Sacramento Class (US):
The successors to the Hartford
class of armored cruisers were the three ships of the Sacramento
class and were designed from the keel up to reflect BurC&R’s new direction under the leadership of Richard Tallmadge. They also started the pattern of US armored (and later battle) cruisers “partnered” with a battleship class – in this case the Vermont
class pre-dreadnoughts with which the new ships shared many design features. Three were authorized in 1900, USS Sacramento
(ACR-11), USS Boston
(ACR-12), and USS Lincoln
(ACR-13). They were all laid down in 1901, were launched in 1903 and commissioned during 1904.
class was 418 feet long overall, with a 65 foot beam and a nominal draft of 23 feet. They displaced 13,125 tons normal and 14,030 tons full load. They were armed with four 10”/45 Mk.6 guns in two twin turrets, eight 8”/45 Mk.4’s in four twin turrets amidships, a tertiary battery of fourteen 6”/45 Mk.7 quick-firing guns in hull-mounted casemates and were the last major US ships with a 6-pounder anti-torpedo boat battery, of which eight in open deck mounts were fitted. Three submerged 18” torpedo tubes, one to port and starboard and one aft completed the weapons suite. Three triple-expansion engines producing a combined 20,230 horsepower propelled these ships to a design speed of 20 knots, while range was increased to 7,000 nautical miles. Armor comprised a 7” belt tapering to 5” at bow and stern, a 3” armored deck, 8” main turrets with 11” barbettes, 6” secondary turrets and barbettes, 5” casemates, and a 7” conning tower – all of new Krupp type steel. Crew complement was 704.
After commissioning the new ships were initially assigned to Caribbean Station based in Hispaniola but were transferred to the Pacific Fleet with the outbreak of the Western Pacific War. Two; Sacramento
, were sunk during the conflict. After the war ended, the surviving ship; USS Boston
, served with second-line forces until she was retired and scrapped in 1922.
Olympia class (US):
The largest class of armored cruisers built for the USN, the six-ship Olympia
class consisted of USS Olympia
(ACR-14), USS Denver
(ACR-15), USS Harrisburg
(ACR-16), USS Columbus
(ACR-17), USS Lansing
(ACR-18), and USS Augusta
(ACR-19). A modified Sacramento
design, they were paired with the New Hampshire
class battleships and like their predecessors, shared some design features, albeit not as many as had the Sacramento
class with the Vermont’s
. Authorized in late 1901, they were laid down between 1903 and 1904, were launched 1905-06, and commissioned between 1906 and 1907.
were 426 feet long, with a 65 foot beam and a nominal draft of 24 feet. They displaced 14,225 tons normal and 15,145 tons full load. They were armed with four 10”/45 Mk.6’s in two twin turrets, eight 8”/45 Mk.5’s in four twin wing turrets, sixteen casemate-mounted 6”/45 Mk.7’s, eight 3”/45 Mk.1’s, and four submerged 18” torpedo tubes. The only US cruisers powered by quad expansion engines; three five-cylinder units rated at a total of 25,670 horsepower propelled these ships to a design speed of 21 knots – which was frequently exceeded in service; USS Denver
recording a speed of 22.4 knots in calm seas off Hawaii in 1909. Range on 2,070 tons of coal was 7,000 nautical miles. Armor comprised a 7” belt tapering to 5” at bow and stern, 3” armored deck, 8” main turrets with 11” barbettes, 6” secondary turrets and barbettes, 5” casemates, and a 8” conning tower. Crew complement was 748.
After entering service, the new cruisers were split between the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets for most of their careers, with one, USS Harrisburg
, sunk during the Western Pacific War. Modernized during 1920-21, the remaining ships were fitted with oil-fired boilers among other improvements. Serving in second-line squadrons during the War of the Americas, USS Lansing
was lost to a Confederate minefield in 1926. The four surviving members of this class were all retired within a year of the end of the War in 1927 and were scrapped between 1928 and 1930.
Providence class (US):
The next class of US armored cruisers – the Providence
class – was essentially larger, turbine powered versions of the Olympia
class – although they did share some features of their contemporaries the North Dakota
class of battleships. Deemed experimental by the conservative Secretary of the Navy Harrison Reed, only two ships of this design; USS Providence
(ACR-20) and USS Charleston
(ACR-21) were authorized. Laid down in 1905, both ships had commissioned by the end of 1908.
class was 468 feet long overall, with a 67 foot beam and a nominal draft of 24 feet. They displaced 15,075 tons normal and 17,000 tons full load. Their armament suite was identical to the earlier Olympia
class – although more updated guns were used. A quad propeller shaft system appeared for the first time in a US heavy warship and used Avondale direct-drive steam turbines producing 30,150 shaft horsepower – allowing these ships to easily meet and slightly exceed their design speed of 22 knots. Range was increased to 8,000 nautical miles while armor protection was improved with an 8” belt, 9” main turrets, and 9” conning tower. Crew complement stood at 782.
Completed too late to see action in the Western Pacific War, the new cruisers served in the peacetime fleet and were modernized in 1920-22 with oil-fired boilers. Charleston
was sunk in 1925 during the War of the Americas while convoy raiding in the Gulf of Mexico. Providence
was damaged by the Confederate submarine H.XIX
in early 1927 and was still under repair when the conflict ended. She served in the postwar fleet another two years before being decommissioned in the fall of 1930.
Helena (Potomac) class (US):
The “Great Experiment”; the Helena
class were either the last US armored cruisers or the country’s first battlecruisers – depending on who you asked. Overlooked in the heated argument over the building of true dreadnoughts taking place between Secretary Reed and BuC&R Chief Tallmadge, the new ships were originally intended to be larger, more heavily armed versions of the Providence
class, but information leaked out of Great Britain changed all that. The British Dreadnought
would soon send shockwaves through the battleship community worldwide and intelligence on the next of “Jackie” Fisher’s designs – what would become the Invincible
class of battlecruisers – was promising to render obsolete the armored cruiser. Tallmadge therefore set his senior designers to work on an “all big-gun” armored cruiser which would nevertheless share some design cues with the much-maligned Oregon
class semi-dreadnoughts. By late 1905, and under the nose of Secretary Reed, the design was frozen and two ships had been authorized by Congress. USS Helena
(ACR-22) was laid down in 1906 and her sister-ship, USS Salt Lake City
(ACR-23) the following year.
class was the longest US warships built to that point; 515 feet overall, and had a 69 foot beam with a normal draft of 28 feet. They displaced 19,200 tons normal and 21,520 tons full load. Main armament consisted of twelve 10”/45 Mk.7 guns in six twin turrets; one forward, two port and two starboard wing positions, and one aft. Secondary guns were sixteen casemate mounted 6”/45 Mk.8’s with a tertiary battery of ten 3”/45 Mk.2’s in open deck mounts in the superstructure and like their predecessors, mounted four submerged 18” torpedo tubes. The Helena’s
were the fastest US capital ships of their time – four direct-drive turbines producing 55,080 shaft horsepower drove these ships to a design speed of 25 knots while range increased to 9,000 nautical miles. They also proved to be very maneuverable thanks to their tandem rudders. Armor comprised an 8” belt tapering to 6” at bow and stern, a 3” armored deck, 10” main turrets with 12” barbettes, 5” casemates, and a 9” conning tower. Crew complement was 937.
Commissioned in 1909-10, the new ships were immediately compared not only to the British battlecruisers, but also Germany’s Von der Tann
, then under construction. Although they carried lighter guns than either of the European ships, they had heavier armor and were just as fast as the Invicible’s
and their successors; the Indefatigable
class. They were considered equal to two contemporary armored cruisers and outgunned any Confederate example as they were somewhat better protected as well as faster and longer ranged. Unsurprisingly, the CSN’s Gettysburg
class was a direct response to the US ships with even heavier 12” guns.
Modernized during 1919-20, the two ships were officially reclassified as battlecruisers (CB prefix) under the new classification system adopted in 1920. They were also renamed shortly thereafter to release their names for new heavy cruisers, becoming USS Potomac
), and USS Constellation
(CB-2, ex-Salt Lake City
) under the nomenclature of naming battlecruisers after famous ships of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 era (itself a nod to the Brandywine
class of armored frigates) which began with the Ranger
class of 1912.
Like all US battlecruisers, the ships were utilized during the War of the Americas primarily as heavy scouts and to run down Confederate cruisers, but not as support ships for the battle-line as they were considered too slow and lightly armed for that mission. Both survived the War and served in the peacetime fleet until mid-1931, when they were decommissioned.