Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, To Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
Off Santiago, July 14, 1898.
The preparation of ships for the foreign service advancing with all speed, but I deem it my duty to lay before the Department the fact that the heavy ships should have extensive overhauling before attempting a cruise far from a base. The “Iowa”, “Indiana” and “New York” have been steadily under steam seven months and for six of these actually at sea, moving or ready to move at a moment’s notice. They need docking imperatively and need refitting and overhauling seriously. Many of the boats are at Key West, some destroyed. The speed of the “Iowa” and the “Indiana” is reduced much. Two of the “Brooklyn’s” 5-inch B.L.R., R.F.G.1 and several carriages for 5-inch B.L.R.,R.F.G. disabled; the “Texas” is in bad condition. Of course I do not know the basis of the action of the Department. There may be overpowering reasons of which I am ignorant, but unless these exist, I recommend the Department to take this state of affairs into serious consideration.2 The U.S.Navy prestige, which is now great, would surely be impaired if our ships in foreign waters were not prepared to fight or to cruise. It is imperatively necessary to closely blockade Cienfuegos, which has just been entered by vessel thought to be the “Alfonso XIII.” Adding Manzanillo, Batbano, Gibara, Nuevitas and Saguala Grande, will effectually cut off Havana. Gibara and Manzanillo control Holguin. My vessels are equal to a campaign against Porto Rico, to which monitors, in my opinion, are wholly unequal. They are unfitted for such duty and should not be used for it; if all the armored vessels and three converted cruisers were sent away, or expedition started for porto Rico, conveyed by monitors, I foresee that the demands for naval assistance will cause us practically to abandon a large part of our blockade.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, p. 277. Addressed before opening: “Secretary of Navy,/Washington.”
Footnote 1: That is, Breach Loading Rifles and Rapid Fire Guns.
Footnote 2: For Long’s response see: Long to Sampson, 15 July 1898.