USS Chicago in 1889.
USS Chicago in 1889.

Guide to William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago, 1893-1895

MS 408

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: David D'Onofrio

August 2010

Descriptive Summary

William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago was donated to the Special Collections & Archives Department by Dr. Diana L. Ahmad. Accession No. 07-23.
1 linear inch.
Access to the William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago is unrestricted.
The William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago, MS 408
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Sketch

William Slack Montgomery, the son of lawyer James Montgomery, was born on October 10, 1872 in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in September 1889. Upon completion of his coursework at the Academy, Montgomery was station aboard U.S.S. Chicago (Protected Cruiser) as a Naval Cadet for two years of sea service before final graduation. Following his commissioning as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy on July 1, 1895, Montgomery was attached to U.S.S. Petrel (Gunboat: PG-2) in June 1896. On March 3, 1899, Montgomery was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), and in November of that year, was attached to the school ship U.S.S. St. Mary's (Sloop-of-war). On February 11, 1901, Montgomery was promoted to Lieutenant, and was later attached to U.S.S. Olympia (Protected Cruiser: C-6). After a brief leave of absence in 1902, Montgomery resigned from the U.S. Navy on January 1, 1903. William Slack Montgomery died on January 20, 1912.

Scope and Content Note

William Slack Montgomery's Journal of the Cruise of U.S.S. Chicago spans from June 1893 until April 1895. The journal is an account of Chicago's cruise as flagship of the European Station, and includes details on various ports of call, foreign fleets, weather, drills, and crew movements.

The journal consists of daily entries describing weather and sea conditions; drills and target practice; crew movements; and official visits paid to and by the officers of the U.S. Navy European Station. Interspersed throughout the daily entries are lengthier descriptions of ports of call, including fortifications, topography, population, and commerce; foreign vessels and fleet movements; U.S.S. Chicago and her systems and equipment; matters of seamanship; and specific notable events.

The largest number of lengthy descriptions is devoted to European ports of call visited by U.S.S. Chicago. Among the port cities described in the journal are Queenstown, now Cobh, and Kingstown Harbor, Ireland (pages 8-12); Cherbourg (pages 12-17), Le Havre (pages 23-26 and 189-190), Marseilles (pages 67-68), and Villafranche-sur-Mer (pages 83-84), France; Cowes, (pages 17-19) and Gravesend (page 149), England; Barcelona (pages 44-46) and Gibraltar (described at one point as costly and of little strategic advantage to Britain, pages 37-41 and 141-142), Spain; Lisbon (pages 28-29) and Funchal (page 224), Portugal; Smyrna (page 116), Mersin (page 120-121), and Alexandretta (pages 120-121), Turkey; Genoa (page 69) and Naples (pages 101-102), Italy; Tangier, Morocco (page 42-43); Algiers, Algeria (pages 136-138); Alexandria, Egypt (page 124); and Antwerp, Belgium (pages 164-165).

A sizeable number of entries are also devoted to the description of foreign naval vessels. British vessels highlighted in the journal include various torpedo boats (pages 11-12); H.M.S. Cambrian (pages 216-217); and H.M.S. Sans Pareil, H.M.S. Anson, H.M.S. Nile, H.M.S. Dreadnought (1875), H.M.S. Amphion, and H.M.S. Edgar (pages 127-129). French vessels described by Montgomery include the battleships Formidable, Hoche, Marceau, and Neptune, as well as the cruiser Alger (pages 93-98); torpedo gunboat Cassini, then under construction at Le Havre (pages 193-194); battleship Marceau and torpedo gunboat Leger (page 87); and the general design, including sketches, of French torpedo boats (pages 23-26). The volume also includes descriptions of several Italian naval vessels, including the battleship Re Umberto (pages 102-105), and the gunboat Volturno (pages 127-129). One Russian vessel, the battleship Nicholas I (pages 28-29), is also discussed.

At various points throughout the journal, Montgomery offers specifications on U.S.S. Chicago, such as measurements, equipment, and armament (pages 2-7); as well as descriptions of the ship's gallows frame (pages 21-22); steering gear (pages 60-64); electrical systems and lighting (pages 79-82); and hull condition as discovered during a routine dry docking (pages 191-192). In addition to the ship itself, various entries touch upon operations aboard the Chicago, including vertical and horizontal target plots used aboard (pages 108-110); a table of routine drills (page 30); the ship's port routine (page 72); detailed descriptions of target practice (pages 65-67 and 113-115); a comparison of different systems of signals (pages 34-36); and a question regarding a theoretical ramming of Chicago and the proper reaction for keeping her in trim (pages 182-184). Other events covered by the journal include the general court martial of J.J. Keenan for desertion (page 23); testing of Herr Dowe's bullet-proof cuirass (breast plate/vest) at the Alhambra Theater in London (pages 153-156); and a collision between Chicago and the British tanker Azov (pages 173-174).

Also included with the journal are several inserts, including pamphlets on the Routine and Instructions for the European Station and the Squadron of Evolution (page 31). Numerous press clippings can be found throughout, including those pertaining to U.S. torpedo boats and marine engines (page 32-33); submarine design, U.S. Gunboats 7-9, U.S.S. Oregon, and naval guns (pages 47-59); and the sinking of H.M.S. Victoria and modern shipbuilding (pages 73-78). Several other inserts, including several calling cards and a letter dating from 1855 have been removed from the journal and stored separately.

Entries throughout the journal were inspected and approved by Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, featuring his signature. One entry, Montgomery's description of H.M.S. Cambrian, was rejected by Mahan as being "so carelessly written that it is impossible to approve it" (page 217).