Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William Sherman Vanaman to His Family

[Extract]

AT SEA                                Feb. 18, 1898.

Dear Mother, Son and Daughter:

     I am 300 miles from Havana, on my way to Sabine Pass, and it is 9 P.M. and the vessel is rolling merrily along. We have come 300 miles in thirty-six hours.

     I am in my underwear and socks, and with all windows and doors open. The thermometer registers eighty-five.  Wish you were all here.

     But I expect to see some warm times around the Island of Cuba before I come North again. I expect there is great excitement there, about the Blowing up of the MAINE, and I expect to hear that War is declared, when I arrive— there was not a man in Havana that I talked with but what believes the Spanish did it.

     I was laying close to the MAINE, anchored, when it happened at ten P.M., and the night before I had spent the evening with some of the Officers and some other Captains at the Hotel Inglatasa.1

     As soon as I got on deck the night of the explosion, I thought it was the Spanish War ship, at first.2 I had just gone to bed, but I got out our boat and before I got to the wreck, I knew it was the MAINE.

     The Officers would not let the Spanish ship’s boats assist them. I was there when the Capt. left the [indecipherable]3 and a great many were in their night clothes and bodies were floating all around in places. One we towed ashore had both legs blown off at the hips and one was blown clear over into the City.

     There was’nt an American or Englishman there, but what wanted to fight. The TORPEDO struck forward. That is what every one believes that did it. There was a Spanish War Ship laying as close to the MAINE, as from our house to the woods, down the road, and we heard the buglar calling to quarters fifteen minutes before the explosion.

     If the U.S. don’t fight over this, the whole country ought to be blown up. I could not write much in Havana, as all letters had to be examined and what I received there had been opened.

     I am in hopes of being able to carry supplies to the U.S. army in Spanish territory inside of three months. One American is as good as five Spaniards, in a fight. . . .

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 226. Vanaman was captain of the schooner Philadelphia.

Footnote 1: That is, the Hotel Inglaterra.

Footnote 2: Spanish Navy cruiser Alphonso XII.

Footnote 3: Capt. Sigsbee was taken to the steamer City of Washington.

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