The New Navy, 1883-1922

The New Navy, 1883-1922

The New Navy, 1883-1922

The New Navy, 1883-1922


The third volume of The U.S. Navy Warship Seriescovers the fifty-year period from 1883-1922. In 1883, Congress authorized the first ships of the "New Navy" and ordered removal of all obsolete ships. All US Navy ships since that time have stemmed from these first three cruisers. The numbering system in effect since 1920 was effectively begun in 1886.

The ships built during the next few years fought in the Spanish-American War. The success and popularity of the naval victories of that war together with the acquisition of overseas territories were the impetus for a large naval shipbuilding program. The voyage around the world of the "Great White Fleet" was a prime example of the excitement felt by the American people about the Navy. This led naturally into the fleet of World War I and its vast expansion, terminating with its demobilization after the war and the succeeding naval disarmament treaty of 1992.

This book will be arranged following the standard format with sections on Capital Ships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, Mines Vessels, Patrol Vessels, Tenders, Supply & Transport Ships, Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS), and other government departments (Coast Guard, etc.).


By the 1870s the huge Navy of the Civil War was a memory, most of its ships sold or broken up. A small collection of obsolete steam frigates and sloops flew the nation’s flag in foreign ports. The United States Navy compared poorly with other countries’ new and modern ships. During this period, the Navy used the subterfuge of repairing old vessels to obtain new ships.

Efforts by naval officers to get appropriations for new ships fell on deaf ears until 1882 when Congress authorized three cruisers and a despatch vessel, the first ships of the New Navy. The success of their efforts can be credited to Secretary of the Navy William Chandler and his predecessor William Hunt. The following year, funds were authorized and the Office of Naval Intelligence was established.

At the same time, Congress authorized the condemnation of all ships for which the cost of repairs was too great (i.e., greater than the original cost). Under this law, forty-six ships were stricken from the Navy List. Of these, eight were incomplete, some of which had been on the ways for more than twenty years and one since 1815.

The ABCD ships, cruisers Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago and despatch vessel Dolphin started the progression, which led to the great fleets of World War II and the present day.

Each year thereafter, new ships were authorized, cruisers, gunboats, and then battleships. Successive units were bigger, more powerful, and adopted new innovations. The first ships built were aimed at coast defense and destruction of commerce. By 1890, there were sufficient ships to plan squadron maneuvers, the Squadron of Evolution.

In 1884 the Naval War College was established to provide a school for advanced studies for senior officers with Captain Stephen B. Luce as president and Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, the noted naval historian, as lecturer and then president. It was Mahan who urged that wars were won by command of the sea, not commerce destruction. Gradually construction policy changed to build new ships to promote his ideas, such as battleships.

The situation in Cuba, chafing under Spanish colonial rule, had exacerbated relations with Spain. On February 15, 1898, the battleship Maine, visiting Havana, was destroyed by a massive explosion with the loss of 260 sailors. Suspicion was immediately cast on Spain and war was declared on April 25th. Under Secretary John D. Long, the Navy mobilized, but it was Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt who moved the Navy into combat.

An American squadron under Commodore George Dewey was at Hong Kong and he immediately sailed for Manila. There on May 1st his superior force scored an overwhelming defeat on the small Spanish squadron there. It was at the beginning of the action that Dewey gave the order to his flag captain which became legendary, “You may fire when ready, Gridley.”

A blockade of Cuba was organized under Rear nted because it is so filled with 50s art gossip that everyone would sue us” (OCP 514). In many ways, the play provides an ideal example of the New York School text and attitude which will be the subjects of this study. An improvised, collaborative production, the play began during one of O’Hara’s many modeling sessions for Rivers as a way of keeping the model amused. And with typical New York School nonchalance, it was abandoned when its momentary usefulness . . .

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