Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Commander William P. Potter to Captain French E. Chadwick

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

Lat. 19’08 N. Long. 67’58 W.

          May 13th, 1898.

Sir:-

     In accordance with paragraph 525 U. S. Navy Regulations, I have the honor to submit the following report on the engagement of San Juan de Porto Rico on May 12th, 1898.

2.   The crew went to General Quarters at 4:56 A.M. The attack was made in column, passing the batteries three times, the Iowa ( Flagship) leading,1 followed by Indiana, New York, Amphitrite and Terror. The Detroit preceded the flagship and lay close under the batteries, the Montgomery remaining to the right of the entrance.

3.   The Iowa opened fire on the Morro2 at 5.23[.] The New York opened fire at 5:27 at battery on westward face of Morro, distance about 2500 yards, and ceased firing at 5:51, the nearest battery being about 4500 yards on cease firing.

4.   On the second passage the New York opened fire on Morro at 6:55, distant about 3200 yards. The principal fire was directed against middle battery. Ceased firing, after turning, at 7:11 distant about 4000 yards.

5.   On the third passage the New York opened fire on Morro at 7:29, distant about 2900 yards, the principal fire, as before, being directed against middle battery. Ceased firing at 7:46, distant about 4500 yards. During the second and third passages, the 8” guns only were fired.3

6.   Total ammunition expended, 55--8 in. 128--4 in., and 132--6 pdr. Considerable difficulty was experienced from the jamming of primers in the vents of the 8” guns, causing the lock extractors to break, and in the after turret the locking catch on the face plate of the right hand gun jammed and had to be repaired, causing considerable delay in the firing of the gun. There should be a spare lock provided for each 8” gun, there being but one in the ship for six guns.

7.   The New York was struck by a shell which exploded over the port after part of superstructure deck, the fragments flying forward and spreading, killing one man, and wounding four others, two severely and two slightly;4 all these men were in the crew of the port waist 8”, and were struck by fragments of shell flying forward and downward.

8.   This shell completely wrecked the 4th. cutter and fittings, the port waist search light and pierced the funnels and ventilators in several places. The whale boat and 2nd. steam cutter were also damaged by fragments of the shell.

9.   The shell was fired from the Eastward battery at a distance of about 5000 yards, and was a common shell, cast iron, estimated caliber 8 in.

10.  The starboard life buoy was carried away by the blast of guns and lost overboard. Both wings of after bridge, stowed on edge along side of superstructure were badly shattered and were thrown overboard. The starboard waist search light was also shattered.

11.  The main error in the enemy’s marksmanship was in estimating the range, most of the shell passing over the ship when within range of guns.

12.  The conduct of all who came under my observation was exemplary, every one showed coolness and determination and performed his duties in a creditable manner.

                             Very respectfully

                                  W P Potter.

                                  Lieutenant Commander,

                                      Executive Officer,

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 229. Addressed below close: “The Commanding Officer.” Docketed: “U.S.S. New York, 1st RATE./At Sea Lat 19°08 Long 67°58/May 13th 1898/Potter W.P./Lieutenant, U.S.N./Executive Officer/Content:/Reports engagements/Batteries at San Juan Puerto Rico/ENDORSEMENT./U.S. FLAGSHIP New York,/ At Sea,/May 14, 1898/RESPECTFULLY FORWARDED,TO The Commander in Chief/Captain, U.S. Navy,/Commanding.” Stamp: First page of the document features a stamp indicting the letter was “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N.A. STATION/MAY 14 1898.” Stamp 2: A second stamp features “BUREAU OF NAVIGATION” along the top, “MAY 25” on the left side, “1898” on the right side and “NAVY DEPARTMENT” along the bottom. The number “114012” are in the middle. Note: The document was forwarded to RAdm. William T. Sampson.

Footnote 1: According to Associated Press correspondent W.A.M. Goode, who was with RAdm. William T. Sampson for the entirety of the war, all of the Rear Admiral’s flag staff, except Chief of Staff Capt. French E. Chadwick, transferred from the New York to the Iowa. Sampson changed flag vessels to his former ship because it was considered the most powerful vessel in the fleet and the plan for attacking the Spanish fleet had the Iowa going into battle first in the line. According to Goode, “Sampson wished to be first in the fray and thought that from her he could best direct the action.” See W.A.M. Goode, With Sampson through the War (New York: Doubleday & McClure Co., 1899), 68.

Footnote 2: “Morro,” is a coastal fortification.

Footnote 3: Sampson ordered that only the 8” guns be fired to cut down on the smoke produced by the American ships. Ibid, 72.

Footnote 4: Seaman Frank Widemark was struck in the neck and killed. The two severely wounded Seaman were Samuel Feltman and Michael Murphy. Ibid, 74.