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Captain James H. Sands to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U. S. S. Columbia, 1st Rate,

Off Santiago de Cuba,

June [July] 16, 1898.


     1. I have to inform you that since the 19th June the “Columbia” has been given despatch orders from port to port, which orders have prevented my keeping her bunkers full of coal, only 680 tons having been received during this interval.

     2. I have now but 400 tons of coal on board and in the event of a gale, which is possible at this season, I should consider the ship in danger for want of fuel.

     3. I have both yesterday and today brought this condition of affairs to the attention of the proper officers of the Army and have just received a verbal message, through the Major commanding the battalion of Illinois Volunteers on board this ship,1 from the Commanding General of the Army2 that the latter will take no steps to transfer these troops to an army transport.

     4. I need coal, I cannot coal with these troops on board, and the Commanding General of the Army declines to act.

     5. These troops have already been on board ship for eight days, and the efficiency of the ship will be impaired by their further presence.

     6. I request instructions.3

Very respectfully,

James H. Sands,

Captain, U.S.N., Comd’g.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 232. The letter is misdated. It was written on 16 July as can be seen from the date it was received. That date is confirmed by the contents. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief, North Atlantic Station.” Stamped at top: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/JUL 16 1898.”

Footnote 1: These were troops from the Sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The ranking major of that regiment was William T. Channon. R. S. Bunzey, History of Companies I and E, Sixth Regt., Illinois Volunteer Infantry from Whiteside County (Morrison, IL: 1901), 41.

Footnote 2: Maj Gen. Nelson A. Miles decided to keep his troops, who were destined for an expedition against Puerto Rico, confined in their transports while at Santiago de Cuba in order to prevent their being exposed to tropical diseases. Trask, War with Spain, 347.

Footnote 3: Sampson’s reply has not been found.

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