U.S.S. Kearsarge (1898)

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U.S.S. Kearsarge (1898)
Hull Number: BB-5
Builder: Newport News[1]
Ordered: 2 March, 1895[2]
Laid down: 30 Jun, 1896[3]
Launched: 24 Mar, 1898[4]
Commissioned: 20 Feb, 1900[5]
Sold: 1955[6]
This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Kearsarge, the lead ship of her class of battleships, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named, by act of Congress, in honor of the famous American Civil War sloop-of-war Kearsarge.


Her keel was laid down by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company of Newport News, Virginia on 30 June, 1896. She was launched on 24 March 1898, sponsored by Mrs. Herbert Winslow, daughter-in-law of Captain John A. Winslow, who had commanded the sloop Kearsarge during her famous battle with Alabama, and commissioned on 20 February 1900 with Captain William M. Folger in command. Of all the battleships designated BB, including those never completed, Kearsarge is the only one not named for a state.


Kearsarge became flagship of the North Atlantic Station, cruising down the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean Sea. From 3 June, 1903 to 26 July, 1903 she served briefly as flagship of the European Squadron while on a cruise that took her first to Kiel, Germany. She was visited by Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany on 26 June 1903 and by the Prince of Wales (later King George V of all the Britains) on 13 July. She returned to Bar Harbor, Maine, on 26 July, 1903 and resumed duties as flagship of the North Atlantic Fleet. She sailed from New York on 1 December, 1903 for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where on 10 December the United States took formal possession of the Guantanamo Naval Reservation. Following maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea, she led the North Atlantic Battleship Squadron to Lisbon, Portugal, where she entertained the King Charles of Portugal on 11 June, 1904. She next steamed to Phaleron Bay, Greece, where she celebrated the Fourth of July with King George I of Greece and his son and daughter-in-law, Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg. The squadron paid goodwill calls at Corfu, Trieste, and Fiume before returning to Newport, Rhode Island, on 29 August, 1904.

Kearsarge remained flagship of the North Atlantic Fleet until relieved 31 March by the battleship Maine (BB-10), but continued operations with the fleet. During target practice off Cape Cruz, Cuba, on 13 April, 1906, an accidental ignition of a powder charge of a 13 inch gun killed two officers and eight men. Four men were seriously injured. Attached to the Second Squadron, Fourth Division, she sailed on 16 December 1907 with the "Great White Fleet" of battleships, sent around the world by President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt. She sailed from Hampton Roads around the coasts of South America to the Western seaboard, thence to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Japan. From there, Kearsarge proceeded to Ceylon, transited the Suez Canal, and visited ports of the Mediterranean Sea, before returning to the eastern seaboard of the United States. Roosevelt reviewed the Fleet as it passed into the Hampton Roads on 22 February 1909, having completed a world cruise of overwhelming success, showing the flag and spreading good will. This dramatic gesture impressed the world with the power of the U.S. Navy.

Kearsarge was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 4 September 1909 for modernization. She recommissioned on 23 June, 1915 for operations along the Atlantic coast until 17 September when she departed Philadelphia to land a detachment of Marines at Vera Cruz, Mexico. She remained off Vera Cruz from 28 September, 1915 to 5 January, 1916, then carried the Marines to New Orleans, Louisiana, before joining the Atlantic Reserve Fleet on 4 February, 1916 at Philadelphia. She trained Massachusetts and Maine State Naval Militia until America entered the First World War, then trained thousands of armed guard crews as well as naval engineers in waters along the East Coast ranging from Boston, Massachusetts, to Pensacola, Florida. On the evening of 18 August 1918, Kearsarge rescued twenty six survivors of Norwegian barque Nordhav which had been sunk by the German Submarine U 117. The survivors were landed in Boston.

Conversion to Crane Ship

Kearsarge continued as an engineering training ship until 29 May, 1919 when she embarked United States Naval Academy midshipmen for training in the West Indies. The midshipmen were debarked at Annapolis, Maryland, on 29 August and Kearsarge proceeded to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she decommissioned on 10 May 1920 for conversion to a crane ship and a new career. She was given hull classification symbol AB-1 on 5 August, 1920.

In place of military trappings, Kearsarge received an immense revolving crane with a rated lifting capacity of 250 tons, as well as hull "blisters," which gave her more stability. The 10,000-ton crane ship rendered invaluable service for the next twenty years. One of many accomplishments was the raising of sunken submarine Squalus off the New Hampshire coast. On 6 November, 1941 she was renamed Crane Ship No. 1, allowing her illustrious name to be given to an aircraft carrier, CV-12, and later to CV-33. But she continued her yeoman service and made many contributions to the American victories of World War II. She handled guns, turrets, armor, and other heavy lifts for new battleships such as Indiana (BB-58) and Alabama (BB-60), new cruisers Savannah (CL-42) and Chicago (CA-29), and guns on the veteran battleship Pennsylvania (BB-38).

In 1945, the crane ship was towed to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard where she assisted in the construction of carriers Hornet (CV-12), Boxer (CV-21), and re-construction of the Saratoga (CV-3). She departed the West Coast in 1948 to finish her career in the Boston Naval Shipyard. As Crane Ship No. 1, her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register 22 June, 1955. She was sold for scrapping 9 August, 1955.

Kearsarge was the only US battleship not named after a state.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.

See Also


  1. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  4. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  5. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  6. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 141.
  7. Register of Officers, 1903. p. 8.
  8. Register of Officers, 1903. p. 8.
  9. Register of Officers, 1904. p. 8.
  10. Register of Officers, 1905. p. 8.
  11. Register of Officers, 1905. p. 10.
  12. Register of Officers, 1906. p. 10.
  13. Register of Officers, 1907. p. 8.
  14. Register of Officers, 1908. p. 10.
  15. Register of Officers, 1909. p. 8.
  16. Register of Officers, 1914. p. 14.
  17. Register of Officers, 1914. p. 14.
  18. Register of Officers, 1916. p. 14.
  19. Register of Officers, 1919. pp. 16-17.
  20. Register of Officers, 1920. pp. 18-19.


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