Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander William H. Emory to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U.S.S. Yosemite,              

Blockade off San Juan, Porto Rico.

June 30, 1898.         

Sir:

1.      I have the honor to report that at about 5.30 A.M. on the morning of Tuesday, June 28th, sighted a steamer to the Westward about two miles distant. At this time the “Yosemite” was circling under slow speed with her port helm a short distance off Salinas Point. The weather was thick and squally which accounts for the steamer not being sighted previously. This I state from personal observation as I had been on deck some time before the steamer was sighted. This vessel – name to me still unknown – answered the description of the “Montserrat1 which Captain Sigsbee told me on Sunday was expected at this Port.2 The vessel had a black hull and red boot-topping, on smokestack, painted lead color, three masts, fore and aft rigged, topmasts housed, bowsprit with jib and flying jib, flaring bow. Morro Castle bore at this time E.S.E. distant five miles.

2.      The moment the steamer was sighted the indicator was pushed to full speed which was at once responded to by the engines. The “Yosemite” was headed for the stranger. The latter had just come out of rain squall and apparently made out the “Yosemite” about the same moment as she herself was sighted. The steamer turned her head inshore, distance about three miles; with the evident intention of getting under the guns of Fort Canuelo3 by skirting along the edge of the reefs. Having over-hauled a small vessel the day previously close to the reef, and about the same position, I was not unfamiliar with the hydrography, so headed inshore a little more than the stranger. Seeing our intention the steamer was instantly headed for the shore and beached on the reefs six miles to the Westward of Morro Castle.

3.      The “Yosemite” went to quarters for battle upon the sighting of the steamer. She was stopped as near the prize as it was deemed prudent to go on account of the reef,4 Tthe discolored water of which could be seen off her bows at the distance of about 4000 yards, a short distance not permitting with safety a nearer approach than 4000 yards,5 the “Yosemite” was maneuvered in this position for half an hour during which time 250 shell and shrapnel and 56 – 6 pdr. Shell6 were fired. The main battery wad directed to the destruction of the vessel and the secondary battery – 6 pdrs. – at the boats leaving the ship for the shore and supposed to contain troops.

4.      During the half hour alluded to in the preceding paragraph I7 was very much surprised to find that the guns of Morro and the water battery below it, had the exact range of the “Yosemite’s” position and were effective at that distance. During this half hour many projectiles of large caliber passed over the “Yosemite”, none fell short more than 200 yards and one within a few feet of the stern, throwing the spray aboard. The long range of the guns from Morro__ is best appreciated from the fact that the time of flight taken was 35 seconds.8

5.      During the last ten minutes of the half hour above alluded to, a cruiser and one gunboat steamed to the westward of Salinas Point and added their fire to that of the batteries.9 The large cruiser10 has two guns of 8” and 9” point 2 caliber and her shot would go over the “Yosemitewhen we were altogether out of range of the Spaniard. while the latter was still beyond the range of our guns.11 Finding that we could not reach the Spanish cruiser with our main battery steamed for her, and when we were within range of 4000 yards opened fire on her with our starboard battery of rapid fire guns. This fire seemed to be very effective and made the Spanish cruiser join her consort the gunboat in seeking shelter under the guns of the Morro.

6.      About the same time that we ceased firing on the Spanish cruiser,12 a torpedo boat was seen going at full speed near the shore in the direction of the beached steamer, headed under full steam as near the coast as possible. Gave the torpedo boat a hot ten minutes with the main and secondary batteries, port side, when the torpedo boat sought refuge behind the steamer. Remained off the steamer about ten minutes firing shell and shrapnel until she was on fire aft, at the same time the Yosemite13 being under fire of the forts and long range guns of the Spanish cruiser.

7.      Finding it impossible to approach any nearer the vessel on the reef on account of the shallowness of the water and deeming that all had been done that could be without the service of another was possible with the single vessel14 to prevent the blockade being broken, the “Yosemite” hauled off and stood for the Spanish cruiser who again retired close to the Fort.15

8.      Remained the rest of the day cleared for action and with battle flags flying outside the fire of the Forts awaiting an attack from the cruiser, gunboat and torpedo boat but they failed to come out.

9.      From the commencement of this affair, until its end the ship was under fire about three hours. Although the enemy made excellent line shots and some very near to the ship she was not struck once.

10.    The spirit and behavior of the officers and crew was in every way highly commendable.

11.    Enclosed is the report of the Executive Officer, enclosure “A”, made in compliance with paragraph 525 U.S. Naval Regulations.16

I have the honor to be,

     Very respectfully.

          Commander U.S.N.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Emory Papers. Addressed below close: “To,/Commander-in-Chief./U. S. Naval Force./N. A. Station.”

Footnote 1: “Montserrat” was originally typed with “st” in the center but corrected in pencil. The ship was not the Montserrat, but actually the steamer Antonio Lopez. A. B, Feuer, The Spanish American War at Sea, (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995), 151.

Footnote 2: Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee, commanding, St. Paul. The steamer Montserrat was commanded by Capt. Manuel Deschamps y Martínez.

Footnote 3: The “e” in “Canuelo” was originally typed with a “s” but corrected in pencil.

Footnote 4: Prize vessels were highly sought after by American officers and crews, who received monetary rewards after the sale of the ships and cargoes.

Footnote 5: This phrase was a handwritten interlineation.

Footnote 6: The word “shell” was handwritten.

Footnote 7: The word “I” was handwritten.

Footnote 8: This sentence was handwritten.

Footnote 9: The cruiser was Isabel II and the gunboats were Ponce de Leon and General Concha. Severo Gómez Núñez, The Spanish-American War: Blockades and Coast Defense, Information from Abroad, War Notes No. VI. Office of Naval Intelligence, Trans. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1899), 53.

Footnote 10: This word was originally spelled “crusier” but an “i” was handwritten above and crossed-out within.

Footnote 11: This phrase was handwritten.

Footnote 12: This word was originally spelled “crusier” but an “i” was handwritten above and crossed-out within; the comma was also handwritten.

Footnote 13: The words “the Yosemite” were handwritten.

Footnote 14: The phrase “was possible with the single vessel” was handwritten.

Footnote 15: Probably a reference to Fort Canuelo which was located on Cabras Island across the entrance of the bay.

Footnote 16: The report of the executive officer was not appended to this document.

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