Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commodore Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron, to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

FLYING SQUADRON.              

U. S. Flagship BROOKLYN,

Off Santiago de Cuba,

June 16, 1898.

S i r : -

     1.   Your instructions concerning the use of search-lights have been sedulously carried out, sweeping from the W’d. to within about two miles of the Morro, and never allowing the light to be extinguished for more than five minutes consecutively, but according to reports received from some of the picket boats, it seems that the in-shore vessels are plainly silhouetted against the rays of the search-lights of the flanking vessels, i.e., the BROOKLYN and the TEXAS, thus betraying their positions to the enemy and rendering these unprotected vessels liable to be fired upon.

     2.  This fact has been repeatedly observed in the case of vessels thrown into strong relief, when occasionally passing between this ship and the search-light of the inner battleship.

     3.  I would therefore suggest the advisability of discontinuing the use of the search-light by the flank ships, but keeping them ready for instant use at all times during the night, and once in, say, every ten minutes, sweeping the horizon outside the blockade line. Or, concentrate them with the light of the inner battleship, in turn as at present, on the entrance to the harbor, thus allowing the videttes to lie in the dark angles between the beams of offshore, outside of the beams, which would most effectually conceal their presence or positions.

     4.  It has been observed that the contrast is so great between the darkness and the glare of the light on board this ship that it is almost impossible to make out objects at all. The foregoing is forwarded for your consideration, and for such action as you deem proper in the premises.1

Very respectfully,

W.S. Schley                      

Commodore, U. S. Navy,      

Commander-in-Chief Flying Squadron.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG313, Entry 52. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/U. S. Naval Force on North Atlantic Station.” There is a stamp on the top of the first page: “RECEIVED/FLAGSHIP N. A. STATION/JUN 16 1898.” There is an identifying number, “M53” at the top of both pages of this letter.

Footnote 1: Sampson’s response has not been found. The fleet’s battleships, however, continued to illuminate the entrance with searchlights. See: John W. Philip to Josefa T. Philip, 29 June 1898.

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