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


U.S.S. “YANKEE”, (50).            

Off Cienfuegos, Cuba.      

June 23rd, 1898.       

S I R:-

1.   I have to inform you that while lying to the southward and eastward of Cienfuegos on the morning of the 20th instant, a vessel was sighted to the eastward in the vicinity of Casilda Harbor.

2.   I at once started in that direction and soon made her out to be a white steamer, with one smoke stack and two masts, answering very much the description of the “Purissima Conception,1 were it not for the fact that the steamer in the harbor appeared to be much larger – she appeared to be at least one thousand tons. I stood in within half a mile of the shore near Mulas Point,2 and fired a shot across her bows with a view to making her show her colors. This she failed to do but showed signs of getting under way, when I opened fire on her at a distance of about four thousand yards, which was the nearest I could approach to her. She at once got under way and stood to the eastward among the shoals and was soon out of range. I followed down the reef outside for some distance but could not again get within range.

3.   As soon as I opened on the steamer a vessel lying alongside of the wharf in Casilda Harbor apparently a hulk, and a very small gun boat which had come out around the point at the end of Casilda Harbor, opened fire on us – the latter at such long range that I did not consider it necessary to reply to it as it was only a waste of ammunition.

4.   On the arrival of the “Dixie” in this vicinity on the 21st. instant, I consulted the pilot whom Commander Davis had brought with him,3 but he said it was impossible to go to Masio Harbor,4 where I am inclined to think the steamer sought refuge, without the buoys to mark the shoals. Yesterday, however, I went down to Blanco Key5 and sent in a boat with a view to sounding out the channel and buoying it – but after some trial decided that it was impracticable to so mark the channel that it would be prudent to take a flat floored, unwieldy steamer of this size into it.

5.   I think considerable trade is carried on between Casilda and the vicinity and Jamaica. To break it up entirely light draft steamers are necessary.

6.   I think, however, that Cienfuegos is practically closed since the arrival of the “YANKEE” and the “Dixie” off the port.


I am, Admiral,

Very respectfully,

W.H. Brownson

Commander, Commanding.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625 roll 232. Docketed: “U.S.S. “YANKEE”’ (50)./Off Cienfuegos, Cuba./June 23rd, 1898./Brownson, W.H./Commander, Commanding./Report of engagement off Casilda Harbor on the 20th of June, 1898.” Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department stamp is dated “JUL 11 1898” and numbered “125743.” At top right corner stamped: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N.A. STATION,/JUL 1 1898.” Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/U.S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.”

Footnote 1: On 16 June, Purisima Concepión, a Spanish blockade runner, slipped by Yosemite commanded by Capt. William H. Emory while leaving neutral Jamaican waters. See: Emory to Sampson, 18 June 1898.

Footnote 2: On a contemporary United States Navy map, this is called Mulaias Point, but the editors were unable to locate it on modern maps of Cuba.

Footnote 3: Comdr. Charles H. Davis.

Footnote 4: Puerto Masio is a short distance east of Casilda.

Footnote 5: Cayo Blanco must have been one of the small islands at the entrance of Bahía Masio.

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