(Dynamite Gun Cruiser: displacement 930; length 252'4"; beam 26'5";
draft 9'0"; speed 21 knots; complement 70; armament 3 15", 3
The third Vesuvius -- a unique vessel in the Navy inventory which
marked a departure from more conventional forms of main battery
armament -- was laid down in September 1887 at Philadelphia, Pa., by
William Cramp and Sons Ships and Engine Building Co. of New York, N.Y.;
launched on 28 April 1888; sponsored by Miss Eleanor Breckinridge; and
commissioned on 2 June 1890 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Lt. Seaton
Schroeder in command.
Vesuvius carried three 15-inch pneumatic guns, mounted forward
side-by-side. In order to train these weapons, the ship had to be
aimed, like a gun, at its target. Compressed air projected the shells
from the "dynamite guns." The explosive used in the guns themselves was
actually a "desensitized blasting gelatin" composed of nitrocellulose
and nitroglycerine. It was less sensitive to shock than regular
dynamite but still sensitive enough that compressed air, rather than
powder, had to be utilized as the propellant. Ten shells per gun were
carried on board, and the range of flight -- varying from 200 yards to
one and one-half miles -- depended on the amount of air entering the
Vesuvius sailed for New York shortly after commissioning and then
joined the Fleet at Gardiner's Bay, N.Y., on 1 October 1890. She
operated off the east coast with the North Atlantic Squadron into 1895.
Highlights of this tour of duty included numerous port visits and
participation in local observances of holidays and festivals, as well
as gunnery practice and exercises. Experience showed that the ship's
unique main battery had two major drawbacks: first, the range was too
short; second, the method of aiming was crude and inaccurate.
Decommissioned on 25 April 1895 for major repairs, Vesuvius re-entered
service on 12 January 1897, Lt. Comdr. John E. Pillsbury in command.
The ship got underway from Philadelphia Navy Yard, bound for Florida,
and operated off the east coast through the spring of the following
year, 1898. By this time, American relations with Spain were worsening.
The American Fleet gathered in Florida waters, and Vesuvius hurried
south from Newport, R.I., and arrived at Key West on 13 May. She
remained there until the 28th, when she headed for blockade duty in
Cuban coastal waters. Vesuvius performed special duties at the
discretion of the Fleet Commander in Chief and served as a dispatch
vessel between Cuba and Florida into July of 1898.
On 13 June, Vesuvius conducted the first of eight shore bombardment
missions against Santiago, Cuba. The cruiser stealthily closed the
shore under cover of darkness, loosed a few rounds of her 15-inch
dynamite charges, and then retired to sea. Psychologically, Vesuvius'
bombardment caused great anxiety among the Spanish forces ashore, for
her devastating shells came in without warning, unaccompanied by the
roar of gunfire usually associated with a bombardment. Admiral Sampson
wrote accordingly, that Vesuvius' bombardments had "great effect."
After hostilities with Spain ended later that summer, Vesuvius sailed
north and called at Charleston, S.C.; New York, and Newport, before
reaching Boston. Taken out of active service on 16 September 1898,
Vesuvius remained at the Boston Navy Yard until 1904, when she began
conversion to a torpedo-testing vessel. Vesuvius lost her unique main
battery and acquired four torpedo tubes -- three 18-inch and one
21-inch. Recommissioned on 21 June 1905, Vesuvius soon sailed for the
Naval Torpedo Station to begin her new career.
She conducted torpedo experiments at the station for two years until
decommissioned on 27 November 1907 for repairs. Recommissioned again on
14 February 1910, Vesuvius remained at Newport for the next 11 years,
on occasion serving as station ship, into 1921. Decommissioned and
ordered appraised for sale on 21 April 1922 to J. Lipsitz and Co.,