Captain Charles E. Clark to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
U. S. S. OREGON, 1st Rate,
At Sea, May 18, 1898.
1. I have the honor to report that, having received, during the night after my arrival at Rio de Janeiro, the Department’s cablegram of April 30th1 stating that war had been declared and that the Spanish torpedo vessel had sailed from Montevideo, probably for Rio de Janeiro, and learning that the American minister2 was in Petropolis, though expected in Rio during the forenoon, and the Consul General3 having stated that the representations from me direct to the Brazilian Admiral would be well received and acted upon, I sent an officer who explained to the Brazilian officer in command of the flagship4 that the OREGON, a five million dollar battleship, might be disabled or even destroyed by the torpedo vessel of the nation that had blown up the MAINE and that I relied upon the Brazilian naval forces to prevent any such act of hostility in their waters, but that if the Temarario entered the harbor and approached the OREGON with hostile purpose I must destroy her. The American minister having arrived during the afternoon and the situation being explained to him he immediately communicated with the Brazilian Government. In the meantime, that the Temarario might not have the excuse of approaching too close on the plea of entering the harbor and going to the usual man-of-war anchorage, I got under way and went farther up the Bay,5 giving the commanding officer of the MARIETTA6 orders to send her steam launch to the Temarario if she appeared and inform her commander that if he approached within half a mile of the OREGON he would be sunk. The MARIETTA was ordered to keep her search light on the vessel all the time. Just before anchoring in the new berth, word came from the minister that the Brazilian admiral had ordered that if the Temarario appeared she would be stopped from entering the harbor, or if permitted to enter, would be convoyed by a Brazilian man-of-war to an anchorage well up the Bay. During the remainder of our stay a cruiser was stationed near the entrance and at night her search lights and those on Fort Santa Cruz swept the entrance. In this as in all other respects during our stay, the Brazilian officials showed by their acts that their expressions of sympathy and hopes for our immediate success were genuine.
2. On the morning of May 4th, the Nictheroy,7 being reported ready, the OREGON and the MARIETTA got underway and went to sea, the Brazilian Minister of Marine having stated, as already explained in my cablegram of May 3rd, that he wished an interval of a few hours to elapse between the sailing of our ships of war and the Nictheroy, and it was his suggestion that if we went out in the morning, the Nictheroy should follow in the evening.8
3. Having sent several officers to examine the Nictheroy I had little expectation, after hearing their reports, that she would sail on time or would fail to break down during the voyage. She did not come out that night, and if she got out the next morning, it was only to stop again, for it was late in the afternoon of the 5th that she joined us. Another delay of several hours immediately followed, and that night, believing that the Department needed the OREGON at the seat of war, and knowing that if we fell in with a Spanish fleet of superior force, with torpedo vessels, I must make a running fight of it at full speed, which meant leaving the MARIETTA and the Nictheroy to escape the best way they could, as even the former could not be counted a factor in such an encounter, I ordered Commander Symonds to proceed to Bahia with the MARIETTA and the Nictheroy and if need be, to run ashore if there was no other way to avoid capture.
4. During the evening of the 8th of May ran into Bahia and on the following evening sailed for the West Indies, having communicated with the Department and been authorized to proceed without further delays.9
5. At 3:20 A.M., this morning anchored off Bridgetown, Barbados, having been aided by the current during the run, but making an average through the water of 11:73 knots.
6. The harbor police boats immediately came alongside, and when the Health Officer came on board, we were regularly quarantined, having come from Brazil. Soon after I received a letter from the Governor,10 inclosing a copy of the Queen’s proclamation dated April 23, 1898, and was informed of the instructions regarding the use of the telegraph.11 The American Consul12 came within hail and stated that he had endeavored to report our arrival. Have asked the privilege of taking in coal to-day up to four hundred tons.
(sgd)C. E. Clark,
Captain, U. S. Navy,
Source Note: Cy, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 33. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Washington, D.C.” Notation before opening: “Copy.”
Footnote 1: This cable notified Clark that the United States and Spain were at war and that the Spanish torpedo boat Temarario was possibly in Brazilian waters and a threat to Oregon. See: Long to Clark, 30 April 1898.
Footnote 2: The Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Brazil was Charles P. Bryan.
Footnote 3: The Vice Consul General at Rio De Janeiro was John T. Lewis.
Footnote 4: Riachuelo and Aquidabã were the two most powerful ships of the Brazilian Navy.
Footnote 5: Guanabara Bay.
Footnote 6: Comdr. Frederick M. Symonds.
Footnote 7: The Nictheroy (renamed the Buffalo) was an American-made cruiser purchased by Brazil and then resold to the U.S. Navy in early 1898 as an auxiliary cruiser.
Footnote 8: This suggestion was probably made because the Nictheroy was in poor shape and the Spanish fleet of RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete remained at large.
Footnote 9: The cable referred to was from Secretary Long and dated 9 May. Long ordered Clark to steam to the West Indies without further stops in Brazil. He also informed Clark that the Naval War Board believed the Oregon could help defeat the Spanish fleet in the Caribbean, but that he should avoid it. Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 52.
Footnote 10: Governor of Barbados Sir James Shaw Hay.
Footnote 11: Barbados was a British colony. The queen referred to is Victoria. Oregon was received with great enthusiasm by the British population of Barbados, but Clark was told that if he wanted to use the telegraph at Bridgetown the Spanish Consul would be allowed to send notice of Oregon’s location to Spain. Sternlicht, McKinley’s Bulldog, 67.
Footnote 12: United States Consul at Bridgetown was S. A. Macallister.