Mr. Hoffman to Mr. Evarts.
St. Petersburg, August 1, 1879. (Received August 21.)
Sir: It may interest you to read a short account of a visit I made yesterday to the three cruisers, built on the Delaware for the Russian Government, and now lying at Cronstadt.
One of the smaller yachts of the Grand Duke Constantine, commander-in-chief of the Russian navy, was placed at my disposal, and every courtesy was shown me as the representative of the United States.
I first boarded the Europe, the largest of the three vessels. She was on the stocks intended for the California trade when she was purchased by the Russian Government. She is large and roomy, well lighted and ventilated, and thoroughly comfortable. The cabin is spacious, and is fitted up in excellent taste in mahogany, walnut, and bird’s-eye maple. Every modern improvement has been introduced into her, and among other arrangements for the comfort of the Russian crew is a Russian steam-bath room. Every part of the ship was thoroughly clean. The hospital is a large, light, and well-ventilated room. In short, everything possible has been done for the comfort and health of the crew. Her speed is 13½ knots. The Emperor, who visited her on Wednesday last, is so much pleased, with her comfort and beauty that he expressed his intention of using her temporarily, at least, as his seagoing yacht.
The Asia, formerly the Columbus, running between New York and Havana, is also a fine, roomy, comfortable ship, but her speed is somewhat less, and her cabins are fitted up more plainly in soft wood. It is understood that she is ordered to the Pacific station, headquarters at Vladiovostock, where she is to become the flagship of the squadron.
The Africa is a smaller ship than the Europe, and not so fast. She was formerly known as the Saratoga, and ran between New York and Havana. She has the same thoroughly comfortable qualities, light, airy, and healthy. Her cabins are even more beautifully fitted up than those of the Europe.
The officers appeared to take great pride in their ships. They spoke of them with evident admiration, and were never tired of repeating that everything on board of them, even the photographs of the imperial family, was American. I was told that a great desire exists among the officers of the Navy to be transferred to these ships.
I learn from good authority that the Russian government is so much pleased with these vessels, and especially with their comparatively small cost (they cost one-half the price of a similar ship built in Russia), that they will probably order five or possibly ten more to be built in the United States.
I have, &c.,