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Commodore George W. Melville, Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, to Rear Admiral Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation


June 28, 1898.


     1. Referring to the memorandum from you concerning the reported condition of the Monitors PURITAN, MIANTONOMOH, AMPHITRITE and TERROR, now at Key West, in which it is stated that not one of them was ready to go to sea on the 23d instant, I will state that I have nominated Chief Engineer James W. Thomson to proceed at once to Key West and ascertain the cause of the trouble and deal with it as promptly and efficaciously as is possible to be done. The shops at Key West have ample facilities for conducting any work they may be called upon to do in Steam Engineering repairs, and pending further report I do not consider these ships more than temporarily delayed.

     2. The PURITAN’s steering gear belongs to Construction and Repair,1 but should be placed under the Chief Engineer of the ship to be kept in repair by his force on board; in my opinion, however, its being disabled should not prevent the ship going to the blockade duty and steering by hand. The crown sheets of the three boilers of this ship reported as being down should be by this time reformed or nearly so, and in any event there are five boilers remaining which are serviceable and should be made to perform efficient duty by the Engineer’s force of the vessel.

     3. The MIANTONOMOH’s new feed pumps were sent to her to be installed at convenience, one at a time, and in no way to lay the ship up.

     4. The TERROR’s trouble with the compressor and accumulator for her steering gear comes under pretty much the same category as the PURITAN’s, as these ships ought to be able in an emergency to steer by hand, while the trouble with the turrets of the AMPHITRITE is reported to be such as would be finished by the 27th instant (yesterday).

     5. Thus it seems to me that instead of having the four monitors strictly unable to perform blockade duty, we have them simply in such a stage that while there is an apparent excuse for keeping them under repairs for some time, yet on the other hand they can do their proper duty if required as blockading ships.

     6. I am fully aware that the duty on board the Monitors with battened down hatches is very severe,2 especially with the Engineer’s force, and in my opinion there should be an ample number of assistant engineers to perform duty in short watches so that they may be kept in good physical condition for their work. Instead of detaching assistant engineers from these ships on account of there not being sufficient room for their accommodation, steps should be taken to make room for them in some way, as they are better able to perform duty in sufficient numbers this way than they would be with fewer numbers and better quarters.

     7. In my opinion these large monitors should not be called upon to do actual cruising duty, but strictly blockade duty does not come under the same heading, especially where they are upon the inside line and not called upon to do the chasing required by the lighter and faster ships.

     8. Your memorandum is herewith returned.

George W. Melville

Engineer-in-Chief, U.S.N.,

Chief of Bureau.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 232. At top left corner: “L/ADDRESS, BUREAU OF STEAM ENGINEERING, NAVY DEPARTMENT,/AND REFER TO NO. 6072-S.” At top center is the emblem of the Bureau of Steam Engineering. At top left corner: “IN REFERENCE TO 11626-S.”

Footnote 1: At times there was rivalry among the various bureaus which led to confusion and overlapping jurisdictional disputes.

Footnote 2: The freeboard on any monitor was very narrow, and it was never considered an oceangoing vessel. Monitors were designed for coastal defense in calm waters.

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