(RC: dp. 1,432; l. 219; b. 32'6"; d. 16'; a. 4 3")
Built by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, McCulloch commissioned 12 December 1897 as a cruising cutter of the Revenue Cutter Service, Capt. D. B. Hogsdon, RCS, in command.
As the Spanish‑American War was about to commence, the new cutter was steaming via the Suez Canal and the Far East to her first station at San Francisco. Upon her arrival at Singapore 8 April 1898, 2 full weeks before war was declared, orders directed McCulloch to report to Commodore Dewey on the Asiatic station.
Dewey’s squadron was composed of cruisers Olympia, Boston, Baltimore, and Raleigh; gunboats Concord and Petrel; and cutter McCulloch, with her charges, the valuable storeships Nanshan and Zafire. The squadron stood out of Mirs Bay, China, 27 April, and entered Manila Bay the evening of 30 April. By midnight Olympia had stealthily passed into the harbor. Successive ships followed in close order.
Just as McCulloch brought El Fraile Rock abaft the starboard beam. the block stillness was broken. Soot in the cutter’s stack caught fire and sent up a column of fire like a signal light. Immediately thereafter a battery on El Fraile took McCulloch under fire. Boston, in column just ahead of the cutter, answered the battery, as did McCulloch, and the Spanish gun emplacement was silenced.
As the rock fell astern Dewey reduced speed to 4 knots so as to reach the head of the Bay in time to join action with the Spanish Fleet at daybreak. His order of battle required McCulloch to guard the precious storeships from enemy gunboats. She was also to protect the ships in line of battle from surprise attack, to tow any disabled ship out of range of gunfire, and to take her place in the line.
Americans present off Cavite that day, long recalled, with satisfaction, that McCulloch found no need to tow any warship out of the battleline. During five firing runs, made at close range, the accurate gunners of Dewey’s squadron wrought devastation upon the Spaniards. The battle, which began at 0540, was over in 7 hours. All of the Spanish warships were destroyed, and 381 Spanish seamen were killed. No American warship was seriously damaged, and only eight American sailors were wounded.
In a message to the Secretary of the Navy, Dewey commended Captain Hogsdon for the efficiency and readiness of his ship. After the battle, because of her speed, McCulloch was dispatched to the closest cable facility, that at Hong Kong, bearing the first dispatches of the great naval victory. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, the United States wrested in American empire from Spain after 10 weeks’ fighting, and “it was control of the ocean that did it.”
McCulloch arrived at San Francisco 10 January 1899 and operated on patrol out of that port, cruising from the Mexican border to Cape Blanco. Designated to enforce fur seal regulations 9 August 1906, she operated in the vicinity of the Pribilof Islands until 1912. During these years of service in the Bering Sea patrol, she was especially well known because of her services as a floating court to the Alaskan towns. Upon return to San Francisco in 1912, McCulloch resumed patrol operations in her regular west coast cruising district.
Transferred to the Navy 6 April 1917, she continued patrol operations along the Pacific coast. She sank 13 June 3 miles northwest of Point Conception, Calif., after colliding with Pacific Steamship Co.’s steamer Governor.