USS Wisconsin (BB-9)

USS Wisconsin, Fourth Divisional Flagship, Great White Fleet (1901).

USS Wisconsin (BB-9), an Illinois-class battleship, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the 30th state.

USS Wisconsin (B-9), Under Construction

USS Wisconsin, under construction by Union Iron Works (1897)

The keel of Battleship No. 9 was laid down on February 9th, 1897 at San Francisco, California, by the Union Iron Works. She was launched on November 26th, 1898, sponsored by Miss Elizabeth Stephenson, the daughter of Senator Isaac Stephenson of Marinette, Wisconsin, and commissioned on February 1901, Captain George C. Reiter in command.

Pre-World War I

Departing San Francisco on March 12th, 1901, Wisconsin conducted general drills and exercises at Magdalena Bay, Mexico from March 17th – April 11th, before she returned to San Francisco on April 15th to be drydocked for repairs. Upon completion of that work, Wisconsin headed north along the Western seaboard, departing San Francisco on May 28th and reaching Port Orchard, Washington on June 1st. She remained there for nine days before heading back toward San Francisco.

She next made a voyage in company with Oregon, Iowa, Philadelphia, and Farragut to the Pacific Northwest, reaching Port Angeles, Washington on June 29th. She then shifted to Port Whatcom, Washington on July 2nd, and participated in July 4th observances there before she returned to Port Angeles the following day to resume her scheduled drills and exercises. Those evolutions kept the ship occupied through mid-July. Following repairs and alterations at the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington from July 23rd – October 14th, Wisconsin sailed for the middle and southern reaches of the Pacific, reaching Honolulu, Hawaii on October 23rd. After coaling there, the battleship then got underway for Samoa on October 26th and exercised her main and secondary batteries en route to her destination.

Reaching the naval station at Tutuila on November 5th, Wisconsin remained in that vicinity – along with Abarenda and Solace – for a little over two weeks. Shifting to Apia, the scene of the disastrous hurricane of 1888, Wisconsin hosted the Governor of German Samoa before the man-of-war departed that port on November 21st, bound for the coastal waters of Central and South America via Hawaii.

Wisconsin reached Acapulco, Mexico, on Christmas Day 1901, and remained in port for three days. After coaling, the man-of-war twice visited Callao, Peru, and also called at Valparaiso, Chile, before she returned to Acapulco on February 1902.

Wisconsin exercised in Mexican waters at Pichilinque Bay and Magdalena Bay from March 6th-22nd, carrying out an intensive and varied slate of exercises that included small-arms drills, day and night main battery target practices, and landing force maneuvers. She conducted further drills of various kinds as she proveeded up the west coast, touching at Coronado, California, San Francisco, and Port Angeles before she reached the Puget Sound Navy Yard on June 4th.

This battleship underwent repairs and alterations until August 11th. She then conducted gunnery exercises off Tacoma, Washington, and Seattle, Washington, before she returned to the Puget Sound Navy Yard on August 29th for further work. She remained there until September 12th, when she sailed for San Francisco, en route to Panama.

Wisconsin, as flagship, Pacific Squadron, with Rear Admiral Silas Casey embarked, arrived at Panama, Colombia on September 30th, to protect American interests and to preserve the integrity of transit across the isthmus. Casey offered his services as a mediator in the Thousand Days War, which had lasted for three years and invited leaders fo both factions, Conservatives and Liberals, to meet onboard Wisconsin. Over succeeding weeks – through October and into November – prolonged negotiations ensued. Ultimately, however, the warring sides came to an agreement, and signed a treaty on November 21st. The accord came to be honored, in Colombian circles, as “The Peace of Wisconsin“. When Rear Admiral Henry Glass, Admiral Casey’s successor as Commander in Chief, Pacific Squadron, wrote his report to the Secretary of the Navy for fiscal year 1903, he lauded his predecessor’s diplomatic services during the Panama crisis. “The final settlement of the revolutionary disturbance,” Glass wrote approvingly, “was largely due to his efforts.”

Her task completed, the battleship departed Panama’s waters on November 22nd and arrived at San Francisco on December 6th to prepare for gunnery exercises. Four days later, Rear Admiral Casey shifted his flag to New York, thus releasing Wisconsin from flagship duty for the Pacific Squadron. The battleship consequently carried out her firings until December 17th, when she sailed for Bremerton. Reaching the Puget Sound Navy Yard five days before December 25th, Wisconsin then underwent repairs and alterations until May 19th, 1903, when she sailed for the Asiatic Station.

Proceeding via Honolulu, Wisconsin arrived at Yokohama, Japan on June 12th, with Rear Admiral Yates Stirling embarked. Three days later, Rear Admiral Stirling exchanged flagships with Rear Admiral P.H. Cooper who broke his two-starred flag at Wisconsin’s main as Commander of the Asiatic Fleet’s Northern Squadron while Admiral Stirling hoisted his in the tender Rainbow.

Wisconsin operated in the Far East, with the Asiatic Fleet, over the next three years before she returned to the United States in the autumn of 1906. She followed a normal routine of operations in the northern latitudes of the station – China and Japan – in the summer monthes, because of the oppressive heat of the Philippine Islands that time of the year, but in the Philippine Archipelago in the winter. She touched at ports in Japan and China including Kobe, Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Yokosuka; Amoy, Shanghai, Chefoo, Nanking, and Taku. In addition, she cruised the Yangtze River as far as Nanking, the Inland Sea, and Nimrod Sound. The battleship conducted assigned fleet maneuvers and exercises off the Chinese and Philippine coasts intervening those evolutions with regular periods of in-port upkeep and repairs. During that time, she served as Asiatic Fleet flagship, wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Cooper.

The battleship departed Yokohama on September 20th, and after calling at Honolulu en route from October 3rd-8th, arrived at San Francisco on October 18th. After seven days stay at that port, she headed up the west coast and reached the Puget Sound Navy Yard on October 28th. She was decommissioned there on November 16th, 1906.

Recommissioned on April 1st, 1908, Captain Henry Morrell in command, Wisconsin was fitted out at the Puget Sound Navy Yard until the end of April. After shifting to Port Angeles from April 30th – May 2nd, the battleship proceeded down the western seaboard and reached Sand Francisco on May 6th to participate in a fleet review at that port. She subsequently returned to Puget Sound to complete the installation of her fire control equipment from May 21st – June 22nd.

Soon thereafter, Wisconsin retraced her southward course, returning to San Francisco in early July. There, she joined the battleships of the Atlantic Fleet in setting out on the transpacific leg of the momentous circumnavigation of the globe. The cruise of the “Great White Fleet” served as a pointed reminder to Japan of the power of the United States – a dramatic gesture made by President Theodore Roosevelt as a signal evidence of his “big stick” policy. Wisconsin, during the course of her part of the voyage, called at ports in New Zealand, Austrailia, the Philippines, Japan, China, Ceylon, and Egypt; transited the Suez Canal; visited Malta, Algiers, and Gibraltar before arriving in Hampton Roads on Washington’s Birthday 1909, and passing in review there before President Roosevelt. The epic voyage had confounded the doom-sayers and critics, having been accomploshed without any serious incidents or mishaps.

Wisconsin departed from the Tidewater area on March 6th and arrived at the Portmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine three days later. The pre-dreadnought battleship there underwent repairs and alterations until June 23rd, doffing her bright “white and spar color” and donning a more business like gray. The man-of-war joined the Atlantic Fleet in Hampton Roads at the end of June, but she remained in those waters only a short time before she sailed north to Portland, Maine, arriving there on July 2nd in time to take part in the Fourth of July festivities in that port.

Target practice on the Wisconsin’s 1-inch guns (flanks near stern)

The battleship next headed down the eastern seaboard, cruising off Rockport, Massachusetts and Provincetown, Massachusetts before she returned, with the fleet, to Hampton Roads on August 6th. Over the ensuing weeks, Wisconsin fired target practices in the southern drill grounds, off the Virginia capes, breaking those underway periods with upkeep in Hampton Roads.

Wisconsin steamed with the fleet to New York City where she anchored in the North River to take part the Hudson-Fulton Celebration from September 22nd – October 5th before she underwent repairs at the Portsmouth Navy Yard from October 7th – November 28th. She then dropped down to Newport, Rhode Island, upon the conclusion of that years period, picking up drafts of men for transportation to the Atlantic Fleet at Hampton Roads.

Wisconsin operated with the fleet off the Virginia capes through mid-December, before she headed for New York for the Christmas holidays in port. Subsequently cruising to Cuban waters in early January 1910, the battleship operated out of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base from January 12th – March 19.

The pre-dreadnought battleship then visited Tomkinsville, New York, and New Orleans, Louisiana, before she discharged ammunition at New York City on April 22nd. Later that spring, 1910, she moved to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, where she was placed in reserve. She was moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in April 1912 and, that autumn, took part in a naval review off Yonkers, New York, before resuming her reserve status until Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Placed “in ordinary” on October 1913, Wisconsin remained in that status until she joined the United States Naval Academy Practice Squadron the spring of 1915 assuming training duties along with Missouri and Ohio. With that group, she become the third battleship to transit the Panama Canal, making that trip mid-July 1915 en route to the west coast of the United States with her embarked officers-to-be.

World War I

Wisconsin discharged her duties as a midshipman’s training ship into 1917 and was moored at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on April 6th of that year when she received word that the United States had declared war on Germany. Two days later, members of the Naval Militia began reporting on baord the battleship for quarter and subsistence.

On April 23rd, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Ohio were placed in full commissioned and assigned to the Coast Battleship Patrol Squadron. On May 2nd, Commander David F. Sellers reported onboard and took command. Four days later, the battleship got underway for the Virginia capes; and she arrived at Yorktown, Virginia on May 7th.

From early May-early August, Wisconsin operated as an engineering school ship on training cruises in the Chesapeake Bay-York River area. She trained recruits as oilers, watertenders, and firemen, who, when qualified, were assigned to the formerly interned merchantmen of the enemy taken over by the United States upon the declaration of war, as well as to submarine chasers and the merchant vessels then building in American yards.

Wisconsin then maneuvered and exercised in company with Kearsarge, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, and Maine from August 13-19, en route to Port Jefferson, New York. Over the ensuring weeks, Wisconsin continued training and tactical maneuvers based on Port Jefferson, making various training cruises into Long island Sound.

She subsequently returned to the York River region early in October and resumed her training activities in that locale, operating primarily in the Chesapeake Bay area. Wisconsin continued that duty into the spring of 1918, interrupting her training evolutions from October 30th – December 18 for repairs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

After another stint of repairs at Philadelphia from May 13-June 3rd, 1918, Wisconsin got underway for a cruise to Annapolis, Maryland, but after passing the Brandywine Shoal Light, received orders to stick close to shore. Those orders were later modified to send Wisconsin up the Delaware River as far as Bombay Hook, since an enemy submarine was active off Cape Henlopen. Postwar examination of German records would show that U-151, the first of six enemy submarines to come to the eastern seaboard in 1918, sank three schooners on May 23rd and other ships over ensuing days.

Getting underway again on June 6th, Wisconsin arrived at Annapolis on the following day. One the next day, the battleship embarked 176 third-class midshipmen and got underway for the York River. the ship conducted training evolutions in the Chesapeake Bay region until August 29th, when she returned to Annapolis and disembarked midshipmen. Underway for Yorktown on August 30th, Wisconsin there embarked 217 men for training as firemen, water tenders, engineers, steersmen and signalmen, resumed her training duties, and continued the task through the signing of the armistice.

Inter-war period

Wisconsin completed her training activities on December 20th, sailed north, and reached New York City three days before Christmas. Wisconsin was among the ships reviewed by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels from Mayflower and by Assistant of the Navy Franklin Delanto Roosevelt from Aztec on December 26th.

Wisconsin cruised with the fleet in Cuban waters that winter, and in the summer of 1919 made a midshipman training cruise to the Caribbean.

Placed out of commission on May 15th, 1920, Wisconsin was reclassified BB-9 on July 17th, while awaiting disposition. She was sold for scrap on January 26th, 1922 as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty.

Engines of Wisconsin


Wisconsin was part of the “Great White Fleet”.

USS Wisconsin B-9 (1907)

USS Wisconsin in Australia (1908)

The Great White Fleet goes to Australia

Great White Fleet

Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans

USS Wasmuth – Historic Ship of the Past

One Response to “USS Wisconsin (BB-9)”

  1. Ed Erdmann Says:

    My grandfather sailed around the world on Wisconsin with the Great White Fleet. It’s nice to see pictures of that era. Thank you.

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