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USS Yankee in 1898
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Class:        YANKEE
Design:        Cargo, 1892
Displacement (tons):        4,659 gross, 6,225 displ.
Dimensions (feet):        406.1' oa, 391.8' pp x 48.3' x 20.1' mn
Original Armament:        10-5"/40 6-6pdr (1898)
Later armaments:        8-5" 6-6pdr 2-1pdr (1902);
10-3" 2-3pdr (1908)
Complement:        282
Speed (kts.):        14.5
Propulsion (HP):        3,800
Machinery:        Vert. inverted triple expansion, 1 screw

AP Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
-- YANKEE 6 Apr 98 Newport News SB & DD -- 14 Jun 92 14 Apr 98

AP Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
-- YANKEE 18 Jan 09 17 Apr 12 4 Dec 08 Lost --

Class Notes:
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. They could carry 14,000 bales of cotton. 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. 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.

YANKEE was out of commission at League Island between 16 Mar 99 and 1 May 03. Fitted with a heavy brig rig, she trained landsmen at sea until the end of 1904. Decommissioned on 25 Sep 06 at Portsmouth, N.H., she reverted to a 2-masted schooner rig, received a new armament, and was placed in commission at the Boston Navy Yard on 15 Jun 08 as a torpedo supply ship for the torpedo vessels on the Atlantic Coast. In addition she was to be the flagship of the Naval Militia vessels for the summer maneuvers of those organizations. During these activities she grounded on 23 Sep 08 on the Hen and Chickens Reef near New Bedford, Mass. A contract to refloat the vessel by using compressed air was given to John Arbuckle on 13 Oct 08. The ship was floated off the reef on 4 Dec 08 but sank the same day in Buzzards Bay while being towed into New Bedford when a tug stove in the portholes of the room containing the air compressors and flooded it. Salvage efforts recommenced in mid-1909 and an unsuccessful attempt was made to raise her on 7 Dec 09. The contractor was still trying in December 1911, but in February 1912 a general survey of the ship was ordered to determine her disposition and on 17 Apr 12 she was stricken. The submerged wreck was eventually turned over to the Merritt & Chapman Derrick & Wrecking Company for salvage of materials, and in late 1917 it was expected that 1,600 tons of "junk" worth $250,000 would be recovered, including three boilers each worth $60,000.

Ship Notes:
AP Name Notes
-- YANKEE Ex merc. EL NORTE (completed 15 Sep 92). Grounded at the entrance to Buzzards Bay off New Bedford 13 Oct 08, lost under tow 4 Dec 08 during salvage.

Page Notes:
AP        1898
Compiled:        01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013