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USS Solace circa 6 June 1898
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Class: SOLACE (AH-2)
Design Pass. & cargo, 1896
Displacement (tons): 5,700 light, 5,920 full
Dimensions (feet): 377.0' oa, 361.2' pp x 44.0' wl x 22.9' mx, 20.5' mn
Original Armament: 3-6pdr (1899)
Later armaments: none (1909)
Complement 275 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 15
Propulsion (HP): 3,200
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||7 Apr 98
||Newport News SB & DD
||14 Apr 98
||20 Jul 21
||6 Aug 30
||6 Nov 30
This coastal passenger and cargo ship was built as CREOLE at Newport News for the Cromwell S.S. Co., a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad that ran a direct service between New York and New Orleans. CREOLE joined on this route four much older ships, all of which dated from the 1870s. When the Navy acquired CREOLE in 1898 the line ordered two somewhat larger replacements, COMUS and PROTEUS, which entered service in 1900. The Cromwell Line was merged into its owners' Southern Pacific Steamship Lines (the Morgan Line) in 1902.
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 15 Mar 98 the Board inspected CREOLE and were especially pleased with her construction, which would enable a batter of at least four six-inch guns to be mounted without the least preliminary work of buttressing and reinforcing her decks. At about the same time the Navy's Surgeon General was in New York selecting a vessel to be used as a hospital ship in case of war. By 5 Apr 98 CREOLE, which had arrived back at New York on 4 Apr 98 from New Orleans, had been secured by the Government for use as a hospital ship. The sale was concluded on 7 Apr 98 and the ship became USS SOLACE.
SOLACE was converted in 16 days at Newport News. General Order No. 487 of 27 Apr 98 stated that the SOLACE, having been fitted and equipped by the Department as an ambulance ship for the naval service under the terms of the Geneva Convention, was about to be assigned to service and specified rules for her employment consistent with that Convention. She was organized in the same manner as combatant ships with a line officer in command and a naval crew but was certified to the enemy and to neutral powers as reserved wholly for non-combatant and humanitarian purposes. SOLACE saw constant service as a hospital ship in the Atlantic during the Spanish American War.
SOLACE arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard in May 1899 after a voyage that included stops in Europe, the Near East, the Far East, and Hawaii. Emerging on 1 Jul 99 from an overhaul without her hospital ship markings, she carried mail, passengers, and provisions in the Pacific until she decommissioned at Mare Island on 12 Oct 1905. From July 1901 she was listed in the Navy Register as a hospital ship on transport duty to Manila, and from July 1905 through 1909 she was listed simply as a transport. She recommissioned for more transport duty on 3 Jun 08, then transited to the Atlantic and decommissioned at Charleston, S.C. on 14 Apr 09 for conversion back to a hospital ship. There her superstructure was considerably enlarged and this, coupled with her narrow beam, made her prone to rolling in heavy seas. She was placed in service at the Charleston S.C. Navy Yard on 20 Nov 09 and joined the Atlantic Fleet as a hospital ship on 6 Dec 09.
By this time hospital ships were commanded by Medical Corps surgeons with a master subordinate to the surgeon controlling the ship and her crew according to merchant law. This arrangement continued until U.S. entry into the World War in 1917 when the Greek crew of SOLACE declined to serve and was replaced by men of the Regular Navy. At the same time the masters of the Auxiliary Transport Service were given commissions in the Naval Reserve, and SOLACE served during World War I with a surgeon in command of the naval reserve officers and regular or temporary navy crews who operated the ship. She continued to be assigned to the Atlantic Fleet until 1 Apr 21, and was finally placed out of commission at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 Jul 21. She remained laid up there until sold in 1930.
||Ex merc. CREOLE (Cromwell S.S. Co.). Sold to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, for scrap
Compiled: 28 Jul 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012