Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

North Atlantic Fleet Squadron Bulletin No. 13

Squadron Bulletin.

U. S. Flagship New York.         Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 1898.

THE following is a detailed account of yesterday’s skirmish furnished by the Assistant Adjutant General:1

General Wheeler, with one Squadron of the 1st U. S. Cavalry, one of the 10th U. S. Cavalry, and two Squadrons of the 1st U. S. Volunteer Cavalry, had a stiff skirmish yesterday near Guasima, about two and one-half miles from Sevilla.2 After an hour’s resistance the enemy was driven from a strong and intrenched position on a high hill, and retreated towards Santiago. Others of our troops arrived on the field, but not before the issue was decided. We are now strongly posted near Gauasima, with a detachment in Sevilla, and a picket half a mile beyond. Our losses are reported to be 22 killed and 80 wounded. Among the killed are Captain Capron and Lieutenant Hamilton Fish, 1st Volunteer Cavalry, and among the wounded Major Brodie, Captain McClintock and Lieutenant Thomas of the same regiment, and Major Bell, Captain Knox, and Lieutenant Bryan, 1st U. S. Cavalry. Captain Knox is said to be seriously wounded.3 I am also informed Mr. Marshall, correspondent, is wounded.4 The names of the killed and wounded have not yet been received.5 The enemy’s dead, so far counted, numbers 18, but because of the tall grass and thick brush it is very difficult to find their bodies, and a like difficulty was experienced in finding our own dead. We have two troops of cavalry, and a light battery enroute to General Wheeler, and others will follow in a short time. All is satisfactory on land, but the General is exceedingly anxious to get supplies ashore.

General Shafter in a letter to the Admiral to-day states that he has occupied Sevilla.6

A force was sent by Commander McCalla this morning to determine whether the enemy still occupied the extremities of Punta del Jicacal, Quantanamo Bay.7

The force under Colonel Huntington, U.S.M.C.,8 consisted of two companies of Marines and two-thirds of the force of Cubans under Colonel Thomas, in all about 240 men.9

The landing flotilla consisted of boats from the various ships towed by the steam launches of Helena, Annapolis and Bancroft, which left their ships at 2 a. m. for the Marine Camp, under the command of Commander Eaton.10 The Eagle took station for the night off Jicacal Point and at 4 a. m. the Marblehead and Helena moved into position close to beach to South and Westward of the high lands of Jicacal Point to cover the landing. The boats advanced in three columns and the troops were landed quietly and quickly, and a thorough reconnoisance was made of the point. The enemy was not seen. The men re-embarked about eight.

A picket line of Spaniards was seen from the ships, one or two men at a time across the dry lagoon a couple of miles to N. and W’d.

The Marblehead then proceeded to the channel between Jicacal and Cayo del Hospital to drag for mines; four mines were found and successfully raised. This makes thirteen mines in all raised in the channel.11

It was omitted to mention that on Thursday, 23rd, the Assistant Chief of Staff was sent in the Vixen with a flag of truce to the mouth of the harbor to make inquiry as to whether Mr. Hobson and his men were still confined in the Morro, and if so to make protest.12 Captain Concas <of the Spanish Navy representing the Spanish authorities met our flag.13 He stated that our men had been removed to town and were all well.

The following appears in the Kingston, Jamaica, “Gleaner” of June 24.

Havana, June 14.─Flying a flag of truce, an American gunboat was sighted this afternoon, and the Spanish gunboat Flecha was sent out with Lieutenant-Colonel Sebastian Ramos and Lieutenant Jose Rolden on board.

When the Flecha returned two hours later she had on board Captain Ludlow14 of the American monitor Terror, who had been delegated by Rear-Admiral Sampson to negotiate for the exchange of Assistant Naval Constructor Hobson and his six companions belonging to the Merrimac, and who are now held in the Morro at Santiago de Cuba.15

Captain-General Blanco16 was informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ramos of the nature of Captain Ludlow’s mission, but he sent back word to the American that he had no instructions from his government regarding the case, and could not treat with him.

Captain Ludlow returned on the Flecha to the American gunboat, which immediately left the port.

Madrid, June 22.─News of serious fighting near Santiago de Cuba has been received here. Admrial Cervera cables that the situation is critical and the Governor of Santiago17 admits that the Spaniards have been obliged to retire, but a Spanish victory is claimed.

Palermo, June 24.─A dispatch from the Island of Panteleria announces that Admiral Camara’s squadron passed there to-day going in the direction of Suez.18

Newport News, Va., June 23.─Auxiliary cruiser Yale with troops for Santiago sailed from Old Point Comfort at 6 o’clock this evening.19

MADRID, June 23.─The cable dispatches received here from Admiral Cervera say that the crews of the Spanish warships at Santiago have joined the land forces in order to take part in defence of the city. He adds that the situation is critical, but a later dispatch arrived affirming that the Spaniards have victoriously repulsed the enemy.20 A dispatch from the Governor of Santiago de Cuba says the attack on Siboney and Daiquiri continued until nightfall. The enemy was repulsed except on the left at Daiquiri, where the Spaniards were obliged to retire in consequence of the flanking movement on the part of the enemy, who landed 9 kilometers east of Daiquiri. The Spanish forces retired in good order into the mountains of Siboney and Benan, which places were destroyed by American shells.>21

Source Note: Printed, DNA, RG 313, Entry 56. Only the first page of the bulletin is at DNA. The remainder of the text was taken from Squadron Bulletins, 28-32; and is set off by angle brackets.

Footnote 1: Probably Maj. William S. Scott.

Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler attacked the Spanish who were entrenched at Las Guasimas. It was the first land engagement of the Spanish-American War.

Footnote 3: These officers were: Capt. Allyn K. Capron; Lt. Hamilton Fish, Jr.; Maj. Alexander O. Brodie; Capt. James H. McClintock. Lt. John R. Thomas, Jr.; Maj. J.M. Bell; Capt. Thomas T. Knox; and Lt. George L. Byram.

Footnote 4: Correspondent Edward Marshall’s account of the battle is to be found in Scribner’s Magazine, vol. 24, no. 3 (September, 1898), 273-76. Some sources assert that Marshall, who was shot in the spine, had picked up a rifle and joined the firing line, but from his account in Scribner’s that does not seem to have been the case.

Footnote 5: That is, the names of killed and wounded who were not officers.

Footnote 6: References to Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter and RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla oversaw naval operations at Guantánamo Bay. The correct spelling of this location is Punta Hicocal, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Footnote 8: Lt. Col. Robert W. Huntington commanded the detachment of U.S. Marines at Guantánamo Bay.

Footnote 9: Col. Enriqué Thomas.

Footnote 10: Cmdr. Joseph G. Eaton was in command of Resolute.

Footnote 11: For more information about mine-sweeping operations at Guantánamo Bay, see: Naval Operations at Guantánamo.

Footnote 12: Lt. Sydney A. Staunton; El Morro was a fort on the east side of the entrance to the harbor at Santiago de Cuba.

Footnote 13: Capt. Victor María Concas y Palau.

Footnote 14: Capt. Nicholl Ludlow.

Footnote 15: For more on Assistant Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson, see: Sinking the Merrimac.

Footnote 16: Captain-General of Cuba Ramón Blanco Erenas Riera y Polo.

Footnote 17: The report on the precarious situation of the garrison at Santiago de Cuba was made by Gen. Jose Toral y Vazquez, who had assumed command when Maj. Gen. Arsenio Linares y Pombo was wounded.

Footnote 18: Pantelleria is an island in the Strait of Sicily. For more information on the abortive attempt to send a fleet to the Philippines under the command of Vice Adm. Manuel de la Cámara y Libermoore, see, Trask, War with Spain, 373-77.

Footnote 19: Old Point Comfort, Va., is at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay.

Footnote 20: After the Spanish fleet docked at Santiago de Cuba, RAdm. Cervera thought it prudent to buttress the city’s defenses by dispatching his sailors to the lines. In a letter (dated 25 June) from Cervera to Captain-General Blanco, the former writes:

I have a number of men ashore reenforcing garrison, of which I consider myself a part. Believe it my duty to tell your excellency that on the 23d I addressed to Government [Madrid] the following telegram: “The enemy took possession of Daiquiri yesterday. Will surely occupy Siboney to-day, in spite of brilliant defense. The course of events is very painful, though not unexpected. Have disembarked crews squadron to aid army. . . . As it is absolutely impossible for squadron to escape under these circumstances, intend to resist as long as possible and destroy ships as last extreme.” The foregoing telegram expresses my opinion as well as that of the captains of the ships. . . .” Cervera, Squadron Operations, 111.

Footnote 21: This report of an American repulse was untrue.

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