WHEN the centennial of war with Spain arrives Monday, who will join us in a cheer for the U.S.S. Baltimore? It was with Dewey at Manila Bay.
At least five warships have worn the name Baltimore in wartime. Historian Francis F. Beirne lists a Revolutionary War brigantine; a 1798 merchantman purchased by the Navy; a Civil War sidewheeler; the steel cruiser of 1898, built in Philadelphia and around as a North Sea minelayer in 1918; and a World War II cruiser that carried FDR to Hawaii for a rendezvous with Adm. Chester Nimitz and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
No dreadnoughts, these. But the role of the 1898 cruiser was pivotal. As war loomed, Commodore George Dewey (Annapolis '58) cabled from Hong Kong: Urgent need coal, ammunition. In response, the heavily laden Baltimore steamed out of Pearl Harbor, heading west. Had the Spaniards in Manila intercepted her, writes the historian Ivan Musicant, it would have been a far less dandy little war.