Protected Cruiser Redesignations
|C-7 Cincinnati Class|
|C-9 Montgomery Class|
|CA-16 Columbia Class|
|CL-16 Denver Class|
|CL-22 New Orleans Class|
|CA-18 Saint Louis Class|
A protected cruiser is a vessel destitute of vertical armor and relying for protection upon constructive arrangements which are not designed to resist the entry of projectiles into the ship, but to limit as much as possible the damage that can be inflicted by them. The prominent feature in protected cruisers is a strong steel deck at or near the water-level capable of resisting the downward action of all but the most formidable projectiles, and beneath this deck the engines and magazines are placed. The vessel is divided into cells and compartments to such an extent as to render it extremely difficult to sink her by artillery perforations, and every expedient of shields, screens, and arrangement of coal-bunkers is employed to save the gunners from small projectiles and the fragments of shells. These vessels, being relieved from the incumbrance of thick vertical armour, can attain a far greater speed and carry a far more numerous armament than a battle-ship, handicapped as the latter is by the weight of her armour. They need not be of huge dimensions as the battle-ship must be, though, for distant service, where great coal-carrying capacity is required, it is desirable that a certain proportion of them should be large; but for service near home, within easy reach of coaling stations, it is quite unnecessary that they should be of great size.
Efforts to construct the first steel warships indicated the extent of the deterioration of the Navy during the post-war years, including the shore facilities. The Navy recognized that it could not build these ships and had to rely on contractors. However, the bureaus lacked the technical expertise in preparing drawings and specifications. Consequently, preparation of plans was not completed until after the contracts had been awarded. The contract went to a prominent Republican, and when the administration changed to Democratic in 1885, Cleveland's new Secretary of the Navy, William Whitney, found the contractor to be in default and attempted to take control of the construction. He discovered, however, that no Navy yard was large enough to construct these ships, so the Navy Department completed construction of the ships in the contractor's yards, under the supervision of Navy engineers.
The protected cruiser class depended for protection upon the protective deck alone. These vessels were very popular in all navies towards the end of the 19th Century, and in them everything was sacrificed to what was considered at that time high speed. The Japanese Naniwa, 5,650 tons displacement and 18.4 knots, and the Chilean Esmeralda, 3,000 tons displacement and i8-1/2 knots speed, were considered phenomenal vessels and were regarded as models.
Owing to the difficulty of a small ship maintaining high speed in anything but the most favorable weather, vessels of this class gradually increased in size until they readied 7,000 or 8,000 tons displacement. Being without any protection save the protective deck, these vessels could be utterly destroyed by the fire of rapid-fire guns even though neither their protective decks nor their water-lines were pierced, in fact they were not much better than armed ocean liners.
After a few years the armored cruiser came out, immeasurably superior, and naval designers quickly turned to that type in preference to the protected cruiser.
Among the antecedents of the US Navy's 1920 hull number system was a number series for protected (and a few "unprotected") cruisers, of which more than two-dozen were built or acquired between the mid-1880s and the early 1900s. Twenty-two of these warships received "cruiser numbers", which have informally been abbreviated "C-1" through "C-22". This shortened form was, however, a matter of unofficial convenience and not a part of the Navy's formal hull number system. In 1920-21 the surviving members of the group received new designations and numbers in the Armored Cruiser (CA), Light Cruiser (CL) and Gunboat (PG) series. The old cruiser ("C-") numbers then became extinct. In addition to the 22 ships numbered in the "cruiser" series, another five protected cruisers did not originally receive numbers, either because they were built earlier or because they were purchased abroad and were not constructed as part of the Navy's shipbuilding program.
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