Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Major General Nelson A. Miles to Secretary of War Russell A. Alger

Headquarters of the Army,

Port of Ponce, Porto Rico, July 30, 1898.

The Honorable the Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.

     Sir: This command was made up of detachments of troops sent from Santiago, Tampa, Charleston, and Newport News, and it was not intended at first to make more than a rendezvous for the purpose of organizing the command at Guantanamo, or one of the islands near Cape San Juan. On the representation of one of the naval officers, however, Point Fajardo was selected. It was later found that this point was more of an open roadstead than a safe harbor, and, further, that it was well known that we were to land there, the Spaniards being thus enabled to concentrate their forces in that vicinity before our arrival. In addition to this, I found later that the road was not suitable there for wagons or artillery. Before leaving Guantanamo, however, I had expected lighters, steam tugs, etc., to be sent from Santiago, and also a construction corps from New York. None of these arrived, nor did we meet them, as expected, in the Windward Passage. This left the command without lighters and no wagon transportation. The above are some of the reasons why I decided to take the harbors of Guanica and Ponce, where we were least expected, and from which latter point there is a macadamized road, which cost the Spanish Government millions of dollars, and over which it is only 70 miles to San Juan.

     We have now landed in a perfectly healthy country, well settled, and where, if necessary, a large amount of beef can be obtained and also transportation, and under the circumstances, in my mind, much more suitable and more important, in a strategic way, than the other point, besides ample time will be furnished here for thoroughly organizing the expedition before the march, and for creating a favorable impression upon the people. Every precaution has been taken to notify transports coming to proceed to this point, a large number of which have arrived.

     Marching across the country, rather than under the guns of the fleet, will have in every way a desirable effect upon the inhabitants of this country. At least four-fifths of the people hail with great joy the arrival of United States troops, and requests for our national flag to place over public buildings come in from every direction.1

     I have the honor, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Nelson A. Miles, Major-General Commanding.

Source Note Print: Army Correspondence, vol. 1, pp. 337-38.

Footnote 1: For criticism by naval officers of Miles’ decision to change the invasion site, see: Francis J. Higginson to William T. Sampson, 2 August 1898. Here Miles was responding to a telegram from the Russell A. Alger, the Secretary of War, of 26 July, that in part read: “Conflicting reports here as to your place of landing. Why did you change?” Army Correspondence, vol. 1, 320.

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