The evolution and gestation of American battleship designs occurred in noticeable stages. After a 25year absence in designing modern warships from the coastal
monitors of the American Civil War, the navy didn’t trust American designers to design a battleship equal to those of other navies, so
USS Maine (originally rated as an
armored cruiser) and
USS Texas were built to purchased British designs. Neither was equal to contemporary Royal Navy designs but after the long hiatus in warship
construction, US shipbuilding yards and facilities had to be further developed to build totally modern designs. When it came to producing modern US designed
battleships, another obstacle was Congress and the great distrust the legislative body had in large battleships. Congress considered a large navy and especially large
battleships the tools of colonialism. Accordingly the first classes of US designed battleships were intentionally designed for coastal operations and coastal defense
missions.

This led to the second stage of American battleship construction, the low freeboard coastal battleships. The
Indiana class was heavily armed and armored but the low
freeboard limited their use in the open ocean, in spite of
USS Oregon’s world cruise. The following single ship Iowa class raised the freeboard somewhat but not
enough for true Blue Water operations. The two ship
Keasarge class kept a low freeboard but introduced its own innovation. To save weight and still keep a four gun
broadside for the secondary guns, the two gun 8-inch positions were sited on top of the two main gun turrets that had to be trained with the main guns, as they were
incapable of independently training in a different direction from the main guns. The following
Illinois class was still limited by the Congressional mandate “seagoing
coastline battleships
” the USN design committee contemplated that not design feature of this class would seriously impair good seagoing and sea-enduring qualities. Still
the three ships of the
Illinois had the same length and beam as the Keasarges. The eight-inch gun secondary, a feature of all USN designed battleships up to the Illinois
class was deleted in favor of a battery of a casemate mounted uniform battery of 6-inch guns. All of these classes were designed to have a maximum 12 to 24 hour full
speed of 14 to 15-knots. All of these classes were designed and laid down before an event, which would forever change the capital ship design emphasis for the USN.
The Spanish-American War forever changed the world role of the USA and the USN warship designs. The short war with spectacular naval victories at Manila Bay
and Santiago, left the USA with colonies acquired in the peace treaty with Spain. It didn’t matter that in both battles USN forces were far superior than their Spanish
opponents, from hence forth designs were no longer legislatively limited to coastal battleships. It didn’t matter that prior to the war Congress opposed blue water
battleship designs in that they were tools of colonial empires, once the United States became the Imperial Republic with colonies in the Pacific Ocean, she needed
warships capable of working in any ocean. This led to the third evolution of the American battleship. All classes of predreadnought battleships after the
Illinois class
would have sufficient freeboard for worldwide operations.

The three ship
Maine class of 1898 was the first beneficiary of this change in outlook and policy. Originally this class was to be a repeat of the Illinois class but
requirements were rewritten to provide a better deep water capability. The first thing changed was the maximum speed, as the
Maine class were required to be
capable of 18-knots, the same as the best battleships as other navies. Krupp armor was adopted, which provided the same resistance but with lesser weight than the
previous designs and the ships went back to a 12-inch main gun battery instead of the 13-inch guns carried from
Kearsarge through the Illinois classes. Hull length
was increased by 30-feet from the preceding
Illinois class. All of this allowed for a far roomier and ocean capable design with higher freeboard, a more powerful
power plant and greater range thanks to increased coal bunkerage. The secondary battery increased to sixteen 6-inch/50 guns mounted in casemate positions, as in the
Illinois class.
The next design incorporated combat lessons from the Spanish-American War. In 1899 Congress happily passed an appropriations bill for three new battleships (BB-
13 through BB-15) fiscal 1900 plan. In 1900 Congress passed another appropriation for two more battleships (BB-16 & BB-17) fiscal 1901 plan. All five were to be at
a trial displacement of 13,500-tons and of “
the highest practical speed and great radius of action”, in very marked contrast to prewar appropriation bills. At the Battle
of Santiago only one shell from the main guns of the engaged American battleships had struck a Spanish ship. In marked contrast the 8-inch gun secondary batteries
had been very effective. As a consequence of this lesson, the next design would see the return of the 8-inch secondary gun battery. This was the central design
characteristic upon which the design revolved. The design board met to consider the requirement but opinion was divided into two camps.

When the three ships of the 1900 fiscal year were approved, the board considered various combinations of secondary arrangement. Some designs incorporated the
newly produced 7-inch gun casemates, four 8-inch guns in a second story of the two main gun turrets, as in
Keasarge, four twin 8-inch gun turrets arranged as in
Indiana and Iowa, and four 8-inch gun turrets, two atop the main gun turrets and two in waist positions with a 6-inch casemate battery. Vote after vote was taken
and no consensus could be reached. By May 1900 Congress had approved the fiscal 1901 battleships and it was proposed that the 1900 year ships be built with eight
separate turrets and 1901 year ships be built with superimposed turrets with no waist turrets. The chief constructor, Rear Admiral Phillip Hichborn, insisted that all
five be built to a common design. At the time, in spite that the
Kearsarge and Kentucky had been completed most were in favor of the two-story turrets, oblivious to
the facts that they were very restricted to being trained on the same targets as the main guns and difficulty in correcting fire because the shell splashes of the 12-inch
shells and 8-inch shells were difficult to distinguish from one another at combat range. On January 24, 1901 the chief of the Bureau of Ordnance advocated the two
superimposed turrets but two, rather than four twin gun waist turrets. Ten of the twelve members agreed and only Chief Constructor, Rear Admiral Hichborn,
objected to the superimposed turrets. The matter was settled when the Secretary of the Navy approved the majority opinion. Interestingly, within a few years all of the
members who wanted superimposed turrets were violently opposed to them when their restrictions became manifest.
Originally the three ships of the fiscal 1900 were to be New Jersey (BB-13) to be built by Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, VA, Nebraska (BB-14) to be
built by Moran Brothers, Seattle, WA and
Georgia (BB-15) to be built by Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME, while the two ships of the fiscal 1901 plan were to be Virginia
(BB-16) to be built by Fore River Ship and Engine, Quincy, MA and
Rhode Island (BB-17) to be built by Fore River Ship and Engine, Quincy, MA. Instead, Virginia
and
New Jersey swapped names so that USS Virginia would be built in the State of Virginia. All dimensions and displacement leaped above those of the Maine class.
Waterline length was 435-feet compared to 388-feet in
Maine, beam 76-feet 2.5-inches compared to 72-feet 2.5-inches and normal displacement of 14,948-tons
compared to 12,508-tons. Indicated Horsepower (IHP) of the
Virginias was 22,841ihp vs 15,841ihp in the Maines with a maximum speed of 17-knots for 12 to 24
hours vs the 16-knots of the
Maine class. The Virginia class had an armament fit of four 12-inch/40 Mk III (2x2), eight 4x2 eight-inch/45 Mk VI, twelve 6-inch/50
12x1 Mk VII guns and four 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes (added as an initial alteration). The armor arrangement was turret face 12-inches for main guns and
superimposed turrets and 6.5-inches for waist secondary turrets. Barbette armor was 10 to 7.5 inches for main gun turrets and 6-inches for the waist turrets. Belt
armor was 11 to 8-inches and casemate armor 6-inches. The armor design of belt and casemate armor caused a problem with replenishing coal. There were no
openings in the casemate armor allowing coal replenishment on the main deck. Instead coal sacks had to be raised to the 01 deck and poured through scuttles at that
higher level, through temporary canvas chutes to the bunkers. Accordingly coal replenishment was more arduous and time consuming than in previous design. The
conning tower had 9-inch armor and the armor deck was 3 to 1.5-inches with 3-inches on the slope to the hull sides. Another war lesson incorporated into the design
was the reduction of combustible wood to the highest degree possible.

When it came time for the next battleship design, Congress was experiencing a degree of buyer’s remorse. There was a faction that believed too much money was
being spent on battleships and armored cruisers. Each design had been larger and more expensive than the last. The frugal faction wanted the Navy to go back to
battleships of the size of
Oregon and armored cruisers the size of Brooklyn. Rear Admiral Alfred Mahan preached that it was far better to have more battleships of a
standard type, rather than fewer larger battleships. He preached that battleships fought along with other battleships in a squadron and fleet and that it was all important
that they have similar specifications. Further he believed than more battleships of the same specifications was better than fewer superior battleships. The frugal
faction seized upon Mahan to back up their position. On March 3, 1901 it came time for the new Naval Appropriations Act but Congress did not approve any
battleships or armored cruisers. Instead, they stipulated that the Navy submit their plans the following December, along with the answers to many Congressional
questions. Meanwhile the Navy had reached agreement on the general characteristics of the new design but were stalled over the secondary armament. One Bureau
wanted to mount twenty of a new 7-inch/45 gun and another Bureau wanted sixteen 8-inch/45. Another group wanted twelve 8-inch mounted similarly to the
Virginia Class but with an additional twin gun turret on each side and twelve 6-inch guns placed in hull casemates. The final design mounted four 12-inch in
centerline turrets, eight 8-inch in four twin turrets with two turrets on each side, twelve 7-inch in hull casemates and twenty 3-inch/50 guns with six in hull
casemates, six in 01 level casemates and the rest in the superstructure in open mounts.
Congress approved construction for two ships of the new design but by December 1901 there was a new President, Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy was not satisfied
with only two new ships. Actual appropriations for the new ships was on July 1, 1902 with a 16,000-tons displacement, up 2,500-tons from the
Virginia design.
Another stipulation was that one of the ships had to be built in a Federal Yard, rather than private firm. Previous battleships (excluding
Texas and the first Maine) had
been built by private firms and Congress wanted to see if a government yard could be as efficient and perhaps cheaper at building a battleship. This was the birth of
the
Connecticut Class, the largest and best predreadnought class of battleship for the USN. Connecticut BB-18 was ordered from the New York Naval Yard and
Louisiana (BB-19) was ordered from Newport News Shipbuilding. Three more of the class, Vermont BB-20, Kansas BB-21 and Minnesota BB-22 were authorized on
March 3, 1903, while the sixth and last of the class
New Hampshire (BB-25) was authorized on April 27, 1904, to become the last USN predreadnought. Displacement
was 16,000-tons normal with 17,666-tons full load. They were 456-feet 4-inches (139.09m) oa in length, beam 76-feet 10-inches (23.42m), and a draft of 24-feet
6-inches (7.47m). The power plant comprised twelve Babcock & Wilcox boilers supplying steam to two vertical triple expansion engines, developing 16,500 ihp and
turning the two shafts for a maximum speed of 18-knots. The armor of Harvey process steel had a main belt of 11-inch with an upper belt and end bulkheads of
6-inches, tapering to 7-inch and 4-inch respectively at the last 49-feet fore and aft ends. The main belt ran 5-feet below and 4-feet 3-inches above waterline a length of
192-feet. Turrets had 12 (face)to 8-inches (sides and rear) of armor (2.5-inches on the crowns) with secondary 8-inch gun turrets and 7-inch gun casemates 7-inch
to 3.75-inches of armor. The conning tower had 9-inch armor. The armored deck had 3-inches on the ends and sloping sides and 1.5-inches on the flat crown. In
addition to the 12-inch/45, 8-inch/45, 7-inch/45 and 3-inch/50, the pair were equipped with twelve 3-pdr and four 1-pdr rapid firing light guns (
Connecticut had only
two 1-pdr). The ships proved good sea boats, although the hull casemate guns were wet and the bow 3-inch guns almost unusable because the ram bow tended to
throw up huge spray at any speed.

Louisiana was the first to be laid down, launched and commissioned. Laid down February 7, 1903, launched August 27, 1904, she was commissioned on June 2,
1906. At the end of the month she steamed to Provincetown, Massachusetts and spent most of the summer training in New England waters.  On August 27
Louisiana
went to New York to take part in the Presidential Fleet Review and on September 15 sailed to Havana during a Cuban insurrection.  Her service in Cuban waters lasted
a month and on November 8 she was in Maryland for President Roosevelt to board. Teddy took the
Louisiana on a cruise to Panama to inspect the construction of
the Panama Canal. On the return to Maryland there was a two day stop at Ponce Puerto Rico on the south coast and anchored back in Maryland on November 26.
After a quick stop in New Orleans,
Louisiana spent the last half of December in Cuban waters. She received a short refit at the New York Navy Yard from January 4
to March 17, 1907. She was at the Jamestown Exposition in April and another Presidential Fleet Review from May 20 to June 5. The last half of 1907 into 1908
Louisiana was at Norfolk making preparations for the world cruise of the Great White Fleet. On July 8, 1908 Louisiana, along with fifteen other battleships painted in
white and buff, sailed from San Francisco with the first stop at Honolulu. Initial stops after that were New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Japan and then Hong
Kong. It was then back to Manila for battle practice and to become the 3rd Division flagship. The voyage was continued of December 1, 1908 with a stop in Colombo,
Ceylon before using the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean portion of the cruise. In the Med there were stops at Smyrna, Turkey, and Gibraltar before finishing the
cruise on February 22, 1909 under the beaming smile of the President at Hampton Roads, Virginia. In 1909 she was equipped with five 21-inch submerged torpedo
tubes and cage masts replaced the military masts along with reducing the size of the bridge structure. The white and buff paint scheme was replaced by slate gray
overall. All but two of the 3-pdr guns were landed. For the next year and a half, it was training along the Atlantic Coast from Cape Cod to Guantanamo Bay. On
November 1, 1910
Louisiana and the rest of the 2nd Division of the battle force departed for Europe with stops in Cherbourg, France and Portland, UK then back
across the Atlantic to Guantanamo Bay before returning to Norfolk on March 10, 1911. Another European cruise was immediately forthcoming as
Louisiana, as
flagship of the 2nd Division, crossed the Atlantic again for a northern European cruise. At Copenhagen, Denmark and Tralhafnet, Sweden the Danish and Swedish
kings came aboard and at Kronstadt, Russia the Czar visited the battleship. On the way back home, the ship stopped at Kiel, Germany for Kiel Yachting Week and
twice Kaiser Wilhelm visited the
Louisiana, on the second of which he gave the ship a framed and autographed picture of himself. On July 13, 1911 she returned to
the US at Provincetown, Massachusetts and spent the rest of the year at Norfolk for a refit. A long overhaul at Norfolk occurred from October 16, 1912 to May 29,
1913. The last half of 1913 was spent in Mexican waters because of a Mexican revolt. Another overhaul kept in the yard from August 20, 1914 to January 10, 1915.
The two bow hull 3-inch guns were removed and the casemates plated over.
Placed in Reserve on May 16, 1916, Louisiana was still used in training cruises and on March 19, 1917 became part of the 4th Division. After the US entered the First
World War on April 6, 1917 the battleship served as a gunnery and engineering training ship. In April 1918 six of the 7-inch and the remaining 3-inch/50 guns were
landed but six of the 3-inch/50 were remounted in September. The remaining 7-inch guns were gone and two 3-inch/50 AA guns added by March 1919. Her one war
time cruise started on September 25, 1918 as part of the escort for a convoy sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Starting on December 24, 1918,
Louisiana started on the
first of her four cruises bring American troops back home from Europe. She returned 7,000 troops before the fourth round trip ended on June 30, 1919. On July 2,
1919 she made her final anchor drop at Philadelphia and started rusting away. Decommissioned on October 20, 1920
Louisiana was sold for scrap on November 1,
1923 after the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty.

Niko USS Louisiana 1906 - Niko produces two models of Connecticut class battleships, the Louisiana shows the design as built with the original military masts and
the
Vermont shows the design as modified with cage masts. The Louisiana kit is a joy to behold with superb casting, which is packed with incredible detail. The hull
casting represents
Niko at their best. With any predreadnought, most of the detail comes with the hull. For hull detail, you can start with the two anchor hawse placed
low near the water line with distinctively different horse collar shaped hawse. The openings are fairly deep. Just behind the hawse, at deck edge are characteristic
angled anchor washboards, as anchors with stocks were cated up to the washboards as designed and only later were stockless anchors raised to the hawse. The bow 3-
inch/50 hull casemate protrudes significantly from the hull. Two rows of portholes run along the bow and end at the armor belt. The width of the belt is wider than
scale but is certainly acceptable. The 7-inch/45 casemate guns are in deep recesses. Unlike the
Virginia Class, the 8-inch/45 turret barbettes do not have sponsons
extending outboard. Instead the barbettes are flush with the deck edge. Holes in the 01 level are placement locations for 3-inch/50 barrels. The aft hull has the same
armored belt demarcation, two rows of portholes but two protruding 3-inch/50 casemates on each side.
Niko doesn’t skimp with deck detail. The forecastle bulkheads
at the top of the cutwater have interior support detail. Anchor gear detail is excellent with detailed deck hawse and the characteristic USN square chain locker. Another
proof of excellence for a 1:700 scale model of a coal fired design is the presence of coal scuttles and these are in abundance on the
Niko Louisiana. The deck planking
does have butt end detail. Deck hatches have hinge and rim detail. Amidships at the 01 level the parade of skylights continues. Both the forward aft superstructure
positions have raised navigation positions. The funnel bases are different because they are lower than the weather deck and also have bulkheads.
Niko put in open wells
for the inclined ladders leading down to the main deck. Circular base plates for J ventilator cowls are on each side of the funnels. The quarterdeck has only one skylight
but has plenty of hinged access coamings, bollard plates and other fittings.
Smaller Resin Parts - The Niko Louisiana has three superstructure levels with support gussets underneath. One is the 02 level of the forward superstructure, which
has a hollow conning tower with open vision slits. It may be a small feature but I don’t believe that I have seen this before in a 1:700 scale resin kit. Behind the conning
tower is a chart house with detailed doors. The other two parts are the 03 deck level for the forward superstructure and the 02 level for the aft bridge. The forward
deck has a locater hole for the military mast, while the aft platform has the locater hole for the military main mast, as well as two locater holes for large J-ventilator
cowls. The main gun turrets have the correct shape and have the correct crown detail with three large cupolas on the forward crown and three access hatches on the
rear of the crown. The 8-inch gun turrets are basically miniatures of the main gun turrets, which is an accurate portrayal. The three funnels are very well done. They
appear identical and have two reinforcing bands, prominent top and bottom aprons, nice steam pipes and an incised line between the top band and the top apron. Niko
shows some sort of disc at the end of the muzzle of the main guns, which photographs clearly show was not there. These are not tampions, which were used to keep
water out of the barrels but look like fungos on a baseball bat.

The smaller gun barrels don’t have them. The 8-inch turret and 7-inch casemate tertiary guns are very well done with open muzzles. There are two runners of
casemate 3-inch guns and one run of open guns. The QF guns come in two patterns. Seven are used for open mount 3-inch/50 gun positions and four appear to be 3-
pdrs. Both types of QF guns are well detailed. There are two large gooseneck boat cranes, which were paired aft. The cranes are nice pieces with crane engine and
pulley detail. The two military masts occupy a runner with the Louisiana having the correct three fighting positions on the foremast.
Kansas and New Hampshire had
only two. The post card shows the
Kansas with two positions on the foremast. Two runners have mostly J-shape ventilator cowls in six different patterns varied by
size and height. The have the anchors and binnacles as well. Other runners have two-part searchlights (light and mount), large deck winches and cable reels. Ship’s
boats are on one multi-piece runner and a number of single boat runners. All of the boats are open and range in size from a large whaler to a small dinghy.
Brass Photo-Etched Fret - As usual, Niko provides a full brass photo-etched set. Most of the fret is railing with three runs of three bar with bottom gutter and three
runs of two bar railing with bottom gutter. Relief-etching is used for the ornate bow scroll, navigation bridge awning, mast platform with platform planking and sixteen
doors with open port hole. The bow scroll actually has the Louisiana state pelican emblem. Other notable parts include a flying boat deck, boat skids with chocks, bridge
face with open windows, bridge wing supports, and topmasts. Other fittings are for ammeters, anchor davits, funnel grates/clinker screens, two types of
accommodation ladders with separate safety railing, yards, crane tackle, and search light platform. Generic parts include four inclined ladders with safety railing but with
rungs not treads, boat davits, five runs of anchor chains, three runs of vertical ladder, stern hull side life buoy racks and boat oars.

Instructions - The instructions have four pages. Page one has laydowns of the brass and resin parts and a profile with painting instructions. Page two shows assembly
of the forward portion of the model with two photographs and separate subassembly insets for the forward superstructure and foremast. Page three has aft assembly
with two photographs and inset on main mast subassembly. Page four concludes with two pictures of the amidship assembly. The sufficient for assembly but don’t hold
your hand through the build.
The Niko USS Louisiana 1906 in 1:700 scale is a nice kit.  I particularly like the Louisiana state pelican on the bow scroll. This kit shows the ship in her as built, Great
White Fleet appearance and will really stand out in the white and buff livery of the cruise. Teddy Roosevelt liked the
Louisiana and so will you.
Steve Backer
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