Captain John W. Philip to Josefa T. Philip
Letter No. 33. From the U.S.S. “TEXAS”, off Santiago de Cuba. Dated June 22, 1898.
“- - - - - - - You see the enclosed “Order of Battle”:1 also slip about our mail being on board the flagship2 by 8 o’clock tomorrow. As a result of the two I cannot reply now to your letters (nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7), that arrived on board at dusk last evening. Why? I have not the time now, ‘tis now 2 P.M., and I can’t write after dark: and the Order of Battle prevented me from doing it this morning --- later you will see why I cannot do it this afternoon.
- - - - the Lord is so good to us! We have had a forenoon, I assure you. Engaging the outer forts and batteries alone and by ourselves; whilst the Brooklyn, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Indiana and Iowa lay off about two miles watching us: NOT “the harbor mouth”, as the Order said. The result? The poor TEXAS had one man killed and eight wounded, 4 or 5 dangerously so.3
You see Par. 4 of Sampson’s order? “At Cabanas, the TEXAS”! This point is the only one expected to be under fire: and that too of those heavy west batteries at that. But the TEXAS was equal to the confidence imposed upon her, yet I think that when Sampson saw the fire that she was under from those dago forts, he should have sent in a battleship to her assistance.
But barring the loss of our good men, I am glad though that he did not, for now we have the credit of silencing those batteries all by ourselves. I mean, and intended to say, that she would never have done it had not the Good Lord been with us, directing and saving us. But the Squadron gave us the credit: I thank the Lord.
We all had breakfast at 4:30 A.M. (early that for you, ah?). Soon after daylight we were off the Cabanas, “looking innocent” I fancy, but READY you may wager.
I guess we waited two hours for the transports to come and “make a feint” at landing;4 but nary a transport. About eight o’clock we were quietly sneaking alongshore towards the entrance, but less than 750 yards from the beach, when the dirty dago had the gall to open on us. Well, we were ready; and you wager we let fly all that we had ---- and the “scrap was on”.
The dago got in some quick work too: but all of his shot went over and around us. Unfortunately, one shell went through the ship, wiping out entirely two 6 pdr. guns crews standing at their guns on the opposite side of the deck.
The shell struck us on the port bow, 5 or 6 feet below the upper deck; made a clean hole through the side, then cut a 6” stanchion in two, exploded and cleaned out those two gun crews, killing one and wounding eight. The man killed (a splendid apprentice) was literally torn to pieces --- in fragments. After exploding, it cut in two, two frames of the ship, and bulged two plates out, on the starboard side.
We were firing at the time: just as our 12” gun (Bristol’s)5 went off we saw a big puff of smoke from the battery, and poor Harber6 said, “Good, a splendid shot”. He thought that that was our 12” landed. I had a spy glass in my hand and raising it I said, “I’ve a notion to hit you for praising a dago shot! Wait a moment and see its result”.
Just then it went through us: I recognized the feeling but poor Harber didn’t: then I said, “There’s your good shot. Go below and see the damage done”. Of course he did not mean to praise an enemy’s shot, for he thought that it was our own exploding inside the fort; and I wasn’t mad, only put out that one should think that that was our shot.
When Sampson saw the fire that we were under, he should have sent in another ship to draw the fire partly from us. The last time we engaged these same batteries, there was the Brooklyn, Marblehead, Massachusetts, and the TEXAS:7 but to-day the TEXAS took it all alone while those six ships, the Brooklyn, New York, Massachusetts, Iowa, Indiana and Oregon stood by and looked on. A couple of times the thought occurred to me, well, it is like a street fight, two men are at it, whilst the crowd stand around to see the winner.
But the old TEXAS, though bruised a bit, proved to the onlookers that we can and did ‘baste’ those dagoes well. The flagship signalled “Well done, TEXAS”, and twice signalled “Cease firing”, but I remained under the fort for over an hour after the dago quit, giving it to him.
Once I was about to quit; we had not fired for 30 minutes, he not for an hour, when I saw a lot of soldiers up on a parapet. I gave the signal “Commence firing”, and then we did do some pretty work. The next time that we go in there I am going to get closer in and if we don’t make them sick, why, I am awfully disappointed and mistaken in my crew and guns.
At 10:30 we steamed out to the blockade line, (a pretty long morning since breakfast) to clean up and to get something to eat. As we neared the Brooklyn, officers and men “manned the rail” and cheered the TEXAS to the echo. On account of our loss we did not return it: I thanked the officers and men for their kind feeling, etc.
The Commander-in-Chief8 thanked the Captain, Officers and crew of the TEXAS for most excellent and efficient shooting.
Also the Indiana and Massachusetts cheered us. All those ships would have loved to have had our job, but Sampson selected the old TEXAS.
Anyway, - - - I think that we can beat any of them in making good shots ---- near the bull’s eye.
We have just returned from our funeral service. I drew out to sea about three miles away from the fleet and there we committed the body to the deep.9 Only a day or two ago this apprentice's enlistment had expired (‘till 21) but he wanted to remain on the TEXAS and see it out. Poor fellow!
- - - - - - - - - - I am tired; only had 4 hours sleep --- two at a time last night; on account of the heat and lookout, I can’t write after dinner, and if I quit now, I can get about 15 minutes sleep before dinner.
- - - - - - - - - the 8th and the 9th must have been terrible days to you; but there was no truth in that sensational newspaper report, thanks to the Good Lord.10 There should be a remedy, but there is not, for such infamous news. Remember, do not believe in the papers: but do believe in the Good Lord, and that He will save and spare me. I do sincerely believe it as my trust is in Him.
(Insert) Telegrams had been sent from Madrid that Captain Philip of the “TEXAS” had been killed.11
Source Note: Transcript, DN-HC, “Extracts from Seven Letters Written by the Late John W. Philip United States Navy; During the West Indian Campaign in the Spanish-American War, MDCCCXCVIII.”
Footnote 1: See: Orders for the Landing of the Troops, June 21, 1898.
Footnote 2: Armored cruiser New York.
Footnote 4: Various points east of Santiago de Cuba were targeted by American ships to cover up the actual landing at Daiquiri on 22 June.
Footnote 5: Lt. Mark L. Bristol.
Footnote 6: Lt. Cmdr. Giles B. Harber.
Footnote 8: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.
Footnote 9: Apprentice 1st Class Frank I. Blakely.
Footnote 10: Several newspapers reported that Captain Philip was killed in action.
Footnote 11: Telegrams were not included with the typed text.