Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
Washington, D. C., Friday, May 13th, 1898
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The crisis approaches, and the clouds thicken. We get advices that the Spanish fleet are off Martinique, where they have got coal from lighters, forwarded to them there by their government. One of our scouting boats, the Harvard, is blockaded by them in St. Pierre, Martinique[.] Admiral Sampson has attacked San Juan and Portorico and, while he has fired a good many shell and done some damage to fortifications, he has not succeeded in silencing the fort, or destroying the coal pile there, He has undoubtedly acted with great prudence, as he could not afford to have his ships crippled, in view of the possibility of an engagement with the Spanish fleet. Still, the thing strikes me as rather a failure, and we wait the results with deep concern.
I think one reason for the efficiency of this Department is that there is no military head who is in friction with the Secretary of the Navy, the civil head, and, also, that our Bureau Officers are liable to rotation once in four years. The result of the latter is that good men are retained, but that changes are always possible if a man does not quite fill the bill, or if there is a call for him somewhere else. When Admiral Walker called the other day, I gathered that what he desired, being, perhaps, the ablest retired officer in the Navy, is a position as Commander-in-Chief of the Naval forces. I doubt the expediency of this, as it would result in the friction which now exists in the War Department, with the Secretary of War always at swords points with the General of the Army.
Called on the President this evening.
Source Note: TD, MHi, Papers of John Davis Long, Vol. 78.