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XCL St. Louis - Armed Merchant Cruiser / Auxiliary Cruiser

The naval reserve cruisers, the St. Louis and St. Paul, were specially designed to be easily converted into armored cruisers. They represented the beginning of the new policy of the government to favor home shipbuilding by government subsidy of merchantmen. The 11,629-ton St. Louis won the ten-year mail carrying contract by developing a speed of 22.5 knots on a four-hour trial in British waters, using ordinary coal, under practically natural draft, and developing 20,000 horse-power.

The change from wood to iron in ship construction about the middle of the 19th century, was followed by the revolutionary methods of steel ship-building, and by 1890 steel had displaced iron in the shipyards of Great Britain and the United States. American ship-building under the era of steel reached its perfection in 1892 and 1896, when the Saint Louis and the Saint Paul, two ocean liners, were built by the Cramp Company. These vessels were constructed entirely of domestic material, thus marking a new era in American ship-building.

The policy which produced these ships was inaugurated about the year 1891 by the President of the International Navigation Company, the only organization of American capital in the North Atlantic trade. Among the ships owned by that Company were the two great twin-screw greyhounds the NEW YORK and the PARIS, and Mr. Griscom proposed to Congress that if an Act were passed which would have the effect of admitting those ships to American registry - he would cause two other vessels of at least equal tonnage to be built in the United States. A bill to this effect was introduced in the House of Representatives by Hon. W. Bourke Cochran, of New York, and became a law in 1892 ; when the International Company immediately placed an order with the Cramp Company for the vessels required to meet its provisions.

The first frames were raised on the 27th day of July, 1893. It is worthy of note that both these ships are built of domestic material throughout, hulls and machinery. As soon as their construction was determined, strenuous efforts were made by British rolling mills, forges, and foundries to obtain orders for their material, and remarkably low quotations were offered. But the Cramp Company, for mechanical reasons not necessary to explain, and actuated by its traditional policy of patronizing and developing American industries, rejected all foreign offers and placed its orders for every pound of material with American manufacturers.

This was so completely true that Charles H. Cramp, President of this Company, was enabled with much pride to say, in a paper on the " Evolution of the Atlantic Greyhound," read November 16, 1893, before the American Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers : "And now, in conclusion, let me remark that the ships are American from truck to keelson. No foreign materials enter into their construction. They are of American model and design, of American material, and they are built by American skill and muscle."

The propelling machinery was a pair of vertical inverted quadruple-expansion engines, to carry a working steam - pressure of 200 pounds and expected to develop from 18,000 to 20,000 collective indicated horse-power. These are the largest and most powerful marine engines are the largest and most powerful marine engines ever built in America, and as the principle of quadruple expansion has never before been applied on so large a scale its results in this case will be watched with interest by the entire profession of marine engineering.

These twin ships of the American Line, International Navigation Company, were each equipped with eight special Sturtevant steel-plate steam fans for the production of the requisite draft. The ships are twin-screwed, each being provided with 2 six-cylinder quadruple expansion engines, having cylinders as follows : two high pressure, 28 inches diameter, one first intermediate, 55 inches diameter, one second intermediate, 77 inches diameter, and two low pressure, 77 inches in diameter. Steam for the main engines is supplied by ten boilers of the Scotch type, six of which are double- ended and four single-ended. They are all about 15^ feet in diameter; the double-enders being 20 feet long, and the single about half that length. Each boiler had four furnaces, eight of course in the double-enders, making 64 furnaces in all, each with 18 square feet of grate, giving a total grate surface of 1,144 square feet. The total heating surface is 40,320 square feet, giving a ratio of a little over 36. Imagine a surface 200 feet square covered with boiling water with a fire 35 square feet below it forced to a white heat by a hot blast, and burning 300 tons of coal a day, and you have an idea of the magnitude of the steam- generating plant of one of these magnificent vessels. The boilers are arranged in two groups, or batteries, each battery in a water-tight compartment. They set fore and aft, or lengthwise of the ship, three of the boilers side by side and two of the small ones facing them, in each compartment.

In the general public or patriotic sense the chief element of interest in these ships is the fact that they represented the inception of an effort to restore the prestige of the United States as a maritime commercial power. The condition of affairs existing at the time the New American Liners were projected was the culminating point of American feebleness on the ocean.

For the first time in many years, domestic capital and enterprise were beginning to look to the ocean for a field of operations and to steamships as an object for investment. While sea routes were almost numberless and many of them of vast importance in the sum total of the world's commerce, that of the North Atlantic, embracing the grand thoroughfare of trade and travel between the great powers of Europe and the northern half of the Western Hemisphere, well-nigh overshadowed all the rest combined in value and volume of its transactions, and totally eclipseed them in the character of its vehicles. To such an extent is this true that, of all the myriad of steamships afloat, not more than twenty or thirty were popularly known even by name, and these are the great vessels which, under the popular designation of "Atlantic Greyhounds," plied in passenger and express traffic between the United States and the principal nations of Western Europe. Plying on the thoroughfare of chief intercourse between civilized nations, they came and went constantly fraught with the most valuable lives in both hemispheres, and for that reason, if for no other, their every performance was eagerly watched by the universal public until their names and the lines to which they belong had become household words.

The prime effort of these transatlantic competitors had been to reduce time required in passage, and while of course other qualities, seaworthiness, comfort and luxury of appointments, held an even pace in the general contest for supremacy, the effort to augment speed has been so marked and so persistent as to create the aspect of a perpetual race, in which the development of the steamship became an object enlisting the art and skill of the most masterful minds, and where each successive "lowering of the record" marked a triumph for designer and builder, a fame world-wide, and substantial benefit to mankind.

Under these circumstances it was not too much to say that the grand contest for supremacy on the international race-course of the North Atlantic has ennobled the vocation of those who plan and build ships and of those who manage them to a grade which abates none of its pride by comparison with any other field in which the human intellect has ever held sway.

These two vessels were the first transatlantic liners and naval reserve vessels to be fitted with quadruple expansion engines. By 1896 it remained to be seen whether this policy would ultimately defeat the projects for any more war vessels of the cruiser type. Not that the United States navy had reached its ultimate goal in such magnificent triple screw cruisers as the Columbia~ and the Minneapolis, but that merchantmen would be likely to step in, develop their high-powered marine machinery along these lines, if so demanded by government subsidy, and provide for equipping their steamers at any time with armor and guns for war purposes.

While these $3,000,000 cruisers were expensive articles at any time, but, especially so in time of peace, the merchantman was paying dividends by regular freight and passenger traffic and government mail subsidy, and held himself equally available in time of war for government service.

St. Louis was launched on November 12, 1894, and sailed from New York on her maiden voyage to Southampton on June 5, 1895. She started her last Southampton - New York crossing on April 16, 1898 before being used as an auxiliary cruiser for use in the Spanish-American war.Armed with four 5-inch rapid fire guns and eight 6-pounders, she was commissioned as an auxiliary cruiser in the United States Navy on 24 April 1898.

St. Louis was specially outfitted with heavy drag lines in order to destroy undersea cable communications in the West Indies and to the mainland of South America. On 13 May, she severed the cable between St. Thomas and San Juan; and five days later exchanged fire with the Morro Castle batteries at Santiago de Cuba as she cut the cable between that port and Holland's Bay, Jamaica. When Admiral Cervera's fleet sailed into Santiago Harbor, the Spanish warships found themselves cut off from direct communications with Spain. St. Louis next severed the cable between Guantanamo Bay and Haiti; then cut the cable off Cienfuegos to isolate Cuba from outside communications. She joined in the bombardment of fortifications at Caima-nera in Guantanamo Bay on 3 June; captured a Spanish merchant ship on the 10th; intercepted two British ships bound for Cuba-the Twickenham on 10 June and Wary on 1 July; and was present at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba on 3 July when the Spanish Fleet was destroyed while trying to force its way to sea.

On October 12, 1898 she resumed New York - Southampton sailings and in 1903 was fitted with new boilers and had her funnels heightened. In 1913 she was refitted to carry 2nd and 3rd class passengers only and on July 15, 1914 sailed on her last Southampton - Cherbourg - Queenstown - New York voyage. She was transferred to the New York - Liverpool service on July 31, 1914 until April 1918 when she commenced her last Liverpool - New York crossing. She then became the U. S. government ship Louisville (SP-1644), as a cruiser named St. Louis was already in service in the Navy. On January 1, 1920 she was damaged by fire while being refitted for the New York - Southampton service, and was sold as an exhibition ship but not used as such. On May 20, 1924 she left New York under tow for Genoa where she was scrapped.

The SAINT PAUL was completed at the end of September 1894 and sailed on her first voyage in October 1895. They proved to be all that was expected of them ; safe, commodious, comfortable, luxurious and fast ; free from vibration, and among the stanchest, stablest, and ablest sea-boats afloat. The record time of the SAINT PAUL, west bound, was 6 days, no hours and 38 minutes; average speed for the entire run 21.08 knots. St. Paul, Louisville's sister ship, was acquired by the U.S. Navy in early 1918, but capsized while undergoing conversion and did not enter commissioned service.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2011 17:43:32 ZULU