USS Winslow

By Patrick McSherry 


The USS WINSLOW was typical of the FOOTE class of torpedo boats. The Winslow saw action in Cardenas harbor, Cuba, where she was in a duel with a Spanish gunboat and the harbor defense fortifications.


The USS WINSLOW was a very new ship at the outbreak of the Spanish American War, being commissioned only five months before. She was a sister ship of the USS FOOTE (TB 3) and USS CUSHING (TB 4).

After commissioning, USS WINSLOW reported to Newport, Rhode Island for torpedo loading and drilling She remained there until January 30, 1898 when she departed for Norfolk, Virginia. She was in Norfolk when word arrived about the loss of the USS MAINE. With the heightening of tensions in March, she was dispatched to Key West, Florida to be closer at hand should hostilities break out.

After War was declared, the USS WINSLOW patrolled off of the Cuban coast in the vicinity of Havana, Cardenas and Matanzas. She left her patrol area on May 11 to meet the USS WILMINGTON (Gunboat #8) for recoaling. While there, she aided the USS WILMINGTON, and the USS HUDSON in an effort to locate Spanish vessels in Cardenas Harbor. The action against the town and the Spanish armored tug ANTONIO LOPEZ resulted in the near loss of the USS WINSLOW, and the death of six of her crew, including Ensign Worth Bagley, the only U.S. naval officer killed during the war. Three of her men, Chief Gunner's Mate George P. Brady, Chief Gunner's Mate Hans Johnsen, and Chief Machinist T. C. Cooney were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Click Here for the offical account of this action.

After being towed clear of the battle, the USS WINSLOW was sent to Key West, Florida and Mobile, Alabama for repairs. The repairs were not completed before the end of hostilities. She sailed up the east coast, arriving in New York, where she was placed out of commission on September 7 to begin more extensive repairs. She stayed in New York until transferred to Norfolk where she was recommissioned in reserve.

The USS WINSLOW was fully recommissioned June 30, 1901, to served as a torpedo training vessel at Newport, Rhode Island. She was probably decommissioned in 1904 in New York. In 1906 she was recommissioned and sent to Norfolk where she was placed in the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla. In 1909, the USS WINSLOW was transferred to Charleston, South Carolina, but still held in reserve.

From June to November 1909, the ship served as a training vessel for the Massachusetts Naval Militia. The ship was returned to the Navy and decommissioned on July 12, 1910. In January 1911, she was sold to H. Hanson of New York City.


Torpedo boats were a new type of vessel world-wide. They were greatly feared, but were highly ineffective. The theory was that the torpedo boats could advance quickly, because of their high speed, and stealthily, possibly at night, and release their torpedos at a range of four hundred yards or less. The torpedo would travel just below the waterline, and pierce the enemy vessel's hull just below the main armor belt. By the time the United States commissioned its first torpedo boat, the five major navies in the world already had nine hundred torpedo boats among them.

Several major factors contributed to the actual ineffectiveness of torpedo boats such as the USS WINSLOW. First, the vessels had to approach close to the targetted enemy vessel to fire their torpedoes. The requirement of close approach combined with lack of armor made the vessel subject to rapid damage.

Torpedo boats had to direct their torpedos by aiming their vessel at the proposed target, something not always possible. Counter-measures such as rapid fire guns, searchlights, and the advent of the destroyer greatly limited their effectness and ability to close on the enemy.

Though torpedo boats did not inflict any major damage during the war, the sheer threat of their existence was a weapon. It required the development of counter-measures, caused an alteration of tactics, and was useful as a weapon of terror.

Torpedo boats served well as dispatch boats, and were relatively inexpensive to construct.


Classification: Torpedo Boat TB 5
Keel Laid: May 8, 1896
Completed: August 3, 1896
Comissioned: December 29, 1897
Armament: Three 1-pounders
Three 18" Whitehead torpedo tubes
Contractor: Columbia Iron Works, Baltimore, MD
Length: 160 feet 4 inches
Beam: 16 feet 3/4 inch
Mean draft: 5 feet
Displacement: 142 tons
Complement: 4 officers and 20 enlisted men,
commanded by Lt. J. B. Bernadou.
Engine type: Vertical triple expansion engines with a 22 inch stroke,
generating 2,000 hp. Twin screw. Some sources list her
as having quadruple expansion engines.
Boiler type: Two Mosher Tubulous boilers.
Speed: 24.82 knots
Coal bunker capacity: 32 tons
Normal coal supply: 9 tons
Endurance @ 10 knots: 1200 nautical miles
Armor: None
Cost: $97,000


Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, "The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress", Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899. 4 vols. (all are documents relating to the war).

Harris, Lt. Cmdr. Brayton, "The Age of the Battleship", New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1965.

Naval History Department, Navy Department, "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships", Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1959. 

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