Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
U. S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate,
Off Santiago de Cuba,
July 15th, 1898
I have the honor to continue the report of the operations with which the fleet is concerned.
1. On July 1st a demonstration was made by a Michigan Volunteer Regiment at Aguadores; this was under the command of General Duffield. It had been requested that some of the fleet assist the attack to begin at daylight,and the New York,Gloucester and Suwanee were moved up,but the troops which came by rail to within a mile and a half of Aguadores did not finally arrive until about 9:20 The point thus named is the mouth of the small river San Juan,cutting through a deep defile and emptying into the sea; there is here an iron bridge of a railway leading from the mines near Sibouney into Santiago. There is a very ancient fort near the water from which had been kept flying a Spanish Flag,and on the hill above were two small rifle pits. A varying number of the enemy (16 to 20) had been counted from time to time while waiting for the troops; these disappeared when firing by the ships began. The troops were advanced as far as the bridge,and there remained: a corner of the fort was knocked off by our shells,and the flag-staff shot away. Very desultory firing was kept up between our troops and the Spanish from the wood adjacent the rifle-pits until about noon a small field-piece was brought down the gorge which fired four or five times. The New York which had begun a bombardment of the city,at four miles [over] the hills,on observing this enfiladed the gorgem[,]firing several 8” and several 4”. No firing by the enemy was observed after this. The troops returned to Sibouney about 12:30 without any further firing. The Oregon was signaled to join in the firing into the city and both ships continued the bombardment until 1:45 p.m. Eighteen eight inch shell were reported later as having fallen into the city.
On the afternoon of this day (July 1st) I received information from General Shafter that he would assault at daylight of the 2nd,and requesting me to keep up a fire at the batteries on the bluffs. The squadron was consequently closed in early in the morning of the 2nd and began a vigorous fire at 5:30; the bombardment lasted until 7:30, Punta Gorda battery being particularly fired at by the Oregon and Indiana,which were moved close up to the entrance for that purpose. This bombardment served however no particular end in that the attack proposed by General Shafter did not take place on this day. The result of the bombardment was telephoned to General Shafter as follows,
To General Shafter 9:45 A. M. July 2nd.
Admiral Sampson has this morning heavily bombarded forts at entrance of Santiago,and also Punta Gorda Battery inside silencing their fire, [Do] you with [i.e., wish]further firing on his part? He began at 5:30 finished at 7:30[.] Your message to him here,impossible to force entrance until we can clear channel of mines a work of some time after forts are taken possession of by your troops. Nothing was accomplished yesterday by the advance on Aguadores.
(signed) Lieut. Staunton
and the following was received from General Shafter,one at 10:20 and the other at 11:20 a. m.
Admiral Sampson 10:20 a. m. July 2nd,
It is impossible for me to say when I can take batteries at entrance to harbor if they are as difficult to take as those which we have been pitted against it will be some time and a great loss of life. I am at a loss to see why the Navy cannot work under a destructive fire as well as the Army. My loss yesterday was over five hundred men. By all means keep up fire on everything in sight of you until demolished, I expect however,with time and sufficient men to capture the forts along the Bay.
Admiral Sampson 11:30 a. m. July 2nd
Terrible fight yesterday but my line now strongly intrenched about 3/4 mile from town. urge that you make effort immediately to force the entrance to avoid future losses among my men which are already very heavy. You can now operate with less loss of life than I can. Please telephone ans.
W.R.Shafter, Major General.
I wrote to General Shafter as follows:
No. 7 U. S. Flagship New York,1st Rate,
Off Santiago de Cuba,
July 2nd, 1898.
My Dear General:--
I have your note of this morning; just received at 11:20
2. An Officer of my staff has already reported to you the firing which we did this morning but I must say in addition to what he told you that the forts which we silenced were not the forts which would give you any inconvenience in capturing the City,as they cannot fire,except to sea-ward. They cannot even prevent our entrance into the harbor of Santiago. Our trouble,from the first,has been that the channel to the harbor is well strewn with observation mines which would certainly result in the sinking of one or more of our ships if we attempted to enter the harbor,and by the sinking of a ship the object of the attempt to enter the harbor would be defeated by the preventing of further progress on our part.
3. It was my hope that an attack,on your part,of these shore batteries,from the rear,would leave us at liberty to drag the channel for torpedoes.
4. If it is your earnest desire that we should force our entrance,I will at once prepare to undertake it. I think,however,that our position and yours,would be made more difficult if,as is possible,we fail in our attempt.
5. We have,in our outfit at Guantanamo,forty countermines,which I will bring here with as little delay as possible,and,if we can succeed in freeing the entrance of mines by their use, I will enter the harbor.
6. This work,which is unfamiliar to us,will require considerable time.
7. It is not so much the loss of men as it is the loss of ships which has,until now,deterred us from making a direct attack upon the ships within the port.
W. T. Sampson,
Rear Admiral, U.S.Navy,
Commander-in-Chief, U.S.Naval Force,
North Atlantic Station.
W.R.Shafter,U. S. V.
I started the morning of the 3rd July by pre-arrangement to confer with the General as to a plan of combined attack,but that conference was prevented by the battle with the Spanish fleet,which is made the subject of a special report, so that I will not enter upon it here.
On July 4th I received the following dispatch from General Shafter:
Headquarters 5th Army Corps,July 4th.
Commanding U.S.Navy Forces:
Through negligence of our Cuban allies Pando with 5,000 men entered the city of Santiago last night. This nearly doubles their forces. I have demanded their surrender which they refuse but I am giving them some wounded prisoners and delaying operations to let foreign citizens get out and there will be no action before the 6th and perhaps the 7th. Now if you will force your way into that harbor the town will surrender without any further sacrifice of life. My present position has cost me 1,000 men and I do not wish to lose any more. With my forces on one side and yours on the other,and they have a great terror of the Navy,for they know they cannot hurt you,we shall have them. I ask for an early reply.
Wm. R. Shafter,
Major General,U. S. V.
This despatch shows a complete misapprehension of the circumstances which had to be met.
4. On the night of July 4th the “Reina Mercedes” was sunk by the Spaniards in a manner which would certainly obstruct the larger ships,and possibly the smaller ones. Extensive shore batteries were known to exist,and if our smaller vessels were sent in and were sunk either by the mines,or by the fire of the batteries,the harbor would be effectually closed to us. It was essential to the new scheme of attack of this mine field,that the positions occupied by the Eastern and Western batteries should be carried,and this was the scheme of action first proposed by General Shafter in his discussion with my Chief of Staff,who was sent by me to meet General Shafter the day of his arrival. The Chief of Staff carried with him a chart of the harbor and explained the situation stating that it was regarded by us as a movement of primal importance that these points should be carried before any attention was paid to the city; the possession of these points insured the destruction of the mines by us,the entrance of our heavy ships in the harbor,and the assault on Admiral Cervera’s Squadron inside; to this General Shafter gave most cordial assent,and stated that he had no intention of attacking the city proper,that here (pointing to the entrance) was the key to the situation,and that when we had this we had all. This was repeated in his interview with General Garcia at Acerraderos.
I do not know why a change of plan occurred,unless it was that the troops on being landed advanced themselves so far on the roads towards Santiago before any specific plan of operations had been decided upon,that it was found inconvenient to divert them to the other points. I believe that such adherence would have resulted in a much quicker surrender of the Spanish troops,and with much less loss of life excepting possibly to the Navy,which would have borne the brunt of the attack instead of the Army. The urgency of course was lessened by the destruction of the fleet on their sortie from the harbor,but the difficulty of entrance remained much the same.
8. I sent word to General Shafter that I would come out and discuss the situation with him,and received the following telegrams on the 5th instant from him:
“In camp near Santiago” July 5th. General Shafter’s compliments to Admiral Sampson and he can see him out here at any time but General Shafter is not able to go to Sibouney. He desires very much to see the Admiral and especially if an attempt is to be made to enter the harbor. General Shafter doubts his ability to keep his command in food through Siboney. Large reinforcements of Light Artillery and Infantry are on the way. General Shafter congratulates Admiral Sampson on his splendid success with the Spanish fleet.
(2:23 p. m.)
“In camp near Santiago” July 5th. I am directed by the President to confer with you fully as to a joint attack on Santiago. I am unable to ride in to see you. Can you not come here to see me? If not I will send two of my staff officers in tomorrow morning to represent me.”
Shafter,U.S.V. Comdg. (3:12 PM)
“In camp near Santiago” July 5th. The landing at Siboney is becoming very precarious on account of the heavy surf which is beginning to prevail. It is not probable that the troops on the west side of Santiago Bay, near Cabanitas have left,and that place might be utilized as a landing place for troops and supplies. Will you kindly give me your views on the subject. I fear we can use Siboney but little longer.”
Shafter,Comdg. (3:27 P. M. )
and on the same date from the Department:
“Dated Washington July 5th. The President has just issued this order to the Secretary of War and to the Secretary of the Navy: General Shafter and Admiral Sampson should confer at once for co-operation in taking Santiago ; after the fullest exchange of views they should determine the time and manner of attack; the Department desires you carry out these instructions.
Long (12:30 p. m. )
9. It has been my desire to do everything possible to co-operate with General Shafter,and steps had already been taken to utilize the mines which were on board the Resolute; she was ordered up from Guantanamo on the 28th of June for this purpose. Such an attack as that which the General proposed in his third telegram, herewith mentioned was in complete accord with the orders which had been held by myself,and discussed with my staff. It was proposed to bring up the battalion of Marines from Guantanamo,and add to them the Marines of the Squadron,thus making a force of nearly a thousand men,which might be landed either at the foot of the Morro in Estrella Cove, to assault the Morro, or to the westward for the purpose of assaulting the west battery; at the same time detaching a force of two or three thousand men from the army and proceeding by Aguadores occupy the ground between the Morro and that just to the northward of it. I had no doubt of the success of this plan. I arranged to visit General Shafter on the morning of the 6th,but was unable myself to go,being ill abed, and my chief of staff went instead.
The following arrangement was come to:
Camp near San Juan River,Cuba,July 6, 1898
Minutes of a conversation between Captain Chadwick of the Navy,representing Admiral Sampson,and General Shafter.
That a long continued bombardment be made of Santiago from the sea,with the heavier guns of the fleet,the fleet firing slowly and continuously during say 24 hours,at a rate of 1 shell every 5 minutes,excepting 1 hour, at the rate of 1 every 2 minutes. This refers to the 8” to 13” shells. If this be not sufficient to bring the enemy to terms,that an assault be arranged on the Socapa battery,using marines and the Cuban Forces under General Cebreco,and an effort made to enter the harbor with some of the smaller ships of the squadron. This attack to be made upon knowing the result of a second demand made upon the Commanding Officer of the Spanish Forces for surrender of the place,stating to him the conditions that surround him; destruction of the Spanish fleet,etc.,and the number of forces opposed to him. To give him time to consider the matter,the date of bombardment is fixed at noon of the 9th unless he positively refuses to consider it at all,when it will be begun at such time as is convenient to ourselves. General Shafter will furnish Admiral with correct map showing where his lines will be surrounding the city,and also open telegraphic communication by the way of Sibouney down to near Aguadores to give information as to falling of shots.”
At the same time a somewhat undefined truce still existing by which no firing was going on,a letter was draughted by General Shafter and my Chief of Staff,of which the following is a copy,proposing a surrender.
Headquarters 5th Army Corps,
Camp near San Juan River,Cuba,
Commanding the Spanish Forces,
Santiago de Cuba,
In view of the events of the 3rd instant I have the honor to lay before your Excellency certain propositions to which I trust your Excellency will give the consideration which in my opinion they deserve.
2. I enclose a Bulletin of the engagement of Sunday morning which resulted in the complete destruction of Admiral Cervera’s fleet,the loss of 600 of his officers and men and the capture of the remainder. The Admiral,General Parades and all others who escaped alive are now prisoners on board the Harvard and St. Louis,and the latter ship in which are the Admiral,General Parades and the surviving Captains (all except the Captain of the Almirante Oquendo who was slain) has already sailed for the United States. If desired by you,this may be confirmed by your Excellency sending an officer under a flag of truce to Admiral Sampson and he can arrange to visit the Harvard which will not sail until tomorrow,and obtain the details from Spanish officers and men aboard that ship.
3. Our fleet is now perfectly free to act,and I have the honor to state that unless a surrender by noon of the ninth instant a bombardment of the city will be begun and continued with the heavy guns of our ships. The city is easy range of these guns,the eight inch being capable of firing nine thousand five hundred,the thirteen-inch of course much farther. The ships can so lie that with a range of eight thousand yards they can reach the center of the city.
4. I make the suggestion of a surrender purely in a humanitarian spirit. I do not wish to cause the slaughter of any more men, either of your Excellency’s forces or my own; the final result under circumstances so disadvantageous to your Excellency being a foregone conclusion.
5. As your Excellency may wish to make reference of so momentous a question to your Excellency’s home government,it is for this purpose that I have placed the time of the resumption of hostilities sufficiently far in the future to allow a reply being received.
6. I beg an early answer from your Excellency.
I have the honor to be
Wm. R. Shafter,
Major General,U.S.V,Comdg. 5th Army Corps.
I thus have been surprised to see published in the papers any statement of refusal on my part to endeavor to force my way into the harbor,and cannot understand,in case the newspaper report be a truthful statement of what was send by him,General Shafter’s sending any report of this kind.
I have,moreover would animadvert upon the apparently extraordinary openness with which every detail of hope,effort,or suggestion on the part of the army has been published. The unwisdom of such procedure is,too manifest for discussion.
Asst. Naval Constructor Hobson and the men with him were on this same date exchanged,and were received on board the flagship.
11. I was informed by General Shafter during the evening of July 7th that the Spanish commander had decided to refer the question of surrender to Madrid, as had been proposed in the letter of the day previous.
12. On July 9th I received the following from General Shafter:
Headquarters 5th Army Corps July 9th, 1898
Spanish Commander proposes to abandon Santiago if permitted to march out to Holguin and not be attacked en route. The truce will continue for the present and I will notify you of its discontinuance.
Shafter, Major General
13. On the 10th I received the following from General Shafter:
Headquarters 5th Army Corps, July 10th.
I have the honor to inform you that it is expected that the bombardment of the city of Santiago de Cuba will begin this evening or tomorrow morning. I enclose you a revised chart showing position of the American and Spanish Lines. I will communicate to you later in the day the exact hour when the firing should begin and it is respectfully requested that you will be ready to begin at 4 p. m. to-day. The falling of the first shell will be observed and the results communicated to you by signal. It would be very disastrous for the morale of my men to have any of the shell fall near them and I think it would be better,at first,to put your shots in the westward part of the city near the Bay.
W.R.Shafter, Major General,U.S.V.
Dated 2 p. m. I desire you to begin firing upon Santiago de Cuba as near 4 p. m. today as possible.
W.R.Shafter, Major General.
Dated Sibouney July 9th. Headquarters 5th Army Corps.
Messages I sent you yesterday and today have apparently been received by you. I have just asked that you commence firing on Santiago at four P. M. and sent you this morning our latest map of our position; can you begin bombardment tomorrow morning? If you can please do so and continue it as arranged with Captain Chadwick.
Shafter, Major General.
14. As the flagship had gone to Guantanamo for coal on July 8th I sent instructions to Commodore Watson, who was then off Santiago in the Newark regarding the carrying out of any bombardment necessary; as he returned to Guantanamo on the 10th before the hour at which it was to begin,the Brooklyn,Texas, and Indiana had begun firing. I started in the flagship the same afternoon for Santiago,and the next morning took up position close in to the beach near Aguadores as I had been informed that the eight inch shell fired by the Brooklyn the previous afternoon had fallen about a thousand yards short,with the Brooklyn and Indiana continued the bombardment,beginning at 9:27 A. M.,until 1:00 P. M.,at which hour it was requested by General Shafter that it cease.
Very careful arrangements had been made by which the fall of our shell should be reported. The flagship anchored with a kedge 400 yards from the shore near the point where the telegraph station had been established,and the reports from the front were signaled to us from time to time,though not as frequently as was desired.
On July 12th a report was sent in from Army Headquarters giving a detailed statement as to the fall of shell,which showed that we had fired with great effect; several fires had been started in the city,and as near as can be made out nearly all of our shell fell within the city limits,some few falling into the water.
Received the following dispatches:
Dated Headquarters 5th Army Corps,July 11th.
My lines are now complete to the bay north of Santiago. Your shots can be observed from there perfectly at least those that fall in the town. Flames followed several shots fired to-day:- but seemed to be quickly extinguished. A Number of shots fell in the bay close to a small gunboat lying near the shore. At present they are considering a demand for unconditional surrender. I will notify you of the results. I think it advisable to put in some heavy shots say ten to thirteen inches tomorrow and see if we cannot start a fire. Be careful not to shoot beyond the town as my troops are within one and one half miles of it and you will be firing directly toward us.
Shafter, Major General.
Headquarters of the Army, on board U.S.S.Yale off Siboney,July 11th.
I desire to land troops from the Yale, Columbia and Duchess to the West of the Bay of Santiago Harbor,and follow it up with additional troops,moving east against the Spanish troops defending Santiago on the West. I will be glad if you can designate the most available point for disembarking the troops render all the assistance practicable to the troops as they move east. Will notify you when troops are ready for movement. If you have an officer conversant with the locality,will be glad to see him.
Nelson A. Miles, General Comdg.
In response to the despatch from General Shafter I sent the following to Commodore Watson, Playa del Este.
“Send Oregon and Massachusetts to Santiago for one days bombardment of city with thirteen inch shell. They should arrive Wednesday morning. Shell will be supplied Oregon.”
To General Shafter: “Admiral Sampson proposes to begin bombardment tomorrow morning with thirteen inch shell unless there are reasons for not doing so. Will General Shafter please inform him of the distance of the fall of the shot from the Cathedral using the Cathedral as a point of reference,and he would like particularly to know immediately if any shell fall in the water.”
The Oregon with Commodore Watson’s broad pennant,and the Massachusetts arrived promptly on the morning of the 13th,and we were prepared to fire 13 inch shell into the city from these two ships and the Indiana over carefully prepared ranges and from points near the beach with ships anchored. I however on the evening of the 12th received the following:
Dated Santiago de Cuba July 12th. A truce exists and negotiations are now pending with the Spanish Commander; all firing must be discontinued during the cessation of hostilities. Due notice of the commencement will be given you.
Shafter, Major General.
Date Headquarters near Santiago,July 12th,
A truce now exists and will probably continue all day tomorrow the 13th.
Shafter, Major General.
On the morning of the 13th I sent the following to General Shafter:
To General Shafter, I am now prepared to shell the city of Santiago with three of my largest ironclad with 13” projectiles; can commence at short notice. Will await your signal.
and I received from the Department dated July 13th
“The commanding general of the army urges and Secretary of War urgently requests that Navy force harbor; confer with commander of army. Wishing to do all that is reasonably possible to insure the surrender of the enemy,I leave the matter to your discretion,except that the U.S. armored vessels must not be risked.”
I take this to be a continuation of the preceding matter to which I have referred. I think that the falsity of the suggestion that the Navy was unwilling to co-operate in forcing an entrance to Santiago is already sufficiently shown,particularly by the minutes of the arrangement shown in par. 9 I would however add,to show the good will of the navy and my desire and understanding that in the case the enemy failed to come to terms through bombardment the harbor entrance should be forced, that in the mean while all preparations were completed for countermining the mines having been removed purpose from the Resolute to the collier Lebanon, Lieutenants Roy Smith and E. E. Capehart,who are mining experts placed aboard the Lebanon,and everything arranged for action whenever desired. The only reason for postponement came from the General Commanding the Army. The fact is that there has been no fighting by army,as far as my information [goes?],since July [2d?].
The Navy has been placed in such an invidious and false position before the country through the very unwise publication of General Shafter’s telegrams,that I think this matter should in some way be made clear to the public.
At 1:00 P. M. yesterday,the 14th,I received the following from the signal station near Aguadores.
“Apparently there is every prospect of evacuation I will inform you earliest practicable moment.”
“At 1:15 P. M. I will be glad if you will send to these headquarters an officer to represent you during negotiations for evacuation.”
I had previously on the 13th informed General Shafter that I desired to be represented in negotiations as this combined operations.
At 2:23 received the following:
“The enemy has surrendered,will be down to see you soon.
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy,
Commander-in-Chief, U.S.Naval Force,
North Atlantic Station