Secretary of War Russell A. Alger to Major General William M. Shafter
The Supreme Courts of the United States has held that captures made by the Armies and by the Navy jointly or by the Army unassisted by the Navy, are not a subject of prize, in view of this I suggest the floating Marine and Naval property captured should be turned over to the Navy, as the War Department is not to be troubled with them, while the Navy is better fitter to man and take care of them or tow them to U.S. as the President may hereafter order.1
Secretary of War.
A true copy.
Assistant Adjutant general.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 235. Stamped at top left: “x RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N.A. STATION/JUL 19 1898.”
Footnote 1: On the same day, RAdm. William T. Sampson acknowledged having received this copy and discussed the disposition of four Spanish merchant steamers captured in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba by the army. DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 235. For his part, Shafter wrote Sampson that same day to say he would remove army guards “from all the vessels, except two tugs.” The army needed “for our use” those tugs, which the quartermaster’s department had chartered. He also said he would retain “any lighters—and I believe there is one or two” at Santiago. These were needed to transport cargo from “heavy vessels that cannot go to the docks.” Ibid. However, in order to transport the American army from Santiago de Cuba, President William McKinley, on 24 July, ordered that the Spanish transports be returned to the army for its use. Miley, With Shafter in Cuba, 187.