Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

[Extract]

Wednesday evening, Feby. 17th, 1898.

     . . . There is an intense difference of opinion as to the cause of the blowing up of the Maine. In this, as in everything else, the opinion of the individual is determined by his original bias. If he is a conservative, he is sure that it was an accident; if he is a jingo, he is equally sure that it was by design. The former is sure that no design could have been carried out without discovery; the latter is equally sure that no accident could have happened in view of the precautions which were taken. My own judgment is, so far as any information has been received, that it was the result of an accident, such as every ship of war, with the tremendously high and powerful explosives which we now have on board, is liable to encounter. The best way, however, seems to suspend judgment until more information shall be had.

     The occurrence suggests one important thing, and that is the frightful destruction of life and property which will hereafter accompany any naval or military engagement. In the old days a war vessel could be peppered all day long, with comparatively little damage to ship or to crew. Now, a battleship with five hundred men on board, fairly struck by one of the great projectiles, will probably go to the bottom and every life be lost. This reflection ought to have weight with those who talk lightly of going to war. The illustration now afforded by this accident to the Maine gives food for sober reflection.

     The saddest thing of all is the constant coming of telegrams from some sailors humble home, or kinspeople, inquiring whether he is saved, or asking that, if dead, his body may be sent home.1

Source Note: Transcript, MHi, Papers of John Davis Long, vol. 78.

Footnote 1: Much of this correspondence is to be found in Office of the Bureau of Naval Personnel; Correspondence Relating to the Naval Personnel Lost in the Sinking of the Maine, 1898-1901; RG 24, Entry 98.

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