Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Francis J. Higginson to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

Plan for the Blockade of Santiago de Cuba

     The vessels on south bearing from Moro will be guide vessels at night for all vessels in their circle and may carry white truck lights. As there is almost always a light in the harbor entrance the guide vessels will be able to maintain the proper bearing. When the successive distance circles strike the shore,East and West, as many additional small craft as possible including tugs,should be accumulated. In very bad or rough weather vessels in the first and second distance circles and probably in the third also would have to seek shelter in a harbor of refuge somewhere along the coast to the westward. Search lights if thought desirable may be used from either or all of the first three circles but from any but the first circle,where they are not carried,they would illuminate both friend as well as foe. There should be constant touch and conflict with the enemy from the first circle. That is to say launches and tugs in this picket line Should be constantly endeavoring to penetrate in the harbor until fired upon. They should endeavor to ascertain if the enemy keep a torpedo boat in Estrells Cove at night and to destroy her either by capture or boarding. The real defense,both against the escape of the enemy’s fleet and the destruction of a battleship by a torpedo boat,the two vital elements in the present problem,lies in the efficiency of the picket line. It may also be possible,if thought advisable,for the picket boats to lay counter mines or torpedoes. Even dummy ones would have a deterrent effect for a time. For a blockade such as her described 23 vessels would be required and,allowing for breakdowns and coaling, half more should be added making say 53 vessels of all sizes. With this squadron and a base for coaling with water,ammunition and provision supplies we ought to be able to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer and hold the Spanish fleet securely until Santiago is captured or peace declared. It is not to be entirely ignored that in case of European intervention the first demonstration would be to send a fleet here and endeavor to release the Spanish fleet.

Rescpectfully Submitted

Francis J. Higginson

Capt. USN

Commanding USS Massachusetts

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48, Box 4. Stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAGSHIP N. A. STATION/JUN 9 1898.” Document was submitted sometime between 6 June 1898 and 9 June 1898. “Francis J. Higginson/Capt. USN/Commanding USS Massachusetts,” is handwritten. Included with document is a hand drawn diagram of the blockade. For the image see: Capt. Francis J. Higginson's Plan for the Blockade of Santiago, 9 June 1898.

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