The Mighty Warship USS Indiana in 1898 – Original Footage (Watch)

USS Indiana sometime between 1900 and 1908
USS Indiana sometime between 1900 and 1908

The USS Indiana (BB-1) was commissioned in 1895 for coastal defense – which made her a terrible choice for the open ocean due to her tendency to take on water in high seas. She was the first to use an intermediate battery; a fancy term for packing heavy firepower.

An Indiana-class pre-dreadnought battleship, she measured 350-feet 11-inches long with a beam of 69-feet 3-inches, a draft of 27 feet, and displaced 10,288 tons. Powered by four double-ended Scotch boilers and propelled by two sets of vertical inverted triple expansion reciprocating steam engines, she could travel at 17 miles per hour.

She carried two twin 13-inch/35 caliber guns, four twin 8-inch/35 cal guns, four 6-inch/40 cal guns, twelve 3-inch/50 cal guns, twenty 6-pounder 2.2-inch guns, six 1-pounder 1.5-inch guns, and four 18-inch Whitehead torpedo tubes.

The Indiana served the North Atlantic Squadron during the Spanish-American War of 1898. She saw action during the Blockade of Santiago de Cuba and at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, and played a crucial role in sinking the Spanish destroyers Plutón and Furor.

After the war, and despite several upgrades, the Indiana became obsolete but not useless. She was used as either a training ship or with the reserve fleet. Her last service was during WWI as a training ship for gun crews before she was decommissioned in January 1919.

She was reclassified as Coast Battleship Number 1 before being given her final death blow. In 1920 she was sunk in shallow waters for aerial target practice. In 1924, what remained was sold for scrap metal.

The following clip was taken from March 28 to April 1, 1898, by a passing yacht, giving the impression that the battleship is moving. As the yacht moves to the starboard quarter, the camera takes in the impressive 13-inch and 6-inch guns on deck.

At the time she was docked off Dry Tortugas (a group of islands in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Florida Keys) to take on coal. Beside her is a barge where black workers are offloading “King Coal” to the waiting Marines and sailors on board.

Shahan Russell

Shahan Russell is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE