Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Charles D. Sigsbee to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

TRANSLATION:

Mole, St. Nicholas, [Haiti]

June 27, 1898.

St. Paul to Hampton Roads or New York<, by> Sampsons orders, for coal, ammunition, replace stores, transferring <(men)>, repair engine, and for five inch <gun> carriages.1 Here en route to recommend Commander-in-Chief more vessels permanently and promptly for San Juan, Porto Rico<,> to make blockade effective.2 Chasing frequent, boarding difficult, for auxiliary cruise <crews>, sea continually rough. Inside two unprotected cruisers, InfantaIsabelle type, two gun boats, and Terror.3 Wednesday afternoon St. Paul was attacked by one unprotected cruiser and Terror. Terror made a dash, which was awaited by St. Paul. Hit Terror thrice. Her engineer and two men were killed<,> and lost and wounded several. She got back with difficulty, <when> covered by fortification was towed. In a sinking condition when in the harbor. The report with reference to damage to hull and mechanism somewhat conflicting<,> according to Bias, as to extent, but agree as to number of hits and serious damage. Repairs going on day and night.4 Later one unprotected cruiser and one gu<gun>boat appeared but remained under cover of forts. Two of our five-inch carriages were bent or cracked by firing<, so that> Sighting <is> injured. St. Paul not hit. Yosemite off San Juan. He reports all well.5

ALTERNARAS ABANICAZO              Sigsbee.

Source Note: CCDecy, DLC-MSS, George G. Cortelyou Papers, Box 68. “TRANSLATION” at the top of the document means it was received as a coded message and deciphered. Someone handwrote in a number of additions and corrections; these have been indicated with angle brackets. The typist also occasionally omitted a space between words or after punctuation and the next word.

Footnote 1: St. Paul was still off Santiago de Cuba when Sigsbee wrote RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, on 14 July. See: Sigsbee to Sampson, 14 July 1898.

Footnote 2: With the departure of the St. Paul only Yosemite remained to enforce the blockade of San Juan.

Footnote 3: The Spanish vessels were: the old unprotected cruiser Isabell II; torpedo boat destroyer Terror; and the small gunboats General Concho and Ponce de Leon.

Footnote 4: Sigsbee sent a fuller account of this engagement in a letter to Long of 28 June. Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 220-22. In September 1898, Lt. Cmdr. William P. Day of New Orleans, sent in a second report on the battle after speaking with an English engineer who was employed at San Juan and toured Terror immediately after its engagement with St. Paul. According to the report, Terror had been hit once by a large shell that entered amidships on the starboard side about one foot above the water line, disabled the starboard engine, and then exited on the Terror’s port side about one foot below the water line. The latter shot hole caused the ship to fill rapidly with water and list. Finding Terror to be sinking fast, it was run upon a shoal in San Juan harbor. Here it was possible to bring the shot hole above the water line and pump out the destroyer. Repairs were begun immediately but not finished until over one month later. Casualties aboard Terror totaled 2 officers and 3 men killed and 7 men wounded. Ibid., 223-24.

Footnote 5: On the activities of Yosemite, see: Cmdr. William H. Emory to Sampson, 30 June 1898.

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