US Navy Battleships 1886 - 98

Published: August 3rd, 2019     
Product Image
Book Cover
Author: Brian Lane Herder, Illustrated by Paul Wright, F. Rodriguez, and A. Gilliland
Reviewed by: Bill Kluge - IPMS# 45849
ISBN #: 9781472835048
Other Publication Information: Paperback, 2019; 48 pages
Price: $19.00
Product / Stock #: NVG271
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

In the 1860s the US Navy led the world with the innovative, turreted ironclad USS Monitor - a vessel that gave rise to a series of warships whose name defined the class. However, within ten years of the end of the Civil War, the US Navy had become a mere ghost of its former size and power. Ships were decommissioned, sailors released from service, and the Secretary of the Navy was returning funds to the Treasury. By the 1880s, British built ironclad battleships of the Brazilian and Chilean navies caused panic within the halls of Congress and along the east and west coasts of the United States. Frustrated officers from the US Navy, along with insightful members of Congress and the Garfield administration determined that major changes were needed to prevent the US Navy from declining into irrelevance.

During the 1880s, institutions were set up to modernize the Navy. The Naval War College and the Office of Naval Intelligence were established to advance new ideas of naval warfare. Congress mandated that, instead of buying new warships from European builders, new steel and ironclad US Navy warships would be US build, initiating the development of new and better armor, gun and steam engine manufacturing in this country, and thus helping to bring US heavy industry into the modern age.

The development of the modern US "Steel" Navy got an early start in 1874, when, in a governmental sleight-of-hand that would be the envy of politicians a hundred years later, Secretary of the Navy George Robeson contrived to take money appropriated from Congress to rehabilitate five decrepit Civil War-era monitors and instead, secretly scrap those and other obsolete vessels and plow the money into the building of five new monitors - with identical names of the older vessels. Originally designed as coastal defense monitors, some of these ships went on to serve with distinction in the Caribbean and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.

Following the success of the New Navy monitors, the US designed and constructed two heavier, ocean-going steel warships, the so designated "Second-Class" battleships USS Maine and USS Texas. The desire for a longer cruising range and heavier guns necessitated a more complex design than that of the monitors. Though still smaller than their European contemporaries, the design and construction of these ships stretched US shipbuilding capabilities significantly, leading to the even more successful "First-Class" Indiana and Iowa class battleships of the 1890s - the most successful battleships of their era.

All of these new US battleships, plus several of the "new" monitors, participated with distinction in the Spanish-American War. Where just twenty-five years earlier, Spanish naval vessels had struck fear and embarrassment in the hearts and minds of US citizens and sailors alike, by the end of August, 1898, the Spanish Navy lay in ruins at the hands and guns of a modern, well trained and superbly equipped US battleship fleet.

This Osprey New Vanguard edition by Brian Herder does an admirable job of highlighting the period of development of the "New" US Steel Navy, from the end of the Civil War to the emergence of the US as a new naval power at the beginning of the 20th century. The period photos, though small, and the full-page illustrations by Osprey veteran Paul Wright, as well as smaller contemporary ship paintings, plus some colorized photos and the side elevation illustrations of each class, provide a good reference for the ships of the period. There is also one beautifully rendered two-page cut-away illustration of the USS Maine, with attention drawn to its exposed internal coal bunker as the source of the explosion that destroyed the ship in Havana Harbor. Unfortunately, that's also right where the gutter bisects the illustration (an issue that plagues many of the series' best illustrations). But, aside from this minor quibble, this is another fine New Vanguard edition, filling an important slot in the history of the developing US Navy. Thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS for the opportunity to review this book.

  • Contents
  • USS Indiana Illustration
    USS Indiana Illustration
  • USS Indiana Information
    USS Indiana Information
  • Monitor Illustration
    Monitor Illustration

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