Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Commander Horace Elmer

[Washington, D.C.] March 23, 1898.

 Sir: You are hereby directed to prepare, with all possible dispatch, a scheme for utilizing the available resources of our Atlantic ports in the formation of a mosquito flotilla in general accordance with the methods proposed by the Naval War College.

     You will suggest for each important locality the names of suitable vessels, in such numbers as you may think proper, and fitted as improvised gun vessels, rams, or torpedo boats, their armament, if any, how and where obtained and mounted, how their captains and crews may be secured from the merchant service or Naval Militia, the proposed appointments as volunteer officers, or ratings as enlisted men, and you will prepare an organization for the whole coast, and rules for the government of each local division.

     The Department confines itself to indicating the outlines of what it desires, leaving the details to your discretion. It reminds you that promptness, efficiency, and economy are necessary.

     You will submit, as soon as possible, a résumé of your scheme, which must be so perfected that it can be put into instant execution on the issuing of orders from the Department.

     You are authorized to perform such travel as may be needed, and directed to report from time to time your movements.

     It is suggested that you make New York your headquarters. In that event, the commandant of the navy-yard at that place will give you such clerical aid as you may require. The demand for officers is so great that it is impossible to assign you other assistants. You are hereby detached from present duties.1

     Very respectfully,

John D. Long, Secretary.

Source Note Print: Annual Report of the Navy Department, 1898, p. 125. Appendix A was part of the “Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Addressed below close: “Commander Horace Elmer, U.S.N.,/Cramp’s Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pa. Cmdr. Horace Elmer was ordered to organize and command the Mosquito Fleet and the coastal defense of the Atlantic and Gulf seaboards, but died of pneumonia in April, 1898.

Footnote 1: A letter from Capt. Henry C. Taylor to John D. Long dated 21 March 1898, corroborated the interconnection between the Naval War College plans and the use of a mosquito fleet as part of the general mobilization: “Bureau Ordnance letter #2355, received and I have sent it to the War College, asking Captain [Caspar] Goodrich if the plans mentioned are not in the files there, to send over to the Torpedo Station and if Commander Converse left them there. About two years ago Commander Converse informed me, that if the general plan of any naval campaign demanded a large mosquito fleet quickly, that the mechanical work could on Narragansett bay would be able to provide them....” DLC-MSS, HTP, Box 1. Capt. George A. Converse was then commander of the Naval Torpedo Station.