By early 1896, the US Navy was beginning to see the first benefits of the decisions of the 1880's to modernize the fleet. Ships such as TEXAS and MAINE were joining the so-called ABCD ships, cruisers ATLANTA, BOSTON, and CHICAGO as well as dispatch vessel DOLPHIN, which were the first ships of the "Steel Navy." However, the extensive time needed for construction still meant that many US ships were obsolescent, if not obsolete, when commissioned. Still, the first true battleships in US Navy history were also entering the fleet at around this time, setting the stage for the Navy's triumph just over two years later in the Spanish American War.
The fleet still included some Civil War-era ships to go along with its mostly untested newer vessels, though the fleet's major stations experienced a major turnover of vessels since 1892. Ashore, the Navy lacked Pacific bases and its existing east coast bases remained a source of political patronage for members of Congress rather than true support elements for the fleet.