USS Reina Mercedes (IX-25)

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Reina mercedes.jpg
The Reina Mercedes.
United States
Namesake: Spanish Navy name retained; Queen Mercedes of Orléans (1860-1878) was the first wife of King Alfonso XII of Spain
Builder: Naval shipyard Cartagena, Spain
Launched: 12 September 1887
Commissioned: 17 July 1920 at Annapolis, Maryland
Decommissioned: 6 November 1957 at Annapolis, Maryland
Struck: 6 September 1957
Nickname(s): "Fastest Ship in the Fleet"
Honours and
Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) at Naval Station Annapolis named in her honor
Captured: 17 July 1898 in Cuba by U.S. Naval forces
Fate: Sold for scrapping
Notes: Served in the Spanish Navy as an unprotected cruiser from 1887 to 1898
General characteristics
Class & type: Alfonso XIIclass
  • In Spanish service, an unprotected cruiser
  • In U.S. Navy service, a non-self-propelled receiving ship
Displacement: 2,835 – 3,090 tons
  • 278 ft (85 m) (between perpendiculars)
  • 292 ft (89 m) (overall)
Beam: 43 ft 3 in (13.18 m)
Draught: 21 ft 11 in (6.68 m) (mean)
Propulsion: non-self-propelled in U.S. Navy service
Complement: 91
Armament: none in U.S. Navy service
Armor: none
Notes: Disarmed after capture and salvage by U.S. Navy; recommissioned as a non-self-propelled ship.

USS Reina Mercedes (IX-25) was an unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy which was captured in Cuba in 1898 by the U.S. Navy during the Spanish-American War. She was refurbished and used by the U.S. Navy as a non-self-propelled receiving ship at Newport, Rhode Island, and subsequently as a detention vessel and barracks ship for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, until 1957.

For an article on the technical characteristics and operational history of Reina Mercedes as a Spanish cruiser, see Spanish cruiser Reina Mercedes.

Captured by U.S. Navy forces[edit]

Sunken Reina Mercedes HD-SN-99-01947.JPEG

During the Spanish-American War, the ship Reina Mercedes served as a key defensive element of the Spanish defenses against the American blockade of Santiago harbor with four of her six 6.3" Hontoria guns and lighter guns being the teeth of the Spanish land batteries and the ship itself being the first layer of naval defense at the inner entrance of the mouth of the harbor. After the Spanish fleet had come out and been destroyed in the Naval battle of Santiago the Spanish Navy sank Reina Mercedes as a blockship in the entrance channel of the harbor at Santiago de Cuba, on the southeast coast of Cuba. The United States captured Reina Mercedes on 17 July 1898 when the Spanish defenses at Santiago de Cuba surrendered. The U.S. Navy decided to salvage Reina Mercedes, and the Merritt-Chapman & Scott company was engaged to raise her. Work began 2 January 1899 and she was again afloat on 1 March 1899.

Leaking considerably as she had been damaged by no less than three 13" shells from the USS Massachusetts and two 12" hits from the USS Texas when being sunk as a blockship, as well as having incurred significant damage incurred in earlier bombardments, the Reina Mercedes was towed to Norfolk Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia, arriving 27 May 1899 for temporary repairs. Departing Norfolk on 25 August 1900, again in tow, Reina Mercedes arrived at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, on 29 August 1900 for refitting.

Conversion efforts[edit]

It was first planned to convert the old cruiser to a seagoing training ship; but, after much delay, the Navy Yard received orders on 10 December 1902 to complete her as a non-self-propelled receiving ship. Departing Portsmouth, in tow 21 May 1905, Reina Mercedes was taken to Newport, Rhode Island, to be attached to the receiving ship USS Constellation; and, but for a visit to Boston, Massachusetts and to New York City in 1908, served there until 1912.

Midshipmen service[edit]

In early September 1912, Reina Mercedes was towed to Norfolk Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, by the tug USS Patuxent and collier USS Lebanon. After a major overhaul, she arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, on 30 September 1912 for duty there as station ship, replacing USS Hartford in that role. Reina Mercedes was designated an unclassified auxiliary vessel with hull number IX-25 on 17 July 1920.

From 1912 until 1957, USS Reina Mercedes served as the station ship at Annapolis, Maryland, with the exception of brief periods in 1916, 1927, 1939, and 1951 when she was towed to the Norfolk Navy Yard for docking and overhaul.

Until 1940 it was customary for United States Naval Academy midshipmen serving punishment to live and take their meals on board the old ship for up to two months at a time. She was never considered a "brig", as sometimes recalled, for the midshipmen continued to attend all drills and recitations afloat and ashore but were required to sleep in hammocks in the ship and to take their meals on board. This practice was abolished on 5 September 1940, when restriction of midshipmen to their rooms in Bancroft Hall was substituted as a disciplinary measure.

Her main function from 5 September 1940 was to serve as quarters for enlisted personnel assigned to the Naval Academy and for the Commander of the Naval Station, who was also captain of the ship. She also served as the headquarters for the Naval Academy's sailing activities and lookout and harbor control center. Until 1957, Reina Mercedes was humorously referred to as the "fastest ship in the fleet", as she remained tied fast to the Naval Academy seawall.

Because her commanding officer was provided with quarters on board for his entire family, Reina Mercedes was the only U.S. Navy ship on which dependents were permitted to live.

Flying the Spanish flag once again[edit]

For a brief moment in 1920, Reina Mercedes flew her former flag -- the flag of Spain -- as a gesture of friendship when the Spanish battleship Alfonso XIII called at Annapolis.

Final disposition[edit]

Necessary repairs in 1957 were estimated to be so costly that she was ordered broken up. Struck from the Navy list 6 September 1957, Reina Mercedes was decommissioned 6 November at Annapolis, and sold to Boston Metals Co., of Baltimore, Maryland, for scrapping.

Awards and honors[edit]

Because of the Academy’s pride when invoking the historic name Reina Mercedes, a newly designed and built Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) was named in her honor at Naval Station Annapolis.

See also[edit]

External references[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  • "Old Hoodoo" The Battleship Texas, America's First Battleship (1895-1911) Mark D. Cowan and Alan K. Sumrall 2011

External links[edit]