Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Bowman H. McCalla to Commodore Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron

COPY.

                             U. S. S. MARBLEHEAD, 3rd Rate,

                                  At sea, Lat. 21° 12’ N.,

                                          Long. 82° 35’ W.,

                                      May 23rd., 1898.

S i r :

     1.   I have the honor to inform you that the British Steamer Specialist, in ballast for Mobile,1 was boarded this morning by the Commanding Officer of the Eagle2 between San Antonio and the Isle of Pines.

     2.   The Captain of the Specialist reports that he left Cardiff April 12th. with coal for San Juan, Porto Rico; unloaded during the bombardment3 and sailed from San Juan five days ago. He also states that there were two Spanish cruisers and two Spanish gun boats4 in the harbor during the bombardment, one of the cruisers being the Alphonso XIII; that the forts were somewhat damaged and that 10 soldiers and a few civilians were killed; that there was an American fruiter in the harbor; and that an American newspaper correspondent5 in jail in San Juan was injured by a shell.

     3.   The Captain of the Specialist reports that there are 15,000 tons of coal on shore in San Juan and that an English colliers,6 in the employ of the Spanish Government, sailed from San Juan on the 14th of May, destination unknown, and that another English colliers was there, full of coal and ready to sail.

                             Very respectfully,

                             (sgd) B.H.McCalla.

                                  Commander, U. S. Navy,

                        Commanding and Senior Officer Present.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 52. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/Flying Squadron.”

Footnote 1: Lloyd’s Register, 1898, lists Specialist as a British ship captained by J. Evans with a home port of London.

Footnote 2: Lt. William H.H. Southerland.

Footnote 3: RAdm. William T. Sampson led a reconnaissance raid on Puerto Rico that resulted in a bombardment of the city on 12 May 1898. See: Sampson to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 18 May 1898.

Footnote 4: The two gunboats were probably, General Concha and Ponce de Leon.

Footnote 5: The correspondent imprisoned at San Juan was Canadian journalist, Freeman Halstead. Charles H. Brown, The Correspondents’ War: Journalists in the Spanish-American War (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967), 248.

Footnote 6: The collier Restormal. It was captured on 25 May 1898 by St. Paul. See: Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 29 May 1898.