severely damaged her bow), the gunboat was placed on the disposal list at Shanghai. Although Samar was re-designated PG-41 on 17 July 1920, the gunboat never returned to active duty. USS Samar returned to Cavite where she was decommissioned for the last time on 6 September 1920 and then sold on 11 January 1921. Her final fate is unknown.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to vacation scheduling, next week's ship will be posted on August 26 instead of August 25. Thank You.
Posted by Remo at 7:44 AM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Figure 1: USS Pampanga (PG-39), date and place unknown. Courtesy Robert M. Cieri. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Olongapo Naval Station, Philippines, with a view of the waterfront, circa 1914-1916. Ships present are (from left to right): USS Monadnock (Monitor # 3), USS Monterey (Monitor # 6), USS Bainbridge (Destroyer # 1), USS Decatur (Destroyer # 5), USS Pampanga (1899-1928), and USS Piscataqua (1898-1931). From the collection of C.A. Shively, 1978. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Radioman First Class Henry J. Poy, USN, "riding high" in a rickshaw at Canton, China, while serving on USS Pampanga (PG-39), 1924. Collection of Henry J. Poy. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Pampanga was a 243-ton schooner-rigged iron gunboat that was built for the Spanish Navy by the Manila Slip Company at Cavite, the Philippines, and was captured during the Spanish-American War by the US Army at Manila Bay in June 1898. She was commissioned into US service as the USS Pampanga (Gunboat No. 39) on 18 June 1899, but officially was handed over to the US Navy at the Cavite Navy Yard on 9 November 1899 after being overhauled and refurbished. The ship was approximately 121 feet long and 17 feet wide, had a top speed of 10 knots, and had a crew of 30 officers and men. Pampanga was armed with one 6-pounder gun and three 3-pounders.
Pampanga supported the US Army in suppressing the Philippine insurrection by patrolling Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, transporting troops and supplies, blockading rebel towns, and bombarding rebel forces on shore. She continued assisting the US Army after being moved to Cebu in mid-1900 and then to the island of Samar in 1901. Pampanga returned to Cavite and was decommissioned on 18 June 1902, but was re-commissioned on 30 January 1904. The gunboat remained based at Cavite until 1906 and then was ordered to patrol the waters off Zamboanga, the Philippines, and Borneo. She returned to Cavite to be decommissioned once again on 30 April 1907.
On 31 December 1908, Pampanga was loaned to the US Army as a patrol boat and ferry boat, transporting people and supplies from Corregidor Island in Manila Bay to various points on the island of Luzon that surrounded Manila Bay, most notably the major port of Cavite. The ship was given back to the US Navy on 11 November 1910 and Pampanga was re-commissioned on 12 April 1911. Pampanga was sent to patrol the southern Philippines and on 24 September she was steaming off the coast of Semut, Basilan Island. A small detachment from the gunboat under the command of Ensign Charles E. Hovey was ordered to take some supplies to the US Army camp on Tabla Island. While moving towards the Army camp, the small landing party was attacked by hostile natives and Ensign Hovey was killed. Three of his men also were injured. US Army troops retaliated by attacking the natives and killing the assailants. Pampanga remained in the southern Philippines until being decommissioned at Olongapo on 31 May 1915.
Pampanga was transferred to Hong Kong and was re-commissioned there on 3 January 1916. She was assigned to the US Asiatic Fleet and was attached to the South China Patrol station. On 17 July 1920, Pampanga was re-designated PG-39. As with most American gunboats, she was given the task of protecting American lives and property and steamed in the West River to Canton and beyond. This was especially dangerous duty during the turbulent 1920s, when China was plagued by political unrest and Civil War. Pampanga made many trips to Hong Kong, Swatow, and other ports along the Chinese coast. Pampanga remained in this area until she was decommissioned at Hong Kong for the last time on 6 November 1928. USS Pampanga was sunk as a target ship off the coast of China on 21 November 1928.
Posted by Remo at 8:13 AM
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Figure 1: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) photographed circa 1891 by J.S. Johnston, New York City. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) dressed with flags in a harbor, probably while serving with the Squadron of Evolution, circa 1891-1892. Courtesy of Donald M. McPherson, 1969. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in a fine-screen halftone reproduction of a photograph of the ship in harbor, circa 1891-1901. It was published by the SUB-POST Card Co., of Los Angeles, California. Donation of H.E. ("Ed") Coffer. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in a European harbor, circa 1892-1893, with USS Newark (Cruiser No. 1) alongside. Courtesy of Arrigo Barilli, Bologna, Italy. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) off Valparaiso, Chile, 3 April 1894. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in dry dock at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1894-98. This photograph was published on a color-tinted postcard by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, California. Courtesy of H.E. ("Ed") Coffer, 1986. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at Shanghai, China, on 4 July 1901, dressed with flags in honor of Independence Day. Collection of Chief Boatswain's Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in the Kowloon dry dock, Hong Kong, China, in 1901. Collection of Chief Boatswain's Mate John E. Lynch, USN. Donated by his son, Robert J. Lynch, in April 2000. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 9: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) underway in heavy seas, circa 1903-1905. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 10: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at anchor while serving with the Pacific Squadron in 1904. Donation of John C. Reilly, Jr., 1977. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 11: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1903. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation, 1975. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 12: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at anchor, probably in San Francisco Bay, California, circa 1903-1905. This color-tinted photograph is printed on a postcard, published during the first decade of the twentieth century by Frank J. Stumm, Benicia, California. Courtesy of Harrell E. ("Ed") Coffer, 2007. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 13: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) removing the dead from the ship following her boiler explosion at San Diego, California, 21 July 1905. Photographed and published on a stereograph card by C.H. Graves, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Commander Donald J. Robinson, USN(MSC), 1979. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 14: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) salvage party at work on the partially sunken ship in San Diego harbor, California, after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 15: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) partially sunk in San Diego harbor, California, after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 16: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) salvage party at work on the partially sunken ship in San Diego harbor, California, after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. Bennington's National Ensign is flying at half staff. Donation of William L. Graham, 1977. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 17: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in a halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship as her engine room was being pumped out soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion at San Diego, California. Note her National Ensign flying at half-staff. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 18: USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) in a halftone reproduction of a photograph, showing the ship half sunk and beached at San Diego, California, soon after her 21 July 1905 boiler explosion. A steam launch from Bennington is in the foreground. Donation of Rear Admiral Ammen Farenholt, USN (Medical Corps), November 1931. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 19: USS Bennington Monument, San Diego, California. Ceremonies dedicating the monument at Fort Rosecrans, overlooking San Diego harbor, 7 January 1908. It was erected in memory of the Navy personnel who lost their lives in the boiler explosion on board USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at San Diego on 21 July 1905. North Island and Coronado are in the left background. USS Charleston (Cruiser No. 22) is at right. Photographed by Norton-Bennette, 820 Fifth St., San Diego. Collection of Lieutenant Commander Abraham DeSomer, donated by Myles DeSomer, 1975. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 20: USS Bennington Monument, Fort Rosecrans, San Diego, California. Color-tinted postal card, published by the Newman Company, Los Angeles, California. This monument was erected in memory of the Navy personnel who lost their lives in the boiler explosion on board USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) at San Diego on 21 July 1905. Courtesy of H.E. ("Ed") Coffer, 1983. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after a town in Vermont, the 1,708-ton USS Bennington (Gunboat No. 4) was the third (and last) of the Yorktown class steel gunboats. The ship was built by the Delaware River Iron Works at Chester, Pennsylvania, and was commissioned on 20 June 1891. Bennington was approximately 244 feet long and 36 feet wide, had a top speed of 17.5 knots, and had a crew of 197 officers and men. The gunboat was armed with six 6-inch guns, two 6-pounders, two 3-pounders, and one 1-pounder.
Bennington initially was assigned to the “Squadron of Evolution,” the US Navy’s first unit solely made up of modern steel warships. The main purpose of the Squadron of Evolution was to develop tactics and operational training procedures for these new warships. Bennington, along with the rest of the ships in the Squadron, steamed in the Caribbean and off South America from late 1891 to 1892. She then served briefly with the South Atlantic Squadron before being sent to the Mediterranean. Bennington visited Spain in 1892 to help celebrate the quadricentennial of Columbus’ voyage to the New World. Bennington ended her stay in Europe on 18 February 1893, when she left Cadiz, Spain, for Cuba with a replica of one of Columbus’ ships, the Pinta, in tow. After making stops in the Canary Islands and the Netherlands West Indies, Bennington delivered the Pinta to Havana, Cuba, and then steamed north and arrived at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 26 March.
After an overhaul at the New York Navy Yard from 24 May to 6 August 1893, Bennington returned to the Mediterranean for the next six months. In February 1894, she received orders to sail to the Pacific. After transiting the Strait of Gibraltar and crossing the Atlantic, Bennington headed south, rounded Cape Horn, steamed north and eventually arrived at the Mare island Navy Yard in San Francisco, California, on 30 April.
For more than four years, Bennington remained in the Pacific. She spent most of her time operating off the west coasts of North and South America, while making occasional trips to protect American lives and property in Hawaii. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Bennington patrolled off the coasts of Hawaii and California. In September 1898, Bennington was sent to the Far East. On her way west to the Philippines, Bennington (under the command of Commander Edward D. Taussig) stopped at Wake Island on 17 January 1899 and claimed the tiny atoll for the United States. The island is a US territory to this day. After stopping at Guam from 23 January to 15 February, Bennington arrived at Manila in the Philippines on 22 February 1899.
For more than two years, Bennington supported the US Army’s campaign to suppress the insurrection in the Philippines. She was assigned to patrol and escort duties and transported American troops and supplies between the numerous Philippine islands. On 3 January 1901, Bennington left for Hong Kong and spent more than six months there being overhauled. Once the work was completed, she left Hong Kong on 25 June and, after a brief visit to Shanghai, steamed back to the United States and arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 19 August. Bennington was decommissioned there on 5 September 1901.
Bennington was re-commissioned on 2 March 1903. For the next 27 months, she patrolled the eastern Pacific along the coasts of North and South America. In May 1904, she sailed to Hawaii and then was sent to the Aleutian Islands in June. From late 1904 to the spring of 1905, Bennington visited several Pacific ports in Central and South America. After spending two more months in the Hawaiian Islands, Bennington arrived at San Diego on 19 July 1905.
At approximately 1030 on 21 July 1905, an enormous explosion tore through the ship. An improperly closed steam line valve, feed water filled with oil, and a malfunctioning safety valve generated an enormous amount of pressure within the ship’s boilers. As a result, one of the boilers exploded, filling the ship with scalding steam and tearing a large hole in the ship. The explosion and the subsequent escape of scalding steam killed 60 men and injured most of the rest of the crew. As the gunboat started to go down, the tug Santa Fe came alongside Bennington and beached her in shallow water, thereby preventing her from sinking in deep water. The number of wounded from the ship so quickly overwhelmed San Diego’s hospitals that many of the badly burned crewmen were placed in temporary facilities staffed by volunteers. The number of fatalities was too much for local morticians to handle, so the dead were quickly buried on 23 July at the Army’s Fort Rosecrans, which was located nearby. Although the US Navy lost more men in one day than in the entire Spanish-American War, the official US Navy investigation into the matter determined that the tragedy was not caused by negligence. Eleven of the Bennington’s crew received the Medal of Honor for their actions on board the ship at the time of the explosion.
Bennington was refloated and towed to the Mare Island Navy Yard. Judged to be so badly damaged that she wasn’t even worth repairing, Bennington was decommissioned on 31 October 1905. The gunboat remained inactive for five years before being sold on 14 November 1910. Her new owners converted her into a barge and, ironically, took her back to Hawaii, where she had spent so many months as a gunboat. The barge operated until the mid-1920s, when it was eventually scuttled at sea.
Two years after the horrific boiler explosion on board Bennington, a 60-foot granite obelisk was erected on the site where most of the ship’s dead were buried. The monument was dedicated on 7 January 1908 and is now part of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Posted by Remo at 9:40 AM