In my New York Times feed this morning was the link to the headlines from February 15, 1898. Chief among them was the following:
Terrible Explosion on Board the United States Battleship in Havana Harbor
MANY PERSONS KILLED AND WOUNDED
All the Boats of the Spanish Cruiser Alfonso XII, Assisting in the Work of Relief
None of the Wounded Men Able to Give Any Explanation of the Cause of the Disaster
Havana, Feb. 15 — At 9:45 o’clock this evening a terrible explosion took place on board the United States battleship Maine in Havana Harbor.
Many persons were killed or wounded. All the boats of the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. are assisting.
As yet the cause of the explosion is not apparent. The wounded sailors of the Maine are unable to explain it. It is believed that the battleship is totally destroyed.
The explosion of the USS Maine in the Havana harbor was arguably the tipping point that led to U.S. involvement in the Spanish – American War. Speculation has ranged from a submarine mine to coal fires as to the cause of the explosion. Though a portion of the boat was refloated in 1912, investigations in 1898, 1911, 1974, 1998 & 2002 have never been conclusive.
In 1913, the capstan of the Maine was delivered to Charleston. Originally displayed in Hampton Park, it eventually degraded, was restored and, in 1927, placed in White Point Gardens. And there it sat until 2007, when it was removed to storage to make way for the monument to William Moultrie. It’s my understanding that the plan was to have the capstan restored, then returned to White Point Gardens. In 2007, Kevin Eberle, a professor at Charleston Law School, former president of the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood association, and past member of the board of directors of the Preservation Society of Charleston made an impassioned plea to have the capstan restored to a home in Hampton Park.
In attempting to do a quick search for the current whereabouts of the Maine’s capstan, I found OTHER capstans- one in the Chicago Racquet Club, One in Butte, Montana and a third in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center of Fremont Ohio. Everything I ever read about as a tour guide regarded “the capstan,” not “one of several.” At any rate, it does still, on this 118th anniversary, beg the question “Where in the world is the capstan of the USS Maine?”