Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant William H.H. Southerland to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Squadron

U.S.S. Eagle           

Off Cienfuegos Cuba.  

April 29th. 1898.  

Sir:-

     At 1230 pm of this date I received orders from Commander McCalla, the Commanding Officer of the division to which this vessel is now attached,1 to proceed off the mouth of the entrance to the harbor of Cienfuegos, Cuba, and attempt to discern the character of the vessels within should they come out

     This order was obeyed at once and at 1250 this vessel reached the mouth of the entrance, her lookouts then discerning two torpedo boats and what appeared to be a torpedo gun boat lying within the harbor.

     Within a very short time of her appearance the enemies vessels opened fire, two of them starting for the entrance. The first shot, evidently by a sighting shot, struck the water in line and about one hundred (100) yards short. Immediately after, a second shot struck a little short and a little ahead of us. This was instantly answered from our port forward 6 Pdr H.R.F.2

     Slowly backing the vessel with her broadside to the enemy, in order both to change her bearing and to bring as many guns as possible to bear, the firing became rapid for a few minutes and apparently effective, as the enemy turned, and retired. Appearances indicated that one of the enemies vessels had been struck.

     Within ten (10) minutes the torpedo gun boat appeared as though coming out, and with a shore battery, opened fire upon this vessel. This fire was promptly returned.

     Within a minute or two the MARBLEHEAD, which, in the interval, had been coming toward us at full speed, opened fire with her 5 in. R.F.B.L.3 Rifles and succeeded in silencing both battery and gun boat.

     Two of the enemies shot passed close over this vessel, another close astern, and another within a few feet of the bowsprit.

     There were no casualties

     Fifty nine (59) 6- Pdr ap. shell4 were expended

Very respectfully,     

WHH Southerland   

Lieut. U.S.N. Comm’d’g.

Source Note: ALS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 228. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief/North Atlantic Squadron.” Note below address: “Respectfully forewarded/B.H.McCalla/Commander.” On top of first page is a “USS MARBLEHEAD” stamp with the date “May 1 1898,” the year being handwritten. Docketed on separate sheet “U. S. S. Eagle./Off Cienfuegos, Cuba./April 29th. 1898./W.H.H. Southerland./Lieut. U.S.N Command’g./Report of this vessel/being in action on/the afternoon of April 29th 1898.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla.

Footnote 2: Hotchkiss Rapid Fire.

Footnote 3: Rapid Fire Breech Loading.

Footnote 4: Anti-personnel shells.

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