If you’ve ever wandered about the grounds of the New Capitol, you might have spotted an odd sort of concrete planter on the northeast corner of the block (opposite from the much more grant Monument to the Women of the Confederacy). Look a little closer, or if you prefer, read the little marker beside the planter, and you’ll find that you’re examining the figurehead of the second USS Mississippi, a battleship in the US Navy from 1905-1914, then sold to Greece where it met its demise in WWII.
The marker’s explanation is a bit too succinct for my tastes, but here it is:
Figurehead of the second Battleship Mississippi
Presented to the State of Mississippi
By the U.S. Navy Department,
So to get a little more information and maybe a picture of this second USS Mississippi, I did an internet search and came up with a conveniently organized wikipedia page, which lists out the five USS Mississippi’s:
- USS Mississippi (1841) was a sidewheel frigate that saw action in the Mexican–American War and was lost during the American Civil War.
- USS Mississippi (BB-23) was the lead ship of her class of battleships, saw action before World War I and was eventually sold to Greece.
- USS Mississippi (BB-41) was a New Mexico-class battleship and saw action during World War II.
- USS Mississippi (CGN-40) was a Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser.
- USS Mississippi (SSN-782) will be a Virginia-class submarine and is currently under construction.
I click on the second entry, BB-23, the one whose picture clearly shows our figurehead on the bow of the ship:
But as I read along, a mystery emerges: according to the longer article on that ship, it was commissioned in 1905 and decommissioned in 1914. So . . . how did this figurehead come to Mississippi in 1909? Presuming our historic marker is correct (and they’re never wrong, right?), there might be a clue within the wikipedia article:
In early 1909 she attended the inauguration of the President of Cuba, met the Great White Fleet upon its return, and was reviewed by the President. For the remainder of the year and into 1910 she traveled the waters off New England, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, took a voyage up the Mississippi River, and participated in war games out of Guantanamo Bay.
Maybe the Navy, as a gesture of goodwill, having used the first USS Mississippi to destroy the Confederate Manassas and to bombard various sites in Louisiana, including Port Hudson, in the Civil War, decided to give the state the figurehead of the second ship on their return up the Mississippi River in 1909.
Or possibly, the US Navy just didn’t like the figurehead all that much.
Someone needs to do a little more digging into the backstory on this one.
At any rate, this whole research journey started a few weeks ago for me when the Chief of the Boat of the up-and-coming USS Mississippi e-mailed me to let me know that this 5th Navy vessel to bear our state’s name, a Virginia-class submarine, is under construction in Groton, CT. The keel was laid down on June 9, 2010, and it will be commissioned sometime next year. Check out pictures of the progress and find more detailed specifications at the Naval History website. There’s even a picture of Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman presenting a flag that flew over the New Capitol to the Officer in Charge.
(I’m trying to decide if I would rather have the title “Chief of the Boat” or “Officer in Charge” and I think I’m leaning toward “Chief of the Boat.”)
Thanks to Chief of the Boat Stoiber for sharing this information and for helping carry on our state’s naval tradition. And next time you’re at the Capitol, spend a little time with the figurehead of USS Mississippi #2. There’s a lot of story in that concrete planter!
Categories: Architectural Research