Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Rear Admiral Joseph N. Miller, Commander, Pacific Station

LETTER

Washington, July 21, 1898.  

     Sir:

          In pursuance of the reports concerning a Spanish privateer, regarding which the Department telegraphed you on the 12th instant, a dispatch, date July 8th, from our Consul at Victoria, B.C.,1 states that the vessel referred to is still lying in port between Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance.2 She is described as a small, fast steamer, carrying five guns, and the Spanish Consul at Victoria3 is reported as having been trying for sometime to engage pilots for her. Our Vice Consul at Vancouver4 states that the British Admiral5 on the station was spoken to about her, and said that he had given instructions to his vessels to guard, as far as possible, against depredations being made in British waters, and to see that no protection is afforded to privateers in English ports.

     The Spaniards are supposed not to intend to hold prizes, but to loot captured vessels. The Spanish Vice Consul at Victoria is said to be negotiating for the purchase or charter of other vessels, requiring that they shall be able to steam 15 knots.6

     The Department desires you to keep a careful watch to prevent possible Spanish depredations upon our Klondyke and other trade, and especially with regard to the vessel herein mentioned.

Very respectfully,          

John D. Long,     

Secretary.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, pp. 309-310. Addressed before opening: “Commander-in-Chief,/U.S.Naval Force,/Pacific Station.”

Footnote 1: United States Consul in Victoria, B.C., Abraham E. Smith.

Footnote 2: Queen Charlotte Sound stretches from the tip of Vancouver Island to the Hecate Strait. Dixon Entrance is the sound due north of Hecate Strait and stretches from the Island of Graham (Canada) to the Island of Prince of Wales (Alaska).    

Footnote 3: Spanish Consul at Victoria, B.C. Don Angel José Cabiéjo y Barrios.

Footnote 4: United States Consul at Vancouver L. Edwin Dudley.

Footnote 5: British RAdm. Henry St. L. Bury Palliser, Commander, Pacific Station.

Footnote 6: The rumored Spanish privateer was part of a concerted misinformation effort orchestrated by Spanish agents in British Columbia designed to generate fears of a Spanish attack on American shipping along the Pacific coast. In mid-June a Spaniard named A.J. Cabréjo, spent days at the docks in Victoria conspicuously asking questions about American ship movements. Later, Cabrejo sent out false news dispatches that Spanish privateers were plying the Pacific. He also allowed himself to be observed by American agents sending cipher messages to the Spanish Consul in Montreal, including one which read: “One hundred millions in gold on the way from St. Michaels to the United States in American vessels. Issue Letters of marque. R.C.Browne.” American concern escalated in early July when Consul Dudley received reports that a Spanish five gun privateer was lying in wait in the Gulf of Georgia and that Spanish diplomats were trying to charter steamers and enlist Canadian seamen to attack American merchant vessels. In response to American concerns, RAdm. Henry St. L. Bury Palliser begrudgingly sent three warships in search of the “privateer,” believing the rumors to be false. Palliser warships no evidence of a Spanish gunboat. See: Cmdr. Jefferson F. Moser to Long, 21 July 1898; and P.M. Sherrin, “Spanish Spies in Victoria, 1898,” BC Studies, 36 (Winter 1977): 28-32.

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