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USS Marcellus on 2 May 1907
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Design: Cargo, 1879
Displacement (tons): 1,960 gross, 4,315 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 295.25' oa, 284.5' pp x 35.1' x 21.25' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr (1898)
Later armaments: none (1899)
Speed (kts.): 11
Propulsion (HP): 1,200
Machinery: Vert. compound, 1 screw
||13 Jun 98
||Mounsey & Foster
||5 Apr 79
||9 Aug 98
||22 Sep 10
||9 Aug 10
In April 1879 the shipyard of Mounsey & Foster at South Dock, Sunderland, England, launched the iron-hulled cargo ship MERCEDES for the British shipping firm of Adamson & Ronaldson. In September 1881 the Dutch Stoomvaart Maatschappij Insulinde was established and began service by buying two of Adamson & Ronaldson's ships including MERCEDES, which became C. FELLINGER. Low freight rates and loss of a ship ruined the company and it sold its ships in 1886, C. FELLINGER going to A. Kirsten's Hamburg Pacific Dampfschiffs Linie as TITANIA. She was resold in 1898 without name change to HPDL's main competitor, DDG Kosmos.
On 12 Mar 98 the Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but by the end of March it also had orders to find six colliers, two repair ships, and two distilling ships. By mid-April the Navy had acquired the six colliers, SATURN, LEBANON, NIAGARA, STERLING, SOUTHERY, and MERRIMAC, but the Department soon instructed the Board to find more. Ultimately between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty ships for use as colliers plus three more as distilling ships and one as a repair ship.
The Navy's qualifications for efficient colliers included a carrying capacity of 2,000 or more tons of coal, a speed of 12 or more knots, thorough seaworthiness, as little draught of water as possible, and the capability of being armed sufficiently to protect themselves against privateers, armed transports, and small gunboats. The vessels purchased as colliers were all of the merchant-ship type, and, in order to render their character more difficult to ascertain, their general appearance was not changed. They were fitted with towing appliances, as most of them were powerful vessels, capable of towing disabled ships of war should it become necessary. 15 vessels were purchased and employed on the Atlantic Coast and two more, NERO and BRUTUS, were purchased for use on the Pacific coast and in convoying ships to Manila. In addition NANSHAN was acquired in the Far East, HECTOR was captured from the Spanish, and SCIPIO was acquired but not placed in service. These vessels were purchased outright, manned by a naval force, and provided with batteries for repelling attacks from privateers. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which developed, there was at no time any complaint of lack of coal.
MARCELLUS was sold to the Navy by William Lamb. Her cargo coal capacity was 2,400 tons. She operated along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean for her entire naval career, making frequent voyages to Guantanamo Bay. On 9 Aug 12 on one of these voyages at about 2:00 am MARCELLUS, in company with the Navy collier LEONIDAS off Cape Hatteras about 75 miles southeast of Cape Henry, was rammed by the Norwegian steamer ROSARIO DI GIORGIO, and at 12:55 pm that day she sank. LEONIDAS arrived in Norfolk on 10 Aug 12 with the entire crew and their effects of MARCELLUS on board while the Norwegian ship proceeded to New York for repairs to its bow. Each of the Navy colliers had two barges in tow, and a U.S. Attorney examining the case hypothesized that the lights on the barges, which were improper, along with other factors confused the Norwegian officers into thinking that LEONIDAS was towing MARCELLUS. He felt it was a case in which both vessels would be found at fault and recommended settling the matter without a trial.
||Ex merc. TITANIA (completed Apr 79), ex-C. FELLINGER 1886, ex-MERCEDES 1881. Sunk in collision with steamer ROSARIO DE GIORGIO off Cape Hatteras.
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013