Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

C O P Y .

U. S. S. Eagle, Key West, Fla.,        

August 3, 1898.        

S I R :--

          I have the  honor to inform you that the Eagle left her blockading station off the Isle of Pines1 on the fore-noon of the second instant, and arrived here this P.M.

     When the Eagle left the Bancroft was off Piedras Point and the Maple in or near Lignanea Bay.2

     During the afternoon of July 25th the Eagle chased and overhauled Quartermaster’s Department Transport No. 2. and from her Captain learned that other transports were following.3

     The same night the Eagle chased a steamer for two hours. Several shots were fired close to her, signals made and the whistle sounded, but the steamer would not stop. Fortunately the information gained during the afternoon, made me think she was a transport, or the Eagle would have fired into her for the Montevideo, and destroyed many valuable lives. When finally overhauled by the Eagle shortly after midnight, she proved to be No. 19--the D. H. Miller, bound to Porto Rico with troops.4

     I informed the Captain of his grave offense in risking the lives of the troops on board, in a manner which he will not forget, also told him that he would probably run across other of our gun-boats enroute. Upon telling him to proceed, the soldiers cheered the Eagle.

     It seems to me that some action should be taken which will save our troops afloat from such risks.

     During the forenoon of July 26th, a Cuban camp was noticed at the extreme end of Maugh Point,5 from which signals were being made with a Cuban flag.

     The Eagle ran to within half a mile, in rapidly shallowing water, to communicate with the insurgents, and if possible to obtain a pilot for the waters in this vicinity.

     Information was obtained as follows;--

     The Cuban troops in the province of Piner del Rio6 numbered about 600, under the command of General Lasso,7 and were well supplied with arms and ammunition.

     The force at Mang[r]e Point--locally known as Punta de la Llama---numbered forty-five under the command of Lieutenant Del Valle,8 in addition to which he had a force of sixteen men close to Cape Francis.

     The town in Cortes Lagoon was named Cortes and contained a population of 1000 and six hundred (1600) all of whom are suffering from the effects of the war.9 The town was the seat of the tobacco industry of the neighboring region, but all tobacco had been removed to Havana several months previous.

     He stated that about thirty Spanish soldiers guarded the town, but Commander Clover10 of the Bancroft has since learned from a Cuban resident that this number should be about one hundred (100)

     Communication between points on this part of the Coast is carried on by signal lights at different points, and by heliographic signals from Cortez.

     A small town on the Coast four and one half miles above Cortes is named Baling.11 It contains one block-house, but no soldiers are now located there.

     The town of Coloma, some fifteen miles to the eastward at which it is supposed the Villaverdeonce landed a cargo, is in daily communication with Batabano by means of two light draft paddle wheel steamers. No vessel has gone to either of these towns since the burning of the San Domingo.12

     A force of about fifty Spaniards soldiers is stationed at Cape San Antonio, where are several small field pieces.

     Lieutenant DelValle was kind enough to send for a Cuban pilot for the Eagle, but circumstances prevented his arrival before the Eagles departure.

     The same afternoon the Eagle visited the wreck of the San Domingo and found the forward and after parts still smouldering.

     On the morning of July 28th the Bancroft arrived on the blockade, and that day with the Eagle in company visited the Cuban camp herein referred to, and the wreck of the Santo Domingo.

     As the Eagle was afterward in company with the Bancroft all subsequent events will be reported upon by the Commander of the Bancroft.

     I wish to state that I believe the 12-inch guns of the Santo Domingo can be saved by wreckers if the Department so desires.

     In my opinion they fell from the skids which burned from under them, to the hold of the vessel, crushing the bottom plating and allowing the vessel to fill with water.

     The breech-screw threads of the 4.72 inch guns are ruined, but they can be easily turned at a gun factory to take a slightly larger breech-block.

     I have the honor to be, Very respectfully,

W.H. H.Southerland,         

Lieutenant, U.S.Navy,       

Commanding.       

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “TheCommander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.” Document reference: “N o . 1 3 .”

Footnote 1: Present-day Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. The name was changed from Isla de Pinos in 1978.

Footnote 2: That is Punta Piedra and, probably, Ensenada de la Siguanca, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. Punta Piedra is on the northeast side of the island, near the capital of Nueva Gerona; Ensenada de la Siguanca is located at the southwest corner of the island.

Footnote 3: That is, Quartermaster Department transport Port Victor, A. R. Piper, captain. Report of the Commission Appointed by the President to Investigate the Conduct of the War Department in the War with Spain, 2: 860.

Footnote 4: The steam transport D. H. Miller was chartered from the Merchants' and Miners' Transportation Company by the Army for the period 29 April to 3 September 1898. The name of the captain has not been found. Investigation of Conduct of War with Spain, 444.   

Footnote 5: Possibly, Punta Plumajes, Cuba.

Footnote 6: That is, Pinar del Rio province.

Footnote 7: Sutherland may be referring to Mangles, also known as Leña Cays, a group of four small islands at the extreme western part of Pinar del Rio.

Footnote 8: Lt. Del Valle.

Footnote 9: That is Bahía Cortés and the town of Cortés.

Footnote 10: Cmdr. Richardson Clover.

Footnote 11: Probably, Babiney, Cuba.

Footnote 12: On the destruction by the Eagle of the Spanish steamer Santo Domingo, see: Southerland to Remey, 12 July, 1898.

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