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Buzzing Around the SC Statehouse: Battleship Maine Gun Monument

Posted by Ryan Morgan on February 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Along the Gervais Street side of the Statehouse is an easy-to-spot monument, a small cannon from the USS Maine. The marker along the base reads "This gun came from the Battleship Maine. The sinking of the Maine resulted in the Spanish American War 1898. The cannon was manufactured in 1894 and weighs 608 lbs."

Along the Gervais Street side of the Statehouse is an easy-to-spot monument, a small cannon from the USS Maine. The marker along the base reads "This gun came from the Battleship Maine. The sinking of the Maine resulted in the Spanish American War 1898. The cannon was manufactured in 1894 and weighs 608 lbs."

On February 15, 1898, an explosion in Havana Harbor caused the USS Maine to sink. The Maine, an American warship, had been sent to the Cuban coast in January 1898 to protect US interests during the Cuban War of Independence from Spain. The explosion was sudden, caused the ship to sink instantly and killed almost 75% of the crew (274 men killed, 89 survivors).

The cause and responsibility of the explosion has remained a contentious issue to this day. Numerous official inquiries have taken place, commissioned by both the Spanish and American governments, but results remain inconclusive.

Despite the unknown origins of the explosion, or who was ultimately responsible, reaction to the sinking of the Maine was immediate. Antagonistic articles printed in the New York Journal and the New York World (known as the "Yellow Press" and owned (respectively) by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer) fanned public opinion against Spain. "Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain" became a frequent cry among Americans, and continued throughout the Spanish-American war which broke out soon after the sinking of the Maine.

Numerous investigations have looked into the cause of the explosion. The Spanish Government commissioned an inquiry in 1898 into the cause of the explosion, as did the United States with two Naval Courts of Inquiry investigations: the Sampson Board in 1898 and then Vreeland Board in 1911. In 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover began a private investigation, as did the National Geographic Society in 1989. So far, all investigations agree that that an explosion occurred in the forward magazines of the ship, and was the sole cause of the sinking, but how the magazine exploded is still an area of contention.

On May 9, 1910, the US Congress approved funds to raise and move the wreckage of the Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. Numerous groups across the country had previously requested pieces of the Maine to set up monuments and memorials for the fallen crew. South Carolina received the cannon currently seen at the Statehouse and the capstan of the ship was secured for Charleston. It was displayed on the Battery until 2006 when it was removed for repairs, and is currently awaiting reinstallation.


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