(Naval) Spanish American Boat

Recently I ran across a very old book in the non-circulating part of our library, concerning the Spanish-American War. Since I have a Maine,
Olympia and Oregon on my "to do" list, I thought that I's xerox the photos of these and other naval vessels depicted. The book was published in 1898 and these pictures originally were taken for newspaper publication. In addition to the armored cruisers, battleships and such, they also show some Civil War-era monitors used for harbor defense, torpedo boats and (this is the one that I'm curious about) something called a dynamite cruiser. It appears to be a smaller boat, about the size of a cutter, and has what appear to be three mortar tubes in the bow angled upwards about 20 to 30, aimed directly ahead. The name of this particular ship is the USS Vesuvius, and it looks interesting. My question is this - what is a "dynamite cruiser" and what was its function? Thanks.
-- John
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III
(Dynamite Gun Cruiser: displacement 930; length 252'4"; beam 26'5"; draft 9'0"; speed 21 knots; complement 70; armament 3 15", 3 3-pounders)
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 firing chamber.
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., Chelsea, Mass.
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This is why rms is worth all the off topic stuff! About once a week I learn something very interesting.
Thanx for posting this.

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Old Timer wrote:

To mount Dynamite Guns, of course.
http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_Zalinsky.htm http://www.militarymuseum.org/BtyDynamite.html
Popularized by Captain Zalinski, think of it like a modern paintball gun, but on a huge scale, using over 2,000psi of compressed air to fire a 15" 1150 pound projectile.
Obsolete after stable HighExplosive fillings like picric acid for regular rifled cannon was developed around the turn of the century.
Low Explosive Black Powder and unstable Dynamite for explosive filling were quickly retired.
** mike **
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Old Timer wrote:

The short answer is: It seemed like a good idea at the time. Vesuvius was meant to hurl large packets of dynamite at enemy ships using compressed air canon. The immediate problems of fixed traverse and elevation should be obvious, ship has to be pointed directly at the target and within a narrow band of ranges or it won't hit. This is a pretty stupid idea for naval gunnery. The only successful use was "shelling" some fort in Cuba.
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Thanks guys, I appreciate the information. It may not have been the best idea at the time, but she ~was~ a pretty boat, and apparently fast for her time as well.
-- John
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