STATUS: Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
SHIP CLASS: Illinois-class
SHIPS-IN-CLASS (3): USS Illinois (BB-7); USS Alabama (BB-8); USS Wisconsin (BB-9)
LENGTH: 373.9 feet (113.96 meters)
BEAM: 72.2 feet (22.01 meters)
DRAUGHT: 23.7 feet (7.22 meters)
DISPLACEMENT (SURFACE): 12,450 tons
PROPULSION: 8 x Fire-tube boiler units feeding 2 x Triple-expansion engines developing 10,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts.
SPEED (SURFACE): 16 knots (18 miles-per-hour)
Detailing the development and operational history of the USS Wisconsin (BB-9) Predreadnought Battleship.
Entry last updated on 9/17/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Near the turn of the last century, the United States Navy (USN) adopted three battleships of the three-strong Illinois-class. These became USS Illinois (BB-7), USS Alabama (BB-8) and USS Wisconsin (BB-9). The trio were built by various shipyards from the period spanning 1896 to 1898. The class was ultimately considered an "interim" warship class, introducing some new qualities such as modern main gun turrets, while retaining some older, more common features, of USN warships such as fire-tube boiler units. The Illinois-class succeeded the Maine-class and was itself eventually succeeded by the Kearsarge-class.
USS Wisconsin (BB-9) was laid down by Union Iron Works on February 9th, 1897 and launched on November 26th, 1898. Commissioned into service on February 4th, 1901, she was named after the northern state of Wisconsin.
As built, she displaced 12,450 tons under full load and held a running length of 373.9 feet, a beam reaching 72.2 feet and a draught down to 23.7 feet. Installed power centered on 8 x Fire-tube boiler units feeding 2 x Triple-expansion steam engines developing 10,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. The vessel could expect to make headway at 16 knots - meaning she was not very fast even in the best of conditions.
Aboard was a crew of 531. The armament suite was led by 4 x 13" (330mm) /35 caliber main guns backed by 14 x 6" (152mm) /40 caliber secondary guns. 16 x 6-pounder (57mm; 2.2") tertiary guns were also installed for added punch. Beyond this there were 6 x 1-pounder (37mm; 1.5") fits and 4 x 18" (450mm) torpedo tubes.
Armor protection ranged from up to 16.5" at the belt and 14 inches at the turrets to 15 inches at the barbettes and 10 inches at the conning tower.
The warship's profile was consistent with the period: two main masts were fitted, one forward and one aft. The main guns were arranged as two twin-gunned emplacements, one mounted at the forecastle and the other towards the stern. Between the positions were the main mass of the ship including the bridge superstructure (integrated with the forward mast). The twin smoke funnels were seated at midships in a side-by-side arrangement.
Commissioned in February of 1901, USS Wisconsin sailed out of her holdings in San Francisco waters towards Mexico to undertake training and repairs then followed in April of that year. After additional voyaging up and down the American West Coast, she entered a period of repair once more that took her into October 1901. She toured the Pacific from then on before ending the year journeying in and around Central and South American waters. In August of 1902, she sailed for the Panama/Columbia region (during the "Thousand Days' War") to enforce and protect American interests in the region and was arranged as the flagship of Pacific Squadron. She was instrumental in the final negotiation process to help end the war.
From 1903 to 1906 she was part of the Asiatic Fleet and voyaged to various Asia-Pacific / Far East ports. In 1908, she returned stateside and joined the "Great White Fleet", the round-the-world U.S. naval force arranged to showcase American naval power to the world. The fleet then returned to the American East Coast, reaching Hampton Roads, in February of 1909. Repairs, training and maintenance followed her in the next period of her career. During 1910, she was place in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and then mothballed before the end of 1913. She joined the United States Naval Academy in early-1915 and voyaged across the Pacific, transiting the two oceans through the Panama Canal (which had just opened for business).
Of note here is the arrival of the British warship HMS Dreadnought (detailed elsewhere on this site) in 1906 which rewrote the standard for battleship design for its time. So impactful was this all-big-gunned, steam-powered warship that all previous designs were now categorized as "pre-Dreadnought". USS Wisconsin became just that, a pre-Dreadnought warship, from 1906 on.
World War 1 (1914-1918) broke out in Europe during the summer of 1914 but America remained neutral in the conflict up until April 1917. To this point, USS Wisconsin was retained for training purposes and was recommissioned for service on April 23rd of that year - forming part of the Coast Battleship Patrol Squadron. She trained personnel and participated in various exercises before being put into dry dock from October to December.
By early 1918, she was in Chesapeake waters and entered a period of repair from Mary to June. She patrolled for German U-boats along the American East Coast en route to Annapolis but came up empty in her search. Additional training endeavors followed, even as the war drew to a close with the Armistice of November 15th, 1918, into the end of the year.
In the later stages of her career, she trained additional USN personnel in Cuba as part of the Atlantic Fleet into 1919. Her services no longer needed, she was decommissioned for good on May 15th, 1920 and designated "BB-9" on July 17th of that year. Stripped of her military value, the warship was sold off on January 26th, 1922 for scrapping, bringing about an end to a storied sailing career.
The "Wisconsin" name was resurrected once more, this time for USS Wisconsin (BB-64) (detailed elsewhere on this site), and this mighty warship served with distinction throughout World War 2 (1939-1945), not decommissioned until 1991 and ultimately preserved as a floating museum ship.
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