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Downtown Walking Tour Columbia, South Carolina
Item 13 of 27
The Battleship Maine Memorial was moved to State House grounds in Columbia, South Carolina in 1931, and features a gun from the famous vessel. An explosion caused the U.S.S. Maine to sink on February 15, 1898, and although the cause was unknown this event prompted the beginning of the Spanish-American War. The battleship was originally built in 1895 and left Florida for Havana, Cuba on January 24, 1898, as a symbol of American support for the rebels who were fighting for independence from Spain. Shortly after the ship arrived at Havana Harbor, it suddenly exploded resulting in the death of over 260 men and provoking a national outcry for vengeance. The United States declared war against Spain on April 25. There is still speculation about what caused the explosion, but many experts believe it was an accident and this has been confirmed by dive teams that investigated the wreckage in the late 20th century. Initial inquiries after the incident reported that the explosion was caused by a mine under the ship. With no way to prove or disprove the cause of the explosion, those who favored going to war seized on the sinking of the Maine to make an emotional appeal to arms while those who opposed the war found themselves on the defensive.

  • Gun from the U.S.S. Maine, 2019 (Battleship Maine Memorial).
  • U.S.S. Maine while it was in operation.
  • U.S. Navy diving crew at work on the ship’s wreck, in 1898, seen from aft looking forward. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
  • A glass plate slide of the wreck of the Maine, raised 1912, from the estate of Lt. C.J. Dutreaux. NHHC photo.
  • U.S.S. Maine while it was in operation.

The Battleship Maine Memorial in Columbia, South Carolina was moved to the location and installed on October 22, 1931, and displays an actual gun from the U.S.S. Maine that was sunken in 1898, prompting the start of the Spanish-American War. During that time, Cuba was a Spanish colony. As rebels fought to win their independence from colonial rule, many Americans supported their goal of freedom. On January 24, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine left Florida and sailed toward Havana, Cuba. Because riots had broken out on the island, the battleship remained docked at Havana Harbor for three weeks, with no sailors permitted to go ashore under command of Captain Charles D. Sigsbee. For those three weeks, the ship acted as a peacekeeping influence.

On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was suddenly destroyed in an explosion while still docked at the harbor, killing 260-266 officers and sailors. After a month in Cuba, a board of inquiry delivered the verdict that a mine had detonated under the ship, although no blame was placed for the mine. Because of this, the reason for the explosion is still questionable, though some experts believe it was an accident. Newspapers printed the cry “Remember the Maine!” and on April 25, America declared war against Spain. By May 1898, President William McKinley appointed South Carolina Civil War veteran Major General Matthew Calbraith Butler commander of the volunteer forces in the Spanish-American War.

Around 1,000 markers were made from pieces recovered from the U.S.S. Maine, which was recovered during salvage operations in 1898 and 1912, and distributed throughout the country. Before its explosion, the battleship was 324 feet by 57 feet by 22 feet and weighed 6,682 tons. It had a 12-inch belt with 8-inch turrets, 3-inch decks, and a 10-inch conning tower. It also had two vertical, triple expansion engines, allowing it to go a speed of 17 knots, and held a crew of 374 people. It was constructed in 1895 as a battleship. After the war and excavations of its remains, the City of Columbia acquired the gun for the Battleship Maine Memorial in 1910. It was originally erected in 1913 in Irwin Park, before being moved to its current location on State House grounds on October 22, 1931. The inscription on the plaque reads:

This gun came off the Battleship Maine
The Sinking of the Maine resulted in the Spanish American War
  1. Gun from the USS Maine, Historic Columbia. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  2. Battleship Maine Gun - Columbia, South Carolina, Waymarking. March 22nd 2013. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  3. MAINE (2nd Class Battleship), Navy Source. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  4. Stroud, Mike. Battleship Maine Memorial, Historical Marker Database. January 3rd 2008. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  5. USS Maine Sinks in Havana, South Carolina National Guard. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  6. Navy and America Remember the Maine through Artifacts, U.S. Naval Institute. February 15th 2015. Accessed November 15th 2020.
  7. USS Maine 6" Gun, Clemson University. Accessed November 15th 2020.
Image Sources(Click to expand)