Worth Bagley, born in Raleigh, N.C., on 6 April 1874, entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1891. He graduated on 7 June 1895 and, after two years at sea as a passed midshipman, was commissioned ensign on 1 July 1897. At the beginning of hostilities between the United States and Spain late in Apri1 1898, Bagley was serving in Winslow (Torpedo Boat No. 5), a ship that was soon on blockade station off the northern coast of Cuba.
On 11 May 1898, Winslow left her position for Cardenas to replenish her coal bunkers from one of the larger warships located there. When she reached Cardenas, the senior officer present, the commanding officer of Wilmington (Gunboat No. 8) ordered her to reconnoiter Cardenas Bay for mines in company with the revenue cutter Hudson. The negative report on the mines that the two small ships made at the completion of their mission prompted Wilmington's commanding officer to decide to take his ship into the bay to search for three Spanish gunboats reportedly lurking there. Bagleys ship and Hudson served as escorts. At about 3,000 yards from Cardenas, a lookout caught sight of a small, gray steamer moored alongside the wharf. Winslow moved in for a closer look. At about 1:35 p.m. that afternoon, Bagleys torpedo boat reached a point about 1,500 yards from the wharf when a puff of smoke announced the beginning of an artillery duel that lasted an hour and 20 minutes. Winslow's 1‑pounder responded, and then Spanish shore batteries opened on her. The little torpedo boat bore the brunt of Spanish fury and quickly suffered a number of hits.
The first shell to strike Winslow put both her steam and manual steering out of action. While members of her crew tried to rig some type of auxiliary steering gear, Ens. Bagley carried orders to the after engine room hatch in order to keep the warship maneuvering with her propellers. However, at one point the ship swung broadside to the enemy batteries, and a shell knocked out her port main engine. Wilmington and Hudson came to the rescue with their larger guns, and Winslow requested Hudson to tow her out of action. While the two ships attempted to make fast a towline, a shell burst near the after engine room hatch, slaying Bagley and Oiler John Varveres, Firemen (first class) J. Deneefe and J.V. Meek, and Cabin Cook Josiah Tunell. Bagley was the only U.S. naval line officer killed in action in the Spanish‑American War. "The conduct of Ensign Bagley and the men with him, as well as that of the crew who survived the fight," Lt. John B. Bernadou, Winslow's commanding officer, wrote later, "is beyond commendation."
The first three Bagleys; Torpedo Boat No. 24, Destroyer No. 185, and DD‑386, honored Ens. Worth Bagley. The fourth, DE‑1069, honors both Worth Bagley and his brother, Adm. David W. Bagley (see the history of the fourth Bagley for a full biography).
(Torpedo Boat No. 24: displacement 167 (normal); length 157'0"; beam 17'0"; draft 8'0" (aft); speed 28 knots; complement 29; armament 3 1‑pounders, 3 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Bagley)
The first Bagley (Torpedo Boat No. 24) was laid down on 4 January 1900 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 25 September 1900; sponsored by Mrs. Josephus Daniels; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 18 October 1901, Ens. Willis McDowell in command.
By 30 June 1902, Bagley was operating out of the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. She was placed in commission, in reserve, at Norfolk on 19 February 1903. She remained in the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at Norfolk until 14 September 1907 when she returned to full commission. Two days later, Bagley began an eight‑month tour of duty at Annapolis, Md., training Naval Academy midshipmen. She returned to the Norfolk Navy Yard on 9 June 1908 and the next day was placed back in reserve there.
The torpedo boat returned to the Naval Academy sometime between 1 July 1908 and 30 June 1909 and served there until sometime in 1911 when she was placed in reserve at Annapolis. She was placed in ordinary at Annapolis on 13 March 1914. By 30 June 1915, however, she had returned south to the Norfolk Navy Yard. On 29 March 1917, just before America entered the Great War, Bagley was returned to full commission. She then moved north to New York where she spent the remainder of the war patrolling New York harbor. On 1 August 1918, her name was reassigned to Destroyer No. 185 then under construction at Newport News, Va., and she became Coast Torpedo Boat No. 10. Retaining that designation for the remainder of her career, she was decommissioned at New York on 12 March 1919.
Coast Torpedo Boat No. 10 was stricken from the Navy Register on 31 March 1919; and she was sold on 9 April 1919 to Mr. Reinhard Hall, of Brooklyn, New York.
Raymond A. Mann
Updated, Robert J. Cressman
2 November 2021