Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Colby M. Chester to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

          U. S. S. Cincinnati, 2nd Rate,

              San Juan, Porto Rico, Aug. 16, 1898.

     S I R :--

On August 14th while on blockade duty off this port with the U. S. S. New Orleans, the British steamer Henrietta was boarded, and her Captain reported that just before leaving St. Thomas the same morning the U. S. Consul1 informed him that peace protocol had been signed the day before.

     While boarding the Henrietta signals were seen flying from Morro castle, at the mouth of this harbor, and I soon found they were intended for this ship. Steaming slowly in towards the fort, followed by the New Orleans, and Frolic, signals were read giving the same information as that received from the consul. A copy of a[l]1 signals made is herewith enclosed.

              I was about to open communication with the City which gave this information when the Spanish Officials a[n]ticipated me.

          The ship gradually proceeded to within a quarter of a mile of the enttrance and was about to anchor on the edge of the bank when the last signal “ do not anchor without pilot” was made. A boat soon came from the harbor and the pilot anchored the ship in the outer roads.

     I immediately sent an officer (Lieutenant Commander E. B. Barry)2 on shore under a flag of truce to communicate with the Captain General.3 He was pleasantly received and the notice of cessation of hostilities personally given by General Marcias, who also stated that he had received the information from General Miles,4 Commanding U. S. Army, by telegram and letter, as well as from his own Government.

     The Captain General offered the use of the telegraph cable and I immediately reported to you and the Department.

     I again communicated with the shore yesterday, and this morning, in company with Ca[p]tain W. M. Folger,5 U.S.N., Commanding the U. S. S. New Orleans, I called upon the Captain General, and also upon Captain Eugenio Vallerino, Commanding the Spanish Naval Forces.

              A[l]l these interviews have been of a pleasant character, and I have endeavored to cultivate a friendly feeling with our late enemies, and have offered the General all the hospitalities of a personal nature that was in our power.

     He desired to send the steamer “IBO Bosh”, belonging to private parties in San Juan, to St. Thomas for mail, of which they had been deprived for over two months, and I granted permission. She is expected to return tomorrow.

     Two steamers are sunk across the mouth of the channel, which excludes all vessels of over ten feet draft from the inner anchorage. The Captain Genera[l] states that with this exception the harbor can be cleared in a very short time.

     One steamer is sunk in about ten fathoms of water, as she is in good condition with only her flood cocks open, probably the cheapest and best means of clearing the way is to raise her. The other is partially destroyed and should be broken up. Possibly a little dynamite used under this vessel will clear the channel, sufficiently wide for entrance with care, but I wired you for wrecking vessels yesterday for the purpose of raising the vessel which is in good condition.

   The cruiser “ISABELLA II”,6 torpedo boat “TERROR”, and gun-boats “PONCE LEON” and two others were seen in port this morning, also from two to three thousand tons of coal.

     I have detained the Frolic here for 48 hours in anticipation of a need for outside communication, but as the telegraph office in San Juan has been put at our disposal, the necessity for this has passed for the present.

          The Captain General informed me this morning that the telegraph line to Cape San Juan will soon be in working order again and any vessels stationed here can communicate direct with those at Fajarda, and elsewhere around the island.

     In anticipation of some such arrangements as this, I have asked Captain Rodgers,7 Commanding the U. S. S. PURITAIN to send a small vessel to enter the harbor as soon as authority is given, when the larger vessels could use the Cape San Juan anchorage in bad weather.

          Very respectfully,

                   C.W.CHESTER, Captain, U. S. Navy.

                        Commanding.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief,/U. S. Naval force, N.A.Station. The memorandum of signals was attached but the editors have chosen not to print it. Also, the typist randomly but not consistently left spaces between words; these were silently removed.

Footnote 1: United States Consul at San Juan Philip C. Hanna.

Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. Edward B. Barry

Footnote 3: Captain-General Manuel Macías y Casado.

Footnote 4: Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. William M. Folger.

Footnote 6: That is, Isabel II.

Footnote 7: Capt. Frederick Rodgers.

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