Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant George W. Mentz to Commander John J. Hunker

     U. S. S. Annapolis, 3rd Rate, NipeBay, Cuba, July 21,98.

S I R :--

          I have th[e] honor to submit the following report of the engagement of this vessel this afternoon, with the Spanish cruiser Jorge Juan.

          2.  Although this ship is more or less cleared for action at all times, there are still many things to be done just before going into action which takes up time, and the ship was thoroughly cleared in the morning watch.

          3.  During the forenoon and when still some distance from Nipe Bay, orders were given the Leyden and Wasp to reconnoitre and at 12:20 p.m. these vessels having entered so far that they could see past Roma Point, up the Bay, Signa[l]led enemy’s vessel in sight.

          4.   Our crew was at dinner. The alarm for General Quarters was at once sounded and in an instant all were at their stations. the guns having been previously provided.

          5.   We went alongside the Topeka and the Commanding Officer gave to that vessel the order to “follow me”. Being asked by the Topeka if he saw that vessel astern, the Commanding Officer replied “No, follow me, sir” and we started ahead full speed.

          6.   The vessel astern proved to be the U.S.S.Panther, but in the reppetition of this order “follow me, sir” there was the acceptance of a possible danger astern and of a known and hidden danger immediately in front, (torpedoes and mines) and it inspired both officers and crew with confidence and enthusiasm, and a determination to cheerfully follow where the Commanding Officer would lead, and sir, you have just reason to be proud of the zeal, coolness and eagerness to do their duty displayed by your subordinates upon this occasion, when they knew that they might be blown up at any moment.

          7.   As we passed through the channel where the mines were the 1-pounder R.F.gun and Colts Aut. gun in the top,1 and the sharp-shooters on deck, and the remaining 1-pounder on the Spar-deck, shelled the beaches on each side to disconcert any of the enemy stationed there to explode mines, while all the four-inch guns directed their fire higher up on the bluffs.

          8.   A flag had been hoisted high up on the bluff at Roma Point a few well aimed shells were exploded there and the vicinity was quickly deserted. So also were the lower beaches lower down and the enemy’s musketry fire proved but a feeble resistance to our passage. No [m]ines exploded.

          9.   Passing Roma Point, the Wasp and Leyden, already in position on each side of the Channel, with a clear passage ahead for this vessel, the enemy’s vessel was seen to open fire. Her shell feel short.

          10.   We had now come within range of our 4” guns. Keeping the enemy a little on our port bow, No. 5. Gun was fired with deliberation, and as we were approaching at full speed, the distance was decreasing rapidly; so its [Gun]Captain, Boatswain’s Mate Moran soon did excellent firing.

          11.   The enemy then directed his fire at this vessel, but all his shot fell short and no damage was done to this vessel.

          12.   It was seen that he was caught unprepared, he was at anchor with no springs on his chain, had his awning spread; his main yard across, the fore and mizzen topmasts housed; boats lowered alongside, smoke issuing from his smoke-stack. He was headed out and could only use some of his guns, and was in an almost perfect #######2 position to be raked.

          13.Having decreased our distance from 2500 yards to 2000 yards, the helm was put aport, and all the port guns brought to bear and fired. Then it was seen that his flag was down, though his pennant still flew at the main.  We ceased firing.

          14.  The enemy was sinking and boats from all our vessels were lowered at once and sent to her. She sank slowly, going down first by the head with a heavy list to port, and finally settled upright in six fathoms.

          15.When our boats arrived, there was no living person on board; her men were seen in their boats pulling, and some swimming to the shore on her starboard side. They were not pursued, being far in the lead and making up the river.

          16.  The enemy’s ship proved to be the Don Jorge Juan. Her dimensions, taken from Notes of the Navies of Lesser European and South American States, (Office of Naval Intelligence), Navy Department, August 1887, Confidential) are :--displacement 935 tons; length between perpendiculars 203 ft.5in.; breadth, 29 ft.7in.; draught lift. forward 15ft. aft; ram bow. Armament three 6.3 M.L.R. Palliser,3 one on forecastle, one on each side on sponsons: two 3-inch Krupp guns, one on each quarter, and two revolving cannon. One of the Krupp guns is now on board the Annapolis. Weight of fire in pounds; ahead 240; broadside 160 astern----.

          17.  Her complement from the same authority is 146 men, number of Officers not given, but from papers recovered from the wreck the total complement is 157 Officers and men.

  18.  The Wasp and Leyden were sent up farther in the Bay, around Point de Tabaca, and upon their return the battery was secured. In the meantime at 2:40 p.m. this vessel was anchored in six fathom[m]s, with 30 fathoms on port chain, ready for slipping.

          19.  The service of ammunition and the firing on board this vessel was excellent. Two of our four-inch shell were seen to hit the enemy’s bow and were the cause of her sinking. These shots were from Nos. 2 and 5 guns. No. 4. gun also did excellent work shooting, and all the guns were well served and aimed. In all there were 86 shots fired 40 4-inch R.F.; 22 6-pounders, and 24 1-pounders.

          20.  None of my subordinates deserve censure, and all deserve praise, but I wish to call your attention particularly to the following named men and to commend them to your favorable consideration, who by their firing added much to our success [i.e. success], and by their coolness and zeal were constant examples of devotion to duty, to the remainder of the crew. If it is possible to reward them, I would recommend that it be done in a substantial manner as follows:--

          Moran, Henry, B.M.1cl., Nitschke, Albert, B.M2cl., be given permanent appointments in the ratings in which they are serving at present, Ryan, Francis, Corporal, U.S.M.C.,4 to be rated sergeant. Ryan has had charge of the guard since almost the first day the marines came on board. He is much respected by the men and is a competent man.

          21.   Some articles of daily use that must be placed below where they are less likely to fire catch fire or do damage as splinters, should not exist on board ship in time of war, much as they add to the comfort of the crew and Officers. I refer to such articles as ditty boxes, mess tables and benches, ditty bags and mess clothes should be substituted for them in time of war. Of course such articles could be thrown overboard, but that too, takes time, and it is hardly right to destroy articles usually kept in a ditty box; articles of much value to the owner, though of no intrinsic value. Lockers for the marines and chief petty officers take time to knock down and throw overboard, and for war times could be dispensed with, and there would still remain on board sufficient wood indispensable wood, to give anxiety about fire and splinters, and detract from the service of the guns, which should have the undivided attention of their crews and officers.

     22.   This vessel could be made more efficient in the protection of the machinery by a plating of one inch in thickness outside of the wardroom pantry, abreast of which, the engine above the water line is exposed. There are no coal bunkers here and the pantry was packed with tightly lashed hammocks from deck to deck. A plating a foot or even two feet deep and one inch thick around the bottom of the engine room hatch on the gun deck would be protection for the tops of the cylinders I had at this point on the starboard side, wetted hammocks, four hammocks deep and six high, bound tightly together; and on the port side some kentledge,5 four inch in the square. I have now added to this side the three inch Krupp gun taken from the Jorge Juan. I had previously calculated that one of the lower chains would do for protection at this point and found it insufficient. so adopted the method above mentioned.

     23.   In my report of the action at Baracoa, your attention was called to the uselessness of the forward six pounders, No. 1guns as now placed, in a sea-way. Today the water was smooth, and these guns did good service, but they could be relied upon to give good service at all times, in rough sea as well as in smooth water, if they were mounted on the spar-deck.

     The gunports for the waist six pounders, No. 3 guns, are so small it is impossible to point (aim) the guns quickly, it is difficult to see the target and although these are rapid fire guns, they can not be served as such.

          25.   The battery worked satisfactorily in other respects.

                   Very respectfully,

                        G. W. MENTZ,

                             Lieutenant, U.S.Navy,

                                  Executive Officer.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “The Commanding Officer,/U. S. S. Annapolis.”

Footnote 1: “R.F.” is an abbreviation for rapid fire and “Aut.” for automatic.

Footnote 2: The letters are undecipherable.

Footnote 3: “M.L.R.” is an abbreviation for muzzle-loading rifle.

Footnote 4: Boatswains mate 1st Class Henry Moran, Boatswains mate 2nd Class Albert Nischke, and Corporal Francis Ryan, USMC.

Footnote 5: Kentledge is scrap metal or pig iron used as ballast.

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