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Patrol Boat U.S.S. Hist

By Patrick McSherry
The Patrol Boat U.S.S. HIST in 1898
The Patrol Boat HIST

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HIST served with the blockade of Cuba during the Spanish American War, taking part in various actions including those at Manzanillo. She was also involved in rescuing Spanish survivors from the wreck of the VIZCAYA.


The HIST was originally constructed by the firm of William Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia as the yacht THESPIA. The yacht, launched on June 13, 1895, was built for David Dow, Jr., a businessman and the son of tycoon David Dow. David Dow sold the vessel to his brother, Tracy Dow in March of 1898.  On April 22, Tracy Dow sold the vessel to the U.S. Navy. The ship was fitted with some light armament, and on May 13 was commissioned putting to sea under the command of Lt. Lucien Young.  The vessel left New York actually under the command of Lt. Ingersoll on May 19. The plan was for the vessel to patrol off the coast  of New York and northern New Jersey as the whereabouts of the Spanish squadron under Admiral Cervera was unknown. The vessel was to be manned by the Rhode Island Naval Militia.

Once Cervera's squadron was located and blockaded in Santiago harbor, HIST was no longer needed as a coastal patrol vessel and was sent to Cuba, arriving at Guantanamo Bay on June 25. The vessel joined the Santiago blockade four days later. On June 30, in company with the U.S.S. HORNET, captured the Spanish schooner NICKERSON, taking it as a prize. Joined by the U.S.S. WOMPATUCK, the three vessels proceeded to Manzanillo where they were involved in an intense skirmish with Spanish defenders lastling over an hour and a half. The result was that the Spanish lost a gunboat, a pontoon vessel, and a sloop transporting troops as well as suffering damage to several torpedo boats and gunboats. The American force had no casualties, though the HORNET was disabled and had to be towed by the WOMPAUCK. HIST had been hit eleven times. It was assumed that the Spanish suffered significant loss of life.

On July 3, 1898, at the Battle of Santiago, the HIST rescued 142 Spanish sailors from the flaming wreckage of the Spanish cruiser VIZCAYA. On July 11, HIST, working with the WOMPATUCK, cut the communications cable between Punta Carapacho and Cayo Obispo.  On July 15 HIST returned to Manzanillo successfully attacking the Spanish vessels there. In this action, ten Spanish vessels were destroyed and others damaged. On July 21, HIST bombarded Santa Cruz. On August 12, the day that the armistice was agreed to between the U.S. and Spain ending the fighting, HIST again attacked Manzanillo, with similar success as she had had previously. For her actions against Manzanillo, HIST received a commendation from Cuban General S. H. Rios for its actions.

Following the war, U.S.S. HIST was decommissioned at Key West on February 2, 1899. She was recommissioned at Newport, Rhode Island on  July 18, 1902 under the command of Lt. Victor  Blue. The vessel served in the Caribbean until February 4, 1903. She next served briefly in conjunction with testing of new submarines in Long Island Sound. Beginning on June 27 HIST was assigned to serve as a tender operating out of Newport. Later she served as the tender to the U.S.S. CONSTELLATION until HIST was decommissioned on May 3, 1907. After being recommissioned later the same year, HIST served as a tender to the 2d Submarine Division, then was involved in a surveying expedition.

HIST was decommissioned for the last time on July 24, 1911 at Portsmouth, Virginia. She was stricken from the Navy Register three days later. The vessel was sold on November 20, 2011.


The vessel was not built as a warship but was a converted yacht. She was not armored but was steel-hulled. 


Patrol Boat
June 13, 1895 (as yacht THESPIA)
May 13, 1898
Schooner rig
One 3 pounder rapid fire guns

Four 1 pounder rapid fire guns

One Colt revolving cannons
William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia
174 feet
23 feet
Mean draft:
9 feet 10 inches
472 tons
6 officers and 50 enlisted men, under the command of  Lt. Lucien Young.
Engine type:
Vertical compound engine driving a single screw, and capable of generating 500 horsepower
Boiler type:
six single-ended cylindrical boilers
Coal Bunker Capacity
60 tons
14.5 knots


(As a service to our readers, clicking on titles in red will take you to that book on

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol II.

"Coaling to Utmost Capacity," Boston Globe. May 19, 1898, 7.

"Coast Patrol Fleet," The Sun (Wilmington, DE). May 1, 1898, 7.

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol. III (Washington: Navy Department, 1977) 335.

"The Thespia Launched," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ). June 13, 1895, 3.

"War News Notes," Smith County Pioneer (Smith Centre, KS). May 28, 1898, 7.

"Yachts and Yachtsmen," Boston Globe. March 20, 1898, 32.

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