Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

[Extract]

thirteenth of July [1898, Washington, DC]

          We had a long sit-down of two or three hours, beginning with the President, myself, Admiral Sicard, and Captain Mahan on the one side, and General Alger on the other1—terminating in a meeting of the whole Cabinet. We are all pained at the delays at Santiago. Our men there are up to their knees in water one minute, and under the blaze of the sun the next. The commanding officers have been ordered over and over again to bring the matter to a head, but they delay—perhaps for a good reason, although we are inclined to think the Spanish commander is tricking them along with truces and offers of terms of surrender.2

     There was a very pretty scrimmage between Captain Mahan and Secretary Alger. Alger began his usual complaint about the Navy. We have furnished him transports to carry his men, on account of his own neglect in making provision for transportation. We have landed them; have helped him in every way we can; and have destroyed the Spanish fleet. Now he is constantly grumbling because we don’t run the risk of blowing up our ships by going over the mines at the entrance of Santiago harbor and capturing the city, which he ought to capture himself, having some 20,000 troops against perhaps 5000 or 6000. Of course the Navy ought to help all it can, and it is under orders to do so.

     But Mahan, at last, lost his patience and sailed into Alger; told him he didn’t know anything about the use or purpose of the Navy, and that he didn’t propose to sit by and hear the Navy attacked. It rather pleased the President, who, I think, was glad of the rebuke. The matter was at last settled by an order to the Commanding Officer of the Army in Santiago, and to-day I think something will be done one way or the other—that is, either a surrender made on our terms or an assault begun.3

     In the margin Governor Long added the following postscript in his own hand.

     Since I dictated this, Sec. Alger has come in. He apologized for his attitude yesterday. And he seemed so dejected at the condition of the troops under the risk of yellow fever and at the burdens which are on them, that my heart was touched for him. He is a sanguine, generous man, but the task—and it is a tremendous one—is too much for him.

Source Note Print: Lawrence S. Mayo, ed., America of Yesterday as Reflected in the Journal of John Davis Long Governor of Massachusetts Secretary of the Navy. (Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1923), pp. 203-4.

Footnote 1: President William McKinley; RAdm. Montgomery Sicard, President of the Naval War Board; Capt. Alfred Thayer Mahan, member of the Naval War Board; Russell A. Alger, Secretary of War.

Footnote 2: Spanish Gen. José Toral y Vázquez was then in command at Santiago in place of Lt. Gen. Arsenio Linares Y Pombo, who had been wounded in fighting against the Americans on 1 July. A number of historians agree that Toral dragged out negotiations and stalled for time as the first surrender demand was made by American commander Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter on 3 July and the final surrender was not completed until 17 July. However, Toral’s tactics were not without cost and conditions for the residents of Santiago de Cuba during this time deteriorated badly. See, for example, Cosmas, An Army for Empire, 223-30.

Footnote 3: Presumably, this message was one from Alger to Shafter accepting and approving Shafter’s determination to assault the Spanish lines unless his surrender terms were accepted before noon on 14 July. Correspondence-War with Spain, 139.

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