Commander Chapman C. Todd to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet
C O P Y .
U. S. S. Wilmington, 3rd Rate,
Off Cape Cruz, Cuba, July 14, 1898.
S I R :--
I submit for your consideration the following, bearing upon the convoy by naval vessels of the Army transports, and the landing of the troops etc., by the Machias and Wilmington recently at Sibouney.1
2. With the exception of the compass course signals, International code, no attention was paid by the vessels being convoyed to other signals made, although such signals were frequently necessary little or no attention was paid by these transports to maintain position, and had the fleet been larger much delay must have occurred from this source, likewise danger under ordinary war conditions.
3. Upon arrival at Sibouney, acting under instructions of the senior officer, Commander Meade2 of the Machias, the boats of this vessel were sent in charge of an Officer to assist in the landing of the troops, their equipments, etc. What little system could at the time be formulated by Lieutenant McCrea,3 in charge of the landing, was entirely due to his efforts aided by the officers of this vessel, and which greatly facilitated the landing of the troops. Much delay was experienced owing to the entire lack of control or method on the part of those in charge of the troops on the several transports as well as on shore, and this delay, under different circumstances might have proved disastrous.
4. Other delays were due to the incomplete landing place at Siboney and inadequate space at the landing in which to work. At the request of the Army officials more than one of the boats were diverted to landing [p]rovisions for men already at the front. Apparently there being but little, if any, army facilities or arrangements for expediting this very important feature of landing in an enemy’s country. Again, sick and wounded were brought down to the landing and unloaded on the wharf without means of transferring them to the hospital ships, and as a matter of humanity these men, were, with the boats of th[e] two ships, placed on board the proper vessels. The transports, not only those that accompanied the convoy, but others that had previously arrived were crowding in to the narrow waters of Sibouney, apparently without object, certainly without control on the part of any official; and this tended to delay expeditious work. Signals from the St. Paul, calling for various transports, were flying many hours without responses; the vessels called apparently being wholly out of signal distance.
5. On one occasion wounded men in the boats were delayed alongside the hospital ship for a long time before being received on board; the reason for this is not definitely known, but they were in our boats and should have been promptly received on board that our boats might continue their work with the troops.
6. It is not pleasant to state that the means provided for handling and caring for the unfortunate wounded and sick on the part of those responsible for it were wholly inadequate, almost nil. But our officers and men assisted in this work as they did in all other cases, acting in the government interest on shore.
7. As a result of this experience I am of the opinion that there should be definitely defined the duties of the Navy in the matter of convoy, commanding at the time of complete embarkation to the completion of the debarcation; and this authority of the Navy should be so clearly defined that the masters of the vessels under convoy would make no mistake landing to militate against a rapid movement and successful landing of the personnel on board their vessels.
8. Great Britain, from long experience, found such action absolutely necessary, and the specific duties of the Navy in the cases of convoy are set forth in Queens Regulations.
C. C. T O D D , Commander, U.S.Navy,
Source Note: CbCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 45. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.” Document reference: “No. 20.”
Footnote 1: That is, Siboney.
Footnote 2: Cmdr. William W. Meade.
Footnote 3: Lt. Henry McCrea.
Footnote 4: Senior Officer Present.