Lieutenant Dudley W. Knox to His Sister Marguerite
June 11, 1898,
I got two letters from you in the only mail they have been good enough to send out to us since leaving Key West on May 26. They were more than welcome. I wrote Momma several days ago but have not had a chance to mail the letter yet so both my letters will probably reach home about the same time. I haven’t the faintest idea when we will go to Key West but when we do I will have some photographs taken. We expected to go to Key West on Tuesday for coal but they sent us to Cardenas, where a collier was anchored, instead. We were just outside the bay where poor Bagley2 met his death and those gunboats that did the work were inside, but the enemy had blocked the channel by sinking some schooners in it so, we could not get in the bay and they could not get out. The MAPLE is quite a match for several gunboats of their class and we were very anxious to get within range and get even with them but did not get the chance.
One of the papers spoke of the “tug” MAPLE and it made us so mad, for we are much stronger than any of the auxiliary fleet except the very large ones. We carry two four inch guns (besides smaller ones) which are much larger than guns usually carried by a craft of this size.
We got a chance to use our guns yesterday for the first time. Four gunboats mustered up enough courage to come out of the harbor, either with the intention of capturing the Tecumseh and Hawk, two small converted craft which were on the extreme left close in shore, or of luring something within range of the shore batteries.
At any rate they came out and steamed rapidly along the coast. Our station was next the Hawk but a good distance off shore and as we are not very formidable looking and none of the larger ships were anywhere within range I guess they thought they were going to have some fun. The Hawk, seeing she could do no good went full speed for the Nashville a long way off and the Tecumseh came in our direction. We steamed full speed to head the beggars off and when in range opened fire with our 4 inch guns. The first shot struck right in the middle of the bunch. I guess it gave them heart - disease all right for every one of them turned and ran for Havana as hard as they could go. We had some pretty target practice though before they reached the protecting shore batteries and I think several shots took effect.
This blockading though is usually monotonous business. All prizes have disappeared from the sea and that move of yesterday was the first sign of energy the enemy have yet displayed.
A tug just came by and got our mail. I sent momma’s letter but was in the middle of my yarn and did not have time to finish this.
I received all of the letters you spoke of and got your telegram at Norfolk and wrote thank you for it and also for the photographs which I thought quite good. My mail reaches me all right, but the trouble is probably in your not getting my letters. That one of mine having been found in front of the club would seem to indicate that they are careless at Riley. I would stir them up a bit.
I swear you can’t imagine what a luxury a newspaper is when you can’t get one. The few we manage to “beg borrow or steal” from various ships are simply devoured, and they are usually a week old. We don’t know as much about what is going on near here as they do in Europe.
I wish you would write me as soon as you know where you are going, where it is to be.
With a great deal of love
Dudley. [W. Knox]
Source Note: ALS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 231.