Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Purnell F. Harrington to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Squadron

U. S. S. PURITAN,1st Rate,        

Off Matanzas,                 

April 24,1898.

Sir:-        

     1. The PURITAN left Key West at six in the afternoon on the 22d inst.

     2.On the morning of the 23d inst.,joined 2d Division,and took command of it. About 10:00 A.M.,the division was gorming [i.e., forming] in line at distance of 4 miles,the PURITAN being on the right,course East,when a steamer was sighted inshore to the southward and eastward;I directed the Cincinnati to chase; shortly afterward,believing the chase to be a man-of-war,I headed to intercept her and called the Amphitrite to form column on this vessel. We continued to stand inshore,until it was apparent that we could not overtake her.

     3.I then directed Machias to proceed off Matanzas,keeping a lookout for the steamer Panama. One hour afterward,when the Cincinnati rejoined, I sent her off Matanzas also. This ship then approached the land to within 5 miles,and the Amphitrite was ordered to stand to seaward 5 miles from this vessel.

     4.The PURITAN arrived off Matanzas about 6:00P.M.,and found the Cincinnati and Machias off Maya Pt. The Cincinnati had sent the Foote inshore to find the reef off that point,and while there,the torpedo-boat was fire on about sunset,-two shots- from Morrillo Castle whereupon she rejoined the Cincinnati.The shots went wild.

     5.I then delivered to the Captain1 of each vessel,except the Amphitrite,a general order,a copy of which is enclosed,with plan.2The vessels then proceeded to their stations in accordance with the order.

     6. Shortly afterward, the Amphitrite came in toward this vessel: a copy of the instructions was delivered to the Amphitrite this morning at 7:00 o’clock

     7. Last night,th[e] Amphitrite reported that she had spoken an American schooner out of Cardenas,which vessel stated that the Cardenas papers of the 22d inst,said that there were 5 Spanish men-of-war with two torpedo boats lying off the eastern end of the Bahamas.

     8.About 11:00 o’clock,the Amphitrite made signal “Torpedo Boats” in accordance with par.14,of your instructions of April 18th.3 Amphitrite then used her search light without further result;the Amphitrite reported this morning that she had caught sight of two small vessels proceeding rapidly to the westward;nothing more has been seen of them.

     9. During the night,the cruising and heavy ships drifted somewhat off their station with the westerly current.This will be avoided tonight.

     10. The use of the private signal was altogether too frequent,except by the PURITAN,disclosing too freely the position of the vessel. I shall order today that the private signal be made by lanterns held over the side toward the vessel to be communicated with,the lanterns to be horizontal,and read from left to right,the Adrois lights4 to be used as seldom as possible.

     11. I received,just before leaving Key West,a copy of the telegram enclosed about the cable to Cuba,which I had attended to before sailing.

     12. Yesterday morning, a pigeon flew on board this ship,and was captured;it had a message which I enclose.5

     13.I find it necessary to send the Winslow for coal this evening.The Foote will have to go tomorrow evening and the Dupont, tomorrow on Tuesday evening for the same purpose.

     14. All the ships are working under slow steam,with some fires banked.The PURITAN and probably the Amphitrite will be able to stay here until Wednesday or Thursday.I do not know,at this writing,9:00 A.M.,how long the Cincinnati and Machias will be able to stay.I will endeavor to ascertain today.I will endeavor to end send vessels for coal so that they can relieve each other as speedily as possible,but it is evident that the force will be considerably diminished at times.

     15.The engines of this ship gave considerable trouble the first night out and yesterday morning,but are now working very well. It will be necessary,however,to remain in port probably from 36 to 48 hours for repairs,during which time the ship will be coaled. The Commander in Chief may rest assured that she will not remain off her station an hour longer than necessary.

     16. During this forenoon,while steaming slowly to the eastward to communicate with the Machias,the remaining vessels being off Matanzas,I observed a number of steamers off Piedras Key.I sent the Dupont to intercept them,and steamed ahead at full speed.About 11:00 A.M.,I communicated with the Terror and Machias.The Machias had captured a small schooner,of about 25 tons,loaded with charcoal and lumber for Havana.After consultation with Captain Ludlow,6I directed her release that she go into Cardenas.The Machias also intercepted a British steamer,which had discharged half a cargo fo [i.e., of] coal at Havana a few days ago,and was on her way to unload the remainder at Cardenas she-returned to Philadelphia.The blockading vessels also permitted a Norwegian to leave Cardenas with half a load of sugar for the United States.

     17.I directed Captain Ludlow to take charge of the blockade off Cardenas,with all the vessels and torpedo boats assigned to that port.This will enable me to contract our lines off Matanzas,and to save coal,so that all vessels can remain longer.I shall take measures to use less coal by movements of vessels.The Machias has plenty of coal,and will supply the Foote and Cushing.

     18. As the vessels off Matanzas all have small coal radius,I consider it will be better to spare the Winslow for tonight long enough for her to get coal[.]

     19. It is understood between Captain Ludlow and myself that,on the approach of a superior force of the enemy,he will fall back upon the vessels off Matanzas,when column will be formed on the PURITAN for going into action.

Very respectfully,               

P.F. Harrington,            

Captain,U.S.Navy,           

Senior Officer Present.     

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief,U.S.Naval Forces,/North Atlantic Station.” Stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/APR 25 1898.” Docketed: “U.S.S. PURITAN, 1st Rate,/April 24, 1898./P. F. HARRINGTON,/CAPTAIN U. S. N.,/COMMANDING./Subject:Report to Commander/in Chief on Operations/[Concluded].”

Footnote 2: For Harrington’s plan for the blockade of Cardenas, see, Harrington to Sampson, 24 April 1898, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48.

Footnote 4: An Ardois light system was installed on a mast and it used four white and four red lights that transmitted a code analogous to the Morse.

Footnote 5: The message carried by the pigeon was not attached and has not been found.

Footnote 6: Capt. Nicoll Ludlow.

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