“Men Blown To Pieces” During Target Practice

Alexander N. Dossett was a 26-year-old seaman in the United States Navy when he sustained fatal burns from a powder explosion during target practice aboard the U.S.S. Massachusetts. He was buried in Durham, North Carolina’s Old Maplewood Cemetery.

Below the photos is a newspaper article from 1903 describing the accident and listing  other casualties. The explosion occurred on January 16 and Alexander died January 22, so when the article was published he was still alive.


 From the Duluth Evening Herald on Saturday, January 17, 1903:

Gun Charge of Powder
Accidentally Explodes.
Magnificent Discipline Is
Shown By the Men.

San Juan, P. R., Jan. 17—Five men were killed and four others were wounded, two of them probably fatally, by the explosion of a powder charge of an S-inch gun on board the United States battleship Massachusetts, yesterday morning, while at target practice, off Culebra island. Details of the explosion were obtained when the Massachusetts arrived here today. The explosion occurred in the starboard aft 8-inch turret shortly before noon yesterday, and was due to the accidental discharge of a percussion primer while the breech of the gun was open. The full charge exploded in the turret and killed or injured all the crew of the gun, numbering nine men.

Ensign Ward E. Wortman, who was in charge of the turret, escaped injury, though he was standing near the scene of the explosion. Magnificent discipline was shown by officers and crew. Capt. Harry Lee, commanding the marine guard of the vtsrel, and Ensign Clarence Abele immediately Hooded the turret with water, and Lieut, Charles E. Hughes and Gunner Kuhlweit went below to the magazine, picking up powder charges, and prevented further explosions, while Lieut. William C. Cole and Gun Capt. Stoneman entered the turret and withdrew the charge from the other gun, whose breech was open. The survivors of the gun’s crew, when rescued, were burned, mutilated and nearly dead.

Washington, Jan. 17.—Admiral Higginson cables from San Juan, P. R., under today’s date, that by an explosion of powder in the 8-inch turret of the battleship Massachusetts five men were killed and four injured. None were commissioned officers. The text of Admiral Higginson’s dispatch is as follows:

San Juan, P. R.. Jan. 17, 1903.—Secretary Navy, Washington, D. C.: Powder charge exploded accidentally in 8-inch turret Massachusetts. Cause being investigated b yboard. Dead. A. Hendricksen, boatswain’s mate; F. H. Lesser, apprentice; S. F. Malinowski, landsman: K. J. Platt, ordinary seaman: Robert Rule, ordinary seaman.

Injured: W. W. A. Schert, apprentice; A. S. Tacke, coxswain: J. G. Patterson, ordinary seaman; A. N. Dorssett, ordinary seaman.

The records of department give the history of the victims of the explosion as follows:
Felix Herbert Losser, enlisted at New York, Oct. 4, 1900, as apprentice, third class, born Brooklyn, N. Y., Dec. 1, 1884; residence. New York; next of kin, Edward Losser, 313 East Eighty-sixth street. New York. Stephen Frank Malinowski, enlisted at Chicago, Aug. 4, 1900, for four years; born Poland, Aug. 2, 1882; residence,
South Chicago; next of kin, Frank Malinowski, 8431 Ontario avenue, South
Chicago. Andrew Hendricksen, enlisted at New York, Sept. 24, 1900, for four years;
born Norway, March 13, 1873; residence, New York; next of kin, Hans Jennoen,
Christiansund, Norway. Kenneth Joseph Platt, enlisted at Albany, N. Y., Aug. 16, 1900, for four vears as landsman for training; born Dublin, Ireland, May 6, 1882; residence, Troy,
N. Y.; next of kin, Sarah Platt (mother), 369 Eighth street, Troy, N. Y.; Robert Rule, enlisted at Cincinnati, March 29, 1901, for four years as lanisman for training; born Cincinnati, May
i 12, 1882; residence, Mt. Washington, Ohio; next of kin, John A. Rule (father), Mt. Washington, Hamilton county, Ohio.

Alexander Newton Dossett, landsman, enlisted at Durham, N. C., July 20, 1901; next of kin. Newton Dossett (father), 1003 Pargrew street, Durham, N. C., James Garfield Patterson, landsman, enlisted at League island. Pa., March 27, 1900; next of kin, Mrs. Barbara Nagel (next friend), 27 Soho street, Pittsburg, Pa.; Albert Stephen Tacke, landsman, enlisted at St. Louis. Sept. 1, 1S99, next of kin, Mrs. Mary Nagel (mother), 212-
Miami street, St. Louis, Mo.; Walter William August Schert. enlisted at Chicago, March, 1900, as apprentice, next of kin, George P. Schert, (father), 37a Cleveland Avenue, Cleve-
land, Ohio.

The eight-inch guns are next in size below the thirteen-inch turret guns, carried by this battleship and just above the rapid-fire gun limit. So their charges were not contained in
fixed metallic cases and the powder was put up in canvas bags. The regulations require that the powder bags referred to should be conveyed from the magazines to the breech of the gun in a metal receptacle intended to guard against just this kind of accident.”

image via findagrave.com
image via findagrave.com

 *This entry was originally posted in 2015.

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