This is not a Fort Worth story. It is a bigger story—a Texas story, a story of one name, two ships, and three wars.
While poking around in the October 26, 1895 edition of the Fort Worth Gazette I was surprised to see a ship labeled the “battleship Texas” in this ad for A. L. August clothiers. Come to find out the USS Texas that we see on display at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is the second of three Navy ships to bear that name.
To have seen the first USS Texas, you’d have to be a centenarian. The first Texas was the United States’ first battleship, commissioned a month before the USS Maine. Congress authorized the Texas in 1886. This clip is from the March 24, 1889 Gazette.
After some delay because some people in the Navy were concerned that the ship might not even float as designed, the Texas was built at the Navy yards at Norfolk, Virginia. The Texas was a 308-foot-long coal-burning steamer. In fact, its engines were built by a locomotive manufacturer. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
The Texas was christened in 1892 by Miss Madge Houston Williams, granddaughter of Sam Houston.
The Texas was commissioned on August 8, 1895, and her troubles began almost immediately. Clip is from the September 30, 1896 Abbeville Press and Banner of South Carolina.
The Texas quickly developed a reputation as a jinxed or unlucky ship after several accidents. She was nicknamed “Old Hoodoo.”
Hoodoo or no hoodoo, after the Spanish-American War began in 1898, the Texas certainly fared better in Cuba than her younger sister Maine had. The USS Texas was sent to Cuba in February 1898 and began patrol and blockade duty. On June 16 the Texas bombarded the fort in Guantanamo Bay, putting the fort out of action. On July 3 she took part in the Battle of Santiago.
In 1911 the USS Texas was renamed the “USS San Marcos” so that a new ship could be named the “USS Texas.”
The San Marcos nee Texas was struck from the Navy rolls in 1911, used as a target, and sunk in 1912. Clip is from the April 22, 1911 Logan, Utah, Republican.
The new USS Texas was launched in 1912, completed and commissioned in 1914.
Like the first Texas, Texas II is a steamer, but Texas II is considerably larger at 33,000 tons of displacement and 573 feet in length. This photo of the Texas against the backdrop of Manhattan is from the New York Sun of January 17, 1917. Texas II saw action in both world wars.
As World War I began in 1917 there was even a Tarrant County Battleship Texas Knitting Association.
The USS Texas took part in the D-Day invasion in June 1944. Clip is from the June 8 Dallas Morning News.
Soon after World War II ended in 1945, the state of Texas was offered the battleship by the Navy. The second USS Texas was decommissioned in 1948 and began a new career as a memorial.
The second USS Texas, now 101 years old, at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
(The third USS Texas was a nuclear guided missile cruiser commissioned in 1977 and decommissioned in 1993. The fourth USS Texas is a submarine commissioned in 2006.)
(The USS Fort Worth, a Navy combat ship built by Lockheed Martin, was commissioned in 2012.)