Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain French E. Chadwick to Commodore Charles O’Neil, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance

U. S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate,

At Sea, May 14th, 1898.

My Dear O’Neil:-

          Can you send us, and at once, a spare lock for each 8” gun, and sixteen extractors? These are much needed, as was shown by the engagement at San Juan day before yesterday. It is a small thing to ask for in view of the fact that it might prevent a cessation of a large part of our 8” gun fire. The springs of the extractors are constantly giving away.

     I have a suggestion to make. Are there not some of the old 12 pound smooth bore Howitzers existing? They would make most admirable anti-torpedo boat guns, and if you can send four to this ship with a lot of shrapnel or canister, I should be much obliged. They are far better for such purposes to my mind than the ordinary quick fire gun, which shoots and hits exactly where it is pointed, only.

     We had a very lively fusillade at San Juan, and we fired away a good bit of your ammunition; I don’t know what damage we did to our friends, but if it was no more than was done to us, it was small. It is most extraordinary how slight the injury was to the squadron, but two ships was struck, this and the Iowa, one each by one 6 inch shell which caused no damage of movement to material; our port search light was carried away and one boat destroyed, a number of holes cut at various points in the boat and ventilators about the superstructure deck, but nothing happened to injure the fighting efficiency.

     Why in Heaven’s name does not the Flying Squadron, reinforced by the Newark and New Orleans come down and occupy Culebra, blockade San Juan, or take it. My own view of such a war as we have on hand is for us to vigorously attack. I think it is for us to take the offensive, and not to lie in port waiting for that to come which to my mind never will come.

                             Sincerely yours

                             F. E. Chadwick

If you can say anything to damn the monitor type, say it. They cant shoot from their unsteadiness + they have to be nursed like babies; they are hellish to live in - they have one redeeming quality viz offering a small target, but this very thing militates against their having any decent battery such as a battle ship carries of 5” + 6” guns,1

     D--n them, say I + so say all of us.

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Papers of Charles O’Neil, Box 8. Note: Portions from signature handwritten.

Footnote 1: The squadron that attacked San Juan had two monitors, the Terror and Amphitrite. Both were slow, suffered from frequent mechanical failures, and had difficulty in open seas. Monitors were also unforgiving ships to serve on. All crew quarters were below the waterline, making them cramped, swelteringly hot, and, at best, perpetually damp. Tropical conditions in the Caribbean and the heat from firing the guns exacerbated an already miserable state of affairs during the engagement at San Juan. The heat was so oppressive a crewman on the Amphitrite died of heat stroke while manning a gun turret. Capt. Charles J. Barclay to RAdm. William T. Sampson, 13 May 1898, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 229.       

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