US Navy Launches First ‘First-Class’ Battleship, the USS Indiana


On February 28, 1893, the US Navy launched its first-ever “first-class” battleship, the USS Indiana (BB 1).

She was launched in the middle of a storm, according to a March 1, 1893 New York Times article about the ship’s debut, “at 12:45 p.m. at the shipyard of the William Cramp & Sons Company” in Philadelphia.  Then-President Benjamin Harrison reportedly attended, and then-Attorney General William Miller‘s daughter, Jessie, christened the ship.

“As if anxious to get into her native element, the huge coast-defense ship slid down the well-greased ways with comparative rapidity and struck the smooth waters of the Delaware River with a force that sent waves high into the air,” the article reads. “Then she was towed back to the wharves, and in about a year will be ready for service and turned over to the Government.”

Indiana was the Navy’s its first-ever, first-class battleship, according to a 2014 blog by the Navy History and Heritage Command, published by the US Naval Institute’s Naval History Blog. US Navy statistics say Indiana was just over 350 feet long, that her beam stretched nearly 70 feet, and that she weighed in at 10,288 tons.  She carried a total of 42 guns (“four 13″ guns; eight 8″ guns; four 6″ guns; twenty 6-pounders; six 1-pounders,” the Navy writes), and traveled at a speed of 15 knots.

Naval History and Heritage Command writes that Indiana’s career highlights included the Spanish-American War (having played a major role in the battle of Santiago de Cuba) and the aftermath of a 1907 earthquake in Kingston, Jamaica (in which she carried men and emergency supplies to assist in the recovery).

Indiana was officially commissioned on Nov. 20, 1895, with Captain Robley D. Evans at the helm, NHHC writes. She was recommissioned two more times in 1906 and 1917, and decommissioned for good on January 31, 1919 the Navy writes.

Her eventual fate?

“Used as aerial bomb target; hulk sold as scrap 19 Mar 1924,” her listing in the Navy’s battleships list reads.

Luckily, Indiana got the opportunity to live on when she became the namesake of a new class of battleships. She, along with USS Massachusetts (BB 2) and USS Oregon (BB 3), comprised the class. Just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a new Indiana (BB-58), a South Dakota-class battleship, was christened and launched. The 680-foot ship carried nine 16-inch guns and served until 1947 when she was decommissioned.

Today, another Indiana (SSN789) is under construction, this one a Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. She is to be christened at Newport News Shipbuilding’s yard in Virginia on April 29, 2017. She is 377 feet long and displaces 7,800 tons.

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