Kentucky was admitted to the Union 1 June 1792 as the 15th state.
The Mississippi Flotilla captured Confederate transport Kentucky (q.v.) at Memphis 6 June 1862. The Navy Register for 1863 listed her as assigned to the Mississippi Squadron but no other record of her service in the Union Navy has been found.
(BB-6: dp. 11,520; l. 375'4"; 72'2½"; s. 16.9 k.; cpl. 554; a. 4 13", 4 8", 14 5", 20 6-pdrs., 81-pdrs., 4.30 mg., 4 18" tt.; cl. Kearsarge)
Kentucky (BB-6) was launched 24 March 1898 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Miss Christine Bradley, daughter of Governor William Bradley of Kentucky; and commissioned 15 May 1900, Captain Colby M. Chester in command.
After fitting out in New York Navy Yard during the summer, Kentucky sailed 25 October 1900 for the Far East via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. She joined the other American ships on the Asiatic Station at Manila 3 February 1901 and 6 days later sailed for Hong Kong, where she became flagship of the Southern Squadron under Rear Admiral Louis Kempff 23 March. Throughout the following year the battleship led her squadron as it watched over American interest in the Far East, visiting principal ports of China and Japan including Chefoo, Taku, Nanking, Woosung, Hong Kong, Amoy, Nagasaki, Kobe, and Yokohama.
Rear Admiral Frank F. Wildes also selected Kentucky as his flagship upon relieving Admiral Kempff 1 March 1902, but he transferred his flag to Rainbow 1 April. Rear Admiral Robely D. Evans, Commander in Chief, Asiatic Fleet, chose Kentucky as his flagship at Yokohama 4 November; and he continued to direct American naval operations in the Far East from her until she sailed from Manila for home 13 March 1904. After retracing her steps through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar, she arrived New York 23 May.
Upon completing overhaul in New York Navy Yard 26 October, Kentucky devoted the following year for tactics and maneuvers off the Atlantic coast with the North Atlantic Fleet. The battleship joined the welcome of the British Squadron at Annapolis and New York in the fall of 1905 and then cruised along the eastern seaboard until 23 September 1906. On that day off Provincetown, she embarked marines from Maine, Missouri and Kearsarge and landed them at Havana 1 October to protect American lives and property during the Cuban Insurrection. She stood by to support forces ashore until 9 October before resuming battle practice and tactics in the North Atlantic.
Kentucky visited Norfolk 15 April 1907 to attend the Jamestown Exposition; and, after more exercises off the New England coast, she returned to Hampton Roads to join the "Great White Fleet" of 16 battleships for a world cruise that brought great prestige and honor to the Navy and the Nation. Rear Admiral Evans, Kentucky's former Flag Officer, commanded the fleet as it circumnavigated the globe receiving warm and enthusiastic welcomes at each port of call. As the famous voyage got underway from Hampton Roads 16 December, Kentucky passed in review before President Roosevelt as a unit in the 2d Squadron. After calling at Trinidad and Rio de Janeiro, the warships passed in open order through the Straits of Magellan to visit Punta Arenas and Valparaiso, Chile. A stop at Callao Bay, Peru, was followed by a month of target practice out of Magdalena Bay, Mexico. The fleet reached San Diego 14 April 1908 and moved on to San Francisco 7 May. Exactly 2 months later the spotless warships sortied through the Golden Gate and sailed for Honolulu. From Hawaii they set course for Aukland, New Zealand, arriving 9 August. The fleet made Sydney 20 August and, after a week of warm and cordial hospitality, sailed for Melbourne.
Kentucky departed Albany, Australia, 10 September for ports in the Philippine Islands, Japan, China, and Ceylon before transiting the Suez Canal. She departed Port Said 8 January 1909 to visit Tripoli and Algiers with the 4th Division before reforming with the fleet at Gibraltar. Underway for home 6 February, she again passed in review before President Roosevelt upon entering Hampton Roads 22 February, ending a widely-acclaimed voyage of good will in which she and her sister ships subtly but effectively demonstrated American strength to the world.
After local operations and repairs at Philadelphia Navy Yard, Kentucky decommissioned at Norfolk 28 August 1909. She recommissioned in the 2d Reserve 4 June 1912 but, save for a run to New York, did not operate at sea before being placed in ordinary in Philadelphia Navy Yard 31 May 1913.
The veteran battleship recommissioned at Philadelphia 23 June 1915 and sailed 3 July to train New York militia in a cruise from Long Island to ports in New England and Chesapeake Bay. She debarked the militia at New York and sailed to Portland to embark Maine militia for a training cruise. Returning to Philadelphia 31 August, she sailed 11 September for the coast of Mexico to watch over American interests during the unrest caused by the Mexican Revolution. She reached Vera Cruz 28 September 1915; and, but for a visit to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in March 1916, she remained on patrol off the Mexican coast until 2 June 1916.
The battleship called at Guantanamo Bay and Santa Domingo en route home to Philadelphia, where she arrived 18 June. Following maneuvers and tactics ranging north to Newport during the summer, Kentucky arrived New York 2 October and remained in the North River until the end of the year. She entered New York Naval Shipyard for repairs 1 January 1917 and was still there when the United States entered World War I. She arrived Yorktown, Va., 2 May for duty as a training ship and trained recruits on cruises in Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast as far north as Long Island Sound. When the Armistice was signed 11 November 1918, she was training her 15th group of recruits, having already trained several thousand men for service in ships of the war-expanded Navy.
Kentucky entered Boston Navy Yard 20 December for overhaul. She sailed 18 March 1919 for refresher training out of Guantanamo Bay and then participated in fleet maneuvers and exercises ranging north from Norfolk to the New England coast. She arrived Annapolis 29 May to embark midshipmen and got underway 9 June for a summer practice cruise that took her to Cuba, the Virgin Islands, Panama, New York, Boston, and Province-town. She returned Annapolis 27 August to debark her midshipmen and entered Philadelphia Navy Yard 30 August. She remained there until decommissioning 29 May 1920. Kentucky was sold to Dravo Construction Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., for scrapping 23 January 1924 in compliance with U.S. commitments under the Washington Treaty which limited naval armaments.
The keel of Kentucky (BB-66), an Iowa-class battleship, was laid at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., 6 December 1944.
Construction was suspended 17 February 1947 when the battleship was 72.1 percent complete. Her name was struck from the Navy List 9 June 1958; and her uncompleted hulk was sold for scrapping to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md., 31 October.
USS Kentucky (BB-6) was one of the ships Admiral Husband E. Kimmel served in between graduation from the Naval Academy and receipt of his commission as an Ensign in 1906.