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Auxiliary Cruiser PRAIRIE

By Patrick McSherry
Auxiliary Cruiser U.S.S. Prarie
Auxiliary Cruiser PRAIRIEin 1900 (photo courtesy of Navsource)

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PRAIRIE was an auxiliary Cruiser outfitted for use in the Spanish American War. It served in the blockade of Cuba.


The vessel, built by William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was launched in 1890 as the EL SOL. The vessel served in the Morgan Lines. As the Navy prepared for the Spanish American War, the vessel was purchased from the Southern Pacific Co. on April 6, 1898 and outfitted as an auxiliary cruiser. Armament was added. She was placed in commission on April 14, 1898 under the command of Commander C. J. Train. Serving on board were seven officers and 138 enlisted men from the Massachusetts Naval Militia.

Initially, the vessel cruised off of New York, Massachusetts and Delaware until the scare of possible attack on the coastal cities by Admiral Cervera’s squadron was laid to rest when the Spanish squadron was located and blockaded in Cuba. At the end of June, 1898, the vessel was sent south, fist calling at Key West before heading to Cuba to take part in the blockade. She first served off Havana beginning on July 2. On July 5, she took part in the destruction of the ALPHONSO XII, a four-masted schooner that attempted to run the blockade near Mariel. On July 13 she was sent to cruise off Gibara, and then on July 25 to cruise of Guantanamo.

At the end of July, she was sent to Puerto Rico as the American invasion of the island began. She cruise off San Juan initially, and the cruised off Ponce from August 1 until August 18. On August 12, an armistice was agreed to by Spain and the U.S. ending the war’s fighting. On August 20, the vessel was sent back to Santiago, Cuba before proceeding north to New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania’s League Island Naval Yard. She was decommissioned there on March 15, 1899.

Following the war, beginning on March 23, 1899 she served with the New York Naval Militia as a training vessel. She served in this capacity until February 18, 1901. Later she carried exhibits to the Paris Exposition. In November 9, 1901 she was recommissioned as a U.S. Navy training vessel, and continued to serve in that capacity until June 14, 1905 when she was again decommissioned.

Later, she was re-commisioned to serve as a transport in 1906. She also served as a naval training vessel for the Naval Militia during parts of 1907, 1908 and 1909. During World War One she was outfitted as a destroyer tender.

PRAIRIE was decommissioned for the last time on November 22, 1922 at San Diego, California. She was struck from the Navy rolls and sold to Louis Rothenberg on June 22, 1923.


The vessel was unarmored, but could be rapidly equipped for service in the blockade.


Auxiliary Cruiser
April 24, 2898
Schooner rig
Ten 6 inches rapid fire guns

Six 6 pounder rapid fire guns

Two Colt revolving cannons

One 3 inch field gun
William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia
390 feet, 6 inches
46 feet, 10 inches
Mean draft:
22 feet
6,872 tons
18 Officers and 267 Enlisted Men, under the command of Commander C. J. Train
Engine type:
Vertical triple expansion engine generating 3,800 hp,

turning a single screw
Coal Bunker Capacity
1,000 tons
14.5 knots


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, 1007, 1110, 1158, 1216, 1217; Vol. IV 236

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, (1970) Vol. 5, 366.

Spears, John R., Our Navy in The War with Spain. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898) 312.

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