Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commodore John A. Howell, Commander, First Blockading Squadron, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U.S.Flagship San Francisco,     

Off Havana, Cuba,      

August 3, 1898.   

Sir:-

     1.   I desire to make the following report of assignment of the vessels under my command on this date:-

Off Matanzas-----Siren and Uncas.

Off Sagua la Grande and vicinity-----Viking and Hawk.

Off Cardenas-----Hudson.

The Pompey has been sent to the Isle of Pines,1 the Mangrove has just left Matanzas for Key West for important repairs to her machinery which will keep her in port for some days, and the commanding officer of the Uncas2 reports that his ship will soon have to have important work done upon her machinery which will necessitate her remaining in port for some days also.   I have no ships with which to relieve these vessels.

Off Havana-----Piscataqua, Marietta, Topeka, Stranger, San Francisco, Woodbury, Peoria, Castine, Oneida.

The Stranger leaves for Key West for coal and water tonight, but she should return in a few days.

Off Mariel and Bahia Honda-----Nothing. The Piscataqua was there on August 1, but the departure of ships from this station compelled me to call her in.

     2.   I desire to call your attention to the small number of ships with which I am supposed to keep up and efficient blockade of over four-hundred miles of coast, and also to the fact that most of these ships are of low speed, light gun fire, and would be entirely at the mercy of a hurricane.   In regard to the low speed of the great part of the ships I wish to forward the following copy of a paragraph in a report to me from the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Mangrove:-3

     “We were alongside the Pompey coaling on the 28th(July) until 5.00 P.M., when we got underway and stood to the westward.   At 11.30 P.M. sighted a steamer bound in for Matanzas; when first seen she was distant about two and one half miles; we chased her for two hours at our best speed and kept up fire on her during this time, but she was too fast for us and escaped. At 5.00 A.M. on the 29th we were about four miles off the entrance to Matanzas with no steamer in sight.”   The commanding officer of the Mangrove reported verbally that since this occurrence there have been two steamers in Matanzas which have tried to escape at night, but that up to the time of his leaving that port these efforts had been frustrated by his ship and the Uncas.

     3.   I have to forward the following extract from a report made to me by the commanding officer of the U.S.S.Pompey,4 on July 31,last, just before leaving Cardenas:-

          “I am glad to inform you that the health of the officers and crew is excellent.

          “The rainy season has set in and rain squalls frequently extend to seaward accompanied by thunder and lightning.

          “The gunboats and small vessels still show themselves inside the cays beyond our reach, but since our late captures they do not venture so far.

          “The courriers from the insurgent camp report that many of the troops in and around Cardenas have been withdrawn and sent to the westward. Col. Rojas5 had a slight skirmish near Cardenas losing two men, killing nine men and capturing one officer. He then took his force to the mountains”   Very respectfully,

J.A.Howell                  

Commodore, U.S.Navy,                 

Commanding First Squadron North Atlantic Fleet.     

Source Note: CyS, AFNRC, M625, roll 237. Addressed below close: “To the/Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department,/Washington,D.C.” Document reference on top of first page: “No.32,’98.” Docketed on separate page: “U.S.F.S.SanFrancisco/Off Havana,Cuba,/August 3, 1898./Howell, J.A.,/Commodore,U.S.Navy,/Commanding First Squadron, North/Atlantic Fleet./Report on assignment of vessels/on North Cuban blockade, etc.”

Footnote 1: Present Day, Isla de la Juventad.

Footnote 2: Lt. Frederick R. Brainard.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Daniel D.V. Stuart.

Footnote 4: Cmdr. James M. Miller.

Footnote 5: Cuban Lt. Col. Cornelio Rojas.

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