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U.S.S. Culgoa

By Patrick McSherry

U.S.S. Culgoa
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The CULGOA was a refrigerated supply ship that was used to provide food and stores to the American naval forces in the Manila Bay during the naval blockade of the city and bay. Later the ship saw service with the American Great White Fleet.


CULGOA was a steel-hulled vessel built by J. L. Thompson & Son of Sunderland, England in 1889 or 1890.  The vessel was purchased by the U.S. Navy at Cavite during the naval blockade of Manila on June 4, 1898. During the hot summer of the blockade, the vessel supplied the American squadron with ice and meat. Since she was not yet commissioned as a naval vessel, and was still officially a merchant vessel, CULGOA was able to purchase supplies and bring them to Manila, avoiding the neutrality laws which would preclude the sale of such supplies to the navy. It is possibly for this reason that her merchant name was retained. With the final signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish American War, being a week away, CULGOA was finally commissioned as a U.S. Naval vessel on December 3, 1898 - seven days before the war ended. Lt. Commander J. W. Carlin was placed in command.

In October 20, 1899 CULGOA went in for an overhaul in Hong Kong. The overhaul was completed on November 18, 1899. Following the refit, the vessel, she again began her supply duties in the Philippines, aiding the American forces who were now embroiled in the Philippine-American War.  In 1900 and 1901 she made three trips to Brisbane, Australia for fresh supplies.

On July 22, 1901, the vessel left Cavite and steamed for New York by way of the Suez Canal. She arrived in New York on September 25, 1901. A few days later, on October 1, she was decommissioned in Boston.

In 1902 CULGOA was recommissioned  and again began supply duties, this time in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  On August 11, 1905 CULGOA was again placed out of commission and was actually struck from the navy rolls on May 7, 1906.  A few weeks later, on June 30, she was reinstated. The vessel was recommissioned on September 12, 1907 for services with the Atlantic Fleet.  CULGOA was briefly loaned to Panama Railway Company for a run with much needed beef, before joining the Atlantic Battleship Fleet  and  the Great White Fleet Cruise.

On the cruise, CULGOA  was one of four auxiliaries to accompany the sixteen battleships. During the cruise, while on a planned supply run, she carried  naval artist Henry Reuterdahl, who had been ordered away from the fleet for negative comments to the press. She also aided in wireless communications between the fleet's squadrons and brought emergency supplies to Messina, Italy, which had been ravaged by an earthquake.

Returning to the U.S. east coast in 1909, she again began normal supply duties. Between 1910 and 1918, she visited Europe once, and brought supplies to forces involved in intervention activities in Latin America.

During World War One, CULGOA made seven Atlantic passages taking supplies to Great Britain and France. On one cruise, she assisted the SS OOSTERDIJK which san after colliding with the SAN JACINTO. CULGOA rescued survivors and towed SAN JACINTO to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In June of 1920, the vessel returned to the Pacific, steaming to Pearl Harbor. In September of the same year, she returned to the U.S.'s east coast.  She was decommissioned at New York on December 31, 1921,  and was sold on July 25, 1922.


This vessel would have been a god-send to the crewmen serving aboard the ship's in Dewey's Asiatic Squadron. Refrigeration was a new technology, and the only warship in the Asiatic that had refrigeration was OLYMPIA. The capability would have been most welcome.

Cap Tally from the USS Culgoa

Cap Tally from a crewman who served aboard CULGOA


AF (Store Ship)
1889 or 1890
December 3, 1898
0ne 6-pounder (after commissioning)
J. L. Thompson and Sons, Ltd. 
346 feet, 4 inches
43 feet
21 feet, 9 inches
Gross Tonnage
3,325 tons
Net Tonnage
2,135 tons
Crew of 122 under the command of Lt. Cdr. J. W. Carlin
13 knots
Engine Type:
Two compound engines, 2 shafts.


Clerk of the Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of the Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, Vol. 2, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1899.

Naval History Department, Department of the Navy, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. II, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1963, 213-214

Hart, Robert A., The Great White Fleet - Its Voyage Around the World, 1907-1909 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1865) 51, 174, 279, 281.

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