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ACR-4 Pennsylvania / CA-4 Pittsburgh

The Pennsylvania-class sacrificed armor and firepower for speed. The design featured a mixed bag of armament including four 8-inch/40 caliber rifles, 14 6-inch/50 caliber rapid-fire guns, and two torpedo tubes. The eight-inch rifles were found to be effective weapons and became particularly well known for their destructive force. Self propelled or "locomotive" torpedoes were a new trend in naval warfare and almost every warship from the battleships to the tiny torpedo boats were equipped with them. Eight boilers provided 28,900 horsepower and allowed the ships to achieve slightly over 22 knots during builder's trials.

The Pennsylvania-class warships were 502 feet in length, drew about 24 feet of water, and displaced 13,680 tons. These vessels had the following characteristics: beam, 69 feet 6 inches; speed on trial, 22.41 knots; displacement on trial, 13,749 tons; bunker capacity to bottom of beams (43 cubic feet to the ton), 2,054 tons; main engines, 2 vertical 4-cylinder triple expansion; cylinder diameters, 38 inches, 63 inches, and 74 inches; stroke, 48 inches; boilers, 16 B. & W.; total grate surface, 1,600 square feet; total heating surface, 70,944 square feet; indicated horsepower of propelling machinery and auxiliaries on trial, 28,059.

The "armored cruiser" became very popular among some naval theorists after the Spanish-American War as these ships were not only speedy vessels, but also had a respectable main battery and were more heavily armored than smaller types of ships. The public perceived the armored cruisers Brooklyn and New York as extremely successful ships during the 1898 conflict. Theorists envisioned that these new ships would form a scouting force for the main battleship squadrons.

In many ways, however, these ships and her sister cruisers were rather odd vessels. Despite being labeled a cruiser, they were slightly longer and displaced more water than the more heavily armed battleships. Since speed was the number one priority, her engineering plant produced over twice as much power as the battleships. But to save weight, her armament was significantly less powerful than a battleship, which was equipped with 12 and 13-inch guns, and her armor belt was six inches thinner than a battleship.

This paradox of a large ship with small guns provoked a storm of debate between naval theorists and architects. A side by side comparison of Maryland and the Newport News-built battleship Virginia (Battleship No. 13/BB-13) written by a contemporary flag officer, which outlines one of many criticisms of the ship. The officer commented that Maryland's armor scheme was grossly flawed as the side armor was not only thinner than Virginia, but a lower percentage of the hull area of the Maryland was armored than Virginia. Forty-five percent of Maryland's hull was armored compared to 60 percent of Virginia's hull. Another critic summed up by simply stating that the armored cruisers were "inferior to battleships in so many respects and superior to them in so few."

Nonetheless, the ship had its good points. It had a high freeboard allowing the ship to fire in heavy seas. It was one of the first ships to be equipped with the new "balanced" turrets with sloping armor faces allowing the guns to elevate to 55 degrees. Most importantly, the designer's intention of speed was achieved as they were among the fastest ships in the fleet. Only the torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers were faster. If nothing else, this class of ships has some of the most beautiful lines of any warship designed.

The completion of California and South Dakota was delayed by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Starting in 1909 with Colorado, all the class had their 8" guns replaced by 45 calibre models. During WW1 all had six of their 3" guns removed. From 1911 all were fitted with cage masts.

In 1913 the USS Maryland was designated to conduct the comparative steaming tests of Pocahontas and of Bering River coals recently mined in Alaska. This coal was in bags at Stillwater Creek awaiting the breaking up of the winter ice so that transportation to Controller Bay will be possible. In order to insure this coal being thoroughly cleaned, the bureau desired that the coal be inspected either before loading on the barges or upon arrival on board. Such cleaning as may be necessary shall be done in order to bring the coal up to a standard of well-cleaned run-of-mine. Also the bureau desired special inspection of the lump coal which was obtained from one of the mines in order to note its friability and the breakage in handling. This lump coal has been kept separate from the remainder of the coal for just such an inspection. After inspection this coal should be mixed with the remainder so that the entire lot may be of about the same grade. The number of cubic feet to the ton should be ascertained and reported.

The bureau desired two complete sets of tests, one to be with run-of-mine Pocahontas coal and the other with Bering River coal. Each set of tests would consist of an uninterrupted period of not less than seven days in port, during which time steam shall not be upon the main engines for any purpose, and three tests at sea: one with not more than three-fourths boiler power and at a speed of about 15 knots to last 24 hours; a test at sea under full boiler power at a speed of 20 knots to last 4 hours; and a test at sea at a speed of 10 knots for a period of 48 hours. Upon the arrival of the U. S. S. Maryland at Mare Island 50 tons of the Bering River coal were loaded in a closed car for shipment on August 21, 1913.

With onset of the First World War, the Navy made several changes to the ships. The Maryland was given more reliable boilers from the famed firm of Babcock & Wilcox, minesweeping gear, a sixty-foot topmast, and a new fire direction system. Her hull was painted slate grey, which was the standard wartime color scheme, in place of the peacetime white and "Panama Buff" color scheme.

All of the armored cruisers were stripped of their state names in the 1910's and renamed after cities located in the ship's former namesake. The state names were used in new battleships currently under construction.

  • Pennsylvania was renamed Pittsburgh on 27th August 1912. The first landing on a ship by an aeroplane was made on Pennsylvania on 18th January 1911 at San Francisco by Eugene Ely. Soon after WW1 the boilers were replaced by 16 Babcock & Wilcox models, but by 1922 four boilers and one funnel had been removed. She was decommissioned on 10th July 1931 and sold for scrapping on 21st December 1931 to Union Shipbuilding at Baltimore.
  • California was renamed San Diego on 1st September 1914. She sank off Fire Island on 19th July 1918 by being either mined or torpedoed by U156.
  • Colorado was renamed Pueblo on 9th November 1916. Soon after WW1 the boilers were replaced by 16 Babcock & Wilcox models. From 1921 she was used as an accomodation ship at New York until being decommissioned on 28th September 1927. She was sold for scrapping on 2nd October 1930.
  • Maryland was renamed Frederick on 9th November 1916. Maryland gave up her name for Battleship No. 46, which was concurrently under construction at Newport News. She was decommissioned on 14th February 1922 and sold for scrapping on 11th February 1930.
  • West Virginia was renamed Huntington on 11th November 1916. In 1917 she was fitted with a catapult and four aircraft, although they were removed by the end of the year. She was decommissioned on 1st September 1920 and sold for scrapping on 30th August 1930.
  • South Dakota was renamed Huron on 7th June 1920. She was decmmissioned on 17th June 1927 and sold for scrapping on 11th February 1930.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:36:30 ZULU