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ACR-10 Tennessee / CA-10 Memphis

Shortly after the Spanish-American War, the Navy built six Pennsylvania-class armored cruisers, almost immediately followed by four of the Tennessee class. The first pair were authorized in 1902 and the second in 1904. They were a major improvement on previous ships, particularly in protection. The second 'USS Tennessee (ACR-10)', also referred to "Armored Cruiser No. 10", was a United States Navy armored cruiser, the lead ship of her class.

For a country like the United States, which had little commerce on the ocean to protect, and to which the inconclusive and uncivilized method of warfare called commerce destroying was not likely to appeal, it appeared that the shipbuilding policy should be directed exclusively towards purely military objects. A few types appeared to be sufficient for all strictly military duties, viz. Battleships; Scouts of extreme speed, and small Cruisers of moderately high speed. The present type of first-class cruiser ( Tennessee, Minotaur, and Edgard Quinet}, although useful in many cases, did not seem indispensable for any particular service, and was ill suited for its most important duty, participation in fleet actions, and it was, therefore, abandoned by the US.

There were probably no vessels in the United States Navy, the general features or details of whose designs had been given such careful consideration as the two armored cruisers authorized by Act of Congress of July 1, 1902. For hull and machinery, $4.659,000 was appropriated. Speed was to be 22 knots, one knot in excess of the New York and Brooklyn. The Tennessees excelled in battery power and protection any armored cruiser built, building, or designed, in the world at that time, and they were the equal of a large majority of the battleships of the world, bearing the same relation to the battleship as the cavalry does to the infantry in the army, and being able to give battle or run away from the enemy's battleship, as they please, and to put up a stiff fight with the finest battleships afloat, with a fair chance of winning out.

Boilers were coal-fired, with two reciprocating engines which gave a speed of 22 knots. The main armament consisted of four ten-inch guns in twin turrets, and when commissioned these guns could outrange those of any battleship in existence. The subsidiary armament included 16 six-inch and 22 three-inch guns. All the class were fitted with cage masts forward from 1911, and the survivors had eight 3" guns removed soon after WWI.

The armored cruiser's main duty is to drive in by superior force the enemy's advance screen and discover the whereabouts and strength of the enemy's main body, or to be used as an irresistible screen around its own fleet in order to prevent the scouts of the enemy, be they armored or unarmored, from breaking through in order to obtain necessary information. Many were of the opinion that the limit had been reached in this type and that the logical principles of attack and defense, in warship design, which means using the most efficient weapon to the end, had not been exemplified in the modern armored cruiser.

A cruiser might be described as a battleship with guns shaved down, as it were, and its armor thinned down to nearly one-half the thickness, and this saving in weight given to the motive power, producing a cruiser of as much as five or six -knots faster than the battleship. In the armored cruisers of the Maryland and Tennessee class, the only classes that were dignified enough to bear the name of armored cruiser, not only has the armor been sacrificed, but the guns have been shaved until they are, against an enemy with a squadron of "Inflexibles," practically useless. An "Inflexible" could destroy either a "Memphis" or a "Maryland" at extreme range without receiving enough punishment to note in the ship's log. This was demonstrated at the Falklands.

The evolution of the armored cruiser from the New York and Brooklyn to the latest type represented by the Tennessee class, developed what was in reality a battle-cruiser. The Pennsylvania (13,680 tons, 1903) class was in both respects better provided than the New York and Brooklyn, but the armored area was restricted and the caliber of the heavy guns (8 inches) is small for a ship of so great displacement. The Tennessee class (14,500 tons, 1905) marked a great improvement, carrying heavy armor-piercing guns (10 inches) and having a rational system of protection.

Provision was made sufficient to carry with ease the full complement of officers and men. The full complement of the vessels, as flagships, would consist of one flag officer, one commanding officer, chief of staff, nineteen wardroom officers, twelve junior officers, ten warrant officers, 814 men. The masts were fitted for the installation of wireless telegraphy. All spaces in officers' quarters, bounded by the outer hull, were sheathed with asbestos or other suitable non-conducting material. All iron work exposed direct to the action of the weather on the opposite side was cork painted. The ventilation system was most thorough, especial attention having been given to all details of the design in this respect. By increasing the number of ventilating units, it was possible to avoid piercing any of the main transverse or longitudinal bulkheads below the protective deck, and to largely avoid the use of automatic valves.

The engine and fire-room trunks were sheathed with asbestos to further increase the habitability of adjoining spaces. Special attention was given to the design of all of the water systems, to reduce the quantity of piping necessary, and to increase their efficiency. The boats were handled by four electrically operated boat cranes.

While the final cost of warships was steadily increasing, the cost a ton of the hull was just as steadily decreasing. It would not be worth while to go back of 1901 for the purpose of drawing such a comparison, because that would be dealing with different types of construction. The armored cruiser Pennsylvania, whose keel was laid in the year named, cost $286 a ton, and the South Dakota, the contract for which was let in 1902, cost about the same. In 1903 the cost per ton of the same class of ship, the Tennessee, had fallen to $278. A considerable drop shows in the bid price for the cruisers Montana and North Carolina. The building of these ships, each to be of 14,500 tons, was awarded to the Newport News Shipbuilding company for $3,575,000 each. The Tennessee, of the same class and tonnage, cost the government $4,035,000 - a ton cost of $278 as compared with $247.

The armored cruiser Tennessee cost more than six millions. The value of all grounds and buildings of the colleges and universities of the state is slightly more than three millions. The cost of the armored cruiser North Carolina was more than five millions. The total value of all productive funds of its colleges and universities is about five millions. The armored cruiser Washington cost more than six millions, while the value of all productive funds of the colleges and universities is but little over three millions. The cost of the armored cruiser Montana was more than five millions. The total value of all property, real and personal, of its colleges and universities is less than two million dollars.

The cost of maintaining many of these cruisers, for a year of twelve months, approaches a million dollars. The cost of maintaining the Tennessee, $961,370.76 ; the North Carolina, $742,754.50 ; the Washington, $892,870.16 ; the Montana, $750,333.78. The number of universities in this country whose annual budget exceeded these sums, can be numbered on the finger of two hands. When one takes into view the depreciation which belongs to an armored cruiser or battleship, it is safe to say that it costs more to maintain a battleship for one year than to maintain Yale College for a year, and several times what it costs to maintain a college like Amherst or Williams.

The Memphis-class of large armored cruiser of 14,500 tons were originally named after states. The units of this class were renamed after cities to release the state names for new battleships under construction.

  • Tennessee was renamed Memphis and renumbered 'CA-10' on 25th May 1916. On 29th August 1916 she was swept onto rocks by a tidal wave at San Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and was declared a total loss. The wreck was sold to Radetsky Iron & Metal of Colorado on 17th January 1922, but the difficulty in accessing the wreck meant that scrapping was only completed by 1937.
  • North Carolina became the first ship to launch an aeroplane from a catapult on 5th November 1915. She was renamed Charlotte on 7th June 1920. She was decommissioned on 18th February 1921 and sold for scrapping on 29th September 1930.
  • Washington was renamed Seattle on 9th November 1916. Between 1923 and 1927 she was administrative flagship of the fleet. From then she was a receiving ship at New York until 17th February 1941 when she was renamed IX39, and classified as a miscellaneous auxiliary. She was decommissioned on 28th June 1946 and sold for scrapping on 3rd December 1946 to Hugo Neu of New York.
  • Montana was renamed Missoula on 7th June 1920. She was decommissioned on 2nd February 1921 and sold for scrapping on 29th September 1930 to John Irwin Jnr.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:36:13 ZULU