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USS Osceola (1898-1923) in April 1901
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Class: OSCEOLA (AT-47)
Design: Tug, 1896
Displacement (tons): 352 gross, 571 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 138.0' oa, 125.4' wl x 26.25' x 14.0' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr 1-3pdr (Apr-May 1898)
Later armaments: none (Sep 1898);
3-3pdr (Jun 1900; none (Mar 1901);
Complement: 32 (1921)
Speed (kts.): 14
Propulsion (HP): 1,000
Machinery: Vert. triple expansion, 1 screw
||31 Mar 98
||Charles Hillman S&EB
||4 Apr 98
||15 Nov 22
||15 Nov 22
||24 Mar 23
Between 1895 and 1898 the Hillman Ship & Engine Building Co. of Philadelphia built six similar tugs for the Staples Coal Co. of Fall River, Mass., named in order of construction PAOLI, WINTHROP, EUREKA, CONCORD, WALTHAM, and TACONY. WINTHROP and probably the others were used to tow coal barges between Philadelphia and Fall River. CONCORD, numbered ID-773 in 1917, was acquired by the Navy during World War I and was classified YT-33 in 1920.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. 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, but on 25 Mar 98 the press reported that the Board had been ordered to secure at once a dozen tugs and yachts to be equipped for active service as torpedo craft at Key West. On 30 Mar 98 the press reported that the tugs, which Secretary of the Navy Long at first thought would be used for torpedo boats by putting in torpedo tubes, had been degraded to the rank of mere scout boats. Only submarine tubes could have been used on the tugs, and to put these in would have required great expenditure of money and time and the introduction of compressed air machinery, which was not then used in the American Navy. Besides the tugs were too slow to be of any use as torpedo boats or indeed as fighting boats of any kind. Instead they were to be armed with small rapid fire guns and would be assigned to patrol and scout duty. Being slow they would not follow the fleet but would go ahead of it to its destination where they would make up a small police cordon around the fleet. By reason of their lowness in the water and heavy structure they were considered unfit for transporting ammunition or supplies or to carry heavy guns.
On 26 Mar 98 the press reported that on 25 Mar 98 the Navy had purchased several tugs incuding WINTHROP and WALTER LUCKENBACH (see AT-51). WINTHROP was the giant of the group, a magnificent steel vessel of 240 register tons, 125 feet long, 26 feet in beam, and 15 feet deep. She was fitted with the latest pattern of triple expansion engines and could develop a speed of 12 knots. The same article reported in error that her near sister PAOLI had also been acquired. The Navy paid Staples $100,000 for WINTHROP, which it renamed OSCEOLA. The sale was probably formally concluded on the record date of 31 Mar 98.
OSCEOLA saw active service as a unit of the North Atlantic Fleet off Cuba during wartime operations there in 1898. After a period at the Boston Navy Yard, probably out of commission, she became in early 1900 a tender to the monitor AMPHRITITE, which was in use as a gunnery training ship. In early 1901 she was reassigned to the Naval Station at Key West and served there and at Pensacola until 1912 except for a brief period at Guantanamo Bay in 1907-1908. She returned to Guantanamo Bay in 1913 and remained there as station ship until 1920. She was designated AT-47 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. After participating in patrols of the Caribbean in 1921 and a stay at Port au Prince, Haiti, in 1922 she returned to the United States for disposal. She was placed on the sale list and ordered stricken on 9 Nov 22, and she was placed out of commission and on the stricken list on 15 Nov 22. Returning to civilian service, she remained active until foundering in 1947.
||Ex merc. WINTHROP (completed Jul 96). Sold to F. E. Pope, Washington, D.C., for $9,100. Merc. WINTHROP 1924, foundered 9 Jul 47 near Port Isabel, Texas.
Compiled: 19 Feb 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013