U.S.S. Maine (1889)

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U.S.S. Maine (1889)
Hull Number: ACR-1[1]
Builder: New York Navy Yard[2]
Laid down: 17 Oct, 1888[3]
Launched: 18 Nov, 1889
Commissioned: 17 Sep, 1895[4]
Exploded: 15 Feb, 1898[5]
Fate: Havana, Cuba
This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

U.S.S. Maine was a second-class armored battleship of the United States Navy which blew up at Havana, Cuba, becoming the causus belli for the Spanish-American War.


Maine was laid down at New York Navy Yard on 17 October, 1888. Initially designed and designated as an armored cruiser, she was redesignated a second-class battleship during construction.[6] Maine was launched on 18 November, 1889, sponsored by Miss Alice Tracy Wilmerding, granddaughter of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy.


Maine commissioned on 17 September, 1895 under the command of Captain Arent S. Crowninshield.

Maine departed New York Navy Yard 5 November 1895 for Newport, R.I., via Gardiner's Bay, New York, to fit out 16 to 23 November, and then proceeded on the 25th to Portland, Maine, to visit her namesake state. Maine then put to sea on the 29th on trials and inspection, being assigned to the North Atlantic Squadron 16 December, and sailing via Newport to Tompkinsville, New York, arriving 23 December. The ship sailed the next day for Fort Monroe, Virginia, arriving on Christmas Day. She operated out of that place and Newport News through June 1898 and then on the 4th sailed for Key West on a 2-month training cruise, returning to Norfolk 3 August. Maine continued extensive east coast operations until late 1897. Then the ship prepared for a voyage to Havana, Cuba, to show the flag and to protect American citizens in event of violence in the Spanish struggle with the revolutionary forces in Cuba.

On 11 December Maine stood out of Hampton Roads bound for Key West, arriving on the 15th. She was joined there by ships of the North Atlantic Squadron on maneouvers, then left Key West on 24 January, 1898 for Havana.

Arriving in Havana on 25 January, Maine anchored in the center of the port; she remained on vigilant watch, allowed no liberty, and took extra precautions against sabotage. Shortly after 2140, 15 February, the battleship was torn apart by a tremendous explosion that shattered the entire forward part of the ship. Out of 350 officers and men on board that night (4 officers were ashore), 252 were dead or missing. Eight more were to die in Havana hospitals during the next few days. The survivors of the disaster were taken on board Ward Line steamer City of Washington and Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. The Spanish officials at Havana showed every attention to the survivors of the disaster and great respect for those killed. The court of inquiry convened in March was unable to obtain evidence associating the destruction of the battleship with any person or persons, but public opinion in the United States was so inflamed that the Maine disaster led eventually to the declaration of war on Spain on 21 April.

Coincidence or Enemy Action?

Regarding the fatal explosion that destroyed the Maine, the public domain version of The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships states:

On 5 August 1910, Congress authorized the raising of Maine and directed Army engineers to supervise the work. A second board of inquiry appointed to inspect the wreck after it was raised reported that injuries to the ship's bottom were caused by an external explosion of low magnitude that set off the forward magazine, completing destruction of the ship. It has never been determined who placed the explosive, responsibility for the sinking of Maine remains one of the continuing enigmas of American history.

N. J. M. Campbell, responsible for the entries related to the U.S. Navy in Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905, writes that the verdicts of an external explosion "were not generally accepted outside the USA, and there seems little doubt that the explosion was internal and caused by decomposing propellant, though the spontaneous combustion of bituminous coal has also been considered the initial cause."[7]

Whatever the cause of the sinking, subsequent to the second board of inquiry the Maine's hulk was finally floated 2 February, 1912 and towed out to sea where it was sunk in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico with appropriate ceremony and military honors 16 March.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.

See Also


  1. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 450.
  2. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 418.
  3. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 418.
  4. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 418.
  5. Friedman. U.S. Battleships. p. 418.
  6. Friedman. U.S. Cruisers. p. 450.
  7. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 140.
  8. Register of Officers, 1896. p. 6.
  9. Register of Officers, 1898. p. 6.
  10. Register of Officers, 1898. p. 6.


Pre-dreadnought U.S.S. Maine
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