The Story
The Story

The U.S. Government's Cargoes - An Accounting.


Naples, Jan. 11, 1909.

Bunav, Washington.

Referring to your cablegram of 7th request following provisions shipped Carmania for delivery to CULGOA January 28th at Gibraltar quantities in thousand pounds beef 220 mutton 15 pork 40 veal 30 frankfurters 15 sausage 15 bologna 5 turkey 15 lunch meat 5 chopped beef 3 fresh potatoes 300 onions 10 barreled ham 50 assorted preserved meats cut [sic, corrected later to 15 1] butter 15 sugar 25 fresh eggs 15,000 dozen Reply requested


NARA, RG 143, File 105669.

On January 11, 1909, Admiral Sperry had requested that 793,000 pounds, or 396.5 tons, of provisions be shipped to the supply vessel Culgoa at Gibraltar. The Navy shipped pretty much everything he had requested. Although originally to be shipped aboard Cunard Line's Carmania, these provisions were ultimately shipped one day later aboard the Republic.2

But, there are various accounts as to the amounts of provisions that were actually shipped, and lost, aboard the Republic. In articles that appeared prior to the news of the collision, both the New York Times, January 23, 1909, 4:1, and the New York Sun, January 23, 1909, 9:2, reported that the Republic had carried 500 tons of supplies for the US Navy Fleet. On the same date, the New York Herald, 9:6, said that Republic's Navy cargo was "more than 500 tons." After the collision, the Journal of Commerce, January 26, 09, 1:2, reported that 421 tons of fresh provisions for the Navy were lost aboard the Republic, and precisely re-stated the Navy's data for the quantities of items lost. However, the Journal of Commerce's total tonnage is, for some reason, fifteen (15) tons greater than the Navy's internal net tonnage for its shipment of food stores. The New York Times, January 25, 09, 3:5, too, increased its figure for the loss of Navy cargos from its original 500 tons to 650 tons. The New York Herald, Jan. 25, 09, 4:2, also reported that 650 tons of cargo was lost by the Navy. And, finally, in the resulting admiralty action filed in the US District Court against the owners of the Florida, the US Government claimed a loss of only 406 tons - net weight - of food stores. These discrepancies between the newspaper reports of the U.S. Government's cargo, and its internal documentation and claim, are of interest.

Journal of Commerce3 U.S. Claim
Net Weight
Unit, Net   Gross Weight3 Unit, Gross   
816 Hind quarters beef* 211141 lbs. Fresh Beef 162.17 lbs./quarter 122362 lbs. 149.95 lbs./quarter  
486 Fore quarters beef* included in above average fore and hind 91383 lbs. 188.03 lbs./quarter  
280 carcasses sheep* 13128 lbs. Fresh Mutton 46. 88 lbs. /carcass 13408 lbs. 47.89 lbs. /carcass  
554 boxes pork loins* 40890 lbs. Fresh Pork 73. 8 lbs. /box 47863 lbs. 86.39 lbs. /box  
340 sides Veal* 24814 lbs. Fresh Veal 72.98 lbs./side 25494 lbs. 74.98 lbs./side  
600 cases frankfurters* 15000 lbs. Frankfurters 25 lbs./case 18500 lbs. 30.83 lbs./case  
600 cases pork sausages* 15000 lbs. Pork Sausage 25 lbs./case 18000 lbs. 30.00 lbs./case  
205 cases bologna* 5022 lbs. Bologna 24.5 lbs./case 6457 lbs. 31.50 lbs./case  
87 cases turkeys* 14904 lbs. Turkeys 171.31 lbs. /case 16644 lbs. 191.31 lbs. /case  
205 cases lunch meat* 5000 lbs. Luncheon Meat 24.39 lbs./case 6435 lbs. 31.39 lbs./case  
84 cases chipped beef, in tins 3000 lbs. Chipped beef 35.71 lbs./case 3750 lbs. 44.64 lbs./case  
1,147 barrels potatoes
991 crates potatoes
301508 lbs. Potatoes 141.02 lbs./brl-crte 330840 lbs. 154.74 lbs./brl-crte  
100 crates onions 10000 lbs. Onions 100 lbs./crate 11700 lbs. 117 lbs./crate  
250 tubs butter* 15250 lbs. Butter 61 lbs. /tub 18000 lbs. 72 lbs. /tub  
500 cases eggs* 15000 lbs. Eggs 48.75 lbs./case 30500 lbs. 61.00 lbs./case  
526 hlf. bbls. Smoked hams 47449 lbs. Ham smoked 90.21 lbs. /half brl 84160 lbs. 160.00 lbs. /half brl 4
420 cases corned beef, in tins 20160 lbs. Beef corned 48 lbs./case 29400 lbs. 70.00 lbs./case  
222 cases bacon, in tins 15984 lbs. Bacon 72 lbs./case 22644 lbs. 102.00 lbs./case  
250 cases hams, in tins 6000 lbs./ Ham tinned 24 lbs./case 10000 lbs. 40.00 lbs./case  
167 cases salmon, in tins 8016 lbs. Salmon 48 lbs./case 11690 lbs. 70.00 lbs./case  
250 sacks sugar 25000 lbs. Sugar 100 lbs./sack 25125 lbs 100.50 lbs./sack  
9080 Packages
421 Tons
812266 lbs.
[406.13 Tons]
  944455 lbs.
[472.2275 Tons]



What Else Might Have Been Shipped, in Addition to the Identified Food, to the Supply Ship Culgoa?

In addition to carrying articles of food, these ships form a sort of express service to the fleet, delivering requisitioned articles of equipment, even to guns, for which there is space. They frequently carry ammunition supplies, a large magazine being provided in each ship for the purpose.

Supply Ships of the Navy
Importance of Auxiliary Vessels to Our Fleets
(Includes: "Sectional view of the U. S. supply ship Culgoa")
Scientific American, January 29, 1916, p. 122.


1A Western Union telegram, dated Jan. 14, 1909, stated "Cable Dept. says from Napoli. Our 73/11 Bunav assorted preserved meats 40 butter 15 sugar 25 fresh eggs mouhrum [code for 15,000] dozen reply requested." NARA RG 143, File 105669.
2We have not found any explanation for the change in shipment from Carmania to Republic. The change may be related to the dates of closing for the 1909 4-1/2% Russian Loan, originally scheduled for January 21, 1909 (the Carmania's departure date), but the closing date was delayed a day.
3The quantities of each item were stated in the Journal of Commerce, January 26, 09, 1:2. The Memorandum for the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, January 25, 1909, NARA RG 143, File 105669, also stated the number of packages, as well as Net Weights and Gross Weights for the Navy's cargos.
Three Navy Department, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, Memorandum Bills of Lading were located at NARA, RG 143, within File 105669. Bill of Lading 2321 was issued for the refrigerated stores, marked by an asterisk above. Bill of Lading 2322 was issued for the potatoes and onions. Bill of Lading 2276 was issued for the remaining items which were carried as regular cargo. The Bills of Lading included the number of packages and gross weights.
The Journal of Commerce, Memorandum and Bills of Lading were consistent with one another in their descriptions of the Navy cargo, EXCEPT for the 421 total tonnage identified by the Journal of Commerce.

4This item produces an anomaly. The difference between the Unit Net Weight and Unit Gross Weight for the 160 pound half-barrels of smoked ham suggests that an empty half barrel - by itself - would weigh an unlikely 69.29 pounds to ship 90 pounds of smoked ham, when the barrels and crates used to ship potatoes weighed only 13.72 pounds for their 140 pound contents, and the boxes (gold coin) and kegs (gold bars) used to ship gold weighed only 16 pounds for the 144 pounds of their contents (A keg of gold bars also weighed 160 pounds). The possibility that this anomaly may be attributable to a gold bar shipped-in-kegs shipment is discussed at Other Cargos, Gold and Silver Bars, infra.

* "The items marked with a * were forwarded in the [Republic's] refrigerator plant (415146 pounds) at one dollar ($1.00) per hundred pounds, amounting to [a shipping cost of] $4151.46. The balance was forwarded as regular cargo (529309) at 22-1/2 cents per hundred pounds, amounting to $1190.95, making a total freight charge of $5342.41." Memorandum, Ibid. 3. The refrigerated cargo is also confirmed by Memorandum Bill of Lading 2321, Loc. Cit.