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PG 1 Yorktown

The Yorktown was a partially protected steel twin-screw torpedo cruiser of 1700 tons displacement, expected to steam at 17 knots. The Yorktown, Bennington and Concord were sister ships of 1,700 tons displacement, built for general cruising purposes and for commerce destroyers in time of war. The third-class cruisers Yorktown, Bennington and Concord are identical in all essential respects.

It was not until March, 1885, that Congress again authorized the construction of more vessels. Competition for these contracts was very close, the administration having advanced ideas, encouraged them by offering premiums for the best plans, irrespective of nationality of the designer. This stimulated a very healthy competition, the government being decidedly the gainer in that American ship-builders were forced to greater efforts by reason of foreign competition. The contracts were let on a better business basis than formerly, in that there were limitations as to time, penalty clauses, etc. On the other hand there were premiums for excess of speed above requirements. This, as much as anything, tended to do away with a reliance of sails and throw more dependence on steam-power. The advantage in absence of spars and rigging is considered very great. Another marked advantage gained by making it an object for skilled interests to compete for American ship-building has been the gradual increase in speed attained, the improved arrangement of battery, rig machinery, and the doing away with useless spars and rigging.

The first contract this time went to Messrs. Cramp of Philadelphia, who, in April, 1887, turned out the gunboat Yorktown and the dynamite cruiser Vesuvius. The Yorktown was the first gunboat constructed under the act of March, 1885, at Philadelphia. Her size belies her name as a gunboat, for her measurements were : Length, 230 feet ; beam, 36 feet ; displacement, 1,700 tons ; at this tonnage she draws 14 feet of water. Her hull was steel. She carried two sets of triple expansion boilers, with forced draught, develop 3,200 horse-power and result in a speed of seventeen knots. For a battery she had six 6-inch breech-loading rifles, two being well forward and two aft, and one on either side of her central section, all fitted with steel shields to protect the crew. As a secondary battery she carries five rapid-fire guns, two Hotchkiss revolving cannon one Gatling, and eight torpedo tubes. She is propelled by twin screws.

As the 6-inch gun will pierce 13 inches of wrought iron at close quarters, it is apparent that these cruisers, with their torpedoes, will prove no mean antagonist for many larger ships. The heavy fire ahead and astern are strong points in vessels destined to chase fast merchantmen and to run away from more powerful foes, keeping up a harassing fire at the same time.

They were designed to give a speed of seventeen knots. There was a 1/2-inch water-tight steel deck extending from bow to stern below the water line, covering the machinery, magazines and steering-gear, and curving down to support the ram bow, giving stiffness to the whole structure. The coal capacity was 400 tons, and the radius of action about 6,000 miles at 10 knots. Sufficient coal was stowed around the machinery to enable these ships to keep the sea for thirty-six days and steam 8,500 miles. Rigged as three-masted schooners, spreading 6,000 square feet of canvas, their sail power will assist greatly while cruising, and it is apparent that these ships may maintain themselves for many weeks at sea before being compelled to run into port for coal and thus betray their whereabouts in time of war.

Horace See (b. Philadelphia, 1835) received classical and mathematical education in private schools, and was apprenticed with Messrs. I. P. Morris and Co., Philadelphia. In 1879 he became superintendent engineer to Messrs. W. M. Cramp and Sons, and had charge of the design and construction of the Alamcda and Maraposa for the Pacific trade. In 1886 he induced his firm to modify the Government designs for machinery of the gun-boat Yorktown and cruiser Newark by substituting the triple expansion for the double compound engine. The wisdom of this design has been demonstrated in the superior performance of these vessels.

The contract price of this vessel, including hull and machinery, was $445,000. Twelve months after the letting of contracts were allowed in which to build her, but departures from original plans and delays in getting proper material for construction purposes made it necessary to extend this limit somewhat.

The all-steel twin-screw vessels of the "Yorktown" class, described originally as gunboat No. 1, 2, etc., are similar to the torpedo-cruiser class of the British navy, draw thirteen feet forward and fifteen feet aft, and had a displacement at this draught of seventeen hundred tons. They were not gunboats as spoken of before, and were elsewhere classified as crusisers.

In 1887 five vessels were authorized by Congress: the Monterey, the last ordered but, with the exception of the Miantonomoh, the first completed of the new monitors; the protected cruisers Philadelphia and San Francisco, each built in the city after which it was named; and the gunboats Concord and Bennington, built at Chester, Pennsylvania. The work of constructing a new navy was now fairly under way, stirred into life by the inspiring influence of Secretary Whitney.

Originally known as "Gun-boats No. 3 and No. 4." Concord and Bennington are in all respects sister ships to the Torktown. The contract for building them was executed on the 15th of November, 1887, with N. F. Palmer, Jr., & Co. ; they were to be completed in eighteen months, and the guaranteed horse-power was 3,400. The contract price, exclusive of armament, was $490,000 for each. The Quintard Iron Works of New York city are building the engines. A bonus of $100 would be paid for each H.P. developed above the contract figures on trial, but if those figures are not reached a forfeit of $100 per I.H.P. would be exacted. The vessels were built at Chester, Pa., by the Delaware River Iron Ship-Building Company ; their keels were laid in May, 1888.

The H.P. on trial ranged from 3,513 for the Concord to 3,660 for the Yorktown. The speeds were: Concord, 17'1; Yorktmcn, 17'2 ; Bennington, 17.5 knots.

USS Bennington, last completed of the three 1,700-ton Yorktown class gunboats, was commissioned in June 1891. She performed her initial service with the Squadron of Evolution, which cruised to the Caribbean and South America from late 1891 into mid-1892. After a brief assignment to the South Atlantic Squadron, Bennington crossed the Atlantic to southern European waters, where she remained until February 1893.

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