USS Wasp (1898)

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USS Wasp (1898)
USS Wasp at the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia, on 19 November 1898.
Career (United States) 100x35px
Name: USS Wasp
Namesake: The wasp, a stinging insect
Builder: William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Laid down: 1893
Launched: 1893
Completed: 1898
Acquired: 1898
Commissioned: 11 April 1898
Decommissioned: 1 December 1919
Struck: 13 November 1919
Fate: Sold 20 September 1921
Notes: Originally civilian yacht Columbia
General characteristics
Type: Armed yacht
Displacement: 630 tons
Length: 180 ft 0 in (54.86 m)
Beam: 23 ft 0 in (7.01 m)
Draft: 12 ft 0 in (3.66 m)
Speed: 16.5 knots
Complement: 55 officers and enlisted men
Armament: 4 x 6-pounder guns
2 x Colt machine guns

The seventh USS Wasp was an armed yacht that served in the U.S. Navy from 1898 to 1919 and saw service in the Spanish-American War.

Acquisition and commissioning

It was built as the Columbia in 1893 by William Cramp & Sons for Joseph Harvey Ladew, Sr. modeled on the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey steamer Pathfinder. It was launched from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 23, 1893.[1][2]

It was used by the United States Navy, renamed USS Wasp, and commissioned at New York, New York, on 11 April 1898, Lieutenant Aaron Ward in command.

Spanish-American War service

The converted yacht departed New York on 26 April 1898 and headed south for Spanish-American War duty blockading Cuba. She stopped at Key West, Florida, from 1 May 1898 to 7 May 1898 and arrived off Havana later on 7 May 1898. From there, she moved west along the northern coast to Bahia Honda, also arriving there on 7 May 1898. On 12 May 1898, while cruising on blockade station off the Cuban coast between Havana and Bahia Honda, Wasp joined a small convoy escorted by the revenue cutter USRC Manning and made up of merchantman SS Gussie and tugs Triton and Dewey. Gussie carried two companies of United States Army troops scheduled to land at Bahia Honda, while Triton and Dewey carried representatives of the press.

Just before 1500 that afternoon, some of the soldiers from Gussie went ashore near Cabañas, purportedly the first American troops to land on Cuban soil. They formed a skirmish line and started their advance through dense underbrush. At about 1515, Spanish Army forces counterattacked the American troops and opened fire on the ships in the bay. Wasp returned fire with her portside six pounders, carefully avoiding the area occupied by friendly forces. At that point, she received word that the 100 or so soldiers fighting ashore were heavily outnumbered and outflanked to the west. The only course of action open to them was to disengage the enemy and reembark in Gussie. During that operation, Wasp joined Manning and recently arrived unarmored cruiser Dolphin in providing covering gunfire for the evacuation. When another landing, scheduled for the following day, did not occur, Wasp lobbed a few shells at an adobe watch-tower from which Spanish riflemen had taken the ships under fire, and then she resumed her patrol station off the coast.

On 15 May 1898, the converted yacht departed the Cuban coast to return to Florida. She arrived at Key West that same day and remained in the Florida Keys, either at Key West or Sand Key, almost until the end of May 1898. Wasp returned to the blockade, at Cienfuegos, briefly on the 29 May 1898 but was back at Key West on 31 May 1898. During June 1898, the yacht moved from blockade station to blockade station, returning periodically to the Florida Keys for necessities. From 9 June 1898 to 11 June 1898, she stood off Havana. After a three-day return to Key West, Wasp took station off the southeastern coast of Cuba on 20 June 1898, patrolling between Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo Bay.

At the beginning of July 1898, she paid a five-day visit to Key West, returning to the Santiago de Cuba area again on 10 July 1898. On 19 July 1898, the converted yacht cleared Guantanamo Bay for Nipe Bay on Cuba's northeastern coast. She arrived at Nipe Bay late on the morning of the 21 July 1898 and, on orders to reconnoiter the bay in company with armed tug USS Leyden, started in toward Port Nipe. Upon entering, Wasp sighted a Spanish warship at anchor some four miles up the bay. She fired several shots at the signal station located at the entrance, then sped forward to engage the enemy ship. At 1244, the Spanish ship opened fire at extreme range, and Wasp returned fire immediately. Leyden, followed by gunboats USS Annapolis and USS Topeka, quickly joined in. As the range decreased, American gunfire became more accurate, and all four ships began scoring telling hits on the enemy. Finally, at 1312, the Spaniard's colors disappeared. Wasp and her three colleagues ceased fire and watched their quarry, the sloop Jorge Juan,[3] sink at 1342. After making a complete reconnaissance of the southern and western portions of the bay, Wasp anchored there for the night.

On 23 July 1898, Wasp departed Cuba, bound for Puerto Rico, and arrived off Fajardo that same day. For the next seven weeks, she cruised the coasts of Puerto Rico in company with auxiliary cruiser USS Dixie, Annapolis, and gunboat USS Gloucester. Throughout the entire period, only one noteworthy event occurred. On 27 July 1898, the four ships encountered three Spanish brigantines at Ponce but evaluated them as too insignificant even to take as prizes.

On 8 September 1898, Wasp departed San Juan to return to the United States. After a five-day stop at Charleston, South Carolina, she continued her voyage north on 18 September 1898 and entered the Norfolk Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, on the 21 September 1898. On 27 September 1898, she was decommissioned there and laid up.

Peacetime service

On 15 December 1898, the yacht was loaned to the Florida Naval Militia for training purposes. That tour of duty lasted until 21 June 1899, at which time she was returned to the U.S. Navy. She resumed her retirement to serve as station ship at Port Royal, South Carolina. In July 1902, she returned to Norfolk to be decommissioned once again on 23 July 1902.

On 2 October 1902, Wasp went into commission again and received orders to the 8th Naval District. During her service there as a district tender, she made infrequent cruises in the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies. In 1906, she moved from the Gulf of Mexico to Newport, Rhode Island, for a tour of duty at the Torpedo Station. In 1907, she visited East Coast, Gulf Coast, and Mississippi River ports of the United States during a cruise to spur enlistments in the U.S. Navy. In 1908, Wasp began a nine-year assignment, again training naval militiamen, this time on loan to the New York Naval Militia.

World War I Service

That duty ended early in 1917, as the United States moved closer to war. On 7 April 1917, the day after the American declaration of war on the German Empire that brought the United States into World War I, Wasp began patrolling the coast of Long Island. Throughout the first year of the war, the yacht cruised the coastal waters of the 3d Naval District as a unit of, and later as flagship for, Squadron 8, Patrol Force. In April 1918, Wasp received orders detaching her from the 3d Naval District and assigning her to duty at Annapolis, Maryland. She arrived in Annapolis on 9 May 1918 and, but for periodic runs to Norfolk, remained there for the remainder of her naval career.


Struck from the Navy List on 13 November 1919, Wasp was formally decommissioned at Norfolk on 1 December 1919. On 20 September 1921, she was sold to Mr. Halsted P. Layton of Georgetown, Delaware.


  1. "Launch of The Columbia. Mr. Ladew's Yacht Promises to be Among the Fleetest in These Waters". New York Times. August 24, 1893. Retrieved 2009-12-05. "At 10:45 o'clock this morning the steel steam yacht Columbia was launched at the shipyard of the Charles Hillman Company. The Colombia is the property of J. Harvey Ladew of New-York. The Messrs. Cramp are the original contractors for her construction and the builders of her machinery, the Charles Hillman Company having built the hull by sub-contract." 
  2. "J. Harvey Ladew's Columbia Can Be Used as a Cruiser.". New York Times. August 27, 1899. Retrieved 2009-11-29. "J. Harvey Ladew, a member of the New York Yacht Club has had constructed at the Crescent shipyards, at Elizabethport, N. J., a yacht which is almost a duplicate of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey steamer Pathfinder. The name of the new yacht is Columbia, and the cost $200,000." 
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905, p. 386


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