Queen Mercedes (1860-1878) was the wife of King Alfonso XII of Spain.
(IX - 25: displacement 2,835; length 292’; beam 43’3”; draft 21’11” (mean); complement 91; armament none)
Reina Mercedes, an unprotected cruiser for the Spanish Navy, was launched 12 September 1887 at Cartagena, Spain. She initially served in Spanish waters; joining the Instructional Squadron in 1893, but was transferred to the Caribbean in 1895. Reina Mercedes acted as flagship of Spanish naval forces in Cuban waters with additional duty as station ship at Santiago de Cuba.
From the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Reina Mercedes served as a harbor defense ship at Santiago de Cuba. On 3 June a party under Lt. Richmond Hobson attempted to run USS Merrimac aground in the shallow water at the harbor entrance to block the channel. Reina Mercedes opened fire along with other Spanish ships and shore batteries defending the harbor and sank Merrimac before she reached an obstruction position. Lieutenant Hobson and his seven men were taken aboard Reina Mercedes.
During the remainder of June and into July, U.S. Navy ships frequently bombarded Spanish positions at Santiago de Cuba, damaging Reina Mercedes on eight separate occasions. Following the destruction of Admiral Cervera's squadron 3 July 1898, the Spanish scuttled the battered cruiser Reina Mercedes in the channel to prevent U.S. ships from forcing an entrance. Accordingly, she was towed to the mouth of the harbor late in the evening of 3 July, but her movements were discovered by the U.S. fleet. Battleships Texas and Massachusetts (BB-2) both took Reina Mercedes under fire, causing heavy damage but not preventing her sinking in the intended location. A chance shot, however, cut her mooring line so that as she settled, she swung out of the main channel and came to rest in shallow water with her upper works still visible.
Reina Mercedes was captured 17 July 1898 when the Spanish defenses at Santiago de Cuba were surrendered. The U.S. Navy decided to salvage Reina Mercedes, and the Merritt & Chapman Co., was engaged to raise her. Work began 2 January 1899 and she was again afloat on 1 March of the same year. Leaking considerably, Reina Mercedes was towed to Norfolk Navy Yard, arriving 27 May for temporary repairs. Departing Norfolk 25 August 1900, again in tow, Reina Mercedes arrived Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H., on 29 August for refitting.
It was first planned to convert the old cruiser to a seagoing training ship; but, after much delay, the Navy Yard received orders on 10 December 1902 to complete her as a non-self-propelled receiving ship. Departing Portsmouth in tow 21 May 1905, Reina Mercedes was taken to Newport, R.I., to be attached to the receiving ship Constellation; and, but for a visit to Boston and to New York in 1908, served there until 1912.
In early September 1912, Reina Mercedes was towed to Norfolk Navy Yard by the tug Patuxent (AT-11) and collier Lebanon (AG-2). After a major overhaul, she arrived at Annapolis 30 September 1912 for duty there as station ship. She was designated IX-25 on 17 July 1920 as an unclassified auxiliary vessel. Until 1940 it was customary for midshipmen serving punishment, to live and take their meals on board the old ship for up to 2 months at a time She was never considered a "brig", as sometimes recalled; for the midshipmen continued to attend all drills and recitations afloat and ashore. Her main function from 5 September 1940 was to serve as quarters for enlisted personnel assigned to the Naval Academy and for the Commander of the Naval Station who was also captain of the ship. Because her commanding officer was provided with quarters onboard for his entire family, Reina Mercedes was the only U.S. ship in which dependents were permitted to live.
For a brief moment in 1920, Reina Mercedes flew her former flag as a gesture of friendship when the Spanish battleship Alfonso XIII called at Annapolis. On only five occasions, in 1916, 1927, 1932, 1939, and 1951, did she leave her pier for refitting at Norfolk Navy Yard. Necessary repairs in 1957 were estimated to be so costly that she was ordered broken up. Struck from the Navy list 6 September 1957, Reina Mercedes was decommissioned 6 November at Annapolis, and sold to Boston Metals Co., of Baltimore, Md., for scrapping.
23 September 2005