Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Alfred T. Mahan, Acting President of the Naval War Board, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Navy Department,

Office of the Naval War Board.

Washington, D.C.,

June 3, 1898.

Sir:

          A telegram received today from Commodore Schley,1 off Santiago, lay stress upon his great need of light draft vessels for picket duty. The War Board recognizes the urgent necessity of vessels of that class, for the purpose specified, and it recommends that five of the ten light draft steamers or yachts, of the “Dorthea” and “Restless” class, originally purchased expressly for the naval service, and afterwards diverted to the Auxiliary Defense Fleet, should be at once despatched to reinforce Admiral Sampson, for use on picket line.2 It is meant, of course, that those which are to be sent, should be taken from those which are now ready, and not from those in course of preparation, as there is no reason to apprehend, for the moment3 and attack upon United States harbors; whereas, the decisive center of the war, at present, is off Santiago.4

Very respectfully,

A.T.Mahan

Captain U.S.N.,        

Acting President of the Board.5

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 231. Document on Naval War Board stationery.

Footnote 1: Commo. Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron.

Footnote 2: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet. For a list of small ships sent to serve in the Caribbean, see: Asst. Secretary of the Navy Charles H. Allen to Sampson, 6 June 1898.

Footnote 3: The phrase “for the moment” is a handwritten interlineation.

Footnote 4: Mahan was unconcerned about a Spanish attack on American coastal cities. He declared:

“in the opinion of the Navy Department and its advisers, [RAdm.] Cervera was not likely to attempt a dash at an Atlantic port, and that it was more important to be able to reach the West Indies speedily than to protect New York or Boston,—a conclusion which the writer shared  . . . [and] the division of the armoured fleet into two sections (Flying Squadron and North Atlantic Fleet), nearly a thousand miles apart, though probably the best that could be done under all circumstances of the moment, was contrary to sound practice.”

Alfred T. Mahan, Lessons of the War with Spain and Other Articles (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1899), 56.

Footnote 5: RAdm. Montgomery Sicard, President, Naval War Board, was who was recovering from reoccurring bouts of malaria at this time.

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