The third U.S. Navy ship named for a city in South Carolina.
(Cruiser No. 22: displacement 9,800; length 426' 6"; beam 66'; draft 22' 6"; speed 22 knots; complement 673; armament 14 6-inch, 18 3-inch, 12 3-pounders, 8 1-pounders, 4 .30 caliber Colt machine guns, 2 .30 caliber Gatling machine guns, and 2 3-inch field guns; class St. Louis)
The third Charleston (Cruiser No. 22) was laid down on 30 January 1902 at Newport News, Va., by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; launched on 23 January 1904; sponsored by Miss Helen W. Rhett, daughter of Robert G. Rhett, the mayor of Charleston, S.C.; and commissioned on 17 October 1905 at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., Capt. Herbert Winslow in command.
Early in the New Year on 7 January 1906, Charleston embarked Secretary of the Navy Charles J. Bonaparte at Lynnhaven Bay, Va., and transported him to Charleston, S.C. (7–10 January). The cruiser returned to Norfolk a week later on the 14th, and inspectors from a Board of Inspection examined the ship for her effectiveness in fleet operations (24–25 January). Charleston turned her prow northward and carried out a series of standardization trials off Tompkinsville, N.Y. (6 and 25–26 March and 6–7 May); Rockland, Maine (21–23 March and 28 April–3 May); Provincetown, Mass. (23–24 March); and East Lamoine, Maine (3–4 May). The trials identified some engineering issues, which the ship’s company and civilian workers tackled during an overhaul at New York Navy Yard (7 May–1 July).
Charleston embarked Secretary of State Elihu Root at Tompkinsville for a goodwill cruise to Caribbean and Latin American ports (4 July–30 September 1906). The warship steamed through traditionally treacherous waters as she rounded the southern tip of the continent and visited a variety of locations in her passage: San Juan, P.R. (8–10 July); St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies on 11 July; Para River, Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and Santos, Brazil (16–18, 22, and 24–25 July, 27 July–3 August, and 4–7 August, respectively); Montevideo, Uruguay (10–17 August); Bahia Blanca, Argentina (19–20 August); Punta Arenas, Field’s Anchorage, Isthmus Bay, Puerto Bueno, Eden Harbor, Hale Cove, Loto, Valparaiso, Coquimbo, and Tocopilla, Chile (23–24, 24–25, 25–26, 26–27, 27–28, and 28–29 August, 31 August–1 September, 2–4, 5–6, and 7 September, respectively); and Callao, Peru (10–16 September). The secretary and his party disembarked when the ship reached Panama (20–30 September), and she then proceeded to the west coast for an overhaul at Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, Calif. (10 October–2 December). The great San Francisco earthquake and fire had devastated the area that April, and the ship completed her work while people rebuilt from the disaster.
The warship cleared San Francisco Bay and, on 7 December 1906, rendezvoused with protected cruisers Boston and Chicago, Yorktown (Gunboat No. 1), and Preble (Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 12) of the Pacific Squadron, Rear Adm. William T. Swinburne in command, at Santa Barbara, Calif. The squadron trained in Californian and Mexican waters, ranging southward along the west coast to Magdalena Bay (6–24 January 1907), then to Pichilinque Bay, Mexico (25–31 January), and back to Magdalena Bay (1–3 February). Charleston refueled at San Diego in company with Paul Jones (Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 10) and Preble (6 February–12 March), and then (14 March–6 May) carried out target practice off Magdalena. The ship operated with the fleet off San Pedro, Calif. (8–15 May), following which, she took part in the opening of the Portland Rose Festival in Oregon (17 June–16 July), and pulled into Astoria on the latter day when Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks visited that city. Charleston headed further northward to Esquimalt, British Columbia (17–22 July), and then (22 July–11 September) completed repairs in dry dock at Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Wash.
Following her yard work, Charleston moored briefly (14–16 September) with Perry (Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 11) at Seattle, Wash., steamed in Puget Sound and lay off Port Angeles, and then (19–24 September) coaled and took on stores at Mare Island. The cruiser joined the fleet for a series of exercises that carried her more than 1,000 miles across the eastern Pacific and eventually back to San Francisco (21 September–7 October), followed by target practice at Magdalena Bay (11 October–2 December). The ship spent Christmas at San Diego, at times moored near Chicago, Milwaukee (Cruiser No. 21), St. Louis (Cruiser No. 20), and Preble.
Early in the New Year on 16 January 1908, Charleston lay near Perry and Preble at San Diego, but turned her prow southward to the increasingly familiar waters of Magdalena Bay, where the ship recorded target shooting (18 January–9 March). Charleston returned to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay area, where she coaled and loaded stores at San Francisco, and completed upkeep at Mare Island (13–29 March). The ship followed that work by joining the First Squadron for maneuvers off that area (29 March–17 May) and Monterey (17–27 May), before attending the second Portland Rose Festival (30 May–8 June). Charleston rounded the Washington coast and put in to Port Angeles, after which (10 June–26 October) she accomplished an overhaul that included installing a fire control system, at Puget Sound Navy Yard, to prepare for the long passage to the Asiatic station.
Charleston set out across the Pacific for her new station but heavy fog compelled the ship to briefly (26–28 October 1908) anchor at Port Townsend, Wash., before she resumed her westward journey. Charleston coaled and provisioned at Honolulu, T.H. (6–11 November), Midway Island and then (23–24 November) Guam, and reached Cavite in the Philippines on the 29th. The cruiser served in the Far East first as flagship of the Pacific Fleet’s Third Squadron, and later as flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. Charleston arrived at a tense time following the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, and amidst ongoing strife during the Moro Rebellion in the south, in which the Moro people battled the Americans. The ship consequently steamed throughout the Philippines to show the flag and to familiarize herself with her new home that winter, and visited a number of Philippine ports: Manila (12–15 and 16–17 December); Cavite (29 November–12 December and 15–16 December); Iloilo (19–21 December); Zamboanga (22–25 December); Parang (26–29 December); and Jolo (30 December 1908–2 January 1909). Charleston plunged southward and visited Sandakan, Borneo, early in the New Year (3–4 January), after which she continued to ply Philippine waters: Cavite, which included a full-power run for four hours in which she made an average speed of 19.3 knots (7–10 January, 6–8 and 21–22 February, and 27 February–10 March); Manila, where she celebrated the Manila Carnival (10–14 January, 31 January–6 February, and 11–13 February); Panay (14–16 January); and Olongapo, where she underwent repairs while drydocked (16–31 January).
Based on Cavite in the winter, the fleet moved that summer to Chefoo [Yantai], China, in order to continue exercises and to visit mainland Asian ports. Charleston cruised along the Chinese coast and visited Hong Kong (12–27 March), Amoy [Xiamen] (28–31 March), Woosung [Wusong] (2–14 April), and Nimrod Sound (15–23 April). The ship turned her prow further northward and put in to Kobe (27 April–4 May), Yokohama (6 May–15 June), and Hakodate (18–21 June), Japan, crossed the Sea of Japan to Vladivostok, Russia (22–26 June), and returned to the Japanese port of Nagasaki (28–30 June). Charleston and transport Buffalo transferred men to each other while the ships celebrated Independence Day at Woosung, Charleston’s crew performing a “Grand Minstrel & Vaudeville Performance” that included games, contests, and six and 12-oar boat races with the ship’s cutters (2–8 July). Charleston continued exploring Chinese waters and put in to: Nanking [Nanjing] (9–16 July); Woosung (17–22 July); Tsingtau [Qingdao] (24–29 July); Chefoo, where she landed her battalion of bluejackets and marines for maneuvers on “Kentucky Island” on 2 August (30 July–19 August); Weihaiwei [Weihai] (20–23 August); Chingwangtao [Qinhuangdao] (24–30 August); Dalny [Dalian], Manchuria [Mănzhōu] (31 August–8 September), and back to Hong Kong (14–20 September).
Charleston crossed the South China Sea and returned to Cavite on 23 September 1909. The long voyage had not been kind to the cruiser and she completed repairs in dry dock at Olongapo (28–30 September), following which she intermittently lay at Olongapo, cruised with the Third Squadron, and carried out gunnery practice on the Target Range in Manila Bay (30 September–26 December 1909). Charleston set out for Yokohama just after the New Year and on 21 January 1910 came about for Philippine waters. The progressively more seasoned ship accomplished a mix of patrols, gunnery practice, and upkeep at Cavite (27 January–3 February, 16 February–9 March, 28 March, and 1–4 April), Manila (3–16 February), and Olongapo (9–27 February), and then repeated her cycle of the previous year and visited: Hong Kong (7–13 April); Amoy (14–25 April); Woosung (27 April–28 May); Yokohama (28 May–8 June); Kobe (9–18 June); Nagasaki (19–25 June); Chefoo (27 June–16 July); Dalny (17–23 July); Chingwangtao (23–29 July); Chemulpo [Incheon], Korea (30 July–4 August), a visit marred by ongoing tension while the Japanese forcefully occupied the peninsula; Tsingtao (5–11 August); and on to Yokohama, where she prepared for the long journey home (13–28 August). On 15 August Rear Adm. John Hubbard, Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet, shifted his flag from Charleston to New York (Armored Cruiser No. 2). Charleston set out on the 28th and steamed more than 4,200 miles during her voyage across the Pacific, returned to Puget Sound Navy Yard on 11 September, and on 8 October 1910 was decommissioned there.
Placed in First Reserve on 14 September 1912, Charleston joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet and relieved Philadelphia (Cruiser No. 4) as a receiving ship at Puget Sound (4 November 1912–10 January 1916), aside from brief cruises that included Port Angeles (21–22 January 1913), and as the flagship for the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Reserve Fleet, during the Portola Festival at San Francisco (17–26 October 1913). The festival honored Don Gaspar de Portolà i Rovira, the Spanish explorer who “discovered” San Francisco Bay, and also celebrated the resiliency of the people who rebuilt from the ashes of the earthquake and fire of 1906.
Philadelphia relieved Charleston as a receiving ship on 10 January 1916, and the latter received a new assignment as a tender for the First Division, Submarine Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet. Charleston consequently charted southerly courses from Bremerton to San Francisco (3–6 April 1916), and reached San Pedro on the 13th, and two days later San Diego. After briefly coaling and provisioning there, the ship resumed her voyage to her new home (26 April–5 May), passed through the Panama Canal (5–7 May), and reached Cristóbal on the 7th. At times for nearly a year the ship tended and operated with C-1 (Submarine No. 9), C-2 (Submarine No. 13), C-3 (Submarine No. 14), C-4 (Submarine No. 15), and C-5 (Submarine No. 16) from the Panama Canal Zone. In addition, she scouted nearby anchorages at Perry Bay, Gulf of San Blas, and Cartí Sugtupu (August–October), repairs in Dry Dock No. 1 at Balboa on 8 September 1916, and carried out gunnery exercises off Portobello near Colón (30 January–2 February 1917). Stewart (Destroyer No. 13 — classified as a “coast torpedo vessel”) damaged her mainmast while coaling and on 5 March slid alongside the cruiser to repair the mast. A radio house and set were installed in Charleston while she lay in dry dock at Balboa on 23 March, and on 4 April she transported soldiers to Chepillo Island. Capt. Edward H. Campbell, the ship’s commanding officer, also helped prepare plans to defend the Panama Canal during the tense time leading up to U.S. entry into World War I.
When America entered World War I on 6 April 1917, Charleston was placed in full commission, and on 9 April the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations ordered that all naval vessels not already painted in war color should be so painted immediately, a radiogram that identified: Pennsylvania (Battleship No. 38), Pittsburgh (Armored Cruiser No. 4), Charleston, Brooklyn (Cruiser No. 3), Des Moines (Cruiser No. 15), Tacoma (Cruiser No. 18), Machias (Gunboat No. 5), and dispatch boat Dolphin. The veteran cruiser was rapidly outfitted for battle, detached as a tender on 27 April and turned northward to take part in the war. The ship reported for duty with the Patrol Force in the Caribbean at Key West, Fla., on 2 May, and steamed to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, where, on the 17th, she began to patrol the area for German commerce raiders. Charleston embarked marines at Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo [Dominican Republic], and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, and carried the Leathernecks to Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pa. (22–29 May).
While at Philadelphia, Charleston was detached from her patrols on 5 June 1917, and prepared to join the first convoy transporting the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to the fighting along the Western Front, which put to sea from New York on 14 June. Vice Adm. Albert Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force, led the convoy from his flagship Seattle (Armored Cruiser No. 11), and the ships carried approximately 14,000 troops to France, consisting of 2,700 marines, primarily of the 5th Marines, and the balance soldiers, principally of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. The troopships sailed in four groups, six hours apart, and Charleston served as the flagship for the escort of Group 3, which also consisted at times of Cyclops (Fuel Ship No. 4), and Allen (Destroyer No. 66), McCall (Destroyer No. 28), and Preston (Destroyer No. 19), which screened troop transports Henry R. Mallory (Id. No. 1531) and Finland (Id. No. 4543), and cargo ship San Jacinto (Id. No. 1531). The ships pressed through waters where German submarines prowled and on 28 June made St. Nazaire, France. Charleston, St. Louis, and some destroyers came about and escorted Henry R. Mallory, Finland, San Jacinto, and Army chartered transports Antilles and Hancock back to New York (9–19 July). Capt. Campbell afterward received the Navy Cross “for distinguished service in the line of his profession…engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines.”
The ship trained National Naval Volunteers and reservists for nearly two weeks (1–16 August 1917) at Newport, R.I., and shaped a course for Philadelphia, where she loaded stores (17–20 August), stopped to embark marines at Charleston, S.C., and reached Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on the 25th. Charleston served as the flagship of the First Division, First Squadron, Cruiser Force, during a voyage from Guantánamo Bay to Cristóbal (28 August–4 September). The cruiser came about for Havana, where she supervised the sailing in tow of several ex-German ships to New Orleans, La. (8–15 September). Charleston next escorted a convoy from Cristóbal to St. David’s Head, Bermuda, where she rendezvoused with a group of British transports, and nine days afterward guarded their passage to Hampton Roads, Va. (15 September–1 October). The warship practiced shooting on the range at Tangier Sound, and then (13 October–15 November) completed repairs at Boston Navy Yard.
Following the repairs the cruiser patrolled off New York while awaiting a convoy, and when the ships formed up, she escorted them to a rendezvous and turned them over to destroyers (17–26 November). Charleston conducted reserve officer classes and training at Tangier Sound (26 December 1917–23 April 1918), punctuated by escorting a convoy of ten vessels, including five store ships, that sailed from Hampton Roads on 9 February 1918. The cruiser escorted the ships briefly and then turned them over to additional escorts and came about. Charleston made for Tompkinsville, where she joined the ocean escort of Convoy HN-67, a “New York, medium [speed]” convoy bound for La Pallice, France (23 April–23 May). The convoy proved to be an eventful voyage when 8,700 ton cargo ship Zaanland (Id. No. 2746) apparently suffered a steering casualty and was rammed by tanker Hisko (Id. No. 1953) in a heavy mist during the first watch on 12 May, near 45°29ˈN, and 31°44ˈW. Zaanland sank as a result of the collision though without loss, and Hisko survived but required repairs.
Charleston followed that convoy by returning to Hampton Roads and training Naval Armed Guard crews in Chesapeake Bay, and participating in raider guard duty, through the end of the month. The ship came back to Tompkinsville while awaiting a convoy to form, and then escorted the vessels until she rendezvoused with destroyers and came about (31 May–21 July 1918). The cruiser required additional repairs after her long hours at sea and entered a dry dock at Boston Navy Yard (24–28 July), following which she resumed escorting convoys, trained Naval Armed Guard gun crews, and coaled from a lighter. Charleston made the first of two escort voyages to Canadian waters when she set out with HS-55, a “Halifax slow” convoy from Tompkinsville and anchored in Sydney Harbour, Nova Scotia, and then returned to Tompkinsville (7–15 September). The ship repeated her operation and escorted HH-58, a “Hampton Roads slow” convoy, to Sydney Harbour, and returned shepherding five ships to Portland, Maine, and Boston (1–11 October).
The ship’s company took an all too fleeting break from the war and held a “Grand Ball and Banquet” at Hotel Astor in New York City on 16 October 1918. Charleston briefly set out with Group 76, but separated from the convoy and accomplished work at Boston Navy Yard when the armistice was signed (9–12 November). The warship transferred 83 men before she left Boston and completed more extensive work at Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. (12 November 1918–17 January 1919). Charleston then rejoined the Cruiser and Transport Force, with which she made five voyages to Brest, France, carrying a total of 7,700 passengers, primarily occupation troops deploying overseas and soldiers returning home (17 January–24 June 1919). Charleston returned to New York after her final trans-Atlantic passage, and then (2–3 July) went to Philadelphia in time to celebrate Independence Day.
Charleston sailed from Philadelphia for the west coast on 23 July 1919. The aging ship passed through the Panama Canal (2–4 August), lay off San Pedro (14–20 August), and on the 24th reached the familiar city of Bremerton. Here she was placed in reduced commission and complement and assigned to Cruiser Division 4, Cruiser Squadron 2. Charleston was reclassified to a heavy cruiser (CA-19) on 17 July 1920. The Navy directed the ship to relieve Brooklyn (CA-3) as the administrative flagship for Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet. Charleston completed repairs to render her battle worthy for her new assignment (15 September–15 December), and stood out of Puget Sound for San Diego, where she performed this duty (21 December 1920–4 June 1923).
The venerable cruiser then sailed for Puget Sound Navy Yard, where she was decommissioned on 4 December 1923. The ship was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 November 1929, and sold on 6 March 1930 to Abe Goldberg & Co. of Seattle for $49,110.60. Goldberg then delayed scraping the ship and considered keeping her as a seagoing vessel, but the U.S. in the meantime signed the Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament, popularly known as the London Naval Treaty. The agreement extended some of the previous aspects of the Washington Naval Treaty and stipulated limits on the naval strength of the signatories. Goldberg’s decision therefore generated controversy, and Charleston was subsequently sold to the Powell River Co. Ltd., of British Columbia, to be used as a floating breakwater for the log pond at a pulp and paper mill on the Canadian river. The ship was stripped to the waterline and on 25 October 1930 taken under tow to that area.
Toward the end of August 1931 meanwhile, the stripped hulk of Huron (CA-9, ex-South Dakota) was also anchored in place at the log pond. The Canadians ballasted the rusting ship and routinely pumped her out, but a storm lashed the area and sank Huron on 18 February 1961, and she currently lies about 80 feet down in the pond. Charleston also remained in her location until 1961, when the hulk appeared to be sinking and was removed and grounded nearby at the booming ground at Kelsey Bay on Vancouver Island, where she continues to serve as a breakwater along with other vessels that the locals collectively dub “The Hulks.”
||Date Assumed Command
|Capt. Herbert Winslow
||17 October 1905
|Cmdr. Cameron M. Winslow
||20 December 1905
|Lt. Cmdr. Robert L. Russell
||11 June 1907
|Cmdr. Frank E. Beatty
||18 June 1907
|Lt. Cmdr. Oscar W. Koester
||2 July 1908
|Capt. Harry S. Knapp
||3 August 1908
|Cmdr. John H. Gibbons
||21 July 1909
|Cmdr. George B. Bradshaw
||14 September 1912
|Cmdr. Ashley H. Robertson
||15 March 1913
|Lt. John M. Schelling
||17 June 1913
|Cmdr. Thomas Washington
||15 July 1913
|Cmdr. Frederick A. Traut
||26 January 1914
|Capt. Edward H. Campbell
||27 March 1916
|Capt. John F. Hines
||11 October 1917
|Capt. William L. Littlefield
||4 September 1918
|Capt. Dudley W. Knox
||6 December 1920
|Lt. Cmdr. George P. Brown
||20 July 1921
|Capt. William T. Tarrant
||1 June 1922
Mark L. Evans and Paul J. Marcello
27 July 2017