Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Major General William R. Shafter to Adjutant General Henry C. Corbin

[Extract]

              Headquarters Department of the East,

“Governor’s Island, New York City, December 24, 1898.

The Adjutant-General, U. S. A., Washington, D.C.

  Sir,--I desire to invite your attention and the attention of the Secretary of War1 to the report of Admiral Sampson2 in reference to operations at Santiago, published in the Army and Navy Register of December 3d.

     “I cannot permit this to pass without notice, as it is incorrect in all that it states in reference to my assent to the plan which was proposed by the navy, to first attack the forts at the entrance of the harbor, permitting them to enter and take up the mines—a plan of operation that was never contemplated by me, and which, if it had been attempted, would, in my opinion, have resulted most disastrously to my army.

     “I also desire to protest emphatically against the statement made by Admiral Sampson that the men of my army advance themselves on Santiago before any specific plan of operations had been decided upon. The incorrectness of this remark will be shown by the plan of campaign which I made immediately upon the conclusion of my interview with General Garcia, Rabi, and other Cuban officers who were present.3 I had decided, from what I could learn of the coast, that to the eastward of Santiago was the best place to make the landing, and only waited for the interview with General Garcia and his officers to get from them as accurate an idea of the country to be traversed as possible.  At that interview I was convinced that Siboney and Daiquiri were the points at which to land, and that the city of Santiago itself was the objective, as that embraced both the city and the fleet of Admiral Cervera.4 This memorandum was made by Colonel Miley,5 of my staff, upon my dictation, in the presence of Admiral Sampson and General Garcia, and was copied by Captain Staunton,6 of Admiral Sampson’s staff; was fully understood and agreed to, and was carried out to the letter, the navy carrying out the part assigned it of making a feint to the westward of the mouth of the harbor, where Kent’s division7 was sent as though intending to land at Cabanas, and shelling the place indicated to the eastward. With this memorandum in his possession, I cannot understand Admiral Sampson’s making the statements that he has in his report. See his order of June 21st, directing the operations of the navy in co-operating with the army in carrying out the plan of campaign I had decided upon the day before.8

     “From the high rank of the officer making it, I desire that this my reply, and the memorandum submitted herewith, be placed on file at the War Department, and that a copy of the same, if it meets with the approval of the Secretary, be furnished the Secretary of the Navy.9

     “It is true that the navy did, upon meeting me, urge an assault upon the enemy near the mouth of the harbor of Santiago; but in my opinion this was impracticable, and any general fitted to command troops in war would not have adopted the suggestions.

     “The true point of attack was the city of Santiago and the upper end of the bay, and the success that attended this plan is sufficient proof of it. It would have been the height of folly and endangered the safety of the army to have attempted to carry out the plan desired by the navy, and it never for one minute met with my approval.             Very respectfully,

                                           Wm. R. Shafter,

                                        “Major-General U.S.V.”

“Notes on Conference between General Shafter and General Garcia, June 20, 1898.

     “About 12,000 Spanish soldiers at Santiago and vicinity; Spaniards can concentrate at any moment about 4,000 on the west. Proposal made of a feint of 3,000 or 4,000 men at some point west of Santiago de Cuba, and then land expedition at Daiquiri and march on Santiago. Plan proposed for General Castillo10 to have about 1,000 men at Daiquiri while navy bombards, and will capture escaping Spaniards. General Shafter then proposed a plan that on the morning of the 22d he would have the navy bombard Daiquiri, Aguadores, Siboney, and Cabanas, as a feint, and land whole expedition at Daiquiri. About 5,000 Spaniards between city and Daiquiri. General Garcia says Daiquiri is the best base, and General Shafter adopts it. The following numbers were then given by General Castillo: Force at Daiquiri, near wharf, 300 men; at Siboney, 600 men; Aguadores, 150 men; Justici, 150 men; Sardinero, 100 men. It was then decided that General Castillo will take on board the transports 500 men from Aserradero to be landed at Tajababo and joined to his command now there and 500 strong; with this 1,000 men he will be at Daiquiri and assist at landing on the morning of the 22d. General Rabi will, on the 22d, make a demonstration at Cabanas with 500 men, while navy shells. It was then decided by General Garcia to bring his men, about 3,000 or 4,000 strong, from his camp near Palma to Aserradero and be ready to embark on the transports the morning of the 24th, and then be taken to Daiquiri, to join General Shafter. To-morrow (the 21st) navy will make transfer of 500 men to Tajababo, under General Castillo; 500 men under General Rabi will make demonstration on Cabanas on the morning of the 22d.11

Source Note Print: Alger, Spanish-American War, pp. 88-91. Between the close of Shafter’s letter to Corbin and the Notes on the Conference that was enclosed with the latter, Alger printed a description of the origin of those notes. Since Shafter discussed them in his letter to Corbin, the editors have chosen not to print that explanation.

Footnote 1: Secretary of War Russell A. Alger.

Footnote 2: RAdm. William T. Sampson.

Footnote 3: Cuban Gen. Calixto García Iñiguez and Cuban Gen. JesúsSablon Moreno, who used the nom-de-guerre Jesús Rabi.

Footnote 4: The fleet commanded by Spanish Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 5: Shafter’s aide-de-camp Lt. Col. John D. Miley.

Footnote 6: Sampson’s flag secretary Lt. Sidney A. Staunton.

Footnote 7: Brig. Gen. Jacob F. Kent commanded the First Division of 5th Corps.

Footnote 9: Secretary of the Navy John D. Long.

Footnote 10: Cuban Gen. Demetrio Castillo Duany.

Footnote 11: For the places mentioned in this letter, see: map in this section.

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