Nashville on the High Seas

by Billy J. Slate.

The following summary has been gathered from a variety of U.S. government releases and media clippings.

Five ships bearing the name Nashville have plowed the world’s waters. The first, the Confederate steamer Nashville, originally a brig-rigged passenger steamer, was seized at Charleston after the fall of Fort Sumter and fitted out as a cruiser. With a length of 215 feet and a beam of 34 feet 6 inches, she was armed with two 12-pounders and carried a complement of 40. The Nashville ran the Union blockade on October 21, 1861 and was the first warship to fly the Confederate flag in European waters. She returned to Beaufort, North Carolina on February 28, 1862, having captured two prizes valued at $66,000.

Confederate steamer Nashville, 1861 (All photos on this page are in the public domain.)

The Nashville was then turned over to Frazer, Trenholm and Company to whom she had been sold prior to her return. After use as a blockade runner, she was refitted as a Confederate privateer and commissioned on November 5, 1862 as Rattlesnake. The Federals destroyed her in the Ogeechee River, Georgia on February 28, 1863.

Confederate ironclad ram Nashville, 1864

The Confederate ironclad ram, Nashville, was built at Montgomery, Alabama in 1864. She had a length of 271 feet and a beam of 62 feet 6 inches and was armed with three 7-inch rifles and one 24-pound smoothbore. Although never completed, Nashville had been heavily armored with steel plating and, when surrendered to the U.S. Navy, was believed unable to carry her weight of armor. At the close of the Civil War, she was stripped of her armor and sold at auction in New Orleans.

USS Nashville (PG7), commissioned 19 August 1897

USS Nashville (PG7), a gunboat built at Newport News, was launched on October 19, 1895. Sponsored by Maria Guild of Nashville, she was commissioned on August 19, 1897, Washburn Maynard commanding. With a length of 233 feet 8 inches and a beam of 38 feet 1 inch, she was armed with eight .40 caliber guns, two 6-pounders, two 3-pounders, and two 1-pounders.

This famous warship fired the first shot in the Spanish-American War and played a major part in naval operations in the Cuban area. She also helped put down the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion in China. During World War I, USS Nashville escorted convoys in the Mediterranean to and from Europe and North Africa. At the close of the war, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

USS Nashville (CL-43), commissioned 6 June 1938

USS Nashville (CL-43), a light cruiser that served with distinction in World War II, was commissioned on June 6, 1938, sponsored by Ann and Mildred Stahlman of Nashville. Her length was 608 feet 4 inches and her beam measured 61 feet 8 inches. She was part of the task force that pulled off the spectacular Doolittle raid on Tokyo in early 1942. She was chosen as the flagship to transport General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur on his famous, triumphant return to the Philippines. The Nashville was hit by a suicide bomber in the Sulu Sea and suffered grave damage and many casualties. At the end of the war, she was decommissioned and sold to the Chilean Navy.

USS Nashville (LPD 13) commissioned 14 February 1970 (2006 photo)

The final ship to bear our city’s name is USS Nashville (LPD-13), one of a class of ships designated Amphibious Transport Dock. Commissioned at Puget Sound Shipyard on February 14, 1970, she is the thirteenth ship of her class. On September 9, 1970 Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley participated in “Mayor Briley Day” aboard the Nashville in Norfolk, Virginia. She is 576 feet 4 3/8 inches in length, with a beam of 84 feet 1/2 inch. Her various assignments have included four Caribbean Amphibious Ready Groups, seven Mediterranean Groups, a Mine Countermeasure Group, and NATO North Atlantic Operations. The Nashville is still in commission and involved in operations contributing to the defense of the United States. (1998)

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