Lieutenant Cameron McRae Winslow to Commander Bowman H. McCalla
Off Cienfuegos, Cuba,
May 11th 1898.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the cutting of the ocean telegraph cables at the entrance to Cienfuegos harbor.
Under your verbal orders, I proceeded about 7 A.M. to day with the steam cutter and sailing launch of this ship, and the steam cutter and sailing launch of the U.S.S. “MARBLEHEAD”to execute the duty assigned me. After the ships had demolished the cable house and had apparently dislodged the enemy from the chaparral,hills,and rifle pits I proceeded with the boats under my command directly for the cable house, opening fire from the Colt’s Automatic Gun in the bow of the “NASHVILLE’S” steam cutter,and from the 1 pdr. cannon in the bow of the “MARBLEHEAD’S” steam cutter, also from the sharp=shooters in both steam cutters. We cast the sailing launches off from the steam cutters when about 300 yds. from the beach. I was in the sailing launch of this ship Lieutenant E.A.Anderson of the “MARBLEHEAD” in the “MARBLEHEAD’S” sailing launch. Ensign T.P.Magruder was left in command of both steam cutters, with orders to keep up a fire on the hills and chaparral. The fire from these two boats was kept up incessantly while we were engaged in the work of cutting the cables. The cable going to the eastward was first grappled, and was under-run by both sailing launches, and a section about 24 fathoms in length was cut out of this cable. The sea and being out in about 13 fathoms of water. The section of this cable cut out, was brought to this ship on the return of the sailing launch. After cutting the first cable we proceeded in both sailing launches to the south-westward of the demolished cable house and grappled within 60 feet of the beach from the cable leading westward.
After about one half hours work, we succeeded in grappling this cable. Great difficulty was experienced in lifting this cable, and we were only about to under-run 15 fathoms of it.We cut a section out of this cable about 15 fathoms long and threw it overboard in deep water, leaving the sea end of the cable,in from 6 to 10 fathoms of water.While working with the second cable,we discovered a third cable much smaller than the other two,parallel to the cable leading to the westward.After cutting the second cable we proceeded to grapple this third cable.Up to this time the enemy had from time to time opened fire upon us,but we were able to silence his fire by the fire from our steam cutters and the continuous heavy fire maintained by the “MARBLEHEAD” and the “NASHVILLE”. While grappling the third cable,the enemy apparently greatly increased its force and opened a deadly fire on our boats.Believeing that we had cut the two important cables and knowing that we could not endure the terrific fire of the enemy, I ordered the sailing launches to let go the third cable and ordered the steam cutters to take the sailing launches in tow.We manned the oars of the sailing launches to keep the boats clear of the breakers until the steam cutters could take them in tow. At the same time we opened fire from the men in the sailing launches not at the oars, the steam cutters keeping up their fire.We continued firing while in retreat, under a very heavy fire from the enemy, our men displaying great coolness.Shortly after my launch was taken in tow, while I was reaching for a fresh rifle,I was struck by an enemy’s ball in my left hand,but was not crippled,and I was able to continue in command. We steamed as rapidly as possible against a head sea for the “MARBLEHEAD” and the “NASHVILLE”keeping up our fire as we retreated.One man in my boat,Robert Voz, Seaman was shot in the head and badly injured. The “MARBLEHEAD’S” boat though further from the beach than the “NASHVILLE’S”,suffered merciless. At the present time I do not know the extent of their loss.
No one in the “NASHVILLE’S” steam cutter was injured.
The work, owing to the heavy armored cables used,1 3/4 inch in diameter and the heavy swell rolling in, was extremely difficult.The water being clear we were able to see the cable at a great depth.Had it not been possible to have seen the cables, it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to have grappled them,as the uneven formation of the coral bottom continually caught our grapples.
The boats were splendidly supported by the heavy fire of the “MARBLEHEAD”and the “NASHVILLE”.Towards the end of the action, the “NASHVILLE” took a position to the eastward and close in on the reefs and admirably covered our retreat, crossing her fire with that of the “MARBLEHEAD”,and passing quickly between our boats and the enemy.Owing to the fact that the enemy had excellent cover in the hills and chaparral,and to the fact that they used smokeless powder,it was impossible to accurately locate them.At the last part of the engagement, just as the completion of our work, judging from the very hot fire, the enemy must have been in large force.
I have to state that I was ably supported by Ensign T.P. Magruder,in command of the steam cutters, who displayed great coolness,bravery,and promptness in carrying out my orders,and in protecting his men.Lieutenant E.A.Anderson commanded the sailing launch of the “MARBLEHEAD”and did his work with coolness, bravery, and intelligence,continuing the work regardless of the hot fire to which he was exposed,until orders by me to desist.
The following is a list of the men in the “NASHVILLE’S” boats:-
T.Hoban---------- “ A.Byer------------ “
A.J.Durney-------B. Sth. W.Myer------------C.M.3.C.
C.Nelson---------S.M.M. H.Van Etten-------Sea.
C.H.Neubert------Sea. J.Eglit----------- “
R.Volz----------- “ R.Blume----------- “
H.H.Miller------- “ W.Hiller---------- “
P.Gaughan--------1st.Sgt.U.S.M.C.O.W.Field------- “ “ “ “ “
F.Hill-----------Prt.U.S.M.C. H.F.Scott--------- “ “ “ “ “
P.Parker---------- “ “ “ “ “ M.Kearny---------- “ “ “ “ “
They all behaved with the utmost coolness and courage. While I do not wish to discriminate, I desire to call your attention to the zeal displayed and hard work done by E.Krause,Cox.,B.F.Baker,Cox.,T.Hoban,Cox.,and R.Blume Sea. Ensign Magruder reports’ to me, that the men and marines in the “NASHVILLE’S” steam cutter behaved admirably without exception. While the men in the “MARBLEHEAD’S” boats were not under my immediate supervision, they executed their duty to my entire satisfaction. Lieutenant Anderson who had them under his direct command will, doubtless, make report to you as to their courage and efficiency. The work of cutting cables occupied about 3 1/4 hrs.
In conclusion, I have to state, that I was ordered particularly to cut two cables, one leading West and the other East. This was accomplished. The fire of the “MARBLEHEAD”and “NASHVILLE” completely demolished the cable house with all its contents. Unless there are other cables, all communication by ocean cable with Cienfuegos must continue in-terrupted until the end of the war. I do not think that the appliances are at hand at Cienfuegos to repair the damage.
The loss of life to the enemy must have been very great. The fire from our ships was terrific.