USS Steward (DD-13)

USS Steward (DD-13) was the fastest of the Bainbridge class destroyers, and is often placed into a sub-class of its own.

Congress authorised the construction of sixteen torpedo boat destroyers in 1898. The first thirteen are grouped together as the Bainbridge class, with sub-classes to reflect a number of differences in designs introduced by the various shipyards involved.

USS Stewart (DD-13) on Convoy Escort duty, St Nazaire to Brest, November 1918
USS Stewart (DD-13)
on Convoy Escort duty,
St Nazaire to Brest,
November 1918

The Steward was the only member of the class produced by the Gas Engine and Power Co with help from CL Seabury, who provided the four boilers. She had the same layout as the standard Bainbridge class ships - a raised forecastle deck, four funnels in two groups, one 3in gun on top of the bridge structure and one on a raised platform behind the rear turret, one torpedo tube between the middle funnels and one at the rear of the ship.

The Steward was powered by four Seabury boilers, giving it 8,000ihp. Although the Lawrence class ships had more power (8,400ihp), the Steward was the fastest member of the group, reaching 29.7kts in trials. Several of the Bainbridge group destroyers were expected to reach 30kts, but none of them actually did.

The Steward was named after Charles Stewart, a US Naval commander during the Quasi-War with France and the War of 1812. She was laid down on 24 January 1900, laumched on 10 May 1902 and commissioned on 1 December 1902.

The Steward spent a short time serving at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. She then joined the Coast Squadron of the North Atlantic Fleet. In 1906-1907 she spent a period in reserve, before rejoining the Atlantic Fleet.

In 1908 she joined the Pacific Fleet, where she served until the outbreak of the First World War. She took part in the 1914 and 1916 interventions in Mexico, and anyone serving on her between 25 April and 16 August 1914 or 30 June and 22 August 1916 qualified for the Mexican Service Medal.

Damage to USS Stewart (DD-13) after collision, April 1918
Damage to USS Stewart (DD-13) after collision, April 1918

On 24 February 1916 the Navy Department reclassified all sixteen of the earliest destroyers as Coast Torpedo Vessels, and if the United States had stayed out of the war for much longer they might all have been scrapped.

Instead they were all pressed into service. The Stewart spent the first month after the American declaration of war patrolling off the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal. In May she moved west through the Canal, and patrolled off the western entrance. In early July she returned to Philadelphia, where she underwent a refit to make her suitable for distant service.  

In August 1917 she was one of eight destroyers that escorted the Battleship Force Atlantic as it moved between Bermuda and New York. However on 16 August she ran aground in the harbour at Bermuda and needed local repairs before she could return to Philadelphia for permanent repairs.

She returned to duty on 11 October 1917. She was based in the York River, and was used for a mix of convoy escort and dispatch carrying duties. She returned to Philadelphia again on 31 December 1917 to be refitted for distant service for a second time. This time it was for real, and

On 15 January 1918 the Stewart was one of five destroyers that departed for France. The Stewart and the Warden reached Brest on 9 February and began to serve as convoy escorts on 17 February.

On 17 April 1918 the Stewart was in Quiberon Bay when the American steam ship Florence H, carrying a cargo of powder, exploded. The Stewart rescued nine survivors from the disaster and was cited for gallantry by the Secretary of the Navy.

On 23 April the Steward took part in an unsuccessful series of attacks on U-108. The attack began when two seaplanes attacked her with bombs. The Stewart saw the aircraft and rushed to their aid, but her attack was disrupted by a French warship, which attempted to ram the submarine. The Stewart dropped two depth charges and caused enough damage for oil to appear. At the time she was credited with a successful kill, but U-108 actually survived the war.

On 26 April the Steward was damaged in a collision with a merchant ship in heavy fog. She needed repairs that lasted until 28 May. After returning to duty she made another attack on a possible U-boat on 4 August.

After the end of the war the Stewart entered the dry-dock at Brest, where she underwent repairs, before returning to the United States. She was decommissioned on 9 July 1919 and struck from the Navy List on 15 September. She was sold for scrap on 3 January 1920.

Displacement (standard)


Top Speed



4 Seabury boilers
2 Vertical Triple Expansion engines
2 shafts


250ft 6in


23ft 8in


Two 3in/25 guns
Five 6pdr guns
Two 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement



10 May 1902


17 December 1902


Sold 1920

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 December 2015), USS Steward (DD-13) ,

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