Why did the Americans choose Krupp instead of Vickers?
And the Brits don't steal them from the Yanks?

Hmm. @Kurt_Steiner, to answer your question, I would have to point out that "steal" is a problematic term since in the Victorian era, the British tried to sell their technology to almost everybody without regard to national security. The French were paranoid. They sought to restrict their tech to "allies" like Russia and "clients" like Japan. The Americans were in neither "ally", "almost everybody" or "client state". And since the Americans were outside the international European club, so to speak, they were the ones who had to do the "stealing" to jumpstart their own backward technology in key areas..

For example: when the Americans suddenly discovered that they had to modernize their muzzle loader artillery and improve their coast defense guns in 1885 *(Board of Fortifications) they discovered in our real history that they were so far behind the Europeans that they had to send a commission abroad to study foreign artillery to emulate. This commission visited France, the United Kingdom, Austria Hungary, Italy and Germany. The commission did not bring back copies of guns or buy guns. They stole or legitimately bought IDEAS, and placed those ideas before American scientists and engineers and told their own people, here is what we found.

a. The French are using hoop and banded gun barrel construction around their inner liners. They use an interrupted 4 point pivot screw plug breech.
b. The British are using two tube banded gun barrel construction, wire wrapped for reinforcement around their liners. They use an interrupted 3 point pivot screw plug breech,.
c. The Krupp system which uses a sliding wedge breechblock and and an auto-fretted tube shrunk onto tube system.

d. The Italians used the French screw breech and bought British barrels.
e. Austria Hungary mimicked the Germans.

The Americans stuck with their own monobloc built up barrel construction which while heavier than European wire bound or hoop guns was superior as to safety and rigidity of the barrel. That left choice of breech plugs, interrupted screw or wedge block. That choice would determine how shell and propellant charge was presented to the gun. The screw plug required a doorknob creosote soaked pad obturator. The Krupp choice of wedge block required the propellant be cased in a brass carrier with a lead bushing to act as the gas seal. It presupposes also that the Americans will use a car hoist system as introduced on the Brandenburgs.

The Americans chose de Bange and the obturator in the real time line, because of cheaper operating costs. In this fictional time line, they eat the added expense and go with KRUPP because it is a faster gun cycle, fits the OTIS car carrier (fictional) hoist system they use to duplicate the A.G. Vulcan system which is also very similar to the single car carrier system the British will introduce in the Lord Nelsons and is inherently safer than the HMS Colossus type system the Americans in reality emulated in their first battleships. (Modified Coles Turret.). The British lift system in the Majestics, as far as I can determine, was an actual two car system, one for propellant bags and one for shells before they adopt the single car lift system in the Lord Nelsons. Single car is not too good for bagged charges because of snag and tear hazards and powder spill during the ram event in the gun loading cycle from the ripped bags. The Americans in our real history evolve a chain bucket elevator with a dump function into the slide tray for bagged charges and a shell hoist lift to tip the shell into the breech in a separate operation to avoid this British and French problem. KA-BOOM is a rather common Edwardian battleship event as the loaders screw up the gun charging evolution during the ramming.

The Germans with forecharge doubled bagged in silk and aft charge all nestled in a brass carrier case; which is rammed in as a cartridge after the shell is rammed; do not have this safety issue. Faster firing gun results, but comes with a cost though. Chamber pressures in the firing chamber in the early guns have to be lower and the brass is expensive and the lead seals are vaporized and are poisonous. Gun crews should have worn gas masks using this system.

The Americans hoop the breech to boost the chamber pressure loading (beer bottle gun)and they wear gas masks (Germans do not.). Voila. The Indianas are going to be quite a surprise when Ito Watanabe visits the USS Massachusetts next.

Do the British steal the fictional American systems in this time line?

They try. But do they succeed? We shall see.

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Thought I would give a taste of what the ATL looks like in hardware.


1/700 Niko Model US Navy Battleships USS Iowa, 1898 Resin ... Startpoint.

Modification based on the above.


Comments welcome.
Ito Learns About Modern Battleship Design, American style...
Ito Watanabe: Tourist In America: II.

The engine room was cleaner than a Sasebo Geisha House...



Above: Transverse and longitudinal sections of the Hult engine. This is a two-cylinder version; cylinders at R and S.
Modus operandi: the two cylinders R and S are fed steam alternately to aid constancy of torque. The cylinder turns as well as the pistons ("piston" derived as we have seen from "pestle" is a quite inappropriate word to use for a structure that rotates) in order to eliminate motion at the sliding contact between them. This line of contact is always at the top.

Steam enters at the right, and passes down the hollow central shaft, which has admission ports cut in it. These feed steam through the straight passages in the piston to the two working volumes 3 and 2 at appropriate times, and force is exerted on the spring-loaded shutter sticking out of the cylinder. The exhaust passages are the curved ones.

Admission cutoff is varied by rotating the inner steam-distribution tube by means of the small handle at the end. Reversing is effected by swopping admission and exhaust ports; the large lever does this by sliding the rotating tube 1.

End sealing: the two plates between cylinders R and S are forced apart by wedges pushed inwards by adjusting screws, (accessible via plug G) and this suggests that continual adjustment to take up wear may have been necessary to control leakage. This is not encouraging; piston engines do not require regular adjustments to their piston rings, and here we get a clue as to one of the problems of the rotary engine- its geometry is an inherent weakness, because you would have to take up wear in several directions at once.

The Hult is claimed to allow the expansive use of steam, but the very narrow exhaust ports seem to make this difficult.


Above: More sections of the Hult engine.

There were five sets of roller bearings in the engine, disposed thus:

Section A-B Support bearing for central shaft combined with a friction-drive epicyclic speed reduction gear. Friction? How did you keep the oil away?

Section E-F Two cylinder bearings, each with eleven rollers. One fitted at each end of the central cylinder.

Section C-D Two piston bearings.


Marine version of the Hult rotary engine.
From the RTL and cited from this source here: (Includes all diagrams and texts seen and quoted; the work is not mine, McPherson.)
From the Model Engineer and Electrician, 28 May 1903:

"A new type of rotary engine, constructed by the Hult Brothers Rotary Steam Engine Company, of Stockholm, is being introduced into the country. We understand that one of these engines may now be seen running, at noon any day for a few weeks at the works of Messrs Simpson and Co, 101 Grosvenor Road, Pimlico."

No further reference to this enterprise in England has so far turned up.

Felix Wankel says:

"Only transitory successes have become known. The first partially successful example recalls the steam engine designed in 1899 (1889; McPherson.) by O W Hult in Stockholm and manufactured in Germany by the Kieler Maschinenbau A G , who produced various sizes of engines which developed 35 - 113 BHP. The aggregate power of the engines built amounted to about 6000 BHP." So if all the engines were of the smallest size, 171 were built. If all were of the largest size, 53 were built, so the actual number presumably lies somewhere between the two...
In this alternate timeline... The Hult Company takes out British patents in 1890 that comes to the attention of the same American naval mission that visits the A.G. Vulcan yards to examine the Brandenburg under construction at Stettin, Germany. While under orders from Benjamin F. Tracy, one of the few competent members of Benjamin Harrison's incompetent administration, they get a look at those patents and send a side mission to Hult, Sweden and procure a working model of the engine. This gets shipped back to the United States where Curtis and Wren, Mechanical Engines Company, takes a long look at it and solves the valve back flow and pressure loss problems and then "creates" or rather steals the Hult design for their 4,000 kWatt (5,370 horsepower) Model 1 rotary steam engine.

This is the cased steam engine, or rather three of them, which Ito Watanabe sees mounted in three end on side by side compartments deep in the bowels of the USS Massachusetts. This ship was an odd one. It was, as Watanabe knew, a frank imitation of the SMS Brandenburg class in other details in that it carried a large gun battery of six chaser guns laid out with one pair of chaser guns forward and two pairs of chaser guns aft. His host... Fei Lou, the "pretend" Chinese-American, would not let the curious Japanese naval officer anywhere near the "turrets" that housed those guns. It was as if the heretofore open and frank Americans, in the form of his liaison and guide, wanted to hide something from him. It mattered not to Ito. With the Americans clearly so imitative of Prussian science and engineering, the Japanese mission at A.G. Vulcan would ferret out whatever the Americans hid from him here, about "their" guns.

Little did Ito Watanabe know, what a terrible mistake it was not to press for a look at those American barbettes or to examine or at least get a closer look at the "monkey copy" knockoffs of "German" technology.

But then; as Fei Lou prattled along about the Curtis-Wren rotary steam engines and how the Tesla dynamos to which they were hooked, supplied power to the Westinghouse final drives and also how Tesla oscillator generators, driven off the same Babcock and Wilcox boilers supplied power to America's "second all electric battleship", Ito missed more important details about what he saw aboard USS Massachusetts, as she lay at pier sixteen to fit out.

For example, if he had just looked UP, he would have noticed that in the USS Massachusetts's military masts, besides the yardarm extensions with the powered lines for rapid flag signaling, he could or might have seen strange optical devices very like a miniature astronomer's parallax gear for measuring distance. A brief inquiry at a US Public Library like Philadelphia's excellent one only three city blocks away from Cramp and Sons, Shipbuilders, might have revealed to our Japanese tourist the curious name of Bradley A. Fiske, who would be as dangerous to his navy as Percy Scott would be to the Germans. And much for the same reason.

List of things Ito failed to notice... ITTL.
a. The Bradley Fiske telemeters and French style Loudzhou ballistic predictor.
b. The Howell-Goss "electric flywheel" torpedoes.
c. The two car chain hoist bucket lift system that raised ammunition and propellant from the magazines to the ship's guns both in the barbettes and the casemate armored box galleries.
d. The signal rocket launcher on the quarterdeck. Ito thought those "mortars" were for 4th of July fireworks.
e. Toggle covers on the searchlights, also used for signaling.
f. The Harvey armor plate with the new cementing face-hardening process co-discovered by Krupp.
g. And of course Ito minimized the importance of steam electric drive.

But then Ito did notice that the USS Massachusetts was inordinately long for a contemporary "battleship", and he asked Fei Lou about that one detail.

Fei Lou, sort of lied about that one. "我们使我们的船比人们想象的更长,因为我们的引擎没有欧洲人那么好。发动机的制造空间更大,而且其产生的能量也更重." (wǒ men shǐ wǒ men de chuán bǐ rén men xiǎng xiàng de gèng cháng , yīn wéi wǒ men de yǐn qíng méi yǒu ōu zhōu rén nà me hǎo。fā dòng jī de zhì zào kōng jiān gèng dà , ér qiě qí chǎn shēng de néng liàng yě gèng zhòng。) or in English... (We make our ships longer, than one expects, because our engines are not so good as the Europeans. The engines take up far more room and are much heavier for the energy they produce. )

The truth is partially that steam-electric propulsion is bulkier, heavier and that it requires a longer hull to fit it in, but it is also a truth, that the Americans observed that a British "cruiser hull" such as is seen in the Blake class has a less vicious rudder kick and heel and a tighter turning circle than the incompetently designed Royal Sovereign class battleships even though the Blakes were only about 10 meters longer. The finer hull lines and beam to length ratios and higher free-board, made for much better sea-boats.

The Americans were "Americans see British do, copy, copy, copy, copy", ... that is unless the British screw up like they did with Victoria and Camperdown and the Royal Sovereigns.


I finally got back to reading this from the start. ( I don't visit the pre-1900 forum as much as I used to)

I am enjoying both the history and the alternate history in this thread. With the history, it's covering some obscure figures( obscure to me) and a steel navy primer in many way. I'm curious to see where this goes.
I use this site extensively for base data.

Spanish naval order of battle.
Actual strength IOTL. The war of 1898 (naval-encyclopedia.com)

3 (4) battleships BB.
5(6) armored cruisers ACR.
18 cruisers of assorted classes;
---3 protected cruisers CP,
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 1st class CU1
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 2nd class CU2
---6 unprotected cruisers of the 3rd class CU3
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 4th class CUG (Technically gunboats or PGBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
12 torpedo gun boats PTGBs
6 destroyers of the 1st class TB1 (Torpedo boats or TBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
15 destroyers of the 2nd class TB2 (Torpedo boats or TBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
1 diving torpedo boat SS (Submarine)
37 gunboats of assorted decrepit types ranging from 100-900 tonnes displacement.


4 battleships BB. The change is that the Pelayo, Numancia, Vitorio and Mendez Nuñez have been built to our ITTL hypothetical Pelayo standard and are "technically" capable of operations.
7(9) armored cruisers ACR. The change is that there are 3 Infanta Maria Teresa class, 2 Cristobol Colons and 2 Principe de Asturias class
19 cruisers of assorted classes; The change in this timeline is that the Reina Regente was properly built and the armament changes needed to make her sisters and her properly seaworthy were made from the start. So 24 cm/L35 guns are a given.
---4 protected cruisers CP,
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 1st class CU1
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 2nd class CU2
---6 unprotected cruisers of the 3rd class CU3
---3 unprotected cruisers of the 4th class CUG (Technically gunboats or PGBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
12 torpedo gun boats PTGBs
6 destroyers of the 1st class TB1 (Torpedo boats or TBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
15 destroyers of the 2nd class TB2 (Torpedo boats or TBs in USN nomenclature of the period.)
1 diving torpedo boat SS (Submarine)
37 gunboats of assorted types ranging from 100-900 tonnes displacement. The changes here are these gunboats are proper steam propelled gunboats and not the schooners and ketches actually built.


The USN... same source base data. The war of 1898 (naval-encyclopedia.com)
6 battleships BB
6 monitors BM
2 armored cruisers ACR
15 cruisers CP
16 gunboats PG
5 torpedo boats PT
1 submarine SS
~40 miscellaneous vessels, mostly river and harbor defense vessels of assorted types and about 20 wooden sailing vessels

4 battleships BB
4 armored cruisers ACR
15 cruisers CP
10 cruisers torpedo ram CT (Called generically Davids, sort of like a proto-submarine. )
16 gunboats PG
5 torpedo boats PT
10 submarines SS (True submersibles which relied on the torpedo to the exclusion of any other weapon.)
~20 miscellaneous vessels; about 20 wooden sailing vessels called "peace cruisers"


We've had a similar set of discussions on the Post-1900 Forum and while there was a fair spread of thought, a common idea was that both the US Army and Navy had good working relationships with variants of the Hotchkiss and Colt/Browning designs. Those companies had an inside track with the two Ordnance staffs.

On a related note, what do you get if Browning continues development of the Potato Digger as an air-cooled MMG?
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Machine guns? What will the Americans choose? Part II
If I had to bet, my money would be on the Maxim.
It would have to be the highly refined Vickers version. The Japanese positively hated that weapon because of their experiences with it in the First Sino Japanese War. It mud-chuted and belt stretched and feed jammed if one looked at the 1892 version funny. The Americans tested it and they did not like it either. The French had an air cooled machine gun (Hotchkiss) which suited their colonial army and a series of experts who produced the St Etienne, a clockwork horror, every bit as fouled up as the Hotchkiss Portative, but not only because it was human factors backwards. It was a LOUSY machine gun as a mechanical function setup.
We've had a similar set of discussions on the Post-1900 Forum and while there was a fair spread of thought, a common idea was that both the US Army and Navy had good working relationships with variants of the Hotchkiss and Colt/Browning designs. Those companies had an inside track with the two Ordnance staffs.
GEN Daniel Webster Flagler liked Hotchkiss. He was not entirely wrong The Navy (CAPT William M. Folger) loved John Moses Browning
On a related note, what do you get if Browning continues development of the Potato Digger as an air-cooled MMG?

Marlin Arms Corp. 1917 Machine gun 30-06

Not a bad redesign, but then Browning beat himself with the Browning M1917.
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February 17, 1897 Such A Beautiful Day For A Collision... Er Boating Excursion.

(Illustration manipulated by McPherson. Original Credits below picture.)


February 17, 1897 Such A Beautiful Day For A Collision... Er Boating Excursion.

One supposes if that one was SM2C Oglethorpe Hornesby, at the wheel of the USS Castine, that one could be forgiven for a somewhat confused state of mind? The Japanese guest, a CMDR Ito, Watanabe and his civilian partner, Philo Norton McGiffin, were shouting at each other so loudly that they drew everyone's attention on the Bridge . Captain Thomas Perry had just ordered a hard turn to starboard, so as to not run into the back end of the USS Maine. Now he was out on the starboard wing of the flyover bridge trying to break up the fight between those two yahoos. His mind was not on the ship. Suddenly for strange reason; the USS Raleigh, which was supposed to be in line ahead of the USS Maine, had turned to starboard, herself, and was about to cut across the USS Castine's prow.

Oglethorpe yelled in a panic, "Captain! We're going to hit the Raleigh!"

At that moment, Philo was attempting to squeeze the life out of Ito, Watanabe, by strangling the man. Perry could not pull Philo off and the officer of the deck (OOD), LT (j.g.) Bishop Lantry, stood petrified as a tombstone statue not paying attention to anything but the three man spaghetti fight that had his attention right instead of on the ship as it should have been.

Leave it to ENG(asst) Percy L. Neel, who had come up to report to the captain on the arson fire in the engine room (Another problem to be sorted out; but not at the moment.), to have clear wits and enough presence of mine when he arrived, to say: "Counter-turn to port, Helm." in a rather calm voice. He made his way to the speak pipes, grabbed the hose labeled engine room and said into it; "McCafferty? You, there?"

"Yeah, Lucy, What do you want?"

"All back, port, and all ahead starboard."

"You got it."

"How is the fire?"

"We caught the swab who set it."

"Never mind him. We will pitch him over when we survive this collision."

"What collision?"


"That one."

What a navy!
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The Other Side of the Ocean. It Is Not All That Happy An Experience, Either.
The Other Side of the Ocean. It Is Not All That Happy An Experience, Either.

This is the real history I cite as to the letter. I will fictionalize off of it to some extent, but I want those unfamiliar with the state of Spanish affairs to be aware that it is what the competent Spanish naval leadership actually thought at the time.

Such was the state in the colonies, the Philippines being the other crucial point, where problems were also reaching a high tension point. Cervera observed these events with sadness and concern, as he had clearly seen that they had no solution, especially if the conflict with the United States resulted in war. So sure was he about the situation that he had already written a prophetic letter to his cousin, Juan Spottorno, jurist auditor officer in the Naval Department of Cartagena, whose contents (text), closed and sealed in presence of witnesses, constitutes his "military testament". Given the importance of theletter, some of the paragraphs are reproduced here.
"Dear Juan. It seems that the conflict (war) with the United States is beingreconsidered, or at least delayed; but it can revive unexpectedly, and every day I am more and more confident in the idea that it would be a great national calamity...Since we don't have practically any fleet, wherever we send it, the fleet must be composed of all the ships together, because dividing them (in groups) would be in my opinion the greatest of all errors; but it would also be a mistake to send it to the Antilles, leaving our coasts and the Philippines archipelago defenseless......I'll be patient and will perform my duty, but with the bitterness of knowing that my sacrifice is in vain ......If our small fleet were well equipped with all that is necessary, andover-all well trained, we could try something......When nations are disorganized, their Governments (that are simply the result of such disorganization), are disorganized too, and when a logical disaster is to come, they don't want to be the real cause; to the contrary, rather, the cry is always "TREASON !", and they look for a poor victim to blame for faults committed by others......I entrust you with great confidence about all that is written here; butat the same time, I ask you not to destroy this letter, keeping it safe, incase that one day it might be convenient for my opinions of today to be known."
Although Cervera was steadfast in his convictions, the Deposito de Guerra issued during those days a pamphlet entitled "Military and Naval Power of the United States in 1896" based on data that had been recorded in 1891 by Spain's Military Attache, without taking into consideration the tremendous effort made by the United States between 1892 and 1896. In said booklet, the author fantasized about the American Government abandonment of its Army, the weakness of the Navy, and the deficiencies noted in the defense of US ports, encouraging Spain in some of the paragraphs to sail and capture the Florida Keys to obtain the Gulf of Mexico, and finally, it described how easy it would be to enter the Mississippi with the 'powerful' Spanish fleet and capture New Orleans...
It is amazing how crazy the European nations' armchair generals and admirals were about dreams of turning the United States into another China.
In October 20th 1897, the Government named Cervera Commanding Officer of the Fleet. In view of the events, he then remembered the words of the letter written to his cousin one year and seven months earlier: "...and they will look for a poor victim to blame for faults committed by others !".

With that background, just what in this ATL does Cervera find as he takes command of the Primer Escuadrón de Cruceros Acorazados, which is the striking and raiding force of the Armada Española?

Let me quote the real letter to Bermejo Sigismundo.

This is a confidential letter written by Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete to Segismundo Bermejo, the chief of staff of the Spanish Navy. Cervera gives his analysis of the navies of Spain and the U.S. His analysis proved to be very accurate though his superiors took exception to it. This analysis was completed and laid out only ten days after the loss of the battleship MAINE in Havana harbor.

Comment and observation: the situation analysis is kind of blunt in the Spanish formalism of discourse of the time, almost insultingly so, which did not endear ADM Cervera to the Spanish HMG of the day, especially to the minister of the marine (Armada). The thing is, I note with considerable surprise, just how technical and accurate, ADM Cervera's analysis of the tools he had and the geographic situation and how Mahanic, both in the Dennis and Alfred Thayer Mahan senses of land warfare and sea warfare analysis he is.

He makes precise mention of what he expects the Americans to do in sufficient detail that one sees the Cuba campaign in its particulars that will evolve in six months.
The Letter:

HONORED SIR: His excellency the chief of staff of the ministry sent me, with the confidential letter of the 19th instant, two reports and two statements relative to studies made with a view to a possible war with the United States. A careful examination of these documents, followed by profound reflection, has suggested to me the following considerations, which I respectfully submit to your excellency:
II we compare the Navy of the United States with our own, counting only modern vessels capable of active service, taking the data in reference to the Americans as published in the December number of the Revista General de Marina and in our general statistics of the navy, we find that the United States have the battle ships IOWA, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, OREGON, and TEXAS ; the armored cruisers BROOKLYN and NEW YORK; the protected cruisers ATLANTA, MINNEAPOLIS, BALTIMORE, CHARLESTON, CHICAGO, CINCINNATI, COLUMBIA, NEWARK, SAN FRANCISCO, OLYMPIA, PHILADELPHIA, AND RALEIGH, and the rapid unprotected cruisers DETROIT, MARBLEHEAD, and MONTGOMERY. Against this we have, following the same classification, the battleships PELAYO, INFANTA MARIA TERESA, VIZCAYA, and OQUENDO, armored cruiser COLÓN, and protected cruisers CARLOS V, ALFONSO XIII, and LEPANTO; no fast unprotected cruisers; and all this, supposing the PELAYO, CARLOS V, and LEPANTO to be ready in time, and giving the desired value to the ALFONSO XIII.

I do not mention the other vessels on account of their small military value, surely inferior to that of the nine gunboats, from 1,000 to 1,600 tons each, six monitors still in service, the ram KATAHDIN, the VESUVIUS, and the torpedo boats and destroyers, which I do not count. I believe that in the present form the comparison is accurate enough. Comparing the displacements, we find that in battle ships the United States has 41,589 tons, against our 30,917 tons; in armored cruisers they have 17,471 tons against our 6,840; In protected cruisers, 51,098 against 18,887; and in fast unprotected cruisers they have 6,287 and we have none.

The total vessels good for all kinds of operations comprise 116,445 tons, against our 56,644 tons, or something less than one-half. In speed our battleships are superior to theirs, but not to their armored cruisers. In other vessels their speed is superior to ours. Comparing the artillery, and admitting that it is possible to fire every ten minutes the number of shots stated in the respective reports, and that only one-half of the pieces of less than 7.87 inch are fired, and supposing that the efficiency of each shot of the calibers 12.6, 11.8, 11, 9.84,7.87, 6.3, 5.9, 5.5, 4.7, 3.94, 2.95, 2.24, 1.65, and 1.45 inches represented by the figures 328, 270, 220, 156, 80, 41, 33, 27, 17, 10, 4, 2, and 1 which are the hundredths of the cubes of the numbers representing their calibers expressed in inches (Caliber in inches)3 (100) we find that the artillery power of the American battle ships is represented by 43,822, and that of ours by 29,449; that of the American armored cruisers by 13,550, and that of ours (COLÓN) by 6,573; that of the American protected cruisers by 62,725, and that of ours by 14,600; that of the American unprotected cruisers by 12,300.

Therefore, according to these figures the offensive power of the artillery of the United States vessels will be represented by 132,397, and that of ours by 50,622, or a little less than two-fifths of the enemy's. To arrive at this appalling conclusion I have already said that it has been necessary to count the PELAYO and CARLOS V, which probably will not be ready in time; the LEPANTO, which surely will not be ready, and the ALFONSO XII, whose speed renders her of a very doubtful utility.

Now, to carry out any serious operations in a maritime war, the first thing necessary is to secure control of the sea, which can only be done by defeating the enemy's fleet, or rendering them powerless by blockading them in their military ports. Can we do this with the United States fleet? It is evident to me that we can not. And even if God should grant us a great victory, against what may be reasonably expected, where and how would we repair the damages sustained? Undoubtedly the port would be Havana, but with what resources? I am not aware of the resources existing there, but judging by this department, where there is absolutely nothing of all that we may need, it is to be assumed that the same condition exists every where, and that the immediate consequences of the first great naval battle would be the enforced inaction of the greater part of our fleet for the rest of the campaign, whatever might be the result of that great combat. In the meantime the enemy would repair its (his) damages inside of its (his) fine rivers, aided by its powerful industries and enormous resources.
ADM Cervera has in mind, this:


The Spanish naval bases are in Red. The American bases are in Blue. What is not seen are the American bases at Savannah, Ga and Charleston, SC., which are both Class II bases,. Norfolk, VA is one of the greatest naval arsenals on Earth and is the home industrial base of the American navy, Mobile Bay, AL. is all by itself a Class II base and Key West, FL. which is a forward staging base, is Class III. Havana, Cuba, at the time, is at best Class III.

Class I base = builds, maintains and repairs battleships.
Class II base= builds, maintains and repairs cruisers.
Class III base = builds, maintains and repairs small naval vessels of destroyer or lesser ranks.
This lack of industries and stores on our part renders it impossible to carry on an offensive campaign, which has been the subject of the two reports which his excellency the chief of staff has been kind enough to send me. These two reports constitute, in my judgment, a very thorough study of the operations considered, but the principal foundation is lacking, namely, the control of the sea, a prime necessity to their undertaking. For this reason they do not seem practicable to me, at ant rate not unless we may count upon alliances which will make our naval forces at least equal to those of the United States, to attempt by a decisive blow the attainment of such control.

If the control of the sea remains in the hands of our adversaries, they will immediately make themselves masters of any unfortified ports which they may want in the island of Cuba, counting, as they do, on the insurgents ,and will use it as a base of operations against us. The transportation of troops to Cuba would be most difficult and the success very doubtful, and the insurrection, without the check our army, which would gradually give way, and with the aid of the Americans, would rapidly increase and become formidable.

These reflections are very sad; but I believe it to be my unavoidable duty to set aside all personal considerations and loyally to represent to my country the resources which I believe to exist, so that, without illusions, it may weigh the considerations for and against, and then, through the Government of His Majesty, which is the country's legitimate organ, it may pronounce its decision. I am sure that this decision will find in all of us energetic, loyal, and decided executors, for we have but one motto: The fulfillment of duty."

Yours, etc.,
CARTAGENA, February 25, 1898.
His Excellency the MINISTER OF MARINE,

Excerpted from:
Cervera y. Topete, Admiral Pasqual, Collection of Documents Relative to the Squadron Operations in the West Indies. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1899. 56.
Now... That is quite a disparity in naval geography, industrial ratios, naval combat power and means.
The Other Side of the Ocean. It Is Not All That Happy An Experience, Either. Part II.
Admiral Cervera's Comparison of the Spanish and American Navies

The Letter:

April 22, 1898.


MY DEAR ADMIRAL AND FRIEND: I have not yet answered your letter of the 7th, which the SAN FRANCISCO brought me, because, though I have written you since, I đid not have it before me. It is impossible for me to give you an idea of the surprise and consternation experienced by all on the receipt of the order to sail. Indeed, that surprise is well justified, for nothing can be expected of this expedition except the total destruction of the fleet or its hasty and demoralized return, while in Spain it might be the safeguard of the nation.

It is a mistake to believe that the Canaries are safe, which is only the case with reference to Santa Cruz, Las Palmas, and one or two other places. But is Graciosa Island safe, for instance? If the Yankees should take possession of it and fortify the port they would have a base for any operations they might wish to undertake against Spain, and surely the battalions will not be able to eject them from there. Such a thing will not be possible at present, with the squadron at the Canaries, but it will be inevitable when the squadron has been destroyed.

You talk about plans and in spite of all efforts to have some laid out, as would have been wise and prudent, my desires have been disappointed to such an extent that if the circumstances had been different I should have applied to be placed on the retired list, and I shall ask for it, if God spares my life, just as soon as the danger is over. I should even apply for it to day, without caring a straw for being accused of cowardice, if it were not for the fact that my retirement would produce among the squadron the deplorable effect of a desertion of its admiral before the enemy. How can it be said that I have been supplied with everything I asked for?(1)

The COLÓN does not yet have her big guns, and I asked for the poor ones if there were no others.(2) The 5.5-inch ammunition, with the exception of about 300 rounds, is bad.(3) The defective guns of the VIZCAYA and OQUENDO have not been changed.(4) The cartridge cases of the COLÓN can not be recharged.(5) We have not a single Bustamente torpedo.(6) There is no plan nor concert, which I so much desired and have suggested in vain. The repairs of the servomotors of my vessels were only made in the INFANTA MARIA TERESA and the VIZCAYA after they had left Spain.(7)

In short, it is a disaster already, and it is to be feared that it will be a more frightful one before long. And perhaps everything could be changed yet. But I suppose it is too late now for anything that is not the ruin and desolation of our country. I can understand that your conscience is clear, as you state in your letter, because you are a good man and your course is clear before you, but think of what I tell you and you will see that I am right. I assembled my captains, as you told me, and sent you by telegraph an extract of their opinions.

I have since forwarded you a copy of the proceedings, and by this mail I send you an official letter commenting thereon. I have nothing further to add. The VIZCAYA can no longer steam, and she is only a boil in the body of the fleet. But I will trouble you no more. I consider it an accomplished fact, and will try to find the best way out of this direful enterprise.

Yours, etc.,
1. ADM Cervera has been pleading ever since February 1897 to the Spanish Ministry of the Marine to fix these issues. That is when he took command of the Spanish First Armored Cruiser Squadron and found these conditions applied.

2. In a dispute that went back two years, the Spanish government and Ansaldo of Italy, who built the Cristobol Colon have hassled over the 25.4 cm main armament of the ship. The guns failed weapon proof. The Spaniards withheld payment. Ansaldo refused to replace the guns.

Cristobal Colon


150 mm steel compound side belt, 150 mm turrets, 30 mm deck.​
Endurance @ 10 knots:​
8,300 miles​
19.5 knots​
Engine type:​
14,000 hp. engines, twin screw.​
of Capt. Emilio Diaz Moreu.​
543 Officers and Men under the command​
6,840 tons​
Mean draft:​
7.75 meters​
18.20 meters​
100 meters​
Cantieri Sestri Ponenti of Ansaldo Shipbuilder, Genoa, Italy​
5 torpedo tubes​
Two 22 mm machine guns​
Ten 37 mm guns​
Ten 57 mm Nordenfeldt QF guns​
Six 12.0 cm QF guns​
Ten 15.2 cm (6 inch) guns​
Two 25.4 cm (10 inch) Armstrong guns (Not installed)
One military mast​
May 1897​
September, 1896​
Laid down:​
Steel Armored Cruiser​
One can see that this lack of the main armament could be a slight problem? The Spanish government could have gone to Vickers or Elswick or Armstrong or even Murphy help them Driggs and bought the !@# !@#$ guns already weapon proofed, but that would have meant the guns would have been rather expensive compared to the Ansaldo offerings. They could have even substituted Spanish made Ordunuz or Hontoria guns, but more on those "problem guns" in their own right in a bit. The Cristobol Colon showed up with black painted wood logs at the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba. But the tale of woe on this ship gets worse.

3. Ah, what about those 5.5 inch 14 cm /45 guns and those shells which form 60% of ADM Cervera's gunpower in his squadron, is the problem? What about the shells specifically is the exact problem? The First Armored Cruiser Squadron is supposed to have about 4,500 of them on hand. ADM Cervera has about 2,700. Some 2,400 of those shells are "practice rounds" for gunnery training. That means they are filled with sawdust or inert powder filler. This would not be a problem for war if the fleet put into Ferrol or Cadiz and the naval arsenal ashore had armorers empty and repack the shells with guncotton and a fusing mechanism. ADM Cervera has 300 war-shots on hand of which he is certain. The rest of the shells, he has his crews emptying and repacking with explosives, but he is in the Canary Islands trying to do that evolution with unstable and overage explosives, with half-trained ship's companies and with unreliable fuses. How is that rather peculiar extremely dangerous evolution going? About as well as one expects. Not too good.

4. What, about those 5.5 inch (14 cm) / 45 Schneider designed guns, is their problem? Those should be excellent guns? The Marine National uses them and swears by *(actually at) them. When one fires a gun, the barrel heats up and expands. So does the breach block. The problem is metallurgy. If the breech block's thermal expansion ratio is faster and greater than the barrel and if the breech block is a de Bange type interrupted screw square head with a doorknob obturator on a three point hinge pivot instead of a Wellin or a Fletcher *(USN design) conehead on a four point pivot, it will pressure weld as it thermally expands into the interrupted screw threads. To unlock the breach, becomes a bit tricky. You see, the same process that wedged the breach block also jammed the firing pistol and there is a "live" shell and charge inside the wedged gun one wants to clear. The way to clear the jam, in that era, is to heat the outside of the barrel and use a French-supplied wrench and the entire gun crew to manually rotate the breach plug by brute strength and then back the cooler plug out of the hot gun barrel. One then might have to use a ramrod at the muzzle end of the gun and have a strong man ride the barrel and hammer the plug out with a BIG mallet. Think about that evolution. This is what the Spanish gun crews were doing to clear jams at the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba while the USS Brooklyn was peppering the Oquendo with shellfire and setting her on fire.

5. I wrote that I would return to the Cristobol Colon and her woes? If Schneider screwed up the 5.5 inch (14 cm) / 45s, then what could the British (Elswick) have done with the 6 inch (15.2 cm) / 50s on the Cristobol Colon? Maybe the original guns were okay, but judging by Argentine and British RN reports, I think the Spanish Navy's experience was typical of the first generation British rapid fire guns. The Wellin blocks worked fine. Even the Italian copies of the Elswick guns aboard the Cristobol Colon only had a few breech plug jams. What did not work was the brass charge casings. These were not exactly cartridge or unitary round guns. These were semi-fixed or projectile and cased cased propellant guns, with two load and ram steps needed to load / service the gun. So far, so good. The problem was that the projectile could be rammed into the rifling and stop anywhere along the tube travel (Over-ram). Then in goes the cased propellant in its brass carrier case. If there is a gap between the shell and the cased propellant where the brass carrier case does not meet the chamfer of the combustion chamber then there is something called "throat choke" or an overpressure region of the gun barrel. Bad things happen. Barrel burst is one. Unchecked bypass venting is another. This expands the brass case forward lip and turns the tube shaped brass case into a tulip-shaped brass carrier case. The gun will still throw the shell through normal gun thingy gas expansion and it may not burst, but now it is time for the gun crew to get that special British supplied tool, called a crow-bar, and pry the brass case loose from the jammed breech. The case has to be sent to a naval armory to be re-rounded, recharged and annealed so that the brass case can be reused. The Spaniards and the British are not rich like the Americans who just melt it down and recast the object.

Okay, but with hundreds of charges and hundreds of brass cases, what is the big deal if it, post battle or target practice, has to go through the re-lip-rounding and annealing rigmarole? No two British guns were ever combustion chamber bored dimensionally alike in the era. In the process of ramming, the brass case went out of round for the specific gun it first met. Once spent, that case could NEVER be rounded to fit another British gun without jamming or some trouble seating into the chamfer. Whoops. Cannot be recharged. One time use only. Not too good.

6. What is a Bustamente torpedo?

El torpedo Bustamante. Joaquín Bustamante y Quevedo ... (in Spanish)​

The short version is that Bustamente invented a tadpole shaped moored naval mine that operated on the Hertz Horn principle. That it was a little more efficient than the usual weapons other navies employed is little noticed in history, because in the one war in which it was used, the Americans sabotaged Spanish efforts to get the detonators, the electrolytes, the acids and the insulated copper wire the Spanish navy needed to buy to make them.

7. Servomotors might need a little explanation. It is hard to elevate and rotate a 28 cm/35 (11") Model 1883 gun barrel which weighed 32 tons (long) without mechanical assistance. There is some indication that the motors which operated the rudders on the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Vizcaya might have given trouble as well.
I should mention, that also in the letter, ADM Cervera refers to his own idea that the Spanish Navy should make the Americans cross the ocean and come to Spain or the Canary Islands, where the First Armored Cruiser squadron has home waters advantage.

That is actually not a bad idea. (Map.)


The X's mark where ADM Cervera wanted to offer battle to an American fleet after it had crossed the Atlantic. His idea was that he might be able to do a lot of damage. As the defensive naval strategy wrote off Cuba and Puerto Rico, it was of course politically rejected.

As we will see in a bit, ADM Cervera was a wily and clever opponent, who the Americans would underestimate at their peril.

And once again...

Admiral Cervera's Predictiosn about the Fate of his Squadron
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The Other Side of the Ocean. It Is Not All That Happy An Experience, Either. Part III
One can see that this lack of the main armament could be a slight problem? The Spanish government could have gone to Vickers or Elswick or Armstrong or even Murphy help them Driggs and bought the !@# !@#$ guns already weapon proofed, but that would have meant the guns would have been rather expensive compared to the Ansaldo offerings. They could have even substituted Spanish made Ordunuz or Hontoria guns, but more on those "problem guns" in their own right in a bit. The Cristobol Colon showed up with black painted wood logs at the Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba. But the tale of woe on this ship gets worse.

These were Canet guns built in France. Two of these guns were mounted on the battleship Pelayo, one on each beam. Later ships had one gun on the bow and one on the stern. All were mounted in barbettes.

The later ships in question were the Infanta Maria Teresa Class cruisers, Infanta Maria Teresa, Oquendo and Vizcaya.

The weapons gave nothing but trouble. Mainly the electric servo motors for train and elevate were the problem.

By the middle of the 1890s, the Spanish Naval Ministry was investigating a replacement for the obsolete 28 cm Canet gun, which was at the time the standard weapon for most of their larger ships. Brigadier de Artilleria de la Armada Don Enrique Guillen, with the help of the French armament firm of Schneider, designed a more modern weapon based on previous Canet designs. The mountings for these weapons used electric motors for most functions.

The Italian-built Cristobal Colon was to be armed with these guns, but she was sunk during the Spanish-American War before they could be installed.

Although more were planned, a total of six guns were actually built and delivered. Two were made by Schneider in France and the other four at the Carraca Arsenal factory in Spain.

Some of these guns were later used as coastal artillery, as can be seen in the photographs below.

Constructed of A tube, half length sleeve and four jackets covered with another layer of jackets over the full length of the barrel. Actual overall length was 42.5 calibers.
These were the weapons intended for the Cristobol Colon Class cruisers: Cristobol Colon and Pedro de Aragorn. They were not ready.

These were the weapons the Spanish "could have" fitted instead.

And those were the guns that failed proof.


Now then...

For the ATL,

Notes: these guns came in the following calibers: (Data is estimated or USN reported 1892 and 1899.)

Bore diameterYear notedCaliberShell massEstimated effective rangeshell
15 cm (naval rifle)18883545 kg?<8,000 meters @ 20 deg.AP, Paixhan cast iron bomb
21 cm (howitzer)189015?90 kg?<10,000 meters @ 40 deg.AP, Paixhan cast iron bomb
24 cm (howitzer189414?140 kg.~9,000 meters @ 40 deg.AP, Paixhan cast iron bomb
24 cm howitzer1897?16?200 kg~11,000 meters @ 40 deg.AP, HE steel shell
24 cm (naval rifle)189236200 kg?~15,000 meters @ 20 deg.AP, Paixhan cast iron bomb
30.5 cm (naval rifle)189236400 kg?~20,000 meters @ 20 deg.AP, Paixhan cast iron bomb

The guns were considered "effective" if underpowered compared to British and German types.

The Alternate Time Line presupposes...

From wiki:

In the government​

In May 1891, the Queen Regent María Cristina assigned Cervera to her court as her naval aide-de-camp. A year later the captain was assigned to oversee the construction of several cruisers for the Spanish Navy at the request of the Queen Regent. Around that time multiple politicians wanted Cervera to become the Minister of the Navy, but he continued to resist because he detested politics. Finally, in 1892, Prime Minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta asked the Queen Regent to compel him to accept the position of naval minister in his government. She did so, and Cervera reluctantly accepted, being promoted to Contraalmirante (rear admiral). But the newly promoted flag officer made the prime minister promise to not lower the naval budget in return, which Mateo accepted. However, it was not long before the prime minister broke that promise and so Cervera resigned from the position in 1892, but not before trying to make efforts to improve the Spanish Navy's efficiency. The rear admiral was appointed as the naval attaché in London shortly afterwards, where he witnessed the technical innovations being made by the British Royal Navy, a post he held until the situation in Cuba began escalating around 1896–97.[1][4][6]
That ADM Cervera is reluctantly convinced to stay as the Queen regent's navy minister through 1896.

That these non-entities (from wiki)
are not allowed to bungle the efforts ADM Cervera put in motion and that the modern armored cruisers which ADM Cervera championed, instead of the battleships which José López Domínguez wanted, actually were built and deployed as planned. That the material and human factors deficiencies of which the Armada was afflicted in 1891 and which ADM Cervera began to correct, were seen through until the worsening relations with the United States compelled ADM Cervera to return to at sea naval command as historically happened?

Truly, this man was incredibly dangerous as a naval adversary. He is not the sad man of Santiago de Cuba as many popular histories made him out to be; but rather a realist who confronts the facts as he finds them and does the best he can with what he has.
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By all the measures you've shown, the Spanish naval artillery and associated ammunition was in terrible shape - and you've limited the discussion to the Atlantic based ships. What about the ships themselves? Including their armor schemes, propulsion, and relative fitness for sailing. I'm assuming the gunnery situation is in a bad spot. Admiral Cervera and his sailors appear to have been sent on a "forlorn hope" death ride to Cuba, in part to salvage Spain's national honor.

By the histories I've read, the Philippine squadron was even in worse nautical shape.
The Other Side of the Ocean. It Is Not All That Happy An Experience, Either. Part III
By all the measures you've shown, the Spanish naval artillery and associated ammunition was in terrible shape - and you've limited the discussion to the Atlantic based ships. What about the ships themselves? Including their armor schemes, propulsion, and relative fitness for sailing. I'm assuming the gunnery situation is in a bad spot. Admiral Cervera and his sailors appear to have been sent on a "forlorn hope" death ride to Cuba, in part to salvage Spain's national honor.

By the histories I've read, the Philippine squadron was even in worse nautical shape.
The ships of the Manila squadron were burned down to the waterline. Not much survives of the documentation about the mostly gunboat flotilla Montojo commanded. The big crunch as far as Spanish naval power was concerned, was supposed to be the First Armored Cruiser Squadron. If it had achieved full strength as ADM Cervera planned, it would have consisted of (from wiki)

Emperador Carlos V (flagship facilities and command ship)
General characteristics
Class and type:Emperador Carlos V-class
Type:armored cruiser
Displacement:9,090 tons
Length:380 ft 0 in (115.82 m)
Beam:67 ft 0 in (20.42 m)
Draft:25 ft 0 in (7.62 m) mean
Installed power:18,500 ihp (15,000 ihp on trials with natural draft)
Propulsion:2-shaft, 4-cylinder vertical triple expansion
  • 20 knots (forced draft);
  • 19 knots (natural draft) on trials;
  • 16 knots operationally
Complement:600 officers and enlisted
  • 2 × 28 cm (11 in) guns
  • 8 × 14 cm (5.5 in) guns
  • 4 × 105 mm quick-firing guns
  • 2 × 12 pounder quick-firing guns
  • 4 × 6 pounder quick-firing guns
  • 4 × 1 pounder quick-firing guns
  • 2 × machine guns
  • 6 × torpedo tubes
  • Belt 2 inches (5.1 cm), made up of 1 inch (2.54 cm) Siemens and 1 inch (2.54 cm) chrome
  • Barbettes 9.75 inches (24.8 cm)
  • Shields 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
  • Conning tower 12 inches (30.5 cm)
  • Deck 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
  • Hoods 3.875 inches (9.84 cm)
  • Battery 2 inches (5.1 cm), made up of 1 inch (2.54 cm) Siemens and 1 inch (2.54 cm) chrome
Notes:Coal 1,200 tons (normal); 1,800 tons (maximum)
Infanta Maria Teresa class of
  1. Infanta Maria Teresa
  2. Vizcaya
  3. Almirante Oquendo

General characteristics
Type:Armored cruiser
Displacement:6,890 tons
Length:364 ft (111 m)
Beam:65 ft 2 in (19.86 m)
Draft:21 ft 6 in (6.55 m) maximum
Speed:20.2 knots (37.4 km/h)
  • 2 × 28 cm (11.0 in)/35 guns
  • 10 × 14 cm (5.5 in)/35 guns
  • 10 × 12-pounder guns
  • 10 × 3-pounder Hotchkiss revolvers
  • 8 × Nordenfeld machine guns
  • 2 × Maxim machine guns
  • 8 × torpedo tubes (2 submerged)
  • Belt 12–10 in (30.5–25.4 cm)
  • Barbettes 9 in (22.9 cm)
  • Conning tower 12 in (30.5 cm)
  • Deck 2–3 in (5.1–7.6 cm)
Notes:1,050 tons of coal (normal)
Princesa de Asturias class of
  1. Princesa de Asturias (1896)
  2. Cardenal Cisneros (1897) - Wrecked 1905
  3. Cataluña (1900)
General characteristics
Type:Armoured cruiser
Displacement:6,888 tons
Length:110.97 m (364 ft 1 in)
Beam:18.59 m (61 ft 0 in)
Draught:6.61 m (21 ft 8 in)
Propulsion:14,800 hp (11,000 kW), two shafts
Speed:20 knots (37 km/h)
  • 11.88 in (30.2 cm) belt
  • 7.88 in (20.0 cm) barbette
  • 7.88 in (20.0 cm) conning tower
  • 3.88 in (9.9 cm) turret
  • 2.25 in (5.7 cm) deck

And of course there were the planned two

Giuseppe Garibaldi class of
  1. Cristobol Colon (1896)
  2. Pedro de Aragorn (1898?)
General characteristics
Type:Armored cruiser
  • 6,840 t (6,732 long tons) Garibaldi
  • 7,400–7,700 t (7,283–7,578 long tons) Giuseppe Garibaldi
  • 108.8 m (356 ft 11 in) w/l
  • 111.73 m (366 ft 7 in) o/a
Beam:18.9 m (62 ft 0 in)
Draught:7.32 m (24 ft 0 in)
Installed power:13,000–13,500 ihp (9,700–10,100 kW); 8–24 Boilers
Speed:20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Range:5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 555 officers and enlisted men
  • (578 as flagship)

The armor protection on all of these ships was designed to protect machinery spaces and the conn and not the gun positions. It was assumed (incorrectly) that as overseas service ships, they would engage in combat with British or German protected colonial cruisers which their superior speed, guns and maneuverability would overmatch. How did idea that work out?

USS Olympia

General characteristics (as built)
Type:Protected cruiser
  • 5,586 long tons (5,676 t) (standard)
  • 6,588 long tons (6,694 t) (full load)[1]
Length:344 ft 1 in (104.88 m)
Beam:53 ft (16 m)[1][2]
Draft:21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
Installed power:17,000 ihp (13,000 kW)[1]
Speed:21.7 knots (40.2 km/h; 25.0 mph)[2]
Range:6,000 nmi (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)[2]
Capacity:1,169 short tons (1,060 t) coal (maximum)[1]
Complement:33 officers and 395 enlisted
  • Deck: 4.75 in (12.1 cm) on slopes
  • 2 in (5.1 cm) flat
  • 3 in (7.6 cm) ends[3]
  • Barbettes: 4.5 in (11 cm)
  • Turrets:
  • 3.5 in (8.9 cm);[2]
  • 4 in (10 cm) (shields to 5-inch guns)[3]

The Americans built to meet the referent enemy (UK Royal Navy). The Spaniards did not understand what that actually meant to them. The very American ships designed to fight such horrors as the HMS Immortalite (an Orlando class cruiser) such as the USS Olympia, USS New York, and the USS Brooklyn, would munch on the Spanish armored cruisers as appetizers.

The best matches for USS Olympia, for example, would have been the Garibaldis, but only if they had been armed as to the Japanese pattern with 2 x 2 eight inch (20.3 cm) /45 Elswick guns in the main armament setup. The Spanish idea of a ram and shoot action with a chaser gun forward or aft after a melee action, was not in line with the American thinking in which the ship's main battery was supposed to batter the enemy into submission along with the rapid fire guns in a parallel order line of battle fight.
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Dear George: The First Letter.

NH 51738 Rear Admiral Arent S. Crowninshield, USN (1843-1908)

Dear George:

Our mutual friend inquires how things progress with that problem he asked you to investigate? I understand that it involves a great deal of hydro-cartography to ascertain if the problem can be successfully resolved. My bureau did not have the charts when I was last there, and I do not see how I can be of assistance to you now, inasmuch I have left that office. You should consult CDR Richardson Clover as to your chart needs at the current time. I doubt that you will be happy with his answer as you must be now unhappy with mine. From my experience, your little problem might be addressed best by what our mutual friend says when he is so confronted; to wit: "“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

If you ask me, how to go about it, to map it out, I do have a name, ENS.Frank B. Upham, who is related to a certain businessman, Charles Hollander, through his aunt, who is the man's wife. As Mr. Hollander is supposedly engaged in the copra trade, but in reality is something of a blaggard, who runs a nice little smuggling operation involving Chinese laborers between Hong Kong and parts unknown, who are sometimes "imported" past the Spanish authorities into the copra plantations on southern Luzon, one might find a useful lever in that bit of knowledge. Actually there is no sense beating the dead equine flycatcher roasting in the sun. The man is a slaver. Use that brute fact to coerce him into your needed service, if the nephew in law connectivity does not work to inspire his "patriotism". He is a fountain of knowledge as to your problem.


Now as to my problem. I sum it up with one word. "Maine". This floating abomination of steel is the gift William Collins Whitney left to our poor Republic to bedevil officers, such as myself, into paroxysms of rage and frustration. You know of my low my opinion of the recent late unlamented Theodore D. Wilson and his assorted historical incapacities to tell bow from stern or of the abominations he has done to the "Indianas"? The "Maine" was his first disastrous foray into the mix of steel and heavy guns and it is now my heartache to try to refit her and make her useful. Let me inform you, sir, I would gladly trade my problem for yours.

First off, I do not see how the things which ought to be done to her, which need to be done to her, can be accomplished in the short year or so we may have before your problem and mine converge into an intersection of interests. What ought and needs to be done, you might inquire?

  • The fore and aft sail rigs must be cut down and the crane masts ought to be relocated so as to clear the heavy guns' fields of fire to front and rear.
  • The Ericsson flatbed engines aboard her are of such a rancid histrionic condition and such functional uselessness, that they must be direct antecedents to the vibrating chaos which bedeviled CMD David Dixon Porter afore Vicksburg. I swear they must be of the same mechanical age, ineffectuality and intemperate disposition. I expect that if one looked at them with commodious intent, they would burst asunder. Of course they are in a race with the four double ended Scotch boilers, to see which shall burst first and sink this Russian flat-iron of a floating circus. Philip Hichborn has promised me, that if it is within his power, he will have the boilers and engines replaced with proper Babcock & Wilcox boilers and that the Ericsson engines shall be heaved for the new Curtis Wren or perhaps a set of Yarrow Wicks triple expansion engines, depending on what Cramp and Sons has in their inventory.
  • Then, there is the ironwork to be removed and frame joints and passthroughs of true steel to be installed in their place.
  • The whole upper-works of wood and flammable canvas guards and railways ought to be replaced with sheet steel and wire.
  • The ship's boats, a minor bagatelle ought to be steel and not wood.
  • But the thing that worries me the most, my good friend, are the coal bunkers of this floating insult to good ships everywhere. The coal compartments gather dust which hangs so perniciously above and above the pilings and spreads like a black gray fog throughout the engine spaces, because some witless godforsaken aforementioned fool (Wilson)) failed to provide a ventilation throughway or wet to dry sprinkler systems to knock down all that inflammable and ready to spark off dust. I imagine the black-lung my poor stokers acquire as well as the death from heatstroke we should expect from the black-gang if we are ever called forth to exert a maximum speed run to anywhere to quell a foreign crisis in the making. God help the American battleship that will be the first to such an eventuality. If the crew does not die in the fire-rooms, then some dim lad will light up a cigar or pipe to assuage his lung-hurts and that dust will kindle off and we shall have an explosion such as the inept French or the ineffectious British are wont to do when they try to clear their jammed up and throat-choked guns. At least my uncle, William Crowninshield Endicott, spared me that worry by selling Mister Cleveland and Hillary A. Herbert on Krupp guns.
But enough of my problems for now as it concerns us. If I can solve half of them in the coming refit, then I count myself more lucky than you, who must of necessity try to accomplish the making of a manageable molehill out of the mountainous problem with but the teaspoon which you have been handed.

Nevertheless: if you wish to swap places with me at any time, and attend my problem, while I fix yours, I will most gladly exchange the griefs. It is truly that awful here, where I stand.

With best wishes and good luck; we will both need it.

Arent S. Crowninshield, CAPT USN

What a navy!
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^^^ A couple of questions/comments
What's the relative date of the letter?
Would George be George Dewey?
Would the cartography/hydrography problem refer to Manila and Subic Bays?

Love the method of pointing out the structural and mechanical deficiencies of the Maine. (With a sideways shot at the Indianas)

I read a fiction book a couple of decades back that was written with the main characters often communicating in epistolary form, It gave a neat way of providing needed context, but also allowed for misunderstanding or acting without sufficient information, due to the delays of mail delivery (early 1800's)
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Dear George: The First Letter. (Appendix 1.)
^^^ A couple of questions/comments
What's the relative date of the letter?
About a month after the near collision between the USS Castine and the USS Raleigh is the letter date. The captains of the USS Raleigh and USS Castine are being court martialed and CAPT Sigsbee is under a mentalist's care for "stress related problems" as Crowninshield assumes command of the refit in this ATL. Sigsbee will be diagnosed as mentally disabled but will be given the command of the USS Texas as its captain is promoted out and into the General Board. There is a severe shortage of fleet command grade officers with any experience so of course an insane captain is better than no captain at all.
Would George be George Dewey?
Could be.
Would the cartography/hydrography problem refer to Manila and Subic Bays?
smuggling operation involving Chinese laborers between Hong Kong and parts unknown, who are sometimes "imported" past the Spanish authorities into the copra plantations on southern Luzon
since the main importation route into southern Luzon is


File:Map of Luzon Island.svg - Wikimedia Commons

through Manila Bay and points adjacent from Hong Kong.
Love the method of pointing out the structural and mechanical deficiencies of the Maine. (With a sideways shot at the Indianas)
Might develop the ATL Indiana class woes.
  1. The ATL armament of 28 cm /40 guns proves unable to punch into British composite armor of more than 35 cm thick. As a result, the Royal Sovereign class which are the referent enemy ship with which they are expected to defeat, will bounce the shots. In theory, so could these Spanish armored cruisers as happened in the RTL. The Bu-Ord attempts to solve the problem with the substitution of smokeless powder (RUBY 1898 which is fictional but akin to the RTL Dupont reformulation of Poudre Blanc.), but that chemistry is hung up in patent fights (as in RTL, so will be too late for the wars.) and the further development of the ATL Fletcher breech block to be back-fitted to clone Krupp/Beauregard M1885 / 1890 guns. In the ATL, it looks like Driggs / Seabury will have to re-barrel the main armament with the M1890 Skoda clone version since the Germans no longer will license their Krupps, seeing as how they will be shooting back at the USN with them...
  2. The ATL 15 cm / 50 secondary guns suffer the same exact throat choke problems as the Elswick 15.2 cm guns on the Cristobol Colon. The Americans simply plan to replace the defective guns as soon as they can develop a suitable rapid fire gun. See 1.
  3. The displacement was miscalculated. Bilge keels and bulges are being added to the class, but this will put them out of service for a year. On the good news front, this will raise the float reserve buoyancy ratio, put the armor belt above the waterline where it belongs, and compel the Americans to build a whole new set of drydocks to take and maintain the wider ships. The shallower draft will help make the use of Mobile Bay as a naval anchorage in the ATL possible instead of Key West when that hurricane comes calling.
  4. Did I mention that the Indianas tended to lean when the gun-houses turned broadside? This will be corrected along with the submerged armored belts.
I read a fiction book a couple of decades back that was written with the main characters often communicating in epistolary form, It gave a neat way of providing needed context, but also allowed for misunderstanding or acting without sufficient information, due to the delays of mail delivery (early 1800's)
Funny, one should mention mail delivery. In the 1890s before Marconi's radio became widespread, the only near speed of light information transmission means was by wire, or telephone. The British owned 90% of the transoceanic underwater cable system. This was a HUGE problem and exploit that allowed the British to monopolistically control the global communications networks clear into WWI and beyond.

The only way an enemy state could ensure orders were not intercepted and read by the British was to build fast messenger boats, whose sole reason for existence, was to deliver sealed orders to overseas squadron commanders directing their operations.

The only ATL solution was to build cable laying ships of one's own and lay transoceanic cable belonging to one's own nation. Guess what the USS Communicator and the USS Benjamin Franklin will be doing?


I'm not the engineering and ordnance scholar that you are, but I'm gathering that the USN is identifying deficiencies and has plans to fix them, but between administrative/legal/budget/diplomatic/ and engineering limitations, the fixes aren't likely to occur as quickly as wanted or needed.

I'm also gathering that leaders near the top of the food chain, have identified their less-than-adept counterparts and within the limits of protocol are working to offset the worst of the impacts. As you note with the re-assignment of Adm Sigsbee, the shortage of proven top talent is grave. The trouble there is peace-time command needs and promotions don't always work on the same wavelength as the path that requires war-time skills. (And this navy hasn't fought a real war for 30 years)