Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Charles E. Clark to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Bahia, Brazil, May 9, 1898.

Secretary of the Navy, Washington:

     Much delayed by the Marietta and the Nictheroy.1 Left them near Cape Frio,2 with orders to come home or beach, if necessity compels it, to avoid capture. The Oregon could steam 14 knots for hours, and in a running fight might beat off and even cripple the Spanish fleet. With present coal aboard will be in good fighting trim, and could reach West Indies. If more should be taken here I could reach Key West; but, in that case, belt armor, cellulose belt,3 and protective deck would be below waterline. Whereabouts of Spanish fleet requested.

Clark.

Source Note Print: Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, pp. 51-52.

Footnote 1: Nictheroy had serious boiler problems so it could not keep pace with Marietta and Oregon. After separating from Oregon, the two smaller ships continued in convoy until 21 May, when Comdr. Frederick M. Symonds of Marietta ordered the struggling Nictheroy to remain at Para River, Brazil. The latter then steamed for the United States. Ibid., 55.

Footnote 2: Cape Frio is 75 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

Footnote 3: The cellulose cofferdam, also known as a cellulose belt was an experimental scheme for additional protection at the waterline used aboard U.S. war vessels. It was located just above the protective deck and consisted of a sealed compartment along the hull and protruded inward several feet. The interior of the cofferdam was packed with cellulose (basically shredded corn cobs). Theoretically if penetrated by a projectile at this location, the cellulose, when brought into contact with the inward flow of water would expand and seal the hole The idea sounded good in theory, but did not work in practice. Even normal leakage caused the cellulose to rot and smell. The material was soon removed. Journal of the Society of American Naval Engineers, vol. 13, no.1 [February, 1901], 195-97; and "Battleships and Cruisers," Accessed 30 June 2014, http://www.cityofart.net/bship/cruisers.htm.