Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

United States Consul in Kingston Louis A. Dent to Assistant Secretary of State John B. Moore

[Extract]

Consulate of the United States,

Kingston, Jamaica, 10th July 1898.

Sir:

     . . . . With reference to the Purissima, she was missed by the Yosemite which left the Manzanillo course too soon, that is on Wednesday, June 15th, whereas I understood from Commander Emory the understanding he had with Commander Brownson was that they would cover the respective courses, until Thursday, June 16th.1 The Yosemite therefore came in this port as the Purissima was passing out. The Purissima went through the Keys and made Tunas (Zaza) and the Casilda (Trinidad)[.]2 In Casilda she was seen by the Yankee, and the place was shelled, driving her out; but the Yankee was unable to get at her in the shallow water of the Keys. The vessel after discharging at Casilda subsequently made Manzanillo where she is now penned up by our vessels.3

     The Haytian Schooner Raoul has, I understand, been seized off Cape Cruz.4 The Rambler has been warned. These vessels all had cargoes for the troops.

     The Bonito Estenga arrived in Manzanillo with her cargo which was quite large as per enclosure No. 8, since which time I have heard nothing of her.5 Whether her owner has had any communication with Admiral Sampson as suggested in my letter of the 23rd, I do not know. I have since had information which would probably warrant the seizure of this vessel. I was all along under the belief, that Mr. Beattie, a British subject, owner of the Greenan Castle (formerly Anita) also owned this vessel.6 She was changed in Beattie’s name. You will understand that under the British Merchant Shipping Act, all that is necessary to secure the British flag is, for a British subject to produce a bill of sale and make oath that he has purchased and owns the vessel. Beattie has since said to me in the presence of three witnesses that he simply assumed ownership of this vessel to oblige Messa, who was a friend of his.7 This evidence can be produced therefore to show the change of her flag was fraudulent.

     With regard to the Adula, the facts are, that upon her third trip to Cienfuegos, she was chartered by a Spanish agent Salcenas, ostensibly to bring away refugees. Before her departure, I was personally inquired of by the Agent, Captain Forwood, whether the port was blockaded and I advised him that it was, though at the time I was satisfied we had no vessels there. However he determined to go there, which he did. As already advised, he brought the parties mentioned in my number 162. At the same time there has been here one J. R. Solis, French Consular Agent at Manzanillo, purchasing provisions in connection with other Spanish agents. When this last charter of the vessel was made, Solis was apparently the charterer, but I am satisfied he was only the tool. What the mission of the vessel was, I have been unable to learn. It was for this reason I recommended to the Admiral the search of the vessel to discover the evidence of her mission. I feel quite certain that her object was to get communication with Santiago, for important purposes, and that Spanish gold paid the guarantee of $5000 for ten days.8 I am led to believe too, that the firm of Lascelles De Mercado & Co. referred to in my number 135, were the medium for negotiations. The New York house Lascelles & Co., with branches in Cuba, Porto Rico, and Jamaica, should be closely watched. They are undoubtedly Spanish agents. The detention of the Adula has had a splendid effect here. The combination of the firms of Lascelles & Co. in New York, Lascelles de Mercado & Co. in Kingston, with the Atlas Agent here will be effectually broken by it. I trust sufficient evidence has been found on the boat to warrant her condemnation. It will be even more effective than the taking of the Purissima. The character of Forwood for tricky work, is so well known here, and appreciated, that his checkmating alone will do more than anything else to deter others who may not consider themselves quite so clever, outside of the fact that the vessel belongs to so powerful a corporation as the Atlas Company. General expression so far as I have heard it is “Served him right”, as to Forwood’s act.

     Perhaps the most important fact in connection with this last trip of the vessel is that I called upon Forwood personally, before the vessel sailed and warned him that the port of Manzanillo was blockaded, and called his attention to the facts, notoriously known, that Santiago was blockaded and that the entrance to the port of Guantanamo was in the possession of the American fleet – in which circumstances I advised him not to send his vessel to either of those ports as it would only bring her into trouble.

     In the press of matters I neglected to advise Department to this effect and I have accordingly done so today by cable as follows:

     “The agent of Adula warned by me of the actual blockade Manzanillo, Santiago, Guantanamo, before sailing the vessel.”

     The vessel not having returned to this port after an absence of 12 days I presume she has been sent north, and this information may be of service.

     I have written to Admiral Sampson to the same effect, as per enclosure No. 9.

     To the list of vessels engaged in this provision business as shown in my letter to Admiral Sampson June 26, there should be added the British schooners Prince Frederick and Ocean Flower.9

     I have the honor to remain, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Louis A. Dent                    

U. S. Consul.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 234. Addressed before opening: “Honorable John B. Moore/Assistant Secretary of State,/Washington, D.C.” In the top-right corner of the first page is typed: “(Copy)” and beneath it is handwritten “No. 170.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. William H. Emory commanded Yosemite; Cmdr. Willard H. Brownson commanded Yankee. For more on the failure of Yosemite to capture Purisima Concepción, see: Emory to William T. Sampson, 18 June 1898.

Footnote 2: By “Keys,” Dent meant small islands just off the Cuban coast. Tunas de Zaza is a fishing port in Sancti Spíritus Province, Cuba; Casilda is a village in the municipality of Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus Province, Cuba, and Manzanillo are all on the south coast of Cuba in the middle of the island.

Footnote 3: Purisima Concepción was destroyed in an American naval assault on Manzanilla on that date. See: Chapman C. Todd to Sampson, 18 July 1898.

Footnote 4: The Emmanuel Raoul, which was listed as being a British vessel, was captured by U.S.S. Hornet on 25 June, while en route to Manzanilla. Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 322.

Footnote 5: The Benito Estenger was captured by Hornet on 27 June while en route to Port Antonio, Cuba. Ibid. For me see, "Case of Benito Estenger," Accessed 2 February 2015, http://openjurist.org/176/us/568/the-benito-estenger, . None of the enclosures that Dent references in this letter have been found.

Footnote 6: The Greenan Castle was captured by Dixie on 6 July, while en route to Manzanillo, Cuba. Ibid., 324. Arthur Elliott Beattie was the owner.

Footnote 7: Cuban merchant Enrique de Messa.

Footnote 8: According to later federal court proceedings, Jose R. Solis had chartered Adula. The agent was W. Peploe Forwood, who was also an agent for Atlas Steamship Co., Jamaica. The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit District Courts of the United States, volume 89 (Eagan, MN: West Publishing Co., 1899), 351-62. The Adula was captured by Marblehead, Ericsson, and Vixen on 29 June.

Footnote 9: Neither of these ships was listed as having been taken as prizes by the United States Navy.

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