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Vessels Lost and Salvaged, Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1916

Loss of USS Memphis, 29 August 1916

Tennessee, the 16th state, was admitted to the Union on 1 June 1796. The word Tennessee is derived from a Cherokee Indian term which referred to several Cherokee settlements formerly located in territory now within the state.




(Armored Cruiser No. 10: displacement 13,712 tons (full load); 1ength 504'5"; beam 72'10½"; draft 25'0" (mean); speed 22.16 knots; complement 887; armament 4 10-inch guns, 16 6-inch guns, 22 3-inch guns, 4 3-pounder guns, 4 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Montana


The fourth Tennessee (Armored Cruiser No. 10) was laid down by the Cramp Shipbuilding Co., Philadelphia, Pa., on 20 June 1903; launched on 3 December 1904; sponsored by Miss Annie K. Frazier, daughter of Governor James B. Frazier of Tennessee and subsequently the foundress of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 17 July 1906, Capt. Albert O. Berry in command.


The new armored cruiser departed Hampton Roads, Va., on 8 November 1906 as escort for Louisiana (Battleship No. 19) in which President Theodore Roosevelt had embarked for a cruise to Panama to check on the progress of work constructing the Panama Canal. After a brief visit to Puerto Rico on the return voyage, where the President studied the administrative structure of the Commonwealth's government, the warships arrived back at Hampton Roads on 26 November.

Following a yard period for repairs, Tennessee a left Hampton Roads on 16 April 1907 for the Jamestown Exposition, held from 7 to 11 June, to commemorate the tricentennial of the founding of the first English settlement in America. On 14 June, Tennessee sailed for Europe in company with Washington (Armored Cruiser No.11) and reached Royan, France, on the 23d for duty with the Special Service Squadron. She returned home in August but departed Hampton Roads on 12 October for the Pacific, where she became flagship for the second division of the Pacific Fleet.


Tennessee operated out of San Francisco until July 1908 when the cruiser steamed north to the Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington. After repairs and alterations, including the installation of electrical range finders and other fire control gear. The warship returned to San Francisco in August to join the fleet and then sailed for Samoa on 24 August, with the eight heavy ships of the first and second divisions each towing a destroyer. The experiment was a success and, after arriving at Pago Pago on 23 September, the second division conducted range finder experiments and other fire control training in between port visits. Following a brief delay owing to a shortage of coal, the divisions steamed to Honolulu, arriving there in late October. In mid-November, Tennessee led the second division south to Magdalena Bay, Mexico, for the fleet's annual target practice. The warships continued south after gunnery practice, stopping at Colon, Panama, to observe progress on the transisthmus, before steaming south as far as Lota, Chile. After recoaling, the fleet returned north and the second division put in to Coquimbo in late January 1909. While there, the armored cruiser contributed a fire-brigade ashore to help put out a major fire in the city. From Coquimbo, the division continued north, making stops at Callao, Peru, and in Costa Rica before arriving home in San Francisco that spring.

Following another trip north to Bremerton for repairs and modification, the armored cruiser participated in a fall cruise with the Pacific Fleet, departing the west coast in August and touching ports in the Admiralty Islands and the Philippines before maiking stops at Shanghai, China, and Yokohama, Japan, before arriving in Bremerton in February 1910. Tennessee received two months of yard repairs there before receiving orders to sail east in company with South Dakota and join a Special Service Squadron in the Atlantic. The two ships stopped at Panama to coal before proceeding down the entire coast of South America and transiting the Straits of Magellan. Joining up with Montana and North Carolina at Maldonado, Argentina, in April, the four ships then steamed to Bahia Blanca to represent the United States at the centenary celebration of the independence of Argentina. While there, Tennessee hosted a luncheon for the Argentine Minister of Marine and the American, Japanese and Cuban Consuls. The four ships then sailed north to Rio de Janeiro, where they anchored near the Brazilian battleship Minas Geraes, before steaming into Hampton Roads via Culebra in July.

Following a cruise to Maine in August and September, and a yard period at Portsmouth, N.H., the armored cruiser proceeded to Charleston, S.C., on 8 November and embarked President William Howard Taft for a round-trip voyage to Panama to inspect progress on the canal. She returned to Hampton Roads on 22 November and then engaged in battle practice off the Virginia coast and Guantanamo Bay into February 1911. Following a Mardi Gras visit to New Orleans and a visit to New York early in March, the warship steamed to Cuban waters for three more months of operations out of Guantanamo Bay. On 10 June, Tennessee sailed north to Portsmouth where she was placed in reserve on 26 June 1911.

The armored cruiser remained at the Portsmouth Navy Yard until April 1912 when she shifted to the Philadelphia Navy Yard via Boston to prepare for active service. Placed in full commission on 11 November 1912, Tennessee departed Philadelphia the following day for service in the Mediterranean. Following a stop at Gibraltar to recoal, the armored cruiser sailed to the port of Smyrna in Turkey to protect American interests during the ongoing Turkish-Bulgarian War. Tennessee departed Anatolia on 3 May 1913 after the crisis had passed, arriving back in Hampton Roads on the 25th. In a familiar routing, the warship proceeded to the Navy Yard at Portsmouth for repairs in June and then went into reserve at Philadelphia on 23 October 1913.

On 2 May 1914, Tennessee became the receiving ship at the Navy Yard in New York, where she remained until the outbreak of war in Europe in July. The outbreak of a continent-wide war surprised many thousands of American citizens in Europe, some without access to money or credit and all limited by the disrupted steamship service in making their way home. In response, Tennessee embarked U.S. Treasury and banking officials, as well as nearly $3 million in relief aid, for transport to Europe. Underway 6 August, the armored cruiser began a rapid transit across the Atlantic, arriving in Falmouth, England, on the 16th. Some of the gold and officials were then sent by special train to London. Putting to sea on 20 August, the warship picked her way through the English Channel, where she spotted numerous Royal Navy battleships, cruisers and destroyers, before anchoring off Hook of Holland, near Rotterdam, the following day. More funds for the American Relief Expedition were sent to the Hague from there before Tennessee returned to Falmouth on the 28th.

Between 1-6 September, Tennessee made two runs to Le Havre, France, from which she evacuated 400 Americans to Weymouth, England. She remained there until 29 September, when reports of German submarines in the area forced her to move to Falmouth. The next day, the ship received orders to proceed south to Italy. Tennessee got underway on 3 October and arrived in Brindisi on the 12th. A week later the armored cruiser sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, where she visited Beirut, a number of Greek Islands, and several ports in Anatolia before arriving at Alexandria, Egypt, on 16 December. The warship took on money and stores for distribution at Jaffa, Palestine, as well as mail for North Carolina, then at Beirut. She then made four trips carrying a total of 3,600 refugees from Jaffa to Alexandria, the last leg putting into Egypt on 30 January 1915. After a delay caused by Turkish officials denying refugees permission to leave, Tennessee made a fifth evacuation run to Jaffa between 15-17 February, carrying another 657 refugees. The warship remained in the region throughout the spring, steaming between Jaffa, Beirut and Alexandria in support of refugee relief efforts, a task made more difficult since France and Britain were at war with Turkey. After carrying a final load of 124 passengers from Jaffa to Alexandria on 28 June, Tennessee sailed for home and arrived in New York, via Barcelona, Spain and Horta, Fayal, on 30 July.

Following a short repair period at New York, Tennessee transported the 1st Regiment, Marine Expeditionary Force, and the Marine Artillery Battalion to Haiti in late August. She then steamed to Philadelphia for repairs in dry dock, a procedure that lasted through the end of the year. The armored cruiser then sailed back to Haiti, where she served as flagship of a cruiser squadron off Port-au-Prince from 28 January to 24 February 1916. In March, she embarked a group of dignitaries at Hampton Roads for a two-month, round-trip cruise to Montevideo, Uruguay, returning to Hampton Roads on 4 May. On 25 May, Tennessee was renamed Memphis, honoring a city in Tennessee, so that the name Tennessee could be reassigned to a new warship, Battleship No. 43.

In July, the ship got underway for the West Indies, arriving at San Domingo on 23 July for peace-keeping patrol off the rebellion-torn Dominican Republic. On the afternoon of 29 August, while at anchor in the harbor of San Domingo, a series of very close tsunami-like waves inundated the harbor, almost wrecking gunboat Castine and driving Memphis ashore. The waves were so steep they flowed over the armored cruiser, including the bridge and even the stacks, and repeatedly battered the warship into the harbor bottom. Two boilers were crushed by a coral pinnacle, with seven men scalded to death in the fire room, and Memphis was left wrecked and stranded in shallow water. The total casualties, including a boatload of sailors returning from shore, numbered 43 dead and 204 injured.


Memphis was struck from the Navy list on 17 December 1917 and sold to A. H. Radetsky Iron and Metal Co., Denver, Colo., on 17 January 1922 for scrapping


11 January 2005