U.S.S. Charleston (1888)

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U.S.S. Charleston (1888)
Hull Number: Cruiser No. 2[1]
Builder: Union Iron Works
Ordered: Act of 3 March, 1885[2]
Laid down: 20 January, 1887[3]
Launched: 19 July, 1888[4]
Commissioned: 26 December, 1889[5]
Wrecked: 2 November, 1899[6]
Fate: off Camiguin Island, Philippines
U.S.S. Charleston was a protected cruiser completed for the U.S. Navy in 1889.


Launched on 19 July, 1888 by Union Iron Works of San Francisco, sponsored by Mrs. A. S. Smith.


Charleston was commissioned on 26 December, 1889 with Captain George C. Remey in command.

Charleston cleared Mare Island Navy Yard 10 April 1890 to join the Pacific Squadron as flagship, cruising in the eastern Pacific. She carried the remains of King Kalakaua of Hawaii to Honolulu after his death abroad, and between 8 May and 4 June, 1891, took part in the search for the Chilean steamer Itata which had fled San Diego in violation of the American neutrality laws, enforced strictly during the Chilean Revolution. Between 19 August and 31 December, 1891, Charleston cruised in the Far East as flagship of the Asiatic Squadron, rejoining the Pacific Squadron in 1892 until 7 October, when she departed for the east coast, calling at a number of South American ports en route.

Charleston arrived in Hampton Roads on 23 February, 1893. From here she sailed with other American and foreign ships to the International Naval Review conducted at New York City on 26 April, 1893 as part of the Columbian Exposition. Taking the review was President Grover Cleveland aboard the Dolphin. In the summer of 1893, Charleston turned south to join the strong force patrolling the east coast of South America to protect American interests and shipping from disturbance during the Brazilian Revolution. After a leisurely cruise from Montevideo, Uruguay, she arrived in San Francisco on 8 July, 1894 to prepare for a return to the Asiatic Station. She cruised in the Far East until 6 June, 1896, when she steamed from Yokohama for San Francisco, where she was placed out of commission on 27 July, 1896.

Spanish-American War

Upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Charleston was quickly made ready for service and recommissioned on 5 May, 1898. Sixteen days later she sailed for Honolulu, where she was joined by three chartered steamers transporting troops. Charleston was sent to raise the American flag over Guam, then a Spanish possession. At daybreak on 20 June, the American ships arrived off the north end of Guam. Charleston investigated the harbor at Agana, then proceeded to Apra Harbor. Leaving the transports safely anchored outside, Charleston sailed into the harbor, firing a challenge at Fort Santa Cruz. Almost at once, a boatload of Spanish authorities came out to apologize for having no gunpowder with which to return the supposed salute. They were astounded to learn that a state of war existed, and that the American ships had come to take the island. The next day the surrender was received by a landing party sent ashore from the Charleston. With the Spanish governor and the island's garrison of 59 as prisoners in one of the transports, Charleston then sailed to join Admiral Dewey's fleet in Manila Bay.

She arrived at Manila on 30 June, 1898 to reinforce the victorious American squadron, now maintaining a close blockade of the Bay. Charleston joined in the final bombardment of 13 August, which brought about the surrender of the city of Manila. She remained in the Philippines through 1898 and 1899, bombarding insurgent positions to aid Army forces advancing ashore, and taking part in the naval expedition which captured Subic Bay in September 1899.

Inadequate charts ultimately caused heavier casualties to the U.S. Navy than the Spanish had managed when Charleston grounded on an uncharted reef near Camiguin Island, north of Luzon on 2 November, 1899. Although there were no deaths among her crew the Charleston herself was wrecked beyond salvage, and she was abandoned by her crew, who made camp on a nearby island, later moving on to Camiguin while the ship's sailing launch was sent for help. On 12 November, Helena arrived to rescue the shipwrecked men.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.



  • two 8-inch/35 caliber
  • six 6-inch/30 caliber
  • four 6-pounders
  • two 3-pounders
  • two 1-pounders
  • four 37mm Hotchkiss revolvers
  • two Gatling guns
  • four 14-inch torpedo tubes[15]

See Also


  1. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 151.
  3. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  4. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  5. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  6. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 449.
  7. Register of Officers, 1891. p. 6.
  8. Register of Officers, 1896. p. 6.
  9. List and Station, July 1898. p. 5.
  10. List and Station, July 1899. p. 5.
  11. Records of Living Officers (7th ed). p. 100.
  12. Records of Living Officers (7th ed). p. 100.
  13. List and Station, July 1899. p. 5.
  14. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 459.
  15. Never fitted, per Silverstone. The New Navy. p. 26.


  • Chesneau, Robert; Kolesnik, Eugene (editors) (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (2006). The U.S. Navy Warship Series: The New Navy 1883-1922. New York: Routledge.

Protected Cruiser U.S.S. Charleston
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