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Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long



April 15, 1898.        


     On behalf of the War Board I have to report as follow:

     The five deep-sea patrol vessels for the North Atlantic coast which have already been purchased have been assigned to the New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland and New Jersey Naval Militia by the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.1 The Nictheroy,2 if she comes up in time, or whatever the sixth patrol vessel may be, will probably be given to the Second Battalion of the New York Militia. The Connecticut and Rhode Island Militia are also efficient. The Pennsylvania Naval Militia is are much less efficient. Disturbances have broken out in the Georgia Militia, with the result that their best division has been disbanded. All of this emphasizes the wisdom of the Department of in enlisting the Naval Militia individually, and in preventing the recognition by the Department of all the different Naval Militia organizations as being on the same plane. It is the purpose of the Department to keep the Naval Militia together in their battalion and division organizations, and it will be very unwise to act otherwise; but the widest difference obtains between the different organizations. The five chosen to man the deep-sea patrol vessels are those for which we have the best reports from the regular officers during the past year. They are all five thoroughly efficient organizations. From these we created last year range down to organizations such as one in the Southern States which made its appearance aboard ship with the officers rowing the men, as they were the only ones who knew how to row. Of course we can only take tentative steps about the Naval Militia, assigning them their vessels, and giving them the information that they have thus been assigned. Until they are called out and we are able to pay them, they cannot be brought on.

     The Topeka will come instantly to this side of the water. The Somers will then come if she can. The Board believe that we should close with the offer to deliver here for $12,000.3

     In reference to the letter from Mr. Emery4 the Board has to say that of course it cannot scatter cruisers around South American ports, and that it will probably be impossible to scatter some of them around the equator at the point mentioned by Mr. Emery to protect the trade. We have not a sufficiently large Navy.

     In the event of war Congress should at once pass a law permitting our ships to be transferred to foreign flags with power to again be put back under the American flag at the close of the war if desired.5

     In connection with the accompanying report of Captain Clover the Board recommends that the small cable vessel therein mentioned by immediately hired and put under Captain Sampson’s control. The Buccaneer is the vessel recommended.6

     Commodore Dewey7 will be directed to operate against Manilla. Probably it will be advisable for him to blockade, but he should certainly pick up the Spanish vessels, and probably he should take the vessels off fort defending Manilla. The objection to trying ships against forts until the Spanish vessels are picked up destroyed which obtain on the North Atlantic coast do not obtain on the Asiatic coast.8

     The Board transmits herewith the offer from Mr. Flint9 about three torpedo cruisers now in Brazil. If these boats can be delivered at some naval station north of Hatteras within 30 days, it is our opinion that any price up to $1,000,000 apiece should be paid for them. We are paying very large prices for steamships, yachts and tugs which relatively are not nearly as valuable as these vessels; but we have no sailors who can take charge and deliver them for us, and that will have to be done at the risk of the man making the negotiations.

     The Nictheroy should start at once. For some reason the report about her seem to hang fire. Minister Bryan should be telegraphed to that we need an immediate report.10

     Very respectfully,

              Theodore Roosevelt

                   Assistant Secretary.

Source Note: TLS, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, Box 40. Addressed below close: “The Honorable,/The Secretary of the Navy.” On stationery: “Theodore Roosevelt/asst. secretary/NAVY DEPARTMENT/Washington.” An “O.” is typed in the top-left corner.

Footnote 1: Commo. Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

Footnote 2: Nictheroy was later renamed Buffalo.

Footnote 3: Somers was laid up in England for the duration of the war due to mechanical failures. See: Lt. Albert P. Niblack, U.S. Navy Attaché in Berlin, to Lt John C. Colwell, U.S. Navy Attaché in London, 1 April 1898.

Footnote 4: The letter from Mr. Emery has not been found.

Footnote 5: No law of this nature was passed.

Footnote 6: Lt. Cmdr. Richardson Clover and Capt. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station. A copy of Clover’s suggestions related to cable cutting has not been found. Sampson issued instructions to both Marblehead and Detroit the day this letter was written indicating they would be used after declaration of war to sever coastal cables in Cuba. See: William T. Sampson to Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla, 15 April 1898.

Footnote 7: Commo. George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station.

Footnote 8: Dewey was ordered to attack Manila Bay on 24 April 1898. See: Long to Dewey, 24 April 1898.

Footnote 9: Charles R. Flint was an American shipping magnate who negotiated the sale of Nictheroy and provided intelligence to the Navy Department. See: Flint to Long, 29 April 1898.

Footnote 10: American Minister Plenipotentiary to Brazil Charles P. Bryan. Nictheroy was crewed by men from Marietta and Oregon. See: Long to Charles E. Clark, 1 May 1898. 

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