USS Tennessee (BB-43) was the main class of battleships built for the US Navy before World War I and was part of the “standard series” of twelve battleships to enter service before the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. It was part naval warships. being attacked on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The BB-43 sustained minor damage, which was repaired. She was rebuilt for Pacific War operations and remains the most famous warship named in honor of the sixteenth state to enter the Union.
However, the first warship to be named for the Volunteer State was in fact the CSS Tennessee, an armored pillbox ram built by the Confederation during the Civil War. Construction on this ship began in October 1862, and the armored warship’s original plan was to aid in the defense of Mobile, Alabama, and even to defy the Union blockade of the port.
At 209 feet long and 48 feet wide, she was certainly not as tall as the warships to enter service in the following decades, but for the time it was an impressive ship. and CSS Tennessee would be the largest battleship built by the Confederate States of America. The construction of the ship was not easy, however, given the Union blockade, and her steam engine had been taken from the USS Alonzo child, a side-wheeled steamboat believed to have been piloted by author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) before the war. Commissioned in February 1864, CSS Tennessee was the flagship of Admiral Franklin Buchanan and his fleet guarding Mobile Bay.
Service in the Confederate States Navy was short lived as it was captured by Union forces in early August 1864. Still named Tennessee, it participated in the Federal assault on Fort Morgan later. that month and then served on the Mississippi River until the end of the American Civil War. It was sold for scrap in 1867.
Tennessee warships after the civil war
Two other ships were also named for the state of Tennessee prior to the construction of the Battleship Class. The first was the Wampanoag-class wooden screw frigate which was built at the New York Navy Yard (later renamed Brooklyn Navy Yard) during the Civil War, and launched in July 1865. As the old warship CSS still stood. in service at that time. , the ship was originally called USS Madawaska.
Renamed USS Tennessee in May 1869 and enlarged, it was equipped with new compound jet engines capable of developing 3,200 horsepower. However, the frigate was still rigged for sailing, as was common at the time. She served as the flagship of the Asian Squadron throughout the 1870s and was the flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron. It was the largest commission ship in the US Navy at the time and was known to be a favorite duty station for sailors because of its spaciousness as well as the comfort of its quarters. Time had finally caught up with her with USS Tennessee was withdrawn from service in 1886.
The next warship named for the Nation’s Sixteenth State was the lead ship of a class of armored cruisers. Also known as “Armored Cruiser No. 10”, USS Tennessee (ACR-10) was built at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company of Philadelphia and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in July 1906.
A decade later, in May 1916, the 14,733-ton warship was renamed USS Memphis to honor the largest city in the Volunteer State, so that the name “Tennessee” can be reassigned to the new battleship BB-43. Tragically, just a few months after being renamed, USS Memphis and the USS gunboat Castine were at anchor in the Dominican Republic when tsunami-like waves flooded the harbor and pushed the cruiser ashore.
The waves overwhelmed the warships, and while the USS Castine survived the storm by going out to sea, the Memphis was wrecked and her lower decks were inundated. With the loss of the ship, forty-three sailors lost their lives. The wreckage remained on the Santo Domingo shore for twenty-one years until 1937, when sufficient demolition capacity became available to complete the rescue operations.
Today there is the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Tennessee (SNLE-734) in service with the US Navy. She was authorized for construction in FY 1980 (FY80) and she was commissioned in December 1988. Her motto may sum up the service of past ships which will bear the state’s name, “America at its better”.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to over four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military small arms and is the author of several books on military hairstyles, including A gallery of military hairstyles, which is available on Amazon.com.