Today, the Norfolk Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the international ships collected at Hampton Roads and left for New York on April 24, 1893.
From The International Colombian Naval Rendezvous and Review of 1893 published by the Navy Department, August 1893:
While the ships were at Hampton Roads entertainments to the foreign officers were given on board the United States vessels and a ball was given at Norfolk, Virginia.
International boat races took place at Norfolk and at Old Point Comfort, prizes for the winning crews being provided by the citizens.
On the 24th April the combined fleet left Hampton Roads.
For the United States fleet, which weighed first, the preparatory signal to get under way was made at 8:45 a. m. At this time the ships were riding to the ebb, and the Newark had shifted from a berth next the Philadelphia to one at the eastern end of the column. The signal of execution was made at 9 o’clock.
The departure of the fleet, its subsequent movements, and the ceremonies at New York, are described substantially as follows in Rear-Admiral Gherardi’s official report:
The Newark got under way and steamed at 5 knots along the northern side of the column, followed in succession by each ship of the United States fleet. This movement formed the fleet in column, natural order, heading to the southward of west, ships 300 yards apart between centers.
The Philadelphia got under way in time to take position ahead of the Newark. The Dolphin, flying the Secretary of the Navy’s flag, weighed and stood on independently, off the starboard bow of the Philadelphia.
When the United States fleet was under way, well closed up, full speed — 8 knots — was signaled, and before reaching Newport News Middle Ground the column countermarched to port.
The Dolphin stopped at the turn while the United States fleet passed in review. Returning, the column passed between the visiting squadrons at anchor and Old Point. The United States fleet then slowed to half speed until the visiting squadrons got into their assigned positions, when full speed was resumed.
The composition of the fleet as it sailed from Hampton Roads was as follows:
United States — 12
Holland — 1
Germany — 2
Total — 15
England — 4
Russia — 2
Italy — 2
Brazil — 3
Total — 14
In this order, with an interval of 600 yards between the two columns, and with the ships in each column separated by distances of 300 yards, the combined fleet stood out from the Capes of the Chesapeake and shaped an offshore course for New York.
The Dolphin accompanied the fleet off the starboard beam of the Blake until Cape Henry was reached, when she made signal “Good bye” and stood over inshore for New York.
At the same time the torpedo-boat Cushing was directed to make the best of her way to New York.
Outside the Capes the speed was increased to ten knots.
Shortly before dark the squadrons assumed open formations for the night, by signal from the Philadelphia. The weather during the night was very fine. But few sail were sighted. The squadrons kept within signal distance, and the night passed without incident.
The morning of the 25th was clear and bright. About 8 o’clock the speed was reduced from 10 knots to 8. At 10 o’clock signal was made from the Philadelphia to resume the Review formation.
The weather began to change and by noon a drizzling rain set in. At 1 p. m. Sandy Hook light-ship was sighted; nearby, standing down toward the fleet, was the Argentine cruiser Nueve de Julio, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Howard. After saluting the flags of the senior officers she rounded to and fell into her place in column in rear of the United States fleet.
Nearly abreast the light-ship, signal was made to proceed without regard to formation; the columns separated and entered the main channel, the squadrons of each column alternately, beginning with the United States ships.
In this formation the combined fleet steamed into the Lower Bay, where two buoys and tugs were in position to mark the berths of the two heads of the columns. By 4 o’clock all the vessels were anchored in the two columns of the Review formation.
The Dmitri Donskoï, flagship of Vice- Admiral Kaznakoff, of the Russian squadron, was found anchored here in her proper position in column. She had come in that morning from St. Thomas.
The Cushing also rejoined here, and the commanding officer of the Patrol Division, with several of his tugs, reported for duty.
On anchoring, the foreign ships saluted the United States flag; the forts in the Narrows returned the salutes.
The night of the 25th shut down damp, foggy, and unpromising, but the morning of the 26th broke clear and cold, with a fresh breeze from the northward and eastward. As the day wore on both wind and temperature moderated, and the weather was very fine.
The Spanish squadron, at anchor inside the Narrows, dropped down early to its proper place in the starboard column astern of the Italian squadron. Thus, excepting the Miantonomoh, detained off the Battery to fire a salute at the unveiling of the Ericsson statue, the Naval Review fleet was complete.
It consisted of thirty-four vessels, belonging to ten nations, arranged in two columns.
At 8 :30 a. m., on the 26th April, the fleet was ready to move, the Patrol Division was at hand, and the channel reserved for the passage of the ships was reported clear.
At 9 the preparatory signal to get under way was made. At 9:25 the starting gun was fired, and immediately afterwards the entire fleet moved forward simultaneously at a speed of 8 knots.
The patrol steamers, flying navy guard flags in their bows, formed ahead, astern, and on both sides, clearing the way effectively and keeping vessels from crowding upon or passing between the columns.
In the prescribed formation in two columns, the port one headed by the Philadelphia and the starboard one by the Blake, with 600 yards between them, and each ship in each column 300 yards directly in the wake of the one next ahead, the international fleet passed through the Narrows, the forts on both sides firing national salutes, stood up the Upper Bay, and entering the Hudson River, where the interval between columns was narrowed to 400 yards, reached its final anchorage place at 11:45 a. m., the leaders coming to off Ninety-sixth street.
There were no accidents, no delays, no mistakes, no misunderstandings. Each ship’s berth, marked by a buoy, was readily found, and the ships were moored with 45 fathoms on each chain.
The Miantonomoh then joined the port column, taking position at its extreme southern end.
During the passage of the fleet up the Hudson River the Dolphin, with the Secretary of the Navy on board, occupied a position abreast Twenty-third street, but well over toward the western shore, and as the ships came opposite the Dolphin their guards were paraded and the usual honors rendered. The Dolphin afterwards shifted her berth nearer the New York shore.
Anchored well ahead of the columns was the nautical school-ship Enterprise to indicate to outside craft the turning point beyond the fleet; just astern of the Enterprise the three Caravels were anchored in line.
To be continued on the 27th.
The Norfolk Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s portrayal of the international ships at Hampton Roads in April 1893.