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Journal of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet


May 4th.  Morrill came out of Key West at 3.15 A.M. with despatches. The following telegram was sent:

                        Key West, Fla. May 4, 1898.

Secretary Navy, Washington, D.C. (Abacurado)1 Let Yale meet squadron off Cape Haitien early morning May 7, having sent a boat in for orders.

                             S A M P S O N .

At 5.45 A.M. the Flagship2 got underway. At 11.00 sighted the blockading vessels off Havana and at noon signaled to the Iowa “We are going to Eastward to carry out original plan.”3 At 12.30 sent the Wilmington to assist the Leyden in landing some Army ammunition at Mariel. At 12.45 signaled the Annapolis “We are going to the Eastward. You will act as Senior Officer until an officer senior to you arrives.” Just after dark the Flagship, Iowa, Indiana, and Detroit arrived at the rendez-vous and Iowa took Amphitrite in tow, and the Flagship took the Terror in tow. The latter’s tow line parted, and at 9.16 went ahead at about nine knots (the Terror under he own steam) in double column as follows:  Iowa towing the    New York

              Amphitrite         Terror

              Indiana            Niagara

          Detroit                      Montgomery




May 5th.  The New York took the Terror in tow at 10.30 A.M., and latter banked fires.4 Terror had 136 and Amphitrite 181 tons of coal at noon. Sighted a Spanish barkentine5 and sent the Montgomery to take her in charge.6


May 6th.  At 4.30 P.M. the Montgomery went ahead full speed to call at Cape Haitien for despatches. The Terror took the Porter’s tow line. The Iowa parted the Amphitrite’s line but ran another. Detroit and Indiana had difficulty in keeping in position, owing to trouble with boilers. . . .

May 7th.  Amphitrite’s tow line parted again in morning watch, and the Terror’s parted later. At 2.30 P.M. the Porter left with despatches for Cape Haitien.

                             Cape Haitien, May 7, 1898.

          Secretary Navy, Washington, D.C. (Rescinder) I have arrived off Cape Haitien bound for San Juan. I shall communicate with Porto Plata tomorrow, Sunday morning for further information from department.

          At 10.45 P.M. sighted the Montgomery and Porter off Cape Haitien. . . .

Source Note: Transcript, DNA, RG 313, Entry 56. Typist did not put space between some words and commas. This has been fixed by the editors.

Footnote 1: In William Sampson’s journal, words inside of parenthesis, “(Abacurado)” for example, are a reference point for the opening word in a ciphered message.

Footnote 2: Armored cruiser New York.

Footnote 3: Sampson believed that the Spanish squadron would have stopped at San Juan to make repairs and coal after the long voyage from the Cape Verde Islands to the Caribbean. He intended to go to Puerto Rico and engage the Spanish squadron or blockade them in the Port of San Juan. W.A.M. Goode, With Sampson Through the War (New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899), 61.

Footnote 4: Terror let the coal driven fire that powered its steam engine go out to save coal.

Footnote 5: A “barkantine” is a sailing ship with three or more masts. They have a square rigged foremast and the fore and after sails rigged to the main and mizzen masts. A Naval Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1881), 65.

Footnote 6: The captured Spanish ship was the Frasquito. At the time of its capture it was transporting jerk beef from Montevideo to Havana. W.A.M. Goode, With Sampson Through the War (New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899), 62. 

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