Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

WASHINGTON,            

April 16, 1898.   

My dear Mr. Secretary:

     I wish you would lay this before the President.1 I hear from Captain Sampson2 corroborating what I hear from many other sources, that the Spaniards are now laying in three months provisions in Havana for their Army. A considerable quantity has been sent; more is on the way. Coal is also on the way. I again urge as strongly as I know how that we declare an embargo. If we had declared the embargo a fortnight ago, Havana would have been in shape to fall at once. Gen. Lee3 informed us that at that time it could not have held out for two weeks. Now it will hold out a month. If provisions and coal are allowed to go it may be able to hold out for three months. Again I wish most respectfully, but most urgently , to point out the great disadvantage that come to us from not striking quickly. Every consideration from a military point of view bids us to strike at once if we are to strike at all. Week by week, as well as month by month, the situation has steadily changed to our disadvantage since last December, and notably since February. If Havana is to be provisioned, the difficulty of reducing the city will be immensely increased, and it may mean an appalling death rate among the troops sent down there to besiege it who will have to be kept through the sickly season. What would otherwise be done in days may require weeks. It must be remembered that every week’s delay so far has undoubtedly meant <to our army and navy> serious loss of life <in the event of war,> and this is what delay in the future will mean. I earnestly <beseech> you to lay this matter immediately before the President.

     Very respectfully

Theodore Roosevelt

Assistant Secretary

P. S. I am writing on behalf of the War Board.

Source Note: TLS, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, Box 40. Addressed below close: The Honorable,/The Secretary of the Navy.”On “Theodore Roosevelt/ASSISTANT SECRETARY” stationary. Words in angle brackets are handwritten interlineations.

Footnote 1: President William McKinley. It is not clear if Long gave this letter to McKinley, but on 20 April he went with two members of the Naval War Board, RAdm. Montgomery Sicard and Capt. ArentS. Crowninshield, to “confer with the President.” See: Journal of John D. Long, 20 April 1898.

Footnote 2: Capt. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station.

Footnote 3: United States Consul General at Havana Fitzhugh Lee.

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