The First Battleship Texas (1892)

In service only for just under 20 years, the first battleship bearing the name Texas was built in the Norfolk, Virginia navy yard being the first battleship, or arguably one of the first battleships, of the United States Navy. The funding for the Texas was part of the military appropriation act that authorized the Maine (a cruiser, but also referred to as a battleship), the Baltimore (a cruiser), the Vesuvius (also a cruiser) and the Cushing (a torpedo boat). The Texas had armor plating of 12 inch thick steel over the bulkheads, turret conning tower and redoubt (a protecting reinforcement, also of steel), six inches of steel protecting much of the rest of the ship. To a certain extent, the ship was derivative, built from designs purchased from Britain, before the days when both design and construction were unique and American.

Continue reading The First Battleship Texas (1892)

USS Indianapolis

The U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) is part of a fascinating World War II story.  The ship was a heavy cruiser that played an important role in the atomic bombing missions that led Japan directly to its surrender and the end of the war.  Indianapolis was ordered in 1929 and her hull was laid down at the Camden Yard in New Jersey on March 31, 1930 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.  According to Naval History and Heritage Command, her displacement  was 9,800 tons, her length was 610 feet, beam was 66 feet and draft was 17’4″.  The ship was constructed to accommodate a crew of 1,269, achieve a speed of 32 knots and was armed with 9 8-inch and 8 5-inch guns.  The Indianapolis was the second of two ships of the Portland class.

Continue reading USS Indianapolis

Battleship Texas (BB-35)

The USS Texas is now berthed near the San Jacinto Monument.  She is second of the New York ship class, which consisted of only two ships, the USS New York and the USS Texas.  The New York Class (1908-1914) was characterized as being more heavily armed than the previous Wyoming Class.  They were the first battleships to use 14 inch/45 caliber guns.  This particular gun was used on the Nevada- and Pennsylvania Class ships.  The ships of the New York Class were also powered by coal and had five gun turrets when first built.  Some of the above was changed during overhauls and retrofitting, including her conversion from coal to diesel power.

Continue reading Battleship Texas (BB-35)

Fire on the Mittie Stephens

The night of February 11, 1869, the Mittie Stephens, a sidewheel paddle steamer, was heading on a southerly route through the channel across Caddo Lake on its way to Jefferson, Texas.  After midnight on February 12, sparks thought to have come from a torch basket used for exterior lighting started a fire on board and the ship quickly burned down to the waterline.  There were one hundred four passengers along with the cargo and crew.  When all were accounted for, forty-two of the passengers survived though sixty-two passengers and several more crewmen perished.  This was despite the fact that the ship came to rest in shallow water.  The first thought would naturally be to wonder why many adults were unable to walk out in or swam to safety.  However, the water was cold, the river bottom was mucky and the vessel came to rest a considerable distance from the shore, such that it took a crew rowing a skiff from another vessel (the Dixie) over an hour to reach her.  It is theorized that a good many of the victims either drowned or may have been fatally injured when they were drawn into the paddle wheels on either side of the ship.

Continue reading Fire on the Mittie Stephens