Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Assistant Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U. S. S. ST. PAUL,       

At Sea, July 18, 1898. 

Sir:-

          Referring to my letter of the 12th inst., as to the best method of taking the City of Santiago de Cuba, based upon the information of the defenses of the town and the entrance to the harbor as gained in the taking in of the Merrimac and during the course of imprisonment within Spanish lines, and referring to my verbal request of the same date to go to the front to see General Miles,1 and place my knowledge and services at his disposal, I have the honor to report, to confirm my verbal report, as follows, earlier written report having been prevented by pressure of duty in connection with the “Colon2 and with the raising of mines in the channel:

     1. I reported to General Miles at General Wheeler’s3 Headquarters about 11 a.m. the 16th inst.4 and accompanied him in reconnoissance along our lines. After returning to General Shafter’s5 Headquarters, I explained with map the condition of defenses at the mouth of the harbor and pointed out the commanding position of Punta Gorda battery and its command of Zocapa batteries6 and approaches to same in assault from Westward. General Miles then prepared despatches to General Henry7 at Siboney and to the Admiral8 looking toward the landing of troops as previously contemplated to the Westward at Cabanas, and requested me to carry the despatches and to accompany General Henry in the proposed movement against the defenses at the entrance.

     2. Reaching Siboney about 10.00 P. M., I delivered the despatches to General Henry and conferred with him as to the movement, which the despatches directed to be ready to begin at noon on the 14th, receiving from him instructions to carry to the troops on the “Yale,” “Columbia” and “Duchesse” if arrived.

     3. Reporting to the Admiral on board the “New York” with the despatches, the directions: from General Henry to the troops were carried by the Vixen about 11.00 P. M.

     4. On the 14th, after joining General Henry, with chart of the harbor, and explaining location of batteries, a re-connoissance to Westward was decided upon by the General, for which the Suwanee, offered by the Admiral, was used, proceeding to           instead of Cabanas, the General having adopted the Admiral’s suggestion of the former place instead of Cabanas on account of the latter being exposed to the fire of the Western batteries.

     5. After the re-connoissance, and taking account of the location of Punta Gorda battery, General Henry decided to adopt the plan of movement from the Eastward upon Punta Gorda neck, occupying Chamcoa Charabacca Point9 by artillery, the directions from General Miles having directed him not to expose his men to artillery fire. He decided to send despatches to General Miles that night by myself, giving information, with chart explanation, of the movement decided upon and requesting an advance from the Northward by extending our left flank in addition to advance by troops from ships from Southward, landing at Aguadores and points to Eastward, and requesting that artillery be sent down from our right on the Western side of harbor10 to occupy eminence opposite and flanking Punta Gorda, as suggested by the Admiral.

     6. Upon returning on board the Suwanee, however, information was given that the City11 had surrendered, and General Henry directed me simply to convey to the Admiral his full concurrence in the advisability of the advance from Eastward upon Punta Gorda neck and to send to General Miles a telegram of General Henry’s subsequent whereabouts.

Very respectfully,     

R.P. Hobson.           

Asst. Naval Constructor, U.S.N.

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 235. Addressed below close: “Commander in Chief.” Stamp above the place-date line: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION,/AUG 4, 1898.” Docketing on separate page and in two columns. In the left column, the docketing reads: “U.S.S.St. Paul,/At sea,July 18, 1898./Hobson, R.P./Asst. [Naval Constr], USN./Report on Mission/with Army at Santiago.” At the top of that column is a Bureau of Navigation stamp with the date “AUG 17,” and “1898,” along the sides and the identification number “132953” in the middle. The right column on the docketing page reads: “U. S. S. ST. PAUL,/Tompkinsville, N. Y.,/July 22, 1898./Respectfully forwarded./C.D.Sigsbee/Captain, U. S. N.,/Commanding.” Immediately below that is a dotted line running the width of the column followed by: “U. S. FLAGSHIP New York,/Guantanamo Bay/Aug 7 1898. There is below that a solid line running the width of the column, followed by: RESPECTFULLY RECEIVED/TO Secretary of the Navy/W.T. Sampson/Nipe Channel/COMMANDER IN CHIEF U. S. NAVAL FORCE,/NORTH ATLANTIC STATION.”

Footnote 1: Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles. Hobson had firsthand knowledge of Santiago Bay having attempted to sink the Merrimac in the channel leading to it, then being captured and imprisoned in the Punta Gorda fortress overlooking the bay, and then being imprisoned in Santiago de Cuba itself. Richmond Hobson, The sinking of the “Merrimac” (New York: The Century Co., 1899), 304.

Footnote 2: The Cristobál Colón had been sunk during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba on 3 July and Hobson was involved in the attempted salvage of the ship.

Footnote 3: Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler.

Footnote 4: This phrase is a handwritten interlineation.

Footnote 5: Maj. Gen. William R. Schafter.

Footnote 6: That is, Socapa Battery on the western side of the entrance to Santiago Bay.

Footnote 7: Brig. Gen. Guy V. Henry commanded a division in the Fifth Army Corps.

Footnote 8: RAdm. William T. Sampson

Footnote 9: Possibly, Cubera Point, Cuba.

Footnote 10: The two words, “of harbor” is a handwritten interlineation.

Footnote 11: Santiago de Cuba.

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