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T. A. M. Craven (Torpedo Boat No. 10) 


(Torpedo Boat No. 10: displacement 146; length 147'0"; beam 16'41/2"; draft 4'7"; speed 30.0 knots; complement 30; armament 2 18-inch Whitehead torpedo tubes, 4 1-pounder rapid fire; class Dahlgren)

T. A. M. Craven (Torpedo Boat No. 10), a twin-screw torpedo vessel built to a French design (Normand, of Le Havre), was laid down on 6 December 1897 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 25 September 1899; sponsored by Miss Amy Craven, granddaughter of Cmdr. Craven; and commissioned at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard on 9 June 1900, Lt. Cmdr. John R. Edie in command.

Ten days later, T. A. M. Craven sailed for Newport, R.I., on 19 June 1900. The ship performed training and experimental work there through the summer and into the fall. Returning to Portsmouth in December, the warship was placed out of commission on 5 December 1900.

Recommissioned on 24 October 1902, T. A. M. Craven again performed "station work" at Newport, combining research and development activities with training in tactics. She remained at the Naval Torpedo Station, performing these routine but vital duties until she returned to Portsmouth for her second decommissioning which occurred on 22 December 1903.

During 1906 and 1907, T. A. M. Craven again operated out of Newport, until assigned to the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., in December 1907. Transferred to Charleston, S.C., in 1908, the torpedo boat operated in the reserve division, working out of Charleston into 1913. During this tour of duty, the ship dropped the initials from her name; and, after 1910, she appears as simply Craven on Navy lists.

On 10 September 1913, Craven was off the coast of Georgia, en route from Martin's Industry Lightship to Tybee Light. At about 12:45 p.m., the ship's number one boiler exploded. Ens. Walter D. Lamont, the ship's commanding officer, noted a violent explosion which blew a dense cloud of black smoke and gas through the fire-room hatch opening. Once the smoke had cleared, volunteers went below to bring out the wounded men; one, Watertender D. B. Smith, suffered burns on both his hands and feet as he climbed down to rescue Chief Watertender J. W. McCaffrey, who was severely injured by the explosion.

Immediately after the tragedy, Craven hoisted distress signals--upside-down ensigns at the signal halyards. The tug Cynthia, from Savannah, Ga., saw the flags and altered course to close. She passed a towline to the torpedo boat and began to tow the stricken vessel in, despite the heavy sea running. The tug Estelle also arrived on the scene at the same time. Ens. Lamont requested the second tug to put in to Fort Screven to bring doctors out to the torpedo vessel to aid the injured. Eventually, Craven tied up to the pier at Fort Screven at 6:05 p.m., but not before one man of the six injured, Watertender W. O. Milton, had died. Chief McCaffrey later died in the hospital ashore.

Ens. Lamont earned high praise from his division commander, who lauded the young officer for his "excellent judgment shown under such trying conditions." Craven herself never returned to active service. On 25 October 1913, the Navy issued orders to place her out of commission. Decommissioned on 14 November, and stricken from the Navy Register on 15 November 1913, Craven was sunk as a target soon thereafter.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

1 February 2024

Published: Thu Feb 01 11:25:16 EST 2024