"The first Maine, a
second-class armored battleship, was laid down at New
York Navy Yard 17 October 1888; launched 18 November
1889, sponsored by Miss Alice Tracy Wilmerding, granddaughter
of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy; and commissioned
17 September 1895, Capt. Arent S. Crowninshield in command.
Maine departed New York
Navy Yard 5 November 1895 for Newport, R.I., via Gardiner's
Bay, N.Y., to fit out 16 to 23 November, and then proceeded
on the 25th to Portland, Maine, to visit her namesake.
The battlewagon then put to sea on the 29th on trials
and inspection, being assigned to the North Atlantic
Squadron 16 December, and sailing via Newport to Tompkinsville,
N.Y., arriving 23 December. The ship sailed the next
day for Fort Monroe, Va., arriving on Christmas Day.
She operated out of that place and Newport News through
June 1898 and then on the 4th sailed for Key West on
a 2-month training cruise, returning to Norfolk 3 August.
Maine continued extensive
east coast operations until late 1897. Then the ship
prepared for a voyage to H avana, Cuba, to show the flag
and to protect American citizens in event of violence
in the Spanish struggle with the revolutionary forces
in Cuba. On 11 December Maine stood out of Hampton Roads
bound for Key West, arriving on the 15th. She was joined
200 there by ships of the North Atlantic Squadron on
maneuvers, then left Key West 24 January 1898 for Havana.
Arriving 25 January, Maine
anchored in the center of the port, remained on vigilant
watch, allowed no liberty, and took extra precautions
against sabotage. Shortly after 2140, 15 February, the
battleship was torn apart by a tremendous explosion that
shattered the entire forward part of the ship.
Out of 350 officers and
men on board that night (4 officers were ashore), 252
were dead or missing. Eight more were to die in Havana
hospitals during the next few days. The survivors of
the disaster were taken on board Ward Line steamer City
of Washington and Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. The Spanish
officials at Havana showed every attention to the survivors
of the disaster and great respect for those killed.
The court of inquiry convened
in March was unable to obtain evidence associating the
destructio of the battleship with any person or persons,
but public opinion in the United States was so inflamed
that the Maine disaster led eventually to the declaration
of war on Spain 21 April.
On 5 August 1910, Congress
authorized the raising of Maine and directed Army engineers
to supervise the work. A second board of inquiry appointed
to inspect the wreck after it was raised reported that
injuries to the ship's bottom were caused b y an external
explosion of low magnitude that set off the forward magazine,
completing destruction of the ship. It has never been
determined who placed the explosive, responsibility for
the sinking of Maine remains one of the continuing enigmas
of American history. Maine's hulk was finally floated
2 February 1912 and towed out to sea where it was sunk
in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico with appropriate
ceremony and military honors 16 March."
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