Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Henry C. Taylor to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U.S.S.INDIANA, 1st Rate,

Guantanamo, Cuba,

July 1, 1898.

Sir:-

     1.   In obedience to the orders of Commodore George C. Remey, Commanding Naval Base, Key West, I proceeded in the INDIANA, with the DETROIT, CASTINE, MANNING, WASP, EAGLE, WOMPATUCK, and OSCEOLA, on June 14th, 1898, at 5:30 p.m. to the rendezvous off Rebecca Shoal Light to await the arrival of the transports from Tampa.

     2.   We remained that night at the rendezvous, and at daylight sent a scout ahead to meet the convoy. The scout returned, reporting nothing seen. The ERICSSON joined the convoy. Sent ahead another scout in the afternoon which returned in company with the HORNET. The Commanding Officer1 reported that transports approaching at 7 knots speed and straggling owing to the slowness of those towing lighters.

     3.   At 8:30 p.m., June 15th, 1898, the transports were sighted. Formed column of our force and steamed on the right flank of the main body till daylight, June 16th, 1898, when made signal “ Take order of Cruising”, also signaled speed ”8 knots.” At 8:00 a.m. fired a salute of 13 guns in honor of Major General Shafter.2 Communicated with him by the WASP and on her return left this ship and paid official visit to him on board the transport Seguranca. Had great trouble in keeping the transports closed up. The torpedo boat RODGERS joined the squadron and INDIANA took her in tow.

     4.   At 1:30 sighted the MONTGOMERY standing over from Cuban coast flying the flag of Commodore Watson3 and fired a salute of 11 guns which was returned by 7 guns from the MONTGOMERY. The MONTGOMERY remained ahead and inshore of the convoy during the day and night.

     5.   At daylight on the 17th found the column very much strung out. At 7:10, the ANNAPOLIS signaled “shoal water”. Changed course to S.S.E. to bring the left flank into the channel. At 8:40 sighted Paredon Grande Light House. The EAGLE brought message from the General requesting that the column be stopped to allow the rear vessels to close up. This I regarded as impracticable as we were approaching the narrow part of Old Bahama channel, and the General was informed that we would stop as soon as we were through this channel. About noon sent the HELENA in to scout along the shore and to rejoin at 7:00 p.m.

     6.   At 3:00 p.m. slowed to 6 knots as the column was straggling badly. Detailed the BANCROFT to look out for stragglers and to remain by them, WASP to assist. DETROIT was given charge of the rear division. Sighted the AMERIA standing to the westward. On June 18th, about 7:30 a.m. stopped the convoy and signaled “close up”. Coaled the RODGERS while waiting for the column to close up. At 11:00 all the fleet and transports in sight went ahead 6 knots, ANNAPOLIS guide. About noon sent the HELENA in shore to scout till 7:00, when to take station. Again ordered BANCROFT to remain in rear of all transports and to protect any stragglers. Received a message from General Shafter that the Gussie needed water for her cargo of mules. Attempted to keep column closed at 7 knots but found it impossible so reduced speed again to 6 knots at 8:00 p.m.

     7.   At 6:00 a.m. on the 19th sent WOMPATUCK down the columns to find out what ships were straggling. Sent HELENA in chase of a steamer standing to the southward across the head of the column. HELENA returned reporting it was an English steamer bound for Morant Point, Jamaica. At 7:00 a.m. made Great Inagua Island ahead. Sent HELENA to convoy the Gussie to Matthew Town for water. At request of the General the Olivette was sent in to Matthew Town to water the Gussie pending the arrival of the water schooner which was ordered there[.] Sent OSCEOLA to rear to find BANCROFT and order her to take the City of Washington and schooner to Matthew Town to water the Gussie and then bring them all to the Commander-in-Chief at Santiago de Cuba. Sent WOMPATUCK ahead to inform the Commander-in-Chief of our approach.

     8.   The RODGERS , in attempting to take a line from this ship had a man knocked overboard, and, although a diligent search was made for him, he was not found.4

     9.   At 6:30 a.m. on the 20th, sent the ERICSSON ahead to communicate with the fleet off Santiago. Sent the RODGERS in to Guantanamo. At 9:45 a.m. sighted the Morro of Santiago and the ships of the fleet. The GLOUCESTER with the Chief of Staff5 on board came out from the fleet and communicated with the Headquarters ship6 which went in toward the fleet. The column was stopped about 15 miles off shore. During the afternoon the BANCROFT and WASP arrived with the two straggling transports making the entire number. Before dark got the convoy in formation heading off shore and remained stopped until 7:00 a.m. on the 21st.

     10.   The St. LOUIS came out from the fleet and upon invitation of the Chief of Staff, I joined him and the Major General on board the Seguranca. At this meeting was arranged the position of the transports in the formation for landing and the time and place of debarkation. The Naval vessels were at once put to work rearranging the formation and assigning the transports to their new stations. Owing to the trouble experienced in keeping stations when stopped the night before, I decided to keep the column in motion during the night and to gradually change course until daylight. At daylight on the 22nd the heads of the column were in position off Daiquiri and the Naval vessels were sent to the rear to close up the lagging transports. As soon as the ships were in position and the debarkation about to begin, the INDIANA hauled down the Senior Officer’s Pennant and stood to the westward to take station assigned in the blockading line. It had been my hope to be allowed to complete this service by joining in the fire upon the beach at Daiquiri but the orders received from the Commander-in-Chief through the Chief of Staff were imperative that I should leave Daiquiri as soon as the vessels of the convoy I had had charge of should arrive there.

     11.   On the afternoon of the 21st while on board the Seguranca I was handed a communication from General Shafter in regard to getting his Generals on board his ship for consultation. No notice of the General’s wishes had been communicated to me either by signal or any other means up to this time. I at once ordered the BANCROFT to go around and collect the Generals as the quickest way. The transports were getting in their new positions, and it was with difficulty they could be induced to stop. Also the sea was rough and to get them in and out of the boats caused loss of time. However, the BANCROFT did her work well and continued until midnight.7

     12.   I regarded the placing of the ships at Daiquiri at daylight in proper order, as of the utmost importance and had any time been lost in getting the columns again in motion much delay would have resulted. Had General Shafter’s wishes in this matter been made known to me in the forenoon or morning of the same day all could have been arranged.

     13.   In bringing this duty to a successful conclusion I desire to say that Commander Hunker8 turned over the convoy to me in excellent order at Dry Tortugas, and my thanks are due to him and to all the Commanding Officers of naval vessels for their vigilance and well directed efforts which made it possible for this large convoy to arrive at its destination without loss or accident.9

Very respectfully,     

H. C. Taylor      

Captain, Commanding.

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 233. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/U.S.Naval Force on North Atlantic Station.”

Footnote 1: Lt. James M. Helm.

Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter.

Footnote 3: Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, First Blockading Squadron.

Footnote 4: The official record of casualties and accidents on the North Atlantic Station during the war does not list any loss of crew members from Rodgers. Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 705-06.

Footnote 5: Capt. French E. Chadwick.

Footnote 6: Transport Segaranca.

Footnote 7: For a full description of Bancroft’s efforts, see, Cmdr. Richardson Clover to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 20 September 1898, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 678-83.

Footnote 8: Cmdr. John J. Hunker.

Footnote 9: Taylor’s claim that there was no accident would seem to indicate that the man overboard from Paragraph 8, was probably recovered.

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