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U.S.S. Wheeling: Gunboat Wheeling, 1897

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 - from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, January 23, 1897.

A TRIM CRAFT Is the Dapper Little Gunboat "Wheeling." 

With Her Up-to-Date Armament of Long-Fire Rifle Guns 


Gives the Intelligencer the Opportunity to Present the First Published Representation of the "Wheeling," Together with a Description of the Craft From the Pen of Chief Naval Constructor Hichbone — Her Cost is $219,000 — Will be Ready for Launching in May, Probably — The Local Committee Arranging for the Trip to San Francisco.

Through the kindness of Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert, and of Chief Naval Constructor Philip Hichbone, of the bureau of construction and repairs, the Intelligencer is enabled this morning to give a faithful illustration of the gunboat "Wheeling," now building at the shipyard of the Union Iron Works at San Francisco. It is made from a photographic reproduction from the plans of the craft. In addition to publishing the first illustration of the "Wheeling," there follows an accurate description from the pen of Constructor Hichbone, of the navy department. He says:

Engraving from the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, January 23, 1897: Caption --The Gunboat WheelingThe composite gunboats "Marietta" and "Wheeling," which carry two pole masts and steadying sail only, were authorized by act of Congress approved March 2nd, 1895, and are two of the six light-draft boats then provided for.

The framing will be of steel from the keel up; the upper edge of the wood plank will lap the top side plating about two feet six inches. Plank of Georgia pine will be worked on the frames, secured thereto by composition bolts in such manner as to prevent galvanic action. The outside surface of the plank will be coppered.

No plating will be worked on the under water body of the vessel, except the keep plates, a strip of plating on each side of the keel plates under the boilers to form the lower portion of a water tank and narrow strips for the plates under the logitudinals and bilge keels. The entire top sides will be plated as on steel vessels.

Throughout the machinery space, an inner bottom of plating will be worked, giving added strength to this part of the vessel enabling the bilges to be kept clean, and affording additional means of safety should the outer bottom be ruptured.

The principal dimensions and general features are:

Length of load water-line: 174 feet
Beam, extreme, at load water-line: 24 feet
Draft, normal, at bottom of keel: 12 feet
Displacement, normal, about: 1,000 tons
Indicated horsepower, about: 800
Speed an hour, in knots: 12

The armaments, being identical in both types, will consist of six four-inch, four six-pounder, and two one-pounder guns, all rapid fire, and will be disposed in this order: Four four-inch guns, in two batteries, port and starboard, on the gun deck amidships; the two other four-inch guns being carried on the main deck, one at the bow and one at the stern, each having a wide arc of fire. The six-pounder guns will be carried on the gun deck, two well forward, one on either bow and two amidships between the four-inch guns, respectively in the port and starboard batteries. The one-pounder guns will be disposed where most advantageous on the hammock berthing.

For the four-inch guns there will be 900 rounds of ammunition. Four the six-pounder guns there will be 2,002 rounds of ammunition. For the one-pounder guns there will be 1,200 rounds of ammunition.

The normal coal supply is 120 tons, with a total bunker capacity of 250 tons.

The engines will be rights and lefts, each in a separate water-tight compartment, and will be of the usual vertical, direct-acting, triple-expansion type, with a high-pressure cylinder, an intermediate-pressure cylinder and a low-pressure cylinder of twelve, eighteen and one-fourth and twenty-eight inches, respectively, having a common strioke of eighteen inches, capable of developing 800 horse-power when running at 200 revolutions a minute.

Each boat will have two single-ended boilers. In the "Marietta" they will be of the Babcock and Wilson type, while in the "Wheeling" they will be of the "Scotch" pattern.

They will have moderate forced draught induced by two blowers for each boat applied directely to the ash-pit. The boilers will be placed side by side in the same compartment, with a common fire-room.

The essential reasons for the construction of the composite type are that they are largely independent of docking facilities and economical in the use of fuel. The exfoliation of the copper causes the barnacles, grass, etc. to be released just as soon as the vessel is put in motion, and the bottom is made comparatively clean, thus permitting the vessel to maintain her designated speed with a minimum consumption of coal.

The docking expenses, whether at home or abroad, and cost of fuel are two very serious outlays that these vessels are counted upon to minimize, while their activity, range of action, and general efficiency are greatly increased.

The inland river service for which these gunboats are particularly designed requires that they be exposed to musketry fire, and the housing of the major part of the battery by an unbroken deck, besides adding materially to the stiffness and strength of the vessels, gives admirable protection to the guns' crews in action. The necessarily exposed position of the bow and the stern guns is justified only by their arc of fire and possible usefulness in a running action; while for river service, for which these boats are particularly fitted, the disposition of the gun-deck battery is all that could be desired.

These boats are building at the Union Iron Works of San Francisco, Cal. The contract price for the "Marietta" was $223,000, and that for the "Wheeling" $219,000.


The Wheeling Committee of Ten and Many Citizens will be There.

From information that has been received by the "committee of ten" which will represent the city at the launching of the gunboat, that important event will take place about the end of May, possibly sooner. In addition to this committee and newspaper representatives, there is a movement on foot for further representation of Wheeling at the launching. There is a desire that a popular excursion to the coast be arranged so that citizens not members of the committee can be present when the craft glides into the waters of the Pacific.

Although the committee has encountered many difficulties, by reason of the stubborn opposition of citizens to the moderate appropriations made by council for punch bowl, china and glass service, yet the "Wheeling" will not be without these usual articles of cabin complement, for if the injunction proceedings that are threatened are succesful it would not be the work of more than a few hours to raise the necessary amount by popular subscription.

The committee has not yet selected the young lady who will act at the christening of the "Wheeling." The two young ladies mentioned in this connection are Miss Brown, now visiting friends on the coast, and Miss Edith Maxwell, daughter of ex-Councilman James P. Maxwell. The committee will probably made the selection in a short time.

 The description of the "Wheeling" also appeared in the March 19, 1897 edition of the Intelligencer in connection with the launching of the ship. 

- from "A Trim Craft" Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, January 23, 1897.

pdf iconView a pdf the full newspaper article on the Library of Congress's Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers website:   pdf of the January 23, 1897 article

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