According to Kim Robinson Sincox, museum services director for the Battleship North Carolina Memorial, the correct answer is four.
The ship-of-the-line North Carolina was authorized by Congress in 1816, launched at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on Sept. 7, 1820, and entered active service in 1824 when Master Commandant Charles W. Morgan was assigned as her first commanding officer. Rated as carrying 74 guns, it in fact mounted as many as 90 cannon at various times. It was flagship for the U.S. Mediterranean squadron from 1825 to 1827 and flagship of the Pacific squadron, 1836-1837. After 1839, it was moored as a receiving ship (essentially, a floating recruit depot) at the New York Navy Yard, remaining there until after the Civil War. It was sold in 1867.
USS North Carolina (ACR-12) was a Tennesee-class armored cruiser, launched at Newport News, Va. in 1906, commissioned on May, 7, 1908, and in service until 1921. Among other duties, it carried President Taft on a tour of the Panama Canal in 1909 and cruised the Mediterranean in 1914-1915 to aid in the evacuation of Americans following the outbreak of World War I. On Nov. 5, 1915, it became the first U.S. warship to launch an aircraft by catapult, while stationed at Pensacola, Fla. During World War I, it escorted troop ships and convoys on trans-Atlantic routes. On June 7, 1920, it was recommissioned the USS Charlotte. Decommissioned in 1921, it was sold as scrap in 1930. The Battleship Memorial has furniture, silverware and other memorabilia from ACR-12.
USS North Carolina (BB-55), “the Immortal Showboat,” is the World War II-era battleship now moored on the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington. For more about this historic vessel, click here.
USS North Carolina (SSN-777) is a Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. Launched in 2007, it was formally commissioned on May 3, 2008, in Wilmington, N.C., in ceremonies linking it to the Battleship Memorial. As of 2014, it is part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Squadron 1, homeported at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The submarine carries teak from the deck of BB-55 and has some of the silverware from ACR-12, linking it to the earlier North Carolinas.
Some sources will list five “North Carolinas.” The fifth would have been BB-52, a South Dakota-class battleship. It was laid down on Jan. 12, 1920, at the Norfolk York Naval Shipyard and assigned the name of the Tar Heel State. (The cruiser North Carolina was renamed about this time to avoid duplication.) Under terms of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, however — which limited the size of great-power navies after World War II — this North Carolina was canceled when roughly one-third complete and was sold for scrap in 1923. Since it was never commissioned, it was never formally part of the Navy.
During the Civil War, the Confederate Navy had a CSS North Carolina, built in 1863 at the Beery shipyard in Wilmington. Found to be unfitted for sea duty, it was used as a floating battery and sank off Smithville (modern-day Southport) on Sept. 27, 1864.
For more information on the North Carolinas, consult the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. (Click here.)
Date posted: January 17, 2014
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