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Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard, President of the Naval War Board, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Navy Department


Washington, D.C.,    June 16, 1898.

S i r :

     From telegrams received from the United States Consul at Kingston, Jamaica,1 and laid before this Board,2 it appears that the Island of Jamaica begins to bear the relation to the present war in Cuba, that the port of Nassau did to the Confederate States, during our Civil War – that is, it tends to become a half-way depot for stores needed by the Spanish Army, where such stores can be easily, because innocently, accumulated, and whence the voyage to Cuba is a short run.

     The wants of the Spanish Army fall under two great heads – munitions of war and food. The former, being distinctly contraband, are more easily arrested en route, and coming as much from Europe as from the United States, are out of our power for particular action.

     The case is different as regards food supplies. Those will come principally from the United States, as the nearest source of supply, as has ever been the case for the West Indies; and with the tendency of the business world to enter into speculations of this character, we may expect to see this traf[f]ic increase apace.

     Three methods of prevention are open to the United States:

     1. To prohibit exports of food from our ports to Jamaica, beyond the annual amount heretofore customary.

     2. To declare food supplies going to Cuba contraband of war- a step frequently taken by Nations in the past, when the question of supporting an enemy’s armed force was involved, as is notoriously the case now in Cuba.

     3. To extend the blockade of the south coast of Cuba, to include – besides Cienfuegos – the ports of Batabano, Trindidad, Manzanillo, and others, to be specified by name.

     The first course will strike most efficiently at the root of the evil, but might be considered unfriendly by the British Government. A similar action, however, has already been taken as regards coal shipments.

     The second possesses the advantage of allowing a vessel carrying food to be stopped, without reference to her port of destination being blockaded.

     The third alternative would be less objectionable to foreign states than the other two; but it will seriously tax the resources of the Navy, already strained by the necessity of convoying the Army at the same time that it has to maintain the blockades already proclaimed.3

Very respectfully,

M Sicard                

Rear Admiral      

President of the Board.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 29. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy.” The first three lines at the top of the page, except for the date, are printed on stationary.

Footnote 1: United States Consul at Kingston Louis A. Dent.

Footnote 2: These letters have not been identified.

Footnote 3: The blockade was officially expanded on 28 June, to encompass all of Southern Cuba. See: Long to RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, 28 June 1898.

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