Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Colby M. Chester to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

 

U.S.S.CINCINNATI,2nd Rate,

St. Thomas, D.W.I.1

Sept. 2, 1898.

SIR:-

     1. As part of the record of this ship for the month of August,I have the honor to submit the following report of the attack by the Spanish Forces on the Lighthouse at Cape San Juan on August 8th.

     2. On August 7th,I was ordered by Captain Fredk.Rodgers,2 Commanding U.S.S.PURITAN,to proceed to maintain the blockade of the port of San Juan,Porto Rico, which had been left open by the withdrawal of the U.S.S.NEW ORLEANS.

I proceeded immediately and, as directed, stopped at Cape San Juan,to take coal from the U.S.S.HANNIBAL. There I found the U.S.S.AMPHITRITE and LEYDEN,and Captain Barclay3 had a party of seamen on shore holding the Lighthouse. Under the protection of the party were about seventy (70) Porto Rican refugees,most of whom were women and children. The town of Fajardo had been occupied by our Naval forces,but upon their withdrawal,it was raided by some Spanish troops,and it was feared they would make an attack on the Lighthouse.

     3. Just before dark of the 8th August,reports came in that a large force,said to be several hundred strong,was advancing to retake the Lighthouse,and notwithstanding the urgent necessity of re-establishing the blockade,I deemed that the circumstances warrented my remaining to assist in the defense of the place, especially as a night attack was threatened,and the CINCINNATI was the only ship present with search lights in working order.

     4. At about midnight,firing was begun on shore,and the three ships,under the glare of the CINCINNATI’S search lights,immediately began to shell the woods and slope of the hill on which the Lighthouse stands. This together with the fire on shore,soon drove back the attacking party.

     5. Early the next morning,as Captain Barclay wished to withdraw his men,and the refugees, a force consisting of the Marine Guard of this ship,under command of 1st. Lieutenant John A.Lejeune,4 U.S.M.C.assisted by Naval Cadet Y.S.Williams,5U.S.N.,with about the same number of men from the AMPHTRITE (30), landed and covered the party on shore while the withdrawal took place. The work was well done and the refugees were soon on board the LEYDEN, which vessel transported them to Ponce,Porto Rico.

     6. Soon after the CINCINNATI left for the blockade,before I could learn the effects and details of the night’s work,for which I respectfully refer to the report of Captain C.J.Barclay,U.S.N. Commanding U.S.S.AMPHITRITE.6

Very respectfully,

CM Chester

Captain, U.S.N.Comdg. and

Senior Officer Present.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 237. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department.” Docketed on separate sheet: Bureau of Navigation stamp with the identification number “139762” in the middle. Below this is written “St. Thomas DWI/Septr. 2nd.” This is followed by a stamp: “C.M. CHESTER/Captain U.S. Navy,/Commanding.” Below this on the same page is written: “Reporting on action/at Cape San Juan/Lighthouse on Augt/8th.”

Footnote 1: That is, Danish West Indies.

Footnote 2: Capt. Frederick K. Rodgers.

Footnote 3: Capt. Charles J. Barclay.

Footnote 4: Lt. John A. Lejeune, USMC.

Footnote 5: Cadet Yancy S. Williams.

Footnote 6: For a fuller account of this engagement, see: Lt. Charles N. Atwater to Capt. Charles J. Barclay, 10 August 1898.

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