|Displacement: 7,375 tons Length: 413' 1" Beam: 58'2" Draft: 24' 6" Speed: 23kts. Complement: 30 Officers-447 Enlisted men Armament: (1) 8-inch 40 cal. main gun, (2) 6-inch 45 cal. secondary guns, (8) 4-inch 40 cal., (12) 6 lb, (4) 1 lb, (4) Gatling, (2) 3-inch AA Guns (4) 18" torpedo tubes. In 1910 her torpedo tubes were removed and her 8-inch gun was replaced by a 6-inch 45 cal. and in 1919 her armament had been altered to (3) 6-inch guns and (4) 4-inch guns. Armor: 1.5-2.5 inch deck. Machinery: 3 sets of vertical inverted triple expansion engines. 3 screws. Boilers: 8 double-ended, 2 single-ended cylindrical. Designed H.P. 18,500 giving 22.8 kts., Coal: 750 tons normal, 1,561 tons maximum. Construction Cost: $2,725,000|
The fourth Columbia (Cruiser No. 12) was laid down on 30 December 1890 and launched 26 July 1892 by William Cramp & Sons Ship & Engine Building Co., Philadelphia, Pa., Sponsored by Miss H. Norton, and commissioned 23 April 1894. Captain G. W. Sumner was her first commander. At the time she was commissioned she was the longest ship in the U. S. Navy. She was built as a commerce raider and her speed was her greatest advantage. Because of her speed she was relatively lightly armored and her guns were not as heavy as they could have been. This would have put her at a disadvantage had she been engaged in actual major sea battles with another ship of war. A typical crew of the Columbia under the command of Captain J. H. Sands consisted of 30 Officers and 447 enlisted men.
The William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co., shipyard of Philadelphia enhanced its reputation as the premier maker of modern ships in the naval program of 1890 with the construction of the battleships USS Indiana and USS Massachusetts, cruiser USS New York, and protected cruisers USS Columbia, and USS Minneapolis. Cramp-built vessels comprised three of the five capital ships that defeated the Spanish fleet in 1898 at Santiago de Cuba, an event that heralded America's emergence as a great power.
The armament consists of one 8-inch standard breech-loading rifle, two 6-inch rapid-fire rifles, and eight 4-inch rapid-fire rifles. The secondary battery is composed of twelve 6-pounders, four 1 pounders, and four Gatling guns. The vessel is provided with four torpedo launching tubes. The 6-inch guns are loaded in one operation, as fixed ammunition is used, the powder and shot being combined in an immense cartridge, standing nearly 6 feet high.
The Columbia cannot only run away from a line-of-battle ship but can lead such a vessel a chase that would soon consume all the available fuel. The nominal radius of action of the Columbia that is, the distance that she can steam without re-coaling will be 26,240 miles. This is the theoretical radius; but without doubt the Columbia will have a practical cruising radius of 15,000 miles. It is upon this wonderful power of making long runs, half way round the world if necessary, that the Columbia will deserve the name which she bears equally with her sister ship Minneapolis, of the "Pirate". This name is, of course, not officially recognized by the Department of the Navy, but was given by the ship-builders when the vessels were only known as cruisers Nos. 12 and 13.
Columbia’s official trial trip took place on November 18, 1893 on a course that measured 43.968 knots long extending between Cape Ann, Massachusetts and Cape Porpoise, Maine. In the contract that her builder William Cramp signed with the United States Government they were to provide a ship that would have a speed of 21 knots an hour. On November 18 the Columbia was to prove she could meet that speed requirement. In fact she did this and was able to break this speed mark by 1 3/4 knots. On that day she turned in a speed of 22.81 knots, which as per the Government contract, would pay the William Cramp Company $50,000 for every quarter knot speed she ran over the 21 knot mark. That day the Columbia earned her builders and extra $350,000 premium for her efforts.
The trial run however was not perfect as there was an issue of water leaking into the port engine, which reduced that engine from full power. Otherwise it was believed that the ship could have made over 23 knots in speed, which lead to some disappointment by the William Cramp Company. On the first pass on the course the Columbia, with the most favorable conditions, speed past the seventh and eight markers, which was a distance of 7.74 miles at the speed of 25.31 knots. This set a record and placed the Columbia in the record books as the world’s fastest ship at that time.
On the morning of November 18 the sun rose clear and bright and the sea was moderate, which was in stark contrast to the first trial trip she was to have taken. The weather the previous Thursday was so bad as to cause the trial to be cancelled in lieu of better weather. On the morning of the 18th the navy-tug Vesta had been sent ahead on the course to give advance warning for the Gloucester fishermen to get out of the way. Even so it was necessary for the Columbia during her trial run to give several blasts on her whistle to signal fishing boats to get out of the way.
The Columbia made her way to the starting point and at 9:20 in the morning hoisted the red flag on her masthead and gave a long blast of her whistle signaling to the observers on the Dolphin she was starting her run. No one was allowed on deck for the run and every movable surface that might catch the wind was moved or secured so as not to reduce the ship’s speed in anyway. Even the ships boats were moved from their davits and tied down behind her four smokestacks and the aft flagpole was taken down along with the handrail around her bow.
But within two minutes of the Columbia passing the Dolphin and they waving her ‘Godspeed’ the Columbia started to track on a curve. Something was wrong and quickly from the engine room came a call that her port side engine boiler was priming and this stopped the port engine for almost 3 minutes. But the engine room crew had the port engine running again quickly and the Columbia made a sweeping turn to return to the starting line again. This took about 30 minutes to accomplish.
The second start began at 9:54 AM and the wind at the time was almost straight down the course with the Columbia running with it. As the wind was tracking from behind her smoke from her four smokestacks was pouring ahead and showered the deck with cinders. At the second marker on the course a large group of fishing boats were at work and stopped trolling long enough to wave like a bunch of Indians at the speeding Columbia.
Reports from the engine room were that the average revolutions on her shaft were 136 with steam pressure at 158 pounds. Now the engine room crew had the Columbia running straight and easy down the course. Now between the third and fourth markers they were making 23 knots speed. And by the fifth marker she had now turned in a speed of 23.55 knots. Speed was less between the sixth and seventh markers due to shoal water she was passing over at the time.
Now on course heading into the eighth marker word was passed around the ship that her builder Mr. Cramp wanted to show everyone what she was capable of. The crew opened up the Columbia and she showed what she was made of when she turned in a speed of 25.31 knots. As soon as it was known that she reached this record speed a great cheer was heard coming from all parts of the ship. For this 1 hour 55 minute and 7 second run across the course the average speed was recorded as 22.92 knots.
Now reversing course the wind and tide would be against the Columbia. The engine room had the steam at its maximum of 160 pounds and the port; center and starboard shafts were making respectively, 136; 130 and 136 revolutions. Back again over the deep water portion of the course she turned in a 24.77 knot speed and then just like in the start of the previous lap an issue with the water leakage of the port engine caused it to be stopped for about 3 minutes. This then caused the electric lights to go out and the speed fell off to 21.63 knots but soon enough the Columbia was back up to 23.77 knots speed.
The sky began to get overcast as if a storm was at hand and this made the sighting of the markers a bit hard. This caused the helmsman to wander on the course a bit, which caused some slowing. At the moment the Columbia crossed the end marker of the course she was in a driving rainstorm and just then a greasy message from the engine room was passed to the bridge to the hands of Edwin S. Cramp. It was written from the Consulting Engineer Younger and said “The engines have worked splendidly, and are now in perfect condition and can, if you think it necessary, make another run at once.”
Mr. Cramp smiled when reading the greasy message but was satisfied with the two runs already on the books. The hatchway to the fire-room was opened and a great cheer came from the 56-men who had been working nearly six hours. One by one they came up on deck, each one with a blackened face, showing that they made the Columbia the fastest ship in the navy. The official average for the two laps run down and back on the course was recorded at 22.81 knots. The horsepower for this run was stated to be 21,500 hp with her design showing she could make 22,000 hp. The corps of 21-engineers under Chief Engineer Edward Farmer did a wonderful job in the engine room. Upon their arrival back at their anchorage for the night Edwin S. Cramp was said to have declared that the Columbia was ready for a trip around the world just as she was, without any change whatever in her engines.
Even before the Columbia was formerly delivered to the navy from her builders it was discovered that she was damaged and the Government needed to find answers to what had happened to their newest ship. At the League Island Navy Yard, in Philadelphia on June 7, 1894 a naval court of inquiry consisting of Rear Admiral Oscar F. Stanton, Captain Allen V. Reed, Captain George C. Remey and Lt. Richard Wainwright who acted as the Judge Advocate, was called to order. This court of inquiry was called to investigate the circumstances of the recent grounding of the new cruiser USS Columbia.
The officers and crew assembled in the room from the Columbia were sworn to tell all they knew about the grounding. Rear Admiral Stanton invited those members assembled who had information to give to step forward. Not a man moved. The Columbia’s skipper, Captain Sumner had the uncomfortable position of “Setting at the long end of a green table.” It was naval tradition to use a green cloth covered table to be used during a court of inquiry and thus became known as setting at the long end of a green table, which any sailor knew was always a bit of an uncomfortable position to be in. Captain Sumner began his testimony in that so much as he knew that the accident to his ship occurred while she was on her way down the Delaware River. Sumner stated that he was not on the deck at the time, but had been on duty most of the day, and had just gone below to eat lunch, thereby leaving the Columbia’s Navigator Lt. W. H. Driggs on deck.
Captain Sumner stated that he did not hear his ship strike or touch the bottom, but from what he could judge, it was his opinion that she did touch or scraped on Bulkhead Shoals, about twenty-eight miles below Newcastle, Delaware. Lt. Wainwright then asked Captain Sumner a direct question if he had any complaints towards any of his officers aboard the Columbia. Sumner’s reply was “No.”
Written reports from Captain Sumner and his Assistant Engineer George H. Sheppard were then submitted to the court. The reports showed that the damage to the Columbia’s hull is about ninety-feet in length and confined only to the starboard side. Keel plates were bulged and the bottom was indented, which gave the appearance of a grazing on a shoal. No leaking of any kind was observed. The River Pilot, Captain G. L. Chambers and the Columbia’s Navigator were very attentive to their duties and the report concluded that in Captain Sumner’s judgment, the only error made was in running the Columbia at too high a rate of speed while going over a shoal.
On the afternoon of June 8 the Columbia was dry-docked and the court moved to make an examination of her bottom. On the second day of the court the following officers of the Columbia were called to testify; Captain Sumner, Lt. William H. Driggs the Navigator, Lt. J. M. Helm the Officer of the Deck, and Chief Engineer Clipriana Andrade.
The questioning of Captain Sumner by Judge Advocate Lt. Wainwright continued with this question. “Will you state from your personal examination of the injuries to the ship and what conclusions you drew as to the time of the injury occurred or were inflicted.”
Sumner’s answer was; “So far as my personal observation goes I could not say whether the injuries were very recent or were due to some previous grounding.”
Wainwright then asked what precautions Sumner took in selecting Pilot Chambers. Sumner answered with, “I have had considerable experiences with the Columbia, and have been on all of her trial trips. We have always had this same pilot, Captain Chambers, and I knew that he was habitually employed for the Cramps [Yard] to do their piloting. Therefore I had no hesitation in selecting him.”
In speaking of the Columbia’s official trial trip in November of 1893 Sumner stated, “In my report of that trial I was quite positive the ship took bottom returning from that trip in coming up river somewhere below League Island. At the time I was on the starboard side of the bridge, the Executive Officer, Lt. Commander Charles O. Alibone, was with me. We both felt two distinct shocks. I reported it to the department and said then that I thought the ship ought to be docked and to be critically examined before she passed out of the hands of the contractors.”
Lt. W. H. Driggs the Navigator testified “When we passed below Newcastle, in making the turn over Bulkhead Shoals, I felt an uneasy motion of the ship. I spoke to the pilot, remarking ‘I think she touched.’ He answered that it might be so. No attention was paid to the incident, for the charts gave it soft mud at that point, and the motion was so slight as to be barely perceptible.”
Admiral Stanton then posed the question if the damages might have been inflicted when the Columbia left the Cramps Yard? Driggs answered that he thought it possible as the Columbia left the slip when she was grounded at low tide and a number of pieces of driftwood lay about. Some may have been sunk and scraped her bottom. This was reported in a report from May 29, 1894. Chief Engineer Andrade stated that from November through May 29 he had made several inspections of the ship and that he was sure if the damages happened on the November trial he would have had to notice them. He believes that the damage must have taken place a few days prior to the May 29 report, as the rivets he observed showed to be freshly sheared. He stated that a listing of the ship was recorded at 1:10 pm on May 17 and in his opinion it felt as if she was scraping something, which caused her slight list to starboard.
Upon a physical examination of the Columbia’s hull in the drydock it was found to be 90-feet in length and only on the starboard side in the flat of the keel. Starting about 30-feet from the bow and is an irregular curvature of the keel plates the deepest depression being no greater than 3-inches. The damage seems to have been done by some sunken wreckage, or possibly by the fluke of a sunken anchor. Although the builder, Charles H. Cramp says the damage is slight there was also noticed a very small piece of the tip of one of the center propeller blades chipped off. The court then convened inside the engine room of the Columbia where Rear Admiral Stanton and Captain Sumner both put on coveralls and crawled into the double bottom of the Columbia on their hands and knees. They were gone about a half hour, and upon returning both were covered in grime. Admiral Stanton then instructed Captain Sargent of the Cramps Yard, who was present at the time to begin repairs on the following Monday. A force of men was then put on the job of fixing the plates damaged.
On June 10, on the third day of investigation the court was again taking testimony and this time it was Pilot George L. Chambers, who was in charge of the Columbia when the accident took place. Chambers stated that he had been a pilot since 1860 and that in his estimation the ship touched something on Bulkhead Shoal on May 17, 1894 where the depth of the river was 5 1/2 fathoms. Chambers was sure that the Columbia was in mid-channel and had passed the point where any trouble could be expected from the shoal. The speed at the time was thought to be between 7 and 8 knots.
Chambers stated that when she touched there was no jarring and thought it was merely a mud lump, as frequently heels up at that location. He also stated that it was common for a heavy draft ship to touch them without cause for alarm.
Passed Assistant Engineer John K. Barton testified that he was on duty in the engine room between 12 and 4 o’clock on May 17, and he felt two distinct shocks followed by a scraping at about 1 o’clock that afternoon. The engines at the time were making ninety revolutions per minute.
Other officers questioned could offer little new facts and so it was of the opinion of the court that either the report of grounding in November or the May 17 accident could have caused this damage to her bottom. But all felt it was more likely to have occurred on the May 17 grounding and the court found no faults.
Upon her delivery and commissioning into the United States Navy on April 23, 1894 Columbia joined Rear Admiral Bunce’s North Atlantic Squadron, and from 30 July 1894 to 6 January 1895 cruised to protect American interests in the Caribbean. She visited Europe in the summer of 1895 and represented the United States at the ceremonial opening of the Keil Canal in June. During her eastbound trip across the Atlantic she set a speed record of just under 7 days with a speed of 18.4 knots.
Her return trip from Europe after the Keil Canal opening caused quite a commotion in the naval circles at the time. Captain Sumner took the Columbia from Southampton, England to Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 6-days, 23-hours and 49-minutes, which was much quicker that anyone at the navy department thought she was capable of. Acting Navy Secretary McAdoo upon learning of her fast trip sent the following telegram to captain Sumner. "The department extends to you, the officers and men of the Columbia its congratulations and thanks upon the result of the run from Needles to the Sandy Hook lightship, thus making an unexpected record for a new ship."
But at the Navy Department there were those officers who expressed some criticism of Captain Sumner on the grounds that he did not follow his orders. The directions given to him for the crossing were to run the Columbia under forced draught for the last 24-hour of the voyage. But in Sumner's dispatch to Acting Secretary McAdoo, Sumner stated he made the entire crossing under natural draught. There were those officers at the Navy department who felt if Sumner did run under forced draught for 24-hours he would have shaved off over two-hours from the time of the crossing.
There were a few officers who were opposed to the Columbia's design and so this predisposed these officers to show the performance of the Columbia in a negative light. But in a letter from Acting Secretary McAdoo to Commodore Sicard, the commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, McAdoo wrote the following.
"Columbia, Six days, twenty-three hours, and forty-nine minutes from Needles to Sandy Hook Lightship. The department is, of course, very highly gratified, not only at the performance, but over the decision to make the test, as there were many misgivings whether the ship would be able to do herself justice as against the fast mail steamers, which are especially designed, equipped, and manned for making fast time over this particular ocean route. The department knew that the Columbia was a very fast ship, and that in a race for life she would fear no rival, but it is exceedingly gratifying at this long-run performance and showing as to her coal endurance. It will be observed that the ship did not use at any time forced draught, and that therefore the voyage was made entirely under normal conditions from beginning to end. This performance, following closely upon the unusual praise bestowed upon our ships by the best European critics, cannot but be very gratifying to all Americans."
At the time the 3,109 nautical mile course the Columbia took was 16-hours and 35-minutes behind the record established by the American Line steamship New York. The average speed of the Columbia was 18.41 knots with most of the trip under fair weather with rough sea encountered only twice. The Columbia rolled deeply but easily, when in rough sea and did show a tendency to keep her foredeck constantly drenched by water over the bow.
In Captain Sumner's response to the Navy Department about the trip he called attention to the reasons he did not run under forced draught as requested to do. According to Sumner's report he states that the Columbia left Southampton drawing 9-inches more water forward than aft. She drew 26-feet, 4-inches forward and 25-feet 7-inches aft. Sumner explains this due to the locations of the coalbunkers. It was necessary to load all the coalbunkers to full capacity, which caused more draught forward than aft. This resulted in the center of buoyancy being shifted forward making the forecastle heavy as soon as high seas are encountered.
Being that the Columbia's design used triple screws there was a circle of naval architects that believed fast cruisers of her general type was engineered incorrectly. But there were also those who thought the triple screw arrangement was a good design element. But the Columbia's Chief Engineer W. H. Harris gave testimony where he commented that the "Center screw is a useless accessory at all times, except on the very rare occasion when the vessel is put under forced draught." Harris went on to comment, "With fires under only six of her eight boilers, and using natural draught, with the center propeller disconnected, the Columbia has maintained an average speed of 18.50 knots. Under natural draught and all eight boilers and three propellers going, the Columbia on the trip averaged 18.41 knots."
It seems that the arrangement and placement of the coalbunkers makes for a heavy forecastle and is considered an engineering defect. The engineer force aboard the Columbia consists of 195 men, divided into three watches. Even under natural draught that number was unable to keep the fires going and twelve volunteers from the deck force were added to help move coal. As soon as the nearest amidships coalbunkers were emptied more help was required, and 48 more men were detailed to assist the firemen.
The average coal consumption during the trip was 220-tons per day. Had the Columbia been under forced draught she would have burned more than twice that quantity of coal in the same time. The engineer officers estimate that 23-hours is the extreme limit at which the boilers can be supplied when under forced draught. And they add that that 23-hour period must lie within the time that the nearest bunkers are full. Once these bunkers are exhausted the supply of coal from far away bunkers means the end of force draught.
The other bunkers are located in remote parts and coal from these remote bunkers has to be carried by a system of trolley carts to the side bunkers dumped and then shoveled into the boilers from the side bunkers. This arrangement only allows for a certain number of men who can work in the area at once, which is too few to supply the boilers coal under forced draught conditions when the amidships bunkers have been emptied.
On the eastward trip to England for the Kiel Canal opening it was thought the hull of the Columbia was strained due to her overloaded forecastle. But after a quick inspection in the dry-dock in England this was found not to have any merit. When the Columbia was re-coaled for her eastbound trip Captain Sumner desired to have the best coal available and the Columbia's Paymaster George Read knew of Sumner's desire. Read used this to the Columbia's advantage with the master of the coal mine, which was the same coal mine which supplies the British Royal Navy. The Columbia’s Paymaster and the mine master knew each other and Read mentioned the desire of Captain Sumner to fill the Columbia with the best coal available. So the mine master gave an order to fill his request with the Dowlais-Merthyr steam navigation coal, which was the exact type used by the Royal Navy.
Nineteen hundred and seventy-three tons were taken aboard the Columbia, exceeding the 1,700-ton normal bunker capacity. The additional tonnage was bagged and stored under the superstructure and wing passages. Once ready for sea the Columbia pulled her anchor and swung her knife-like bow to the west and steamed out to sea. Friday July 26, 1895 at 1:20 in the afternoon the Columbia was abeam of the Needles, and forty minutes later the harbor pilot was dropped off. The Needles are two detached rather stumpy masses of chalk rock projecting above the water of Alum Bay in Southampton and is traditionally the measuring point for the start of the westbound trips across the Atlantic.
On her westbound trip to New York the following were her daily runs in nautical miles: 405, 460, 462, 450, 455, 453 and 405. The boilers strained under a pressure of 140 pounds of steam and the average revolution of the propellers was measured at 96.6 RPM. The fastest single hour's run was made on July 29, when from 4-5:00 PM she made 22.3 knots. The only exciting thing that happened during the westbound trip was a boiler tube that blew out at 12:10 AM on July 27, and a small drainpipe issue. The boiler tube blow out disabled Boiler F for 22-hours, requiring the fire tenders to draw the fire from under the boiler in order for the boilermakers to repair it.
On the evening of July 30 a giant iceberg was sighted at dusk when the white mass loomed almost directly in the path of the Columbia. Captain Sumner ordered his helm shifted and she passed within a half mile to the south of the growler safely.
At 08:49 hours on August 2, 1895 the Columbia reached the sandbar at the Sandy Hook Light Ship completing her westbound trip. Stopping at the Quarantine station only a few moments she shifted to her berth at 48th Street in the North River.
The Columbia's Officers for that trip were:
Captain George W. Sumner
Surgeon W. G. Farwell
Returning to the east coast in August, she operated in the western Atlantic until going in ordinary, in reserve at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 13 May 1897.
The Columbia was lying at anchor in the Elizabeth River just off the Norfolk Navy Yard on Tuesday evening April 28, 1896. That night as the sun went down it seemed to be as ordinary as any of the previous evenings the crew of the Columbia had had. But as the night turned into the early morning hours of Wednesday April 29 an event occurred that was a bit out of the ordinary.
On Monday evening the only remaining side-wheeler in service on the east coast left Richmond, Virginia bound for Newport News. The Old Dominion Line Wyanoke sailed with a light cargo, 107 passengers with a crew of 42. The Wyanoke was built in Wilmington, Delaware in 1870 and was 1,660 tons with a length of 238-feet, and a beam of 40 feet.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday morning April 29 the Wyanoke was making her approach into the Elizabeth River and just coming onto the area of the Norfolk Navy Yard. At about 3 o’clock in the morning the Wyanoke ran into the anchored Columbia hitting her sharp bow, which in the words of one Admiral “Cuts like a cold chisel, and is not likely to be broken off.”
The Wyanoke struck the Columbia and sank in twenty minutes time. The impact point on the Wyanoke was on her starboard side just forward of her wheel. The Columbia cut a very large hole in the side of the Wyanoke and she sank about a quarter mile off the shore. Only her topmasts were visible above the waterline the next morning.
The First Officer of the Wyanoke H. H. Glover had just come on deck when the crash happened. Just as he reached the deck Captain Janney of the Wyanoke gave the alarm and all hands were ordered to make the lifeboats ready. Instantly the Wyanoke took a 45-degree list and all of the starboard side lifeboats were rendered useless. Only two lifeboats from the port side were available to use and one of the Wyanoke’s officer took charge of one boat and the quartermaster took charge of the other. Both boats were filled with the women and children and headed for the shore. On the way they picked up two men who were in the water.
The Columbia only sustained a two foot diameter hole about 10-feet above the waterline on her port side near the bow and another smaller hole about 2 feet above the waterline on the same side. On her starboard side of the bow she has a split seam about 6-feet wide. The Wyanoke’s impact tore loose one of the Columbia’s anchors along with forty-five fathoms of chain. By now Captain Sands of the Columbia had already lowered his boats to tend to the survivors of the Wyanoke. Columbia’s lifeboats took on those passengers and crew left aboard and several of the Wyanoke survivors leaped to the Columbia at the time of the collision.
First Officer Glover of the Wyanoke was carried away by the collision and near drowned in the water but he managed to get to the surface of the water. He came up near the Columbia and was able to catch hold of one of the two lifeboats, which had just been lowered. The Wyanoke’s Second Engineer J. J. Walters was badly scalded along with First Engineer Sullivan and one of her oilers. The Columbia’s surgeon and medical corpsmen cared for those who were brought aboard from the Wyanoke.
The damage to the Columbia’s bow was such that she did not even need to be dry-docked as all the damages were above the waterline. The Wyanoke however was a total loss and was valued at $80,000. All passengers from the Wyanoke were rescued although several of her crew was badly injured from burns suffered in the engine room.
During a severe gale on October 11, 1896 the light-ship Cape Charles (Built 1890-91, 298 tons, steam fog signal) broke loose of her moorings and drifted off her station. The crew of the Cape Charles made every effort to stabilize themselves but had drifted to about 16-miles southwest of the Cape Henry Light by that evening. At 6 O’clock on the evening of October 11 the cruiser USS Raleigh arrived and tried to get a line on the Cape Charles, but could not succeed. Later the Columbia arrived and was successful in getting a steel hawser secured and began towing the Cape Charles into Hampton Roads.
The Navy Department on March 10, 1897 received a urgent dispatch from Captain Bartlett the commanding officer of the USS Puritan that his engines were disabled and that he needed a ship to be sent and tow her to port. Navy Secretary Long sent a message to Captain Sands aboard the Columbia then at Hampton Roads, Virginia to steam at best speed to assist the Puritan then off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina just south of the Hatteras Life Saving Station.
It was known that the Puritan had put into Southport, NC on March 8 to seek shelter from the rough weather then at hand, and then she put back out to sea on March 9 bound for New York. Captain Sands estimated the distance the Columbia had to travel to get to the Puritan's location was roughly 260 miles and at the expected speed of 8 knots due to the weather would not reach the Puritan until about 5 o'clock on the morning of March 11 at best. Until then Captain Bartlett would have to fight the weather and hopefully keep the Puritan from beaching the coast.
During April of 1897 Columbia took part in the celebrations held for the opening of the former president, Ulysses S. Grant's Memorial (commonly known as Grants Tomb). The Memorial is located along the Hudson River in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, New York. At the opening ceremonies held on April 27, 1897 there was a great Naval Review assembled to pay honor to the former President. There was a large parade, which was presided over by Parade Grand Marshall, General G. M. Dodge that consisted of six divisions and four divisions in the Naval Parade, and addresses made by President William McKinley and Mayor William L. Strong. Among the 20 naval ships assembled was the USS Columbia and her sister ship the USS Minneapolis.
She was re-commissioned on 15 March 1898 in view of the possibility of war with Spain. A Flying Squadron was formed for the defense of the eastern seaboard commanded by Acting Commodore Winfield Scott Schley. The squadron consisted of USS Brooklyn (ACR 3), USS Massachusetts (BB 2) and USS Texas, USS Columbia (C 12) and USS Minneapolis (C 13). Due to the growing threat of Spanish Admiral Cervera's squadron Columbia was detached from the Flying Squadron and was ordered to patrol between the capes of Delaware and Bar Harbor, Maine as part of the North Patrol Squadron, under the command of Commodore J. A. Howell, for a possible attack from Admiral Cervera's Spanish squadron.
Thursday May 12, 1898 the USS Yankee was at anchor in Provincetown, MA, when she receives orders to sail with the Columbia and proceed to Block Island, RI, where they would establish a war patrol from Block Island to Cape Henlopen, DE. On Friday, May 13, Columbia arrives at Provincetown at 6 O’clock in the morning. Both ships put to sea and head south for the patrol area. On Saturday May 14 Columbia and Yankee arrive off Block Island about noon. On May 23 Columbia and the Oneida arrive and anchor just off the Delaware breakwater, where the Columbia stays until 6 O’clock that evening and was again outbound north on patrol.
On Saturday May 28, 1898 the British owned ship, Foscolia, a schooner-rigged iron steamer of 980-tons and 252-feet in length was outbound from New York bound for Bordeaux, France with a general cargo that consisted of barrels of Paraffin. Her Master, Captain Evans was sailing his ship passed the Sandy Hook Light ship at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Towards evening a dense fog had set in and Captain Evans had set a double watch and set all his lights burning and gave orders for half speed. Creeping along at 3-4 knots with a steady fog whistle blowing and keeping a sharp eye out for trouble, hoping that smooth sailing would be the order of the evening.
At the same time the Columbia under command of Captain James H. Sands was on wartime patrol searching for the Spanish Navy in the same general area of the Foscolia. The Columbia in her gray wartime paint and due to running with no lights or whistle due to her war patrol made her difficult to spot. This was a good covering for wartime but not good for the crew of the Foscolia.
Back on board the Foscolia her Second Mate, Reginald Thomas was on his station on her Port side bridge, when he saw a dull figure growing out of the fog. Four funnels began to take shape not more than 150 yards off. A collision was inevitable and Captain Evans on the bridge of the Foscolia rang his engines for full astern and gave 3 blasts on his whistle to give notice he had reversed his engines. The Columbia returned with one blast of her whistle giving notice she was turning hard to Starboard.
On the forecastle of the Foscolia was a seaman named Johnson who had been on his station as lookout. He was able to jump off the forecastle to safety just as the bow of the Foscolia tore into the Columbia’s Starboard side. The Foscolia cut into the Columbia at a point about 40-feet from her stern near her after starboard side 4-inch gun. The breach extended several feet into the side of the Columbia. It was not immediately known how far below the water line the breach extended. At the time the two ships sighted each other Captain Sands had the Columbia steaming slowly in the thick fog and the alert officer on the bridge signaled for full speed when the Foscolia was sighted. Before the Columbia had moved no more than 20 feet the Foscolia was upon her and tore into her side.
The shock was so great that the Columbia took a list to port of about 20 degrees, knocking men down on her decks. On the bridge of the Columbia, the sailor who had the wheel at the time was thrown against the side of the pilothouse breaking two heavy panes of glass. He was not seriously injured from the accident.
The Columbia’s engines were stopped at once but she had gained enough forward headway that she still moved ahead. The bow of the Foscolia was fast into the side of the Columbia’s starboard side and the two vessels were locked together for a time. By the time the Columbia stopped her forward movement she had dragged the Foscolia around making the hole in her side larger by prying the plates ahead of the impact outward and those plates behind inward. This then broke off a section of the bow of the Foscolia. Captain Evans stated that his bow was smashed in up to his collision bulkhead.
The two ships then drifted apart, loosing sight of each other in the thick fog. A voice was heard calling from the Foscolia calling for help and that they were sinking by the head. At once the Columbia took a heavy list back to starboard due to the inrushing water she was taking through the hole in her side. The alert crew on the Columbia had sounded Collision Quarters before the two ships struck and as a result her watertight doors had been closed, saving her from a disaster greater than was already upon them.
Captain Sands on the bridge of the Columbia ordered damage control reports and as the list to starboard was increasing gave orders to move all weight to port to counter her list. The port side guns were ran out as far as they would go and she took additional ballast to port and within a few moments the Columbia regained her trim and then took on a port side list, thus reducing the amount of water entering the hole in her starboard side.
Damage Control parties were sent over the side to determine the exact size of the gash in her side. At the same time other men from the Columbia were lowering boats to attend to the crew of the Foscolia. Columbia’s bright searchlights were sweeping the surface of the dead calm sea for the men of the Foscolia.
The damage to the Columbia was seen by some of her boat crews searching the water. The hole in her side exposed the rooms of the officer’s quarters and the wardroom. The officers were at mess at the time of the collision and this likely kept the injuries to a minimum.
While the Columbia was securing herself the crew of the Foscolia had taken to their boats. Captain Evans true to his duties remained on his sinking ship. He then sent 15 of his crew off to go to the Columbia and he, the First Mate, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer and two sailors stayed by their mortally wounded ship.
Two boats from the Columbia then came alongside of the Foscolia and called to Captain Evans to ask what he intended to do. Evans stated that he and the 5 men would stand by their vessel until she went down. Evans ordered his men to stay in the lifeboat but he remained aboard his ship. Once he was satisfied that they had done all they could, only then did he leave his ship. As she was going down by the head they rowed about 50 yards distant from her and remained there by her side. The collision took place at 7:45 pm and Captain Evans did not leave her until 10:30 pm. All the while the Columbia whistled so that the boats would not get separated in the still dense fog.
At about 2:30 in the morning Captain Evans was still by his ship with the others who had remained by her. They were standing by her on the dead calm sea and then they heard a deep noise, which was the Foscolia’s anchor chains running out of the lockers due to her severe angle at which she was down by the head. At the time her bow was under and her stern awash and then raised her stern high above the surface and the Captain moved the lifeboat a bit farther away.
About a half hour after this at 3:00 in the morning the Foscolia began her death throws. Her steam pumps had been left running and had only stopped when the sea put out the boilers. After that she began to go under and was almost gone when she came bounding back up again. But the sea claimed her and she quickly went under and was gone for good. The Captain and the five others in the lifeboat then rowed for about 45 minutes until sighted by the Columbia at 4:30 in the morning. The fog still being very thick and once on board the Columbia they made their way back to Sandy Hook.
The able crew of the Columbia had patched their ship with canvas, timbers and cement and saved her from the same fate as the Foscolia. Captain Sands crew was well-trained and quick to act and was a testament to the discipline and skill of the men he commanded. The Columbia made her way back to the New York Navy Yard for repairs where she reached Tompkinsville about noon. By June 2, 1898 all the damaged plates of the Columbia had been removed and work begun on repairing the damaged frames. In a newspaper article from the New York Times it was reported that she would be ready for duty in about 10 days time. Also at the same time in the Navy Yard at New York a court of inquiry was being conducted into the Columbia-Foscolia collision. Captain Miller, USN, headed the board and the opening of the inquiry was started on June 1, 1898. Only the board and the witnesses were allowed to be present and Captain Evans and several members of the Foscolia crew were the first to testify before the board. If the board found any case of neglect then a court-martial would be brought at a later date. Captain Miller's board of inquiry did not consider the question of damages to be awarded to the owners of the Foscolia.
It was not until January 7, 1903 when the final say was heard in the matter of the collision of the Columbia and the Foscolia. In a Military Court presided over by board president William P. McCann, Commodore, USN (Ret.) and Douglas Roben, USN (Ret.) Judge-Advocate, found that the court was of the opinion that the collision between the Columbia and the Foscolia was, under the circumstances of war, in no respect due to the fault or negligence of any of the officers or members of the crew of the USS Columbia, and therefore it is of the opinion of the court that no further proceedings should be held in the matter.
During the Spanish-American War the South Carolina Naval Militia was federalized and were used to fill out the strength of several shore stations as well as many ships. Commander R. H. Pinckney, the Commander of the South Carolina Naval Militia in a report made after the war spoke about how his men served with intelligence, fidelity and zeal, notwithstanding that to a large number, being men of education, the work was far different from anything that they had ever been accustomed to. They met the issue as a duty, in such manner as to merit the approval, and commendation of their superior officers, and earn the enviable record of "work well done." Where all did so well, it is hardly fair to make any special mention, but only to show the value of the Coast Signal Service to the Government, Commander Pinckney did give this example of the fine work his men did. This was but one example from among many, performed by the crews of the Morris Island and Charleston Signal Stations.
Commander Pinckney relates on the night before the arrival of the U.S. Ships Columbia and Yale off the bar, at 12 o'clock, a dispatch was received at the Signal Headquarters requesting that the Chief Quartermaster of Camp Alger, Virginia, be notified immediately on arrival of Cruisers Columbia and Yale off Charleston bar, and to communicate with Captain Sands, the commanding officer of the Columbia, as to when he will be ready to receive troops on board. Commander Pinckney immediately caused Morris Island Station to be called, and signaled instructions to keep lookout at Masthead and report approach of any vessel from southward. At 3 o'clock, Morris Island called Headquarters by signal lights (they are five miles apart), and reported “Cruiser Columbia coming up from south." I told the signalman at Charleston Station to ask him, "How do you know it is Columbia? He replied instantly, 'Four smoke-stacks." The station at Morris Island had not been told what vessels were expected, and the answer showed how thoroughly they knew by looks each and every vessel in our Navy, and also in that of our enemy.
In about half an hour Morris Island reported, "Yale coming up from south." These vessels when first seen were fifteen miles at sea, they were recognized instantly, however, and that at night and at such a distance. The information thus obtained was instantly wired to Camp Alger, and as soon as the two cruisers anchored, which they did beyond the lightship, nine miles off shore and away from the station, they were signaled by the Morris Island crew, who called for Captain Sands, commanding the Columbia, and flashed the message across nine miles of midnight sea; it was received, and the answer came back as follows: "Ready now for troops, or as soon as they can get here" and coupled with the request that he be informed as to how many were coming and when they would arrive. This message was immediately sent to Camp Alger, and notice of arrival was at same time sent to Washington, and in half an hour reply that troops numbered 2,700, in which half would arrive forenoon and half afternoon of the following day, and that they bring 18 horses; all of this was flashed to Captain Sands.
The next morning the first section of train rolled down on the East Shore Terminal tracks loaded with troops. General Garrison immediately came to the Headquarters Office and requested a message of an entire sheet of foolscap to be at once sent to Captain Sands; it was transmitted from Charleston Station to Morris Island, and thence to the Columbia, nine miles away, and inside of thirty minutes the answer was handed to General Garrison. When the other sections of the train arrived, bringing General Wilson, he sent a message also, and received the answer with equal promptitude. The service rendered was so well done as to merit and receive the commendations of Generals Garrison and Wilson, also of Captain Sands of the Columbia and Captain Wise on the Yale; and when it is further stated that during the entire time of service the Morris Island Station never missed discovering and reporting each and every vessel of whatever description which came into this part day or night, and also all those which passed outside either North or South, if they were within reach of the powerful telescopes of the station, all of this was most valuable to the National Government; hence, the Department’s desire that, the Naval Militias continue to practice the Signal Codes.
During June of 1898 Spanish Admiral Cervera's fleet was blockaded in Santiago Harbor, Cuba by the US Naval force in the area. Columbia and her men were anxious to get their licks in on the Spanish Fleet and their time would come but by the time they were steaming south to join the party the Spanish Fleet attempted to run the blockade and was destroyed at the entrance to the harbor at Santiago, Cuba on 3 July 1898. The Columbia and her crew had missed their first chance at action against an enemy fleet.
In preparation of the coming actions of the Puerto Rican campaign General Nelson Miles’s I Corps consisting of about 3,500 men and General Henry Garretson’s Brigade consisting of the 6th Massachusetts and 6th Illinois Volunteers and a few Regular Artillery Batteries and Engineers were ordered to Charleston, South Carolina. There on 7 July 1898 they boarded the USS Yale and the USS Columbia for transport south to join and reinforce General Shafter’s V Corps, where on 11 July the Yale and Columbia arrived off Cuba with their troops. The Columbia was now in the fight, just not in the way they had wanted. But the landing of the troops was disappointing as only a few days before while the Yale and Columbia were still steaming south the Spanish troops surrendered when the Spanish Fleet was laid to rest at the bottom of the Harbor. General Miles wanted his troops ashore as the prospect of having them confined for weeks to these two make-shift transports in the tropical climate was almost as bad as taking casualties in actual combat to his men. But problems arose in Cuba and General Miles ordered his men aboard the Yale and Columbia and moved them to Guantanamo Bay.
General Miles force of about 3,145 men of the 6th Illinois and 6th Massachusetts loaded again on the USS Yale and USS Dixie bound for Cape Fajardo, Puerto Rico for actions there. The battleship USS Massachusetts and USS Columbia and the gunboat USS Gloucester acting as the landing force’s escorts sailed from Guantanamo Bay about the 20th of July. While still at sea General Miles famous for changing his mind did just that, changed the point of the landings that were to begin at Cape Farjardo. He ordered the force to sail for the southwest side of Puerto Rico to Guanica. There he could march swiftly across the island, but another reason was due to the press announcing that his landing force was bound for Fajardo seemed to be his main reason.
Once the force was in site of Guanica the bombardment began on 25 July at 5:20 in the morning, but the harbor was not deep enough for the Massachusetts, Columbia and the Dixie to enter and give proper support to the troops. The gunboat Gloucester was the only ship of the small fleet that could enter and give support with her light 6 and 3-pounder guns. As it turned out the landings were a success as the Spanish troops retreated with not much of a fight and General Miles troops sustained no fatal causalities.
Twelve days after the invasion 200 Spanish troops massed an advance on 28 US Marines and about 500-800 local citizens who had sought shelter at the Fajardo Lighthouse. On the 8th of August about mid-night the Spanish troops attacked the Lighthouse and the Marines who were protecting the local citizens. During the advance of the Spanish troops the Marines signaled to the USS Amphitrite and the Columbia waiting just off shore. This was accomplished through a prearranged signal from the light of the lighthouse and the ships let loose with a bombardment. One shell hit the lighthouse making a large hole in it. As soon as it began the Spanish retreated and the marines signaled the ships to stop shelling. So it seems that the guns of the Columbia did get their licks on the Spanish Troops after all. Columbia remained in the area giving support where called on until 14 August 1898 when she returned to New York.
As part of General Miles fleet, the Columbia assembled with many other ships in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and on 19 July, a transport ship entered the harbor having been refused permission to dock in Santiago Harbor thirty miles to the west due to an outbreak of Yellow Fever in the military units at Santiago. A Red Cross volunteer nurse on board that transport recognized the four smokestack design of the Columbia and requested permission to visit with the young naval cadet on board the Columbia named Tom Wheeler. To his surprise and delight it was his sister Annie and she was able to spend the day visiting. In only two days, the fleet would be sailing to Puerto Rico carrying 3300 troops for the invasion. Rumors of additional Spanish ships coming from across the Atlantic kept the seamen alert and ready for action throughout the 4-day journey. But when the Spanish ships never arrived, the invasion of Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898 went easier than planned. The war against Spain ended more suddenly than it began with the official end of hostilities declared on August 12, 1898. Secretary of War Alger ordered the men of the invasion force to Camp Wikoff at Montauk Point, Long Island, New York. The Camp was selected as a place of quarantine against the threat of an epidemic of yellow fever and malaria. Within a couple of weeks the Columbia herself would arrive at Montauk Point, New York.
The story of Naval Cadet, Thomas Wheeler ended at Montauk Point, New York, where on 7 September 1898 tragedy struck. A shipmate of Tom's was in trouble. Tom and his friend were "surf bathing" in the chilly Atlantic waters along the shores of Montauk Point. Perhaps pulled under by the tide, the young cadet was struggling and needed help. Tom Wheeler dove in after his friend in an attempted rescue. Both boys drowned. At age 17, young Thomas Harrison Wheeler died attempting to save the life of a friend.
The city of Philadelphia hosted a celebration to the end of the Spanish-American War. This was known as The Peace Jubilee and was held 25-28 October 1898. This celebration began with a naval parade and all gathered at the waterfront to see the gathering warships. This naval parade, which opened the celebration was reviewed by Secretary of the Navy John Long and as a Marine band on board the USS New Orleans played the "Stars and Stripes Forever" the USS Columbia led the parade of ships down the river.
Columbia was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Philadelphia Navy Yard 31 March 1899. Due to the fact that her powerful engines gave her a fast speed for a ship of her size they also consumed coal at a good rate and it became expensive to run the Columbia, and so for most of the time in between the Spanish-American War and WWI she was laid in reserve much of the time.
On August 6, 1901 the Columbia arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She had left the Philadelphia Navy Yard and the trip north was quite rough. Columbia was then detailed to replace the aging USS Vermont as the receiving ship at the Brooklyn Yard.
On the trip from Philadelphia some of the Columbia’s sea valves had loosened due to her setting in reserve at League Island for several years. This caused considerable amounts of seawater to infiltrate her interior compartments. She reached New York under tow and there was not enough steam available to run keep her steam pumps running, so the crew had to resort to pumping the seawater by hand. The navy claimed that she was in no danger of sinking but that she likely would have rode so low in the water that towing would have become very difficult.
When the Columbia reached the Brooklyn Navy Yard she was moored to the Cob Dock near the ferry. She remained there for several weeks until the Vermont was moved from her moorings. No visitors were allowed on the Columbia as she was in rather bad shape from her setting in inactivity at Philadelphia for several years. She will need weeks of fixing and cleaning before she is suitable to be used as a receiving ship.
There was some matter of discussion in the naval circles as to her seaworthiness and some thought she was unsuitable to be used as a receiving ship. After all she was still the fastest ship in the navy. But this fact that made her the fastest ship also gave her the nickname of “coal eater” and so in peacetime she lay in reserve much of the time.
Rear Admiral Barker, the Commandant of the Brooklyn Yard said, however the use of the Columbia as a receiving ship was only a temporary assignment. It was said that once her guns were removed she could house 800 sailors. There were plans for building a barracks on the Cob Dock of the yard and this would do away with the need of a receiving ship altogether.
The fate of the old rotten Vermont was not known and she was undergoing a complete fumigation of all her compartments and furnishings. The Vermont was a 2,633-ton wooden store ship, built as a ship of the line by the Boston Navy Yard. Though laid down in 1818 and launched in 1848, she was not commissioned until January of 1862. During 1862-64, Vermont was stationed at Port Royal, South Carolina, where she supported the Civil War operations of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Her next assignment was as receiving ship at the New York Navy Yard. Her masts were cut down and she was decked over to house new sailors and there she remained in service until struck from the Navy List in December 1901. Vermont was sold the following April.
Following her re-commissioning on 31 August 1902, Columbia served as a part of the Atlantic Training Squadron from 9 November 1903.
USS Columbia 1903 Officers List
Atlantic Training Squadron under command of Rear Admiral Royal B. Bradford
Captain James M. Miller C. O.
Chief Boatswain Timothy Sullivan
It was during January of 1904 when an insurrection arose in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, prompt responses by United States Naval vessels helped to end the insurrections. The USS Detroit was dispatched and then within a month on station the USS Newark and the USS Columbia joined her.
On January 4, 1904, a marine detachment under the command of Ensign C. H. Fischer, USN, was landed from the USS Detroit, at Sosua, about ten-miles to the eastward of Puerto Plata, to protect American interests, and remained in this locality until January 15, 1904. Ensign. J.M. Caffrey, USN in command of a detachment of ten men was landed at Puerto Plata on January 7 as a consulate guard. A landing force of bluejackets and marines were sent ashore at Puerto Plata, on January 17, and returned on board the same day, with the exception of the marine guard which took over the duties as consulate guard and remained on shore until January 23, 1904, when it was withdrawn.
On January 28-29, 1904 through a communication to the American Legation in Santo Domingo, the German Legation Consul, Mr. Von Krosigh, made a request if a military guard could be provided due to the fact that no German naval vessels were in the local area to provide such a guard detail.
Captain Miller the Commanding officer aboard the Columbia was asked by the American Legation to provide escort for the German Vice-Consul Mr. Thormann and his family as they were in grave danger at his residence then 2-miles outside the city. Thormann had been ordered to come to the German Legation in the city or suffer the consequences.
Captain Miller responded quickly by sending a guard detail of 40 marines under the command of Lt. Long, and within 1-hours time the 40-man marine detail reported in the city at the American Legation building. Orders were given to the artillery batteries of the local forts not to fire while the marine detachment was outside the city as they had ample means to defend them selves. The marines kept in sight of the Columbia so as her guns could be used if the situation warranted their use. Mr. W. F. Powell of the American Legation and Mr. Von Krosigh of the German Legation accompanied the marines on the way to the Thromann residence. Mr. Thromann and his family were safely escorted to the German Legation building within the city with out harm.
In view of the fact that the revolutionists who occupied Santo Domingo City, D.R., had violated the armistice agreement by firing on the Clyde Line Steamer New York, a landing force of 8 officers and 200 men was landed on the 11th of February from the USS Newark in Santo Domingo City. On the same afternoon a landing force consisting of 6 officers, 119 bluejackets and 38 marines was landed from the USS Columbia at the same place. The landing forces from both ships were under the command of Lt. Commander J.P. Parker, USN the Executive Officer of the Columbia. The revolutionists opened fire on the landing forces from the Newark and Columbia, who were supported by fire from their ships, which drove the revolutionists out of the city. The landing forces returned on board their respective ships that evening. There were no real causalities except one man from the Columbia, Apprentice Seaman Charles Doctor, who was accidentally wounded by discharge of his own revolver. Often the mere presence of a US Navy warship with its four-inch or eight-inch guns was enough to convey to the insurgents to stop its activity.
It was in June of 1904 by the use of selective shelling from the Newark and Columbia that calm was restored to Santo Domingo. The insurgents agreed to an armistice only after the shelling of the Newark and Columbia and the two ships landed their landing forces and gave chase to the insurgents. Commander Dillingham of the USS Detroit eventually worked out a peace settlement with the insurgents on board his ship.
During late 1904-1905 the Columbia was under the command of Lt. Cmdr. John M. Bowyer. Other officers during this time were John H. Shipley the Executive Officer, Lt. David Allen, Navigation Officer and Ship's Surgeon E. Marsteller.
President Taft was going to be making a tour of the Panama Canal in late November and the Columbia was to have the honor of transporting the President to the Canal Zone. The Columbia was ordered to pick up President Taft in Pensacola, Florida and was making her way there. At about sundown on November 10,, 1904 the Columbia was sighted just off the Pensacola Bar where she was expected to anchor for the night, but wanting to be prompt for the President Captain Bowyer took aboard the local harbor pilot, and the Columbia crossed the bar in safety after sun-down. But due to some recent storms in the area some of the bottom sand and markers had moved unknown to the pilot. When the pilot was running the Columbia through an area known as Horseshoe Bend she was too far out of the channel, and at about 8 o’clock that evening she stuck fast in the sand about eight-miles off Pensacola near the lighthouse. Quickly local towboats and naval vessels were dispatched to move the Columbia but all efforts of the night were fruitless owing to low tides, the Columbia was fast in the mud. The next morning at high tide the Columbia was successfully re-floated and was soon on her way, although just a bit embarrassed over the previous evenings follies.
In June of 1905 the schooner Edward L. Allen sails from Bangor, Maine with a cargo of lumber bound for Baltimore, Maryland. But on June 26 the crew of the Edward L. Allen encounters a severe gale about 80-miles south of Nantucket and had to abandon her. The Allen’s crew was rescued by the Norwegian steamer Kong Frode and was put safe ashore in Boston. But the story of the Edward L. Allen did not end there as her hulk loaded with lumber did not sink but continued to flounder in the sea. She drifted aimlessly on the sea causing a hazard to navigation. Between June 26 and September 20 several shipmasters made reports of the floating hulk and was a real cause of danger to ships on the high seas.
Finally the Navy Hydrographic Office received a confirmed location of the floating hulk of the Allen 120-miles from Sandy Hook. The Brooklyn Navy Yard was alerted and the Columbia was given the task to finally take care of the hulk of the Allen. Rear Admiral Coghlan gave instructions to Commander Bowyer of the Columbia to find the Allen and sink her. Bowyer gave orders to his helmsman to steam to 40:05 North and 71:53 West at best speed, which was the last reported position of the hulk of the Allen. Upon reaching the area darkness had set in and Bowyer set orders for a 14-mile square search pattern with all his lights burning. Bowyer had a double watch set, as the sudden sighting of the hulk could have been as disastrous to his ship as any other ship.
As daybreak came on Friday September 22, 1905 nothing had been sighted yet. A wireless message was relayed back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard stating of negative results on the search pattern. Admiral Coghlan gave a reply to move to the east a bit and the search pattern was narrowed to 7-miles. The Columbia made contact with another schooner at sea the John L. Treat but her skipper reported no sighting of the hulk.
By Saturday the Columbia still had not found her target and several more ships were passed and each had not seen anything of the Allen. It seems that the communication between these ships encountered on Saturday and the Columbia was difficult due to the Columbia had the Slaby-Arco wireless system and the ships encountered had the Marconi sets. By Saturday the skipper of the Columbia was growing frustrated and Commander Bowyer decides to reduce speed and head with the wind to the southeast. This continued through the night and as light began to break the next morning on the distant horizon to the east a black speck began to take shape.
Ensign Robert Henderson who had charge of the deck at the time gave notice to Commander Bowyer he had sighted something two and a half miles distant and closing. By 07:15 that morning the Columbia had her prey and logged the position at 39:45 North and 71:57 West. Bowyer lowered two boats from the Columbia under the command of a Gunner named Layer. The two boats carried explosives and made contact with the floating hulk of the Allen. Upon inspection of the hulk it was evident that she had been looted of any valuables. The men fixed a charge under the keel below the wheelhouse of the Allen and the charges were prepared. The two whaleboats backed off from the hulk to a safe distance and completed the connection of the wires and the charges set off. The explosion rocked the two boats and the Columbia and heaved the Allen out of the water breaking her in two parts cutting her in half.
But still the old waterlogged hulk refused to give up to the sea and remained afloat. Now her two halves drifted in separate directions. The boats went back to the forward half of the wreck and set additional charges. This explosion splintered the bow section and her cargo of wooden blocks flew as high as 100-feet into the air. A third charge was set in the stern section of the wreck and blew it apart and it sank from the surface and all that was left was floating match wood but her deck flung up into the air in one large part and came back down as if it was a parachute. This floating deck part required still another charge and it was finally sent to the depths. Commander Bowyer then sent a message to Newport News that his crew had been successful in their mission to sink the hulk of the Allen. The Columbia then steamed for the Brooklyn yard and entered the North River on September 25, 1905.
From 27 January 1905 to 20 May 1906, Major John Lejeune served at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. (Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps) Lejeune then returned to Panama in command of a battalion of Marines from 29 May to 6 July 1906, the battalion being transported both ways on board the USS Columbia.
It was on May 21, 1906, that Major Lejeune’s special expeditionary battalion consisting of 15 officers and 400 enlisted men embarked and sailed on board the USS Columbia from the Navy Yard, League Island, for temporary service on the Isthmus of Panama. Lt. Col. James E. Mahoney embarked as a passenger. This force was disembarked from the Columbia at Colon, R.P., on May 29, 1906, and Lt. Col. Mahoney on June 4, 1906, assumed command of all the marines on the Isthmus. On July 6, 1906, the special duty for which they had been sent to the Isthmus having been completed, Lt. Col. Mahoney was detached, and the battalion under the command of Major Lejeune, consisting of 14 officers and 383 enlisted men were then taken back aboard the Columbia, and sailed for Monte Cristi, D.R., bound for the United States. On July 12, 1906, 2 officers and 98 enlisted men of Major Lejeune’s battalion were transferred to the USS Dixie as part of an expeditionary force on that vessel. The rest of Major Lejeune’s battalion remained on board the Columbia and reached the United States on July 21, 1906, when the battalion was disembarked.
Following the reelection of Thomas E. Palma as President of the Republic of Cuba in August of 1906, his political opponents began an armed insurrection against his government, which quickly assumed serious proportions. President Palma expressed a wish that American warships be sent at once to Havana, and Cienfuegos to protect foreign lives and property. The United States State Department complied and again the Columbia with her marine detachment was steaming southward. Among the ships sent to Cuban waters with the Columbia were the Denver, Marietta, Dixie, Minneapolis, Tacoma, Newark, Brooklyn, Prairie, Texas, Kentucky and the Indiana.
On 1 January 1907 Columbia was assigned special duty as training ship. On 10 February 1907 in the Movement of Vessels section of the Washington Post it was reported that the Columbia arrived in port at New Orleans, Louisiana. Once more she was placed in reserve at Philadelphia on 3 May 1907.
In 1912, she was placed in commission, second reserve, at New York. At that point, she became an element of the newly established Atlantic Reserve Fleet. According to that concept, the Navy organized a unit that comprised nine of the older battleships as well as USS Brooklyn (Cruiser No. 3), USS Columbia (Cruiser No. 12), and USS Minneapolis (Cruiser No. 13), for the purpose of keeping those ships constantly ready for active service by manning the ships with severely reduced complements that could be filled out rapidly by naval militiamen and volunteers in an emergency. The unit as a whole possessed enough officers and men to take two or three of the ships to sea on a rotating basis to test their material readiness and to exercise the sailors at drill.
After the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in May of 1915 by a German U-boat the United States Navy began to accelerate its submarine program. The navy on June 20, 1915 selected Captain Albert W. Grant who was the commanding officer of the USS Texas to head up the entire United States submarine program. Captain Grant was instructed to reorganize the submarine service and was advanced to rank of Rear Admiral. One of the first things done was the reactivation of the Columbia by Navy Secretary Daniels on June 22, 1915 to be used as Grant’s flagship of the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla. The Columbia had been in reduced commission at League Island for several years. The Columbia after her reactivation will serve both as Flagship and a school for new officers and men of the submarine service. Until the Columbia is ready the USS Prairie will serve as temporary Flagship. About mid August 1915 Columbia joined the Submarine Flotilla and assumed her Flagship duties based out of Pensacola, Florida.
By the fall of 1915 the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla was ordered to move to New London, Connecticut. On October 18, 1915 seven submarines, the G-1, G-2, G-4, E-1, D1, D-2 and D-3 along with the old monitors Tonopah and Ozark acting as Submarine Tenders were escorted by the Flagship Columbia with Rear Admiral Grant into the harbor at New London. By the evening the Columbia was at anchor just off the New London Light and the seven submarines were safely tied up at the piers of the New London Navy Yard, officially opening the New London Navy Yard as the base of operations of the Atlantic Submarine Fleet.
After cruising between the various Atlantic submarine bases on inspection tours, she was detached from this duty on 19 April 1917. During the first week of March 1917 a gale with severe winds pounded the steamship Druid carrying a cargo of sulphate ammonia on her way from Pensacola to Havana, Cuba. The seas had extinguished her boilers and she was wallowing helplessly in the raging seas. On March 6 the Columbia then in the area of Pensacola, was sent a wireless massage that the Druid was 70 miles off Pensacola and in trouble with several of her seams ripped open and was leaking badly. The Druid's captain would likely abandon her if they did not get help by the evening. The Columbia was steaming at best speed to her assistance along with the tug Nellie.
Columbia under the command of Captain Frank B. Upham, patrolled off the Delaware Breakwater from 21 April 1917 as flagship of Squadron 5, Patrol Force until mid to late July where she joined the Cruiser Force as a convoy escort, which lasted until 13 November 1918.
Columbia spent July 4th of 1917 at the New York Navy Yard and her crew enjoyed Liberty in New York City. Like all sailors and marines on Liberty they like to enjoy a cool drink in a local bar before going back to sea. Such was the case of one of the Columbia’s crew, Mark Hopkins. On July 4th sailor Mark Hopkins was thirsty for a cool beer in the village of St. George on Staten Island and tried to enter the restaurant owned by Louis Hugot. A French immigrant, Hugot was born about 1857 and had come to America in 1882 and became a citizen in 1894. He had owned a hotel and also a bar adjoining the hotel. Henry Winsweiller his brother-in-law, was the bartender of the bar adjoining the hotel. Winsweiller, born about 1855 was a German immigrant and came to America in 1872 and gained his citizenship in 1886.
When Hopkins, who had his uniform on at the time, tried to enter Hugot’s restaurant, Hugot and a few of his employees tried to stop Hopkins from entering the restaurant. A scuffle ensued and a marine, also in uniform watching the whole affair, witnessed the dust-up. Turns out that the marine, who was not identified, got the same treatment from Hugot earlier. Hugot was said to have shouted, “No drunken sailors can enter here.”
Hopkins and the marine then decided they both needed a drink and tried to enter the bar next-door, not knowing that Hugot owned both the bar and restaurant. Hugot’s brother-in-law, Henry Winsweiller was on the job and as soon as Hopkins, the sailor from the Columbia, and the marine entered the bar Henry threw them out in the street. This started a fight, as the sailor and the marine were not going to be denied a drink by the German. Turned out that Hugot and Winsweiller got the better of Hopkins and the marine. But Mark Hopkins went to the local police and made a complaint against Louis Hugot stating that just because the two were in uniform Hugot surmised they would be trouble. On July 9th, Hugot was arraigned in court on charges of barring the sailor who was in uniform and assaulting him. It was never known if Hopkins and his marine friend ever got the drink they were looking for.
During this time Columbia escorted the British liner Danube from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Between 1 January and 13 November 1918, she made five Atlantic escort voyages, protecting the passage of men and supplies for the American Expeditionary Force in France. Captain Frank B. Upham in early August 1918 was reassigned to take command the cruiser USS Pueblo then performing convoy escort duty. The former Commanding officer of the troopship USS Mercury, Captain Harry L. Brinser then replaced Captain Upham as the commanding Officer of the Columbia.
On her detachment of convoy duty 7 January 1919, she became flagship of Squadron 2, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, operating along the east coast and in the Caribbean. She was relieved as flagship on 29 May, but continued cruising until decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 29 June 1921.
In May 1919, Columbia sailed to the Azores to observe and support the historic first aerial crossing of the Atlantic, made by four Navy seaplanes from May 8 to May 31. These were the Curtiss (NC) Flying Boat nicknamed the "Nancy Boat". Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a leading proponent of the flight, petitioned Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels for approval of the flight. Roosevelt traveled to Rockaway Beach prior to the transatlantic flight, asked for and received a ride in the number 3 plane, NC-3 piloted by his boyhood friend Lt. James L. Breese, USNRF. The famous polar explorer Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, USN, invented aerial navigation instruments that made the flight possible and later used them in his polar explorations. There were 61 station ships on the route to assist in navigation and weather information and to supply fuel and supplies. The Columbia was one of 3 ships stationed in the Azores Detachment.
On the 17th of May, Lt. Elmer Stone piloting the NC-4 saw a port as the mist cleared enough to reveal the south shore of Fayal. He assumes it to be the port of Horta in the Azores. Lt. Stone eased the NC-4 into the harbor, immediately realize something was wrong, and throttled back into the air. It was not Horta, but the fishing port of Ponta Ribeirinha. Five minutes later they rounded Espalamaca Point and saw their destination, the terraced city of Horta, Azores with its 16th Century fort, and the station ship, the USS Columbia anchored off shore. As Stone touched down and taxied up to the stern of the Columbia, one of the Columbia's motor launches rammed the plane's bow, punching a hole in it. Moments later a great wall of fog rolled in, completely obscuring the harbor. Their luck had held out just long enough. Aboard the Columbia, sailors cheered and waved their hats. Dozens of bouquets of flowers arrived from the citizens of Horta. And alongside boatloads of Portuguese musicians serenaded the flyers. The ship's radio room flashed the news, and was inundated with messages of congratulation. Of the four Navy Curtiss Flying Boats only one, the NC-4 made the historic trip. The other 3 planes were damaged and could not finish.
After Captain Brinser’s term aboard the Columbia is over he turns over command of the Columbia to Captain William B. Wells and is ordered to report to Lt. E. G. Affleck aboard the Destroyer Tender USS Rigel (AR-11) to take command of that vessel.
Classified CA-16, 17 July 1920, Columbia finished out the rest of her years in the Caribbean and Canal Zone waters. Captain Wells had command of the Columbia briefly and then Captain Julius F. Hellwig took command of the cruiser.
She made a trip through the Panama Canal as on January 20, 1921 she was photographed in the Pedro Miguel Locke, likely her last trip in the Canal. And she was anchored at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January of 1921 and she remained in these waters until she was called home for the last time.
While still in Cuban waters a Liberty Party from the Columbia is enjoying some swimming at Hicacal Beach near Guautanamo. Henry Martin one of the men in the Columbia’s Liberty Party accidentally drowns in the waters at the beach on March 19, 1921. Martin’s body was transported back to his home in Altamont, New York where it arrived on May 4. Martin’s funeral was held on Saturday May 7, 1921, where three brothers, one sister, and a half-brother and a half-sister survived him.
In July of 1921 the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was heading up a program in the navy to reduce its excess of obsolete war craft and unused lands and material. This was a program of economy to help bolster the Government’s bottom line and was fully supported by President Harding. Lt. Col. Roosevelt had identified 166 vessels, which the navy had classified as obsolete and he also had on the chopping blocks another 151 Submarine Chasers built for WWI that would be disposed of. Among the obsolete vessels was the Columbia, and now her days would be numbered and her fate would be at the hands of the breakers torch. Columbia was renamed Old Columbia 17 November 1921. After his service aboard the Columbia is over captain Brinser turns over command of the Columbia to Captain William B. Wells and is ordered to report to Lt. E. G. Affleck aboard the Destroyer Tender USS Rigel (AR-11) to take command of that vessel.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Lt. Col. Roosevelt’s program of selling obsolete ships for scrapping, was profitable for the government but it created a problem on how to dismantle these ships and what to do with the disposition of the salvaged materials. At the time there was not an industry set up to scrap and recycle these large ships and now a system had to be created. Philadelphia and the Delaware River where once was the birthplace of many of these ships would now become the place they were to end their lives. Rear Admiral Potter the Paymaster General of the Navy on December 11, 1921 invited representatives from groups of financiers, steel operators, shipbuilders, scrap dealers, local Chamber of Commerce representatives and editors of trade papers to come to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and inspect some of the ships that would be dismantled. The Columbia would be among the first of the ships to be broken up. Then on January 26, 1922, the once fastest ship in the navy, Columbia is sold at auction for scrap.
In the third week of March 1922 three old warships were sold at auction while setting in the Philadelphia navy yard. The Columbia was joined with the Maine, Missouri and Wisconsin waiting for their fate to come. At the auction, sold as scrap none of the three ships brought over $100,000 each, a fraction of what they cost to build. Now sold they will be towed from the Navy Yard to their final resting place in the Delaware River where the scrappers torches will cut them to bits of metal to be reused into something new.
Now at a shipyard on the Delaware River the Maine, Missouri, Wisconsin and the Columbia along with the Tonopah, Monterey and the Ozark with several other smaller vessels lay awaiting the cutters torch. Now just as an army of men came together to build these ships another army of men assemble to cut them into tens of thousands of pieces. Even though these vessels are obsolete for war making they are valuable nonetheless. Copper, gunmetal, brasses, manganese bronze, lead and zinc along with the steel is the most valuable parts. Some of the smaller ships saw a new civilian life as barges and other uses once the war machinery was removed.
Post card photo dated January 1919 as the Columbia was flagship of Squadron 2, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet and written on the front is "USS Columbia Flagship Destroyer Force. Jan-1919 Admiral Ashley H. Robertson and Officers and visiting party from Santa Cruz del Sur." (Cuba) This was also written on the back from a Columbia crewman named only as Ed. He writes on the back side "Don't look for me on this picture because I did not want to be on it. I only associate with the President of U.S.A."
A view of the Columbia's aft 6-inch 45 cal. deck gun.
Writing on the back side of the photo states "After the first shot has been fired. USS Columbia"
An early view of the Columbia’s forward main 8-inch 35 cal. Mark 3 Gun. This gun had a partial barbette covering and had hydraulic cylinders to assist the gun to return it to firing position. The weight of the gun itself also helped return to firing position. There is also a large training gear wheel at the back of the rotary mount.
The Columbia under way in 1898
Starboard view of the Columbia again in 1898
An early view of the Columbia showing her painted in her Spar and White colors.
A Murder aboard the Columbia
Samuel J. Diamond
This final episode in my Great Uncle's life and his Naval career was also the final episode in the life and Naval career of the U.S.S. Columbia herself. By the time we get to the death of my great-uncle and the events in the Court of Inquiry, the well-worn U.S.S. Columbia had put in many years of dedicated service to the United States Navy and our beloved Country. She had been launched in July of 1892 and had received her first commissioning in April of 1894. The events of my story begin when my Great Uncle Samuel Jacob Diamond, Chief Petty Officer and Chief Printer became attached to the Columbia in September of 1920. By this time period doubtless the Columbia had seen many a generation of young sailors come aboard and serve within her hulls. Also certainly by the year 1920 the Columbia had seen many seasoned officers lead their men and serve their country from her decks.
I posses a copy of the above picture, picture. It is of the U.S.S. Columbia, no doubt shortly after her re-commissioning into service during the Spanish-American Conflict. This picture is titled, "Columbia Salutes New York, August 1898." In this very moving photograph Columbia sits proudly upon the waters of New York Harbor dressed in the red white and blue. The handsome young ship took a great picture that day. I'm brought to realize, that as that historic photograph was being taken, just a short distance away in the southern end of the borough of Manhattan, lived a little 4 year old boy. That young boy was Samuel Jacob Diamond. I can't help but wonder if just perhaps young Samuel Jacob, through the teeming cheering crowds of proud Americans that day, may have been able to get a glimpse of that new ship Columbia, as she sat young, strong and proud in New York Harbor that day? Whether or not the young eye of the child Samuel Jacob was able to catch sight of the young ship on that great day in August of 1898, we don't know. But it is amazing to realize that some 23 years later, the Naval Career of that young boy Samuel Jacob would become inseparably attached to the Naval career of that great young vessel, the U.S.S. Columbia. And what is so very solemn to me, is that 23 years after that great day in New York Harbor, who could have known that the now old ship, renamed "Old Columbia" and the now full grown man Samuel Jacob Diamond, would complete their Naval careers together, almost simultaneously.
Samuel Jacob Diamond died while serving our country on board the U.S.S. Columbia in March of 1921. And just a few months later, the Columbia too finished her Naval career. The old ship was decommissioned in June of 1921, and sold the following year.
I posses another photograph of the Columbia (below). This one was taken of her when she was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January of 1921. Undoubtedly my Great Uncle was on board or nearby at the time of the photograph. This picture posses such clarity that if you take a photographer's magnifier and put it up onto the photograph and view the image you can see clearly the men standing on the ship looking toward where this photograph was being taken from. So clear is the photograph that with the use of the magnifier you can see their laundry that they have hung up to air-dry.
USS Columbia at anchor in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba January, 1921
It was 10:00 p.m. on a quiet Saturday evening as the U.S.S. Relief lay moored off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But that quiet was about to be broken. For a gig sent out from the U.S.S. Columbia was approaching the Relief carrying four men who were accompanying a wounded sailor. As the small boat came alongside the Relief, Commander Hargrave (MC) from the Columbia called out for the doctors onboard the Relief. He explained that he, along with the Columbias chaplain and two young enlisted men had brought a seriously wounded sailor to the Relief for emergency surgery. As crew and medical personnel from the Relief gathered on the deck they assisted the men from the Columbia in getting this wounded man onto the ship. On the stretcher covered with blood lay an unconscious sailor who was bleeding profusely from a head wound.
Once onboard the Relief the anxious Dr. Hargrave was met by Lieutenant Douglas D. Martin (MC) and Commander George B. Tribble (MC). These doctors quickly and intently made their way along with the stretcher to the dressing room of Ward G within the Relief. While doing so Commander Hargrave explained to these doctors the identity and status of this wounded sailor. The wounded man was Samuel Jacob Diamond, Chief Printer, U.S.S. Columbia. Dr. Hargrave explained that about 20 minutes earlier Diamond had been found unconscious on his cot in the Print Shop lying in a pool of blood.
Having made their way to the appropriate room within Ward G, the three doctors began their attempt to save Diamonds life. Upon removal of the blood soaked bandages there was revealed a large triangular wound of the left mastoid region from which blood was escaping. Brain tissue could be seen around the left ear indicating that a blow to the head was sufficiently heavy enough to crush the skull and cause brain tissue to ooze out through the hole behind the ear. It was also observed that, although unconscious, Diamond was struggling to breathe owing to his air flow being blocked and interrupted by the uncontrolled movement of blood through his nose, throat and mouth. After one particularly great effort at breathing he expelled a large quantity of blood through his nose and mouth. There was a large hematoma covering the left side of Diamonds face and head, and the pupil of his left eye was found to be completely dilated. The doctors, seeing the urgency of Diamonds condition administered ether and the surgery was begun.
Samuel Diamond had enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 19, 1912, at a New York City Naval recruiting office. At the time of his enlistment he was 18 years old. Sam had been an apprenticed printer prior to his enlistment and developed himself in this trade after entering the Navy. He was attached to the U.S.S. Washington during this enlistment and was honorably discharged from the Navy on June 18, 1916; while stationed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. However, according to his naval record, on the following day, June 19th, he walked back into the recruiting office and re-enlisted for another four years. During this second enlistment Sam was attached to the U.S.S. Louisiana. And it was during this enlistment; on April 15, 1918 that he attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer and Chief Printer. He received his second honorable discharge on June 18, 1920. Sam had deep convictions with regard to serving his country, and it seemed that it was in the service of his country that he wanted to spend his life. So on the following day, he again re-enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
Sam had a reputation of being an outspoken individual with regard to his political views. Besides his love for family and belief in the God of his ancestors, Sam vocalized a deep love and loyalty to his country and his belief in the causes for which his country was involved. As a result of repeated acts of German aggression at sea, President Woodrow Wilson had declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. This sparked the war effort of 1917 as well as the creation of the War Industrial Board. All levels of American society were encouraged to do their part to help the country carry forth this war to defend liberty and democracy. Sam had very deep convictions regarding the war effort and Americas involvement in the war. As an older man, Sams brother Harry recalled that at the start of the First World War when Sam would come home on leave, the two young men would spend time walking down the busy avenues of New York City while Sam would speak of Navy life and his convictions about the war. Harry remembered that on more than one occasion as he and his brother were walking down the crowded avenues, Sam would look out over the crowds of people passing by. He would then find a wooden crate and place it at a street corner. Then without any premeditation or rehearsal he would jump up onto the crate and with a loud booming voice he would call out to the throngs of people passing by. As the people would gather around to hear him, Sam would passionately exhort his fellow Americans of the rightness of their countrys course in aiding the allies in this war to defend and preserve liberty and democracy. Then Sam would encourage the people to do all they could do personally in assisting the war effort through the purchase of United States War Bonds. From this time onward Sams convictions earned him a reputation among family, friends and acquaintances of being a gifted public speaker who possessed the ability to speak very powerfully, passionately and persuasively.
Three months into Sams third enlistment he was attached to the U.S.S. Columbia. Prior to Columbias departure from her home port of Philadelphia in September of 1920, Lieutenant Commander Miller spoke to Captain Hellwig about a concern he had regarding one of the new crew members. Miller told the Captain that he felt it in the best interest of the ship and crew if Raymond Parkinson Gill, printer First Class be left in Philadelphia and not be allowed to sail south with the Columbia. Miller explained that Gill was a bad influence on the ship and that he was known to be a Bolshevik and an anarchist. Captain Hellwig agreed with Commander Miller, but since Gill belonged to the Staff, the matter had to be taken before the Staff. Captain Hellwig sent for M.P. Refo Jr, Lieutenant Commander, Flag Secretary to Commander Train, Atlantic Fleet. The Captain told Commander Refo of the report and recommendation hed received from Commander Miller with regard to Raymond Gill. Refo told the Captain that he believed Gill to be an excellent worker and that he was too valuable to the ship to transfer elsewhere. Captain Hellwig acknowledged the force of Commander Refos argument, but explained that he had just taken command of the Columbia, and he wanted to free the ship from any disturbing influence that might adversely affect the ship later on. The Captain stated that it was his belief as well as the belief of the Executive Officer that Gill ought to be left in Philadelphia before the ship went south. But the decision of the Staff prevailed, so Gill was allowed to remain onboard the Columbia for her next assignment in the Caribbean.
Within the hulls of any naval ship there is always a melting pot of political convictions as well as religious beliefs and ideals. But perhaps nowhere was there a greater clash of ideas than that which existed in Columbias print shop between Sam Diamond and Ray Gill. Sam held strongly and vocally to his loyalty to Americas ideals and his faith in God, while Ray Gill was an outspoken Bolshevik and professing atheist.
Not long after the Columbias departure from Philadelphia, late into the nights, Diamond and Gill could be heard arguing in the Print Shop. Their arguments were loud and heated, and witnesses to these nightly disputes said the printers argued about everything from the duties within the Print Shop, to politics and religion. On one occasion late one night the hollering between Diamond and Gill became exceptionally loud and vulgar. So loud was their yelling and so profane was their language that Ensign Good, whose cabin was next to the print shop got out of bed and went into the Print Shop and reproved both Diamond and Gill for the foulness of their language, especially as that night the Chaplains wife was onboard with the Chaplain just a few feet up the corridor from the Print Shop.
The tension between Diamond and Gill soon began to spill over into the daytime work in the Print Shop. As a result of Gills resentment toward his superior, he began making attempts to frame Diamond. His first attempt at framing Diamond occurred when Gill planted some printing type in Diamonds locker. Gill then took five photographs of the type and brought the pictures before the officers of the ship to show that he had caught Diamond trying to steal type from the Print Shop. When this attempt at framing Diamond failed Gill then reported to the officers that Diamond was engaged in sharp financial practice. Gill explained that Diamond was taking things he had printed on the Columbia such as the ships newspaper, menus, etc, and when he had the occasion he would sell these things at exorbitant prices. Once this matter was looked into it too was found to be false. On another occasion Gill reported to the officers that Diamond had put together a plan for the counterfeiting of Peruvian money. When Gill was asked how Diamond was going to do this, Gill replied that he himself had been approached by Diamond, who had asked him to assist him in the counterfeiting of Peruvian currency. Gill went on to explain that Diamond had assured him that he had easy access to the plates in New York. After an investigation was conducted it was found that this also was another attempt on Gills part to discredit his superior on false charges.
The tension between the two men was well known throughout the ship. It even became a common saying onboard the Columbia that the printers got along like cats and dogs. It was at this point in time that certain crew members and officers later recalled that on various occasions they heard Gill make threats toward Diamond. On one occasion Gill said, someday someone will get Diamond. On another occasion Gill was overheard saying, That son of a bitch, Ill get him.
In March of 1921 while the Columbia was stationed at Guantanamo Bay Diamond took aside his old friend of eight years, Arden Handy, Seaman 2nd Class and began to explain to him his concerns about Gill. Diamond told Handy that he personally held no ill will toward Gill, but that he knew Gill like a book and that he had also come to learn of Gills past criminal history. Diamond explained to Handy that he knew it was only a matter of time before Gill would act against him again. Diamond believed that Gill would either again attempt to run him up on false charges or else try to steal some of Diamonds many souvenirs. Diamond confessed that he was now lying awake at night in order to watch over the souvenirs. So certain was Diamond that Gill would soon act out against him in one of these two ways that Diamond asked Handy to promise to stand by him and to testify on his behalf in that day. To this Handy agreed.
It was almost 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday when Columbias, crew had finished eating and most were preparing to attend the moving picture show that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on the main deck. On this evening there was a steady stream of visitors who stopped into the Print Shop to chat with the printers, each for a few minutes, and then move on. As the stream of men would come and go, Diamond was sitting on his cot reading a book while Gill was standing and leaning against a type case writing a letter. At the time when J. Anderson, storekeeper was in the Print Shop Diamond looked toward Anderson and in a concerned personal tone asked Anderson how he had been doing of late. Anderson replied that he was not doing well at all. To which Diamond inquired why? Anderson explained that he had worked at Guantanamo Bay for three years prior to his enlistment in the Navy. Then just after his enlistment in the Navy he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay for what was supposed to be only one year. Anderson explained that he was completing his second year at Guantanamo Bay and that he very much dislikes this place and was eager to leave. After hearing of Andersons frustration Diamond told him to cheer up, as the ship would definitely be going north soon. Anderson said hed be glad when that happened. At that point, it being about 7:15 Anderson left the Print Shop as Diamond went back to reading his book and Gill continued writing his letter.
It was now 7:25 p.m. and Earl Johnson, Seaman 2nd Class was on the port side of the main deck making his way to the moving picture show. As he was doing so he was approached by Raymond Gill. Gill moved in closely to Johnson, grabbed his hand and in a whisper told Johnson that something was going to happen before morning. Gill immediately scurried off and went below deck. Johnson continued to the show not sure what to make of what Gill had said. Ray Gill was generally regarded as an erratic and a rather peculiar fellow, and therefore many of the things he would say were not taken especially seriously.
It was now 9:35 p.m. aboard the Columbia and the greater part of the Ships Company, officers and men were attending the moving picture show. Suddenly a figure appeared coming up the hatch from below deck. As the figure emerged from the hatchway he called out in a loud voice, Is the Executive Officer present? Immediately Lieutenant Commander Miller stood up and peered into the darkness to see who had called out to him. Miller recognized Ray Gill and said to him, What do you want? Gill replied, I want to be locked up. Miller asked him what for, and Gill replied that he could not say. Miller summoned the Chief Master-at-Arms to bring Gill to his office, while Miller also called for Lieutenant Hargrave, the senior medical officer on board for the purpose of examining Gill. Once seated in Millers office, Gill began to cry. Miller noticed a spot of bright blood on Gills pants, but he gave it no thought at that moment. Dr. Hargrave, having arrived at Millers office was ordered to accompany Gill who was in the custody of the Chief Master-at-Arms to Sick Bay and evaluate him. Once in Sick Bay Gill was crying and in a very nervous state and unwilling to answer any questions as to the reason for his present condition.
At the same time that Dr. Hargrave was beginning his examination of Gill, below deck Chief Electrician Helmerson happened to be walking down the corridor leading by the Print Shop. As he was doing so he heard a very loud and peculiar snoring sound coming from the Shop. Being curious about such an unusual sound, he peered in. Upon doing so he saw Diamond lying on his cot in a pool of blood. Helmerson immediately came running aft and hollered up to the Officer-of-the-Deck demanding to know where the doctor was. Meanwhile, Commander Miller, who was standing on deck pondering Gills strange conduct, heard Helmersons cries from below deck. Miller yelled down to Helmerson saying, Whats the matter? Helmerson replied, Something has happened to Diamond, the Chief Printer.
Back in Sick Bay Dr. Hargrave was attempting to evaluate Gill when suddenly a pharmacist mate threw open the door and made the announcement that the Chief Electrician had been walking by the Print Shop and found the Chief Printer seriously hurt. Dr. Hargrave left Gill in Sick Bay in the custody of the Chief Master-at-Arms while he himself ran below deck to the Print Shop. Upon arriving at the Shop Hargrave found Diamond lying on his cot in an unconscious condition his head and face covered with blood and breathing very heavily. He was laying on his right side with his head resting on the edge of the cot and the injured side of his head turned upward. He was dressed in his underwear and was partially covered with a blanket. His cot was soaked with blood and there was a pool of blood on the floor beneath his head. As Hargrave began to examine Diamond he immediately saw a large triangular penetrating wound behind Diamonds left ear with evidence of a severe fracture of the skull beneath the wound.
As Dr. Hargrave was examining the severity and extent of Diamonds injury, Executive Officer Miller and Captain Hellwig rushed into the Print Shop. Hargrave immediately conveyed to Captain Hellwig and Commander Miller that Diamonds injuries were life threatening and therefore he must be immediately transferred to the hospital ship the U.S.S. Relief for emergency medical treatment. Upon hearing this Captain Hellwig ran on deck and gave orders that the gig be made ready for an emergency trip. The Captain then proceeded to the bridge deck where the ships company was still watching the moving picture show, and with a loud voice he called out into the darkness that if anybody could run a motor boat he was to get out to the gig double time as this was an emergency. The gig now being made ready, the Captain gave orders for J. A. Topper Lieutenant (MC), a medical Officer on board the Columbia to be called from his cabin and to report to Sick Bay to examine Gill, whose peculiar actions over the last few minutes had cast suspicion upon him. Within minutes of the Captains order, a gig carrying Diamond, Dr. Hargrave, Columbias chaplain and two enlisted men was making its way to the Relief.
Dr. Topper responded to orders to report to Sick Bay, but between the shock and confusion over all that had occurred, the Captain failed to tell Dr. Topper of the murderous attempt made on Diamonds life. So as Dr. Topper was examining Gill he did not know why he was ordered to do so; he only knew that it was an order from the Captain. As Topper was examining Gill he was not able to make any progress, for Gill was crying and in a hysterical condition. Finally, out of frustration with Gill, Topper said to him, If you want me to help you, tell me your trouble! To which Gill replied, No doctor can help me for what I did. Dr. Topper knew nothing of the attack on Diamond, so hearing such a strange response from Gill caused the doctor to take note of this unexpected comment.
The gig having arrived alongside the Relief, Dr. Hargrave explained to the chief doctors of the Relief the severity of Diamonds condition, and the doctors hurried him away for surgery.
Upon removal of the blood soaked gauze there was revealed a large triangular wound directly behind the left ear. The lower wound was determined to be a large compound and comminuted fracture. Extending about three inches from this original wound was a long laceration fracture which extended upward through the mastoid portion of the temporal lobe and onto the vertex of the skull above the left ear. Branching off of this long fracture were many smaller radiating fractures of the skull.
The doctors made an incision through the lower wound extending upward through the swollen area. On deepening the incision and exploring they found that a portion of the bone about two or three inches in diameter had been driven inward by the force of the blow. These depressed fragments of bone were lifted out revealing the dura, which was without pulsation. In addition, the dura was tense, bulging and discolored by the clots of blood beneath it. The doctors incised the dura and still no pulsation was detected. It was at this point that the doctors realized that in spite of surgical interference, the extent of this injury made it inevitable that death would occur within a few hours. Therefore the doctors closed the wound in the best possible way, applied a loose bandage and Diamond was taken to a quiet room. Death came seven hours later, at 5:25 a.m. Sunday March 13, 1921. The cause of death was intra-cranial injury due to a compound comminuted fracture of the skull involving the left temporal and parietal regions of the skull.
It was early Sunday morning on Columbia when the news was received that Diamond had died at 5:25 a.m. as a result of the injury he had received. By this time Commander Miller remembered that when he had first spoken to Gill in his office, he had noticed blood on Gills trousers. Orders were immediately sent to Ellis Gamber, Coxswain, who was acting as Master-at-Arms to go to the brig and have Gills trousers removed. Gamber went to the brig and was accompanied by R.F. Rice, who was the brig sentry on watch that morning. Once the two men were in Gills presence Gill was ordered to remove his trousers. Upon receiving this order, in the presence of Gamber and Rice Gill said, I was a fool not to get rid of these trousers last night, but nobody knows how that blood got on there but me. Once the trousers were viewed by the officers it was seen that they contained one large spot of blood along with many smaller splashes of blood.
A thorough search was made of the Print Shop in an attempt to piece together the events surrounding Diamonds death and also to locate the murder weapon. A delicately balanced type case was found leaning up against a locker only a foot from Diamonds cot. The delicate balance of the type case indicated that no struggle had taken place between Diamond and his assailant, as any struggle would have caused the type case to fall over. So it seems that Diamond was asleep when the attack occurred.
An inspection of the print shop in the area surrounding Diamonds cot revealed many blood spots splattered on the wall and lockers. The blood spots were fresh and when measured the majority of them were found to be 32 inches above the ground. When Gills trousers were examined it was found that the majority of the blood stains on them were also 32 inches from the ground.
As the search for the murder weapon was being carried on it was noted that the large heavy port wrench belonging to the print shop was missing. As the sailors were gathered together and questioned it was recollected that the previous Wednesday, in preparation for the Captains weekly inspection Diamond had ordered Gill to take the port wrench out of the shop and bring it to the port side of the ship and hang it in its specified overhead rack. Gill had indeed done this because Frank Lozeau, Seaman 2nd class recalled that on Thursday March 10th he saw the large wrench hung up in its rack and borrowed it for a few hours and then returned it to the rack. In addition Jack Morton, Seaman recalled that on the previous afternoon, that is the afternoon of Saturday the 12th he saw this port wrench hung up in its specified rack, and as he was walking past it, he grabbed onto it and swung on it. However, on the next day, the morning of Sunday the 13th a thorough search was made throughout the ship for the port wrench, but it could not be found. A diving party was then sent out to search the waters below Columbia in an attempt to locate the wrench. But the murky conditions of the water made finding the wrench impossible.
On the morning of Sunday March 13, 1921 the Commanding Train of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet gave the order for a Court of Inquiry to be held for the purpose of inquiring into circumstances surrounding the death of Samuel Jacob Diamond, late Chief Printer, U.S. Navy, U.S.S. Columbia. After four days of examinations, it was the opinion of the Court of Inquiry that,
Samuel Jacob Diamond, late Chief Printer, U.S. Navy, met his death from a blow inflicted by Raymond P. Gill, Printer First Class, U.S. Navy, at about 9:00 p.m. on March 12, 1921, on board the U.S.S. Columbia, then moored in the harbor of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
On April 22, 1921 the Navy Departments Bureau of Investigation sent a copy of the Court of Inquiry to the office of the Judge Advocate General. The letter accompanying the Court of Inquiry reads as follows:
In accordance with the Departments instructions the Bureau has this date directed the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Columbia to transfer Raymond P. Gill, Printer First Class, U.S. Navy, to the receiving ship at Philadelphia upon its arrival at that place in order that he may be turned over to the Federal Civil Authorities for trial. The Bureau has also communicated with the Department of Justice urgently requesting that Gills trial be conducted during the six weeks which the U.S.S. Columbia and the U.S.S. Relief are scheduled to stay at the Navy Yard at Philadelphia.
Samuel J. Diamond, Chief Printer, U.S.S. Columbia
April 10, 1894-March 13, 1921
Beloved Son, Brother, Husband, Father and Patriot
January of 1916. Sam Diamond is the young man on left, above. I don't know who the light haired young fellow is but it may be his old friend of eight years, Arden Handy, Seaman 2nd Class. They may be both home on leave. Sam would have been almost 22 when this was taken.
Sam Diamond posing by a small deck gun aboard the Columbia.
These two shots were obviously taken minutes apart. You'll notice the same people and same animals in almost the same positions. Perhaps this was R&R time on board the Columbia.
Sam Diamond is in both pictures. He's the sailor that is kneeling and giving something to the dog in the top picture. And in the bottom picture Sam Diamond is the one standing and leaning forward toward the dog and giving something to the dog. In that picture Sam's rank is visible on his arm. I believe it signifies 2nd class Petty Officer.
As I find names and stories of men who have served on the Columbia, I will list them here. Please if you know of someone or have information to share about this ship contact me and I will add it to this page.
He was born on March 26, 1884, to Isaac and Jemina Campbell Kidd of Cleveland, Ohio. On appointment from his native state, he then entered the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated as a Passed Midshipman on February 12, 1906. Passed Midshipman Kidd first served on USS Columbia, which carried the Marine Expeditionary Force to the Canal Zone. On May 17, 1907, he reported to USS New Jersey. During this tour, he completed the two years at sea then required before commissioning and was commissioned an Ensign, USN, on February 13, 1908. He transferred on May 2, 1910, to USS North Dakota, where he served until June 1913, except for target practice and training duty at Annapolis during the winter of 1911-12. He then joined USS Pittsburgh on June 30, 1913, and during the Mexican trouble of 1914-16 he served as First Lieutenant. Following this tour, he served as Aide and Flag Secretary on the staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, aboard the flagships Pittsburgh and San Diego. He returned to the Naval Academy in August 1916 and was serving as an instructor on the Academic Staff when the United States entered World War I.
In September 1938, Capt. Kidd assumed command of the battleship Arizona, serving until February 1940. He was then designated Commander Battleship Division ONE and Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Battleships, Battle Force, with the accompanying rank of Rear Admiral. RADM Kidd was serving in that billet when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In the attack, RADM Kidd became the first flag officer to lose his life in World War II, and the first in the U.S. Navy to meet death in action against any foreign enemy. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, with citation as follows:
"For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese Forces on December 7, 1941. He immediately went to the bridge and as Commander Battleship Division ONE, courageously discharged his duties as Senior Officer Present Afloat until the USS ARIZONA, his Flagship, blew up from magazine explosions and a direct bomb hit on the bridge, which resulted in the loss of his life."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, RADM Kidd was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He previously had won the Cuban Pacification Medal (USS Columbia), the Mexican Service Medal (USS Pittsburgh), and the World War I Victory Medal, Atlantic Fleet Clasp (USS New Mexico). He was also entitled to the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one engagement star; and the World War II Victory Medal.
USS KIDD (DD-661) and USS KIDD (DDG-993) were both named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., one of the first American naval heroes of World War II.
In Arlington National Cemetery in Section 7, Site 10092-D lays the grave of Rear Admiral Harry Lerch Brinser. He was born to Jewish parents on November 11 of 1876 in Middletown, Pennsylvania. His fathers name was Christian L. Brinser and his mothers name was Mary A. Lerch, and Harry’s middle name of Lerch came from his mother’s maiden name.
Christian L. Brinser was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1849. Mary A. Lerch was also born in Dauphin County, her birth being in April of 1849. Christian and Mary would live their entire life in and around Dauphin County. Christian was a butcher by trade, and together he and Mary would raise four children: Claude E. born in May of 1874; Harry L. born in November 1876; Anna V. born in November of 1878, and Elise born in September of 1893.
In June of 1880 the Brinser family lived in the borough of Steelton in Dauphin, County. Steelton is located about 3-miles southeast of Harrisburg and was the location of the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Several brickyards, flouring mills and machine shops along with the massive steel mill all were located along the Susquehanna River in Steelton. Christian Brinser being a butcher would have been a busy man cutting meat for all the workmen and their families growing up and working along the river in the factories. This was where young Harry Brinser grew to be a man and from these same streets also came another young man who would serve his Country with distinction in the military as Harry Brinser did. Homer Litzenberg was also born in Steelton and during the Korean War Litzenberg commanded the 7th Marine Regiment during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
Harry Brinser grew into a young man and felt the calling to serve his Country, but we will never know exactly what drew him to the United States Navy for sure. We do know that on September 6, 1895 he entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland as a Freshmen Cadet. During the Spanish-American War Naval Cadet Harry L. Brinser was sent to sea duty aboard the famous battleship USS Oregon. Cadet Brinser’s duties aboard the Oregon in 1898 were looking after the supplies in the after parts of the Oregon. At the time all Midshipman were sent for sea duty for 2-years before becoming Commissioned as an Officer in the Navy. Of the officers who served aboard the Oregon during the Spanish-American war at least 7 would go on to serve as flag officers in the US Navy, Cadet Brinser was among this group. One of the other Naval Cadets serving along with Brinser was William D. Leahy who during WWII would become the Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt. Interestingly enough Cadet Leahy’s duties aboard the Oregon were to oversee the forward Hydraulic Pump Room. After his duties were finished on the Oregon Cadet Brinser was sent to the USS Brooklyn (CA-3).
The Brooklyn after the Spanish-American War was detailed for Asiatic duty, and she sailed for the Philippines on October 16, 1899. Aboard the Brooklyn were six Naval Cadets, and among the six was Midshipman Harry L. Brinser. The Brooklyn became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet under command of Rear Admiral George Dewey and later in 1900 took part in the North China Relief Expedition commonly known as the Boxer Rebellion.
Once Midshipman Brinser was fully commissioned as an Ensign into the United States Navy in 1901 he continued on in active service. Brinser advanced from Ensign to Lieutenant, junior grade, and was transferred from the Brooklyn to the USS Marietta (PG-15), which was a Schooner-rigged gunboat of 189 feet in length. Lt. (j.g.) Brinser would have served aboard the Marietta during 1902-03 while she was serving in Caribbean waters. The Marietta spent a year and five months cruising these waters protecting American interests in Columbia, Haiti, Jamaica, Venezuela, Trinidad, Curacao, and Honduras. She also had the duty of making mail runs for the American Legations stationed in that region.
Lt. (j.g.) Brinser briefly served aboard the cruiser USS Columbia in 1903 as part of Rear Admiral Royal B. Bradford’s Atlantic Training Squadron. This would be the first of two times that Brinser would serve aboard the Columbia, in 1918 he would serve as her commanding officer.
Lt. (j.g.) Brinser on January 1, 1905 was advanced in rank to full Lieutenant. At the time his signal call letters were EDBQ and in March of 1906 was assigned to duty aboard the USS Vermont (BB-20).
By April of 1910 Brinser is living at the Bachelor Officers Quarters at the Naval Academy. At the time he was a 34-year old single man, and he was taking a post-graduate course in Engineering at the Academy.
During 1911 Brinser is now serving at the rank of Lt. Commander and was now serving aboard the new battleship USS Wyoming (BB-32). Lt. Commander Brinser serves aboard the Wyoming for the next 4-years. In June of 1915 Brinser is transferred from the Wyoming to duty as the Recorder for the Board of Inspections and Survey, and is made full Commander on September 30, 1916.
By 1917 Brinser has had over 15 total years of sea duty and was advanced to the rank of Captain on May 22, 1917. In late July 1917 Captain Brinser received orders to proceed to Hoboken, New Jersey to take command of a former German passenger liner that was confiscated by the United States Government due to Germany and America being in a state of war. The German vessel was named SS Barbarossa and on August 3, 1917 the vessel was formerly commissioned into the United States Navy under the command of Captain Harry L. Brinser. Captain Brinser received an order from the Navy Department on September 6, 1917 to change the name of the former German vessel from Barbarossa to USS Mercury. The newly named ship was to be used to carry United States Army troops to France and join the battle, which was already in its third year of bloodshed.
Aboard the Mercury Captain Brinser made five round trip crossings with troops to France, until he received his next assignment. On August 5, 1918 Captain Brinser is handed a dispatch that orders him to turn over command of the Mercury to his Executive Officer Lt. Commander Prentiss Bassett and report to Captain Frank Upham, the Commanding Officer of the cruiser USS Columbia to take command of that ship.
During the war years Captain Brinser makes many crossings of the Atlantic both in the Mercury carrying troops and aboard the USS Columbia escorting these troops. For his service during those dangerous days he is awarded the Navy Cross for distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the USS Mercury and the USS Columbia, engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines. He also was awarded the Legion of Merit medal and an official letter of commendation was placed in his personal file.
During 1919 Captain Brinser fell in love with Natalie Meylert Bulkley (b. May 15, 1891 d. March 6, 1966), and in early November 1919 they were married in the home of Natalie’s parents on 19th Street in Washington, DC. Together Harry and Natalie would have one son named Harry Meylert Brinser, and he would follow in his father’s footsteps and serve in the Navy. Harry M. Brinser was a naval officer and served during the Second World War in combat in the Pacific theater.
Sometime during 1920 a group of Army and Navy officers began to feel the need for a school for boys who were 14-years and younger. This group of officers joined together and laid the groundwork for a school that would be modeled after both of the service academies at West Point and Annapolis. Once officially formed the group began to work on the funding of the school and Captain Harry L. Brinser served as its Vice-President. The school was to be known as the National Military and Naval Academy.
After his service aboard the Columbia is over Brinser turns over command of the Columbia to Captain William B. Wells and is ordered to report to Lt. E. G. Affleck aboard the Destroyer Tender USS Rigel (AR-11) to take command of that vessel. On June 26, 1922 Captain Brinser relieves Lt. Affleck and takes command. He is captain of the Rigel until February 24, 1924 when his term is up.
Captain Brinser attended and graduated from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island in 1928. And on June 14, 1932 Captain Brinser again was assigned to sea duty. He relieved Captain Edward B. Fenner as the commanding officer of the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41). The Mississippi operated off the west coast of the United States, and she frequently sailed into Caribbean and Atlantic waters for exercises during the winter months. Captain Brinser was relieved when his term as commanding officer was up by Captain William D. Puleston on July 5, 1932. Later in 1932 Captain Brinser was advanced to Rear Admiral.
Brinser’s next assignment was a shore duty assignment, and during 1933-1934 he was the Director of Navy Yards. This was a relative new position in the navy being created in 1911. The Director of Navy Yards job was to oversee and manage standardized work methods of all Navy Yards, track and manage all cost of work, and to manage civilian work needs and labor issues.
While serving as the Director of Navy Yards RADM Brinser in January of 1933 is selected as a member of a board consisting of nine Rear Admirals and one Commander as the recorder, which was directed by the Navy Department to select 44 Lt. Commanders out of 450 that would be advanced in grade to full Commander.
On March 22, 1934 Rear Admiral Brinser was detached from his present duty and ordered to take command of Cruiser Division 4. His flagship was the heavy cruiser USS Chester (CA-27). During his command of Cruiser Division 4 RADM Brinser transported George Dern, the Secretary of War along with his party to the Philippines for the inauguration on November 15, 1935 of Manuel L. Quezon, the President of the Philippines Commonwealth. Brinser’s Cruiser Division also had the honor of escorting President Franklin Roosevelt sailing aboard the President’s favorite ship the USS Indianapolis, on a good-will tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Montevideo, and Uruguay in mid November of 1936. After returning from the South American cruise Cruiser Division 4 remained off the West Coast of the United States and took part in training cruises to Hawaii and Alaska.
While Commanding Officer of Cruiser Division 4, RADM Brinser’s division was anchored in San Pedro Bay just off Los Angeles, California on April 4, 1936. That day a gale force wind was blowing with winds of 46 knots producing very rough seas in the bay. At about 1:30 PM RADM Brinser was in his barge making way along side the USS Northampton, one of the other cruisers in the bay. Brinser was going aboard the Northampton and was along side the cruiser when the sea produced a large swell and carried the bow of the barge under the gangway of the Northampton, thereby lifting the gangway and ripping the gangway ladder away from the cruiser’s side. The force of this threw RADM Brinser into the sea between the barge and the hull of the Northampton placing him in mortal danger of being crushed or drowned. Instantly a Yeoman by the name of Charles Edward Emrick of the USS Chester, without thinking of the danger he was putting his own life into, jumped into the dangerous waters and rendered assistance to Admiral Brinser. Then Harry C. Smith, Yoeman 1st Class assisted both Yoeman Emrick and the Admiral to a position on the lower platform of the gangway, which was clear of the sea, thereby saving both lives.
For his actions Yeoman Emrick received an official letter from Admiral William H. Standley, the acting Secretary of the Navy. In the letter Admiral Standley stated in part: “The commander, Cruiser Division 4, Scouting Force, has brought to the attention of the Navy Department your commendable action in rescuing Rear Admiral Brinser from drowning or severe injury in San Pedro Bay on April 4, 1936.” Admiral Standley went on to say, “The department commends you for your prompt and courageous action on this occasion. Such action is in keeping with the best traditions of the naval service. A copy of this letter will be made a part of your official service record.”
After his duty as Commander of Cruiser Division 4 was over Brinser was again assigned to duty with the Board of Inspections and Survey from July 1937 through December of 1940. In January of 1938 RADM Brinser was the senior member of that board. On March 21, 1939 RADM Brinser sails aboard the cruiser USS Phoenix from Boston Harbor for sea. It was unknown what this cruise was but because there were a large number of civilian naval engineers aboard it may have been connected with the salvage and inquiry of the submarine USS Squalus that sank off the Isle of Shoals at 07:40 on May 23, 1939.
As president of the Board of Inspections and Survey Brinser presided over the Court of Inquiry held in September 1939 into the sinking of the Squalus. The Board wanted to determine the exact cause of the sinking in order that something may be learned from this event. In most cases, the ship would have been written off. But with the threat of war slowly becoming apparent in Europe, the U.S. Navy was determined to salvage the sunken sub not only to discover exactly what went wrong with what was essentially the forerunner of a whole new line of submarines, but also to return her to service. After several attempts, the Squalus was raised on September 13, just over one hundred days after the ship’s sinking. Refloated, the bodies were removed and the sub was brought to the Portsmouth Shipyard, where the faulty valve, which caused the sinking, was discovered. A new valve design replaced the defective part, a move that undoubtedly made later US submarines safer for their sailors, who would help win the war in the Pacific.
On January 3, 1949 RADM Brinser and five other officers of the Board of Inspections and Survey made a routine inspection of a new destroyer recently completed at the Charleston Navy Yard. The destroyer was the USS Sterett (DD-407) and she would during her distinguished career earn 12 battle stars and the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation for World War II service.
Nearing the end of his naval career, Brinser on November 1, 1940 while serving with the Board of Inspections and Survey was the 21st ranking officer in the navy. In December of 1940 Rear Admiral Harry L. Brinser retired from active service with the navy. But the following December he was recalled to active service after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and pulled the United States Navy into war once again. During the war RADM Brinser served as the Inspector of Naval Material in New York City. This position he held until his death on December 9, 1945.
As the Inspector of Naval Material RADM Brinser had to deal with many private corporations that supplied materials and parts to the navy. One such company was the Worthington Pump and Machinery Corporation of New Jersey. They had had a working relationship with the navy that dated back to 1847 and the building of the first USS Powhatan. In 1943 the Worthington Corporation was awarded its 19th Navy “E” and in a speech RADM Brinser gave in speaking of the Worthington company he said in part, “ You are one big company that has turned out everything on time, you have never been a problem for the Navy. You’ve delivered the goods.”
Admiral Brinser’s wife, Natalie survived him and she passed away on March 6, 1966 and was buried next to her husband the Admiral, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Rear Admiral Harry Lerch Brinser, USN (Ret.)
The Admiral is shown posing for the photographer setting on the arm of a chair.
In his left hand he is holding a cigar and he is wearing a ring that is likely his Naval Academy ring.
Earl H. Staniels, USN
During WWI the USS Columbia’s crew was made up of seasoned veterans and new sailors alike. One such new sailor was Earl H. Staniels. This is known from the front cover of his U. S. Navy Bluejacket manual in which he signed “Earl H. Staniels 21 Hammond St. Concord NH USS Columbia 1918.” In June of 2012 this same Bluejacket Manual was sold on auction for $122.50.
Earl Staniels was born in the late 1899 or the spring of 1900. His parents were Charles H. Staniels born about 1865 in New Hampshire, and Jennie B. Davis who was born about 1870 also in New Hampshire. During the Spanish-American War Charles H. Staniels was a Captain in Company C, First New Hampshire Volunteers.
Charles married Jennie B. Davis about 1890 and together they had their first child a son named Edgar C. born about 1893. Another son, Earl H., who was born about 1899-1900, followed this. And then about 1902-03 a third son named Ralph L. was born.
In 1910 the Charles H. Staniels family lived on Loudon Road in Concord, New Hampshire, where Charles worked as a brakeman for the Boston & Maine Railroad. Edgar the eldest son was working as a farm laborer at the time.
At the time of the beginning of the First World War the Charles Staniels family had now moved to a home at 21 Hammond Street in Concord. Earl Staniels was then a student and was living with his parents on Hammond Street.
As the United States entered into the war Earl H. Staniels joined the Navy. He may have felt it was his duty to join or he may have felt the calling from the example his father had set by serving as an officer during the Spanish-American War. What ever the reason Earl Staniels was now serving aboard the cruiser USS Columbia helping to convoy troops across the Atlantic Ocean.
After the war in 1919 Earl was still in the navy but may not have been aboard the Columbia as he is listed on a 1919 Concord, NH city directory as living at 21 Hammond Street, the home of his parents. By 1920 Earl H. Staniels was working as a clerk at the YMCA in Concord. Earl was still living with his parents but now the family home was now at 30 Hall Street in Concord.
On the 1920 Federal Census Earl H. Staniels is listed as “Howard E.” His middle name may have been Howard and he may also have during his lifetime been known as “Howard.” But it is clearly Earl as the age is correct and his occupation was listed as Assistant at the YMCA. Earl’s father Charles was still working for the Boston & Maine Railroad, he was now listed as Conductor, so he must have moved up from Brakeman.
During 1923-24 Charles H. Staniels was the Commander of the New Hampshire Veterans Association. The family home was still at 30 Hall Street in Concord by 1924 and Charles was still with the B&M RR now working as a Yard Conductor. There is a listing for Earl H. Staniels in a 1924 Concord city directory that states he moved to Prescott, Arizona.
If Earl did move to Arizona sometime in 1924 this was short lived as he died on March 28, 1925 in Concord, New Hampshire. It was believed that Earl H. Staniels never married and had no children.
Port side photo of the USS Columbia taken by famed photographer E. Muller as she looked in 1904.
This is a port side stern view of the Columbia proudly flying the colors. If you look closely you can see her name on her stern. This was a postal card and was postmarked 5 June 1917 from Newport News, VA. It was send by a crewman of the Columbia to a Mr. L. W. Johnson, 1238 Seminole Ave., Detroit, MI and the message reads: "A pretty good view of our ship don't you think. Just had a letter from the girls. Will write." Signed "Wilfred"
This photo is identified as "Gobs and a Santa Cruz Chicken" dated January 1919. A Columbia crewman named Ed wrote this on the back of the photo: "Some Chick. I sure got next to her. Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba."
Ed writes on this photo: "Taking advantage of a Liberty party at Santa cruz del Sur, Cuba, Ed."
Another one of the photos identified by Columbia crewmen named Ed. He writes: "January 1919, Hot? I should say, USS Columbia, "
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