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

[Extract]

LETTER.

Washington, April 27, 1898. 

Sir:

     Enclosed herewith you will find a copy of a letter from Lieutenant-Commander J. F. Moser U.S.N., regarding the scheme of defense for the Pacific coast. Please consider this document, and propose to the Department such a scheme as you think will be effectife.

     You will bear in mind that it will probably be necessary to convoy vessels from the outlet of the Klondyke to Puget Sound;1 and of course in this case those vessels must be assembled and have regular schedule time for sailing. Would it be worth while to extend this system to vessels from Panama? The Department is doubtful about this.

     Until the Department gives you further directions you are at liberty to make such disposition of the forces for the defense of the Pacific coast as may seem to you proper.

Very respectfully,          

John D. Long,          

Secretary.        

 

ENCLOSURE TO ABOVE LETTER.

Copy.

Washington, D.C., April 21, 1898.

Hon. Theodore Roosevelt,

     Assistant Secretary of the Navy,

          Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

Sir:

     In compliance with your verbal request,2 I beg leave to submit the following memoranda relating to the defenses of the West coast of the United States and Alaska in the event of war with Spain:

     Considering the available naval force, there are three initial stations between Vancouver Island and the Mexican Boundary at which able fighting vessels should be stationed ready for call at any point. The first of these is Southern California, the second San Francisco, the third Puget Sound.

     For the defense of the first, a vessel like the Monterey stationed at San Pedro with two patrol vessels, and signal station on the outer islands, would suffice. San Francisco has a number of modern high power guns mounted for the protection of the entrance, and with vessels like the Charleston ready for a call at any moment and three patrol vessels with signal stations at the Farallones4 and communications with the light-house stations, would, with our present means, be adequate. For the defense of Puget Sound the Monadnock stationed at Port Angeles or Port Townsend, with one patrol vessel at the entrance to the Straight of Puca and one in Washington Sound, would probably be the best disposition of the available force.

     The approaches to the Columbia River should not be forgotten; a large cruiser with good speed would not only give good service here but could, if necessary, assist in defending Puget Sound.

     The salmon canning industry at Alaska is large, having an output of nearly one million cases per year, with canneries, representing a large investment, scattered throughout the territory from Dixon Entrance to Bristol Bay in Behring Sea. . . . For the protection of these industries, the unprotected towns, the line of steamers plying between Dyea and Skaguay and Puget Sound, a large vessel with two smaller ones for patrol duty would probably be sufficient. . . .

     ST. Michael, north of the entrance of the Yukon, is the point at which the product of or the Klondyke is transhipped, and it has been estimated that at least fifteen millions of treasure may be carried from St. Michael during 1898. These vessels call at Unalaska, where it is reliably reported 17,000 tons of coal will be received during the season. It is probable that the treasure vessels will ask for convoys, and I believe that two vessels like the Bennington, with sufficient speed [to keep] up with the convoyed, and two patrol vessels, would not be too many to have centered at Unalaska for the protection of the coal depot, the carrying steamers, and the canneries. Scattered through Alaska at the canneries and fisheries there will be from ten to fourteen thousand tons of coal, and that together with that at Unalaska, unless protected, can easily be captured by an enemy.

     As there is no telegraphic communication with Alaska and out of Sitka only a monthly mail service, to Unalaska, I would suggest in this connection that a senior officer with wide discretionary powers be stationed, one at Sitka and one at Unalaska.4

     The officer commanding the Pacific station should, in my opinion, be stationed at San Francisco, and he should have wide discretion as to the disposition of his forces.

Very respectfully,          

 (Sgd) Jefferson F. Moser,

Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy. 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, pp. 19-21. Addressed before opening: “Rear Admiral/J.N. Miller, U.S.N.”

Footnote 1: The Klondike Gold Rush occurred between 1896 and 1899. United States naval authorities were concerned that gold shipments to the United States could be intercepted and hijacked. See: Long to Miller, 21 July 1898.

Footnote 2: In a letter to Secretary Long, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt suggested that many of these measures for defense of the Pacific Coast. Moser’s letter expands on Roosevelt’s recommendations. See: Roosevelt to Long, 18 April 1898.

Footnote 3: The Farallones Islands are located off the coast of San Francisco.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Moser subsequently patrolled this area as commanding officer of the gunboat Bennington. See: Joseph R. Miller to Long, 9 September 1898.  

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