Gunboat USS Princeton

Gunboat USS Princeton PG-13

Newport Class Gunboat: Laid down in May 1896 by J. H. Dialogue and Son, Camden, New Jersey; Launched 3 June 1897; Commissioned 27 May 1898 at Philadelphia, PA. Specifications: Displacement 1,103 tons, Length over all; 253’; Beam 36’; Draft 12’ 9”; Speed 11 kts; Complement 147; Armament six 4-inch gun mounts and two 1-pounders; Propulsion steam and sail.

Gunboat USS Princeton anchored in Farm Cove, Sydney Harbor in September 1912.

The third Princeton, was a composite gunboat, made out of both wood and steel. She was laid down in May of 1896 by J. H. Dialogue and Son, Camden, N.J. She was launched June 3, 1897, and was sponsored by Miss Margeretta Updike. Princeton was placed into commission at the League Island Yard in Philadelphia on May 27, 1898, under the command of Commander Clifford H. West, USN. The ship was approximately 168-feet long and 36-feet wide, and had a crew of 147 officers and men. Princeton was armed with six 4-inch guns, two 1-pounders, and one Colt machine gun. Her engines, which were inverted triple expansion and fired by coal fired single end Scotch boilers gave her 800-horsepower that gave her a top speed of 11-knots.

After her acceptance trials that were held between July 7-25, 1898, off the Delaware Bay, Princeton got underway for Key West, Florida where she joined the North Atlantic Fleet on July 27. Because of the outbreak of the Spanish American War, on August 2, 1898, she was immediately sent to patrol the area from the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula to Livingston, Guatemala. After completing this mission on August 13, she returned to Key West and the Dry Tortugas where she remained on station until departing in late November for New York.

While at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on December 10, 1898, during a social event held in honor of the ship, the Commanding Officer of the Princeton, Commander Clifford West, was presented several gifts on behalf of the ship’s crew from the Princeton Club of Philadelphia. The gifts included a silver engraved punch bowl set, a 600-volume library and bookcase, and a new specially commissioned bronze ship’s bell. Thomas Shields Clark, a Princeton graduate, designed this bronze bell. The bell was larger than the Navy regulation for ships bells but this was overlooked because it was a gift. The tone of the bell was said to be loud and very “agreeable” to the ear. The ornate design featured a depiction of the old Nassau Hall with the date of 1746, which was the founding date of the school as the central feature. Also shown is a tiger, which is typical of Princeton engaging in conflict with the bulldog, typical of Yale, which is emblematic of the athletic contests between the two universities. As the bell was presented, Mr. M. Taylor Pyne of New York gave a presentation address given to the ship and her Commanding Officer.

The Princeton's Ships Bell

Princeton was ordered to join the Asiatic Fleet and sailed eastward across the Atlantic bound for the Pacific Station in early 1899. She passed through the Straits of Gibraltar February 2, 1899, and anchored in the harbor in Port Suez, Egypt where she dressed ship and flew the Turkish flag from her mainmast to render honors to the Turkish government before she transited the Suez Canal. She made passage of the canal and was under way at sea on February 17. Princeton sailed on to join the Asiatic Fleet on April 16 at Cavite, Philippines. Princeton cruised throughout the Philippines May 4-15 with Gunboat Petrel, distributing the proclamation of peace with Spain. Later she carried Sen. A. J. Beveridge on a tour of the newly acquired Philippine Territory.  In late May Princeton commenced blockading the Lingayen Gulf ports of St. Vincent and Musa and extended the blockade to the entire Gulf June 18-26. This was in an effort to prevent arms and supplies from reaching Filipino rebels in those areas.

As rebel activities increased on the island of Luzon, Princeton transported and landed American troops at San Fabian November 2-7, 1899. She also transported US cavalrymen as well as captured arms, carried dispatches, and brought supplies to US Marines at Subic Bay. Princeton assisted in the capture of the Babuyan and the Batan Islands on January 13, 1900, and she continued patrolling the waters off Luzon until February 10. Princeton later acted as the station ship at Iloilo and Cebu from March 5 through June 21, 1900.

At the time of the Boxer Rebellion Princeton cruised in Chinese waters (June 26- November 29) between Hong Kong and Woosung where she received a draft of men from the USS Buffalo on August 9. She returned December 4, to operations in the Philippines, principally in the Sulu Archipelago, and remained on duty there until July 20, 1902. Princeton was stationed at Cavite beginning July 23, and called at Uraga, Japan (October 9-December 18). While at Cavite she participated in large-scale maneuvers off the Philippines (December 29, 1902-February 3, 1903). Afterwards Princeton acted as a survey ship. (February 13-April 5) at Malabug Bay, Zamboanga and Dumanquilas Bay until she was ordered to return to the west coast of the United States where she departed April 13, 1903, for California.

While serving on the Asiatic Station during 1902 the Princeton’s Engineering Division was as follows:

Ensign F. F. Hellweg, Divisional Officer
W. R. Gibson
A. J. Dwyer
J. Hogan
D. Dunn
W. M. Miller
J. W. Davis
J. L. Wort
R. M. Anderson
J. Kenny
A. Gibson
H. Dixon
J. Peters
G. H. Alberton
C. Stoll
J. J. Murray
F. May
R. Thompson
E. J. Palmer
T. F. Lyons
C. F. Tinky
O. Quam
J. R. Smith

Princeton was decommissioned on June 12, 1903, at Mare Island Navy Yard and lay in ordinary throughout 1904 and into the spring of 1905.  Princeton re-commissioned May 12, 1905, at Mare Island Navy Yard and was attached to the Pacific Squadron. She left June 4, for duty as station ship at Panama City, where she remained until October 24. On the morning of September 18, 1905 Ordinary Seaman Albert James Nye is standing on the starboard rail on the Princeton’s forecastle helping to pull in the awing stop. At about 7:10 that morning Seaman Nye lost his balance and falls overboard the ship striking his head and subsequently drowned. On December 2, 1905, Princeton returned to Mare Island Navy Yard and began cruising off the Pacific coast from San Diego to Esquimalt, British Columbia. 

On April 23, 1906, Princeton was ordered by Commander Charles J. Badger, Commander of the 6th Naval District in San Francisco to proceed to give aid to the San Francisco earthquake emergency. Princeton went to Los Angles to pick up supplies and entered the harbor in San Francisco and moored alongside pier No. 7, on the Pacific Street dock and reported for duty. Princeton in accordance with instructions proceeded to discharge and distribute her load of 60-tons of provisions sent to San Francisco by the Chamber of Commerce Relief Committee of Los Angeles. Commander Francis H. Sherman then captain of the Princeton remained on station assisting in guard duty and other relief work through May 10, 1906. 

On May 10, 1906 Commander Sherman writes the following report to Commander Charles J. Badger, Commander of the 6th Naval District in San Francisco:

To: Commander Chas. J. Badger, U.S. Navy,
Commanding 6th District, San Francisco, Calif.

U.S.S. PRINCETON, 3rd Rate, San Francisco, Calif.,
May 10, 1906

Sir :

1. I have the honor to report the following operations on shore of the crew of the PRINCETON while the force was under your command on patrol duty in the 6th Military District, San Francisco, California.

2. Immediately upon the arrival of the PRINCETON from San Pedro, Cal., we were directed by the Commander-in-Chief to moor alongside pier No. 7, (Pacific Street dock) and report to you for duty. This was done at 6 p.m. April 23rd, and in accordance with instructions we proceeded to discharge and distribute our load of 60 tons of provisions sent to San Francisco by the Chamber of Commerce Relief Committee of Los Angeles.

3. We began patrol duty at 8 a.m. April 24th, the district assigned to the PRINCETON'S crew covering the water front from pier No. 9 (Broadway dock) to the ferry dock at the foot of Clay street both inclusive. For protecting this space there were established twelve sentry posts to which were assigned three officers and 42 men. The district contained the Pacific Coast Steamship dock, the Oceanic S.S. Co. (Spreckels Line) and the wharves of the Stockton, Sacramento and numerous local bay steamers, also Wells Fargo Express Co. and a part of the North Shore Ferry lines. On all the wharves business was conducted as usual and little difficulty was encountered in carrying out the orders and regulations prescribed for the proper protection of the docks and the property thereon. The object sought to be attained was that all affairs of business should be assisted as much as possible to assume their normal conditions, as soon as possible, and the success of this policy was much appreciated by the superintendents of various docks, the Agents and others interested.

4. Only a few cases of drunkenness among the civilians occurred in th district and these were easily disposed of. One case of attempted looting of trunks was encountered and prevented, the looters running away. Two dead bodies were found, and on the Coroner being informed he took them away. One was a boy about 12 years old, named Rossi, killed in pier 3, by the falling of the shed during the earthquake, the other a man unknown, drowned, found at pier No. 9. In some cases, dock officials would insist on their right to smoke on the dock, thus violating their own posted rules, but in all cases the observance of this rule was insisted upon by the officers of the guard and it was adhered to.

5. On May 6th the PRINCETON relieved the MARBLEHEAD at the foot of Main street and moored to the Santa Fe dock. The district to patrol extended from pier No. 24 (foot of Spear street) to pier No. 40 (foot of First Street) both inclusive and duty was continued here till May 10th when the forces were withdrawn. This section comprised the Pacific Mail Dock, the large lumber docks, and yards on Bryant Street, the Santa Fe dock and the Portland and San Francisco Steamer docks. For the patrol of this section 7 posts were established with 4 officers and 39 men. The particular danger in this section was from fire in the vicinity of such a large amount of pine lumber and the docks and warehouses being constructed of very inflammable material. Two docks caught fire, one from sparks from a pile driver and another from a cigarette careless thrown on the dock. In both cases damage was prevented by the quickness of discovery by sentries, who called the ships reserve force and formed bucket lines. The pile driver party was stopped working until they could fit a spark arrester to the smoke pipe.

6. In conclusion I am gratified to state that the officers were diligent and careful in carrying out their duty and not a case occurred of a sentry leaving his post, or being drunk, either on or off duty.

They seemed to take pride in their new experience and were always found on the alert.

Very respectfully

(Sgd.) F. H. Sherman
Commander, U.S. Navy, Commanding.

She escorted Rear Admiral C. J. Train's remains from Vancouver to Seattle (August 22-24, 1906), assisted the USS Boston (December 6-9, 1906) which, was aground off Bellingham, Washington, and accompanied the new cruiser USS California September 10-22, on her sea trials off Washington. Princeton remained on station off the West coast until directed to rejoin the Pacific Squadron January 3, 1907, at Magdalena Bay, Mexico. 

Princeton was ordered to proceeded to Corinto, Nicaragua, arriving March 17, 1907, for the purpose of protecting American interests there. She transported troops from Ampala, Honduras to La Union, April 12, and brought General Bonilla back to Salina Cruz, Mexico on April 13. She returned to San Diego on May 30, and decommissioned on July 3, 1907, at Bremerton, Washington. 

Princeton re-commissioned once again on November 5, 1909, at Bremerton and sailed November 28, 1909, for Central America for duty with the Nicaraguan Expeditionary Squadron. From December 20, 1909, until March 21, 1911, she showed the flag in this area, operating between San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and La Union, El Salvador. Princeton returned to Puget Sound Navy Yard on June 20, 1911, for repairs and alterations. After her overhaul period in late 1911 until 1915 Princeton was used as a station ship at Tutuila, American Samoa.

In the photo above is a custom-made porcelain, likely made for a crewmember to be used as a remembrance or possibly as a gift to someone. It is a German made porcelain creamer about 5-inches tall with a hand painted picture of the crew of the USS Princeton while on a visit to Bremerton, Washington. It is not dated but the most likely time frame is during her November 1909 re-commissioning at the Bremerton Navy Yard. It is decorated with a hand painted scene likely taken from a photo of the crew aboard the ship, showing at least 52-enlisted men and ten officers. In gold leaf across the bottom are the words “Crew USS Princeton, Bremerton, Wash.

The Princeton on July 11, 1914, was patrolling in the waters around Samoa and struck an uncharted rock during a storm. This punched a hole in her hull and she took on water and was in a dangerous situation. She was down by the bow and had her forward gun deck awash. Her crew acted quickly and was able to get her underway and steam back to the Naval Station, Tutuila, Samoa. The Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels on February 1, 1915 sent the following dispatch to the Captain of the Princeton:

Navy Department, Washington, February 1, 1915
From: Secretary of the Navy
To: Commanding Officer, USS Princeton
Subject: Commendation

1. You will please convey to your ship's company, who are reported by name as follows, the Department's commendation for the coolness and bravery shown by them when the USS Princeton struck an uncharted rock on July 11, 1914, and steamed into the harbor at the Naval Station, Tutuila, Samoa, with her forward gun deck awash.

E. J. McCluen, CE Lepe, O. Sea
R. L. Billings, CGM G. M. Tomashet, F1c
J. A. Pearson, CCM W. B. Hanna, CBM
A. J. Ross, CBM E. Niday, F2c
F. Uhrle, QM1c G. W. Moore, CP
D. Gliem, QM1c L. O. Gardner, Sea
W. Wallwork, Sea. W. C. Colin, Sea
C. R. Kehler, QM3c L. L. Maughs, O. Sea
A. P. Gros, BM2c A. C. McCurry, BM2c
W. H. Brady, GM1c H. W. Sylvis, Coppersmith
F. C. Schweitzer, GM2c S. Bird, Oiler
H. E. Stevens, GM3c H. G. Starks, Sea
F. E. Williams, GM3c F. Britt, F2c
W. G. Wyman, F1c B. L. Allison, F2c
P. Haaland, F2c J. L. Burris, E3c
F. F. Jumper, F2c P. R. Pratt, O. Sea
H. J. Peterson, SC1c J. V. Hudson, CP
B. M. Dorland, SC1c G. B. Kessack, BM2c
A. Owens, Sea C. S. Farwell, E1c
M. J. Kruez, O. Sea W. Coleman, CMAA
C. E. Moore, Y1c H. W. Burchill, CM3c
E. Hunt, Y2c H. A. Moodie, W2c
E. Castillo, MA2c J. A. Laurie, CY
E. B. Chandler, P&F A. C. Schroeder, Y1c
C. T. Dunn, Ptr1c M. Maturgo, MA3c
J. L. Travers, Bugler O. L. Youngblood, H. Std
C. T. Kaplan, O. Sea H. Duell, Sea
J. McManus, WT H. R. Taylor, CP
E. P. Kellam, Sea C. C. Carpenter, Sea
J. E. Ryan, Sea J. L. Wheelock, O. Sea
J. A. Paul, O. Sea F. Hubbard, CBM
Faamaile, A. Sea E. Cassidy, Sea
W. G. Nichols, MM2c

The Department noted with pleasure your statement that the unflagging perserverance shown by the personnel in salvaging the equipment, in raising the Princeton, and putting her in a habitable condition, especially when living under very trying conditions and having unsatisfactory sleeping quarters, was splendid.

Josephus Daniels


Returning to San Francisco on September 18, 1915, Princeton in convoy with the armored cruiser USS Colorado sailed for Bremerton, Washington where both ships were to be overhauled. Both ships arrived and the Bremerton Navy Yard on October 7th. The Princeton would be repaired from her damages of a year ago when she hit the reef in Samoa and the Colorado for routine overhaul from being at sea for over ten months.

During the time the Princeton was being overhauled at Bremerton, she was under the command of Lt. Commander Lloyd Stowell Shapley, USN. Shapley was born in New York on November 3, 1875, and had been in the Navy since May 30, 1895, joining from the State of Missouri. Previous to his command of the Princeton, Shapley had been assigned to duty at the Naval Magazine at the Mare Island Navy Yard from about 1912-1913. Shapley then was assigned to duty on the USS Brooklyn, and then to the Princeton. There were only 3 officers assigned to the ship during the repair period, Shapley, a Lt. (jg) and a Paymaster.

The second officer assigned to the Princeton while she was being repaired was a young Lieutenant (jg). His name was Lt. (jg) Thomas L. Gatch, and he had just been transferred from the Cruiser Maryland after serving aboard for over two years. Gatch had graduated from the Naval Academy with the class of 1912 and the Maryland was his first ship after graduation. Lt. (jg) Gatch remained with the Princeton for about a year and then was transferred to the Chattanooga for duty. Gatch would rise through the ranks, and go on to earn a reputation of a hard nose battleship commander during WWII. On March 20, 1942, Captain Thomas L. Gatch took command of the newly commissioned battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57), and by October 26, 1942 at the battle of Santa Cruz Island in the Pacific, Gatch had the guns of the South Dakota inflicting damage to the Japanese Navy for the first time. Gatch would retire from Active Service at the rank of Vice Admiral.

The third officer was Passed Assistant Paymaster Robert B. Lupton, who took care of paying the crew and also being sure all the materials for the repairs were accounted for and bills paid.

After her repair period Princeton was decommissioned and was laid up until February 20, 1917, when she proceeded to Puget Sound for repairs. She commissioned in ordinary there January 16, 1918, for use as a training ship at Seattle from May 9, 1918, to April 25, 1919, when she decommissioned for the last time. Princeton was struck from the Navy List on June 23, 1919, and sold to the company of Farrell, Kane and Stratton, of Seattle, Washington November 13, 1919.

Ships like Princeton were considered obsolete for fleet operations when they were built. By the time Princeton was commissioned in 1898, steel warships had taken over from wooden and iron warships in most navies around the world. But composite gunboats, ships made out of both wood and steel, still had a place in the US Navy at the turn of the century. These modestly priced warships were just as capable of “showing the flag” and bringing a substantial amount of firepower to bear as their modern (and more expensive) all-steel counterparts. Their heavy use of sail power gave them great range and made them economical, since their steam engines were not used as much and, therefore, consumed less coal. These ships also were cheap and easy to maintain compared to steel warships. Finally, even after being replaced by all-steel gunboats, these composite vessels still were able to make a valuable contribution as training ships. Princeton proved that sometimes the most modern and expensive warships are not always needed for the everyday tasks a major navy has to perform.

Undated photo of the Princeton in the dry dock at the Bremerton Navy Yard.
This may have been when she returned to Bremerton in 1914 with the Armored Cruiser USS Colorado.


List of commanding officers of the Princeton:

Commander Clifford H. West, May 27, 1898
Commander Harry Knox, August 7, 1899
Commander James R. Selfridge, May 31, 1901 – after January 1, 1903
Commander Francis H. Sherman, May 5, 1904 – December 25, 1906
Commander Arthur W. Dodd, December 25, 1906
Commander Charles H. Hayes, November 5, 1909 – 1911
Commander William M. Crose, 1911 – past January 1, 1912, also served as the Commandant of the Naval Station Tutuila
Lt. Commander Lloyd S. Shapley, November 24, 1915

Ships Muster

As I find names of men who sailed this ship I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who were crew of the USS Princeton please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell

Fred Davis Underwood

Patti Bowlsby of Garland, Texas contacted me about her father who served on the USS Princeton. This is what she shared with me:

Fred Davis Underwood was born in Dublin, Texas on June 6, 1889. After he got out of the Navy, he met my mother who was a school teacher in St. George which was a little town near Dublin. They married in 1921 and always lived on the farm where all of us were born; Dorlene in 1922, Martha in 1925, Judy in 1929, John in 1932 and me in 1937. We still own the farm and my brother built his new home there which was certainly an improvement over the farm house we were raised in! Fred Underwood was killed in a farming accident on the family farm in 1960, still a healthy, strong good-looking man for his age with a full head of brown hair with almost no gray. The accident happened when he was oiling the wheels on his grain drill which wasn't hooked to the tractor and it turned over on him killing him instantly when the grain shifted.

I know my daddy was in France, Germany and Australia. He enlisted twice. I have his discharge papers...he enlisted first in 1910 and was discharged in 1914 and enlisted again in 1914 through 1919. He always told us stories of the war. I have a big brass bullet (without the explosives); a brass ship wheel and a puter teapot they took from a German ship when they captured it. In his discharge papers, he was also on the USS Cleveland and the USS Olympia. His first 4 years, from 1910 to 1914 were spent in the Pacific including Hawaii, Samoa, etc. His second 4 years were spent in the Atlantic and he was in France, Italy and several other countries.

Daddy said they slept in hammocks because they would have rolled off of a bed. He liked to sit in the "crow's nest" as a watch out. He said that sometimes when he had coal shoveling duty, he and some others would sneak into the galley and get eggs and bacon and fry them on their shovels in the coal room. He loved to tie all kinds of knots and tried to teach us how to tie them. They all had a different name. He learned to make omelets in Paris and brought the recipe home. They had never heard of them at that time but the family has made them ever since.

When they captured the German submarine which had come to the surface to recharge its batteries, they took all the military people off and the captain of Daddy's ship (unknown which ship this was but it was likely the USS Cleveland) told them to go aboard and take everything they wanted. They put the items in sea bags and they were sent to their homes in the states. Then they blew up the submarine.

Thanks for your time...Patti Bowlsby

Fred Davis Underwood
U.S. Navy 1910-1919
Born: 1889 in Dublin, Texas
Died: November 17, 1960
This a photo of the teapot that Fred Underwood took off of the German U-boat during WWI.
Photo of a 20" long 44mm shell taken by Fred Underwood from the German U-boat. Patti Bowlsby notes that the date "1912" is stamped on the bottom of the shell.

Shipmates Kenyon and King

The above photo was shared by Ken McPheeters who bought this photo as a 2006 Christmas present for his brother who is a career Naval Officer. Ken was not able to find any information about these two sailors. The photo was written on the back with the names of the sailors. They are Ordinary Seaman Harry H. Kenyon (seated) and Seaman J. E. King. Both were shipmate's on Board the USS Princeton.

Ho Ching, USS Princeton Crewman

Ralph Ho Ching, Petty Officer First Class, USN contacted me about his grandfather Ho Ching, who was a crewman on board the Princeton between the years 1911 to 1915. Ralph related about his grandfather, "...He had several names ‘Ching’ or ‘Ho Ching.’ He was a Chinese immigrant (or at least I believe). He was onboard the gunboat up to the point where he left the ship on the U.S. Island Territory of Tutuila, American Samoa. Between the year 1911 to 1915."

PO1c Ralph Ho Ching is currently serving on board the USS Higgins DDG 76, homeported in San Diego, CA., and has recently been deployed to the Middle East with the Higgins.

CBM Archie McCurry

Written by RMC Ben Seaberry, USN (Ret. 1958-1978), the great-nephew of Archie McCurry

My great-uncle Archie McCurry had quite a career in the United States Navy. He was a farm boy from Parker County, Texas. He enlisted in 1910 and his wages were $17.00 per month. He retired as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate on 1 January 1940 and died 6-months later. His duty stations included: USS Taylor, USS Galveston, Naval Station Tutuila, USS Sinclair, USS Oklahoma, Recruiting Duty Milwaukee, USS Colorado, USS Carola, USS Princeton, USS Pittsburgh, USS Moody, USS Idaho, USS Tennessee. He was aboard the USS Colorado during the Nicaraguan rebellion in 1913. He landed with the 4th Company of the Colorado’s battalion and guarded a railway and a wharf. Archie marched in the Independence Day parade on July 4th and the July 14th, 1919 parade in Paris, France. He was aboard the USS Princeton on July 11, 1914 when she struck an uncharted rock. The crew managed to keep her afloat and made their way to Navsta Tutuila. Chief McCurry’s retirement letter was signed by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who was then the Chief of Bureau of Navigation. Archie died 6 months after his retirement from the Navy and is buried at Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

Edward Cassidy

Florence Joan Cassidy-Masoli shared some basic information regarding her grandfatherEdward Cassidy. He was born in Plymouth, MA. and served on the USS Princeton while in the Pacific. Florence stated that, "I believe he was around 40 some years old when my father was born. My father (deceased) was born in Tutuila, American Samoa on September 28, 1914, and had two more sisters from the same father. They passed away very young from the influenza that plagued the South Pacific. Sadly I don’t have a picture or any kind of stories to share."

Gustave Gerstle

Warren Dickerson's grandfather, Gustave Gerstle served on board the Princeton during the Spanish-American War. Warren stated, "I remember the stories he used to tell me of Iron Men on Wooden Ships. He was the ships baker. I still have his original cruise book from the Princeton in 1902.  Memories from long ago and far away."

Gustave Gerstle was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1880. Gustave joined the Navy at age 16 and was assigned to the USS Don Juan DeAustria. He was later transferred to the USS Princeton and served on board for the remainder of his enlistment.

On the USS Princeton he was assigned to the position of ship’s baker. His main duty was to bake bread. Gustave said that it was difficult to get the bread to rise, due to the fact that the flour was always contaminated with weevil’s. Gustave enjoyed his time in China and made lifelong friends with whom he corresponded for many years. He spoke of a shipmate who was from San Francisco and of Chinese descent, who visited him in Philadelphia years after they were discharged from the navy.

Warren related how Gustave told, "...that on occasion he and other’s would frequent opium den’s in China. They would give us bowl of opium, and showed us which cot was ours to lay down on." Warren went on to relate, "He also said that when at sea, it was very dangerous to climb the rigging and roll up the sails in heavy sea, and how from time to time some sailors would loose their grip and be lost at sea." Gustave did not hold Captain Gately in high esteem. He said the "judicial system on board the Princeton was tyrannical and capricious at best." He would always say “Iron men & wooden ships”. My grandfather was a memorable person when I knew him later in his life. He would have been incredibly engaging when he was a young sailor. He passed away in 1963 at the age of 83. Fair winds and following sea’s to his memory.

Gustave Gerstle


This small scrap of a photo shows Gustave Gerstle while on board the Princeton. Gustave is standing behind the sailor in the dark shirt with his arms crossed. Note that the sailor next to the man in the dark shirt is holding a small pig.

James Madison Bartlebaugh

In writing the story of Gustave Gerstle, who was a young sailor aboard the Gunboat USS Princeton, there was a small torn scrap of a photograph showing Gerstle and at least five other Princeton sailors. But there seemed to be a story yet to be told about this scrap of a photo. This missing part to the story of Gerstle’s small torn photo, that dated to 1898-99, would have to wait until November of 2016, some 118-years after these six sailors posed for the camera on the deck of the Princeton.

In the fall of 2016 Wayne Sieloff, himself a former Navy man, and amateur military photo collector, purchased a photo for a little over twenty-dollars, which would be the missing part to the Gerstle photo scrap of 118-years ago. Sieloff’s photo was of a Marine and a Sailor, which appeared to be from the Spanish-American War time frame. In his photo the sailor was wearing a flat hat with the hat tally that had the ship name visible, and it read “USS Princeton.” The photo was mounted on a period board backer, and very lightly on the back was written “James M. Bartlebaugh, right,” which was the clue needed to put the pieces of the story together. In the photo the sailor is on the right side so this had to be Bartlebaugh.

In November 2016 Wayne Sieloff contacted me about his photo and the connection to the USS Princeton. When I saw this photo the sailor in his photo identified as Bartlebaugh seemed to be a memorable face to me. Bartlebaugh’s stature and face gave a commanding presence and he must have been a man who was as tough as any aboard the Princeton. His eyes were piercing and his thick mustache speaks of his character, large as life and right in front of your face was likely his personality. I had the feeling I have gazed upon his face before. In fact, I had, and in a few moments as I was reviewing my Princeton files I came across the Gerstle photo scrap again, and there was that imposing mustache and piercing eyes looking directly at me from this 118-year old photo. It was then I read the words of Gustave Gerstle, “Iron Men, and Wooden Ships.” Sieloff’s photo of Bartlebaugh and the Marine, likely also a member of the crew of the Princeton, certainty looked like “Iron Men.”

Using Photoshop, I copied the faces of each photo, Sieloff’s and the Gerstle photo, and imposed them one over another and they were a perfect match. I was looking at two photos both 118-years old of the same man, James Madison Bartlebaugh. But I needed more conformation of who Bartlebaugh was. The conformation came from two sources from my research into Bartlebaugh. First I found his name listed in the roster of Company E, 28th Infantry, United States Volunteers, which was listed in the “History of the of the 28th Infantry, USV.” His name appeared as “Corporal James M. Bartlebaugh”. The second conformation was from the records of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, from the Veteran’s Compensation Application filled out by Bartlebaugh’s wife Opal on February 28, 1934, about a year after Bartlebaugh’s death. The Veteran’s Compensation Application gave a great deal of facts from which to build his story.

James Madison Bartlebaugh was born on August 5, 1870 in Hillsdale, Indiana County, Pennsylvania to Elizabeth Spicher (1826-1922), and Abner Conner Bartlebaugh (1830-1922). James M. Bartlebaugh on May 24, 1898 enlisted into the United States Navy at League Island at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The gunboat USS Princeton was then at the Philadelphia Navy Yard awaiting her formal Commissioning. On May 27, three days after Bartlebaugh enlisted into the Navy, the Princeton was commissioned under the command of Commander Clifford H. West, and James Bartlebaugh was assigned to the first crew of the Princeton. His records show he was assigned to the ship the same day he enlisted.

As a member of the Princeton’s first crew, Bartlebaugh would have been aboard for her acceptance sea trials in July of 1898 held off the Delaware Bay. By late July 1898 Princeton was based out of Key West, Florida and was on duty with the North Atlantic Fleet, that had now been sent south for the blockade of Cuba in April. The summer of ‘98 slipped by with the Princeton and Bartlebaugh standing on the sidelines of the Spanish-American War, but that changed on August 2, 1898 when orders were received to proceed at best speed to the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. The Princeton, Bartlebaugh, and his shipmates were to patrol along the coast of Guatemala. They were only on station a little over two-weeks when they were sent back to Key West via the Dry Tortugas. By November 1898 Princeton was back at the Navy Yard in New York. Bartlebaugh only really got to watch the Spanish-American War from the deck of the Princeton. On January 5, 1899 Bartlebaugh was discharged from the Navy, and he went home to Pennsylvania.

After Bartlebaugh left the Princeton, she was sent to duty with the Asiatic Fleet for service in the Philippine Islands. It is not known if Bartlebaugh knew the Princeton, and his former ship mates were headed to the Philippines, but in a few months-time, he too would be in the Philippine Islands, just not aboard the Princeton.

While serving on the Princeton, Bartlebaugh had a taste of adventure, and that likely lay dormant within him as he went home. For eight quiet months, this feeling grew within him until August 3, 1899 when Bartlebaugh acted on this feeling and enlisted into the United States Volunteers. Bartlebaugh was a Corporal serving in Company E, 28th Infantry USV, which was commanded by Captain John D. Croasmun of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Company E was filled with a great many boys from Pennsylvania, and would be sent to the Philippines for duty in the Philippine-American War.

On November 22, 1899, Corporal James M. Bartlebaugh had just arrived in Manila, P. I. after having just traveling some 6,832-miles aboard the USAT Tarter, steaming from San Francisco California on October 25, 1899. During the time, Corporal Bartlebaugh served in Company E on the island of Luzon, the Princeton was also patrolling off the Island. It is not known if Bartlebaugh saw his old ship while there but it might have been possible he caught a glimpse the old Princeton.

On Bartlebaugh’s Pennsylvania Veteran’s Compensation form there is a line for engagements, which stated; “Engagement at Tanoan Luzon, PI, Part. in Scouts 45-days Luzon 1900.” This seems to be a bit cryptic, but it does follow the history of Company E.

In fact, once Company E arrived in Manila they were sent south of Manila a few miles to the village of Bacoor City where the Company was quartered. The notation of “Engagement at Tanoan, Luzon, PI” is accurate but not spelled correctly. The facts of this engagement are; In January of 1900, Company E was detailed to join an expeditionary force under the command of General Wheaton for actions on the Southern part of the Island of Luzon. This was the present area where they were stationed at. On the morning, of January 7, Company E met the enemy for the first time at a place called Tancan Luna, as described in the book “The History of the 28th Infantry, USV”. This is the present day Tanauan City, not far from Manila. Company E moved through Tanauan City and on to the city of Perez Dasmarinas by January 8. There in Perez Dasmarinas, Company E made camp and used this place as their base of operations as they made scouting expeditions throughout the area from this camp for the next 2-months.

By September of 1900, Company E was then in barracks in the city of Balanga in the Bataan Province, located across the bay from Manila. On March 5, 1901 Company E boarded the USAT Thomas for the start of the trip home. The Thomas reached Nagasaki, Japan on March 21 where they stayed until March 24 when they sailed for San Francisco. Corporal James M. Bartlebaugh was discharged from duty on May 1, 1901, and made his way home again.

Arriving home in Hillsdale, Pennsylvania Bartlebaugh likely lived with his parents for a short time. By 1904 James had met Opal Roxie Bhe (1878-1951) and that same year the two were married. Living in the Hillsdale, PA area the couple had their first child a son named Wayne in 1906 and that was followed by a second son named Henry in 1910. By 1914 when their third child, a daughter named Elizabeth, was born, they had moved to the city of Niagara Falls, New York. James was then working for the railroad to support his family.

In Niagara Falls the Bartlebaugh family grew again in 1918 when another daughter named Marjorie was born. At the time the Bartlebaugh home was located on 25th Street in Niagara Falls, and James was now working in a factory. The family grew again in 1923 when a son named James, Jr. was born. According to the 1925 New York State Census, James’s occupation was listed as “electrical operator” and this may have been one of the several hydroelectric generating plants in the Niagara Falls area.

On February 8, 1928, just short of his fifth Birthday, James and Opal’s youngest child, James Jr. died and the family would suffer their first loss. Within 4-years the Bartlebaugh family would suffer a second loss.

The second loss to the family came on December 7, 1932, when at the age of 62-years, James Madison Bartlebaugh would pass away, leaving his wife Opal to raise four children. On February 28, 1934 Opal filled out a Veteran’s Compensation form for the state of Pennsylvania on behalf of her deceased husband James. Opal was granted a payment of 10-dollars per month for 20-months, a sum total of $200 for services of her husband James during the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. Opal remained in Niagara Falls and kept the family together, passing away on January 15, 1951.

This is the photo from Wayne Sieloff purchased for a little over $20. It shows on the left a Marine Corporal with two service stripes which he would have served at least 8-years in the Marines at the time of the photograph, and the sailor on the right is Bartlebaugh. Both are shipmates from the Princeton and this photo would then be dated from May 24, 1898- January 5, 1899. Bartlebaugh stands for the camera with his hands on his hips as almost to say “I am an Iron Man who sails on a wooden ship”

On the back of the photo Bartlebaugh was the only identification, and it is too bad the Marine is not identified. His uniform he has on is the standard 5-button dark navy blue blouse with the light blue pants and Marine red and yellow stripes, with the darker colored leggings. Batrlebaugh has on the standard navy uniform, but under his jumper you can see he has on a dress white shirt with a bow tie similar to what a Chief would wear. It is not known what his rating was while he served aboard the Princeton. His hat tally says “USS Princeton”

Above on the left is the Sieloff photograph and the photograph on the right is the Gerstle photograph. Bartlebaugh appears in the Gerstle photograph with his arms crossed and has the dark shirt on. It is a match as his eyes, ears and mustache match completely when both photographs are compared and overlaid in Photoshop.

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This page was created on 26 February 2005 and last modified on: December 21, 2019

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