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City of Pekin

The Navy retained the name of this ship following her acquisition.

(Steamer: tonnage 5,080 (gross), 3,129 (net); length 324’; beam 48’; draft 24’; armament 2 3-pounders)

The iron-hulled steamship City of Pekin, launched in 1874 at Chester, Pennsylvania, by John Roach and Son, Shipbuilders, was chartered by the Navy to transport troops to the Asiatic Station during the war with Spain, and was commissioned at San Francisco, California, on 10 May 1898, Commander William C. Gibson in command.

City of Pekin, with the First Regiment, California Volunteers, embarked, sailed from San Francisco on “special service” on 25 May 1898 in company with steamers City of Sydney and Australia, the latter ships having naval officers on board in an advisory capacity (as opposed to command). The three liners carried between them an expeditionary force under Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson, U.S. Army. Most importantly, City of Pekin bore orders to be delivered to Captain Henry Glass, commanding officer of Charleston (Cruiser No.2) upon arrival at Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands. The orders, from Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, directed Glass “to stop at the Spanish island of Guam [and] will use such force as necessary to capture the port…”

Consequently, Charleston sailed from Honolulu on 4 June 1898 with her three consorts; Captain Glass opened his sealed orders out of sight of land, and set course for Guam. The ships arrived off the northern part of the island at daylight on 20 June 1898, and proceeded to San Luis d’Apra. The unexpected appearance of the little squadron took the Spanish, who were unaware that hostilities even existed between Spain and the United States, completely by surprise. Prepared for any eventuality, Glass planned to send a landing force, consisting of the marine guard from his ship, City of Pekin’s California Volunteers, and two companies of the Second Oregon Regiment (U.S. Volunteers), from Australia, ashore. The Spanish authorities surrendered, however, on the afternoon of 21 June; Captain Glass had the prisoners taken to City of Sydney to be transported to the Philippines.

“Having completed the duty assigned” sans bloodshed, Charleston and the three auxiliary vessels steamed on to the Philippines without incident, with City of Pekin arriving off Cavite on 30 June. Her troops disembarked on 3 July to be assigned to the First Independent Brigade, Eighth Army Corps. Two weeks later, before the month was out, on 31 July, those soldiers entered battle in the trenches at Malate.

Subsequently, City of Pekin called at Nagasaki, Japan, arriving there on 4 August 1898, en route back to San Francisco. Reaching that west coast port on 22 August 1898, she was decommissioned there on 1 September 1898.


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Robert J. Cressman, June 2007