Denver-class cruiser

The Denver-class cruisers were a group of six protected cruisers in service with the United States Navy from 1903 through 1929. Authorized by Congress in 1899 as part of the naval buildup touched off by the Spanish–American War, they were designed with peacetime duties on foreign stations and tropical service in mind, specifically patrolling Latin America and the Caribbean. However, they had insufficient armament, armor, and speed for combat with most other cruisers. Thus, they were also called "peace cruisers" and were effectively gunboats.[1] They were intended to augment the Montgomery class in these roles.[2]

USS Denver at the North Atlantic Fleet review in 1905
Class overview
Name: Denver class
Builders: Various
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Columbia class
Succeeded by: St. Louis class
Built: 1900–1905
In commission: 1903–1929
Completed: 6
Lost: 1
Scrapped: 5
General characteristics (as built)[1]
Type: Protected Cruiser
Displacement: 3,200 long tons (3,251 t)
Length: 308 ft 10 in (94.13 m)
Beam: 44 ft (13 m)
Draft: 15 ft 9 in (4.80 m)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 2 × screws
Speed: 16.41 knots (30.39 km/h; 18.88 mph) (trial)
Range: 2,200 nmi (4,100 km; 2,500 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 19 officers and 308 enlisted
  • Deck: 2 12 in (64 mm) slopes, 516 in (8 mm) flat, 1 in (25 mm) ends
  • Casemates: 1 34 in (44 mm)

Design and construction


The as-built main armament was ten 5 in (127 mm)/50 caliber Mark 5 rapid firing (RF) guns,[3] arranged one each fore and aft and the remainder in casemates along the sides; the hull was cut away to allow ahead and astern fire from the end casemates.[4] Secondary armament was six 6-pounder (57 mm (2.2 in)) RF guns, two 1-pounder (37 mm (1.5 in)) RF guns, and four .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns, possibly the M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun.[1][4]


Armor protection was very light. The protective deck was 2 12 in (64 mm) on the slopes, 516 in (8 mm) in the flat middle, and 1 in (25 mm) at the ends. The 5-inch gun casemates had 1 34 in (44 mm) armor.[1][4]


The engineering plant included six coal-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers supplying 275 psi (1,900 kPa) steam to two vertical triple-expansion engines, totaling 4,700 ihp (3,500 kW) for 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph) as designed. On trials Galveston achieved 16.41 knots (30.39 km/h; 18.88 mph) at 5,073 ihp (3,783 kW).[1] The low design speed relegated these ships to the gunboat role or commerce raiding against slower merchant ships. The ships normally carried 467 tons of coal for a service range of 2,200 nmi (4,100 km; 2,500 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph); this could be increased to 675 tons.[1][4]


By 1918 the forwardmost casemated pair of 5-inch guns had been removed for a total of eight.[5] By 1921 a 3"/50 caliber (76 mm) anti-aircraft gun was added. The 6-pounders remained at this time; the 1-pounders and the machine guns had probably been removed.[5][6]


Most of the class served in Latin America and the Caribbean on missions ranging from protection of American citizens and interests, disaster relief, and diplomatic negotiations to military intervention. Galveston and Chattanooga served primarily on the Asiatic Station based in the Philippines until World War I, when they were convoy escorts. Shortly after the war Galveston and Des Moines served in the North Russia Intervention, and Galveston patrolled the Caribbean 1924–30.

In January 1924 Tacoma grounded and was lost at Blanquilla Reef near Veracruz, Mexico.

Two of the class were decommissioned in 1921, with the rest decommissioned by early 1931. All were scrapped by late 1933 to comply with the limits of the Washington and London Naval Treaties.


Chattanooga's bell was at a now-closed American Legion post in Shelbyville, Tennessee from the 1930s until the 2010s. In late 2015 was at the National Medal of Honor Museum in the Northgate Mall, and soon will be incorporated into a memorial to the victims of the attack on the recruiting station at Chattanooga, Tennessee.[7]

The original ship's bell from the USS Tacoma (C-18), is currently on display at the War Memorial Park in Tacoma, WA.

Ships in class

The six ships of the Denver class were:[5]

Ship Shipyard Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS Denver (C-14) Neafie & Levy, Philadelphia 28 June 1900 21 June 1902 17 May 1904 14 February 1931 Sold for scrap 13 September 1933
USS Des Moines (C-15) Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts 28 August 1900 20 September 1902 5 March 1904 9 April 1921 Sold for scrap 11 March 1930
USS Chattanooga (C-16) Crescent Shipyard, Elizabeth, New Jersey 29 March 1900 7 March 1903 11 October 1904 19 July 1921 Sold for scrap 8 March 1930
USS Galveston (C-17) William R. Trigg Company, Richmond, Virginia 19 January 1901 23 July 1903 15 February 1905 2 September 1930 Sold for scrap 13 September 1933
USS Tacoma (C-18) Union Iron Works, San Francisco 27 September 1900 2 June 1903 30 January 1904 Grounded near Veracruz, Mexico and lost 16 January 1924
USS Cleveland (C-19) Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine 1 June 1900 28 September 1901 2 November 1903 1 November 1929 Sold for scrap 7 March 1930

Construction of Chattanooga was halted on 18 June 1903 when Crescent went out of business; she was completed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Galveston's construction was similarly halted on 24 December 1902 with the closure of Trigg; she was completed at the Norfolk Navy Yard.[5]

The Denver-class ships were reclassified with new hull numbers in 1920 as gunboats (PG). They were further reclassified in 1921 as light cruisers (CL) as follows:[5][8]

Ship name Original
hull number
7 July 1920
8 August 1921
Denver C-14 PG-28 CL-16
Des Moines C-15 PG-29 CL-17
Chattanooga C-16 PG-30 CL-18
Galveston C-17 PG-31 CL-19
Tacoma C-18 PG-32 CL-20
Cleveland C-19 PG-33 CL-21


  1. Friedman, pp. 48–49, 463–464
  2. Silverstone, p. 95
  3. DiGiulian, Tony, 5"/50 USN guns
  4. Gardiner and Chesneau, p. 155
  5. Bauer and Roberts, p. 146
  6. "Ships' Data, U.S. Naval Vessels". US Navy Department. 1 July 1921. p. 64. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  7. Mark Kennedy, "Ship's Bell finds a home, a purpose", Chattanooga Times Free Press, 31 December 2015
  8. Cruiser photo gallery index at NavSource Naval History


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