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Captain William H. Whiting to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U.S.S. Monadnock, 2d Rate,       

Honolulu, H.I., July 12, 1898.


     1. This vessel accompanied by the U.S.S. Nero left San Francisco, Cal., at 2:00 p.m., June 23d, passing the light Ship off the bar at 5:00 o’clock, bound to Honolulu, H.I., where we anchored at 6:00 p.m., Sunday, July 3d, 100 tons of coal remaining in the bunkers. Found the U.S.S. Mohican in port.1

     2. The first night out we found a moderate sea and a long swell from the northwest, breeze moderate W.N.W. Being in the trough of the sea the ship rolled from 14 to 15 degrees. The starboard life buoy was washed away and the bolts on the starboard side of the after turret, to which the netting covering the coal was made fast, broke off and, during the night, 25 tons of coal, in bags, was washed overboard. The ship was then kept off so as to bring the sea on the quarter. The average speed by log for the first twenty-four hours was 7 1/2 knots. The Average speed for the next twenty-four by log was 7 3/4 knots. The speed was then gradually increased and during the remainder of the passage the average was about nine knots. At no time during the passage was this ship assisted by the “Nero” and the Monadnock’s speed was regulated by the speed of the “Nero”. In smooth water with moderate swell astern or on the quarter the “Nero” was able to average 9 knots per hour.

     3. On the way over I found that the water made by the distiller was too salt for drinking purposes and it gradually became unfit for even cooking purposes; also the quantity was very small, showing that something was wrong with the evaporator, and it was only by having a supply in the double bottoms and putting the crew on short allowance that enabled us to keep the water in the boilers moderately fresh. I found that the boilers required about twenty-five hundred gallons of water a day to supply loss. This I considered at least more than double what it should be and was attributed by the Chief Engineer to many small leaks in the steam connections which, he said, should be repaired before leaving Honolulu.

     4. As the weather became warm the ship was rendered very uncomfortable, the temperature in the crew spaces ranging from 100 to 115 degrees. The temperature in the evaporating room became so great that men on duty there fainted, being overcome by heat, the thermometer showing from 140 to 150 degrees. As men had to be kept at work in this room some arrangement had to be made for its proper ventilation before going into still warmer climates. Since reaching this port I have therefore cut an opening 8” by 20” from the evaporating room through the protective deck and have erected a ventilating shaft alongside the superstructure to which it is secured. This shaft is carried as high as the superstructure and it is of great benefit. This I understand has been done on some of the monitors on the Eastern coast. The temperatures in the Engine and Firerooms ranged from 126 to 129 degrees.

     5. On reaching port the Chief Engineer2 furnished me with a report of work which he considered necessary to be done before leaving port and which could not be postponed, the time required being eight days. A schedule of the work is attached marked “A”.3 This work has been steadily pushed along, the entire Engineer’s force being excused from other duty.

     6. On our arrival at 9:00 p.m., July 3d, the Consul General4 in charge of the Government coal wished to know if I required coal that night, to which I replied “No, that having some repairs to do in the bunkers it would not be convenient to take coal before the 5th or 6th as it would somewhat interfere with work on ventilating shaft to evaporator room”. He informed me that if the transports arrived he would do nothing for me until he had finished them. As I required about 360 tons to be bagged I arranged to send the bags on shore at 7:00 o’clock in the morning of the 5th, so that they could be filled and sewed up, thus expediting as far as lay In my power the work of coaling. The first transport arrived off the harbor at daybreak of the 5th and they continued to arrive until daylight on the morning of the 7th, the last being the “Newport” With General Merritt5 on board. The coaling of the transports was carried on day and night and finished about 11:00 a.m., of the 8th. The Consul General then informed me that his men were completely tired out and could not commence on the “Nero” and “Monadnock” until the next day. The “Nero” coaled on the 9th and 10th, taking on some 230 tons of coal, in bags, to be delivered to this ship at sea. The Monadnock coaled on the 11th.

     7. Keeping in mind that this is a pressing necessity and that all stops should be as short as possible, I have decided to proceed directly from here to Manila according with my instructions and avoid making any stops at intermediate points. In order to do this it will be necessary to receive coal from the “Nero” at sea. In order to do this I have arranged here for the “Nero”, two double-ended cargo boats, such as are used by the Inter Island steamers in landing and receiving cargo at places where there is an anchorage and the sea rough. I have authorized the Commanding Officer6 of the “Nero” to enlist for special service, two boat crew of Kanakas,7 with a white man as mate, making eleven in all. these men to be selected from those employed by the island steamers in handling their boats and cargoes and I have no doubt of being able by this means to replenish my coal at sea.

     8. I shall proceed from here in tow of the “Nero” assisting her by running the engines of this ship so as to make five and a half or six knots and that, I believe, will enable her to tow me at eight knots and with the current I hope to average two hundred miles per day. When I get to the Westward of the Ladrone Islands, where I may expect unfavorable weather, I will cease to tow and proceed under my own steam, having my bunkers full of coal, and should have no difficulty in reaching Manila. I believe this method to be the best and most expedient plan for there could hardly be a day, unless a gale was blowing, in which I could not receive at least as much coal from the “Nero” as I had expended. It also enables me to lay a straight course and avoid a long passage by Guam Island and the necessary delay there. I expect to be out of [here tomorrow?]. [Then and?] in twenty-two days from time of leaving her[e] and to Manila in twenty-five days. If during the trip the weather should be such that on reaching the LadroneIslands my bunkers are not full of coal and the “Nero” unable to tow, I will be compelled to go into port at Guam Island and replenish my coal supply. This however I do not anticipate being compelled to do.

     9. The following radical defects were developed on the passage from San Francisco to this port:

     a. The exceedingly small quantity of water carried in tanks, being practically 5000 gallons in all but ten days supply on reduced allowance.

     b. The failure of the evaporator to make fresh water.

     c. The limited quantity that the evaporator will make at sea under the most favorable conditions, being 1200 gallons per day, while the quality required is twenty-five hundred for boiler use and five hundred for the crew, leaving a daily shortage of eighteen hundred gallons. This can be partially overcome by carrying fresh water in the double bottoms.

     d. The excessive temperature in the evaporating room which has not been remedied.

     10. I fully realize the grave responsibility resting upon me to take this ship to Manila in the shortest possible time and upon reaching there to have her in condition for immediate service, and this I am trying with the best of my ability to accomplish, and nothing to this end has been or will be omitted.8

     11. All repairs will be completed tonight, and unless something unforeseen happens I will leave this harbor tomorrow morning.

     12. The usual visits of courtesy have been exchanged with the U.S. Minister9 and the U.S. Consul General. The U.S. Minister visited the ship on the 6th and was saluted. The 4th of July being not only our National Holiday but the National Holiday of the Hawaiian Government, the ship was dressed, and at noon two salutes, of twenty-one guns each, were fired. On the arrival of the transport on the 6th, under the command of Brig. Gen. McArthur,10 I saluted him and official visits were exchanged. On the arrival on the 7th of the “Newport”, Major General Merritt on board, a salute was fired for him and I called officially, but failed to see him. On the 8th, just as the “Newport” was leaving, General Merritt returned my call by sending his card and regretting that he could not come personally. The transports left on the 8th, but, with the exception of the “Newport”, returned late in the afternoon and anchored outside, the machinery of the “Indiana11 having broken down. Repairs were made, and the five transports sailed at 2:30 p.m. on the 9th.

Very respectfully,

(Signed) W. H. WHITING,

Captain, U.S. Navy,         


Source Note: TCy, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 320. Addressed below close: “The Honorable Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department, Washington, D.C.” Document reference: “C.C. 150.”

Footnote 1: Commo. Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, ordered Monadnock readied for the trip to Manila as early as 31 May 1898. The Monadnock was a monitor, and by design, ill fitted for trans-oceanic voyages and would never have been ordered to Manila were it not out of fear of a possible Spanish relief expedition sailing from Cadiz. When reports from Europe confirmed that a Spanish squadron intended to sail for Manila, the Monadnock was ordered to Manila to aid in its defense. The urgency turned out to be unnecessary. Secretary of the Navy John D. Long reported to RAdm. Dewey on 11 July, that the Spanish relief squadron had turned around at Port Said and was returning to Spain. See, Crowninshield to Assistant Secretary Charles A. Allen, 31 May 1898, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 320; Allen to RAdm. William A. Kirkland, 8 June 1898, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, p. 172; and RAdm. Montgomery Sicard to Long, 11 July 1898, DNA, RG 45, Entry 372, vol. 2. 

Footnote 2: Chief Eng. Theodore F. Burgdorff.

Footnote 3: The schedule was not attached and has not been found.

Footnote 4: United States Consul at Honolulu William Haywood.

Footnote 5: Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt.

Footnote 6: Cmdr. Charles Belknap.

Footnote 7: “Kanakas” derived from the Hawaiian word for people and was adopted by British and American captains to describe native Polynesian laborers.

Footnote 8: A complaint was made to the Navy Department that the Monadnock had remained in Honolulu for more time than was necessary and as a result RAdm. George Dewey was ordered to convene a court of inquiry to investigate this “delay.” The court’s findings were that Monadnock “remained in Honolulu only long enough to make necessary repairs and that there was no unnecessary delay in coaling or otherwise that could have been avoided by Captain Whiting.” Dewey to Long, 26 August 1898, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 320.

Footnote 9: United States Minister Plenipotentiary in Hawaii John L. Stevens.

Footnote 10: Gen. Arthur MacArthur, Jr.

Footnote 11: Merchantman S.S. Indiana.

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