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

U.S.S. “YANKEE”, (50).       

Key West, Florida.

June 27th, 1898.

S I R:-

1.        I have to inform you that the U.S.S.Dixie, under command of Commander C.H.Davis,1 arrived off Cienfuegos on the evening of the 21st instant, and informed me that I was at liberty to proceed at once to Key West for coal. Still having several days supply of coal on the Ship I did not deem it advisable to take advantage of this until the evening of the 24th instant, when I started to the westward, intending to spend two or three days in the vicinity of the shoals to the westward of the Isle of Pines and in the Yucatan Channel.

2.        On the morning of the 26th instant, the second day after my arrival in the vicinity of the Isle of Pines, a serious case of diptheria developed among the crew,2 and for this reason I deemed it advisable to proceed at once to Key West, arriving there at 12.35 P.M. to-day.

3.        While off the Isle of Pines in the forenoon of the 25th instant, I discovered a number of small vessels anchored under Cape Francis, at the south-western extremity of the Island, stood in as close to the reef as possible, when one of them got under way and attempted to escape to the northward and westward when a shot across her bows turned her back, and she again anchored near the others.

4.   Two boats, in charge of Lieutenant Cutler and Acting Ensign Dimock,3 who volunteered for the purpose, were sent in well armed with the object of bringing these vessels out; the “YANKEE” standing in as close to the shoals as it was possible in order to protect them in case they were fired upon. They met with no opposition, however, and brought out the five vessels, all of which proved to be fishing boats from Batabano, their catch going to the Havanna market.

5.   As I wrote you on the 21st instant, Colonel Zegueira, Governor of Matazanas,4 with whom I communicated fifteen miles west of Cienfuegos on that day, informed me that this fishing trade was the means for the principal food supply of Havanna at present. The two men taken in one of the boats told me that they were fishing for the Havanna market, and that all their fish went there. Under the circumstances, it being impracticable to take these small vessels to Key West, I determined to destroy them, which was done. They had no official registers on board, and their names were the “Nemesia”, “Luz”, “Jacinto”, “Massuelita” and “Annistad”.

6.   While cruising along the reefs between the Isle of Pines and the west end of Cuba on the 26th instant quite a number of these boats could be seen far up on the shoals beyond the reach of our boats.

7.   I again renew my suggestion that a light draft vessel, of some power, with one or two smaller vessels to act with her, be sent to this vicinity to break up this supply.

8.   On the evening of the 25th instant about sun-down, while we were destroying the fishing vessels, a small black steamer came down on the shoals within five or six miles of us. She appeared to be either a torpedo boat or a small gun boat, but the distance was too great to determine definitely.

9.   I shall fill with coal and stores as rapidly as possible and resume my station off Cienfuegos.

I am, Admiral,

Very respectfully,               

WH Brownson            


Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625 roll 232. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/United States Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.” Docketed: “U.S.S. “YANKEE”, (50)./Key West, Fla./June 27th, 1898/Brownson, W.H./Commander, Commanding./Report of the capture of/five fishing boats off Cape/Francis, Isle of Pines.” Bureau of Navigation stamp dated “JUL 11 1898” and numbered “125742.” At top right corner stamped: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION,/JUL 1 1898.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Charles H. Davis.

Footnote 2: Diptheria is an infectious upper respiratory disease.

Footnote 3: Lt. William G. Cutler and Ens. William De W. Dimock.

Footnote 4: Col. Edwardo Valera Zegueira See: Brownson to Sampson, 21 June 1898.

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