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USS Hannibal as a surveying ship on 2 January 1914
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Class: HANNIBAL (AG-1)
Design Cargo, 1898
Displacement (tons): 2,179 light, 3,550 full
Dimensions (feet): 274.1' oa, 263.3' pp x 39.25' wl x 15.5' mn, 19.2 mx
Original Armament: 2-1pdr (1898)
Later armaments: 1-6pdr (1902)
4-3"/50 (ca. 1917);
1-6"/40 2-3"/50 (1918);
Complement 258 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 9
Propulsion (HP): 1,100
Machinery: Vert. triple expansion, 1 screw
||16 Apr 98
||9 Mar 98
||7 Jun 98
||20 Aug 44
||16 Sep 44
||3 Mar 45
In 1897 the London firm of Francis Stanley Holland, whose predecessor had described itself as "Export and Coal Factors and Merchants," added "Steamship Owners" to its activities by ordering three steamers, JOSEPH HOLLAND, ELIZABETH HOLLAND, and FRANCES HOLLAND. The three ships were of about the same size but were built to different designs by three different British shipbuilders. FRANCES HOLLAND was a single-decked cargo steamer designed to carry 3,600 tons deadweight on an extremely light draft, and the others may have been similarly designed. Just as the first two of these ships were being launched the U.S. Navy on 12 Mar 98 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 in early April it also began purchasing colliers. Between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty cargo ships for use as colliers. The Holland firm and its predecessor, Green, Holland, and Sons, had owned only one ship since the early 1880s and were primarily "merchants," and when offered a good price by the U.S. for the new JOSEPH HOLLAND and ELIZABETH HOLLAND they were willing to sell. The two ships, purchased on 16 Apr 98 and renamed HANNIBAL and LEONIDAS (see AD-7) respectively, were among the smallest of the colliers taken over in 1898, only LEBANON and POMPEY being smaller. Holland's firm sold the slightly larger FRANCES HOLLAND to another British firm in 1900, at which time Holland ordered three replacement ships.
HANNIBAL had by far the longest U.S. Navy career of any of the 1898 colliers. From June 1898 to May 1908 she served in the Collier Service with a Navy crew of about 53 men supporting the Atlantic Fleet. After an overhaul in 1908, she continued in the Collier Service for nearly 3 years with her base in New England and with a civilian crew of about 34 men. She was listed as on special service in 1910 and 1911 and was credited with a coal capacity of 2,300 tons in 1911. HANNIBAL decommissioned on 15 August 1911.
HANNIBAL recommissioned on 16 October 1911 with a Navy crew of 152 men (in 1916) and was assigned to the U.S. Survey Squadron to make depth soundings and surveys in preparation for the opening of the Panama Canal. Hydrographic surveys continued in the Caribbean until 1917, including operations in Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Cuba.
With the advent of World War I, Hannibal joined the Patrol Force of the Atlantic Fleet. On 27 Oct 17 HANNIBAL and LEONIDAS were ordered converted into submarine chaser tenders, and after conversion she became a subchaser tender at Plymouth, England, in 1918. As such she had a battery of 1-6"/40 gun and 2-3"/50 guns and a crew of around 300 men. She served in English waters until December, when she sailed for the Azores via Gibraltar escorting subchasers. In early 1919 she resumed her tender duties, and after visiting England, France, and Portugal she returned to the United States in August. On 8 Sep 19 the Navy Department ordered that upon her arrival in the United States she was to be placed out of commission at Philadelphia and placed on the list of vessels to be sold.
HANNIBAL, however, soon got a new lease on life when on 25 Oct 19 CNO directed the Philadelphia Navy Yard to place HANNIBAL in commission in reserve instead of decommissioning her and noted that the Department contemplated using her as a surveying ship when personnel were available. She was placed in reserve on 19 Nov 19. As a prospective surveying ship she was designated as a miscellaneous auxiliary, AG-1, when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. After being reconditioned for survey duty in late 1920 the ship was placed in full commission at Philadelphia on 22 Jan 21 and sailed on 9 February 1921 for Cuba to resume survey operations on the southwest coast of Cuba between Cape Cruz and Casilda, operations that had been begun in 1907 or before. During the 1923 survey season she was assisted in surveying the Gulf of Batabano and the Isle of Pines area by subchasers SC-223 and SC-353, barges YC-66 and YC-268, and an aircraft that was embarked on the ship. YC-66 was fitted with quarters for the expedition. A barge with water tanks was added to the force for the 1924 season and the aircraft was probably deleted. HANNIBAL's Cuban operations lasted until 1930, and during the next decade she surveyed waters near Trinidad, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and the Canal Zone. She may have carried 1-4"/50 and 2-3"/50 guns for a few years beginning in March 1932.
During World War II HANNIBAL operated out of Norfolk under the Commandant, 5th Naval District, in connection with the calibration and magnetic survey of vessels on the Chesapeake Bay degaussing range. HANNIBAL decommissioned on 20 August 1944, and on 22 Sep 44 her use as a radar bombing target in Chesapeake Bay for the Patuxent Naval Air Station was approved. She was to have been salvaged after this use but Navy clerks were later directed to use 3 Mar 45 as the date of her destruction.
||Ex merc. JOSEPH HOLLAND (completed Apr 98). Surveying ship 1911, subchaser tender 1917, surveying ship 1921. Expended as aircraft radar bombing target in Chesapeake Bay.
Compiled: 28 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012