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USS Dixie circa 1898 in her original configuration as an auxiliary cruiser
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Class: DIXIE (AD-1)
Design Cargo, 1892
Displacement (tons): 5,000 light, 6,525 normal
Dimensions (feet): 405.8' oa, 391.1'pp x 48.25' e x 20.75' mn
Original Armament: 10-6"/40 6-6pdr (1898)
Later armaments: 10-5"/40 4-6pdr 4-1pdr (ca. 1900);
8-5"/40 6-6pdr (ca. 1903);
10-3"/50 2-6pdr (1908);
7-3"/50 1-3"/50AA 2-1p (ca. 1918);
4-3"/50 1-3"/50AA 2-6pdr 2-1pdr (ca. 1919)
Complement: 636 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 14.5
Propulsion (HP): 3,800
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||15 Apr 98
||Newport News SB & DD
||16 Mar 92
||26 Oct 92
||19 Apr 98
||30 Jun 22
||5 Aug 22
||25 Sep 22
In around 1885 the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the Morgan Line, which had been founded by Charles Morgan in the 1840s, and to compete with the transcontinental railroad further north established the Sunset Route, along which freight was carried from New York to New Orleans on Morgan steamers and then to the West Coast on the railroad's newly completed line between New Orleans and California. Between 1884 and 1889 the Morgan Line took delivery of five 14-knot ships of 3,500 tons from William Cramp & Sons, and in 1890 it jumped to 15 knots and 4,500 tons with its last Cramp-built ship, EL SOL (later USS PRAIRIE). Morgan then successively ordered four near sisters from the new Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., EL SUD (later USS YOSEMITE), EL NORTE (YANKEE), EL RIO (DIXIE), and EL CID (BUFFALO ex Brazilian NICTHEROY). These 405-foot long (overall) ships, designed to carry freight only, had three decks (lower, main, and awning) with low deckhouses that contained the officers' quarters. For rapid cargo handling they had four cargo hatches served by booms on their masts and six large cargo ports in their sides (which the Navy used as gun emplacements). The ships also had four coal ports on each side. The vertical triple expansion engines were supplied by three cylindrical return-tube double-ended boilers arranged side by side under the single smokestack. In the last two of these ships, EL RIO and EL CID, steel replaced iron as the construction material and the number of masts was reduced from four to two. EL RIO could carry 13,000 bales of cotton. After the Navy took over four of these fast freighters in April 1898 Morgan replaced them in 1899 with four similar ships and in 1901-1902 added four more. In World War I four of the eight new ships served in the Navy as minelayers and then as troop transports (the CANONICUS class).
On 12 Mar 98 the Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused mainly on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts. On 22 Mar 98 the Board planned to examine several ships of the Morgan Line then at New York. These were used exclusively for freight but were speedy and, with one or two exceptions, were among the fastest of the coasting fleet. It was thought they would be fitted out as cruisers, the absence of extensive saloon and stateroom arrangements making them more easily convertible to Navy needs. On 4 Apr 98 the Navy Department directed the Board to select at once ten vessels for auxiliary cruisers, and late in the same day the Board reported to Washington that it had made arrangements for the purchase of four steamers of the Morgan Line: EL SOL, EL SUD, EL NORTE, and EL RIO. The ships were to be sent to the New York and Norfolk Navy Yards for immediate conversion into cruisers, and if the work could not be done there within a few days some of them would be taken in hand by private shipbuilding firms. The first three ships were purchased from the Morgan Line's owner, the Southern Pacific Co., on 6 Apr 98, and EL RIO followed on 15 Apr 98. Arrangements were also made to purchase the VENEZUELA and CARACAS of the Red D Line, the KANSAS CITY of the Savannah Line, and the YORKTOWN, JAMESTOWN, and PRINCESS ANNE of the Old Dominion Line, but of these only VENEZUELA and YORKTOWN (PANTHER, AD-6, and the transport RESOLUTE) were acquired.
Commissioned on 19 Apr 98 while beginning conversion to an auxiliary cruiser at Newport News, Va., DIXIE departed Hampton Roads for Santiago de Cuba on 19 Jun 98. Attached to the Eastern Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet, she served on blockade duty and escorted Army transports during the Spanish American War. On 27 and 28 Jul 98 she landed an armed force that received the surrender of the towns of Ponce and La Playa in Cuba. She returned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 Sep 98 and on 7 Mar 99 was placed out of commission and loaned to the War Department for use as a transport. The Army returned her on 15 Jul 99.
DIXIE recommissioned on 15 Nov 99 as a training ship for recruits and made several extended training cruises before decommissioning on 21 Jul 02. Recommissioning on 1 Oct 03, she joined the Caribbean Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet as a transport. Reassigned in 1905 to the Special Service Squadron she carried a scientific expedition to the Mediterranean and then decommissioned on 23 Oct 05 She was back in commission between 2 Jun 06 and 1 Nov 07 for more transport service in the Caribbean.
When DIXIE next recommissioned, on 2 Feb 09, she was assigned as tender to the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet (later Flotilla) to support destroyers and torpedo boats. She was ordered converted to a destroyer tender 30 Sep 11. In addition to her tender duty she towed submarines, transported Marines and crews for other ships, carried the Nicaraguan expeditionary force to the Canal Zone, and took part in the Veracruz campaign in Mexico in April and May of 1914.
With American entry into World War I, DIXIE departed Philadelphia on 31 May 1917 to join U.S. naval forces operating in European waters. Arriving at Queenstown, Ireland, 12 June she served primarily as tender for American destroyers based at that port. Returning to Philadelphia 22 February 1919 DIXIE served as tender to destroyer flotillas operating on the east coast, and in the Caribbean. She arrived at Philadelphia 16 July to tend the destroyers in reserve at Philadelphia Navy Yard and was designated AD-1 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. From 5 April 1921 to 17 May 1922 she was again tender to Destroyer Squadrons, Atlantic Fleet and cruised along the East Coast from New York to Charleston, S.C.
On 29 Mar 22 the Secretary of the Navy directed that, on account of the age of the vessel, her reduced military value, and her material condition, DIXIE be placed on the list of vessels to be disposed of by sale as a ship after decommissioning. CNO on 3 Apr 22 informed Commander Destroyer Squadrons Atlantic that DIXIE was to be placed out of commission at Philadelphia before 30 Jun 22 and instructed him to have DIXIE proceed to Philadelphia at his discretion depending on the readiness of the newly-acquired DENEBOLA (AD-12). On 6 Apr 22 DIXIE was ordered sold and a Board of Survey and Estimate was appointed. The ship was placed out of commission on 30 Jun 22 at Philadelphia. On 5 Aug 22 SecNav directed the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts to advertise the ship for sale and, in view of this action, simultaneously directed the Bureau of Construction and Repair to take immediate steps to strike this vessel from the Navy Register. The ship was sold in September 1922 to Joseph G. Hitner of Philadelphia but not scrapped until 1927.
||Ex merc. EL RIO (completed 9 Feb 93). Scrapped in Baltimore, Md., in Oct. 1927.
Compiled: 27 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012