A pre-war post card of the Hamburg-Amerika Line Steam Ship President Lincoln
She was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Ireland in 1903 as ship No. 353 and was an 18,084 gross ton ship. She was 598' 8" in length and a beam of 68'2" with one funnel and six masts. Her twin screws gave her a top speed of 14 knots. She had accommodations for 202 First Class, 153 Second Class, 788 Third Class and 2,300 Fourth-class passengers.
She was launched on 8 October 1903 as the Scotian for Wilson's & Furness-Leyland Line, but the order was cancelled and she was uncompleted for many months and laid up in an unfinished state until purchased by Hamburg America Line (HAPAG) of Hamburg, Germany in 1906. Her first intended name was Chicago but was changed to Berlin on 20 May 1907. Berlin was delivered to HAPAG as the President Wilson and she was fitted out as 18,168 tons with quadruple-expansion engines giving her a top speed of 14.5 knots.
She now had passenger accommodations of 324 in First class, 152 in Second class, 1,004 in Third class, 2,348 in steerage and a crew of 344. Shortly after delivery to HAPAG she was again renamed and now took the name of President Lincoln.
She commenced her maiden voyage on 6 January 1907 when she sailed from Hamburg for Boulogne, Southampton and New York. At the time of her maiden voyage, the President Lincoln was both the largest freighter and the largest emigrant carrier in the world.
On Friday November 1, 1912 the SS President Lincoln began another westbound sailing from Hamburg to New York, via Southampton and Boulogne-sur-Mer. Her senior officers and staff were as follows:
|Captain: Witt||Fourth Engineer: Kl Tietje||Assistant Chief Steward: C. Rickert|
|First Officer: E. Knorr||Electrician: P. Lass||Chief Cook: E. Richter|
|Second Officer: C. Manitius||First Physician: Dr. C. Hofmann||First Cook: H Meeker|
|Second Officer: H Laudi||Second Physician: Dr. L. Rabl||Representative of the Hamburg-America Line, passenger department: G. Bryde|
|Second Officer: H Mössinger||Purser: A. Hagenow||Baggage Master: H. Scharlau|
|Third Officer: H Petersen||Provision Master: O. Zietlow|
|Fourth Officer: E. v. Stenglin||Assistant Purser: El Sachs|
|Chief Engineer: O. Hirsch||Assistant Purser: O. Wurthmann|
|Second Engineer: C. Lehmann||First Chief Steward: H. Westermann|
|Third Engineer: Cl Gieschen||Second Chief Steward: F. Ladendorf|
|Third Engineer: C. Hartlein||Third Chief Steward: C. Driever|
|Fourth Engineer: A. Born||Assistant Chief Steward: H. Jalant|
During the years after her maiden voyage life aboard ship for her crew was sometimes routine and the days just felt they all ran together. But there was that one day in 1913 during a West bound crossing to America that was a bit exciting for one of the ships cooks named Otto Winkle. The ‘Lincoln’ had left Hamburg and made a stop in Southampton and then out into the open Atlantic bound for New York, but aboard the ‘Lincoln’ a special cargo was loaded, which was a live hippopotamus that was berthed in a cage on deck forward of the bridge. The big hippo had been consigned to the Cincinnati zoo, and was said to be the largest hippo ever brought to America at the time. The hippo was a curious passenger and down in the ships galleys Otto Winkle really paid the hippo no mind. On about the third day out from Southampton, Cook Winkle felt he needed some air and was sitting on the rail of the ship enjoying the sunshine. Winkle’s spot he chose to enjoy the sunshine was near the hippo’s cage, and soon enough the sunshine had made Winkle doze off. At a point during Winkle’s slumber the big hippo gave forth a big sneeze and this startled Winkle so much that it caused him to fall off the rail from where he had been perched and went over the side of the ship. When Winkle hit the water the wake of the ship nearly took Winkle under and he began to struggle for his very life.
Fortunately there were others nearby looking at the curious hippo and saw what had happened to Otto Winkle and called for help. Quickly the ‘Lincoln’s’ officers on the bridge were notified of the situation and swift action was taken. A lifeboat was lowered and soon enough Otto Winkle was back on deck, likely wishing he had paid just a bit more attention to the hippo.
On 25 July 1914 under the command of Kaptain Witt, she started her last Hamburg - Southampton - New York crossing arriving 5 August 1914 in New York and was interned by the US government at Hoboken, New Jersey until April of 1917, when United States authorities seized her. She was then turned over to the United States Shipping Board (USSB) for use as a US Navy Transport.
According to one of her former German crew, Johann Freiberger, this is what happened to the crew. This was related to me by John Freiberger III, the grandson of crewman Johann Freiberger. "On July 25,1914, the President Lincoln, a German ship, left Hamburg for its seven-day voyage to New York," with crewman Johann Freiberger on board. "In the interim, England and France had declared war on Germany, and the President Lincoln docked in New York, where the crew, numbering 344 remained for one month and six days, until August 26, 1914, six days after Johann's nineteenth birthday." (The United States was not involved in this war until 1917)
"The crew had been given a choice of going to Governor's Island for their first U.S. immigration papers, or going to Georgia to a camp. Many chose the camp to avoid renouncing Germany, but fifteen Germans, including Johann Freiberger and his friend George Milte, along with Karl Ernst Hoffmann left the ship together. They were given a sum of money equivalent to about five dollars, which was about all the ship could afford to give them, since they were usually paid upon their return to Hamburg. Johann never dreamed he would end up [staying to become a citizen] in the United States when he left Germany on the President Lincoln." While at Governor's Island, Johann changed his name to John, on the advice of the Immigration Officer, who thought it would be easier, living in America.
Image of the cover of Johann Freiberger's Seaman's Logbook Nr.15117 issued in Hamburg, on 17 October 1913.
Pages 18 and 19 above are documents from Freiberger's Seaman's Logbook showing the President Lincoln's July 1914 voyage to New York under the command of Kaptin Witt.
About a year after the ‘Lincoln’ had been interned at the pier in Hoboken it was reported that there might have been cases of Asiatic cholera aboard the persons living on the ship. The ‘Lincoln' had been tied up at a pier in Hoboken at the time for more than a year and was being used by German refugees coming from the Far East on account of the war with Japan and these refugees were making their way back to Germany. Some had found their way back as far as New York and had sought out their countrymen and stayed aboard the ‘Lincoln.’
On August 31, 1915 an inspection of the ‘Lincoln’ and the other German ships interned at Hoboken was made by Dr. S. L. Williams of the United States Public Health Service and Chief Medical Officer of the Immigration station at Ellis Island; Dr. Charles G. Lavender, bacteriologist of the Port of New York; Dr. Joseph L. Stack, President of the Board of Health of Hoboken, and inspector Fred Anderson also of the Board of Health of Hoboken.
It was thought that the Cholera was brought to the ship by some of the refugees that had traveled from the Far East. Germans exiled from the Orient came to New York, stopped for a time aboard the President Lincoln and then took another ship on to Germany. At the time 37 of these refugees were still aboard the ‘Lincoln’ with at least 150-200 crew of the ‘Lincoln’ that was still living aboard the ship. Additionally the remaining crews of the other interned ships in Hoboken intermingled quite a bit and so all may have been exposed to the Cholera. There was also a public dining room on the dock that was frequented by the Germans from the various ships.
A few days before the inspection an employee of the dining room reported to local health authorities that there was some suspicious disease among the Germans. This in tern was reported to the Surgeon General, Rupert Blue, Chief of the Public Health Service in Washington. He ordered the inspection aboard these ships and as a result the President Lincoln was quarantined and the public dining room was closed.
It was reported by Dr. Stack that 15 cases were identified aboard the ‘Lincoln’ with vomiting, cramps and other symptoms of Cholera. There was at the time a thought that this might have been the bubonic plague, but was later ruled out by Dr. Stack. But of the German ships in Hoboken it was only the ‘Lincoln’ that was quarantined.
During her internment shortly before America entered the war against Germany in April of 1917, orders came and her German crew that was still left aboard severely damaged her engines and mechanical systems in order to make her unusable by the United States Navy. Her former name was retained and she underwent extensive repairs by US Navy ship fitters and conversion into a troopship at the Robin's Dry Dock and Repair Co., Brooklyn, N.Y.
USS President Lincoln was commissioned as a Navy troop transport 25 July 1917 at Brooklyn, New York with Captain Yates Sterling, Jr., in command. In late September after her repairs in the dry dock were completed she was moved from the dry dock with the aid of 14 tugs to Pier 5 in Hoboken for final repairs. Her new configuration was now 18,167 tons and was now 619 feet in length and a beam of 68 feet with a draft of 34 feet. She was armed with four 6-inch deck duns and her wartime ships complement was 430.
After final repairs and the organizing of her first American crew the ‘Lincoln’ had her sea trials off the Jersey coast on October 2, 1917 and headed for France on October 18, carrying the 149th, 150th and 151st Field Artillery, of the famous Rainbow Division. The convoy, escorted by the cruiser USS Seattle, consisted of the Henry R. Mallory, Pastores, Tenadores, De Kalb, President Grant and Covington, arrived at St. Nazaire, France, on October 31.
Leaving St. Nazaire on November 9 with the Covington, Nansemond and Natchez, the ‘Lincoln’ steered homeward through rough seas and cold gales, arriving at Hoboken, New Jersey on Thanksgiving Day, November 29. This maiden war-trip christened the President Lincoln as a ‘Transatlantic War Ferry’ and her next four crossings of the Atlantic were made with increasing economy of time and efficiency of the crew.
Leaving Hoboken on the second trip, December 12, 1917 the ‘Lincoln’ was in convoy with the George Washington, Lenape, Susquehanna and several other ships, and was escorted by the cruiser USS North Carolina. The ‘Lincoln’s’ convoy arrived at Brest, France, on December 28, and left for home on January 17, 1918 with the transports Covington and Pocahontas, reaching Hoboken on January 31, 1918.
Leaving on her third trip on February 9, 1918, ‘Lincoln’ joined at sea the cruiser USS Pueblo and transports Martha Washington, Antigone and several other ships and arrived at St. Nazaire on February 24. ‘Lincoln’ started her return trip on March 4, with the Wilhelmina and Panaman, they arrived on March 16 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Dry Dock for repairs.
Her fourth trip eastbound across the Atlantic started from Hoboken with the George Washington, Antigone, De Kalb and others escorted by the cruiser USS Frederick. They arrived in the harbor at Brest on April 13. Making a quick 7-day stay she left for home and steamed alone back across the Atlantic where she arrived in Hoboken on May 1, 1918.
It was the fifth trip of the President Lincoln, which proved her last. She left Hoboken on May 19, carrying the 106th Infantry of the 27th Division. This time one of the largest convoys of the war was led toward France by the cruiser Frederick. This convoy consisted of 14 vessels (some of were the Antigone, Kursk, Duca d' Aosta, Pastores, Princess Matoika, Caserta, Lenape, Wilhelmina, Covington, Devinsk, Rijndam, and the Dante Alighieri) and carried about 40,000 troops. On May 23, in a column eight miles long, flanked by camouflaged destroyers, the ships reached the safety of the harbor at Brest.
After unloading her 3,000 troops she reloaded with 715 wounded soldiers and the President Lincoln weighed anchor on May 29, 1918 and proceeded homeward with the transports Rijndam, Susquehanna and Antigone, steaming in line, with the ‘Lincoln’ second from the left. On May 30, Memorial Day services were held on the after deck of the ‘Lincoln’ and later that evening about sundown having passed through the so-called danger zone of submarine activity, the three escorting American destroyers and one Frenchman turned back toward Brest.
On the morning of May 31 (Saturday) at 8:58 o'clock, Lat 47° 45’ North-Longitude, 15° 24' West, the ‘Lincoln’ was torpedoed, hit three times, and sank in eighteen minutes, with guns firing at an unseen foe and the Stars and Stripes floating from the gaff. At the time of the sinking the Gunnery Officer serving under Captain Yates Sterling aboard the ‘Lincoln’ was a young Lieutenant named Jesse Barett Oldendorf who had the nickname of "Oley" and would at the zenith of his naval career become a Vice-Admiral. "Oley" Oldendorf was famous for defeating the Japanese southern force by crossing the "T" in the Battle of Surigao Strait during WWII. The Battle for Surigao Strait was one of a number of battles fought for control of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
After eighteen hours in lifeboats and on rafts, during which the submarine U-90, paid the crew of the ‘Lincoln’ a visit, taking Lieutenant Isaacs as a hostage, the rescuing destroyers, Warrington (DD30) and Smith (DD17), arrived and returned the crew to sunny Brest. Gustavus C. Robbins, who was a member of Warrington's crew at the time, recalls "We had to transfer some men to the Smith as we had too many men to feed." Out of all men on board, only 26 were lost, and one, Lt. Isaacs taken prisoner. All sick cases, including two paralytic soldiers, were saved. The Smith had in October 1917, went on to Brest, France, to begin convoy escort work in the eastern Atlantic. During this duty she rescued survivors of two torpedoed transports, USS President Lincoln at the end of May 1918, and USS Covington at the beginning of July. After arrival in Brest the crew of the 'Lincoln' was placed on board the transport Great Northern, where a general muster was held and the loss of three officers and twenty-three men ascertained. As passengers, the survivors of the 'Lincoln' made the journey home on the Great Northern, which reached Hoboken on June 12, 1918.
President Lincoln made a total of five voyages from New York to France, transporting approximately 23,000 American troops, which she disembarked at Brest and St. Nazaire, France.
Those lost from the 'Lincoln' on May 31, 1918
|Lt. Cmdr. Lindsay C. Whiteside, USN, Medical Corps
Lt. Andrew Mowatt, USN, Pay Corps
Lt. (jg) James E. Johnston, USNRF, Pay Corps
Ships Cook 2c, Jacob Lied
Ships Cook 3c, Clarence H. McAllister
Electrician Mate 1c, Karl H. Neuert
Commissary Steward, Jacob J. Nowacki
Fireman 1c, William Owens
Mess Attendant 3c, Alfred A. Sweeting
|Steerage Steward, Robert Walker
Ships Cook 3c, Harrold H. Williams
Yeoman 2c, Fred William Wilson, Jr.
SMess Attendent 1c, Frank Henry Woodard
Coxswain, Birtie Zanetti
Mess Attendant 1c, Bernard Brown
Ships Cook 4c, Edward Michael Daly
Seaman 2c, Arthur S. Egbert
Fireman 3c, Robert J. Freeman
|Baker 2c, Lloyd B. Haight
Seaman 2c, Floyd H. Hedglin
Storekeeper 2c, Howard A. Himmelwright
Seaman, George Benjamin Hoffman
Ships Cook 2c, Arthur T. Jefferson
Seaman 2c, John Agustus Jenkins
Ships Cook 3c, Grundy Rodney Johnson
Commissary Steward, Victor J. Kuhnert
Survivors of the USS President Lincoln aboard the Warrington transferring to the Smith
Undated war time (Oct. 1917-May 1918) photo of the USS President Lincoln as she is being towed by a tug down the Hudson River from the docks at Hoboken, N. J. She is carring troops to France, and this is known as many of the Army personel can be seen, on the original photo, wearing the wide brimed campagin hats, indicating that the troops are on thier way to France. If this would be a return trip Garrison or Overseas hats would be visable. The men on the fan tail area are mostly US Navy "gobs", that's the name that Navy personel were know by from the Army troops.
|18 October 1917 Sailing time 8:20pm||HQ 76 Field Artillery Brigade||11||45|
|149th Field Artillery||59||1250|
|150th Field Artillery||63||1490|
|151st Field Artillery||57||1197|
|QMC Bakery Co. 333||1||103|
|QMC Bakery Co. 1 (306)||1||97|
|Ambulance Co. 167||5||121|
|QMC 301st Stevedore Battalion||8||380|
|13 December 1917||505th Service Battalion||15||1007|
|HQ 41st Division||40||123|
|161st Infantry, 41st Division||94||3379|
|9 February 1918||1st Bn, 125th Infantry, 32nd Division||27||818|
|1st Motor Mech. Regt., Signal Corps||87||3217|
|30 March 1918||General Repair Shop, School Section||5||35|
|Meterological Section, Signal Corps||1||46|
|Organazation Park, School Section||15||104|
|3rd Bn., 38th Infantry, 3rd Division||33||928|
|Motor Car Cos. 301 to 305 inclusive||5||197|
|312th Labor Battalion||17||1158|
|Replacements, Signal Corps||-||428|
|Replacements, Field Artillery||-||1|
|Replacements, Coast Artillery Corps||-||1|
|10 May 1918||106th Infantry, 27th Division, 3rd Phase||92||3198|
|42nd Engineers, 1st Phase||32||972|
|Co. H, 129th Infantry, 33rd Division||5||241|
|Casual Officers, Engineers||4|
|Casual Officers, Quarter Master Corps||2|
|Casual Officers, Signal Corps||3|
|Casual Officers, Ordnance Department||1|
|Casual Officers, Chaplins||2|
|Automatic Replacement Drafts, Infantry||-||70|
|Automatic Replacement Drafts, Field Artillery||-||1|
SS President Lincoln at sea.
This is Karl Ernst Hoffmann’s sailing papers from the President Lincoln dated to March of 1914.
On July 25, 1914 the Dampfschiffe (Steamship) President Lincoln under command of Kaptain Witt, left Germany on what would be her last trip under a German flag. By the time Witt navigated his ship into New York on August 5th, Germany had declared war with France and England. As a result of the conditions that now existed, the United States government detained the President Lincoln. Witt’s crew numbered 344, and they remained aboard ship until August 26, 1914. The U. S. government had given Witt’s crew a choice of going to Governor’s Island and renouncing their Country to have the opportunity to become United States citizens, or be taken to a war prison camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Only 15 of the crew chose the chance to become a United States citizen. Among the 15 was a young steward named Karl Ernst Hoffmann.
Born October 15, 1896, in Groeningen (Kreis Oschersleben, Bezirk Magdeburg), Germany, Karl Ernst Hoffmann had previously worked as a steward on the Dampfschiffe Main from June 1913 to January 1914, sailing between Bremerhaven, New York, and Baltimore. After that he signed on as a Steward on the ship President Lincoln from March 1914 until her last voyage to New York in July of 1914.
Karl Ernst Hoffmann’s grandson, Karl R. Hoffmann, relates about his grandfather, “The story I always heard, was that the United States government took over the ship President Lincoln after her arrival in New York, in August 1914, and the crew was stranded. This information was probably inaccurate, but it was the only information I had. This was how my grandfather arrived in America. What he did for a living in the immediate years, I do not know. He never mentioned going to a “camp”, and to my knowledge, stayed in New York City. I assume if he had been transferred to a “camp” or remained on the ship, he eventually would have been returned to Germany. He never returned to Germany, even for a visit. He did become a naturalized citizen on January 14, 1940.”
The true facts around the story of Karl Ernst Hoffmann are told from the grandson of another German crewmember from the last voyage of the President Lincoln. John (Johann) Freiberger was that German crewman and his grandson John Freiberger III, recounts what actually took place with the crew. The story of the fifteen who were allowed to leave the ship is told in this way from the elder Freiberger.
“The fifteen German boys got employment at the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, but were unable to speak one word of English. They were given a blanket, a pickaxe and a sledgehammer. Most of them had never even held a pickaxe before. They were given hunks of bread and baloney for their meals. At the end of three days, they stopped working, because they owed the railroad more money than they were earning. The railroad had charged them excessively for their food and blankets. One week later, all fifteen of them hopped a freight train headed for Chicago. They sneaked on empty cattle cars and hopped off somewhere in Ohio, where they again were unable to locate jobs. They again hopped another train on its way to Binghamton, N.Y. These boys went hungry for two full days. In Binghamton, they applied for work at an apple orchard, but the owner would not hire them. In fact he shot at them for trying to steal apples to eat.
At this point, the group had decided to split up in order to better help themselves. They begged for food, and slept in barns or haystacks. They wanted to get picked up by the police so they would be sure to get fed. There were about eight boys in John's (Freiberger) group when they went to a Polish saloon in Binghamton, N.Y. The men in the saloon all got together and bought the boys a meal, and the owner let them sleep in the attic. The next day, the owner took them to the milk station where the farmers would bring their milk.
George Milte and John Freiberger (there may have been others from the group of 15, but only Milte and Freiberger’s names were recalled) were hired by a farmer, where they worked for about one dollar per day. They worked on the thrashing machine for two weeks and then picked potatoes, until they had saved twenty-seven dollars each. They had stayed a total of six weeks in Binghamton. Out of their twenty-seven dollars they bought used clothing and shoes, as theirs were full of holes. Then they bought tickets to Hoboken, New Jersey, because they knew the people spoke German there.”
John (Johann) Freiberger had told this story to a family member in 1983, as she recorded it. The only name Freiberger mentioned of the original 15 young German crewmen was that of George Milte, but it is likely that similar events happened to Karl Ernst Hoffmann.
From there, the story of Hoffmann picks up in 1916, when Karl married Anne Christine Schroeder. She was born in Henstedt (Kreis Segeberg), Germany, on May 23, 1892. Prior to World War One, Karl and Anne had been living in New York City, and on March 18, 1917, Anne gave birth to their first and only child, a son named Karl Hans Hoffmann.
In 1923, Karl’s brother, Willy, came from Germany to New York, to work. In New York, he married Charlotte Bielang, also from Germany. Willy and Charlotte returned to Germany in 1932.
By April of 1930, Karl and Anne, and 13-year old son Karl Jr. were living in a rented apartment located on East 84th Street in New York, where Karl Sr. was making a living as a baker and Anne worked as a laundress. It was said by family members that Karl worked as a baker most of his life. On the 1930 Census form the rent per month for the apartment on East 84th Street was $35 and it was noted that the family did have a radio set in the home. Additionally both Karl Sr. and Anne were listed as “Alien” in the citizenship line.
In the late 1930’s, the Hoffmann’s moved from New York City to Long Island, New York, eventually settling in Franklin Square. There they would live until Anne passed away on January 8, 1952 in Franklin Square. Karl Ernst Hoffmann passed away on April 17, 1970 in Hempstead, NY. Their son, Karl Hans passed away in Newbury Park, California on January 10, 1998. The grandson, Karl R. Hoffmann, now lives in the state of Maryland, but before his father Karl Hans passed away, they were able to make contact with Karl and Anne’s family members living in Germany. In 1989, one month before the fall of the Berlin Wall, both went to Germany to visit the country and family members Karl Ernst Hoffmann left behind on July 25, 1914, aboard the Steamship President Lincoln some seventy-five years before.Maintaining a close relationship with the relatives in Germany, Karl R. and his wife JoAnn, have visited Germany a few times over the years. During the last visit in 2007, they took some of the younger relatives from both the Hoffmann and Schroeder families, who met for the first time, to visit the Ballinstadt Museum in Hamburg, to learn about the emigration to America. Some of those same relatives have also visited the Hoffmann’s in America, which also included a trip to Ellis Island.
Anne, Karl Hans & Karl Ernst Hoffmann
Steward Karl Ernst Hoffmann circa 1914 aboard
U.S.S. President Lincoln, in company convoy, was steaming on the return trip to America from France. The ships were about 500 miles from the coast of France and had passed through what was considered to be the most dangerous part of the war zone. At about 9 a. m. a terrific explosion occurred on the port side of the ship about 120 feet from the bow and immediately afterwards another explosion occurred on the port side about 120 feet from the stem of the ship, these explosions being immediately identified as coming from torpedoes fired by a German submarine.
It was found that the ship was struck by three torpedoes, which had been fired as one salvo from the submarine, two of the torpedoes striking practically together near the bow of the ship and the third striking near the Stern. The wake of the torpedoes had been sighted by the officers and lookouts on watch, but the torpedoes were so close to the ship as to make it impossible to avoid them; and it was also found that the submarine, at the time of firing, was only about 800 yards from the President Lincoln. There were at the time 715 persons ort board, including about thirty officers and men of the army. Some of these were sick and two acted on orders from the commanding officer with coolness, which was truly inspiring.
Inspections were made below decks and it was found that the ship was rapidly filling with water, both forward and aft, and that there was little likelihood of her remaining afloat. The boats were lowered and the life rafts were in the water, and about fifteen minutes after the ship was struck all hands except the gun crews were ordered to abandon ship.
The gun crews were held at their stations hoping for an opportunity to fire on the submarine should it appear before the ship sank, and orders were given to the gun crews to begin firing, hoping that this might prevent further attacks.
All the ships company except the gun crews and necessary Officers were at that time in the boats and on the rafts near the ship, and when the gun crews began firing the people in the boats set up a cheer to show that they were not downhearted. The gun crews only left their guns when ordered by the commanding officer just before the ship sank. The guns in the bow kept up firing until after the water was entirely over the main deck of the after part of the ship.
The state of discipline that existed and the coolness of the men are well illustrated by what occurred when the boats were being lowered and were about half way from their davits to the water. At this particular time there appeared some possibility of the ship not sinking immediately, and the commanding officer gave the order to stop lowering the boats. This order could not be understood, however, owing to the noise caused by escaping steam from the safety valves of the boilers which had been lifted to prevent explosion, but by a motion of the hand from the commanding officer the crews stopped lowering the boats and held them in mid-air for a few minutes until, at a further motion of the hand, the boats were dropped into the water. Immediately after the ship sank the boats pulled among the rafts and were loaded with men to their full capacity and the work of collecting the rafts and tying them together to prevent them drifting apart and becoming lost was begun.
While this work was under way and about half an hour after the ship sank, a large German submarine emerged and came among the boats and rafts, searching for the commanding officer and some of the senior officers whom they desired to take prisoner. The submarine commander was able to identify only one officer, Lt. E. V. M. Izac, whom he took on board and carried away. The submarine remained in the vicinity of the boats for about two hours and returned again in the afternoon, hoping apparently for an opportunity of attacking some other ships which had been in company with the President Lincoln, but which had, according to orders, with standard instructions, steamed as rapidly as possible from the scene of attack.
By dark the boats and rafts had been collected and secured together, theyre being about five hundred men in the boats and about two hundred on the rafts. Lighted lanterns were hoisted in the boats and flare-up lights and coston signals were burned every few minutes, the necessary detail of men being made to carry out this work during the night. The boats had been provided with water and food, but none was used during the day, as the quantity was necessarily limited and it might be a period of several days before a rescue could be affected.
The ship's wireless plant had been put out of commission by the force of the explosion, and although the ship's operator had sent the radio distress signals, yet it was known that the nearest destroyers were 250 miles away, protecting another convoy and it was possible that military necessity might prevent their being detached to come to our rescue.
At about.11 p. m. a white light flashing in the blackness of the night, it was very dark, was sighted, and very shortly it was found that the destroyer Warrington arrived for our rescue, and about an hour afterward the destroyer Smith also arrived. The transfer of the men from the boats and rafts to the destroyers was affected as quickly as possible and the destroyers remained in the vicinity until after daylight the following morning, when a further search was made for survivors who might have drifted in a boat or on a raft, but none were found, and about 6 a. m. the return trip to France was begun.
Of the 715 men present, all told on board, it was found, after the muster, that three officers and twenty-three me were lost with the ship, and that one officer, Lieut. Izac above mentioned, had been taken prisoner. The three officers were Passed Assistant Surgeon L. C. Whitesite, Ship's Medical Officer; Paymaster Andrew Mowat, ships Supply Officer; and Assistant Paymaster J. D. Johnson U.S.N.R.F.
The loss of these officers was regrettable, as they could have escaped. Both Doctor Whiteside and Paymaster Mowat had seen the men under their charge leave the ship, the doctor having seen to the placing of the sick in the boat provided for the purpose, and they then remained on the ship for some unexplainable reason, as testified by witnesses who last saw them, and apparently these two excellent officers were taken down with the ship. Paymaster Johnson got on a raft alongside the ship, but in some way was caught by the ship as she went under, as C. M. Hippard, ships cook 3d class, USN, states that he was on the raft with Paymaster Johnson and that they were both drawn under the water, but when he came to the surface, Paymaster Johnson could no longer be seen.
Although the German submarine commander made no offers of assistance of any kind, yet otherwise his conduct for the ships company in the boats was all that could be expected. We naturally had some apprehension as to whether or not he would probably do this as an attempt to make me and other officers disclose our identity. This possibility was evidently in the minds of the men also, because at one time I noticed some one on the submarine walk towards the muzzle of one of the guns, apparently with the intention of preparing it for action. This was evidently noticed by some of the men in my boat, and I heard the remark, Good night, here comes the fireworks. The spirit that actuated this remark under such circumstances could be none other than cool courage and bravery.
There were many instances where men showed more interest in the safety of another man then he did for himself. When loading the boats from the rafts one man would hold back and insist that another be allowed to enter the boat. There was a striking case of this kind when about dark I noticed that Chief-Master-At-Arms Rogers, who was rather an old man, and had been in the Navy for years, was on the raft, and I sent a boat to take him from the raft, but he objected considerably to this, stating that he was quite all right, although, as a matter of fact, he was very cold and cramped from his long hours on the raft.
The conduct of the men during this time of grave danger was thrilling and inspiring, as a large percentage of them were young boys, who had only been in the Navy for a period of months. This is another example of the innate courage and bravery of the young manhood of America.
As I find information on men who served on the USS President Lincoln I will list thier stories here. If you know of someone who served before her mast then e-mail me and I will add your story.
John Patrick Garrah: John Paul Garrah of Honesdale, PA, contacted me about his father John Patrick Garrah, who was the 'fresh-water-man' on the President Lincoln. He was picked up by the USS Smith some 22 hours after the attack.
William McIntyre, Jr.: William McIntyre, Jr. was born 14 October 1984 in Yonkers, New York to William, Sr. and Isabella (Isabel) McIntyre. The family home was at 141 Burch Street, which was in the county of Westchester and in the city of Yonkers, New York. William Sr. was born about 1875 in New York State where his parents were also born. Isabel was born about 1876 in Connecticut and also was her parents. The 1910 Federal Census tells us that the McIntyre family was living at the 141 Burch Street home in Yonkers. The family at that time consisted of William, Sr. age 34, Isabel age 33, eldest son Walter age 17, William, Jr. age 15, Frank age 13, daughter Isabella age 9, youngest son George age 6 and youngest daughter Edith age 1 year. The house at 141 Burch Street may have been a tenement house as according to the 1910 Census there were 5 families listed at that address. William Sr. worked as a House Painter and eldest son Walter worked in a Rubber factory as a laborer. 15-year-old William, Jr. was a Newsboy street vendor. By 1920 the family was still living at the 141 Burch Street home and had grown to add one more daughter, Gladys born about 1915. Eldest son Walter had left the family and was on his own at the time the 1920 Federal Census was taken in January. William Sr. was still working as a painter while William, Jr. having returned from duty in the navy worked as a clerk in an office. Seventeen-year old son George worked as a helper in a retail store.
William Jr. on 5 June 1917 registered for the Draft, as he was required to do in the 4th C.O., 7th Ward at Yonkers, New York. At the time he was 22 years old and of tall stature and slender build with blue eyes and blonde hair. William Jr. was single and worked at the New York Grand Central Terminal as a checker in a company but the name cannot be read on his WWI Draft Registration card. After registration William Jr. entered the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the former German liner now a U.S. Troopship named USS President Lincoln. It is believed by the grandson of William McIntyre Jr. that he was a Quartermaster on board the USS President Lincoln. Jonathan Campbell who is the grandson of William McIntyre, Jr. tells this about William:
I wish I had found this web site prior to my Mother's passing in August of 2001. Her father, my grandfather was aboard the President Lincoln when it was torpedoed. He passed away, I believe in 1952, so my information came from my mother. He was a Quartermaster and my mother told me that he had to jump overboard and sustained an injury to his rib when he struck a boat davit before hitting the water. This was noticeable for the rest of his life and entitled my grandfather to a 10% disability pension. There was no room for him, I guess at first, in one of the lifeboats so he was thrown a life ring/donut. She also said that he told her that while going through a passage to get off the ship, a large black sailor from the galley was kneeling and praying blocking the way. She also said that he told her that there was someone in the brig and that this person was pleading for someone to let him out. My own memories of these stories are probably not exact, but this is the best that I can do. I don't know when, probably in the 20's or 30's, but someone my grandfather knew did a primitive painting of the President Lincoln sinking that I now have. I do remember being told about the part where the U-boat was looking for the Captain and how they deceived the Germans about his presence.
Fireman 1c James Archie Long (profiled above) was assigned to the USS Sixaola after the sinking of the USS President Lincoln. William McIntyre, Jr. was also assigned to the USS Sixaola. It seems that William McIntyre, Jr. was going to be late in arriving to the Sixaola and expected to get into some trouble, but when arriving at the pier where the Sixaola was berthed in New York, he found that it had sunk pier side. As the ship couldn't get underway, be averted missing the ship's movement and getting into trouble. William McIntyre, Jr. passed away in Massachusetts in the early 50's, possibly in 1952.
Captain, Yates Stirling: Captain Stirling lived at 209 W. Lanvale St., Baltimore, Maryland and was born 30 march 1872 in Vallejo, California. On 8/10/17 he was promoted to Captain and was stationed at the Sub Base New London Conn. Assigned to Command the USS President Lincoln 7/25/17 and then transferred to Command the USS Von Steuben on 12/20/17. On 12 September 1918 Captain Stirling became the Chief of Staff 3rd Naval District until 7 April 1919 when he was assigned to the USS Connecticut and was still in service as of 1 January 1920. He was awarded the Navy Cross for distinguished service as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. President Lincoln and the U.S.S. Von Steuben, 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, French Legion of Honor (Officer). He performed his duty efficiently, by a skilful maneuver preventing his ship from being torpedoed when the signal was received that a torpedo was near the vessel. (U.S.S. Von Steuben, June 18, 1918)
Fireman 3c, Andrew Joseph Tambreino: Address: 404 S. Exeter St., Baltimore, Maryland. Birth Place: Baltimore, Md. Age: 21 yrs 10 mos. Entered the Navy on 4/20/17, reporting to the Receiving Ship Norfolk Va. as an apprentice seaman. His ratings were; seaman 2c 5/4/17; fireman 3c 6/6/17. USS Texas 5/4/17-6/6/17; USS Kearsarge 6/6/17- 7/1/17; Receiving Ship New York N.Y. 7/1/17-8/10/17; USS President Lincoln 8/10/17-9/1/17; Receiving Ship New York N.Y. 9/1/17-12/17/18; AWOL 12/4/18; Surrendered Receiving Ship New York N.Y. 12/17/18; Prisoner at Naval Detention Camp Deer Island. Mass. 1/6/19; Receiving Ship Boston Mass. 3/24/19, Dish disch 4/1/19
Coxswin, Erich Theiner: Address: Bengies, Baltimore County Maryland. Birth Place: Colburton, Wash. Age at enlistment: 22 yrs 5 mos. Entered the Navy as a Seaman and promoted to Coxswin on 10/29/17 aboard the USS Parker. Assigned to the USS Oklahoma 5/9/17; Armed Draft Detail New York N.Y. 6/18/17; SS Pioneer 7/2/17; Armed Draft Detail New York N.Y. 10/17/17, Hon disch 10/30/17, USN 11/1/17 coxn, Recg Ship New York N.Y.; USS President Lincoln 12/6/17; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 7/10/18; USS Keresan 9/24/18; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 12/23/18; USS Sampson 2/12/19, Hon disch 8/16/19.
Seaman 2c, Charles Prentice Turner: Address: 412 Calvin Ave., Baltimore, MD. Birth Place: Baltimore, MD. Birth Date: 26 Apr 1898. Entered the Navy on 4/16/17 at the receiving ship at Norfolk, VA as a apprentice seaman. Was promoted to Seaman 2c 4/24/17. USS Oklahoma 5/25/17; Receiving Ship New York N.Y. 8/8/17; USS President Lincoln 9/1/17; Receiving Ship New York N.Y. 5/31/18; USS Finland 9/11/18, Hon disch 10/20/19, On USS President Lincoln when she was torpedoed and sunk 5/31/18.
Michael A. McConville, USN: He was aboard the Lincoln when she was sunk and survived. His family has several postcards showing troops on a ship and a ship in a harbor in France, and a program and a picture from a reunion of President Lincoln crew that took place in the 1930's.
Seaman 2c, William Joseph West: Address: 108 Birckhead St., Baltimore, MD. Birth Place: Baltimore, MD. Age: 18 yrs 4 mos. Entered the Navy 5/4/17 app sea; sea 2c 7/20/17; sea 4/1/19, Naval Tng Sta Newport R.I.; Naval Tng Camp Portsmouth N.H. 7/20/17; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 9/11/17; USS President Lincoln 12/17/17; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 7/10/18; USS Herman Frasch 9/23/18; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 10/8/18; USS Mahan 2/8/19; Recg Sta Washington D.C. 8/14/19, Hon disch 8/27/19
Wardroom Steward, Herbert Williams: Race: colored. Address: 819 Warner St., Baltimore, Md. Birth Place: Baltimore, Md. Age: 26 yrs 1 mo. Entered the Naval Reserve force 2/4/18 mess atdt 1c; wardroom stewd 11/1/18, Hq 3 Naval Dist; USS President Lincoln 2/5/18; Recg Ship New York N.Y. 5/31/18; USS Sixaola 6/30/18, Inact 4/25/19.
Fireman 3c, William Holcombe Cox, #1229574: Bill Cox shared this information about his grandfather who was a crewman aboard the President Lincoln when she sank. This is what Bill knows about his grandfather, William Holcombe Cox: "His military papers show that he was born in 1898, making him eligible for enlistment but he was actually born in 1900. The family knew that he was a fireman aboard the transport USS President Lincoln that was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. He just happened to be up on deck when the ship was struck, and was among the rescued.His War Certificate lists him as a recipient of the Victory Button." War Service Certificate United States Navy #473044. From July 8, 1917 to June 13, 1919 William H. Cox F3C performed honorable service on the following ships; USS Granite State, USS President Lincoln, USS Seagate, USS Westward Ho, and USS Liviathan. F3C, William Holcombe Cox, Service #1229574, was discharged honorably from the Third Naval District Brooklyn, New York July 7, 1920.
Pharmacists Mate, William Patrick Donahue: William Patrick Donahue was born in Oswego, New York on June 18, 1894. Young William likely grew up and lived his entire life in and around Oswego, New York. It is known from a bronze plaque, which is displayed in the Oswego High School , from the Oswego class of 1916 that William P. Donahue was a member of that class. The text of the bronze plaque reads as follows:
In Memory of our Beloved Classmates
Sergeant Jesse Merle Hewitt
Born April 6, 1898
Killed in action near Bony, France
September 29, 1918
Pharmacists Mate William Patrick Donahue
Born January 18, 1894
Died at Tuscon, Arizona, April 21 1920 as a result of exposure
when the USS President Lincoln sank, May 31, 1918
This tablet erected by the class of 1916 Oswego High School.
On June 5, 1917 As America had been at war for only a few months, a 23-year old blue-eyed man with sandy hair named William P. Donahue Registered for the Draft in Oswego, NY. At the time William Donahue was single and lived in Oswego and worked as a clerk for Long & William in Alex Bay, New York. From the information on the bronze plaque Donahue was obviously in the Navy and was a Pharmacists Mate serving on the USS President Lincoln, a Converted German liner now being used as a troopship. William Donahue survived the sinking of the President Lincoln on the 31st of May 1918 but died 2-years later on April 21, 1920 from the effects of exposure to the icy cold water of the Atlantic.
A survivor of the sinking of the troopship USS President Lincoln during WWI, Leonard Franklin Coffman was born on 2 June 1896 in Temple, Texas to Lawrence and Kate M. Coffman. Leonard’s father Lawrence was a carpenter and when Leonard was growing up he worked for his father. On 5 June 1917 as Leonard was a 21-year old man he listed his occupation as a painter for L. A. Coffman of Houston, Texas. Young Leonard was a single man with hazel eyes and brown hair and he registered for the Draft in Precinct No. 32 in Houston.
Three days before Leonard registered for the Draft he joined the Navy on 2 June 1917, which was his 21st birthday. He was a Baker 1st Class and served first on the USS San Francisco, for a short time then being used as a minelayer. He was transferred to the Receiving Ship at New York and then as the crew of the President Lincoln was being formed was detailed for duty on that ship. Leonard was on board and survived the President Lincoln when she was torpedoed and sunk. After his rescue he was again sent back to the Receiving Ship at New York and then assigned to the USS Carrillo, a 5012 gross ton passenger-cargo steamer, built in Belfast, Ireland, in 1911. In September of 1918 she was acquired by the Navy and placed in full commission. During the remainder of World War I, and for some months after the November 1918 Armistice, she made four trans-Atlantic round-trip voyages, carrying food and other cargo in support of U.S. forces in France.
Leonard’s next ship was the USS Minnesotan, a 6649 gross ton (14,375-tons displacement) freighter, built in 1912 at Sparrows Point, Maryland, for commercial employment. In January 1919, she was converted to a troopship where she made her first trip to France towards the end of March. During the next four months Minnesotan completed four voyages to and from France, bringing home more than 6000 service personnel. She was decommissioned in August 1919 and returned to her owner, the American Hawaiian Steamship Company, of New York City. When the Minnesotan ended her service with the U.S. Navy, Baker 1st Class Leonard F. Coffman ended his service with the Navy. On 20 August 1919 he was given an Honorable Discharge from the Navy and returned to his home state of Texas.
While Leonard was 21-Years old in 1917, he was married. His wife’s name was Amelia C. Flyma born about 1896 in Texas. On 15 August 1921 Leonard and Amelia had their first child a son named Clarence Reginal Coffman. And then on 29 August 1926 they had another son named Raymond Edward Coffman. In April of 1930 the Coffman family lived in a home Leonard owned valued at $3,000 located on East Second Street in Houston, Texas. Leonard worked as a fireman for the city of Houston and also living in the home with the Coffman’s was another fellow fireman named Leo E. Clark and his wife Mattie L. Both Leo and Mattie were 30-years old and had only been married for about one year at the time.
Leonard would live to be 84-years old and at the time of his passing in January of 1981 he was living Bacliff, Texas, which is in Galveston County. It was not known when his wife Amelia Passed away.
Harvet Dennison Carter was a Chief Yeoman aboard the President Lincoln when she sank. On his war service certificate it states he was in the United States Naval Reserve Force from 4 May 1917 through 13 March 1919. His service number was 120-68-70. His grandson Howard Carter has in his possession a model of the President Lincoln that was his grandfather Harvey's. He can remember as a young boy listening to story his grandfather told about the President Lincoln while using the model of the ship to illustrate his stories. It is not known if Harvey built the model. Harvey D. Carter passed away in the 1980's.
This is the model of the President Lincoln that was Harvey D. Carter's
Jesse Barett "Oley" Oldendorf (16 February 1887 - 27 April 1974) was an Admiral famous for defeating the Japanese southern force by crossing the "T" in the Battle of Surigao Strait. The Battle for Surigao Strait was one of a number of battles fought for control of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
Admiral Oldendorf graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1909 standing 141st in a class of 174. He served on Cruisers and Destroyers before World War I. After World War I he was assigned to freighter and transport duty. He was Engineering Officer on the Seattle. As a Lieutenant, Oldendorf served aboard the USS President Lincoln. On May 31, 1918 Oldendorf was aboard the USS President Lincoln when it was struck by three torpedoes from the German submarine U-90. The President Lincoln sank about 20 minutes later. Oldendorf then served aboard the California, Preble, Denver Whipple, San Diego, Hannibal, Saratoga, Seattle, Patricia, Niagara, and Birmingham.
This was followed by onshore assignments and a stint as flag secretary of the Special Service Squadron headquartered in Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. The Special Service Squadron patrolled the Caribbean Sea as an instrument of gunboat diplomacy.
At the rank of commander, Oldendorf's first command was a destroyer the Decatur (DD 341), which he commanded from 1922-1927. In 1930 he was the navigator of the battleship New York (BB-34). Oldendorf then served as Executive Officer West Virginia from 1935-1937 and from 1939-August 1941, at the rank of Captain, he commanded the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30) . In September 1941 Oldendorf then joined the staff of the Naval War College where he taught navigation.
Shortly after entry into World War II on March 31, 1942 the United States Navy promoted Oldendorf to Rear Admiral and assigned him to the Aruba-Curaçao sector of the Caribbean. In August 1942 he was moved to the Trinidad sector. During this period, Anti-submarine warfare was his primary duty. From May through December 1943, Oldendorf commanded Western Atlantic escorts from Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland.
Oldendorf was then assigned to the Pacific theatre in January 1944 where he commanded Cruiser Division 4 from aboard the flagship Louisville (CA-28 ). Cruiser Division 4 supported landings in the Marshalls, Palaus, Marianas, and Leyte. On October 24, 1944, Rear Admiral Oldendorf was the commander of Task Group 77.2 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He deployed his force of Battleships and Cruisers in a classic battle line formation across the Surigao Strait.
Early in the morning of October 25, 1944 aboard his flagship Lousville (CA-28), Oldendorf commanded the devastation and defeat Vice-Admiral Nishimura's Japanese Southern Force. At the conclusion of the battle, battleships Fuso and Yamashiro were sunk and Admiral Shoji Nishimura was killed. Oldendorf's action helped prevent the Japanese from bringing their battle fleet into Surigao Strait and attacking the beacheads on Leyte Island.
This job was originally to be Admiral William H. Halsey's, but Halsey and his carrier Task Force were drawn away in a decoy action by the Japanese Northern Force. This circumstance is what prompted Oldendorf to make the famous radio transmission "Where the Hell is Bull Halsey?". The Battle of Surigao Strait was the last Naval battle fought by Surface ships alone. Oldendorf in his own words described his approach to the battle as follows.
"My theory was that of the old-time gambler: Never give a sucker a chance. If my opponent is foolish enough to come at me with an inferior force, I'm certainly not going to give him an even break." Rear Admiral Oldendorf was awarded the Navy Cross for this action.
On December 15, 1944 Oldendorf was promoted to Vice Admiral and made commander of Battleship Squadron One. Oldendorf commanded Battleship Squadron One in the landings at Lingayen Gulf. At Ulithi on March 11, 1945, Oldendorf broke his collar bone when his barge hit a buoy. He was temporary replaced by Rear Admiral Morton Deyo but returned on May 1, 1945 to resume his duty.
On August 12, 1945 in Buckner Bay Okinawa Oldendorf transferred his flag from the USS Tennessee (BB-43) to the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). On the evening of August 12, 1945, the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) was torpedoed by a single Japanese torpedo bomber. Vice Admiral Oldendorf who was in the captain's cabin at the time was wounded, breaking several ribs.
The following day August 13, 1945 with the Admiral still aboard a kamikaze attempted to crash into the stricken Pennsylvania but missed. Later that day Oldendorf transferred his flag back to the USS Tennessee. On September 23, 1945, Vice Admiral Oldendorf commanded the occupation of Wakayama, Honshu, Japan and dictated terms of surrender to Vice Admiral Hoka and Rear Admiral Yofai.
After the war, in 1945 Oldendorf commanded the 11th Naval District and in 1947 took command of the Western Sea Frontier. Vice Admiral Oldendorf was promoted Admiral upon his retirement in September 1948. Admiral Jesse B Oldendorf passed on April 27, 1974 in Portsmouth, Virginia. A destroyer USS Oldendorf (DD-972) was named in his honor.
For his service to his country, Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf received the following decorations:
NAVY CROSS with BAR
NAVY DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL with 2 STARS
ARMY DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL
LEGION OF MERIT with 1 GOLD STAR
PURPLE HEART with BAR
AMERICAN DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL
AMERICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
ASIATIC-PACIFIC CAMPAIGN MEDAL
EUROPEAN-AFRICAN-MIDDLE EASTERN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
WORLD WAR II VICTORY MEDAL
WORLD WAR I VICTORY MEDAL with Transport Bar
USN MEXICAN CAMPAIGN MEDAL
USN CUBAN PACIFICATION MEDAL
In April of 2013 Rob Foran was photographing cemetery tombstones in Staten Island and came across a stone with the name of Arthur S. Egbert with the words "Lost with the transport President Lincoln" and the date of May 31, 1918 on it. Arthur S. Egbert was in fact one of the 26 men who were lost that day in May 1918 when the President Lincoln was torpedoed and sank.
Arthur Stanley Egbert was born on July 6, 1883 in the State of New York to John and Abby Egbert. On June 18, 1917, just a little over two-months after America declared war on Germany, 33-year old Arthur Stanley Egbert walked into the Navy Recruiting Office on Staten Island, NY and enlisted into the United States Naval Reserve Force. He was placed aboard the former German liner that was being repaired and refitted for service to carry troops to France, and Egbert was then a Seaman 2Class. When the President Lincoln steamed away from the States to her duty of transporting troops who would be fighting and dying in France, little did Seaman Egbert know at the time this would be the last time he would see his home and family.
Just shy of his thirty-fourth birthday Seaman Egbert was lost at sea when at 9:35 on the evening of May 31, 1918 three German torpedoes struck the President Lincoln and sent her to the bottom. Three officers and 23 enlisted men lost their lives that day during the sinking. Seaman Egbert was one of those men. Back home Seaman Egbert’s father John and sister Henrietta received notice he was lost. His mother Abby, having died in 1907 did not have to endure the horribly news of a son lost at sea.
Signal Corps Photo No. 13981 “A Lieutenant of the Photographic Division, Signal Corps taking notes of the diaster as related by Sam Rogers, Chief Master-At-Arms USN, who with the Captain were the last to leave the sinking President Lincoln.”
When a ship sinks it is the tradition that the captain of the ship is always the last to leave the ship. But no one really remembers the next to last man to leave the sinking USS President Lincoln on May 31, 1918. That man was Chief Master-at-Arms Sam Rogers.
On October 25, 1876 in Sausalito, California Samuel Lucius Rogers (1827-1891) and Mary Elizabeth Harrington (1848-1925) gave birth to a son who they named Samuel Lucius Rogers, Jr. The father Samuel Sr. was a lawyer by profession and was born in Connecticut in 1827. Mary Elizabeth was born in New Hampshire in 1848. The Rogers would have a second son named Herbert born in July of 1882. In 1891 the father Samuel Sr. had passed away leaving Mary to raise the two boys Samuel and Herbert. The younger son Herbert would go on to follow his father’s footsteps into the legal profession as in 1900 Herbert was working as a clerk in a law office.
In June of 1900 Mary and the two boys lived in San Francisco, California on Ellis Street. The houses on Ellis Street were 3 floor row homes and Mary and the two boys lived in a rented apartment owned by Mr. Davidson and his wife, both of whom were German immigrants. Ellis Street is in the Western Addition area of San Francisco.
Sometime around 1902 Samuel L. Rogers must have joined the United States Navy. This is estimated by the fact that on June 1, 1918, the day after the sinking of the President Lincoln, Chief Sam Rogers is photographed in his uniform, life jacket still on, by a Signal Corps photographer. On his sleeve of his uniform are 4 Service Stripes, or Hash Marks as they are commonly called. Each stripe represents 4-years of service in the navy. So this means Chief Rogers has been in the Navy at least 16-years in June of 1918, so this would be at least 1902 or before when he first joined the service.
On his left hand two rings can be seen, one on his ring finger and another on his pinky finger. The ring finger would be to his first marriage, which took place on June 12, 1908 to Alice Schurch (1882-1972). They were married in New York and this marriage produced three sons, Charles Oliver (1909-1994), Glenn Herbert (1912-1994), and Samuel Lucius, Jr. (1914-2005).
In April of 1910 Samuel, Alice and their first born son Charles, lived on Tremont Avenue in San Francisco. On the 1910 census form Samuel is listed as a Millwright working in a machine shop. It does not state that he was in the navy at the time, so this may have been a period when he was not on active service with the navy.
By the time America entered the First World War in 1917 we know that Rogers was again serving in the Navy. In 1917 when the interned German ship SS President Lincoln was taken over by the U.S. Navy she was under the command of Captain Yates Sterling, Jr. and likely Chief Master-at-Arms Samuel Rogers was also assigned duty to the ship at the same time. It is known for sure that 18-minutes after 3 torpedoes from a German U-boat tore into the side of the former German ship that Chief Rogers was the next to the last man to leave the sinking Lincoln followed only by Captain Sterling onto the lifeboat.
The strain of Chief Rogers being away from home in the navy may have been a contributing factor of the divorce between Samuel and Alice. It’s not known the exact date when this happened but it had ended by at least 1920.
After the sinking of the President Lincoln the rescued crew was broken up and assigned other duties. It is not known what duty Chief Rogers had but it is fact that in January of 1920 he was the Chief Master-at-Arms serving on the cruiser USS Minneapolis under the command of Captain Edwin H. Dodd, USN. The Minneapolis was in January of 1920 based out of San Pedro, California. Ensign Rogers was Honorably Discharged from active duty with the United States Navy on September 30, 1921.
After his discharge from the navy in September 1921 Samuel lived on 6th Avenue in San Francisco with Mary his 71-year old widowed mother. Samuel at the time was working as a salesman selling washing machines.
By 1925 Samuel had met Minnie Ellery (1882-1961) and they were married, living in San Francisco, California. Minnie was a Jr. High School teacher. This was Samuel’s second marriage, and it was Minnie’s second marriage as well. In April of 1930 Samuel and Minnie were living on Chabot Road in Oakland, California. They rented an apartment from Julian and Margaret Bried, and Samuel was then working as a millwright at the time. This was located at 5840 Chabot Road very near the intersection of Chabot Road and Claremont Ave.
Samuel Lucius Rogers passed away on April 10, 1939 in San Francisco, California, his body was cremated and it was a year later on April 27, 1940 when his remains were buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery, section OSD, Site 457. After his death Minnie his widow moved to a smaller house located at 23 Buena Vista Place in Oakland where she was still teaching school. Minnie would pass away in 1961.
The 1930 Census form had a column for Veterans and listed Samuel as having served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and WWI, so this backs up the fact that Samuel was in the Navy prior to the 1902 estimate from his photo showing him wearing 4 Hash Marks on his sleeve in 1918. So this fact dates his service to at least 1898. This is also confirmed from a notation on the Quartermaster’s form for the interment of his body in the San Francisco National Cemetery. It stated in a handwritten note that his first enlistment period was from May 4, 1898 through September 21, 1899. Then during WWI he re-enlisted on April 7, 1917 one day after America declared war on Germany.
On July 13, 1940 a white marble stone was delivered to the San Francisco National Cemetery from the Green Mountain Marble Corp. of West Rutland, Vermont, to be placed on the grave of Ensign Samuel Rogers.
Ensign Samuel Rogers, USNRF circa 1921
The White marble grave stone of Ensign Rogers resting easy on a small slope in the San Francisco National Cementery
On the evening of May 29th, we were towed out of the harbor at Brest, getting underway with a convoy of three other ships, and an escort of three American and one French destroyers.
The ships sailed out of the outer harbor in a long line through the narrow channel surmounted on one side by high cliffs, and on the other a rolling country of green fields and hedges, with numbers of small stone houses scattered along its shores. Going down the channel everything was prepared for sea, booms lowered, hatches and tarpaulins secured, life boats swung out for launching, gangways rigged in, gun and lookout watches posted, besides orders being issued for everyone to wear life preservers.
The shores of France quickly faded from view, and as soon as we were well out we changed our formation to a single column, with the President Lincoln and Antigone in the center, while the destroyers formed a protecting cordon around us, zigzagging back and forth.
Everything continued quiet and without incident during the night and days of the 29th and 30th, while on the latter evening the escort left us and we continued along in the same formation. The night of the 30th passed quietly with the extra submarine lookout watch going on at 3 a. m. and off at 7:30 for breakfast, without reporting anything of incident. At this time we had traveled about 500 miles from the French coast. At 8:57 a.m., May 31st, shortly after changing course, a torpedo was seen to jump out of the water, some fifty yards from the ship on the port side, between the outer ship, the Rijndam, and ourselves.
At the time I was standing in the radio room looking out of the port, talking to the chief electrician, and made the remark upon seeing a dark silvery object jump out of the water: "Look at the porpoise," but my opinion soon changed when I saw a long white streak heading straight for the forward part of the ship. Hardly had the bridge seen it, than they tried to bring the ship around; but she had no sooner started than two torpedoes hit together about a hundred and twenty feet from the bow, just forward of the bridge under number two mast, with an explosion that rocked and shook the ship in every beam, causing her to list heavily to port.
As soon as the "general alarm" sounded everyone proceeded to their battle stations at the utmost speed, but without confusion where I took charge of the radio room, sending all other men to their stations, except Neuert, my first class operator. The main transmitting set was immediately started, preparatory to sending an S. O. S.; but hardly had the motor generator come up to speed than a second torpedo hit aft with a violent explosion; power went off, lights went out and the motor generator stopped. Neuert immediately went down to the engine room to see whether it was possible to get any power, but came back with the report that the engine room was flooded and everyone had left their stations.
Having been notified from the bridge to send an S. O. S., we shifted to a small emergency coil set and began broadcasting distress signals. It became very difficult to hear or even pick up any stations with our receiving set, owing to the roar of the boiler exhaust, located above the radio room; finally we heard one of the other ships sending out our calls, so felt sure help was coming to us sooner or later.
The ship by this time was listing heavily to port, but gradually righted herself to an even keel, which made it appear as if there was a chance of her remaining afloat, so the captain "belayed" the order to "abandon ship." As the ship began to list heavily to starboard, settling in the stern, the order to "abandon ship" was again given, all lifeboats being launched, first having the sick patients placed in them dressed in rubber life suits; after which the boats were pulled away from the ship's side. Fourteen of the sixteen boats were successfully launched, two being blown up in the explosion of the torpedoes, one aft and one forward. The men left on the ship after the life boats had pulled away, immediately began cutting the lashings of the life rafts and launching them, sliding down life lines onto them, singing and paddling away with whatever wreckage they could pick up for a paddle. It reminded one more of a Sunday school picnic than a race with death, to see them racing one another and singing.
During this time the gun crews had remained at their stations. The forward gun's crew firing at any object that could be seen in the general direction of the submarine in the hope that she might come to the surface; but they finally had to abandon their stations when the water came up to the guns.
During this time I was in the radio room trying to establish communication with the spark coil set, but finally had to give it up when the ship began to lurch violently to starboard, making it hard to stand up. I then dispatched Neuert, telling him to get over the side, and I followed a few minutes later on hearing the crash of falling crockery in the wardroom, which acted as a signal for me to run for the boat deck, where I found Neuert standing. After telling him to grab a lifeline I started over the side, coming face to face with Lt. Mullen, the assistant engineer, who came out of B deck, and bawling us out for not having left the ship before. Half sliding and half running I went over the side fully dressed, shoes, cap and glasses on, and started swimming toward a life raft some 12 feet away. When six feet from the side, the ship slid under, sinking stern first, with a peculiar hollow, hissing sound, and a heavy rumbling roar as the water came in contact with the boilers. There was no suction as the ship went down, except for setting up a wave that tended to force everything from its side, forcing me onto a life raft on which a YMCA secretary, a Mr. Hazard, was sitting.
All that could be seen when I turned around after getting in a sitting position on the side of the raft, was part of the funnel, which had broken loose and floated for about thirty seconds before sinking, and in the distance a trail of smoke of the fast disappearing hulls of the other ships of our convoy.
After floating around aimlessly for about an hour, a dark object was sighted coming over the horizon, which was first taken for a sailing vessel, but soon merged into a large submarine, which upon nearer approach was seen to have her forward gun trained on us; a member of the gun crew was seen to approach the gun and open the breech. This took all the heart out of us, believing that our last hour had come and having heard so much of what German sub-officers had done to English crews when caught in such a predicament. Some of the chaps began cutting the painters holding some of the rafts together, so in case they did open up on us they would not have such a large target to fire on.
While the submarine was coming up, the captain rowed to all the rafts and lifeboats, directing the men in case they were questioned, to say that the captain had gone down with the ship. As few of the lifeboats and rafts were secured together, we were all scattered over a pretty wide area, and some had drifted quite a distance away from the main body. The submarine after circling us several times picked up one man from a raft, which had drifted a considerable distance away from the rest, taking him aboard. They took him below, giving hum a good drink of hot coffee and cognac. The submarine then hailed the boat on which Lieutenant Izac was leaning over the gunwale with his gold rating stripes showing plainly, he not having followed the example of the rest of the officers in taking off their blouses and caps. Ordering them alongside, they ordered him aboard, putting the seaman off the life raft back in the boat. Casting off, they began cruising among the life rafts inquiring for the captain, who, of course, no one had seen, also taking pictures of us. They came within fifty feet of the raft on which I was sitting, giving me a good opportunity to have a look at the "sub," besides having my picture taken in the bargain.
The submarine appeared to be about 215 feet long, constructed something after the shape of a whale, with a large conning tower in the middle, which was about twenty feet high and thirty feet long. This was divided up into three parts: the forward part, the entrance to the conning tower, the middle part consisting of a weather screen, and a small bridge on which a couple of young German officers were standing with their captain. Back of this came the after section, a large platform with a railing around it on which a number of very grimy members of the crew were standing. From each side of the conning tower rose two pedestals through which the periscope was operated. To the tops of these were mounted two wires running fore and aft, used for the wireless. Forward of the conning tower, on the main deck, was mounted a 5.9 inch naval gun, while aft, was a gun of smaller caliber, probably a 4.2. Two watertight doors large enough for a man to pass through were fitted on both sides of the conning tower for use of the gun crews. From the after platform of the conning tower, a small flagstaff was fitted, from which fluttered the "Heinie" ensign.
The crew of the "sub" appeared to be very excited about "getting us," laughing and joking at our helpless predicament in the water. On the whole, they treated us square, but we were mighty glad to see them make a final cruise around, and head for the horizon, disappearing for good.
As soon as the "sub" made her final departure, the life boats began to pick up the men off the rafts, a number of which were badly exhausted and suffering from exposure, having left the ship with practically no clothing. After floating around for four hours on a life raft tip to our hips in water, we were picked tip by the navigator's boat, which was soon loaded to full capacity (43). The captain then issued orders for all boats and rafts to be rounded up to go to a rendezvous, about two miles from where we were drifting. After getting sixteen life rafts in tow we started towards the rendezvous, taking turns at rowing, but owing to everyone being violently seasick our progress was very erratic and slow, taking us four hours to catch up with the others.
The boats and rafts were all secured together for the night, so none could float off; emergency rations were broken out, consisting of hard chocolate, which crumbled from age when touched, hard-tack soaked with salt water, and soup powders with no hot water to cook it with, and half a cup of water. Of this, few, if any of us partook, all being too seasick to think of eating. As darkness came on, two lookouts were put on watch in each boat; a lighted lantern secured to an oar was hoisted to attract attention, while constant lights were burned at intervals. As the night advanced the wind began to rise and the sea became rougher, causing the boat to pitch and toss. As soon as the lookouts were posted, the rest of us settled down on the bottom of the boat as best we could, trying to keep warm by leaning against one another; sleep was out of the question with our wet clothes, no shoes, and nearly frozen.
At about 11:30 p.m. a light was sighted, which revived our spirits. All lights and flares that we could lay our hands on were shown. A searchlight being turned on us responded to the signals, and a few minutes later a dark object at high speed appeared through the darkness, stopping very close to the rafts. An American voice was heard to give the command for all lights to be extinguished. As we recognized an American destroyer, all hands gave a rousing cheer. Being uncertain whether the "sub" was still lurking around, the captain of the destroyer would not pick us up until all lights were extinguished; then the work of embarking started, one boat at a time going alongside the weather-side and discharging. The weather being pretty rough our boat waited until a good opportunity presented, then went alongside, I, manning a boat hook to keep the boat from being capsized. Each chap made a jump for the deck as the boat came up on the crest of a wave, and willing hands pulled him aboard. A miss meant certain death by being smashed against the side, so you may well imagine we all took extra precaution to hand safely. The boat after being our refuge for eighteen hours was cast adrift, disappearing in the gloom. After reaching the deck we could hardly walk from weakness and cold, bunt were directed to the engine room to thaw out. After thawing out, hot coffee and sandwiches were served to everyone, clothes broken out, and the crew placing practically all they owned at our disposal. The rest of the night was spent doubling up with chaps in their bunks, while the less fortunate resorted to the decks and other available places. The Warrington picked up all the men from the boats, while the Smith, which had come up while she was doing this, searched for the rafts, which had drifted away. At 4 a. m. they were located and all men taken aboard, after that we got under way, heading back for France. On the second day we ran short of oil, necessitating another destroyer coming out and fueling us, besides bringing provisions, which were getting very how. A number of moving picture men canine out on her deck to take pictures of us in our rags and dirt. Arriving in Brest, we were taken alongside a troop transport, and embarked for the States.
It is unknown who Hogard is but he typed this manuscript and then made hand written corrections to it later. He may have been in the Navy or possibly was a passenger on the return trip. More research into J. G. Hogard will have to be done. This manuscript was shared with be by LaRee Funston who found it in a book she purchased while doing research on her Great-grandfather, Magor General Frederick Funston. The author of this manuscript also wrote of a trip into the French country side, which is also copied at the end of the President Lincoln letter.
The Sinking of the USS President Lincoln
The government has lost one of its most valuable boats, in the sinking of the President Lincoln, because of it use as a second class passenger and freight service boat. The ship was 625 feet long, 65 foot beam, had 6 masts and a carrying capacity of 18,000 tons. On a recent trip she had practically gone this limit. Originally it was a German boat, built by Harlan Wolf, Belfast, Ireland and had been in service since 1907. It was taken over by the Government in 1917 and was used as a transport.
It was on Friday morning, breakfast was over, and practically every man was either going to his respective duty or thinking of the way in which he would spend the time that forenoon. The hour was 8:55 A.M.
Suddenly there was a loud report, following it the ship seemed to raise. About 15 seconds later another followed, with the same sensation. I was standing in the cabin on a level with the B Deck at the time and upon starting for the top deck where I was to report in case of an occasion of this sort, when I heard someone back of me exclaim, “My God they have got us!”
One of the requirements on the ship is a drill that every man shall know his station, to report there in case of fire or accident and now everyone was hurrying to his respective station. The steam having been turned loose was making a great noise and the Executive Officer who was giving orders from the bridge, with the aid of the megaphone was having hard work to make himself heard by different division commanders. The signal was given to abandon ship, the lifeboats were lowered, and the rafts were being thrown over the sides.
I had gone two decks below where I found I could help in putting off the rafts, and after locating one on the water that I knew I could reach in safety. I decided to stay by the ship longer; giving what help I could in throwing over the rafts, which require at least four men to handle them. After about five minutes time I realized the ship was rapidly sinking, nearly all having left the deck. Having gone down the rope I reached the raft, it having but one other fellow upon it. We worked hard to get away from the side, as we had a fear there might be a suction that would pull us down with the ship, but soon found it pushed us further away making us safe. We were 20 to 25 feet away from the side when the topside reached the water.
Well, there we were with out a home, the Lincoln completely under, 18 minutes after torpedoed and us out upon the billows. The day was beautiful and the billows far from angry, they were quite calm, which was something greatly in our favor.
Up to this time there was no apparent excited ness among those on board, even to a few sick ones that it was necessary to carry from the hospital and place in the lifeboats. Not a one of these were lost, which speaks well for the ones responsible for their safety. Although the ones upon the rafts were not as comfortable as they had been previously, and the length of time present conditions would continue was uncertain was no difference to the cheerfulness of the men. I will never forget the sprit of the boys that made up the crew on the USS Lincoln. They talk about the boys that go over the top coming back with a smile, I say the boys went down the sides and on to the rafts with even more than a smile, a laugh and a song and could be heard singing “Hale, Hale the gangs all here, what the H- - - do we care.” “Oh boys, Oh boys, where do we go from here” and others in keeping with the occasion. Fortunately for us the radio operator was able to send an S.O.S. and the thing for us now was to wait patiently for help to come. In the mean time making ourselves as comfortable as would be possible under such conditions.
After we had been in the water a short time someone shouted: “Here comes a destroyer after us already,” and a cheer went up from everyone, the thought being that a destroyer had been playing about those parts and had caught the message for help. We did not have to wait long to have a different opinion of the craft that approached us, for it was nothing else than the German sub that had torpedoed and sunk the President Lincoln. Now I really had wanted to see one of those “subs” and had a desire to get just as close as we were then, but I also had a desire to view one from a different angle, to look down upon it, if you please, instead of looking up to it. And then I preferred to have someone else commanding it than a German Officer.
I have had thrills and sensations before in my life but none equal to the one that came over me when that sub turned broad side only a few rods away and began twisting a 4-inch gun around toward us. Of course we all expected to be shelled right there and then. We were saying to our selves “We will never go back to Blighty.” And now that it is over, gee, but we want to see Blighty. The sub made a circle around us, stopping and taking on board one of the crew, but upon finding he was not as high an officer as they desired, after giving him some coffee and cognac they permitted him to return to the lifeboat. A little later they discovered the uniform of a higher officer and demanded him to step aboard taking him a prisoner. They then left, and I had the opportunity of learning that I much preferred the sight of the stern end of a German sub to the bow end even if I am to view it from a life raft.
Now seriously, men who perhaps never prayed sent up a prayer than and I am sure many since then have made solemn resolutions to become better acquainted with their God.
With the aid of the lifeboats, the rafts were tied together, which was no small job, as we were drifting at the rate of about one mile per hour. I pulled at the big heavy oars that afternoon until my hands were blistered.
After rafts and boats were all fastened together, and darkness was beginning to come upon us, lanterns were tied to the ends of oars and hoisted into the air so that any ship in search might locate us. About 11:30 that night there was a signal light to be seen in the distance and in a few minutes a destroyer appeared taking part of the men on board and leaving the remainder who were picked up about two hours later by another destroyer. Now the Germans are not fond of these destroyers, but I am, and let me say the Captains of those little boats did a mighty fine piece of work in locating us that night. When once on board we found hot coffee and sandwiches awaiting us, and such disappeared rapidly.
When a complete list was taken of the survivors it was found 26 men had lost their lives and one had been taken prisoner. It is thought the most of those lost were the ones who were not quick in leaving the ship, possibly returning to their staterooms for belongings and were caught making it impossible to abandon ship. Experience, yes, but we do not care to do it over, nor wish it on any of our friends.
We dread to think of the men who gave their lives and our hearts go out to the loved ones they leave. We can only say such occurrences are likely to come in wartime and especially to those traversing the seas.
In closing I wish to state that the captain of that German submarine is a sane fighter and as he spoke good English I am assuming he must have a spark of warmth some place in his heart for the U.S.A. otherwise he would have shelled and killed every one of us. On the other hand he may have been thinking of some of the kindness tendered Germans when taken prisoners by the Americans. At any rate he played the game in a civilized way. Never the less the Germans are not playing with us and when you talk with people, both Americans and French in France as I have done, you will come to the conclusion that we have a big job and everyone must put his shoulder to the wheel, otherwise the task will be a hard and long one.
Signed by J. G. Hogard
Hogard continues with this letter of his experiences during a trip to the French country side.
The People of France
I have just left one of the pretty natural harbors of France, one that attracts your attention, and grows upon you in its beauty. And old prison and fortress stands in plain view from the harbor and is, they tell us, of considerable renown historically. Parts of it were built by the Romans in the time of Caesar, and the old Roman masonry can still be seen. They show you the tunnels underneath leading to a room 60 feet down with a chute leading to it from the top. At the bottom of the chute was placed sharp knives in such a position that when prisoners were thrown down the chute they would bleed to death. Later water was turned in and the bodies washed out to sea.
As we go up the stairway to the street we find a narrow crooked one with a little dinky street car that will stop and wait for you to get off the track perchance you should have happened to be on it. The sidewalks are narrow, there only being room for one or two to pass at a time. You soon learn that it is the custom to go in the street, which is only a very little wider than the side walks on Broadway in New York. You find practically every kind of a store in this place that you will find in a city in the U. S. with the exception of confectionary stores which are run without the confections, there being no candy to be found.
Another thing quite noticeable in France is the lack of able-bodied men in civilian clothes, when you do see one he is in uniform. Old men may be seen on the corners, or waiting for you on the steps on the descend to the docks, with hat held out asking for money. Every now and then you meet a poor fellow with out an arm or a leg or wounded in some manner and you know at once he has been at the Front.
Women are to be found mourning and many driving carts doing work of a man. It does not take long to tell that France has been at war for some little time and it makes you wonder where she will go to draw more men for her soldiers.
In these seaport towns the merchants are noticing a pick up of business do to trade with Americans after landing. In some of these smaller stores it is well for you to keep your eyes open and a good guard on your pocket book, because their motto is not ONE PRICE TO ALL!
One day I took a little trip of a few miles into the country and found there was where you wanted to spend your time. The fields are green being divided up into well we might call it small plots of one to five acres being taken care of by the old men, boys and women of France.
Wine is to be had everywhere you go, with many different varieties and by appearance I would say the people are more accustomed to drinking it than drinking water and it brings you to the opinion that they would look healthier and larger of statue were they to drink more water and less wine. In these seaport town there seems to be plenty to eat, especially of fruit and vegetables. The strawberries are simply delicious, being larger than the average strawberry in the States and when your eyes fall upon them you cannot resist. The cost of a meal in the city that I was in is approximately the same cost as it is here in the Unites States.
In 1900 Vladimir Poulsen's Telegraphone won a grand prix for scientific invention at the Paris Exposition. Poulsen set up the American Telegraphone Company, which went public in 1903. That same year the American Telegraphone Company manufactured a dictating machine, which they named Telegraphone. It was large, cumbersome, expensive, and wound up not working and causing lawsuits from its purchasers.
In 1908 the American Telegraphone Company, on the verge of bankruptcy, was taken over by a flashy entrepreneur named Charles Dexter Rood. In 1912 Rood went to a private detective, William J. Burns, who was on a murder case involving gangs and the NYC police. It was a dangerous case, with no one wanting to "squeal." Rood showed Burns how to use the Telegraphone to record telephone conversations with operatives, thus bypassing the need for sessions with stenographers. Eventually the case was cracked, although Burns remained reticent to discuss the precise role of the Telegraphone. Rood began to manufacture more Telegraphone machines, selling 20 of them to the Du Pont de Nemours & Company for use as dictating machines.
Rood also made a private sale to the German Navy. Two of them turned up at a shortwave station that was part of a transatlantic network that included a station in Hamburg, Germany. In 1914 the US Navy seized the station, suspecting that it was sending shipping information to German U-boats. A Telegraphone had been used to record messages in Morse Code, which were then transmitted by radio to German stations.
Just before the US entered WWI in April of 1917 a German sub made some good-will visits to Atlantic ports. The press was invited on board, and among their photos some of Rood's Telegraphones were visible. In 1918, the US Army Signal Corps asked for some Telegraphones to record messages. Rood discouraged it, saying that it was still experimental. But the secret service knew that the Germans were using them for that purpose. Ultimately, the Signal Corps did have machines delivered, which didn't work. But Rood had asked how they might be used, and apparently gained some intelligence information, including the location of a troop ship, the USS President Lincoln, which was later torpedoed by the Germans. Rood was accused of treason, but refused to comment. In 1918, production of the machines stopped. The company never made another, although they remained in business until 1928, dealing with a variety of lawsuits from companies that had bought the machines and found them defective.
The President Lincoln Had a Tempestuous Voyage. Buffeted by seas the Hamburg-American liner President Lincoln arrived yesterday from Hamburg a day late. Bad weather was almost continual during all of her twelve days' trip. When the liner tried to stop at Cherbourg to take on passengers and mail, it was so rough that the tender could not get alongside and the vessel had to keep on her way. When longitude 28 degrees was reached she ran into the worst storm of the voyage. A hurricane kicked up such a sea that the vessel was raked by mighty waves. The ship was slowed down and oil was poured on the waters. Between decks a collection of animals made a great and continual din as the storm pounded the vessel. There was a wombat, a scappilala, hyenas, eight antelope, two llamas, five deer, a giant wart hog, a gnu and seven horses aboard. Besides, there were 2,000 canaries from the Hartz mountains. When the President Lincoln was running through a wild sea, Schlerme Levin, a Russian lad of eighteen, traveling alone in steerage, committed suicide by jumping overboard. He had attracted some attention because of his persistent talk that he was pursued by Cossacks and Russian secret police. Max Jablensky, a second class cabin passenger, attempted suicide by cutting his throat. As soon as he cut himself he became remorseful and shouted for help. The ships doctor pulled him around and he will have to explain to the Immigration authorities why he attempted suicide before they will let him join his relatives in this city.
A Ships menu from the SS President Lincoln which is dated June 9, 1908.
Christian Chaffee who is and antique dealer from San Diego, California goes to many estate sales looking for items for his business. But this Estate sale held by Nancy Beall of 9970 Alto Drive in La Mesa, California had a special little surprise just waiting to be discovered. At this estate sale there was a large collection of old steins that were being sold individually. Christian Chaffee found an old simple glass stein among the many being sold. It was a plain clear glass beer stein much like that of any found at your neighborhood bar. One that has been hoisted many a toast with, but this one somehow was different and it may have been the curious old yellowed label, which had been typed and then glued to the lip of the mug many, many years ago, or it may have been the memory of a long ago toast that called Christian Chaffee to bid on this old hunk of glass but nineteen dollars later the old glass beer stein was his.
When Christian got back to his store he looked over his purchases for the day again the old label on the beer stein called at him to read it again. The label reads: "This Stein taken from the Steamship President Lincoln, sunk in French waters May 31, 1918. Sunk in 18 minutes. Crew of six hundred on board twenty-three lost. Given to me by Mr. Kimberly Paymaster of ship." Christian was curious as to what the real story was behind this simple item, which is a direct link to the ship, and the events, which took place so long ago.
The bottom of the mug is made of thick clear glass, and measures 5 3/4 inches high, and is 3 inches across the top. There is wheel-cut engraving on the lip with the volume of liquid it holds. The bottom of the foot is ground smooth, but not polished. The mug also has a mark on the bottom, which was in the mold when the mug was made. This mark is illegible, but appears sort of diamond shaped with one corner of the diamond clipped, with a number of small raised dots inside and outside the diamond shape.
Its form is simple but its story is not and Christian needed to know more of what the message that was typed and pasted to it so many years ago could tell him, as it is likely one of the very few original items from the President Lincoln that did not go down with the ship.
Thats when Christian contacted me and wondered if I might know anything about it or who Mr. Kimberly was. I then started to look into the story of the old beer stein. I first wondered why a simple glass beer stein would be saved from the ship. Seems a curious item to save from a ship that went down in eighteen minutes. It may have been a practical thing to take with him, as lifeboats would need bailing out in the open ocean. Or it may have held special memories for this Mr. Kimberly. Or still again Mr. Kimberly may have sailed on the President Lincoln and kept it and then when he learned of her sinking added the label to it to remember the old ship. We will never really know for sure why it was saved just that it was saved.
I thought of who this Mr. Kimberly was and what his story could tell us. It was stated on the old yellow label that Mr. Kimberly was the Paymaster of the President Lincoln. Kimberly is in fact known only as G. R. Kimberly and was a Pay Clerk, USN.
I do know for sure that there were two Assistant Paymasters on the ship and I believe that there would have been one head Paymaster. The two Assistant Paymasters on the ship were named Ensign James E. Johnston, UNSRF and Lt. Andrew Mowat. Both Mowat and Johnston were lost when the ship went down. Or in some text that I have Mowat is listed as Paymaster and Johnston is listed as Assistant Paymaster. This may be explained as if Kimberly was the Paymaster he may well have been but was not on the ship when she went down, but was the Paymaster at an earlier date before she went down. Then as Kimberly learned about the sinking knew he had the glass mug and labeled it as a memento.
Steve Vandiver shared with me this photo of a compass from the USS President Lincoln. Steve's son had bought him this compass from an antique shop for his birthday. The lettering appears to be military type stenciling with "PRES LINCOLN" on the top and no other markings. The case is wooden and is painted OD Green. They most likely took it from the bridge when abandoning the ship so they could use it in the life boats or it could be one that was already with the life boats.
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