Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Reports on the Attack by the Annapolis on Baracoa, Cuba

C O P I E S .

U. S. S. MARBLEHEAD, 3rd Rate,        

Guantanamo, Cuba, July 18, 1898.

S I R :--

     I have the honor to transmit herewith the reports of the Commander1 and Executive Officers2 of the Annapolis relating to the situation at Baracao.

     On the 14th instant I directed Commander Hunker to proceed to Cape Maysi and Baracoa for the purpose of intercepting the schooner Marie Louise which was carrying supplies into Baracao from Port au Prince.3

     His instructions authorize him to be gone three days and to act at his own discretion in front of Baracoa.

Very respectfully,

B. H. McCalla,4 Commander, U. S. Navy,        

Commanding,                 

The Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force,

          North Atlantic Station.

     Two enclosures.

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U. S. S. Annapolis, Off Baracoa Cuba, July 15, 1898.

S I R :--

     In compliance with article No. 525, U.S.Navy regulations 1896, I have the honor to submit the following report of the engagement of this vessel with the Matachin Battery at Baracoa this a.m.

     2.   About 10:30 a.m. this vessel anchored in Miel Bay, about 1200 yards from Matachin Battery, in six fathoms of water with twenty fathoms5 chain on starboard anchor and swung stern to this battery.

     3.   About 11:25 a.m. I noticed that a Spanish flag was being hoisted on the battery, and had the orderly report the flag to the Commanding Officer. About five minutes afterward, 11:30 a.m. a well directed shot from the battery passed over this ship and the Commanding Officer at once gave the order to get underway, to go to General Quarters and to return the fire from No. 6, gun, the after 4-inch R.F.,6 and the alarm was given.

     4.   The crew responded to the call with alacrity, the guns were loaded and the anchor lifted in almost an inappreciable length of time, but there was a short delay in answering the fire of the battery. There was a mis-fire on the first shot, the probable cause of which was a short circuit, as it was raining quite hard at the time. (the firing batteries had been tested just a few hours previously and were apparently in good working order.) After this mishap a spirited fire was kept up by this gun. No other gun could be brought to bear upon the battery until the ship was under way.

     5.   As soon as the anchor was off the bottom the ship was turned with the starboard helm, and as the guns of the port battery could be brought to bear, they too were fired.

     6.   There was a very rough sea and it was impossible to fire No:1 Guns as they were submerged when the ship pitched into the sea, and after three shots it was necessary to close their ports and send their crews to other guns.

     7.   After the first few discharges the smoke became very dense and that together with the rough sea prevented good marksmanship. When the starboard battery was brought to bear, the smoke cleared away somewhat and much better shooting was done. Two shots were seen to set fire to something within the fort, but the fire was soon extinguished. At 12:05 p.m. the battery was secured.

     8.   The total number of shots fired was 275: 101 4-inch; 52 6-pounder; and 122 1-pounders. The shots were fired with rapidity and much damage must have been done as the battery was silenced soon after our men got the range.

     9.   The enemy kept up a continual fire while the ship was getting underway and for some time after, and several[l] fragments of shell, apparently shrapnel, landed on board, spent pieces striking two of the crew without injury. These men were on the spar deck, one aft and one forward and were struck at the same time, showing that, if they were shot from a shrapnel its explosion was such as to scatter some of its balls fore and aft the ship. Each of these pieces is of lead, flattened out and about one inch in diameter. A piece of iron shell two and one half inches long by and oneone-half inch wide, hit the sailing launches strong back, struck the deck at the foot of the bridge ladder, making quite an indentation, struck the steam launch and fell to the deck. The shell from which this piece came was seen to explode about fifty feet from the ship and most of its fragments passed over the ship.

     10.  The conduct of the Officers and crew was excellent, even the men on the sick-list voluntarily rushed to their quarters. This is the first time the crew has been under fire at such a close range and there was no flinching, although the shot fell close to, and passed over the ship, all were cool and eager to do their duty. No one is deserving of censure nor is any one specially deserving of praise.

     11.  The battery worked satisfactorily and the supply of ammunition was ample.

          Very respectfully,

              G. W. M E N T Z ,

                   Lieutenant, U.S.Navy,

                        Executive Officer,

The Commanding Officer,

     U. S. S. Annapolis.

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U.S.S.Annapolis, 3rd Rate,       

Guantanamo , Cuba, July 18, 1898.

S I R :--

          In compliance with article 275 Navy Regulations, I respectfully report that on the morning of the 15th instant, while blockading the port of Baracoa, Cuba, I ran in and anchored the ship on the eastern side of Miel Bay,at a point about 1200 yards from Matachin Battery at the eastern end of the of the town,in order to communicate with a party of Cubans encamped on the shore of the Bay. Shortly afterwards an Officer and several Cubans came on board,informing me that Spanish soldiers,some eight hundred in all, were confined to the limits of the city, the insurgents holding the outside roads.

          After having been anchored about thirty minutes, the enemy opened fire upon us with field pieces from the Matachin Battery; fire was returned at once from No. 6 gun, the anchor lifted and the port broadside brought to bear, a lively canonade ensued with the result that the barracks in the rear of the fort were set on fire and the guns silenced. The sea was running so high that accurate firing was out of the question and not wishing to damage the town which is peopled with Cuban sympathisers, we hauled off out of range.

     The ship was struck several times by fragments from bursting shell, 3 ½ inch, but no damage was done, no one was hurt.

          The officers and men behaved with greatesteadiness, the latter aiming and firing their guns with coolness and deliberation.

          The report of Lieutenant G. W. MENTZ, the Executive Officer is forwarded herewith.

     Very respectfully,

          J.J. HUNKER, Commander, U.S.Navy,

                   Commanding.

The Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force ,

          NorthAtlanticStation.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 44. Document reference at top-left corner of first page: “No 132.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. John J. Hunker.

Footnote 2: Lt. George W. Mentz.

Footnote 3: Port au Prince is the capital of Haiti.

Footnote 4: Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla.

Footnote 5: A fathom is equivalent to six feet.

Footnote 6: “R.F.” is an abbreviation for rapid fire.

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