The second USS Tennessee (ACR-10), also referred to "Armored Cruiser No. 10", and later renamed Memphis and renumbered CA-10, was a United States Navy armored cruiser, the lead ship of her class. The ship was laid down by the Cramp Shipbuilding Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 20 1903, launched on December 3 1904, sponsored by Miss Annie K. Frazier (daughter of Governor James B. Frazier of Tennessee and later the foundress of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy), and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on July 17 1906, Captain Albert O. Berry in command.
Tennessee was powered by sixteen coal fuelled Babcock boilers providing steam for two sets of four-cylinder triple expansion engines producing 23,000 hp. Final drive being provided by two screws turning outwards. Armament consisted of: Four 10-inch (model ‘99) 40 calibre guns; Four 6-inch 50 calibre guns; Twelve 3-inch 14-Pdr. guns; Two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns; Four to Six 3-inch (saluting) guns; and Four submerged 21 inch Torpedo Tubes.
The new armored cruiser departed Hampton Roads on November 8 1906 as escort for Louisiana (Battleship No. 19) in which President Theodore Roosevelt had embarked for a cruise to Panama to check on the progress of work constructing the Panama Canal. After a brief visit to Puerto Rico on the return voyage, the warships arrived back at Hampton Roads on November 26. Tennessee was present for the Jamestown Exposition held in 1907 to commemorate the tricentennial of the founding of the first English settlement in America.
On June 14, Tennessee sailed for Europe and reached Royan, France, on the 23rd for duty with the Special Service Squadron. She returned home in August but departed Hampton Roads on October 12 for the Pacific.
Tennessee then patrolled off the California coast until August 24 1908 when she sailed for Samoa, arriving at Pago Pago on September 23 to resume service with the Pacific Fleet. On May 15 1910, she arrived at Bahia Blanca to represent the United States at the centenary celebration of the independence of Argentina. On November 8, the armored cruiser departed Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and proceeded to Charleston, South Carolina, to embark President William Howard Taft for a round trip voyage to Panama to inspect further progress on the canal. She returned to Hampton Roads on November 22 and then engaged in battle practice off the Virginia coast into February 1911. Following a Mardi Gras visit to New Orleans and a visit to New York early in March, the ship steamed to Cuban waters for two months of operations out of Guantanamo Bay.
Placed in reserve at the Portsmouth Navy Yard on June 15 1911, she remained on the east coast for a year and one-half before departing Philadelphia on November 12 1912 for the Mediterranean. Arriving off Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, on December 1, she remained there protecting American citizens and property during the First Balkan War until May 3 1913 when she headed home. After reaching Hampton Roads on the 23rd, Tennessee operated on the East Coast until entering the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia on October 23. On May 2 1914, she became receiving ship at the New York Navy Yard.
On August 6, Tennessee sailed from New York for duty in Europe through the first half of 1915 supporting the American Relief Expedition. In August, she transported the 1st Regiment, Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Marine Artillery Battalion to Haiti. From January 29 to February 24 1916, the cruiser served as flagship of a cruiser squadron off Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In March, she embarked a group of dignitaries at Hampton Roads for a two-month, round trip cruise to Montevideo, Uruguay.
In July, under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach, Sr., the ship got underway for the Caribbean arriving at Santo Domingo on July 23 for peace-keeping patrol off the rebellion-torn Dominican Republic. On the afternoon of August 29, while at anchor in the harbor of Santo Domingo, Memphis was driven ashore by an unexpected tsunami and totally wrecked. The casualties, including a boatload of Memphis sailors returning from shore leave, numbered some 40 men dead or missing and 204 badly injured. Due to this incident, Chief Machinist's Mate George William Rud, Lieutenant Claud Ashton Jones and Machinist Charles H. Willey were awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.
The ship's bow decoration is on display in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee, where it was erected as a monument. This large decoration was removed from the ship in about 1909.
- Alden, John D. American Steel Navy: A Photographic History of the U.S. Navy from the Introduction of the Steel Hull in 1883 to the Cruise of the Great White Fleet. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1989. ISBN 0870212486
- Beach, Edward L. The Wreck of the Memphis. New York, New York: Holt, Rinear, and Wiston, 1966. Naval Institute Press Classics of Naval Literature 1998 re-print ISBN 1-55750-070-3
- Friedman, Norman. U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 0870217186
- Musicant, Ivan. U.S. Armored Cruisers: A Design and Operational History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0870217143
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