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Commodore John C. Watson, Commander, Squadron Blockading Northern Cuba, General Instructions for Blockading Ships

* General Instructions for Blockading Ships *


Stations of Ships

     The station of the Senior Officer’s ship1 will be due North of Moro Castle.

     The other ships will be on lines of bearing from Moro Castle, varying from I I/2 points to 3 points to th E’d and W’d of the Senior Officer’s ship, according to the number of ships available,- That is to say , the ships next to the senior officer’s ship, east and West, will bring Moro Castle to bear either S.byE.1/2E.,S.S.E. or S. and W.1/2W.,S.S.W. or S.W.byS., respectively.2 The next ship will be from 1 ½ points to 3 points to the E’d or W’d , and so on (see sketch).

     The Senior Officer’s station will be #0, The stations to the E’d and W’d will be I,2,3,...&c East, and #s 1,2,3,....&c West.3

     The ships on stations farthest East and West from Senior Officer’s ship will give especial attention to vessels attempting to run the blockade by keeping along shore.

     Ships will not approach the batteries around Havana nearer than 4 miles. Ships of stations whose lines of bearing bring them opposite these batteries will keep a position from 4 to 8 miles off shore ,during the day.

     At night the vessels will close in to a distance of from 4 to 6 miles when opposite batteries and from 1 to 3 miles, when beyond reach of batteries.

     Ships on stations beyond limits of batteries , East and West, will keep within 2 miles of the shore.

     After dark each ship should change position , held by her at sunset ,somewhat in order that the enemy may not be sure of her position.

     Ships must maintain their stations closely, leaving them only for chase or other equally good reason.



 Any ship discovering the approach of the enemy’s fleet or armed vessels too strong for it to fight alone, during the day will fire a gun and retreat to the nearest blockading vessel, each blockading ship on hearing the gun will fire at gun once , as a signal to the ship next East or West from her.

     At Night , In case the enemy appears from outside of the blockade, the signal will be a rocket,- If from inside ,two red Very’s stars4 in quick succession,- If attack from inside is by torpedo boats the red Very’s stars will be followed by a green star.

     The first ship making the signal will continue to make it at short intervals, as she retreats toward the ship nearest her, until the signal is repeated by that ship, and the latter will continue to make it until repeated by the next &c.

      Should the enemy’s fleet or other stron[g] force be approaching from the E’d the easterly blockading ships will run to the westward; and if from the W’d the westerly blockading ships will run to the E’d, in order to warn all the blockading force.

     Whenever a blockading ship is observed by the ship ,on the station nearest her own , to start away from her station in chase, that ship will move in the same direction so as to keep her in sight, and thus to be able to render assistance if necessary.

     Attention is called to the necessity of keeping all lights absolutely screened from outside view, and the importance of not betraying the vessels position by making night signals.

     It should not be necessary for vessels on their stations to show the private night signals to each other , as they should be able to keep in touch without it.

     In case of vessels of war wishing to enter or leave the blockaded ports, or vessels come with permits from the proper authority to enter ports, or vessels come with permits from the proper authority to enter or leave them, the first vessel with which such vessels communicate , will direct her to communicate with the vessel of the Senior Officer of the Blockade.

     When a vessel is relieved from blockade duty, she must before leaving, turn over to the vessel relieving her or to the senior officer’s ship all orders relating to her blockading duties.

     In order to maintain an efficient blockade of the North coast of Cuba, between Bahia Honda and Cardenas, both inclusive, eighteen vessels will be necessary , stationed as follows,-

 One off Bahai Honda,One to cruise between Bahia Honda, and the Havana blockade, Twelve ,including the Senior Officer’s vessel,off Havana, Two off Matanzas,Two off Cardenas.



Commodore U.S.N.,           

Commanding Blockading Forces”


     Off Havana,

     June 8,I898.

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 53.

Footnote 1: Cmdr. George A. Converse of Montgomery.

Footnote 2: Points of the Compass Rose.

Footnote 4: A signaling system using red and green rocket and pistol flairs. The group ordering denotes numbers that depict a code.

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