South Carolina Class Battleship (1908)

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The South Carolina Class marked the United States Navy's change from "mixed calibre" battleship designs to main guns of the same large size. Prompted by the development of accurate shooting at what was at that time regarded as "long-range", the adoption of "all-big-gun" battleships was a World-wide phenomenon, represented most dramatically by the 1906 debut of the British battleship Dreadnought, whose large size, turbine machinery, 21-knot maximum speed and main battery of ten 12-inch guns electrified contemporary naval opinion.

Overview of 2 vessels
Citations for this data available on individual ship pages
Name Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
South Carolina William Cramp & Sons 18 Dec, 1906 25 Jul, 1908 1 Mar, 1910 Sold 24 Apr, 1924
Michigan New York Shipbuilding 17 Dec, 1906 11 Jul, 1908 4 Jan, 1910 Sold 23 Jan, 1924

Limited in displacement by Congressional mandate, U.S.S. South Carolina and her sister, U.S.S. Michigan, were essentially the same size as the preceding Connecticut Class of what came to be called "pre-dreadnoughts". They also featured the same reciprocating steam engines and 18-knot speed. However, with a main battery of eight 12-inch guns instead of four 12-inch, eight 8-inch and a dozen 7-inch, their firepower was far more effective at any but "point-blank" range. The arrangement of their gun turrets, with one firing over another at each end of a compact superstructure, was far more efficient than that of any of the "pre-dreadnoughts". In less than a decade, the superfiring turret became the standard for all nations' battleships.

The South Carolinas secondary gun battery, twenty-two 3-inch guns, was intended only for self-defence against torpedo attack by light craft. However, with the rapid contemporary growth of the destroyer, these guns were soon seen to be inadequate, and the anti-torpedo batteries of subsequent U.S. battleships were of five-inch caliber. The class also introduced the "cage" mast to new construction, though some earlier ships had these masts fitted before South Carolina and Michigan entered service. These masts, intended to be highly-resistant to enemy gunfire, would be a distinctive feature of U.S. battleships for the next two decades.

The careers of the South Carolina Class ships were unremarkable, but typical of most of their American contemporaries. Though both occasionally visited European ports, and briefly went to the Pacific late in their service, they mainly operated along the U.S. east coast and in the tropical waters of the Caribbean area. Soon outmoded by the rapid pace of battleship development, they spent their final years primarily on training duties and were disposed of in the early 1920s, at an age of just thirteen years.



The British recorded the particulars in 1911 as[1]

  • two 21-in submerged tubes similar to Elswick pattern in single flat abaft forward turret, depressed 2.5 degrees

Four torpedoes per tube were the war load, but generally six Bliss-Leavitt heaters were carried. A Chief Gunner and seven men worked in the flat.


  1. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1911. p. 113.


South Carolina Class Dreadnought
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