Major General William R. Shafter to Captain Henry C. Taylor
On board S. S. Seguranc[ç]a
At Sea, June 17 .
I will be obliged if you will, between here and Lobus Light,1 slacken the speed of the leading vessels, or stop them entirely, so that the rearmost vessels which are much farther away than I like to have them, can close up before we reach the open sea.2 I will also be obliged if you will let the Hornet take Captain MacKay back to the ship that is towing the scow,3 for the purpose of examining the lines, as I do not wish to lose it. To-night I will send the Olivette back to remain near the ship towing the scow, which I believe is the Concho, with orders to remain near it during the night to give assistance if necessary.4 I suppose, of course, no transports are under any circumstances permitted to drop to the rear of a ship of the convoy.
Signed Wm R. Shafter
Major General U.S.V.,
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Papers of William R. Shafter, roll 3. Addressed before opening: “Captain H.C. Taylor,/U.S. Navy,/Commanding Convoy.”
Footnote 1: Lobus Cay (Bahamas) Lighthouse is eleven miles from the Cuban coast.
Footnote 2: According to a 16 June, entry in the memoirs of Lt. Col. John D. Miley, an aide-de-camp to Shafter:
Captain Taylor wrote the General [Shafter], saying that the Navy Department was extremely anxious to have some of the forces arrive before Santiago at the earliest moment possible, and had directed him to inquire of General Shafter whether a division of his forces would be approved by him. It was proposed to place the swifter transports in one division, which would push rapidly ahead, and the slower transports in a second division which would follow as best it could.
General Shafter did not favor the plan, and when Captain Taylor came on board the Segurança a little while later, after discussing the matter, it was decided to try to gain time by increasing the speed of the expedition to the utmost capabilities of the slowest vessel, and see if the formation could be maintained. After this had been kept up the rest of the day and through the night, the morning of the 17th found the transports scattered over a distance of thirty or forty miles, so the speed was lessened to enable the vessels in the rear to close up, and before the day had passed the original formation was resumed. It was also decided that nothing would be gained by dividing the expedition into two divisions, and the rest of the voyage was made at a moderate rate of speed, maintaining a compact formation. Miley, In Cuba with Shafter, 41-42
Footnote 3: MacKay, a shipmaster, was an assistant to Colonel Charles F. Humphrey, the quartermaster general of the expedition. Hornet, one of the convoy’s escort vessels, was an armed yacht commanded by Lt. James M. Helm.