"The struggle will be short and decisive. The God of Victories will give us one as brilliant and complete as the righteousness and justice of our cause demanded." Spanish Captain-General Augusti from address to the Filipinos April 1898

The Naval Appropriations Bill of August 1886 was groundbreaking, as it for the first time provided for modern armored ships for the USN, the Maine and the Texas. However, this bill and these ships were not the birth of the modern American Steel Navy. That occurred three years earlier in 1883.

In 1881 the naval advisory board had looked into the possibility of the United States building an armored ship of up to 8,500 tons but had rejected the idea. The industrial infrastructure of the United States could not produce the armor plate, large caliber guns or other technologically advanced features of a major warship. Not only was the technology required beyond American shipyards but existing slips and docks were too small.

In stead the USN had to comfort itself with beginner’s ships. It was better to build ships of a substandard caliber and smaller dimensions, just for experience and to get yards used to building modern construction than to continue in the moribund state of the USN of 1881 with nothing other than rust and wood. The 1883 appropriations act actually had its genesis in the spring of 1881 when William H. Hunt became Secretary of the Navy at the start of the term of republican President James A. Garfield. He appointed a board to advise what new construction was needed by the navy. There was a quite a disagreement among its members as to what was needed but in the end they advised to start a very ambitious program of 68 steel warships. 

Hunt knew that he couldn’t sell that big of plan to Congress, then in the fall of 1881 Garfield was killed in an assassination. The presidential successor, Chester Arthur, used his elevation to the presidency to pay off old political debts and replaced Hunt as Secretary of the Navy with William E. Chandler. Hunt was made ambassador to Russia and he died at his post in 1884, two years before his vision of a modern steel navy started to come to fruition with the launching of the first modern steel cruiser, the USS Atlanta. This would not be the first time that politics would intervene drastically in the formation of a modern American steel navy, nor would it be the most serious intervention. If any American naval building program was fraught with political intervention and bungling it was the initial program of 1883. 

Congress would have none of a program for 68 ships, so the program was whittled down to a modest six cruisers and nine smaller ships. Even this was too grand for the isolationist Congress. The final bill authorized only two small cruisers to be paid out of existing naval funds with no extra money for their construction to be administered under a new committee. This last provision, instead of being a detriment was actually a benefit as the members of the new committee were more practical, realistic and had the temper of the current political environment. The new committee, headed by Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt, revised the plan by deleting the largest of the approved cruisers, added three even smaller cruisers and a dispatch boat, all to be paid out of additional construction funds. This bill passed almost intact. The final approved act called for the smallest of the two initial proposed cruisers, two of the smaller cruisers and the dispatch boat but with an additional $1,300,000 in construction funds. On March 3, 1883 this Bill was signed by President Arthur and the American Steel Navy was born.

These first four ships were called the ABCD ships because the names of the four ships started with those letters. The two small cruisers were Atlanta and Boston, the larger cruiser left over from the earlier attempt was Chicago and the dispatch boat was Dolphin. Secretary Chandler wanted to start on the ships as soon as possible so bids were solicited in May 1883 before the final plans had been developed. Because of this confusion some possible builders were frightened off, with good reason as it turned out. There were only eight bidders and only two, William Cramp of Philadelphia and John Roach of Chester, Pennsylvania bid on all four. John Roach was the low bidder on all four, as the Roach facility was the only one that had the infrastructure of rolling steel plates, hull construction and erecting machinery already in place. All four ships were given to Roach.

Although strictly in conformance with existing law, it was unfortunate that all four bids went to this one company. Since Roach was a friend of the Secretary of the Navy and had been involved in some earlier questionable dealings, the whole thing became a political football, which the Democratic party seized upon as an election issue. As construction started the Roach Yard experienced problems that had been predicted by minority of the first advisory committee. This was the first time that modern steel warships had been built for the USN and every step in the construction process presented new unexpected challenges. Steel plates were more difficult to produce than anticipated and the quality of the plates varied. Some were rejected as not meeting naval specifications. A fire at the Roach yard destroyed some of their critical machinery and it had to be replaced. Even during construction different naval boards kept changing requirements on the ships. 


Plan & Profile
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The smallest of the ships, the Dolphin was the first to be completed. Then, shortly after President Grover Cleveland and the Democratic party came to power in November 1884, the steel propeller shaft of Dolphin shattered during trials. The new Secretary of the Navy was a political hack named William C. Whitney who used minor deficiencies of the Dolphin to launch to outright attack the naval program and the Roach yards. Whitney refused to accept the Dolphin into the navy and refused to pay for it. What’s worse Whitney persuaded the Attorney General to call the entire contract with Roach for all four ships void. Work on all ships ceased and creditors besieged Roach demanding money, which the constructor did not have because of the improper actions of the Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General. Furthermore, the Attorney General threatened legal action against Roach to return the money the company had already received from the government.

That put an end to Roach. John Roach placed his company into bankruptcy and the New York World gleefully proclaimed; "John Roach’s career as a naval barnacle is ended." Whitney was dismayed to discover that even the biggest of the naval yards at New York was incapable of finishing the three cruisers’ hulls and engines. Roach had been right in the problems that he had presented to the navy and had been amply justified in his delays. Whitney seized the Roach yard and completed most of the work on the three cruisers there, under the supervision of navy constructors.

It was also realized that Whitney’s rejection of the Dolphin and the Attorney Generals voiding of the contract with Roach were completely improper. By then it was too late for the John Roach Shipyard. John Roach had died broken hearted and the company that he had founded was bankrupt, financially destroyed in the political hatchet job. One hack politician, appointed as Secretary of the Navy, along with the help of his fellow hack politician, appointed as Attorney General, had deliberately destroyed a shipyard for political purposes. In 1883 this yard was the most advanced in the nation. By 1886 it was no more. There is no telling what further contributions the John Roach Shipyard may have made to the progress of the American Steel Navy if no but for the misguided actions of Whitney et al. However, Whitney at least partially redeemed himself in pushing the rapid expansion of the American Steel Navy for the balance of his tenure as Secretary of the Navy. 







USS Boston Vital Statistics

DIMENSIONS: Length - 283 Feet (86.26m) oa: Beam - 42 Feet (12.80m): Draught - 17 Feet Mean (5.18m): 
DISPLACEMENT -
3,189 tons: ARMAMENT - Two 8-Inch/30; Six 6-Inch/30; Two 6 pdr; Two 3 pdr; Two 1 pdr; Two 47mm; Two 37mm

ARMOR: Belt - none; Protective Deck - 1 1/2 Inches, slope & flat: MACHINERY - Eight cyl boilers; One Shaft horizontal compound (HC) Engine 3,500ihp: 
Sail -
10,400 square feet: MAXIMUM SPEED - 13 knots under steam: COMPLEMENT - 19 Officers & 265 Ratings

The design for the two small cruisers to be named Atlanta and Boston was by Francis Bowles who had studied his trade Greenwich, England. Many features of the design were very similar to those found in the Armstrong export Elswick Cruisers. The design featured a cut back superstructure to allow a greater arch of fire for the echeloned 8-inch guns. William Watts a mentor of Bowles, and DNC of the Royal Navy, thought the design would cause too much blast damage to the superstructure. The pair were powered by a plant of 4,030 ihp and had a single screw. Capable of only 15 knots, they were far too slow for a cruiser design. On a displacement of 3,189 tons with an armament of two 8-inch and six 6-inch guns, the Atlanta Class started a trend for the USN, heavy armament in warship designs. The pair also featured a full brig sailing rig. Considering that the USA had no overseas ports or coaling facilities, it was considered imperative that sail be incorporated in the design. The two as well as the Chicago were protected cruisers. They had no side armor but did have 1 ½-inch armored deck, which in theory would protect the engine spaces and lower ship from damage and flooding. At the time of their design US industry was not capable of rolling steel plate belt armor.

In 1889 the A,B,C ships, plus gunboat Yorktown, were formed into the Squadron of Evolution and were used to train the officers and crews of the new Steel Navy in tactical and operational theories. They inaugurated the squadron’s formation by cruising as a squadron to Europe. By 1894 the ships were part of a much larger assemblage called the White Squadron after their paint schemes but by then new and better ships had come into the fleet and their defects were more apparent. Here is where the value of the cruisers came to the fore. They were the instruments that permitted the USN to train to the new standard of naval warfare in the age of steel, until newer and better ships were designed. They also allowed for US designers to cut their teeth in the designs of modern steel warships and started the designs of unique American origin, that would come to fruition with the first armored warship of the USN to be completed, the armored cruiser New York. However, their greatest value was in the realm of industrial capacity. In spite of the unfortunate fate of the John Roach Shipyard, they also provided the impetus for forging the industrial infrastructure that allowed the USN to be truly independent of foreign warship and armament manufacturers and this was accomplished with extraordinary speed. This happened not a moment too soon because at the end of the next decade the new American Steel Navy was tried in its first full test, the Spanish-American War. By then USS Boston was part of the American Asiatic Squadron.

As part of the naval preparations for the upcoming war, on February 25, 1898 the whole American Asiatic Squadron was concentrated at Hong Kong and to "keep full of coal." When war came Commodore Dewey had four protected cruisers; Olympia, Baltimore, Boston, Raleigh, two gunboats; Concord, Petrel ; a revenue cutter, the McCulloch and two colliers, Zafiro and Nanshan, which had been purchased from their British owners with their loads of coal. While at Hong Kong the Americans soon struck up friendships with their English hosts. The British had reports that Manila Bay was heavily mined and that the Spanish flotilla was further guarded by heavy shore batteries. 


Quarter Views & End On Views
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"The prevailing impression among even the military class in the colony was that our squadron was going to certain destruction. In the Hong Kong Club it was not possible to get bets, even at heavy odds, that our expedition would be a success, and this in spite of a friendly predilection among the British in our favor. I was told, after our officers had been entertained at dinner by a British regiment, that the universal remark among our hosts was to this effect: ‘A fine set of fellows, but unhappily we shall never see them again." - Commodore George Dewey – (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 176)

On Saturday April 23, 1898 a note from the Governor of Hong Kong was delivered to Dewey announcing that there was war between Spain and the United States. As Britain was neutral, all Spanish and American warships had to leave the British Crown Colony by 4:00 PM on April 25. Beneath the official message the governor had personally written, " God knows, my dear Commodore, that it breaks my heart to send you this notification." However, Dewey had prepared for this, he moved his squadron 30 miles from Hong Kong to Mirs Bay in the territorial waters of Imperial China. Dewey had correctly reasoned that China would not be quite as fast at declaring neutrality as Britain. Dewey used a Hong Kong tug, the Fame, as a dispatch vessel, chugging to and fro from Hong Kong and Mirs Bay. On the 25th the Fame brought orders for Dewey. "War has commenced between the United States and Spain. Proceed at once to Philippine Islands. Commence operations particularly against the Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Use utmost endeavour."

Since arriving at Hong Kong Dewey had constructed a make-shift spy system to flesh out the meager information that he had about the Spanish forces in the Philippines. One of the chief suppliers of information was O.F. Williams, American counsel in Manila. Dewey decided to await the arrival of Williams, who had been ejected from Manila, to get the latest information of the Spanish position. On the 27th the Fame arrived at Mirs Bay with Williams on board. That afternoon at 2:00 PM Olympia led the Asiatic Squadron out of Mirs Bay at set course for Manila. There were two columns. Olympia led the battleline, which steamed in the following order, Olympia, Baltimore, Raleigh, Petrel, Concord and Boston. McCulloch and the two colliers made up the second column. 


Hull Details
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"The cruisers were modern ships – not the Navy’s newest, but far from antiquated. They were a product of a shipbuilding program of some dozen years past in the last twilight of the days of fighting sail, when men-of-war were still propelled by a combination of canvas and steam. Tall masts and broad yards rose above the black smoke billowing from their stacks and swayed steeply over the water with every quartering sea." (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 177)

On the first day out, steaming at a leisurely eight knots, due to the slow, heavily laden colliers, the squadron practiced battle-drills and jettisoned all wooden fittings and furnishings to lessen the chance of fire. On the second day Dewey had posted on each of his ships a copy of the announcement of the Spanish Captain-General Augusti of the Philippines, which had arrived as the squadron sailed. 

"Spaniards: Between Spain and the United States of North America hostilities have broken out. The moment has arrived to prove to the world that we possess the spirit to conquer those who, pretending to be loyal friends, take advantage of our misfortunes and abuse our hospitality, using means which civilized nations count unworthy and disreputable.

The North American people, constituted of all the social excresences, have exhausted our patience and provoked war with their perfidious machinations, with their acts of treachery, with their outrages against the law of nations and international conventions.

The struggle will be short and decisive. The God of Victories will give us one as brilliant and complete as the righteousness and justice of our cause demanded.

Spain, which counts upon the sympathies of all nations, will emerge triumphant from this new test, humiliating and blasting the adventurers from those United States that, without cohesion, without history, offer humanity only infamous traditions and ungrateful spectacles in her chambers, in which appear insolence, defamation, cowardice, and cynicism.

Her squadron manned by foreigners, possessing neither instructions nor discipline, is preparing to come to this archipelago with the ruffianly intention of robbing us of all that means life, honor and liberty. Pretending to be inspired by a courage of which they are incapable.

American seamen undertake as an enterprise capable of realization the substitution of Protestantism for the Catholic religion, to treat you as tribes refractory to civilization, to take possession of your riches as if they were unacquainted with the rights of property, and to kidnap those persons who they consider useful to man their ships or to be exploited in agricultural or industrial labor.

Vain designs, ridiculous boastings! Your indomitable bravery will suffice to frustrate the realization of their designs. You will not allow the faith that you profess to be made a mockery or impious hands to be placed on the temple of the true God, the images you adore thrown down by unbelief. The aggressors shall not profane the tombs of your fathers, they shall not gratify their lustful passions at the cost of your wives’ and daughters’ honor, or appropriate the property that our industry has accumulated as a provision for your old age.

They shall not perpetrate their crimes, inspired by their wickedness and covetousness, because you valor and patriotism will suffice to punish a base people that are claiming to be civilized and cultivated. They have exterminated the natives of North America, instead of giving them civilization and progress.

Filipinos, prepare for the struggle, and, united under the glorious Spanish flag, which is covered with laurels, fight with the conviction that victory will crown your efforts, and to the calls of your enemies oppose the decision of a Christian and a patriot, and cry ‘Viva Espana!" (The Story of the War of 1898, by Nephew King 1898, pages 60 & 61).

The effect on the crews of Dewey’s ships was electric. That night, among other songs played by the band of the Olympia, they played "There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight!" (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 179


Hull Details
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In spite of the proclamation of the Captain-General, Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasaron, commander of the Spanish Philippine squadron had no illusions of the chances of his collection of relics against Dewey’s cruisers. The Governor-General had advised him to make up for his material deficiencies with "zeal and activity". He first moved to Subic Bay, which was to the northeast of Manila with a much narrower channel than the main anchorage at Manila. At Subic he discovered that only five of the fourteen mines were in place and the 5.9-inch guns that he thought were guarding the channel were still on the beach. Since the water depth was 40 meters, he took his ships back to Manila because he decided that if he was going to be sunk it would be better if it happened in shallow waters.

On the morning of the 30th the American Asiatic Squadron arrived off Luzon. Dewey ordered Boston and Concord to steam ahead on reconnaissance of Subic Bay. Later, when it was thought that gunfire was heard, Dewey dispatched Baltimore as reinforcement for Boston and Concord. At 3:30 PM the squadron turned the southwest cape of Luzon and found the three advance ships off an abandoned Subic Bay. Dewey was relieved because he considered Subic Bay a much tougher nut to crack than Manila Bay. That night Olympia led the squadron in forcing the straits of Boca Grande between Corregidor and the mainland. This was where the squadron was most vulnerable. Dewey doubted reports that the channel was mined as he considered the task too difficult to properly accomplish but he was acutely concerned with shore batteries on Corregidor. Nothing seemed to happen though. The cruisers were already in Manila Bay when accumulated soot in the stack of McCulloch ignited into a pillar of fire. The Spanish shore battery opened up and Boston, Concord, Raleigh and McCulloch answered. The Spanish fired three times with no hits before a shell from Boston silenced them. 

Now into Manila Bay the squadron slowed in order to arrive at Manila at first light. The Spanish squadron was sighted at Cavite naval station and the Asiatic Squadron closed. Spanish land batteries at Cavite and Manila opened up but missed as all of their shells were over-shots. Boston and Concord did some counter-battery firing but soon ceased after two shells each in order to save their ammunition for the Spanish squadron. At 5:40 AM the two squadrons were separated by 5,400 yards and Dewey turned to the captain of the Olympia and declared, "You may fire when read,y Gridley." The American squadron, firing its port batteries, closed to 3,000 yards and steamed parallel to the Spanish. An aide to Dewey spotted a Spanish torpedo boat steaming out of Cavite, headed across the American Squadron’s path. "You look after her, I have no time to bother with torpedo boats. Let me know when you’ve finished with her." The QF guns and even the Marine riflemen of Olympia opened fire on the hapless torpedo boat and she was soon driven ashore. After Olympia cleared the Spanish line she executed an 180 degree turn, followed by the rest of the squadron, and went back to engage with their starboard batteries.

Although the American shelling was making itself felt, it was not a completely one-sided contest. The guns of the Spanish squadron and the shore batteries were obtaining hits but the American ships were lucky that no hit was critical. "The Boston received a shell in her port quarter. It burst in Ensign Doddridge’s stateroom and caused a hot fire, as did also one that burst in the port hammock netting; but both of these fires were quickly extinguished. One shell passed through the Boston’s foremast, just in front of Captain Wildes on the bridge." (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 186) After again steaming past the Spanish squadron, the Americans executed another 180 degree turn to steam in a third pass past the Spanish. Most of the Spanish ships were on fire by now but still fighting. After the third pass Dewey prepared to make a fourth run when the Spanish flagship, Reina Cristina was sighted steaming out into the bay to attack Olympia. In spite of her gallant challenge, Reina Cristina was doomed and shot to pieces by concentrated fire at the range of 1,200 yards. At that range shells could be followed all the way to their impact on the Spanish cruiser. She turned to shore and shallow water.

"The ship being beyond control, the hull, smokepipe, and mast riddled with shot, the confusion occasioned by the cries of the wounded, half the crew out of action, among whom were seven officers, I gave the order to sink and abandon the ship before the magazine should explode, making signal at the same time to the Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon to assist in saving the rest of the crew, which they did." -Admiral Montojo- (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 187)

In making ready for a fifth pass, Dewey received alarming news. Olympia was down to 15 rounds per five-inch gun, about five minutes worth at the present rate of expenditure. The nearest resupply of ammunition was 7,000 miles away. Since the Spanish were still fighting, even though on fire, Dewey had the squadron draw off into the Bay to redistribute ammunition. At the same time he called his captains aboard the Olympia and ordered breakfast for the crews, which created an impression that he had paused the action for breakfast rather than because of the dire ammunition situation. "For God’s sake, captain,’ one gunner cried, ‘don’t let us stop now! To hell with breakfast!" (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 187) Total casualties in the squadron were six wounded, all on Baltimore, and none killed, although the chief engineer of McCulloch had died the night before in the Channel of Boca Grande of heat prostration. 


Boston with Dry-Fitted Parts
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The break in the battle lasted three and a half hours but during this time fires reached the ammunition most of the Spanish ships, resulting in frequent explosions. When the Asiatic squadron headed back in at 11:16 after the redistribution of ammunition, only the Don Antonio de Ulloa was able to resume the fight among the Spanish squadron. Ulloa and the shore batteries opened fire but by 12:30 Ulloa was sunk and the Cavite shore batteries surrendered. The Manila batteries were still taking pot shots at the American warships and Dewey sent a message to the Spanish commander that if another shot was fired by these batteries, he would destroy Manila. The Spanish agreed to a cease fire. Since the Spanish refused to allow Dewey to use the cable to Hong Kong Dewey had Zafiro dredge it up and cut it. Now Manila was cut off from communications with the outside world for both sides. With the cease fire the city had virtually surrendered and the colonel commanding the coastal batteries, feeling disgraced and dishonored at the failure of the batteries to stop the American squadron, shot himself.

The last report sent out by Manila’s cable before it was cut, was during the American pause, from the captain-general of Manila to Madrid. "Our fleet engaged the enemy in brilliant combat, protected by the Cavite and Manila forts. They obliged the enem,y with heavy loss, to maneuver repeatedly. At 9 o’clock the American squadron took refuge behind the foreign merchant shipping, on the east side of the bay. Our fleet, considering the enemy’s superiority, naturally suffered severe loss….There was considerable loss of life." (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 189) For the next week there was only silence from Manila. At first American newspapers were jubilant. Spain’s Asiatic Fleet Destroyed by Dewey" New York Harold "Victory Complete!…Glorious!….The Maine is Avenged." New York Journal. These headlines were not based on any information or facts and entirely fabricated. By the end of the week nervousness had set in. Reports from Europe claimed that five American ships had been sunk. Great Nervousness Is Felt in Washington Because Nothing is Heard from Dewey." "Not a Word from Dewey." New York Sun. Still No News from Dewey." Chicago Tribune.

Then the word broke. A reporter who had been aboard the McCulloch arrived in Hong Kong and cabled, "I have just arrived here on the United States revenue cutter McCulloch with my report of the great American triumph at Manila. The entire Spanish fleet of eleven vessels was destroyed. Three hundred Spaniards were killed and four hundred wounded. Our loss was none killed and six slightly wounded. Not one of the American ships was injured." (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 189) This first report beat the official report by five hours because the official report was sent in code and had to be carefully checked at each relay to ensure that it was reported correctly. When the Secretary of the Navy came forward to release a censored version of the report, it was discovered that the newsmen already had the complete report, leaked to them by the Assistant Secretary, Theodore Roosevelt in his last act before going off with his Rough Riders.

America was overjoyed and Europe was stunned. "American jubilance was matched by European incredulity. The truth, of course, was that Spain’s failure to make even minimal defensive preparations at Manila had been a major factor in Dewey’s victory, but such gross negligence was beyond belief. It was easier to accept the idea that the United States has suddenly become one of the world'’ great naval powers, in the same league as England, France and Germany. But only in England was that conclusion drawn with pleasure." (The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, at page 190-191


Boston with Dry-Fitted Parts
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After the war the Boston as well as the Atlanta had their sailing rig deleted. The fighting tops were removed and crow’s nests substituted in their stead. They were further rearmed with rapid fire guns to serve in a gunboat role. Atlanta was sold in 1912 but Boston had a long run. She became a receiving ship at San Francisco and in 1946 was towed to sea and sunk after 59 years of service. (History from The American Steel Navy by John Alden, The Naval Annual 1899, The Spanish War, An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O’Toole 1984, The Story of the War of 1898, by Nephew King 1898)

The Commanders/Iron Shipwright USS Boston
Commanders/Iron Shipwright will shortly release a 1:350 scale, one-piece full hull model of the protected cruiser, USS Boston. In this review you can see almost all of the components but not all of them. This is a pre-production sample, so you won’t see everything. The photographs show the hull, most of the smaller pieces and the brass photo-etch fret designed for the Boston. However, certain smaller pieces, such as the stacks and searchlights were not available and the instructions are not complete.

With any warship of the last part of the 19th Century the design started and ended with the hull. Designs during this time had minimal superstructure but a lot of fittings, creating great deck clutter. The hull casting of the ISW Boston is simply scrumptious. This is because of the design of the cruiser itself. With the echeloned 6-inch positions, cut back superstructure, strongly curving sides amidships and narrow deck amidships, the model has enough architectural quirks and dead ends to satisfy even the most jaded model warship builder even remotely interested in the warship designs present at the birth of the American Steel Navy. The hull is unique in appearance from any other and is an instant attention grabber.

Starting with the bow there are interesting aspects with every inch of deck. There are eight anchor chain hawse, four where the chain exits the cable locker and four exiting the hull, all of which are already hollowed out. The fittings for the exit over the cable locker even appear to have rollers. All you need to do is add the right size chain. Typical of ship of the period, there are anchor billboards for catting home the anchors. A capstan, small deck structures and other fittings are all dominated by the large circular open gun position off set to the port. 








THE AMERICAN STEEL NAVY

The American Steel Navy written by John D. Alden, Commander USN Retired, is a superb reference volume on the birth of the American steam and steel fleet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The subtitle is "A photographic History of the U.S. Navy from the Introduction of  the Steel Hull in 1883 to the Cruise of the Great White Fleet, 1907-1909" It covers all of the ships of the USN in this period, including odd designs such as the armored ram and pneumatic dynamite gun cruiser, whose 15-Inch fixed guns propelled their dynamite charges with compressed air. Of course all of the torpedo boats, torpedo boat destroyers, cruisers and predreadnoughts are included. It is a large book of 395 pages filled with large beautiful photographs and a very readable text. It was published in 1972 and is long out of print but copies can frequently be found on abebooks and other used book web sites. An essential title for this period.
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As nice as the features of the bow are, the amidships features are simply fascinating in their bizarre appearance. The superstructure breaks upward from the forecastle and the forward bulkhead is cut away to the starboard in an effort to provide a greater arc of fire. Perched like a stone turret of an old Spanish fort is the conning tower, overhanging the forecastle, slightly to port of centerline, with armored shutters. Right behind that is the location for the foremast and behind that the pilot house. There are secondary gun positions jutting out from the hull on either side. The strongest feature among this host of the odd and the strange are the strongly curved edges of the hull, which curve inward to a very narrow deck amidships. There are a series of boat chocks for six boats, three per side, on the curved area, outboard of the deck.

The narrow amidships deck has a series of low deck houses, one behind the other, aft of the pilot house. All of these have beveled square ventilator fittings. The first two are the bases for the two stacks. Each position is unique with the first being equipped with two winches, the second with ventilator louvers and the third fitted for the largest of the J-ventilators. With deck hatches and other smaller fittings, the amidships deck, although narrow, is very busy.

Finally you get to the quarterdeck with its own unique features. You run across another eight-inch gun position, this time off set on the starboard with the superstructure bulkhead cut away to starboard. Two lines of coal scuttles then run to the stern. Centerline are positions for deck hatches and ventilator louvers. Smaller fittings include another capstan and bollards on the deck edges.

The hull sides also have interesting detail. Starting with the bow, you’ll see a horizontal reinforcing strip on the ram bow. Further, the hull has a horizontal strake running the length of the hull. Of course for a late 19th Century warship, there is plenty of scroll-work in a band and the prowl with an American shield centered on the bow. There are two sets of climbing rungs on each side, one set forward and one set aft. Amidships is especially interesting because of the different secondary gun positions and the strong turtle-backed appearance caused by the rounded hull/deck intersection. There are three distinctive styles on each side. At the start and end of the superstructure are copulas for four of the 6-inch/30 secondary guns. These protrude from the ship and have searchlights affixed to their tops. The other two of the six-inch guns are situated on either side of the hull amidships in their own unique positions. There are three prominent tertiary gun positions on each side of the hull. I assume they are tertiary positions, as I did not notice deck positions for the two 6-pounder, two 3-pounder and two 1-pounder tertiary guns carried by the cruiser. However it is the very rounded upper hull with the vertical deck bulkheads set well inboard. The boat chocks at deck edge also curve down onto the hull sides, which also adds to the unique appearance. The stern presents a very strong 19th century appearance. The stern tapers in and forwards dramatically ending in a vertical skeg for the single propeller.


Some of the Smaller Parts
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The hull did have some defects. Most of these are common with other Commanders/Iron Shipwright kits, due to the way they cast the hull. The hull is cast upside down in a pressure tank. Bubbles in the resin rise to the top. Small bubbles get trapped at the top of the mold resulting in small voids along the bottom of the hull. These however, do not show when the model is completed. However, the bilge keels are fittings that do show. It is common for small air bubbles to be trapped in the bilge keel of the mold creating voids in the keel. These will require filling with putty, or if small enough with super-glue gel. I personally would rather have thicker bilge keels than having to fill the voids or have separate bilge keels to attach to the hull. A third common defect results from small air bubbles that often get trapped in small deck fittings that are integral to the hull casting, such as capstans. ISW has separate capstans for those that wish to remove them from the hull and add separate capstans.

Smaller Parts
Other than the masts there is little top hamper on the Boston. The masts are the original full sailing rig with large half-moon fighting tops. You may want to substitute Evergreen plastic rod or brass rod for the masts. Long thin resin parts such as masts are very susceptible to being warped. I did not receive a full set of smaller parts with this sample copy, so you will not see all of the parts. There seemed to be some of the parts to the masts missing in that I didn’t receive yardarms. I also didn’t get the stacks or searchlights. Since the instructions were not ready, it was not possible to do an inventory of all of the smaller parts that will be included in the production kit. Since this is full masted, rigging much more extensive than normal.

The open eight-inch /30 guns are very attractive pieces. If stubby banded guns on open carriages appeal to you, you’ll like the ISW Boston. There are also plenty of ventilator cowls for the narrow amidships deck. You’ll see three 4-bladed propellers in the photographs but only one is used in the build. ISW normally supplies extra numbers of the smaller parts. This comes in handy because some of the smaller parts will occasionally need replacement. The thin propeller blades seem to be one of the parts most susceptible for voids caused by captured air bubbles. Of course if any of the parts of a Commanders/Iron Shipwright kit needs to be replaced, give Ted Paris a call and he will send them to you at no expense to you.


Brass Photo-Etched Fret
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The brass fret is dominated by ratlines. Both masts have lower and upper ratlines, which will provide the interesting steam/sail combination. The railings provided by ISW in their Great White Fleet range are customed designed for railing runs to be matched specifically to their particular positions on the model. This eliminates cutting generic railing to the right length and makes it much faster and easier to assemble. Ship’s wheels, boat oars, Maxim machine guns are on the fret, plus some items that I could not identify. There are flat gun shields for the 8-Inch main armament. Originally completely open, the ordnance was fitted with an angled armor plate as in the title photograph. Later Atlanta at least, was fitted with more complete gun shielding as in photograph in vital statistics section. Four scaffold positions that are normally for searchlights are present as well unusual plates and with which I am unfamiliar. The boat davits in two styles are on the brass fret, which is much nicer than overly thick resin davits. Lastly there are plenty of inclined ladders in two lengths and vertical ladder.

Verdict
This is not the finished kit, however the unique hull casting alone makes this kit a winner. The production kit will be released as soon as Ted finishes the instructions, dots some I’s, crosses some T’s, and finds a spot on the production schedule crammed with new models, most of which have not been announced. The original USS Boston may have been a second class cruiser with some serious design problems used to jump-start the warship construction industry in the United States, but esthetically the ship is loaded with character. That character is captured by Commanders/Iron Shipwright in this kit. If you like the period you’ll probably like this model. The hull casting of the USS Boston is one of my favorites because of the curious architecture and to me, this bizarre architecture and turtle-backed appearance are the big selling points. The USS Boston may have been at the tail end of Dewey’s battle-line at the Battle of Manila Bay but it sure that it will not be at the rear of your collection.

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