USS Bancroft (1892)

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The Bancroft, photographed by William H. Rau circa 1898
United States
Name: Bancroft
Namesake: George Bancroft, 17th Secretary of the Navy
Builder: Samuel L. Moore & Sons, Elizabethport, New Jersey[1][2]
Laid down: 1891
Launched: 30 April 1892
Commissioned: 3 March 1893
Decommissioned: 1905
Struck: 30 June 1906
Fate: Transferred to Revenue Cutter Service
United States
Name: Itasca
Namesake: Itasca was named for a lake located in central Minnesota.[3]
Acquired: 30 June 1906
Commissioned: 17 July 1907
Decommissioned: 11 May 1922
Fate: Sold in Baltimore, Maryland for $8250.00[1]
General characteristics
Type: Gunboat
Displacement: 839 long tons (852 t)
Length: 189 ft 5 in (57.73 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Draft: 12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)
Propulsion: 2 x triple expansion steam engine, twin screw[1]
Speed: 14.3 kn (16.5 mph; 26.5 km/h)
  • 130 (U.S. Navy)
  • 8 officers
  • 64 enlisted (U.S. Revenue Cutter Service) [1]
  • 4 × 4 in (100 mm) guns
  • 2 × 6 pounder (57 mm (2.24 in)) guns
  • 2 × 3 pounder (47 mm (1.85 in)) guns
  • 1 × 1 pounder (37 mm (1.46 in)) gun, 1 × 37-mm Hotchkiss revolving cannon
  • 1 × Gatling gun.[4]

USS Bancroft was a United States Navy steel gunboat, was laid down in 1891 at Elizabethport, New Jersey by Samuel L. Moore & Sons Shipyard and launched on 30 April 1892. She was commissioned on 3 March 1893 at the New York Navy Yard with Miss Mary Frances Moore as sponsor.[4]

U.S. Navy history[edit]

Naval Academy training ship[edit]

Bancroft was designated as a training ship for the United States Naval Academy midshipmen and stationed at Annapolis, Maryland. Similar in shape to a small gunboat, the ship had a steel hull and a relatively heavy armament, ranging from 4-inch rapid-fire guns to a Gatling gun and a torpedo tube, to give midshipmen experience on the Navy's latest weaponry. Between 1893 and 1896, she cruised along the east coast visiting various shipyards with groups of midshipmen embarked.[4] Naval expansion brought a corresponding increase on the Naval Academy's enrollment, and the Bancroft quickly proved to be too small. After the practice cruise of 1896 it was converted to a conventional gunboat with a reduced armament and the original three-masted barkentine rig cut down to the two masts of a brigantine.[3]


On 15 September 1896, she sailed to join the European Squadron and for the next 15 months protected American interests in the eastern Mediterranean.[4] Called home when Congress declared war upon Spain, Bancroft reached Boston, Massachusetts, on 4 April 1898 and served with the North Atlantic Squadron from 9 May–9 August. She convoyed troop transports to Cuba and was on blockade duty at Havana and the Isle of Pines. On 28 July, Bancroft seized the small schooner Ensenada de Cortez but returned the boat to her owner the next day because it was essentially valueless.[4]

Bancroft returned to Boston on 2 September and was placed out of commission on 30 September 1898. Recommissioned on 6 October 1902, she served until 1905 as a station ship at San Juan, Puerto Rico, cruising in the West Indies and the Panama coast during the war for independence between Columbia and Panama in 1903. During 1904 she returned to patrol duties in the West Indies. On 29 January 1905 Bancroft departed San Juan, Puerto Rico and steamed for New York Navy Yard where she spent a month. On 24 February she arrived at Norfolk, Virginia where she subsequently was placed out of commission on 2 March.[4] Bancroft was transferred to the Revenue Cutter Service on 30 June 1906, where she was renamed USRC Itasca.[1]

U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard history[edit]

School of Instruction[edit]

Itasca was refitted as a training vessel for the Revenue Cutter Service School of Instruction and commissioned 17 July 1907 where it was used for summer training cruises for the School of Instruction Corps of Cadets.[1][4] Initially homeported at Curtis Bay, Maryland, she made her first summer training cruise to Europe and the Mediterranean in 1907, also visiting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.[5] In 1909 the summer cruise included ports-of-call in Spain and Italy.[6] In 1910, the War Department vacated Fort Trumbull and Itasca was used along with her crew and students to move as much of the school as could be brought on board to the new School of Instruction location in New London, Connecticut.[7][8] When she was not being used as a training ship, Itasca was assigned relief duties for other Atlantic Coast cutters requiring yard availability for repairs.[9] After the start of World War I, cruises to Europe were suspended and the usual training cruises were interspersed with cruises that enforced the Neutrality Act in seaports along the east coast of the United States and Puerto Rico.[4][10][Note 1]

World War I[edit]

On 6 April 1917, the day Congress declared war on Germany, Itasca was in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico and prevented the interned German ship KD-III from being scuttled by her crew.[Note 2] Heroic efforts by the engineer division of Itasca managed to block the sabotaged sea valves in the engine room of KD-III even though the valves were under several feet of seawater. With the flooding finally under control, there was 14 ft (4.3 m) of water in the after hold and 18 ft (5.5 m) in the forward hold. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels commended the Itasca salvage team and gave the leader of the team, First Lieutenant (Eng.) Carl M. Green a special letter of commendation.[13] With the declaration of war, Itasca was reassigned to the Fourth Naval District headquartered at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and refit for anti-submarine service with the addition of three-inch rapid fire guns and a Y-gun for launching depth charges. She was assigned patrol duties from the southern New Jersey coast to the entrance of Delaware Bay based out of Cold Spring, New Jersey.[14] After the armistice, Itasca returned to the academy as a training vessel, but a shortage of personnel prevented her from being manned. Her last training cruise was completed during the summer of 1920 arriving in New London on 3 October.[4] A replacement training vessel, the former barkentine-rigged gunboat USS Vicksburg was acquired from the Navy on 1 July 1921 and renamed Alexander Hamilton on 18 August 1922.[15][16] Itasca was decommissioned and sold in Baltimore, Maryland for $8250.00 on 11 May 1922 to Mr. Charles A. Jarding.[3][4]


  1. ^ By Act of Congress, 28 January 1915, the United States Revenue Cutter Service merged with the United States Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard. After 28 January 1915 all cutter names prefixed with USRC were changed to USCGC. Thus, USRC Itasca became USCGC Itasca.[11]
  2. ^ The KD-III was the former 400 ft (120 m) British collier Farn which had been captured by the Imperial German Navy raider SMS Karlsruhe. The ship was renamed, manned with a German crew and used as a tender in support of the raider operations. KD-III developed engine problems in January 1915 and was forced to put into San Juan harbor where it was interned by the U.S. Government, which at the time was operating as a neutral party to the war in Europe. The German Navy crew were allowed to live aboard and were guarded by Puerto Rican National Guardsmen.[12]
  1. ^ a b c d e f Canney, p 62
  2. ^ Colton, Tim. "Samuel L. Moore & Sons". Shipyard Index. 
  3. ^ a b c Tilley, John. "Itasca, 1907 (Ex-USS Bancroft )". Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard-Manned Army & Navy Vessels. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mann, Raymond A. "Bancroft". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. 
  5. ^ King, p 176
  6. ^ King, p 179
  7. ^ Johnson, p 15
  8. ^ King, pp 179-180
  9. ^ King, p 183
  10. ^ Johnson, pp 42-43
  11. ^ When was the Coast Guard established? Coast Guard Historian's Office FAQ
  12. ^ Larzelere, p 188
  13. ^ Larzelere, pp 187-190
  14. ^ Larzelere, p 87
  15. ^ Canney, p 80
  16. ^ Johnson, p 64
References cited
  • "When was the Coast Guard established?" (asp). Coast Guard History FAQ. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  • Canney, Donald L. (1995). U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790–1935. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-101-1. 
  • Colton, Tim. "Samuel L. Moore & Sons". Shipyard Index. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  • Johnson, Robert Irwin (1987). Guardians of the Sea, History of the United States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-0-87021-720-3. 
  • King, Irving H. (1996). The Coast Guard Expands, 1865–1915: New Roles, New Frontiers. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-458-6. 
  • Larzelere, Alex (2003). The Coast Guard in World War I: An Untold Story. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland. ISBN 978-1-55750-476-0. 
  • Mann, Raymond A. "Bancroft". Naval History and Heritage Command, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  • Tilley, John. "Itasca, 1907 (Ex-USS Bancroft )" (asp). Cutters, Craft & U.S. Coast Guard-Manned Army & Navy Vessels. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 6 September 2013.