The first USS Chicago (classified CA-14 on 17 July 1920) was a protected cruiser of the United States Navy, the largest of the original three authorized by Congress for the "New Navy". The CHICAGO, a twin-screw protected steel cruiser, was the largest of the initial ships of the "New Navy" authorized by Congress in early 1883. Two smaller protected steel cruisers were named ATLANTA and BOSTON.
These were the pioneers of the United States Navy's warships of steel. Their new designs and innovations from hulls to engine and armament were a credit to American technological development that marked the rise of a new seapower. The larger CHICAGO was meant to have no superior to her type in the world in the combination of speed, endurance and armament.
A protected cruiser was a type of naval cruiser that was armored, but not so heavily as armored cruisers. Most of the armor was used on the special deck inside the vessel, protecting boilers and steam machines, trapezoid-like in cross-section. Also guns and conning tower could be armored.
Tho Chicago was a coal-protected steel frigate, built of mild steel of domestic manufacture. She was built at Roach's ship-yard, Chester, Pa., and finished at the New York navy-yard. Protected cruiser CHICAGO had a length overall of 342 feet, 2 inches; extreme beam of 48 feet, 3 inches; a normal displacement of 4,500 tons; mean draft of 19 feet; a designed speed of 14 knots; and a complement of 33 officers and 376 enlisted men. Her steel hull was fitted with a ram bow. She had two compound overhead beam reciprocating engines rated at 5,000 horsepower. Her steel hull was built in many water-tight compartments and she was illuminated throughout with Edison's new electric system. A steel protective deck (4 inches maximum thickness) covered her machinery space, curving down at the sides to below her waterline.
The first CHICAGO was initially armed with a main battery consisting of four 8-inch Mark II 30 caliber breech-loading rifles, eight 6-inch, and two 5-inch breech-loading rifles [B.L.R.]. The 8-inch guns were mount in half-turrets on the spar deck, 24 feet above water. The forward guns train from 3 degrees across the bow to 60 degrees abaft the beau, Hud the after guns from 3 degrees across the stern to 60 degrees forward the beam. Six 6-inch guns are mounted in broadside ports on the gun deck with a train of 120 degrees. A 6 incb gun was mounted on either bow with a train of from 3 degrees across the bow to 52 degrees abaft the beam. There were two 5-inch guns on the gun deck aft with abont the same train. The secondary battery consisted of four 47mm heavy machine guns and two 37mm revolving cannon.
Some accounts suggest an armament that included four 3-inch ; two 6-pounder Hotchkiss rapid fire guns; two 1-pounder Hotchkiss rapid fire guns; four 47-mm; two 37-mm heavy machine guns; and two 45-mm gatling guns. Her boat armament included two 37-mm Hotchkiss machine guns and two 45-mm Gatling guns.
Initially auxiliary sail power was supplied by a bark rig spreading 14,880 square feet of canvas. Chicago underwent a "modernization" in the 1890's. The foremast was converted to a military mast, and the center mast was removed.
The motive power was furnished by two compound overhead beam engines. The cylinders were of 52 inches. There is an independent double-acting compound and a circulating pump placed beside each condenser. There were two four-bladed screws having a diameter of about 154 feet. There were five double-ended boilers placed back to back. The boilers were 24 feet 8 inches long, 9 feet in diameter, and were externally fired.
The quarters of the admiral and captain, placed aft on the gun-deck, were both airy and spacious, and although the emplacement of the 5-inch B.L.R.'s was in proximity, the quarters are so arranged that these guns heighten the effect rather than otherwise. Just forward of the admiral's aud captain's quarters were located the state-rooms of the navigator, executive officer, paymaster or surgeon, and chief engineer; also the armory. On the forward gun-deck was a large space for berthing the crew, which was fitted up in the manner prevailing in the US Navy.
The vessel was fitted with an incandescent lighting plant, supplying lights for internal illumination, including the magazines coal bunkers, and storage spaces, and also for deck, side, and head lights. Two large blowers placed on the berth deck drew air through fore and aft duct, with branches leading to all living spaces and store-rooms. A separate system ventilated the engine and boiler compartments. The foul air escaped from the coal bunkers by pipes leading into the funnel casings, aud fresh air was supplied to them by pipes leading from the topsides. The pumping and drainage system was very complete, every compartment of the vessel being in connection with powerful steam and hand pumps.
The ship was decommissioned on 28 August 1909, and assigned to the Massachusettes Naval Militia on 23 January 1910. The vessel was then assigned to the Pennsylvania Naval Militia on 26 April 1916. With the entry of America into the war in Europe, the ship was commissioned 06 April 1917. Chicago was reclassified CA-14 in 1920, and was redesignated CL-14 on 01 July 1921. The reclassification of 17 July 1920 put an end to the US usage of the term "protected cruiser", the existing ships designated as plain "cruisers" with new numbers (so that the armored cruisers could retain their numbers unchanged). The ship was decommissioned on 30 September 1923. She was later renamed Alton and reclassified IX-5 16 JUL 1928. Sold on 15 May 1936, she foundered in mid-Pacific in July 1936 while being towed from Honolulu to San Francisco.
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