Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

Playa del Este, [Cuba] July 20, 1898. 

(Received 11.07 p. m.)

Secretary War, Washington:

     Admiral Sampson1 came on board the Yale this morning. He had not at that time seen the order of Secretary Long.2 He was furnished a copy of it, and after sending to his flagship found the order there. I asked him to give us as strong a force of the Navy as possible in the movement against Porto Rico. He said he would inform me later. At 5 o’clock he came on board, and stated that he would furnish, to assist our landing, the Yale and Columbia. These are the two ships with which we left Charleston, S. C. He said that the Columbia would take three or four days to coal. He also stated that he would give us the Cincinnati, but does not know where she is. Also quote the New Orleans. If she is now at San Juan, quote. If the New Orleans is not at San Juan, there is nothing to prevent the small Spanish gunboats coming out of that harbor and attacking the transports en route, and it is highly important that she should remain, blockading that harbor while we land at Point Fajardo, Cape San Juan. This assures but two vessels to cover our landing, and these are loaded with troops. The Columbia and Yale could not silence a piece of artillery on shore without risking the lives of from 300 to 1,500 of Garretson’s brigade on board.3 This, in my judgment, is not in accordance with the order of Secretary Long—to give such assistance as is necessary for landing—or in accordance with your telegram of the 18th. I think you and the President4 should be apprised of the fact that, while these 10 transports, loaded with troops and munitions of war, are waiting here, a great portion of the American Navy [are] within cannon shot of this place, and some of them actively engaged bringing into this harbor vessels which were captured by and surrendered to the Army.5 There are battle ships enough here to enable us to land within cannon shot of the city of San Juan. I request that positive orders be given to the Navy to cover the landing of at least 10,000 troops on the island of Porto Rico without delay, as that number will be there within a week.

Nelson A. Miles, Major-General Commanding.

Source Note Print: Correspondence-War with Spain, vol. 1, p. 297.

Footnote 1: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 3: Brig. Gen. George A. Garretson commanded a brigade of Volunteers, 1,800 of which had shipped out from Charleston, SC, on the Columbia and Yale on 9 July. Correspondence-War with Spain, 1: 106-15.

Footnote 5: On the disagreement concerning who controlled the Spanish ships that were captured when Santiago de Cuba surrendered, see: Russell A. Alger to William M. Shafter, 19 July 1898.

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