Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Coulter -- The Comanche on Duty -- March 23, 2021


San Francisco Call, 15-March-1896

WA Coulter did many maritime drawings for the San Francisco Call. The Camanche (that's how the Navy spelled it) was a Civil War monitor with an unusual history. After being built, she was disassembled and loaded into the hold of a sailing ship, the Aquila, which carried her around the horn. Aquila sank in her berth in San Francisco. After being salvaged, Camanche was assembled and launched in late 1864. Here we see her turned over to California's Naval Militia. The USS Monadnock and Monterey were New Navy monitors, commissioned in The 1890s. Both sailed across the Pacific during the Spanish-American War. The USS Independence, commissioned in 1814, was a razeed frigate which served as a receiving ship at Mare Island.

She Was Successfully Towed
Down From Mare Island
First Day's Work of Her Crew— A
Public Reception to Be Given
on Board.

Lieutenant-Commander Louis H. Turner, United States Naval Reserve, hoisted his pennant aboard of the monitor Comanche at Mare Island yesterday and the old ironclad, after thirty years of idleness, went into commission. There was none of the usual formalities. The colors went up and the vessel passed quietly under the control of the State of California. Early yesterday morning Captain Turner, Lieutenant Gunn and Lieutenant Dennis, with a detachment of the battalion, in the harbor tug Markham, which had been detailed for that duty, proceeded to the navy-yard, where they found the Comanche ready for her departure. The Markham hooked on, the shorelines were cast off and the trip began.

" The monitor was a little rusty from her long sleep, and the rudder-chains raised creakingly through their sheaves, but she swung around to her helm, and the water rippled along her sides as she went out into the stream. Captain H. N. Turner, the father of Lieutenant-Commander Turner took the wheel, with two seamen, to overcome whatever tendencies the Comanche might have to ram tbe Independence as she passed down the straits. All the steam whistles of the yard blew the monitor a "good- by," and her old mooring place was vacant.

Out on San Pablo Bay the tide, beginning its ebb, helped the tow, and the great mass was dragged along at a good speed. The Monadnock went by about a mill to starboard dipping her ensign in a sisterly salute. During all the way down Captain Turner, with his entire crew, worked industriously getting his mooring ready. They consist of a large float weighing several tons and a ponderous 23,000 pound sinker, which will hold the monitor against the southeaster and fierce tides of San Francisco Bay.

Notwithstanding her age the Comanche proves how well the Navy Department takes care of its vessels. The engines are as bright and clean as if they had been placed in the hull yesterday, and the roomy apartments below show where fresh paint and the scrubbing-brush have been used.

A machinist and fireman have been stationed in the monitor during her long rest at the yard, and every day the boilers, engine-room, turret and turret-chamber and the guns have been examined. The engine has been turned over, the turret revolved, the battery run out and in. Three men enlisted at Mare Island for special service will remain aboard and continue to care for the vessel and her machinery. They will also exercise diligence in guarding against fire, for which an alarm will be given by the rapid ringing of the ship's bell and the closing of the ports and hatches to prevent any draft of the flames. The steering wheel of the Comanche is on top of the turret, where is also located the iron conning-tower for the accommodation of the helmsman when shot and shell are whistling painfully near him. The turret itself holds the two big, old-fashioned smooth-bore 15-inch guns that were considered dangerous a quarter of a century ago. Their muzzles, when run out look through two narrow slots at the world around them.

The guns do not protrude through the wall of the turret as in the Monterey and Monadnock, but fit snugly against the port to fill up the aperture, thus preventing the smoke of the discharge from blowing back into the turret and suffocating the gunners. The pieces have the appearance of being sawed off like an express messenger's shotgun. The guns are moved and the turret revolved by compressors and levers from within the structure. It sweeps around on a central pivot carrying the two great guns easily ana smoothly in an entire circle at the will of the operator.

The vessel has much more deck room than the Monterey or Monadnock, being more convenient to the crew as an open drilling place. She is fitted with the four handsome black boats belonging to the battalion, besides the fine, swift steam launch received a few days ago from the navy-yard.

Besides the heavy mooring, float and sinker she is provided with a mushroom shaped anchor, which is drawn up through a well in the hull, near the stem, when the Monitor is under way. It is never visible when the vessel is afloat and its existence is only known by its weight on the cable.

The only thing in poor repair is the deck, which is rotten as punk, but as the planking is laid upon an iron deck there is no danger of tbe naval reserve going down below through the seams. An effort has been made to protect the deck by a thick coat of tar covered with sawdust, which gives the big platform a sort of prize-ring appearance.

Captain Turner and his officers and crew took charge of the ironclad like old men-of-war's men. The young fellows worked faithfully and cheerfully all day at the difficult labor of getting the cumbersome moorings ready, proving that the State's Naval Battalion has the right stuff in it and would make a good showing should they be called upon to fight their craft against a hostile ship.

Lieutenant-Commander • Turner is a master mariner, a practical seaman, and is enthusiastic in his efforts jto bring the re serve up to a high standard of proficiency, consequently, he is pleased that the naval militia has a drill snip, even if her battery and herself is of a past day.

At the entrance to San Francisco Bay the Comanche was joined by her new steam launch, having on board Colonel James, the inspector of the battalion, and Lieutenant Elliot, who brought a fresh crew to assist those aboard the monitor.

Arriving off Harrison street about 7 o'clock in the evening the vessel was moored in the berth. assigned her, the stay-lamp lighted and she was left in charge of the ship-keeper, Cockswain John Lund. To Captain Petzinger of the tug Markham, who managed his unwieldy tow so skillfully, much credit for the success of the undertaking is due.

As the battalion is desirous of making some small immediate repairs on its vessel and if possible put a new deck in her, they intend soon to give a Sunday reception on board to raise funds for that purpose. As the Comanche, though an old type monitor, is in good condition and well worth a visit, the plan of the young men will doubtless meet the approval of the public. The admirer of naval progress will then note the gap of thirty years between the Comanche and the Monterey.

No comments: