Hampton Roads: Welcome Home!

On February 22nd, 1909, Washington's Birthday, the fleet arrived in Hampton Roads.  They were met by President Roosevelt and a proud nation of people cheering and waving their success.  Norfolk was jammed with families and visitors from all across the nation who and come to greet the fleet upon their arrival home.  Hotels were packed and many stayed as far away as Richmond to have an opportunity to see the returning fleet of battleships.


Return Home Silk

souvenir of our cruise around the world

This is a silk scarf approximately 14" x 14" that was sold at the end of the cruise and probably available in Hampton Roads.

The silk pictures the battleships of the fleet in life savers with the admirals and president.  Both Sperry and Evans are included.  The ships that were selected to be included were from  the second leg of the cruise and does not include the Maine or Alabama.

In the background is a world map depicting the route of the ships as they made their journey.



From "Back to Hampton Roads" by Franklin Matthews, "The voyage from Gibraltar to Hampton Roads was the most tedious of the entire trip.  There was a succession of gales all the way across the Atlantic.  About 1,200 miles out from Hampton Roads the fleet was met by the Home Squadron, consisting of the battleships Maine, Idaho, Mississippi and New Hampshire, the armored cruisers Montana and North Carolina and the three scouts, Salem, Birmingham and Chester.  The combined fleet anchored off Cape Henry at 2 o'clock on the morning of February 22 and at 9 o'clock got under way again and passed in the Capes where it was reviewed by President Roosevelt on the Mayflower.  It was the most powerful fleet every assembled under the American flag.  Shortly after noon the fleet came to anchor in Hampton Roads, where each of the four flagships of the world-cruising fleet was visited by President Roosevelt.  On each of the ships the President made a short address to the officers and men.  In each of these speeches he said: "You've done the trick.  Other nations may do as you have done but they'll have to follow you.""




james abbe, photographer of newport news

The below photographs were taken by James Abbe of Newport News, famous for his career as a portrait photographer of the theater and film stars of the 1920 and for his photojournalism in the changing European culture of the 1930.  But, at the age of 25, he was taking pictures of the return of the American Fleet in Hampton Roads.  (for more information about his life follow this link:  James Abbe)  The three cards below are examples of his work.  The Mayflower, February 22, 1909, Fleet Returning, and The Return of the Atlantic Battle Fleet.


A letter from lt. freeman

"My Dear Miss Arbuckle,

You have honored and gladdened and surprised me all in one with the unexpected letter that came last evening in the midst of the coaling.  It is another pleasure added to the happiness of the homecoming - this and from you, and you are certainly a delightful girl to have remembered.  (skip ahead)

I had hoped that perhaps you might be close enough to salt water to make the official chaperone bring you and some of the other pretty girls off to see the ship some fine day when we were near.  Now I am extending the invitation myself, can't I ?  And there would be many things to see, and I believe we might manage to have some ever such interesting young men - as we would try - and I would look after the chaperone.  

Very sincerely, Charles S. Freeman, Hampton Roads, Virginia,         24 February, 1909



Welcome Home door card 001

uncle sam's warships

This creative card featured Uncle Sam with a booklet that open and the 16-battleships spill out in a long string.  It was quite popular and many were sold with Sperry and Roosevelt.  It was also available with Admiral Evans and Roosevelt for those who preferred "Fighting Bob."

Welcome Home door card open 001


the chamberliin hotel at old point comfort

The Chamberlin Hotel was at the center of the social community in the early 1900s.  The first hotel, the Hygeia was built in 1822 inside the walls of Fort Monroe with over 200 rooms.  In 1862, the Secretary of War had it torn down to eliminate non-military visitors, including Southern spies.  The second Hygeia Hotel was built after the Civil War, but in 1902 after the Spanish American War it was torn down to allow for new construction at Fort Monroe.  The Chamberlain had been built in 1896 and became the hotel at Old Point Comfort and leased to the Army for 50-years.



my cruise with "fighting bob" and the big sixteen 1907-1908

Realizing the historic nature of his trip, Musician, Second Class C. E. Wise, of the USS Kansas went ashore in San Francisco and bought a scrap book that he could save souvenir postcards during the trip.  "My Cruise with "Fighting Bob" was on the cover and word of his replacement were being said, but the scrapbook he found was nicely organized and had a place to write in his itinerary, he bought it.

During the next ten months he didn't take the scrapbook out much accept to put a card or two in and now and then record some dates.  Most of free energies were put towards sending cards and letters home and visiting places during his port visit.  The cards he kept for the book were of his personal interests and the "left-overs" from those he didn't mail.  At homecoming in Hampton Roads he added some to round things out and stored things away to be found 100-years later.


quartermaster's chart - uss virginia

At the end of the cruise, many of the sailors had enterprising ideas, including Frank Herbert, a Quartermaster on the USS Virginia who plotted the entire cruise on a single chart and made ammonia copies for sale at 10-cents each.  The above is one of those copies.  It details the dates, distances and track for the entire cruise of the USS Virginia. 


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