Commander Wainwright’s letter dated Janumy 8, 1901 to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation which appeared in the April 2005 issue of the Submarine Review provides a glimpse of early submarine operations. Please note that when this feller was written our Submarine Force was about three months old and consisted of one submarine-USS HOLLAND.
The first three paragraphs of Commander Wainwright’s letter shed light on USS HOLLAND’s role as a school boat. Paragraph 4 refers to an operation with quite a different purpose.
During the year 1900 HOLLAND VI came to Washington from New York, demonstrated operational capability, and was acquired by Congress for a reluctant Navy. In its enthusiasm Congress ordered a second HOLLAND VI, then six more submarines of an improved design. Meanwhile HOLLAND VI manned by its new Navy crew participated in a fleet exercise off Newport, Rhode Island gaining much attention from the national press for sidling up to an anchored battleship at night, announcing its presence, and constructively sinking the battleship. Some Congressmen, a few far-sighted naval officers and stockholders in the HOLLAND Torpedo Boat co. were delighted. A number of senior naval officers were less pleased by the exploits of the little submarine. They had struggled over many years to modernize our obsolescent Navy by replacing wooden sai 1 ing ships left over from the Civil War with sleek steel steam-powered cruisers and patrol vessels. Money for new construction ships was hard to come by, and they resented its diversion to submarines, which were considered little more than toys. Further, they correctly noted that the submarine boat always was towed during transits between ports, raising doubts about HOLLAND’s self-sufficiency.
So it was not a surprise to Lt. Caldwell to receive orders to take USS HOLLAND to the Norfolk Navy Yard and return under its own power. USS STANDISH was assigned as escort for the trip.
Lt. Cal dwells’ comments on the voyage appear in two letters he wrote to his mother-one before the trip and one after. In a letter dated 29 December, 1900 he wrote:… There is a rumor about that we are to be ordered to make a trip to Norfolk and return to satisfy the authorities as to our ability to run long distances. I should like the trip very much if the weather is not too cold.”
While at the Norfolk Navy Yard he wrote a letter home dated 20 January, 190 l in which he said:
“My trip down here was a decidedly hard one for me but was to my mind a success, which made up for my hardship. We left Annapolis at one o’clock in the afternoon, and ran all that night, so that I got no sleep for thirty-six hours, and was wet through most of that time. The following night we anchored, and arrived here on Thursday. Fortunately I suffered no ill effects from my repeated drenching with spray, although it was very cold. Going back I expect to take it more easily. We have been waiting here all this time to get into the drydock, which we did on Friday. I expect to get out of dock tomorrow and away to Annapolis on that or the following day.”
What else can you find in Captain Styer’s files?
Sagamore, MA 02561