Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Caspar F. Goodrich to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U. S. S. St L O U I S,           

Off Cape Cruz, Cuba,      

July 2, 1898.

          Sir:

              I have the honor to submit the following report on the recent operation of landing the 5th Army Corps in Cuba, a task which you confided to my care by verbal order of June 21st.

          2.   I enclose a copy of the proposed scheme of procedure as well as a blank order showing the contemplated distribution of boats and their assignment to the transports on their first trip.1

          3.   At 4.30 A.M.,June 22d, the U.S.S.St LOUIS was at her rendezvous at Daiquiri and within a mile and a half of the great pier. This position was taken in order to demonstrate to the transport captains that the approaches were perfectly safe.2 The steam cutters, sailing launches, cutters and whale boats detailed from certain other vessels of the fleet arrived about 6 to 6.30 A.M. in tow of the U.S.S.SUWANEE and WOMPATUCK. Some steam cutters came up under their own power. The list of boats which joined in the enterprise of landing troops is appended, marked “G”.3 It will be observed that the St LOUIS furnished a large number of boats which, as a matter of fact could carry at one trip nearly a thousand men or rather more than half the capacity of all the boats employed. About half of the St LOUIS boats were manned by volunteers from the fire room. The types of boats may be arranged in the following order of individual value for the work under consideration. 1st, Navy sailing launches, 2d, St LOUIS life boats, 3d, Navy cutters, 4th, St LOUIS collapsible boats, 5th, Navy whale boats. It may be observed that experience proved it better to use the steam cutters as tugs exclusively-time being lost when they were turned into passenger boats.

4.        A great deal of delay was experienced in getting the first batch of troops loaded-the cause being numerous and largely avoidable. Some confusion at the outset was occasioned in getting the steam cutters and their tows in readiness but this was as nothing in comparison with the hindrance caused by the remoteness of the transports from the shore. The KNICKERBOCKER, a very important member of the fleet, with 600 men to be landed in the advance of the Army had lost herself during the night and only appeared in the afternoon. In the meantime four steam launches with eleven boats in tow were vainly seeking her far out at sea. My plans were also disarranged through the absence of certain steam launches and of the steam barge LAURA all of which had been promised me. I may, in all frankness, add that neither the boats crew nor the boat officers were as familiar at first with the quickest method of getting a soldier into a boat and of carrying on this special duty generally as they soon became. However shortly after 9 A.M. a sufficient number of boats were filled with troops to warrant the advance-the preconcerted signal to this effect was hoisted on board the WOMPATUCK, to whichvessel I had transferred myself with my aide, Lieut Catlin,4 U.S.M.C.,and Mr Richard S. Palmer.

5.        The NEW ORLEANS, DETROIT, CASTINE and WASP then opened a fire heavy enough to drive out the whole Spanish Army in Cuba had it been there. So far as known no reply was made.

6.        The SUWANEE which had been assigned to my particular assistance kept close by on the port quarter of the WOMPATUCK and shelled the low woods to the west of Daiquiri, the WOMPATUCK in the advance firing a few times also. Following the WOMPATUCK were the steam cutters with their tows of boats laden with troops.

7.        Happily no opposition was encountered-and, also, happily, the small or inner pier was found to be available for landing. Midshipman Halligan5 of the U.S.S.BROOKLYN was the first man ashore at a little before 10 A.M.. The troops landed as rapidly as the heavy swell alongside the pier would permit, and, the landing6 once begun, continued all day. By 6 P.M. some 6000 troops were ashore and the army abundantly capable of holding its own on shore.

8.        By the middle of the afternoon the boats crews and officers had acquired the most expeditious and convenient methods of receiving and discharging troops while the Beach Master Lieut F.K.Hill7 had systematized the approach to and handling of boats at the dock so that a continuous stream of men disembarking could be maintained. A larger number would have been scored had the transports not as a rule kept from two to five miles off.

9.        The next morning, June 23d, the landing began afresh. Profiting by our experience of the preceding day the operation of landing reached and maintained a surprisingly high rate. As before the only drawback was the remoteness of the transports from the dock. The OSCEOLA on the 22d and the steam lighter LAURA on the 23d brought in the former some 200 men-the latter some 350. As the LAURA could and did go alongside the dock she proved of notable assistance.8

10.       On the afternoon of the 23d, the Major General in Command of the 5th Army Corps9 informed me that he had determined to land men at Siboney, or Ensenada de los Altaros10-about four miles to the westward of Daiquiri and that much nearer Santiago. Accordingly the entire lot of boats was sent to Siboney where the St LOUIS followed them. Happily a convenient and safe anchorage was found for the ship, encouraging the transports to come closer in. Moreover, General Shafter, in response to my request that the transports should be made to come nearer, had placed their captains unreservedly under my orders so far as the landing was concerned. In consequence of this order I was enabled to go on board a transport as it came in, assure the captain that his responsibility for the safety of his ship ceased the moment he obeyed my instructions, take charge of her and berth her near the shore. In this way but a small distance was covered by the boats in transit and the landing went on most rapidly, in spite of the surf which at times was quite heavy. During the night the beach was illuminated by the St LOUIS’ search lights so that the work went on almost as easily and quickly as in daytime.

          11.  The disembarkation continued during the 24th, 25th and 26th, and immense amount of ammunition, food and forage being taken ashore by the Navy so that the troops and animals could be subsisted. The speed of landing at los Altares was, normally, 600 Americans or 1000 Cubans per hour.

          12. On the afternoon of Sunday June 26th the St LOUIS returned to the fleet off Santiago bringing with her all the boats except five steam cutters which had been already sent back on the 24th instant. also OREGON’s boats.

          13.  The usefulness of a huge vessel like the St LOUIS, possessing great resources in the shape of accommodations, supplies and personnel was amply demonstrated on the occasion just described.11 For four days and nights she acted as mother ship, feeding and berthing nearly two hundred extra men and officers; coaling, watering and repairing steam cutters; furnishing volunteer relief crews of machinists and firemen for the latter fortnight work; hoisting at her davits at sundown all Navy pulling boats not detailed for night duty, and all this without even taxing her facilities. There seemed to be room for everybody and the means to supply every want.

          14.  For the success of the undertaking which, I have reason to believe, is generally considered to reflect great credit on the Naval Service, I am deeply indebted to my subordinates, who manifested unflagging zeal and great ability in discharging an irksome, delicate and at times dangerous duty. Especially are my thanks due to Lieut F.K.Hill, U.S.N., of the IOWA for his firm, tactful and seamanlike system and management of affairs as Beach Master. I commend him to your favorable consideration. His regular reliefs in this important post were Ensigns Chas L.Hussey12 of the OREGON and Fred R. Payne of this vessel, with occasional spells by my Secretary Mr R.S.Palmer. Their performance of duty merits my acknowledgement. 1st Lieut A.W.Catlin, U.S.M.C., acted to my complete satisfaction, as my principal aid throughout the time covered by the landing.

          15.   The behavior of the Midshipmen in charge of boats was, as a rule, admirable. I was particularly impressed by the rapidity with which the third classmen from the Naval Academy now on board this ship gathered all at handling their boats and control of their crews and passengers.13 I directed Naval Cadet O.C.Murfin14 to report to his Commanding Officer my estimation of the value of his services[.] Of Naval Cadet Hart’s15 performance of duty I am constrained to make a separate commendatory report.

          16.   At the earnest request of Col.Weston16 of the Commissary Department, I left him two sailing launches with a man in charge of each for the purpose of unloading the steam lighter “LAURA”; he expressed himself as able with the “LAURA and the launches to feed 30000 men before Santiago-without the launches as powerless. While it may be somewhat irregular to comment upon the actions of an Officer of another branch of the service I cannot refrain from mentioning my admiration of the energy, tact and skill displayed by Colonel Weston and of the results he achieved under my eyes.

          17.   On the 27th the St LOUIS accompanied the “YALE” to Siboney and landed 1300 troops from the latter ship, the YALE furnishing a whale boat and a cutter to assist. The steam cutters were from the INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, and OREGON. On the St LOUIS’ return to Santiago that evening the last of the boats detailed from other ships to take part in the landing, viz the OREGONS steam cutter and whale boat were sent back to their own ship, except those mentioned in paragraph 16. The usefulness of the steam cutters in towing empty boats off and full boats in, cannot be exaggerated. The service was hard and continuous. I only marvel that breakdowns were so few and slight.

          18.   Of the Navy boats one BROOKLYN cutter beached at Daiquiri the first day, was the only one entirely lost-all however were more or less bruised and a few somewhat damaged unavoidably.

          19.  The St LOUIS received and cared for seven men on the 24th ult.-wounded in the action of that day-Surgeon R. Lloyd Parker17 rendering valuable service. It was during this affair when word came off from shore that the Spaniards were driving back our troops that the St LOUIS fired a number of shell in the supposed direction of the enemy-some of which by good luck, are reported to have fallen in his midst.

          20.   At the beginning much delay was caused by the timidity of the troops in getting into the boats; in other cases on account of orders not having arrived on board the transports to disembark their troops, causing much loss of time, the boats shoving off unloaded. In other cases delay was due to the efforts of company officers to make the landing by companies instead of filling the boats to their capacity each trip. I am, Sir,

Very respectfully

C.F: Goodrich                    

Captain, U.S.Navy,               

Commanding.            

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 233. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/N.A.Station,/U. S. F. S. NEW YORK.” Docketed: “U.S.S. StLouis/Off Santiago/July 4, 1898/Goodrich, CF.,/Captain, USN,/Reporting operation/of landing 5th Army/Corps./5 Enclosures.” Docketed on same page: Rectangular Bureau of Navigation stamp with date 1 August 1898 and reference number: “130306.” Stamp on first page: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/JUL 4 1898.”

Footnote 1: The original list of ships can be found in, DNA, RG 165, Entry 310.

Footnote 2: Some of the privately chartered transport captains were reluctant to come close to shore because they feared heavy surf. Trask, War with Spain, 213.

Footnote 3: The original list of supporting naval boats was not appended to this document, however, it can be found in Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 689-90.

Footnote 4: Lt. Albert W. Catlin, U.S.M.C.

Footnote 5: Cadet John Halligan, Jr.

Footnote 6: The words “the landing” were a handwritten interlineation.

Footnote 7: Lt. Frank K. Hill.

Footnote 8: The unloading of an enormous amount of food from LAURA demonstrated close cooperation between the Navy and Army. See, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 688.

Footnote 9: Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter.

Footnote 10: That is, Enseñada de los Altares.

Footnote 11: St. Louis was a retrofitted passenger liner and owned by the International Navigation Co.

Footnote 12: En. Charles L. Hussey.

Footnote 13: The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy was Capt. Philip H. Cooper.

Footnote 14: Cadet Orin G. Murfin.

Footnote 15: Cadet Thomas C. Hart.

Footnote 16: Col. John F. Weston, U.S. Army.

Footnote 17: Passed Asst. Surgeon Robert Lloyd Parker.

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