Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander John J. Hunker to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

                   U. S. S. Annapolis, 3rd Rate,

                        Port Nipe, Cuba,

                             July 21, 1898.

S I R :--

     I respectfully report [t]hat in obedience to your order of the 18th inst.,I steamed into and took possession of the Bay of Nipe this forenoon in company with the Wasp, Leyden, and Topeka, the latter vessel I found on the blockade outside.

     Before we entered Lieutenant Commander Cowles,1 Commanding the U.S.S.Topeka, reported that he had been informed by insurgents in the neighborhood that the Bay was held by eight hundred Spanish troops, that there was a battery on the bluff at the entrance the there were three spanish war vessels in the port, one 3rd class cruiser and two gun-boats and that the mouth of the harbor was closed by thirty mines, electrical and contact. As it turned out we were either lucky enough to avoid them or the mines were inefficient, for no explosion took place, although one contact mine was found floating in the channel by the Commanding Officer of the “DUPONT2 when he entered the harbor a few hours later and two were seen by the Commanding Officers of the Wasp and Leyden3 while on our way out, moored from eight to ten feet below the surface; mines of the same pattern as those found in Guantanamo harbor.

     3.   Al[l] preparations being completed, I sent the Wasp and Leyden ahead to reconnoiter the batter on the bluff to the right of the channel. In a few moments they reached the turn in the entrance and the Wasp signaled “Enemy’s vessel in sight”, increasing the spedd and directing the Topeka to follow we pushed rapidly forward arriving inside we found the 3rd class cruiser Jorge Juan, at anchor about three miles from the mouth of the harbor, after returning the fire of our vessels for a short time she was struck in the bow by a four-inch shell from the forward gun of the Annapolis and began to sink; soon after the crew deserted her and escaped to the shore in boats. She now lies in six and one half fathoms the water reaching above her hammock rail. She could be easily raised.

     4.  The Wasp and Leyden were then sent on a scouting expedition, after a thorough search they returned and reported that there were no other vessels in the Bay.

     5.  Although the ships were exposed for some time to a sharp rifle fire from Spanish troops stationed on the bluff to the right of the entrance and to the fire of the guns of the Jorge Juan for about forty minutes, there were no casualties, none of the vessels were struck. We were unable to learn the extent of the enemy’s losses.

     6.  After the DUPONT sailed for Guantanamo, we were told by insurgents on shore that the Spaniards had upon our appearance in the harbor taken a small gun-boat or steam launch of about sixty tons armed with two Nordenfeldt guns up the Mayari River abreast the anchorage and sunk her.

     7.  The next morning the Mayor of Nipe informed me that a 1 the Spanish soldiers in the vicinity together with the crews of the two vessels had left the Bay the night before of our arrival and gone to Holguin. He told me also that he knew where fourteen of the mines were located.

     8.  Upon leaving the port this morning we could plainly see the buoys and connections and the signal ranges on the shore marking the position of the torpedoes. We counted twelve of them. These mines can be easily found and lifted. They lie in the centre of the entrance along the narrow part of the channel and are arranged zig-zag. By hugging the southernshore as we did in coming out they can be plainly seen and readily avoided.

     9  I cannot too highly praise the spirit shown by the Commanding Officers of the Topeka, Wasp and Leyden, in taking their vessels through the mine fields into Nipe Bay, or the eagerness with which Lieutenant Ward, Commanding Wasp, and Ensign Crossly, Commanding Leyden, thanked me when I gave them the order to enter the harbor. Such zeal and courage cannot be too highly commended.

     10.  Although everybody on board the Annapolis behaved with the utmost coolness and courage and are equally deserving of praise I am particularly indebted to Lieut, G.W.Mentz,4 the Executive Officer for the effective manner in which he directed the gun-fire and Lieutenant C.J.Bousch,5 the Navigator, who skillfully conned the ship through the channel and into action.

     11.   I forward herewith the reports of the Commanding Officers of the Wasp and Leyden, the report of the executive officer of the Annapolis,6 a return captured on the Don Jorge Juan, showing her complement and the list of her crews off the Annapolis, and the Wasp. The Leyden’s list will be sent by her commanding Officer.

          Very respectfully,

              J. J. Hunker, Commander, U.S.Navy, Commanding. 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief, U. S. Naval Force, N.A.Station.” Document is attached to an enclosed copy of Executive Officer Mentz report of the attack on the Bay of Nipe.

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. William S. Cowles.

Footnote 2: Lt. Spencer S. Wood.

Footnote 3: Lt. Aaron Ward of Wasp and Ens. Walter S. Crosely of Leyden.

Footnote 4: Lt. George W. Mentz.

Footnote 5: Lt. Clifford J. Bousch.

Footnote 6: For the After Action Reports mentioned, see: Mentz to Hunker, 21 July 1898; Crosley to Hunker, 21 July 1898; and Ward to Sampson, 21 July 1898, DNA, RG313, Entry 44.  

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