America’s First Battleship

USS Texas

America’s First Battleship : The USS Texas is one of the most famous Pre-Dreadnoughts ever to sail the seas.

The USS Texas was authorized by the U.S. Congress on August 3, 1886. Her keel was laid down in 1889 and she was launched on June 28, 1892. 

USS Texas 1892 & (BB-35) : A History In Pictures

Plan view of Texas from the 1900 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships. ‘A’ are the main guns and ‘D’ shows the locations of the six-inch guns

It was thought that she and her sister ship the USS Maine would bolster the US Navy, but by the time they sailed they were already out of date. Her commissioning did not occur until August 15, 1895.

USS Texas Diagram

The USS Texas was constructed from British plans that were made as a result of a design competition. At the time the prize was $15,000 USD which was a huge amount of money at the time, adjusted for inflation to about $600,000. The USS Texas was built in the U. S. Navy yards at Norfolk, Virginia.

The USS Texas was built in the 1890s as the first battleship ever commissioned by the American Navy.

The catalyst for her to be built was a growth in armored naval ships in South America, which the United States wanted to counter.

Brazil, Chile and Argentina had been on an economic hot streak and many people were wondering if South America would become the next great superpower region. 

By 1900 Argentina boasted a force of:  

 5 armoured cruisers

 4 coastal defence ironclads

 3 second-class, high-speed, British-built cruisers

 7 modern small cruisers and gunboats

 4 destroyers and

 22 torpedo boats.

Argentina’s Navy Logo

But it was Brazil that had the most feared Navy in South America and the Western Hemisphere.

The construction in 1883 of the battleship Riachuelo  gave Brazil a ship that was superior to any American ship afloat at the time. 

Brazilian Battleship Riachuelo

Riachuelo sailing up the Hudson River in New York City

Brazilian Navy Logo

Congressman Hilary A. Herbert who was the chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee spoke of the issue: “if all this old navy of ours were drawn up in a battle array in mid-ocean and confronted by the Riachuelo it is doubtful whether a single vessel bearing the American flag would get into port.”

USS Texas had several early mishaps.

This incidents included a grounding off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island and a sinking in New York harbor that resulted in the drowning of several members of her crew and the need for substantial construction to fix the damage. 

Finally the Spanish-American war arrived where the USS Texas could show her value, she helped to bombard the fortress on Cayo del Tore and with the help of the USS Marblehead eventually obliterated the port at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 in Cuban waters, May–July 1898

In addition, the USS Texas was very important in the Battle of Santiago.

During the Battle of Santiago, the USS Texas engaged four of the famous Spanish Naval officer Admiral Cervera’s vessels in one duration during the battle: VIZCAYA,CRISTOBAL COLONPLUTON and FUROR.

Admiral Cervera

After the war the USS Texas served primarily on the east coast with a few trips back to the Caribbean.

Pre-Dreadnought battleship USS Texas ready for post-war drydocking, at the New York Navy Yard, 3 August 1898.
In 1901 she was briefly decommissioned for repairs, but returned to service fairly quickly for a decade before being sunk for target practice in the Tangier Sound in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. 

Specifics of America’s First Battleship the USS Texas:

Classification:Second Class Battleship
Keel Laid:June 1, 1889
Launched:June 28, 1892
Comissioned:August 15, 1895
Rig:Two military masts.
Armament:Two 12″ guns
Six 6″ guns
Twelve 6-pounders
Six 1 pounders
Four 37mm Hotchkiss guns
Two Colt Machine Guns
One field piece (for landing parties)
Two Whitehead surface torpedo tubes
Contractor:U.S. Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia.
Length:308 feet, 10 inches
Beam:64 feet 1 inches
Mean draft:22 feet, 6 inches
Max. draft fully loaded:24 feet, 6 inches
Displacement:6,315 tons
Complement:30 officers and 359 enlisted men.
Commanded by Capt. J. W. PhilipPhilip was promoted to Commodore on August 10, 1898.
Engine type:Vertical triple expansion engines with a 39 inch stroke 
generating 8,610 hp., manufactured by Richmond
Boiler type:Four double-ended cylindrical boilers.
Speed:17.8 knots
Coal bunker capacity:850 tons
Normal coal supply:500 tons
Endurance @ 10 knots: 2,900 nautical miles
Armor:Sides: 12 inches; Turrets: 12 inches; Protective Deck 2 inches

In 1912 when the USS Texas finally became active, it was only 2 weeks after the infamous Titanic sinking. The USS Texas’ ten 14″ guns were the largest guns in any global military force, either stationary or mobile.

America’s First Battleship