Captain Charles E. Clark to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
U. S. S.OREGON, 1st Rate
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
April 30, 1898.
1. I have the honor to report that this ship left Callao, Peru, on the evening of April 7
th (one boiler under repairs) having taken in during our stay of eighty hours, eleven hundred 1,100 tons of coal ( one hundred 100 being in bags on deck). Had comparatively good weather until we reached the straits, though a heavy swell, increased by fresh southerly winds, made the ship pitch heavily, the jack staff1 sometimes disappearing under the solid seas that swept all but the superstructure deck. The vibrations and racing of the propellers were very marked at times, but the condition of affairs and the Department’s instructions warranted a high rate of speed.
2. Entered the straits at about 3.30
P. M. on the 16th, and that evening anchored outside Port Tamar. One of the severest gales of the season broke before an anchorage could be reached, and as the wind and rain became so dense that the abrupt shores could not be seen, while no sounding could be obtained, the OREGON was for a time awkwardly placed. Just before dark the anchors were let go on a rocky shelf, fringed by islets and reefs, in 38 and 52 fathoms of water and they fortunately held through some of the most violent gusts I have ever experienced.
3. Got underway the next morning, April 17, and anchored the same evening off Sandy Point.2 The total run from Callao was made at the rate of 11
4. We found the hulk from which the coal (contracted for by Commander F.M. Symonds,3 who arrived with the MARIETTA a few hours later) was to be furnished loaded with coal, and during the next three days our men were constantly transferring it to enable them to get at the coal. The courtesy and good will of the Chilean officials in allowing me to take Government coal for the MARIETTA, and so save further delays, have been made the subject of another letter.4
5. We left Sandy Point before daylight on the 21st and the same evening passed out of the straits, but owing to the MARIETTA’S low rate of speed, even under favorable conditions, and to the head winds and sea encountered north of La Plata,5 we only made Rio on the afternoon of the 30th.
6. During the run, owing to the chance that the Spanish torpedo vessel the “TEMARARIO” might, it war existed, sight us before dark and get near enough to dispatch a torpedo during the night, only the leading vessel showed any lights, and these were screened at the sides. The 8” and 6” guns were loaded with shell and ammunition for the rapid-fire guns was kept on deck, four crews in each watch being stationed at the guns. Orders for the maneuvering of the two ships in the event of falling in with a suspicious-looking vessel were issued.
7. It is gratifying to call the Department’s attention to the spirit existing on board this ship, in both officers and men, which can best be described by referring to instances such as that of the engineer officers in voluntarily doubling their watches when high speed was to be made, to the attempt of men to return to the fire room after being carried out of it insensible, and to the fact that most of the crew, who were working by watches day and night at Sandy Point, preferred to leave their hammocks in the netting until they could get the ship coaled and ready to sail.
Captain, U.S. Navy,
Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 33. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Washington, D.C.”
Footnote 1: The “jack staff” is the flagpole on a vessel’s bow.
Footnote 2: Better known at Punta Arenas, Chile.
Footnote 3: Cmdr. Frederick M. Symonds.
Footnote 4: The letter referenced has not been found.
Footnote 5: The city of La Plata, Argentina.