In the 1880s the United States Congress started to become aware that her fleet was hopelessly inadequate to provide more than an obsolete collection of barely floating targets for almost all European navies and also some South American navies as well. The rag-tag assortment of wooden cruisers and moth-eaten civil war monitors could easily be swept aside by any competent naval force.
Since the American Civil War the warship building infrastructure of the United States had atrophied even faster than the civil war relics had rusted. When the elected representatives of the United States woke up to discover that they had no navy to speak of, they also belatedly discovered that the country lacked the requisite industry to build and equip a modern navy. Their answer was to seek warships and designs from established warship design and construction firms overseas. USS Maine (ACR-1) was based upon the design of a Brazilian ironclad. USS Texas was a British design. The first cruisers were also mostly British designs. In the 1890s France and Russia were the leading naval powers after Great Britain. Both of their navies relied upon French design theories. The United States Navy decided to incorporate those theories into one of its newest designs, the armored cruiser Brooklyn (ACR-3).
USS New Yorkwas the first true armored cruiser for the United States, as the Maine had been rerated as a second class battleship. This elegant cruiser had three funnels of moderate height had a broadside of five eight-inch guns, mounted in twin gun turrets fore and aft and single open mounts on port and starboard amidships. The hull was slab sided with a slight tumblehome. With Brooklyn the full French influence was abundantly seen. First and foremost was the extreme tumblehome of the hull. If any American warship deserved to be called "She", it was the Brooklyn. With her graceful curves tapering inward and the curvature of the sponsons for the amidships gun turrets, Brooklyn displayed feminine grace and charm next to slab-sided designs.
Dimensions: Length- 400 feet 6 inches; Beam- 64 feet 8
inches; Draught- 24 feet
Armament: Eight 8-Inch/35; Twelve 5-Inch/40; Twelve
Machinery: Four vertical triple expansion engines, twin screw;
Brooklynwas the first ship of the New Navy that used exclusively American components for the hull and all major components. It had taken almost ten years for the American warship building infrastructure to be re-established after decades of neglect. She was heavily armed for her size. Because of the extreme tumblehome, the amidships turrets resting on sponsons could theoretically fire bow on and stern on, giving six guns that could be trained in almost any direction. The Brooklyn also had a very high freeboard and the turrets were mounted higher than contemporary designs. This allowed the guns to be fought in almost any weather condition. Another striking feature of the cruiser was the three thin, extraordinarily tall stacks. More than 100 feet high, these were higher than any others in the USN. The height of the stacks allowed for greater forced draught and a correspondingly higher speed from the machine plant. Although Brooklyn had the same horsepower as New York, she was faster than her half-sister due to the hull form and increased draught given by the higher funnels.
Built at Cramp Yards in Philadelphia, Brooklyn was launched in October 1895. She was rated as an armored cruiser because she was given a three-inch belt of armor in addition to the armored deck that was found in "Protected Cruiser" designs. Brooklyn also employed electric drive for the turrets for the first time. The forward and starboard amidships turrets were driven by electricity and the stern and port amidships turrets driven by steam. Electric drive proved clearly superior and utilized thereafter.
Commissioned in December 1896, after trials and shakedown, her first official duty was to represent the United States for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Upon returning to the United States, she became part of the North Atlantic Squadron. Brooklyn became the flagship for Commodore Schleyís "Flying Squadron" on March 28, 1898. The mission of the Flying Squadron was to respond to any threats upon the merchant fleet or East coast ports by Spanish raiders or cruiser squadrons. With the advent of war with Spain, the Flying Squadron was sent to the south coast of Cuba on May 18 to blockade the port of Cienfuegos. On May 25 the squadron was ordered to rejoin Admiral Sampsonís main force. When Admiral Cerveraís small Spanish cruiser squadron was blockaded at Santiago, Cuba, Brooklyn was there.
On the morning of July 3, 1898 Admiral Sampson aboard New York had departed from the fleet so the Admiral could attend a conference with the US Army commander, putting Commodore Schley in defacto command. As the shipís crew prepared for inspection at 9:30 AM, the Spanish squadron sortied out of the harbor. In the initial confusion Brooklyn almost rammed the second class battleship USS Texas. Brooklyn was hampered in that her two forward engines were uncoupled at the time in order to allow for economical cruising. The ship did not have the time to stop to recouple these engines, so she was relegated to half power and 16 knots during the engagement, which still made her one of the fastest ships in the engagement.. However, she and Texas were still the first two ships in the chase of the Spanish squadron. As such, Brooklyn was instrumental in the destruction of the Spanish squadron. During the engagement Brooklyn was struck over 20 times and suffered the only American death, a George Ellis, a Chief Yeoman who was on top of the forward turret taking range.
The rest of her career was marked by action and ceremonial duties. In October 1899 she became flagship for the Asiatic Squadron. In this capacity Brooklyn was described as looking like "a fat mother hen and a great flock of tiny chicks" The chicks being the 24 gunboats of the squadron. In 1900 she took part in the Boxer Rebellion in China, when she landed 318 marines in the Chinese port of Taku. In April 1901 she represented the United States at the opening of the first Australian Parliament at Melbourne. In May 1902 she was present at Havana, when governmental control of the island was transferred to the newly formed Cuban Government and in July transported the body of the British Ambassador to the US to Southampton. In May 1904 Brooklyn took part in the Perdicaris Affair, when she was sent to Tangiers, Morocco. (Subject of the Sean Connery movie, "The Wind and the Lion"). In 1905 she steamed to France to bring back the body of the naval hero of the American Revolution, John Paul Jones. By World War One Brooklyn was obsolescent and was sent to the Asiatic Squadron. In October 1917 with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Brooklyn was sent to Vladivostok. The commander of the Asiatic Squadron stated that the crew of his flagship behaved themselves with the utmost decorum but a Soviet historian stated that Brooklyn trained her guns on the city to influence the election campaign for the Constituent Assembly. She was back to Vladivostok in July 1918 as part of the allied interventionist force. Brooklyn was decommissioned in March 1921 and sold for scrap on December 20, 1921. (Bulk of the history for Brooklyn is from The Armoured Cruiser USS Brooklyn, Warship 1991 by William C. Emerson and U.S. Armored Cruisers by Ivan Musicant.)
ISW has always believed in maximizing the hull detail as part of an integral casting. Many modelers like this approach, as it materially shortens building time. Other modelers prefer adding individual resin or brass parts to the hull. It really amounts to a matter of taste. With the Brooklyn ISW seems to have stretched the envelope with amount of detail that they have crammed onto and into the hull casting. Doors, gratings, skylights, coal scuttles, the unique square hull ports are just some of the highlights of this casting. All of these features are beautifully executed but if I had to pick one feature that jumps out, it would be the bow scrollwork. This scrollwork, so typical of that era warship, is exquisite and is cast as part of the model. It really has the three-dimensional curves and insets of the original.
The smaller parts are average to very well done. The three tall, thin funnels are especially well done. There is a medium amount of flash that will need to be removed from quite a few parts but this is easily accomplished with a hobby knife Some parts will need a light sanding to remove some rough spots. I noticed that some spots donít pop out until the parts are painted. The back of the turrets could use sanding to smooth out the finish. Some smaller parts seem more susceptible to bubble voids, including the searchlights and propellers. Ventilator cowlings will need more clean up and smoothing. There was no significant warp on my smaller parts, except for one topmast that had a slight warp. Of the smaller parts, the anchors and propellers are the most susceptible to breakage. If you are missing a part or canít or donít want to do the repair work, give Ted Paris a call and ISW will send replacements, no questions asked.
The accuracy of the kit compares very favorably with photographs of the ship. Official plans from three different periods were used in making the pattern for this model and it appears to more closely match the photographs of the prototype much more so than the small plans found in U.S. Armored Cruisers by Ivan Musicant and The American Steel Navy by John Alden. In both of those recognized references Brooklyn is shown with the stern emergency steering position positioned on a raised platform and with the topmasts being offset, rather than centered on the lower military mast trunk. Photos show that instead of a raised platform, the three wheeled emergency steering position was mounted on the deck and that the topmasts were centered. The ISW kit conforms to the photos on these details.
However, there are some discrepancies where the kit does not match photos. Both topmasts are cast with crowís nests but photographs donít indicate their presence. In my build I left these positions in place, however, you may want to remove these. Also, the kit comes with a number of searchlights to be fixed to the fighting tops. I have not found any photos showing searchlights in these positions. Instead QF or machine (rapid-fire) guns were typically found in the fighting tops and Brooklyn was no exception. As I was building the kit from the box, I retained the searchlights on the fighting tops, even though I am skeptical that they were mounted in those positions. Since ISW has started producing kits from this era, including at least one of which has these QF guns, you may want to ask them to include a sprue of those guns, if you get the kit. Another minor point involves the ventilator cowlings on the aft superstructure deck. Straight ventilators (Part 31) are given in the parts but photos indicate that J cowlings were used for these two positions. Since there were extra J cowlings of the correct size included in the kit, this was an easy fix. The lower trunks for the military masts (Part 12) are the same in the kit for main and fore masts. Both have a pulley assembly. While this is correct for the main mast as part of the boat boom assembly, I could not find any photos showing the pulley assembly as being part of the rear face of the forward military mast. One flick of the hobby knife would be sufficient to remove it from the foremast. The barbettes should have a slightly greater diameter than the turrets but the fore and aft barbettes seem to have the same diameter as the turrets.
The most significant problem involved the placement of the conning tower with the forward superstructure. The hull has a hole in the deck for conning tower (Part 11) placement. If you place the conning tower in this position, the superstructure will be slightly too far to the rear. The rear of the superstructure bracing (PE 6) will come out flush with the forward edge of the first set of large J cowlings on the main deck (Part 4). There should be a small amount of space present. To solve this, the superstructure needs to sit a few millimeters forward. I filled the hole for the conning tower in the deck with putty and sanded off the conning tower bottom to deck level. I suggest building the superstructure with conning tower and support bracing and dry fit the assembly as you sand down the bottom of the conning tower, to insure that you donít remove too much. It is easier than it sounds. I sanded to the lowest lip of the bottom band of the conning tower and got a good level placement with no trial and error. The bridge should slightly overhang the rear of the forward turret. The anchors included in the kit lack the upper stocks that ran across the top of the anchors. I added these with plastic rod and created the circular ends with heat from a match.
ISW gives you plenty of spare photo-etched parts for most of the smaller items. In fact the frets contain additional parts that you donít even need in the assembly. Accordingly, donít think that you have to attach all of the PE parts. With the Brooklyn ISW gives you individual brass drop-down panels for the casemate positions. This is excellent if you wish to portray the ship with these panels lowered. However since the casemate positions themselves were solid in the kit rather than hollowed out to show the guns, I decided to assemble the panels in an up position. I was unsuccessful in getting all of these panels aligned perfectly with each other. Additionally the PE panels donít show the portholes that appeared on most of them on the original. They were later painted over but if you want to show these portholes, they will have to be painted or inked in. My preference would have been for inclusion of the brass panels for those that wanted to build the ship with panels down and separate resin curved strips for those that wanted to build the ship with panels up. The brass boat chocks come in two sizes. I used the larger size for the steam launch positions.
There were some discrepancies. The conning tower (Part 11) is of similar shape to the lower parts of the military masts (Part 7). The searchlight platform on the main mast (Part 14) should fit in the notch on the main mast (Part 10) closer to the deck than the fighting top. The instructions were unclear as to if the mast was attached with this notch closer to the deck or top. The photo-etched bracing diagram for the fighting tops show six braces per top (PE 14), two centerline and four at 60 degrees separation between braces. I used five braces, since adding one of the centerline braces would obstruct the deck passage to the tops. The instructions donít show the direction of run of the two inclined ladders on the bridge (Part 22) running to the navigation platform (part 27). Photos seem to indicate that they run from outboard to centerline on each side.
The instructions donít show that ISW provides optional boat racks, one set on the photo-etch and one set in resin. I used the resin versions, although some care needs to be used in removing resin to get the correct bow shape. It obviously would have been better to have these parts already clean in order to avoid the need to remove the resin inside the bow. I found that this would be easier than applying plastic strips onto the top of the photo-etched boat racks. There are PE triangular supports under the bridge wings that run from the outboard sides of the support structure (PE 6) outwards. Cut off the rectangular panels of these triangles as they are not needed. All they do is replicate the rectangle already present on the sides of the bridge bracing. The middle set of boat racks canít fit exactly as show in the directions. Because of the bulkhead openings for the wing turrets and the ventilator cowlings inboard, you will have to fit this set of racks farther apart than show in order to clear the cowlings. Since longer steam launches are placed on this middle rack, the increased separation of the two racks will not effect placement of the two boats. There are two different fighting tops. The one with the three-locator holes is for the foretop and the one with two holes is for the maintop. The last page has a parts drawing for the resin parts.
The original Brooklyn was a very striking ship, employing French design principles to a far greater extent than any other ship of the New Navy. With the abundance of beautiful curves, high focísle, gilted bow scroll and amidships sponsons, Brooklyn was a creation of grace and almost feminine beauty. Iron Shipwright has most definitely captured the look of this historically important warship. The kit goes together easily with no hassles and minimal and easy modifications. Whether you paint her in her wartime light gray or the striking white and buff paint scheme, you will finish with a model that has a very high degree of visual impact.