Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

United States Consul at Havana Fitzhugh Lee to Assistant Secretary of State William R. Day

 

Havana [Cuba], Feb 22

          Copper cases ammunition found intact in ten inch forward magazine starboard side this morning.1 Seems to show that magazine not exploded. Evidence beginning to prove explosion forward on port side by torpedo.2

(signed) Lee.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William R. Day Papers. Addressed immediately below place-date line, “Asst. Sec. of State.” Written at top of page: “Copy” and “rec’d at WASHINGTON, D.C., 3:08 p.m., Feb 22.” The portion in capitals was part of the printed stationery that this copy was written on. The stationery is headed “United States Senate, Abridgment of Message and Documents, W.H. Michael, Editor,” all of which is crossed through. Lee and Day corresponded regularly.

Footnote 1: As part of the investigation, the U.S. Navy had sent divers to investigate the wreck of Maine.

Footnote 2: By “torpedo,” Lee meant mine. The Court of Inquiry investigating the destruction of Maine held its first meeting on 21 February. It is not known where Lee got his information about the unexploded ordnance. The sessions of the Court were all closed-door but Lee admitted later in testimony before Congress that there was not a day while the hearings were being held that he did not converse with the officers who composed the Court. Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Relative to Affairs in Cuba, 55th Congress, 2d session, Report No. 885, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1898), 537. Also, Lee’s friend, Charles D. Sigsbee, the commander of Maine, was allowed to attend all the Court sessions. Message from the President of the United States Transmitting the Report of the Naval Court of Inquiry Upon the Destruction of the United States Battle Ship Maine in Havana Harbor, February 15, 1898. Together with the Testimony Taken Before the Court, 55th Congress, 2d Session, Document 207, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1898), 9. It is interesting that Lee’s conclusion about the cause of the explosion anticipated the findings of the court. See: Report of the Naval Court of Inquiry upon the Destruction of the United States Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, 21 March 1898.

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