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Massachusetts III (Battleship No.2)


Massachusetts (BB-2)

Massachusetts (BB-2) photographed by E.H. Hart off New York City, during the victory review, circa August 1898. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph, NH 46423.

One of the thirteen original States of the Union, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ratified the Constitution on 6 February 1788.


(Battleship No. 2: displacement 10,288; length 350'11"; beam 69'3"; draft 24'0"; speed 16.21 knots; complement 586; armament 4 13-inch, 8 8-inch, 4 6-inch, 2 3-inch, 20 6‑pounders, 6 1‑pounders, 6 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Indiana)

The third Massachusetts (Battleship No. 2) was laid down on 25 June 1891 at Philadelphia, by William Cramp & Sons; launched on 10 June 1893; sponsored by Miss Leila Herbert, daughter of Secretary of the Navy Hilary Herbert; and commissioned on 10 June 1896, Capt. Frederick Rodgers in command.

Underway for shakedown on 4 August 1896, Massachusetts conducted trials and maneuvers off the middle Atlantic coast until 30 November, when she entered New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., for overhaul. Following a brief voyage to Charleston, S.C., 12 to 20 February 1897, the battleship departed New York on 26 May for Boston, Mass.,  arriving two days later for a celebration in her honor, including the presentation of the Massachusetts Coat of Arms on 16 June, and a gift of a statue of victory the next day. She departed Boston on the 19th to cruise to St. Johns, Newfoundland, arriving on 23 June.

Sailing on the 28th the battleship operated off the Atlantic coast for the next ten months, participating in training maneuvers with the North Atlantic Squadron off Florida, and making calls at major east coast ports. On 27 March 1898, she was ordered to Hampton Roads, Va., to join the "Flying Squadron" for the blockade of Cuba.

Massachusetts departed Norfolk on 13 May 1898 for Cienfuegos, Cuba, where she took up blockade duties on the 22nd. On the afternoon of 31 May in company with Iowa (Battleship No. 4) and cruiser New Orleans, she bombarded the forts at the entrance to Santiago de Cuba, and exchanged fire with Spanish cruiser Cristobal Colon, forcing the enemy ship to retire into the inner harbor of Santiago. The battleship remained on patrol off Santiago, intermittently bombarding Spanish fortifications, until 3 July, when she stood out to coal at Guantanamo Bay. Missing the Battle of Santiago, the battleship steamed back to her station on the 4th, arriving in time to help battleship Texas force cruiser Reina Mercedes to beach and surrender at midnight on 6 July. Following duty in support of the American occupation of Puerto Rico, 21 July to 1 August, Massachusetts steamed for home, arriving at New York on 20 August

During the next seven years, Massachusetts cruised the Atlantic coast and eastern Caribbean as a member of the North Atlantic Squadron. From 27 May to 30 August 1904, the warship served as a training ship for Naval Academy midshipmen off New England and then entered New York Navy Yard for overhaul. Departing New York on 13 January 1905, the battleship then steamed for the Caribbean on training maneuvers, operating there until she returned north to cruise off New England in May. Putting into New York on 12 November 1905, she underwent inactivation overhaul and was then decommissioned on 8 January 1906.

Massachusetts was placed in reduced commission on 2 May 1910 to serve as a summer practice ship for Naval Academy midshipmen. During the next four years she made three midshipman cruises, twice to Western Europe, before entering the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in September 1912. Following a brief voyage to New York 5 to 16 October for the Presidential Fleet Review, the warship returned to Philadelphia where she remained until being decommissioned on 23 May 1914.

Massachusetts was recommissioned on 9 June 1917 at Philadelphia. Sailing on 9 October, she arrived at the Naval Training Station, Newport, R.I., on the 15th, where she embarked Naval Reserve guncrews for gunnery training in Block Island Sound. Continuing on this duty until 27 May 1918, the old battleship then underwent repairs at Philadelphia Navy Yard. Assigned to battle practice, "A" Division, Battleship Force 1, Atlantic Fleet, on 9 June 1918, the veteran battleship steamed to Yorktown, Va., the same day, and for the remainder of World War I served as a heavy gun target practice ship in Chesapeake Bay and local Atlantic waters. 

Massachusetts returned to Philadelphia on 16 February 1919. Redesignated as Coast Battleship No. 2 on 29 March 1919,  she was decommissioned for the final time on the 31st. She was stricken from the Navy Register on 22 November 1920 and loaned to the War Department as a target ship. Scuttled off the Pensacola Bar, Fla., on 6 January 1921, the hulk was bombarded by batteries from Fort Pickens for four years and then returned to the Navy on 20 February 1925. Though offered for sale for scrap, no acceptable bids were received and finally, on 15 November 1956, the ship was declared the property of the state of Florida.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

16 April 2024

Published: Tue Apr 16 15:25:27 EDT 2024