Larry Clinton/Sausalito Historical Society
The USS Charleston was a steel-hulled cruiser launched in July 1888 by Union Iron Works, San Francisco. Just the fourth such warship launched by the U.S. Navy, she attracted lots of attention, as noted in an article from the Daily Alta California newspaper in May, 1890:
Officers Driven From the New Cruiser by a Boarding Party.
For two weeks prior to her departure to the Sandwich Islands the cruiser Charleston rode at anchor in the cove near Sausalito. Before seeking that anchorage she had been anchored in the stream off Jackson-street wharf. Parties and excursions went aboard the new warship almost daily, and on the vessel it was one continuous holiday. After moving over to Sausalito there were no more excursions and no receptions to speak of. Military, naval, and even social circles were somewhat mystified and asked, “Why this change?” It was not known until a day or two before the Charleston sailed for the islands why, metaphorically speaking, the “at home” sign, was pulled down and the “gone to the country” sign was tacked up on the war vessel.
About three weeks ago one of the chief officers on the vessel invited a well-known society lady in this city to take breakfast with him on the vessel. The invitation included the lady’s chaperon and a lady friend. The lady, who may be called Mrs. X, became ill, but she asked the officer if her chaperon and lady friend could accept his hospitality without her presence. The reply was in keeping with the gallantry of an officer of the American Navy, and on the morning of Thursday, May 8th, he sent the launch to the shore to get Mrs. X.’s two friends.
On reaching the shore he was fairly paralyzed to find that the invitation to breakfast had been extended to sixteen ladies besides Mrs. X’s two friends.
The officer’s gallantry was sorely tried, but it did not desert him. He hired two more steam launches and took the “breakfast excursion,” as he subsequently termed it, out to the Charleston.
The officers’ cook nearly lost his head. He was not prepared to feed such a large section of San Francisco society. The other officers of the vessel saw that something must be done, and after a short consultation they resolved on a heroic measure. They drew lots, and eighteen breakfastless officers steamed to the city to break their fast, leaving the “guests” in full possession of the warship.
To say that they were mad that their hospitality should be thus abused would be stating the case very mildly, and as soon as the guests were ashore the order was given that no more visiting invitations be issued, and, that the Charleston might not be seized again, she was moved to Sausalito, out of harm’s way. The capture of the new cruiser has caused considerable comment in the upper circles of society during the last few days.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, during the Spanish-American War, USS Charleston was sent to raise the American flag over Guam, then a Spanish possession. She next joined Admiral Dewey’s fleet in Manila Bay. She remained in the Philippines, bombarding insurgent positions to aid Army forces advancing ashore, and taking part in the naval expedition which captured Subic Bay in September 1899. She eventually grounded on an uncharted reef near Camiguin Island north of Luzon and was wrecked beyond salvage.