Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

[Extract]  

Washington, D.C., Monday, February 28th, 1898.

One of the loveliest days of the year, with a fine promise of spring.

Congressmen Boutelle and Senator Hale1 in this morning, with regard to preparations for war; both of them depricating, as I do, any undue activity or sensation in this respect.

     . . . At half past seven, . . . comes a message to go to the White House. Helen goes with me there.2 Judge Day and the President3 are in session over a message from Havanna, giving some probable explanation of the explosion. I send for Commodore O’Neil, who is familiar with explosives, being the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. General Lee4 is very clearly of the opinion that the Spanish Government had no connection with or participation in the disaster. It is possible that some individual may have sunk a mine, which means a barrel or cask or two filled with gun cotton,5 of which only some hundred pounds would be necessary, at a point where, in the course of her swinging, the hull of the Maine would hit it, and the explosion of this communicated with the magazine in which the saluting powder was kept and blew that up. However, everything is still more or less a matter of speculation, but I believe was will be averted, for I am satisfied that the Spanish Government is not responsible for the disaster.

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

Footnote 1: Representative Charles Boutelle and Sen. Eugene Hale, both of Maine, were consistent opponents of war. The Nation, vol. 73, no. 1879 (July-Dec. 1901), 4.

Footnote 2: Helen Long was John D. Long’s daughter.

Footnote 3: Assistant Secretary of State William R. Day and President William McKinley.

Footnote 4: Capt. Charles O’Neil and Fitzhugh Lee, the American general-consul in Havana.

Footnote 5: Gun cotton or nitrocellulose is an explosive created by exposing cellulose to nitric acid or another strong nitrating agent.

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