Plan of Operations Against Spain Prepared by Lieutenant William W. Kimball (1896)
Lieutenant Wm. W. KIMBALL, U.S. Navy,
Staff Intelligence Officer.
1 June, 1896.
WAR WITH SPAIN – 1896.
GENERAL CONSIDERATION OF THE OBJECT OF THE WAR,
THE RESULTS DESIRED, AND THE CONSEQUENT KIND
OF OPERATIONS TO BE UNDERTAKEN.
It is apparent that the real cause of the war will be friction between the United States and Spain upon the Cuban question, and that war will arise as the direct result of some act of one of the countries which the other cannot tolerate. Whatever may be the especial act that leads to rupture of peaceful relations, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that the object of the war to be waged by the United States would be to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule, to exact from Spain a fair war indemnity for the cost of the war, and to force a settlement of the particular question which was the direct cause of the outbreak of hostilities.
Taking into consideration the financial conditions, naval strengths and general war resources of the two countries, and the possible practicable application of these for attack and defense of each, it would seem that, if the object of the war were to be attained in the most economic manner possible, the better policy for the United States to adopt would be one in which the utilization of its superior sea power were contemplated, one in which a purely naval war were intended, a war of blockades, bombardments, harrassments, naval descents on exposed colonies, naval actions whenever they can be brought on under fair conditions, i.e., whenever Spanish fleets or ships can be engaged by an equal or superior United States naval force outside of efficient support from Spanish shore works-; a war of cutting off supplies to the Spaniards in Cuba and furnishing these and war material of all kinds as well as a recruiting ground to the Cuban government.
Such a scheme of war is more attractive than one contemplating the invasion and conquest of Cuba by an organized shore force from the United States operating under the protection of the navy for the following reasons:
1. It would require the least possible financial expenditure for the United States.
2. It would require the least possible expenditure of lives by this country.
3. It would be the only practicable one to follow in the rainy season during which the war might have broken out.
4. It would in any event be the scheme upon which the war would necessarily be carried on in the initiatory stages during the time required for gaining command of the straits of Florida and for preparing an army of invasion.
5. It would be the quickest way of wounding the prestige of Spain, of crippling her revenues and of thus bringing her to treat for peace upon reasonable terms.
6. In regard to hostile operations in Cuba, this scheme of war would be attractive from a diplomatic or sentimental rather than a purely strategic point of view because it would contemplate the establishment of the Cuban Republic through the efforts of its own citizens within its own borders, aided only by the exteriorly applied sea power of the United States, instead of a conquest and occupation of Spanish territory by an organized army of invasion from this country.
If the above reasons be defensible as such, it is clear that both strategy and sentiment point to purely naval operations in a war with Spain arising from complications originally in the Cuban question, and that a resort to invasion would be necessary only in case naval operations alone were not effective, or required a longer time to be made so than the policy of the United States Government in regard to the duration of the war could allow.
POSSIBLE FIELDS OF NAVAL OPERATIONS.
1. Cuban and Porto Rican waters; for the purpose of effecting the liberation of Cuba.
II Spanish waters; for the purposes of striking at Spanish trade and transport service, of harrassing the coasts and perhaps holding the Spanish armored fleet at home, and of keeping touch with the fleet if it operates in European seas.
III. Phillipine waters; for the purpose of reducing and holding Manila, of harrassing trade, of cutting off revenue (especially that due to sugar and tobacco) from Spain, of occupying or at least blockading the Phillipine principal ports so that the release of our hold of them may be used as an inducement to Spain to make peace after the liberation of Cuba.
IV. United States Atlantic and Gulf coasts; for the purpose of protecting bases and meeting possible Spanish operations.
POSSIBLE FIELD OF ARMY OPERATIONS.
V. Cuban coast, Bahia Honda – Matanzas region; for the purpose of reducing Habana.
As V will be discussed only so far as it affects I, I and V will be treated together.
PROBABILITIES AS TO SPANISH GENERAL PLANS OF CAMPAIGNS.
A. Energetic defense of Cuba. Concentration in Cuban and Porto Rican waters of the available fleet, and the greatest reinforcement of her army in Cuba.
Defense of the Spanish coasts to be left to coast defense ships, torpedo boats, mines, obstructions, and shore works.
Defense of Phillipines to be assigned to Spanish fleet in those waters and shore works.
B. Defense of Cuba to be made by shore forces aided by unarmored vessels.
Chief strength of the fleet to be held in home waters for supplementing the Spanish defenses as in case A.
Phillipines defended as in case A.
C. Defense of Cuba generally as in case A but with decreased naval force.* Offensive naval operations against United States coasts with available sea-going fleet.
In all three cases commerce destroying operations with auxiliary cruisers and privateers.
A is most probable.
B. Would be adopted only in case it was thought that this country could be brought to terms by a commerce-destroying war, and that in order to make such operations successful all home bases must be secured against any United States naval force that could cross the Atlantic.
C as a theory of Spanish operations is only tenable upon the hypothesis that she is willing to incur most serious risk of overwhelming defeat for the sake of striking the United States within its own boundaries.
I & V – A.
OPERATIONS IN CUBAN AND PORTO RICAN WATERS.
Consideration of Bases.
NAVAL, PERMANENT BASE. - The permanent naval base would be the Port Royal-New York line, because within that line are located all the necessaries for supply, repair and reinforcement of the fleet. For all purposes except docking this line would be shortened to the Hampton Roads-New York line.
BASE OF CONCENTRATION. - Hampton Roads. Because it is the most commodious and generally convenient point of the permanent base line for purposes of concentration of naval forces and embarked supplies for the fleet.
BASE OF OPERATIONS. - The Tortugas-Key West line possibly extended eastward to Great Turtle Harbor. Because this line is the nearest possible to the scene of operations; because it is sufficiently long to allow necessary mobility to the fleet; because it affords two good harbors for supply depots at Tortugas and Key West, and a fair one for light cruisers at Great Turtle Harbor, if this last should be deemed desirable; because this line thoroughly screens the army base of concentration at Tampa.
These must be considered in determining naval operations, since army and navy operations against Cuba would have perforce to be intimately combined; since, in fact, all army operations would depend upon the results of initiatory ones by, and the protection received from, the sea force.
ARMY BASE OF CONCENTRATION AND RESERVE DEPOT. - Tampa. Because it is the nearest point to the scene of operations that has good rail and shipping facilities; because transports can be readily concentrated there, can lie alongside the wharves at one railway terminus and take out 20 feet draught and alongside wharves at the other and take out 15 feet draught, which last could readily be improved to 20 feet by extending the present wharf 250 yards; because it is well screened by the naval base of operations.
ARMY BASE OF OPERATIONS. Matanzas. Because it is the only port near the objective – Habana - that offers sufficient accommodation for a transport and convoy fleet large enough to take the smallest shore force that can be considered as a first expeditionary unit - an army corps of 20,000 men; because it is the second city in commercial importance in the island and consequently a place to reduce even if it were not to be used as a base; because it possesses good rail and highway communication with the interior and consequently is a good point from which to distribute war material to the Cubans; because it is well placed as the northern terminus of a strong line it may be well to establish across the island to Batabano; because it has two lines of rail communication with Habana with fair highways flanking them, so that columns advancing along the railroads could be supported by columns using the highways; because the topographic and hydrographic conditions of the port are such as to render it easily reducible by a strong fleet.
NAVAL PRIMARY. - The Spanish fleet in Cuban waters; because the command of the Straits of Florida must be obtained and held in order to cut off supplies and reinforcements for Habana and Matanzas.
SECONDARY. - Matanzas. Because this place must be reduced and held for the army base of operations.
FINAL. - Habana. Because it is the only strong place on the island of strategic importance and the capture of it is practically equal to the conquest of Cuba.
ARMY. – Habana. For reasons given above.
CONSIDERATION OF GENERAL PREPARATIONS.
Expedite the fitting out of all naval ships including old monitors, not ready for service, at the different navy yards and private establishments best fitted for the work. Fit out fifty auxiliary cruisers from the available list and put from twelve to twenty yachts and small steam craft in commission for despatch and look-out vessels. This comparatively large auxiliary fleet will require a serious temporary sacrifice of our coastwise and oversea trade, but it is to be borne in mind that we will need large numbers of ships, even if they have small individual military power, to meet the fleet of Spanish naval small craft and privateers and nullify its attempts on our unarmed shipping afloat and at stopping our supply of war material to the Cubans. These auxiliaries would be very serviceable in aiding our regular cruisers in preventing the Spaniards from using unconvoyed or lightly convoyed transports from throwing reinforcements of men or material into the island; while doing cruiser duty they would be at the same time available for transporting arms and supplies to the Cubans, and after their cruiser work were done, after our command of the sea in Cuban and Porto Rican waters were thoroughly established, they would be available as transports for our own troops and supplies in case it were decided to throw an army of invasion into Cuba.
As there are no guns provided for auxiliary cruisers such make-shift armaments as can be procured must be utilized; but each cruiser should have at least two rapid-fire guns of some kind – secondary and field battery pieces from naval ships that cannot be quickly put in commission if need be - and at least two IX-inch S.B., which last would be useful against torpedo vessels attempting to get into torpedo range and for the clearing away of shore opposition to the landing of war material for the Cubans.
Since Spanish cruisers that have been for some time in Cuban waters will be foul while our auxiliaries can be kept clean for the time they would be needed, these last, of 15 knot ships at a push, could do valuable service in spite of their inefficient armament; for the choice of fighting or running would in most cases be theirs, and they would have nothing to fear from anything under the Spanish flag except the stronger ships and torpedo vessels which could be fully attended to by our own vessels.
Some of the auxiliaries, notably the International Line ships, if provided with efficient batteries could meet the Spanish Transatlanticas. In regard to the supplies of war material for the Cubans, the Cuban Legation in this country would of course be consulted, but it is evident that arms we could supply would be of obsolete patterns. Still a large number of old .45 caliber small arms and machine guns could be spared and these would prove effective in the hands of the Cubans. Care should be used to supply only one caliber and cartridge. Supply of field guns will necessarily be small, but the Army Ordnance can furnish some. The need of siege guns will be greatly felt by the Cubans, and for the lack of something better, Dudley aerial torpedo throwers might be provided since they would have a certain military value in siege operations and could be quickly provided. Our lack of naval personnel would not allow naval organizations for the auxiliary cruisers and the only practicable way to make these ships quickly efficient for the work required of them would be to muster their ordinary officers and crews into the service, and furnish each ship twenty additional men for working the battery under the command of a junior naval officer who would report for duty to the volunteer commanding officer of the ship. Each battery detail should have at least four men competent for duty as gun captains. The auxiliaries could thus maintain to all intents and purposes their usual organization, and would be ready for work in the least possible time from their dates of passing under government control. They should be given as much coal or other improvised protection as their designs would allow.
Charter colliers, steam colliers if available, at the ports where they may be found, sufficient for filling up the fleet twice, and ammunition ships for one fill up of magazines and shell rooms.
All colliers should be fitted with Temperly Transporters or other fast coaling devices and some of them should have Low’s or other arrangement for coaling at sea. As far as possible colliers should take their cargoes in hoisting bags.
Fit out where most convenient, where she is found at her home port, an unarmed repair ship. Provide her with machine tools for making slight repairs, and with a good supply of armor bolts, smokestack patching material, electric signal and voice pipe stuff, etc. She should also take on board machine tools for supplementing the plant at Key West. She herself should be stationed at Tortugas where deep draught ships could get alongside.
It is apparent that such a ship would have only a limited field of usefulness since no heavy job of repairs, or one requiring surface plate or other nice adjustments could be done aboard her, but the field would be a most important one however limited, since a fighting ship might be able to soon get herself in condition after having received injuries small in themselves but extremely detrimental to her efficiency, if she had such a ship to draw on, when otherwise she might be rendered unserviceable for a long time.
All ships that could lie alongside the wharf at Key West should go there for needed repairs; and there too could be done repair jobs of the more delicate kind to parts that could be gotten ashore from the deep draught ships.*
Fit out two fast comfortable steamers of about 2000 tons displacement as hospital ships. These should be fitted primarily for sick transports and only secondarily as hospitals. The hospital at Key West should be utilized for the fleet sick and wounded and the hospital ships for transporting them from the fleet to Key West, and for taking north all those whose recovery would be delayed as fast as they could be moved, but on no account should they be allowed to accumulate in Key West.
In case of yellow fever in the fleet, the sick of this disease could be sent to the Widows Island hospital on the coast of Maine as fast as possible. All sick transports flying the Geneva Cross should of course move freely if neither ship nor crew were armed and if no supplies other than those for use of the sick and wounded were on board.
Push the manufacture of ordnance supplies, but especially those of torpedoes and ammunition. As fast as the ships of any kind are fitted out assemble them, except naval ships on Pacific, and except colliers from Gulf ports, at Hampton Roads, where the North Atlantic fleet in commission should be ordered at the first indication of possible hostilities.
In case A, under discussion, it is supposed that the main part of the armored strength of Spain – the new ships now in the Squadron of Instruction – will be sent to Cuban waters. Our North Atlantic fleet which is the stronger of the two in armored strength, should be gotten away and should confront it in the Florida Straits from the Key West-Tortugas base when the Spanish fleet arrives from Europe, if it does so arrive before the breaking out of hostilities. As the sailing of the Spanish fleet from home ports for Cuba would be a direct intimation that war were considered imminent by Spain, it would seem to be better policy for the United States to declare such sailing an act of war, so that our fleet could be interposed between the Spanish squadron and its base at Habana. If this action were decided upon our fleet in northern waters should be hurried south without waiting for the fitting out of ships not in commission, for colliers, or for anything else; and this should be done whether the Spanish fleet were to be allowed to coal at Bermuda or at any West Indies port or not, since the consideration of our getting possession of the Straits of Florida first would for us be so important that the getting it would be well worth the risk and inconvenience due to the want of finished preparations and complete arrangements for supplies. The greatest necessity for our fleet - coal - could be supplied by unconvoyed colliers from the Gulf ports, since the risk of the capture of these while finding their way to the base would be slight and should be incurred to save delay. The question of ammunition supply is much more serious, but the fleet should not wait for it, although the lack of it would to a degree hamper the Commander in Chief especially in limiting the amount of work he might wish to do against Habana before the arrival of the Spanish fleet, for he, always having in mind the fact that the Spanish armored fleet was his primary objective, would have to keep himself in condition to meet it, and resist the temptation to push things against the fortifications of Habana while they were unsupported by armored ships. With our fleet first in the Straits, the Spanish, armored squadron should not be allowed to pass into Habana without being struck and struck hard. The Spanish ships not stopped in the Straits should be chased into Habana and blockaded there. Our fleet is weak in cruisers and lookout vessels and this weakness would have to be made good as far as possible by sending to it our torpedo boats, the Vesuvius, and eight or ten fast small craft that could soonest be secured, if, for reasons connected with diplomacy, the Spanish fleet were allowed to reach Habana before the hostilities began, and our fleet were confronting it from the Key West-Tortugas base when hostilities broke out, the sea investment of Habana should be made at once and the Spanish fleet held there but induced to offer an engagement by every means within our power, and engagement outside the shore defense support if possible.
The Commander in Chief would of course use his own discretion in this matter, but the practicability of the following scheme might be submitted for his consideration. To take station with a battle ship off Principe Castle where she would be out of the field of fire of the guns in the outworks of Cabanas and of most of those in the new work of Morro Castle, and open on Principe and Punta, and possibly the west bastion of the Morro as a diversion. Send a Monitor as close in to San Lazaro Cove as possible and give her orders to practice on the aquaduct in rear of the town. Let the Katahdin accompany the monitor, lying under her cover as much as possible. The battle ship could also do some 8-inch practice on the aquaduct. If the practice were good the chance of losing the water supply might induce the Spanish fleet to charge out especially if the remainder of our fleet were held back. If the Spanish fleet came out the battle ship should haul off to induce a chase and the monitor and the Katahdin should endeavor to get between the Spanish fleet and the entrance to Habana. When the Spanish fleet had been drawn off shore a bit it could be closed with and disposed of. The monitor and Katahdin would be exposed to torpedo boat attack, but in the day time they could probably dispose of that, and the latter ship would have an excellent opportunity to get in her special work on Spanish ships trying to run in after they had stopped our work on the aquaduct. This of course is merely suggestive. The Commander in Chief would have to be careful of his ammunition in any such diversions against shore positions until he had a supply on his base, but should be prodigal of it if he could get the Spanish fleet under fire outside of Habana.
In general, in these preliminary operations, until the auxiliary cruisers were ready and coal and ammunition supplies on the base, the duty of our fleet would be to hold the Spanish ships of strength in Habana and incidentally to cut off all Spanish trade and reinforcements moving in the straits. But no extensive operations along the coast of Cuba, and no serious bombardment of Habana and Matanzas should be attempted until our whole fleet, auxiliary and all, were ready, and a fair amount of supplies on our base.
During the preliminary operations, before referred to and indicated in general terms, it is obvious, from a consideration of the naval strengths of the two nations and from a glance at the fleet lists appended, that in the case under consideration “Operations in Cuban and Porto Rican Waters, A.”, the United States would be greatly superior in armored strength and in types of cruisers; Spain would be superior in numbers of cruisers and in torpedo vessels; and that this superiority would have to be met by utilizing auxiliaries. Within practical limits these last could replace regular cruisers for work with the armored fleet, thus freeing some of our more powerful cruisers for work on the south coast in blockading work and harrassments, since they would be amply strong enough to meet anything under the Spanish flag, if the Spanish armored fleet had been drawn to Habana for its defense and held there by our armored fleet.
Since the operations under consideration have for their ultimate object the liberation of the island, it is assumed that the naval Commander in Chief will have general instructions to so far as possible arrange his fire on fortifications and other defenses so as to do the least harm to property, public and private, within range and without military value. For example, while not a part of the defenses of Habana, the aquaduct and railway communications are proper objects for attack, since depriving the town of them would aid in reducing it; but the Governor General’s palace, while it is Spanish headquarters, should not be destroyed because its destruction would not weaken the defenses and because it would be valuable Cuban property after the liberation of the island, not to mention the fact that it could not be destroyed by fire from the fleet without doing great damage to the town.
When the fleet were made up to its full strength by the joining of ships fitted out for the Cuban operation on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts (the Oregon and probably the Monterey should be sent around) and the auxiliaries had reported, and when fuel and ammunition supplies were on the base or en route there, operations should be more actively pushed along the general line hereinafter indicated. It may be well to mention that the time devoted to preliminary operations need not be too much hurried if the fleet be strong enough to keep Habana sealed from the sea and at the same time detach a couple of cruisers to cut cable connections and harass the south coast, and especially if war material can be provided and delivered to the Cubans, for all these will be having their effect.
The succeeding operations should include active work against Habana’s shore defenses by a force superior to the Spanish armored fleet consisting for example, of our three first class battle ships and four monitors with cruisers and auxiliaries to look out for Spanish torpedo vessels, and the capture of Matanzas by the two second-class battle ships and two monitors. In all this work care should be used about hauling off at night to avoid torpedo attacks and at the same time keeping touch to prevent the Spanish fleet from escaping. The monitors would always need cruiser protection against torpedo boat work at night unless they were hauled well off. The force detached for the reduction of Matanzas would of course depend upon what defenses on shore (at present unknown) would be established there, and upon the condition of the Spanish fleet in Habana. But it should always be remembered that no matter how attractive it might be to make quick work at Matanzas, the blockade of Habana must always be strictly maintained by a naval force superior to the Spanish one. If by the ruse of hauling off from Habana while still keeping touch with the cruisers, the Commander in Chief could induce the Spanish fleet to go to the relief of Matanzas and engage our weaker fleet there, he could by closing in on Matanzas, eliminate the Spanish fleet from the problem; but such tactics should not be tried if there were any danger of the escape of the Spanish armored ships, any danger of losing touch with them, the primary naval objective.
In bombarding the Habana shore defenses the work would cut itself out as their fire developed, as a matter of course, but from information at present available it would seem advisable to at first attack from a position to the Westward of the Morro and as close in shore as is safe, the distance from the Morro depending upon the weight of fire developed from it and from what new batteries may be erected. It is probable that with our ships moving at 10 knots the shore fire could well be endured at from 15 to 20 cables from the Morro, and at that range the Morro itself could be well knocked about, and the guns having a field of fire to the westward dismounted. This position too, would give an opportunity for playing upon the Principe and any modern works between it and the sea, while some fine shooting work could be tried on the aquaduct and the railroads in rear of the town. This seems attractive because very little damage would be done to the town itself by stray shells. During these operations the Vesuvius under cover of a battle ship might be worked in until she could drop aerial torpedoes into the Morro and Cabanas and possibly be hovering about the entrance, but which could aid the Morro only by coming out and blanking its fire, and of course receiving that of the fleet. The Katahdin should also be kept close in during such work so as to give her a chance at any ship fairly outside the entrance. The attack on Matazanas should not be made until the Cubans were at hand in force, and they should be communicated with as to the time when they would be in best condition to close in and take advantage of the naval operations.
If Maya and Sabanilla Points remain in their present unfortified condition the entrance to Matanzas Bay will be practically clear, and the four ships detailed for the work should have no difficulty in silencing present shore defenses. If modern high velocity large caliber guns are mounted either on the headlands or further in, it will be a matter of more time and trouble to reduce the place. Matanzas in the hands of the Cubans and kept open by the United States fleet, would of course become the Cuban base for operations against Habana - which would probably go no further than threatening the town sufficiently to render necessary a large garrison in Habana. The cruiser squadron on the south coast should consist of a force strong enough to meet all Spanish protected cruisers in Cuban waters and should, of course, endeavor to meet them when not well supported by shore works and torpedo vessels. These last should always be respected as antagonists and every endeavor made to get them under fire in daylight. With our cruiser squadron on the south coast should operate a number of auxiliaries which would be useful for hunting out the smaller gunboats.
Cable communication with the island should be promptly cut off at Guanabano and Santiago de Cuba. It would also be well to cut the cables entering Cienfuegos. For cutting operations any auxiliary or light cruiser fitted with a cutter of the regular jaw pattern or with a gun-cotton cutter would answer well. Although the cables could be quickly repaired, any repairing could be readily prevented by the cruising squadron.
The question of coaling this cruiser squadron should be a simple one, for in the first place it could readily abandon its station, run to Key West, coal, and get back to the south coast without having been gone long enough to nullify its previous operations. Again, with the Spanish strong ships held at Habana, and the remainder of the fleet guarding the south coast against cruiser operations, it would be quite practicable to send colliers to the squadron, to meet it at a predetermined position off a good coaling port and run in under convoy. Then one cruiser could fill up while the others protected her, or coaling could go on with the colliers on one side only and everything clear for cutting drift and opening fire. Puerto Frances in the Isle of Pines and under Pilot Point in the Cabellones Channel are suggested as possible coaling points. Inside Cabellones might answer if the anchorage under Pilot Point was not sufficiently secure. The ease of coaling would largely depend upon the localities of the torpedo vessels – which have been before referred to, they should as far as possible be attended to during the cruise on the first coaling.
The cruiser squadron would be useful in harassing all well convoyed transports attempting to throw reinforcements into the island at Cienfuegos or Las Tunas, and in capturing those not under convoy. It should, of course, be on the move under easy steam much of the time.
With supplies on his base, with Matanzas in the hands of the Cubans and in cable communication with Key West, and with the command of the Straits of Florida securely in his possession, the Commander in Chief could afford to push things before Habana by keeping the fortifications constantly under fire during the hours of daylight and by aiding Cuban raids on the source of water supply with a heavy shell fire on the works in the region of Fort Principe. He could always contain the Spanish fleet even when sending single ships to the base for fuel and ammunition supplies. If Matanzas could be securely held by the Cubans with the aid of one or two monitors, two second class battle ships and a couple of auxiliaries could make a diversion against Porto Rico to destroy any bases of supplies that might be established there.
It might seem that a few weeks of such conditions would make matters at Habana intolerable and render a sally by the Spanish fleet probable. This fleet should be struck as before mentioned.
If the probabilities are that the defenses of Habana can and will hold out under blockade and bombardment as above, the decision must be made as to whether the town itself shall be put under fire or a resort to be had to throwing an army of invasion into the island.
If the last be decided upon - and it may be noted that the destruction of Habana would be of doubtful benefit as a strategic matter and most lamentable from any other point of view - at least an army corps should be landed at one time in Matanzas and the landing of this corps followed up by two or more as rapidly as possible. All landings and operations should be made in the dry season.
It would be better strategically to delay the invasion rather than to make it in the yellow fever season, and in any event to plan as brief a campaign as possible, even if this briefness requires increased expenditures due to putting more men and material in the field than would be necessary for a longer campaign. An invasion should not be contemplated for a force of less than 60,000 men with 40,000 in reserve.
The army base of operations has been indicated as Matanzas – that of concentration as Tampa, and this last would be by far the best available base even if the Straits of Florida were so completely under our command that transports would need no convoy; unless the Straits were so held, as for instance in case the invasion were decided upon and pushed forward early in the war, before the navy had accounted for all Spanish cruisers – then there would be no other practicable base for embarking an army corps and quickly transporting it to Matanzas.
If there were absolutely nothing to fear from any Spanish ships, troops could be collected and embarked at New Orleans, or any northern city for that matter. But under the present conditions of transport, it would be much more economical and practical to use Tampa as the place for army concentration.
The transport and disembarkation of troops and their shore operations have no place in this paper.
It may, however, be pointed out that La Union, a day’s march to the southward of Matazanas, is the key to the situation as regards cutting off supplies and reinforcement from the eastward for Habana.
I - B.
OPERATIONS IN CUBAN AND PORTO RICAN WATERS.
DEFENSE OF CUBA TO BE MADE BY SHORE FORCES AND UNARMORED SHIPS.
In this case the Straits of Florida must be ours without a blow, and the unarmored ships about the island could be met and rendered useless by our protected cruisers. With the aid of the Cubans a blockade of the coasts, practical to all intents and purposes, could be made and maintained.
The armored fleet for Cuban waters would depend upon the season of the year as well as upon the policy of the government in regard to pushing things to a quick conclusion.
As this case presupposes the holding of the Spanish armored ships in Spanish waters, and as we would have no possible object in expending battle ship force in striking at Spain till Cuba were liberated, it would seem better to use our battle ships in Cuban waters and leave the defense of the ports against possible Spanish cruiser raids to the old monitors and to some of the swifter cruisers; these last would be ample for the purpose and the use of them would allow us to have the heavier guns of the battle ships for bombarding work against the fortifications of Habana.
It is to be noted that under this arrangement the distribution of the United States naval force could readily be changed to meet Condition C of Spain if she should change to that from the case under consideration.
This case B would hardly be adopted unless Spain felt great reliance in both her army in Cuba and her defenses of Habana, and consequently her adopting it would be an indication that we should at once prepare an army of invasion and throw it into the island practically under the same limitations as to season, numbers, bases, etc., as was alluded to in case A.
I - C
In this case the United States fleet in Cuban waters would, until the Spanish armored ships were found and disposed of on our own coasts, consist as regards armored ships of the new monitors. These could open Matanzas and work more or less against Habana. They would need support by cruisers both against torpedo vessels and to secure their base – which last would be reduced to Key West alone. The naval work against Habana would be comparatively slow and operations there from the sea could not be pushed until the Spanish armored vessels were disposed of; but it is very improbable that this last would long delay matters. As soon as they were met and struck by our superior fleet the coast could be looked out for by our cruisers, in case any Spanish cruisers were afloat to threaten them or our trade, while the battle ships could be sent to Cuban waters to hurry matters there.
II - A and C.
United States naval operations in European waters might be very effective if the matter of coal supply could be satisfactorily solved. The probabilities are that upon the outbreak of war between Spain and the United States coal will be declared contraband of war in so far as the furnishing of it by neutrals to belligerents is concerned, but it is suggested that a small United States squadron properly constituted for the work might coal in any one of several unfortified anchorages in the Balearic Islands that are sufficiently secure as regards weather, if the colliers were sent out from England under the British Flag. These colliers might be chartered and cleared for Port Said or other point where colliers are always going, and they might then meet the fleet at a prearranged rendezvous at sea and go to the anchorage under convoy. Since the movements would have to be timed to correspond to those of the fleet these colliers would of course have to be steam vessels. They would risk capture on their return to England, which risk would of course be arranged for in the charter. The matter of chartering openly or confidentially would to a small degree depend upon the attitude of the British government in regard to coal, but it should be as secret as possible in order to prevent complications. Of course the same system of providing coal for the fleet might be applied in France or Italy, but it could probably be more easily arranged in England than elsewhere.
With flying coal bases as above, a flying squadron might accomplish much although it would have absolutely no dependable base for repairs and no certain way of supplying itself with ammunition. The squadron to meet ideal conditions should consist of our two armored cruisers and our two commerce destroyers because such a squadron would be strong enough to meet and destroy anything Spain could get to sea after the Pelayo and the three armored cruisers were sent to Cuba, and because it would be amply fast enough to decline an action with these if they were fallen in with.
As the ammunition supply would be scant the commanding officer would have to husband it with care, but even so he could strike Spanish trade in the Mediterranean heavily, could put many unfortified towns under ransom. He could operate on both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Spain, but the greater part of his work should be done along the latter because he could there better harass the Spanish trade afloat, and towns ashore, and because a United States squadron appearing off Barcelona, Valencia, and Cartagena would probably result in a demand for naval protection by the eastern provinces and thus produce strains upon the Ministry that it could illy bear.
In the case under discussion, in which the Spanish sea-going armored ships are supposed to be in Cuban waters, such a European United States squadron as has been indicated would have nothing to fear from any action at sea, but in harrassing towns great care would have to be used to avoid receiving damage from coast works, and to keep down the expenditure of ammunition. The method to apply to towns would be to appear off them, to demand a ransom, and if it were not promptly paid to toss a heavy shell or two into the town itself to show the seriousness of the situation. No ammunition could be wasted on fortifications and it is suggested that if merchant vessels and what coast defense vessels that can be met are well harried the squadron work will be well done without harassing towns by shell fire.
II - B.
In this case the European Squadron, made up as in II - A would be sufficiently powerful to furnish work for the Spanish armored ships and cruisers for it could well afford to join action with any single ship except the Pelayo, and under favorable circumstances perhaps with her; but this squadron should never lose sight of the facts that it has harrassment for an objective - not a fleet of strong ships - that it has no base at all, and that it must be extremely careful of its own existence; therefore the endeavor should be to lead the Spanish fleet a lively chase about the coast, doubling back and appearing off a town from which it had just been driven by the Spanish armored fleet, for example, and in every way showing the Spanish people their lack of protection.
In this case as in II - A and C, the coaling question would be the most difficult one to solve, and the squadron would have to haul off the Spanish coast and elude the Spanish armored fleet before making its flying fuel base. Still the difficulties do not appear unsurmountable - and even if the Spanish fleet chased our squadron into a neutral port and practically blockaded it by awaiting it in the offing, our squadron would be doing good service in holding a heavier force than itself from other work.
The question of sending battle ships to reinforce this cruiser fleet in Spanish waters, after the fall of Habana, and after the Philippines and Canaries had been more or less harassed and perhaps reduced, would of course depend upon the policy of our government in compelling Spain to make peace after Cuba were liberated. It is apparent that battle ships could be utilized to good advantage for meeting the Spanish fleet and eliminating it from the problem of the war, though it is doubtful whether they should be employed against towns where ransom and not capture is the object. The coal and ammunition supply question would grow with the increase of the fleet, but on the other hand with three of our first class ships available a big convoy of coal could be convoyed to the Balearics and established there under continuous protection of the battle ships. The fleet would be strong enough to protect its base and fight at the same time.
III A – B – C.
Under present conditions of the naval strengths of the two countries, or under those which are likely to exist in the near future, it would seem that the United States could well spare from operations in Cuban and Spanish waters a cruiser fleet certainly sufficient to harrass the Phillipines and probably strong enough to reduce and hold Manila itself. With the fleet as per appended lists of United States ships and of Spanish ships that could be spared for the mobile defense of the Philippines, we could assuredly seize Manila Bay, reduce Kavite, and establish there a coaling and repairing base, and easily reduce Manila itself. With Manila in our hands it would be an easy matter to control the trade of Ilo-ilo and Cebu. The question of method of carrying out the operations would of course be in the hands of the Commander in Chief of the fleet, but it would seem best to first establish a base at Manila to which coal can be sent in suitable quantities in case the supply held there is destroyed by the Spaniards, when whatever Spanish fleet that may be found there is captured.
In case Spain should send out an armored cruiser or two for the defense of the Philippines the reduction of Manila would be a much more serious matter.
But in such a contingency a United States battle ship from the Pacific could well be spared from joining the fleet in Cuban waters, and she with a cruiser fleet made up from the ships of the Asiatic and Pacific would be ample to meet anything that Spain could put in the Philippine waters.
A very light cruiser squadron might harrass the Philippines even if the Spaniards had an armored cruiser or two on the station, but the difficulty of arranging a flying coaling base for such a squadron, and the strategic importance of Manila would seem to point to the latter place as a military objective to be reached even at the expense of sending an armored ship or two for its attainment.
The ease with which the revenues of the islands could at once be attained and the fact that these revenues might be held until a war indemnity were satisfactorily arranged for, both indicate that Manila should be made a serious objective.
IV A and B.
In these two cases it is evident that the only mobile defenses needed for our coast ports would be such as could prevent the entering of an unarmored cruiser or two and also keep such a force from annoying our coast towns by running in to within long range and dropping a shell or two among buildings. For these purposes our old monitors could be utilized by distributing them along the coast at the more exposed points and they themselves would answer all purposes unless the Spaniards detailed for this harrassing work the Alfonso XIII or one of the armored cruisers, neither of which they could well spare from Cuban waters.
The question of the amount of annoyance that could be made in this way would of course depend on whether or not Great Britain allowed Spanish cruisers to coal at Halifax or Bermuda. If such coaling were allowed and if the Spanish fleet were weakened by detaching a strong cruiser from the fleet in Cuban waters, we would have to meet it by supplementing the defense given by the old monitors by a patrol of some of our better cruisers. Although these could be illy spared, it is to be borne in mind that the more the Spanish fleet is weakened in Cuban waters the better can we spare cruisers for defense patrol on the coast.87 In fact we would probably be forced to use some few cruisers for protection of our coasting trade before our heavier auxiliaries were fitted out, and since the Spanish Transatlanticas have better armaments than we can furnish to our auxiliaries it is quite probable that we would have to maintain this cruiser patrol, especially if there is such energy displayed by the Spanish privateers as is now promised for that service.
In regard to the protection of the depots at Key West and Tortugas of the naval base line, an old monitor at either place supplemented by cruisers of the fleet before Habana should be ample for any force Spain could send apart from her armored ships, and these last could surely be contained by our fleet.
Even if the Spanish fleet escaped and struck one of our depots, it would be a movement in our favor so long as touch was not lost, since it would offer an opportunity to force a fight.
IV – C.
This case, although a desperate one for Spain to adopt, one that would lead her to utter defeat, is one that would be very awkward for us to meet; for her armored fleet is too strong to be allowed to move about our coasts whose ports were defended only by shore works and coast defense vessels, and is also too strong and too fast to be caught and beaten by anything less than a squadron of our best ships.
With a good system of lookouts, and pigeon and telegraph service we should be able to find this armored fleet before it could have done any serious arm, and once found it should only be able to elude an action by running into a neutral port, Halifax or Bermuda, for example, where it could hurt us as much by necessitating a strong blockade on our part and thus reducing very much the strength we could us in Cuban waters, where operations would have to proceed as in I – C.
The question of coaling in neutral ports would be a very acute one in this case, IV – C. If no coaling were allowed, the Spanish fleet would soon be eliminated from consideration. In case England allowed Spanish ships to lie in her ports as, long as they chose and allowed them to coal enough to reach the nearest home port, as is probable, it is evident that the British ports of Halifax and Bermuda would practically soon become Spanish bases at least in so far as fuel, supplies and ports of refuge are concerned, and that we could not prevent such use of British ports. Nor could we utilize our rights as belligerents to the same favors that Spain received since coal sufficient for our ships to reach the nearest home port would be an insignificant amount.
It would seem that our only resourde would be to hover around the British port with a fleet superior to the Spanish one and keep our ships coaled and ready for a chase at all times as best we could.
But at whatever cost the Spanish fleet should be held until it could be struck....
CRUISER OPERATIONS ON THE SPANISH COAST.
A possible line of cruiser squadron work has been indicated (pp 26 to 28 of this report). The following brief notes on the strategic condition of the coasts and ports of Spain seem to point to the probable efficacy of such operations.
The Mediterranean coast of Spain is attractive for cruiser work, because on that coast are to be found the greater amount of sea-borne property, the greater number of wealthy towns, and the greater number of towns that are practically indefensible against attack from the sea. This last condition arises from the fact that the contour of the coast at the site of a town has in several instances forced the forming of an artificial port in which the shipping cannot be covered from gun fire from the offing by fortifications. See sketches of Barcelona and Malaga as typical ports.
In many instances, as per list of towns herewith, a ship off the port can open on proper points of attack, such as custom houses, railroad stations, and bridges, and shipping in the port, at half the range the fortifications firing on the bombarding vessel would use; and in many instances the fortifications would have to fire in line with the town itself; thus, if they opened on the ships, making the enemy instead of ourselves responsible for what damage to the town itself might result from return fire.
On the northern coast the towns are as a rule better protected and greater care would have to be used in harassing them.
Between capes Trafalgar and St.Vincent trade could be readily harassed, but the only exposed town (Cadiz) is difficult to attack without danger of serious return fire, although a demonstration against it might be desirable for the purpose of drawing its mobile defense out to sea and thus disposing of it.
. . . BARCELONA
See Sketch herewith.
Most important trade and wealth center. Fortifications as per sketch. Armaments unknown. Modern guns might be found here, an torpedo boats and coast defense vessels would have to be reckoned on.
A blockade off the port would interrupt much trade and might draw out the coast defense vessels, which could then be disposed of.
Steaming past at speed, and at a range of about 2500 yards, the fleet could do an enormous amount of damage to the shipping in port, while its chance of injury from the batteries would be slight. If Spain had any formidable ships in the Mediterranean they would probably be found here. The place has been captured twice by French and once by English.
Staff Intelligence Officer.