Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U.S. Flagship New York,1st Rate,

Off Santiago de Cuba,

June 22nd,1898.



     1.   On the morning of June 16th,the batteries at the entrance of Santiago de Cuba were subjected to a severe bombardment by the fleet,the ships occupying approximately the same positions as during the bombardment of June 6th.1 A nearer range than that used cannot be used to advantage, on account of the height of the cliffs. The firing was deliberate,and in general,most excellent. The batteries were quickly silenced,and after firing with great deliberation for some forty minutes the fleet returned to its blockading positions without any shot whatever from the batteries following this movement. This fact undoubtedly shows the efficiency of our fire. I enclose a copy of the order of battle.2

     2.   On the day previous to this; namely,June 15th the Texas had been sent to Guantanamo for the purpose of assisting the Marblehead in the destruction of a fort at Guantanamo.3 The fort was severely bombarded by these ships and the Suwanee. Both the Texas and Marblehead had a narrow escape from torpedoes,one being picked up by the Marblehead’s screw,and the other being dislodged by the Texas.4 Since then there have been eight others recovered,seven on the 21st,instant,making ten out of the total eleven reported. The complete accounts of the engagements at this point will be forwarded in the reports of the several vessels engaged.5

     3.   The Yankee had been sent to Cienfuegos to intercept the Purissima Conception from Kingston,Jamaica,returning on the 16th instant.6 She had while off Cienfuegos an engagement with a Spanish gunboat,and the batteries ashore,under whose protection the gunboat ran.7 One man was wounded. The gunboat unfortunately escaped,chiefly on account of the fire being interrupted by the smoke. The Yosemite had been sent also with reference to the possibility of intercepting the Purissima Conception near the Western end of Jamaica. She returned on the 19th,inst.,having called in the mean time at Kingston.

4.   The necessity of an active blockade at Cienfuegos is so great,that I at once had the Yankee coaled at Guantanamo and ordered her again off that port; and,on the arrival of the Dixie the 19th,of June,sent her to cruise off Cape Cruz. The force at both these points will be at once strengthened by the Helena and Osceola as soon as coaled,and by others as soon as possible. I desptached the St. Paul and Yosemite off San Juan,Puerto Rico;8 the St. Paul by the South coast of Cuba and the Yosemite by the North coast.

5.   I enclose a copy of a translation of a letter captured by the Cubans,addressed to the General Commanding the Division of Cuba,(Santiago de).9 It will be seen by this letter that the Spanish forces in the vicinity of Guantanamo are in great straights for food,and I have every reason to believe that this is also true of those in Santiago.10

6.   During the past week we were actively engaged in examining the various points of landing,possible; and,on the 17th an attempt was made at early daylight to examine Cabanas Bay,the forces being under the charge of Lieut. Harlow,and consisting of two steam cutters,one from the New York in charge of Naval Cadet Powell,and one from the Massachusetts in charge of Naval Cadet Hart.11 The entrance is extremely narrow, leading into a small circular bay. The launches were, however, subjected to so heavy and continued a fire at short range that they were obliged to retreat. Much of the fire was within fifty yards,and though the two boats were struck seventeen times,no one,fortunately was injured. Lieut. Harlow in his report particularly praises the conduct of Cadets Hart and Powell,and Coxswains O’Donnell and Blom.12

7.   On the 19th,General Garcia and his staff paid a visit to the ship,having arrived that morning at General Rabi’s camp at Acerraderos.13 He had left four thousand of his men whom he had advanced to within two days march of Santiago,and had come to the coast for the purpose of consultation. Three thousand troops were left behind near Holguin to observe some ten thousand Spanish troops which are now concentrated there,and to prevent their passage in the direction of Santiago.

8.   My impressions of General Garcia are of the most pleasant character. He is a large handsome man,of most frank and engaging manners,and of most soldierly appearance. He remained some time on board,though unfortunately so seasick that he was obliged to lie down during the whole of his visit.

8.   The fleet had,by my directions,furnished arms,clothing and food to the extent of its ability,to the Cuban forces both East and West of Santiago. Much has been done in this direction by our ships at Guantanamo,and Commander McCalla14 there has been most energetic in rendering them all assistance possible. I believe that the returns for the aid rendered will be good. We have the best evidence of this in the activity and courage shown by the Cubans at Guantanamo,and Commander McCalla is most eulogistic in reference to their conduct.15

9.   The forces available may be placed as about 600 under General Perez near Guantanamo Bay; 600 under General Castillo near Point Sigua some few miles East of Daiquiri; 1100 under General Rabi at Aserraderos, and 7000 under General Garcia, distributed as I have mentioned above.16

10.  On the morning of the 20th I had the pleasure receiving by the Wompatuck a letter from Captain Taylor of the Indiana,17stating the transports conveying the army would arrive during the day. I sent Captain Chadwick,my Chief of Staff18 on board the Gloucester to meet the fleet,and convey my compliments to General Shafter,with the request that he would come in the Seguranca to the blockade line.19

11.  On the arrival of General Shafter about noon I went on board,and shortly after we steamed to Aserraderos,18 miles to the West,and we together paid a visit to Generals Garcia and Rabi. General Castillo had previously been sent for from Point Sigua. Arrangements were then made with reference to our future operations. It was agreed that the army should be debarked at Daiquiri20 on the morning of the 22nd,that 500 of General Rabi’s men should be transported from Aserraderos to a point,Cajobabo,five miles west of La Sigua,to join there the forces under Gen. Castillo,this whole force then to assist in the landing of army by assaulting the flank the Spanish force at Daiquiri,and that during the landing at Daiquiri a feint should be made to the westward of the entrance to Santiago harbor by men-of-war and transports,assisted by 500 men under General Rabi. This was all carried out. It was further arranged that General Garcia’s forces now two days from Santiago,should be diverted to Aserraderos,and should be there embarked on the 24th to join our troops landed at Daiquiri. I enclose a copy of the battle order for the day,which explains in detail the arrangements.21

12.  The Texas engaged,or fired upon the vicinity to the entrance of Cabanas Bay,and during the forenoon was more or less engaged with the western battery. She did excellent firing at some 4000 yards range. She was struck by one shell,and one man was killed and eight wounded.22 At the time of writing I have not received a detailed report of the character of the injuries of the wounded.

13.  At 10:30 I left the blockade and went to the Eastward to observe the progress of our attempt at disembarkation. Our vessels stationed, as per order of battle,were actively firing at Aguadores and Ensenada de los Altares,known locally as Siboney,and at Daiquiri. Our fire however,at Daiquiri I found was simply preparatory to the actual landing of our troops, as practically no resistance was made,the Spaniards apparently at once retreated from this point,as also from Siboney.

14.  The process of disembarkation was rendered somewhat difficult by a heavy sea,the heaviest which we have had during the three weeks the fleet has been stationed here,owing to a stiff blow off the coast of Jamaica. When I left,however, at three in the afternoon some four thousand men were already ashore,one of the steamers had gone alongside the pier,and there was every prospect of the work proceeding with much greater rapidity.

15.  The pier itself was not injured,nor was the piping conveying the water supply,this last being a most fortunate thing for us in every respect.

16.  I shall order the convoying vessels to the blockade on the north side as soon as possible,reserving the Helena and Osceola for strengthening that of the south coast,but shall keep the Indiana for a few days in order to send each of our heavy ships successively to Guantanamo to complete their coaling; heretofore they have been sent only in the morning to return to the blockade at night. As soon as this shall have been done I expect to return her to the north side.

17.  The Vesuvius has done almost nightly firing since she has been here. There is no doubt that the explosion of shells of this character has a very important effect.23

I enclose copies of the Squadron Bulletin now issued daily,which may be found of some interest.24

Very respectfully,     

W.T. Sampson

Rear Admiral,U.S.Navy       

Commander-in-Chief,U.S.Naval Forces,

North Atlantic Station.     

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 232. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department,/Washington, D.C.” Document reference: “No.131.” Docketed with a stamp: “BUREAU OF NAVIGATION/DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY/JUN 29 1898/122776,” followed by: “U. S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate,/Off Santiago de Cuba./June 23rd,1898./Sampson,W.T./Rear Admiral,/Commander-in-Chief,U.S.Naval Force/North Atlantic Station./Subject: Disembarkation,movement of/troops,&c.”

Footnote 1: The gun batteries at the entrance of the Santiago de Cuba Harbor were located on the Morro and La Socapa.

Footnote 2: For the Order of Battle, see: Orders for the Landing of the Troops, June 21, 1898.

Footnote 3: For the operations at Guantánamo, see: Naval Operations at Guantanamo.

Footnote 4: The Spanish torpedoes turned out to be ineffective. See: Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla to Sampson 21 June 1898.

Footnote 6: For more on the events at Cienfuegos, see: Blockade of Southern Cuba. The correct spelling for the Spanish blockade runner mentioned here is Purisima Concepción.

Footnote 7: The Spanish vessels was Diego Velázquez, for more information, see: Capt. Willard H. Brownson to Sampson, 14 June 1898.

Footnote 8: For the operations at San Juan de Puerto Rico, see: Blockade of Puerto Rico.

Footnote 9: The commanding general at Santiago was Arsenio Linares y Pombo.

Footnote 10: The blockade of Santiago de Cuba Harbor was ordered by Sampson on 27 May, cutting off food by sea, while the insurgents cut it off by land. See, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 475; and Tejeiro, Battles and Capitulation of Santiago de Cuba, 161-65.

Footnote 11: Lieut. Charles H. Harlow; Naval Cadets Joseph W. Powell; and Thomas C. Hart.

Footnote 13: Gen. Calixto Ramón García Iñiguez and Gen. Jesús Sablón Moreno.

Footnote 14: Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla of Marblehead.

Footnote 15: The Marines were upset with Commander McCalla because they claimed that he overemphasized the effectiveness of the Cuban rebels. See, Autobiography of Admiral Bowman H. McCalla.

Footnote 16: Gen. Pancho Peréz and Gen. José Rogelio Castillo.

Footnote 17: Capt. Henry C. Taylor, former president of the Naval War College.

Footnote 18: Capt. French E. Chadwick.

Footnote 19: Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter.

Footnote 20: The U.S. Army did disembarked on 22 June. For more details, see: Capt. Caspar F. Goodrich to Sampson, 2 July 1898.

Footnote 21: For the Battle Order of the Day, see: Battle Order of 15 June 1898.

Footnote 22: For a personal account of this incident by Captain John W. Philip, see: Philip to Josefa T. Philip, 22 June 1898.

Footnote 23: Vesuvius was an experimental vessel with three 15 inch guns that fired dynamite and guncotton bales using compressed air. While its firing load created considerable concussion its effect never superseded those of regular rounds.  Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American War, vol. 2, 677.

Footnote 24: New York printed Squadron Bulletins, which was distributed to the fleet. For examples, see: North Atlantic Fleet Bulletin of 18 June 1898.

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