Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Squadron, to Major General William R. Shafter

No. 7.                       U. S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate,

Off Santiago de Cuba,  Cuba,

July 2, 1898.

My dear General:-

          I have your note of this morning;  just received at 11:20.1

          2.   An Officer of my staff has already reported to you the firing which we did this morning;2  but I must say in addition to what he told you that the forts which we silenced were not forts which would give you any inconvenience in capturing the City,  as they cannot fire,  except to seaward.    They cannot even prevent our entrance into the harbor of Santiago.    Our trouble, from the first, has been 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

          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 countermining mines,  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.4

          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 me from making a direct attack upon the ships within the port.

Very truly,

W.T. Sampson

Rear Admiral, U.S.Navy,

   Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force,

North Atlantic Station.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG165, Box 480. Addressed below close: “Major General/W. H. SHAFTER, U.S.V.,.” Docketed on separate sheet: “2331/98/5th Army Corps/Received July 2/Off Santiago de Cuba,/July 2, 1898./Sampson, W.T.,/Rear Admiral U.S.N./Comdg. N. A. Station/Discusses the pros and cons/of an attack on Santiago/by his fleet, etc.” In a separate hand and in red ink: “File.”

Footnote 3: A later examination demonstrated that the mines planted in the entranceway to the harbor at Santiago de Cuba were defective and would not have exploded. E. E. Capehart, “The Mine Defense of Santiago Harbor,” The Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, vol. 24, no. 4 (December 1898), pp. 585-604.

Footnote 4: The city surrendered before any countermining operation was undertaken.

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