In November 1895 a young Winston Spencer Churchill, took on a new assignment as a reporter for London’s Daily Graphic. The British Empire was at peace and Churchill wanted to report on war. One had finally broken out in Cuba as the movement for independence from Spain evolved into an insurrection. One observer called it, "a kind of World’s Fair with shooting" Churchill, who held a commission with the 4th Hussars, was unhappy that there was no British war for him to write about. "The Empire,’ he noted sadly, ‘had enjoyed so long a spell of almost unbroken peace that medals and all they represented in experience and adventure were becoming extremely scarce in the British Army.’ But at last the peace, ‘in which mankind had for so many years languished,’ broke down in Cuba. It was not a real war, but it would do. Churchill’s colonel agreed, rating the Cuban fracas ‘as good or almost as good as a season’s serious hunting." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 50) Young Winston was going to Cuba to cover the excitement. He first stopped off in New York. While staying in the Fifth Avenue apartment of his host, Bourke Cockran, he toured the city, including a tour of the brand new armored cruiser, USS New York.
On September 7, 1888 Congress authorized the purchase of one armored cruiser of about 7,500 tons. This was the ship that would become synonymous with power and grace with the reborn US Navy. This was the USS New York. For almost a decade the New York would be flagship of the Squadron. No matter who was the admiral appointed, the flag would be transferred to the New York. No matter what newer ships joined the fleet, the flag would still fly over the New York. Why was this one ship so appreciated as to be the almost permanent flagship? She was not the first modern steel armored warship to be ordered for the American Steel Navy. Much earlier the USS Maine and USS Texas had been ordered. However, those two were based on British designs and were known from the start to be second rate ships, clearly inferior to what was being built in Europe. Not so with New York. She was American designed, American built and was the most powerful ship of her type in the world. Indeed, she became the first of the new armored ships to join the fleet, well ahead of the dowdy, slow building Maine and Texas. When she joined the fleet, the New York became the first prima donna, an instant diva for the USN.
Although authorized in 1888, the gestation of the New York was a lengthy process. By 1890 nothing had been done as the Navy was not certain of exactly the type of ship they wanted. The first design was an undergunned ship with single 8-inch gun turrets fore and aft and ten 5-inch guns organized in six single turrets and four firing through ports. It was clearly another second class effort. Fortunately the uninspired design of 6,350 tons and 19 knot speed was rejected. The second attempt produced a much more satisfactory goal, a cruiser of 8,100 tons with a 20 knot speed and armed with six 8-inch guns. William Cramp of Philadelphia won the contract by bidding $15,000 less than the only other bid of $3,000,000 from Union Ironworks of San Francisco. The high freeboard slab sided hull, large funnels and fighting masts gave her the appearance of a battleship, although she had much finer lines. Her design proved extraordinarily good as in tests as well as in service she was extremely steady and sea worthy.
The main armament was the new 8-inh/35 Mk 3 with two guns in each of the fore and aft turrets and single pivot guns port and starboard, protected by gunshields. All of the main guns were hand loaded. The broadside fire of the amidships guns was thought to be 180 degrees but in reality was limited to 140 degrees because of possible blast damage. The secondary was light with twelve 4-inch/40 QF, which were really to small to adequately have a chance of repelling a destroyer attack. She also had eight 6-pounders in hull sponsons and two 1-pounders and four gattlings in the fighting tops. There were three above water 18-inch torpedo tubes; one in the bow and one on each side. The armor belt was 200 feet long, almost nine feet wide and varied from 4 to 5 inches in width. A common armor scheme of the time was to connect the ends of the belt with armored bulkheads to form an armored box or citadel. These were not present in New York and accordingly she was vulnerable to end on fire. Approximately the first 90 feet of the bow and last 90 feet of the stern were not armored.
In order to provide for efficient cruising, the New York adopted a propulsion system first used by the Italian Navy. Four engines were used with two engines per shaft. The aft pair would stay connected to the shaft and would provide for economical cruising. When speed was needed the forward pair of engines would be coupled to the shafts as well. It took fifteen to twenty minutes to hook up the forward engines. That seemed reasonable at the time but imposed a significant constraint at the Battle of Santiago. Both New York and Brooklyn, which used the same propulsion scheme, had only their aft engines hooked up when the Spanish Squadron boiled out of the port. Neither ship was stopped for the 15 to 20 minutes necessary to hook up the forward engines. Accordingly, both cruisers were limited to half their engine power during the battle. The ship had a large coal bunker capacity that gave the cruiser a range of 4,800 miles at ten knots. The four engines produced a total of 16,000 IHP.
After the last revisions of the design and awarding of the contract to Cramps, the shipyard quickly got to work. New York was laid down at Philadelphia on September 19, 1890 and made quick progress. She slid down the ways into the Delaware River on December 2, 1891. Trials were held in May 1893 off of Massachusetts. The trials were run without armament, so the results were slightly elevated without that additional weight. In the moderate seas between Massachusetts and Maine the New York excelled. She achieved a top speed of 21.91-knots with an average speed of 21.09-knots. This was 2-knots above contract so Cramp received a handsome $200,000 bonus. The most serious defect observed was flooding through the bow torpedo compartment as the seals on the tube did not keep out the sea at speed. On the 24th she returned to Philadelphia for finishing. On August 1, 1893 USS New York was commissioned at Philadelphia. She was sent to the South Atlantic Squadron for one year.
On August 4, 1894 she became the flagship of the premiere formation in the navy, the North Atlantic Squadron. She would not surrender that honor for many years. For one month in June-July 1895 she temporarily became flagship of the European Squadron when she appeared for the opening of the Kiel Canal, where she was a subject of much interest. "The Flower of our Navy – In the cruiser class the Brooklyn and New York are the flower of the navy. Besides heavily armored steel decks and light side plating they have a cellulose belt. In displacement the Brooklyn has a superiority of a little more than a thousand tons. She is also fourteen feet longer. At the Kiel naval review the Brooklyn was a prime favorite with the naval experts. She is not, however, as handsome a ship as the New York."( History of Our War with Spain, 1899, by James R. Young and Hampton Moore, at page 96) However, by July 25, 1895 she resumed here traditional duty as flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron. As 1897 rolled into 1898 USS New York was still the flagship of the Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard. The year of 1898 would by momentous for the USN and for her premiere warship, the USS New York. However, the year would also prove to be less than satisfactory for New York for a quirk of fate, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for being cheated by fate out of her rightful glory.
The Battle of Santiago de Cuba on July 3, 1898 as far as the USN side was concerned, could be considered to be the result of two men, Rear Admiral William Sampson, in overall command, and his mistrusted subordinate, Commodore Winfield Scott Schley. The men were opposites in personality. Schley was gregarious with a touch of a showman, while Sampson was reserved and withdrawn with the looks of a professor. Both men flew their flags from armored cruisers. As if matching the personality of the flag commander, Schley’s flagship, Brooklyn was a gorgeous combination of curves, the final flowering of French design practices in the USN. She was flamboyant, she was showy, she was grace personified in a warship with an abundance of feminine curves. Sampson’s flag flew on the slightly older and smaller armored cruiser New York. Her hull was slab-sided versus the curves of Brooklyn. She carried only six 8-inch guns versus the eight carried by Brooklyn. Although better armored, of a fraction less speed, and handsome in her own way, in a rather reserved style, the New York did not match the looks of the Brooklyn. In the end, through a trick of fate, the Brooklyn and Schley would win laurels at the Battle of Santiago, while the New York and Sampson came in as an Also Rans.
In late January 1898, the USS Maine had been riding at anchor at Key West and had been prepared to steam to Havana if the Cuban situation became worse. She was there when the New Steel Navy of the United States gathered. "On Sunday January 23, some of the big new ships arrived at Key West: the New York, the Indiana, the Iowa, the Massachusetts, and the Texas. All of the battleships, except the Oregon, on the West Coast, were now gathered under Admiral Montgomery Sicard’s command. It was the largest fleet assembled since the Civil War, and the reef-fringed, outside anchorage was crowded by new arrivals." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 83) The flagship of this fleet was the USS New York. On the night of the 24th Captain Sigsbee of the Maine was taken to the New York for a conference with Admiral Sicard. Sicard gave Sigsbee an order from Secretary of the Navy Long. "Order the Maine to proceed to Havana, Cuba, and make friendly call – Pay his respects to authorities there – Particular attention must be paid to usual interchange of civility…." Maine steamed for Havana the next morning.
After the sinking of the Maine, personnel from the New York still took the lead in the rapidly unfolding events. Captain Frank Ensor Chadwick of the New York was on the naval Board of Inquiry headed by Captain William Sampson of the Iowa, assigned to determine the cause for the loss of the Maine. Later in February, divers from the New York investigated the wreckage at Havana. On March 22 the official report signed by Sampson was taken to the New York, where in one of his last official acts Admiral Sicard approved the findings that an external explosion had ignited the forward magazine of Maine.
Sicard, who had health problems, was not considered up to the task that appeared to ahead of the navy. Even before the completion of the report on the Maine, Secretary of the Navy Long had jumped Sampson ahead of sixteen senior captains to make him commodore to take command of the squadron after Sicard’s departure. On March 24 Long ordered the fleet to be painted gray, in place of the traditional white and buff colors and on March 26 Commodore Sampson raised his command flag from his new flagship, USS New York. On April 21 Sampson received a cable, "You are assigned the command of the U.S. forces on the North Atlantic Station with the rank of Rear Admiral immediately." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 200) That evening as the commanding officers of the fleet were aboard the New York in conference with the freshly minted Rear Admiral, a torpedo boat, traveling at high speed, approached New York around midnight. "A staff officer soon appeared and gave Sampson a message from the president. Sampson read it out loud. ‘War declared; proceed to blockade the coast of Cuba…." Before daylight on the 22nd, the fleet put to sea.
Richard Harding Davis, a reporter, was secured permission to join New York by Theodore Roosevelt to report the war. He missed the departure of New York from Key West but caught up on April 26. Davis was delighted to be aboard the flagship. He found the flagship, with its elegant officer’s mess and excellent band, ‘like a luxurious yacht, with none of the ennui of a yacht." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 242)
April 27 found New York off of Matanzas, 52 miles east of Havana. Sampson had heard that the Spanish were erecting gun emplacements there and went to investigate. The cruiser Cincinnati and monitor Puritan were already there, blockading the port, when New York arrived. "Sampson steamed past them towards the heights guarding the harbor. Suddenly, French Chadwick saw a puff of smoke rise froma point on the western shore. He turned to Sampson. ‘They’re firing at us. Can’t I open on them, sir?’ A shell whined through the air and fell short of the New York. Sampson nodded." New York fired an eight-inch shell toward the Spanish position and more Spanish field guns opened up on her. The Puritan and Cincinnati eagerly signaled New York to be allowed to join in the fun, to which Sampson agreed. "Davis, standing on the flagship’s superstructure, tried to keep number of the shots fired, ‘but soon it was like trying to count falling bricks. The guns seemed to be ripping out the steel sides of the ship….The thick deck of the superstructure jumped with the concussions and vibrated like a suspension-bridge when an express train thunders across it….Your eardrums tingled and strained and seemed to crack. The noise was physical, like a blow from a baseball bat….’ Amid the smoke, heat, and flame of the bombardment, Davis heard a gunnery officer cry out, ‘Oh, will you take your damned smoke out of my way!" (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 243) The nineteen-minute bombardment silenced the Spanish batteries. Although neither side lost any men, the Spanish did have a mule killed. A press boat came alongside New York a short time later and Davis threw his story aboard to be taken back for publication.
On April 29 New York was cruising west of Havana. Around 1800 the ship’s band was conducting a serenade, when crewmen heard some faint noise coming from shore. "A troop of Spanish cavalry had ridden into a clearing, dismounted, and aimed several volleys at the distant New York. Associated Press staffer William Goode noted that ‘the novelty of attacking an armored cruiser with Mauser bullets at two miles range appealed to all on board." As the band continued to play, the New York prepared her response. "Man the port battery!’ A 4-inch gun was readied and pumped off several shells towards the cavalry. Bluejackets and marines crowded around as Chadwick himself aimed the last shot and pulled the lanyard. ‘As each shell struck home,’ Davis wrote, ‘they whispered and chuckled as though they were seated in the gallery at a play….Meanwhile from below came the strains of the string band playing for the officer’s mess, and the music of Scheur’s ‘Dream of Spring’ mingled with the belches from the four-inch gun…when the smoke had cleared there was no cavalry troop….The horsemen were riding madly in 50 directions, like men at polo….’ End-of-the-century war, Davis concluded, was civilized." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 244)
Sampson had been informed that Cervera’s cruiser squadron had sailed. The Flying Squadron under Schley was still being held at Hampton Roads to pacify the nervous east coast as a "sop to the quaking laymen." The Spanish cruisers destination could be Havana, the south Cuban ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago, San Juan Puerto Rico, the US coastline or an interception of the Oregon, then at Rio de Janeiro. Since they weren’t at Havana, Sampson decided to check San Juan. The fleet recoaled at Key West from May 2 through 4 and left for San Juan. The fleet arrived on May 12 but Cervera was not there. Since they were there, it was decided to take the opportunity to shell Spanish gun batteries. One man on the New York was killed by shrapnel in the return fire. Bob Evans, commander of the Iowa, convinced Sampson to call off the bombardment, which was achieving little damage, by reminding him that the ships’ might need their shells in case Cervera showed up that night. "Alfred Thayer Mahan, reviewing the San Juan expedition in Washington, found it ‘an eccentric movement.' Secretary Long, pursuing the reports, considered it a failure. Even French Chadwick thought San Juan should not have been engaged. ‘The admiral’s fighting instincts,’ he explained, ‘were too strong for him." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 247)
The fleet retraced its steps to Key West to recoal. On the 20th Sampson sent a message to Schley and the Flying Squadron, who was now off of Cienfuegos, to remain there. Later that day Sampson discovered that top-secret information from Havana, placed Cervera’s squadron at Santiago. On the 21st Sampson sent another message to Schley, conveyed by the cruiser Marblehead, which stated, "Spanish squadron probably at Santiago de Cuba- four ships and three torpedo boat destroyers. If you are satisfied that they are not at Cienfuegos, proceed with all despatch, but cautiously, to Santiago de Cuba, and, if the enemy is there, blockade him in port." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 257) Sampson wired Long that he had ordered Schley to Santiago, which of course was somewhat off the mark. New York and the remaining ships of the squadron, up-anchored a half an hour later, bound for Havana. Schley was already convinced that Cervera was at Cienfugos.
The murky orders to Schley only aggravated the situation. Schley, convinced the Spanish were at Cienfuegos, but unable to prove it, hesitatingly steamed east towards Santiago. After arriving there, he did not close the harbor and took as truth the word from the scouts that Cervera was not there. He reversed course and headed back to Cienfuegos. After 40 miles, he changed his mind, reversed course again and headed back to Santiago. Secretary Long, unaware of Sampson’s less than clear orders to Schley, was furious. He considered relieving Schley or starting a court martial for his indecision. Finally on May 28 Marblehead clearly recognized some of Cervera’s ships at Santiago and reported it to Schley.
Finding nothing on the north coast, Sampson again returned to Key West on May 27 to recoal, before steaming to Santiago. At 1100 on May 29 New York left Key West with the squadron, steamed to Havana, to pick up the ships blockading the Cuban capital, and then set course for Santiago. He arrived to join Schley on June 1.
Sampson set the dispositions for the blockade of Santiago. He had the two flagships at the two opposite ends of the line with New York to the east with only Indiana to the east of New York, Brooklyn to the west and the remaining battleships clustered in the center. For a month they watched and waited at three miles range of the harbor mouth in day and two at night. On the evening of July 2 smoke plumes were observed by Brooklyn coming from the harbor and Schley sent notice to Sampson. The US Army had made landings and was approaching Santiago. However, it had bogged down and a conference was scheduled between General Schafter and Admiral Sampson for July 3. At 850 New York left the blockade, steaming east to take Sampson to the conference with Schafter. New York signaled, "Disregard movements of commander in chief."
"As the New York settled into an easy gait for Siboney, William Sampson, dressed in a fatigue uniform, strapped on leggings and spurs for his ride from Siboney to Sevilla." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 334) William Sampson, who now distrusted Commodore Schley, and who had organized and commanded this tedious blockade for the past month had left the line with New York at precisely the wrong time. It was the junior commander, the flamboyant Schley and the newer and equally flamboyant armored cruiser Brooklyn that would grab the glory, rather than the senior, reserved Admiral Sampson in the slab-sided, reserved New York.
At 0930 New York was five miles to the east of her position on the blockade line and seven miles from Iowa, when "Fighting" Bob Evans of the Iowa saw the Infanta Maria Teresa surge out of Santiago. Evans hoisted Signal 250, "Enemy’s ships escaping", up the halyard and Lieutenant Hill, Iowa’s officer of the deck, fired a signal gun. "A lookout on the bridge turned at the sound of Hill’s cannon shot and spotted signal flags fluttering to the top of the fleet’s masts, ‘The fleet’s coming out!’ he shouted. Sampson picked up a telescope and focused on the Iowa, then the harbor entrance. He had not heard the cannon, Chadwick realized, because ‘he had been somewhat deafened a few days before by the firing of an eight-inch gun under the bridge.’ But looking westward, away from the sun, he could easily see the smoke and the flags. Sampson put down the telescope. ‘Yes,’ he said evenly, ‘they’re coming out. Hoist 250.’ He had endured the burden of the blockade for thirty-three days and nights. Now, at the whim of a fat, gouty general who had ignored his plan for the assault on Santiago, he was caught off post. Worse, Commodore Schley, whom the admiral thought dilatory and insubordinate, was on the scene, There was one hope; if Cervera turned east the New York would be directly in his path." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 336) Cervera turned west.
"As General Quarters sounded and the helm was put sharply to port, the New York wheeled smartly to starboard and raced back toward Santiago. AP correspondent ‘Chappie’ Goode heard someone cry out, ‘Steam! More steam!’ He looked at the weary, frail figure of the admiral and suddenly thought that Sampson might commit suicide if the Spanish escaped. ‘Let us go on after the fleet.’ Sampson said. ‘Not one must get away." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 357) However, New York, like the Brooklyn, had disengaged her forward engines for economical steaming. As with Brooklyn, it would take 20 minutes to stop and reengage them and New York started seven miles from the action, while Brooklyn was in the center of the fight. Sampson did not have any time to waste, if he wanted to bring New York to the fight. So, in New York’s run to the west, she was also limited to half power.
When Schley and Brooklyn went into the infamous loop and nearly caused collisions among Brooklyn, Texas, Iowa and Oregon, the New York was still far to the east. She had fire in four of her boilers and was almost up to twelve knots in a desperate attempt to get into the battle.
Over an hour after Cervera’s ships had surged out of the channel into Santiago, the New York came upon the scene of the initial contact with battle still swirling to the west. "Around 10:40 AM just before the Furor sank, the New York stormed onto the scene and fired three shots from her four-inch guns. Chadwick waved his cap and led the crew in cheers for ‘the plucky little Gloucestershire.’ As the flagship steamed westward at the tail end of the chase after the Vizcaya and Colon, she swept through the flotsam of battle – ammunition boxes, rigging, bodies. Goode saw a sailor – ‘a black-headed, fine, swarthy Spaniard’ – in front of the flagship. The New York changed course to avoid him and ‘as we flew past him he threw up one arm and cried despairingly, ‘Amerigo! Amerigo! Amerigo! Auxilio! Auxilio!’ Some of the crew standing near me laughed at this ‘lingo.’ ‘Damn you, shut up!’ came in strident tones from an officer that overheard the jeers, and there was silence. A life buoy almost hit the swimmer…." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 350-351) Those three shots from a four-inch gun at an already sinking destroyer, were the only shots fired by New York in the battle. When sharks were seen in the water, attacking some of the surviving Spanish in the water, crew from the New York, also threw overboard the chaplain’s wooden pulpit in the hopes that it would rescue some of the unfortunates. "Coxswain Billy Plummer, Buenzle remarked, ‘who stammered when he was excited, and was blasphemous at all times, cried out: ‘Cling to the c-cross, you s-s-spiggoty, c-cling to the c-cross!" (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 351)
References on the USS New York
As New York reached the scene of the wrecked Vizcaya, she began to overtake some of the slower American ships. Sampson in a flurry of activity, issued new orders to them. Some of the smallest ships were ordered to stop the chase and pick up survivors. Indiana was ordered to investigate a strange ship sighted to the east. This ship flew the red and white flag of Austria, rather than the red and yellow of Spain and because of the similar colors was originally mistaken for a reinforcing Spanish warship. Ironically, the name of this Austrian battleship, who was proverbially at the wrong place at the wrong time was Infanta Maria Teresa. She, however, did not suffer the fate of the Spanish cruiser with the identical name. Iowa, slowed by a foul bottom, was ordered to assist in the rescue and go back to guard Santiago.
"Less than an hour after the Colon turned for shore, the unlucky New York rushed by the Vixen at 17 knots and hove to near the Brooklyn. During the battle the American ships had fired some ten thousand shells at the Spanish; Sampson’s flagship had spoke just three of them. Schley underscored Sampson’s absence, signaling: ‘A glorious victory has been achieved. Details later." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 359) When there was no response from New York, Brooklyn hoisted, "This is a great day for our country." The only answer from New York was "Report your casualties." Schley was puzzled, Graham saw a pained expression flicker over Schley’s face. ‘Report your casualties,’ repeated Schley, turning on his heel and walking over to the other side of the bridge…and up to our signal masts went the flags, ‘One dead and two wounded." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 360)
Captain Cook of the Brooklyn had taken a boat to evacuate the senior officers off the wreck of the Colon. As he approached Brooklyn with his prisoners Schley signaled New York. "There was a tremor in Schley’s voice, Graham recalled, as he hailed the New York: ‘I request the honor of the surrender of the Cristobal Colon.’ The message was apparently garbled and reported to Sampson as, ‘Schley claims the honor of the capture of the Cristobal Colon.’ Whatever Schley said, the only reply he got was an order to Cook to report aboard the flagship with his prisoners. Shortly afterward, Schley was also ordered to report. He received a frosty reception." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 360) New York tried to save the Colon as a prize. Her sea-cocks had been opened and she was on a sharply sloping beach. New York gently eased her bow to the starboard quarter of Colon in an effort to push her further onto the beach. However, New York’s run of bad luck that day was still in force, as Colon promptly rolled over on her port side. Sampson put some lip-stick on this pig; "The Cristobol Colon was not injured by our firing, and probably not much injured by beaching, though she ran ashore at high speed. The beach was so steep that she came off by the working of the sea. But her sea valves were opened and broken, treacherously I am sure, after her surrender, and despite all efforts, she sank. When it became evident that she could not be kept afloat, she was pushed by the New York bodily up on the beach – the New York’s stem being placed against her for this purpose, the ship being handled by Captain Chadwick with admirable judgement – and sank in shoal water and may be saved. Had this not been done she would have gone down in deep water, and would have been, to a certainty, a total loss." (From Sampson’s Official Report, History of Our War with Spain, 1899, by James R. Young and Hampton Moore at page 565) In spite of Sampson’s fine words, when Colon rolled over while being pushed by New York, she became a total loss.
When another report came in about the Spanish battleship Pelayo was bearing down upon the fleet, Sampson who had already dispatched the Indiana to investigate, ordered Schley and Brooklyn to "go after it". It was curious that Sampson ordered the battleworn Brooklyn, hit by 30 Spanish shells to investigate, rather than go himself in the fresh New York. Brooklyn found that same Austrian Infanta Maria Teresa around dusk. The neutral Austrian hoisted international signals, which were illuminated by her searchlights, This ship flies the Austrian flag. Please don’t fire." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 361)
Captain Chadwick, commander of the New York, in his final report did come up with a contribution from his ship during the battle. "Though the ship was not able to come to action with any of the larger ships on account of her distance to the eastward, every nerve was strained to do so, and all was done that could be done; our speed had rapidly increased, so that we were going sixteen knots at the end. We were immediately astern while all others were considerably to seaward. We were thus in a position to prevent a possible doubling to the rear and escape to the southeast." ."( History of Our War with Spain, 1899, by James R. Young and Hampton Moore, at page 576) Nice try but no cigar.
Schley sent his flag lieutenant, James Sears, to Siboney to send his own victory telegram to the Secretary of the Navy. Sampson’s assistant chief of staff, Sidney Staunton, was already there on the same mission for Sampson, told Sears that he was not authorized to send such a telegram. He told Sears that all messages going to the Navy Department had to go through the senior officer present, Rear Admiral Sampson, so Schley’s victory telegram was not sent. However, at 0200 Sampson’s telegram, drafted by Staunton, was sent, "The fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present the whole of Cervera’s fleet…." (A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow, at page 361) However, to be fair the official battle report from Rear Admiral Sampson also included the official report from Commodore Schley.
No, when the moment of supreme glory came, fate had cheated New York and she was out of position. For half a decade she had been the proudest ship of the new navy and perpetual flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron but she was five miles beyond her station when the time came. All of the months of staying in the blockade line in the sweltering Cuban sun, waiting for a chance at battle, lost because an Army general wanted Admiral Sampson to come to him for a conference on that morning. It was a moment in time that New York would never see again. To all intents and purposes the war was over, although she did lead the squadron into New York harbor for a victory celebration in August 1898.
She resumed her role in peace time, the same role as in war time, as flagship North Atlantic Squadron, now under Rear Admiral Farquhar. However, with a greatly expanding navy, in was only a matter of time before newer, more powerful construction, would replace New York as flagship. New York and Massachusetts tested the Marconi radio in the winter of 1899-1900 but in spite of the favorable comments on the new technology, the Secretary of the Navy rejected the report. In the spring of 1900 she was ordered to join the Asiatic Squadron and she pulled into Cavite on May 1900, scene of the smaller Olympia’s triumph. Her first duty was to visit Yokohama for a unveiling of a Commodore Perry memorial and then she went back to assist in suppressing a Philippine insurrectionist movement. In November she cruised along the eastern Asiatic coast from Russia to Korea to China. On October 29, 1903 she became the flag of the Pacific Squadron, which was an odd mixed bag of ships. The main role was to show the flag along the west coast of central and South America. On January 4, 1905 she left for the east coast.
On March 31, 1905 after almost twelve years of arduous service, the New York was decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard for her first refit. Her glory days were gone but she was still loved by the public and the navy. After her long service her engines had become worn and she was only capable of 17.5 knots. Not only did she need new engines, she also needed new main armament. The original eight-inch/35 and flat turrets were clearly obsolete. New York was refitted with two new balanced turrets with sloping armor, first introduced with the Virginia Class battleships. The new turrets each mounted eight-inch/45 Mk VI guns. The amidship guns were landed. The less than satisfactory battery of 4-inch guns was replaced with twelve 5-inch/50 guns. The light battery was also completely replaced with eight 3-inch and four 3-pounder guns. All torpedo tubes were removed. In addition to the new turrets, appearance changed in other ways. Two new search light towers were added. The first was placed between the fist and second funnels and the other between the aft funnel and mainmast. The funnels were heightened with an outer casing rising to only the lower 3/4ths of the height. She was completely reboilered. The military masts disappeared and in their place pole masts were built. However the foremast still carried a fighting top low on the mast.
After this very lengthy refit she became part of the Armored Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet on May 22, 1909. New York was placed in reserve in December but on April 10, 1910 was sent back to the Philippines but didn’t arrive until August 3rd. Her days as the New York were coming to an end and she was renamed Saratoga on February 16, 1911 so that a battleship could have the name. For the next five years Saratoga was the flag of the Asiatic Squadron and was known in every port in the east. On February 6, 1916 she went into reserve at Bremerton. With America’s entrance into World War One, Saratoga was recommissioned. In 1917 the Saratoga received her second major refit, this time at Bremerton, Washington. She lost her aft two 5-inch guns and all of her smaller guns. She did receive two 3-inch AA guns mounted on the aft boat deck amidships. While patrolling off of the west coast of Mexico, she captured a steamer containing German agents and American draft resisters.
She was then assigned convoy escort duties in the Atlantic. On December1, 1917 she lost the name Saratoga for a new battle cruiser to become the Rochester. In seven Trans-Atlantic crossings Rochester only saw combat once. On June 25, 1918 at twilight with a full moon she was leading a convoy when firing and an explosion were heard on the right side of the convoy. A U-Boat on the surface was attacking the merchant Atlantian. Rochester charged in to ram but was spotted by the Germans. The submarine went into a cash dive and fired a torpedo. It passed 30 yards ahead of Rochester but hit the Atlantian, sinking her. The submarine got away. Later another ship was attacked by a submarine on the surface, which dived before Rochester could close. After the war she conducted one mission returning troops to the US and then went in for dockyard stays at Boston, Brooklyn, and Norfolk. In May 1919 she again hoisted a Rear Admiral’s flag as flagship Destroyers Atlantic. She then became an ocean escort for the NC flying boats attempt to cross the Atlantic in which NC-4 became the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She kept her flag as flagship Special Services Squadron, operating in the Caribbean from 1923 to December 3, 1925. She operated mostly in the Caribbean and off of Central America for the next seven years.
On February 25, 1932 Rochester left the Canal Zone for the last time and headed west for her new assignment, reserve flagship Asiatic Squadron. She did receive one final refit in the Philippines at Cavite in 1932. Eight boilers were removed as well as the forward funnel. Her power dropped to 7,700 IHP. However, it was a short moment of final glory or an Indian Summer if you will. On April 29, 1933 at Cavite Rochester, Ex-Saratoga, Ex-New York, Rear Admiral Smpason’s flagship at Santiago and the first armored warship on the American Steel Navy was decommissioned for the last time. She tied up at Subic Bay and on October 28, 1938 she was struck from the navy records. The former pride of the navy and most sought for command was listed as an unclassified hulk. When the Japanese attacked in December 1941, the hulk of the New York was scuttled and rests there still. (History from History of Our War with Spain, 1899, by James R. Young and Hampton Moore; A Ship to Remember, The Maine and the Spanish-American War, 1992, by Michael Blow; U.S. Armored Cruisers, A Design and Operational History, 1995 by Ivan Musicant)
The Iron Shipwright Armored Cruiser USS New York
With the ISW process, these additional steps are removed with the one-piece full hull casting. However, the ISW process does have some minor drawbacks of its own. Invariably the very bottom of an ISW hull will have some pitting where the air bubbles were forced out of the hull in the pressure tank. When ISW fills a hull mold with resin, the mold is placed with the hull bottom at the top of the pressure tank. As pressure is added to force air bubbles out of the casting, most bubbles are driven upwards to the hull bottom. This is what causes the pitting found on the bottom of an ISW hull. Some bubbles may be caught in the bilge keel portions and a few are forced downward into fittings that are cast integral with the deck.
You can handle this in a number of ways. A light covering of Bondo or your favorite filler rubbed over the bottom and sanded when dry should give you a nice smooth finish. You can also leave the hull as is since the pitting is on the extreme bottom and normally will not show on the finished model, unless for some reason you happen to show it bottom up. Any defects in bilge keels or deck fittings caused by pin hole voids are usually easily fixed with some light filling and sanding. I personally prefer a full hull kit and find the ISW process much easier to work with and correct than the steps needed to mate upper and lower halves but both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you like to build your ships in a waterline form, having a separate hull halve will naturally give you a quick start. However, if ISW has a kit that you would like to build in waterline format, Ted Paris can custom pour it for you with no additional charge. Normally this pour will go past the waterline giving a "riding light" appearance to the hull. It is far easier to remove material than add it, so you can bring the waterline down to what you want. It is no more difficult than removing excess pour from the upper hull of a two-piece hull.
That is the process but specifically, what did I find with the ISW New York? There was some minor pitting on the bottom of the hull that does not show with the hull sitting upright. Look at the photographs of the hull. Do you see any pitting? No, because they are on the very bottom of the casting. The only defect in the bilge keels was one void in the starboard keel, which is very easily filled and sanded. The most significant problem with the deck fittings integral to the hull was with the quarterdeck capstan, which did come with a large void and will have to be reworked. There was some resin splash in a few areas that will need to be removed with hobby knife and sanding but overall the hull is a very clean and beautiful casting.
Indeed the more that you look at the detail cast into the hull, the more you’ll like it. Starting at the bow there is the wonderful scrollwork. It is far more effective to have the bow scroll cast in resin as part of the hull than done in photo-etch. The resin scroll gives you a true three-dimensional approach which in many ships has heavy relief. This is especially true with the USS New York. The New York was fitted with a unique bow scroll not found in other ships of the period. The scrollwork on some ships was also duplicated in some other ships. The most common example of this is probably the Federal Shield found in the scrollwork of the Oregon. Many other ships used that same shield as the main part of their bow scroll. However, New York had a one off bow scroll that was not duplicated elsewhere and ISW has magnificently captured that feature. Basically a variation of the New York State Coat of Arms, you have an eagle with wings spread, flanked by Lady Liberty on each side, plus additional curly-cues and embellishments. The scrollwork will undoubtedly be a focal point of the model, especially in the white and buff paint scheme with the scroll in gold. The bow area is also complemented by the well defined bow torpedo opening and sharp, crisp anchor hawse openings.
Going aft from there, you won’t be let down, as every inch of the hull sides has detail. The anchor billboards are well delineated with nicely done stock rests. A number of features dominate the hull sides. The armor belt clearly stands out, which it did in the real ship, the long rectangular belt forms a nice contrast in form with tumblehome of the hull sides. The hull gun casemates or sponsons are all nicely done, however you will need to drill a hole at each position for the gun barrel. Another unique feature of the hull sides are the two rows of square windows or ports that run along the length of the hull and were a characteristic design feature of the time. Rounding out the side detail are the two above water side torpedo ports on each side. They are found on the side next to the forward and aft barbettes. As mentioned earlier there was one easily repaired void in the starboard keel, otherwise the bilge keels are perfect and ready to go.
The deck is also complete with all sorts of detail. The foc’sle has five deck passageways leading into the interior of the hull. All five, in two different styles are shown battened down. If you wished to show one or more of these opened up with awning and railing, it shouldn’t be too hard but obviously would involve drilling out the deck hatch. The foc’sle also had four sets of bollards that had no defects. It is a fairly clutter-free deck for a ship of the period. The superstructure dominates the central part of the ship. Another common design feature of the early USN steel ships of the period is that the bulkheads of the superstructure does not have a complete deck above it. It is almost like a steel wall with an open area inside. This area is dominated by a series of ventilation lovers and raised stack bases, although the pivots and squared off waist 8-inch gun positions provide more focal points of interest. The extreme front of the superstructure for the bridge and first funnel as well as the extreme aft for the aft control station have an upper deck covering the position but as mentioned most of the superstructure is open within the steel bulkheads. The quarterdeck is a little bit more busy than the foc’sle. It is dominated by skylight fittings but also has an access hatch, four sets of bollards and aft capstan.
All in all I rate the one-piece hull of the New York very highly. Yes it did exhibit some pitting on the bottom of the hull but all casting defects are very minor any easily fixed. What ISW provides is a casting brimming over with character and detail for a ship that demands to be built.
Smaller Resin Parts
USS New York in the Popular Press
There is a flying deck that connects the forward and aft control positions. Another typical design feature of the period, flying decks ran over open deck below and served a number of purposes. In addition to connecting positions boat skids are found here and it could be called the boat deck. Regardless of the constructional reasons for the feature, the flying deck does create an airiness with its open structure that adds tremendous visual impact. The ISW flying deck did come with a slight warp. This could be flattened by heating but it was so minor in nature that just gluing the part in place should eliminate the warp.
The three stacks of the New York are oval in shape, slab sided like the hull but add a very distinguished, if not stately look to the ship. The parts have reinforcing bands as well as steam pipes cast into the stacks. The only problem I found here was that I did not get a perfect fit when I dry fitted the forward stack with the base ring. It will take some minor adjustments to get a good snug fit. The flat circular 8-inch gun turrets are very distinctive and are well done, although some of the sighting hoods had some very small pin-hole voids. The open 8-inch guns amidships with their gun shields are very prominent when seen from above and are very strong features with this kit. Some of these open-gun 8-inch barrels were warped but fortunately I received additional barrels in the kit. I was not so happy with the masts. Most of the segments for the tower masts were warped and will either have to be straightened, which can be a tough proposition for a long, thin, circular structure, or replaced with scratch-built parts or replacements from ISW, who will replace any part with which you are not satisfied. There are multitudes of ventilators in all sorts of shapes and ISW gives you plenty of extras. Propellers can be a problem with ISW. One of mine had a notch in the tip of one blade, however that is a moot point as ISW supplied four bladed propellers. The New York mounted three bladed props. Other small parts include plenty of ship’s boats as well as anchors and propeller shaft support struts.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
Incidentally, the ISW USS New York is their kit of the month for October 2004, so you still have a few days left to pick it up at a very attractive price.