Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Charles D. Sigsbee to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Secnav                                    

     Washington, D.C.

     Maine blown up in Havana harbor at nine forty to night and destroyed. Many wounded and doubtless more Killed or drowned Wounded and others on board Spanish man of war and Ward Line Steamer.1 City of Wash Send Light House Tenders2 from Key Westwant the derricks for removable effects to take movable equipment from wreck, some of which is above water for crew and the few pieces of equipment above water_ Noone has clothing other than that upon him_ Public Opinion should be suspended until further report_ All Officers believed to be saved. Jenkins and Merritt not yet accounted for_3 Sigsbee Span Representative of General Many Spanish Officers including representative of General Blanco now with me to express Sympathy4

                                                Sigsbee

Source Note: C, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 226. The cable is undated, but was sent the night of 15 February. It was written on the stationery of the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company, James E. Ward & Co., Agents. The heading includes information about the company and the mail steamships routes. It is numbered “189.” On 25 February, a New York newspaper printed a “facsimile [of the] rough copy of telegram,” much to the distress of the Secretary of the Navy. See, Long to Montgomery Sicard, 25 February 1898, DNA, RG 45, Entry 28.

Footnote 1: The Spanish warship was Alphonso XII, the flagship of the Spanish fleet in Cuba. The Ward Line Steamer was S.S. City of Washington, the name of which Sigsbee began to write, but then crossed through. Two hundred fifty men and two officers were killed in the explosion and eight others died of injuries in the following days.

Footnote 2: The Light House tender Mangrove was sent to Havana from Key West on 16 February 1898.

Footnote 3: The missing officers, Lt. Friend W. Jenkins and Assistant Engineer Darwin R. Merritt, had been killed.

Footnote 4: Ramón Blanco Erenas y Polo, the Spanish Governor General of Cuba. Frank B. Rea, a correspondent from Harper’s Weekly who had been able get on board City of Washington a short time after the explosion, reports that Capt. Sigsbee was writing the text of this cable when Blanco’s representatives, Cuban Secretary General Dr. Juan Congosto and the police chief of Havana, arrived. After receiving their condolences, Sigsbee returned to the cable, crossed out his name, added the last sentence, and then re-signed it. In his report on the Navy’s actions prior to and during the war, the head of the Bureau of Navigation RAdm. Arent S. Crowninshield wrote of Sigsbee’s telegram:

“The cool, clear-headed telegram of Captain Sigsbee did much to strengthen the Department in its purpose to take the fairest and most dispassionate view of every question which the continually increasing menacing attitude of Spain was constantly bringing us to face.” See, DNA, RG 24, Entry 254.

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