Captain Robley D. Evans to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt
Confidential Key West Fla
Dear Mr Roosevelt.
Please regard this as purely personal— for your eyes only.
I recall our conversation before I left Washington in reference to duty for me in case of war— I have not bothrd the Dept with any sort of applic[a]tion Knowing that you had me in mind would not allow my interests to suffer— I Leave things in the same condition now with every feeling of confidence.
Things here are not in good shape! A very sick Admiral & a Chief of Staff, mentally weak & without experience,1 & with absolute control of every thing including his superiors, would naturally produce just what I see every day— If war comes you will be sadly disappointed.
Before & above all things put some torpedo catchers & guard vessels down here just as soon as possible— if you don’t, & war comes, you will not have a battleship Left in ten days— Every one feels this except the sick Admiral and the big headed chief of Staff. Not one officer out of fifty would insure your ships for a dime a night under present conditions— I write this plainly not to impair anyone but because I feel that it is my duty that you should know what we all feel. Dont let those Spanish Catchers & torpedo boats reach Havana,2 if they do send here thirty of the fastest Yachts & tug boats in the country each armed with Inch rapid fire guns as you can get—
My chest is packed & you can always get me by wire. I leave here for Charleston [Yrd SC?] Mch 17 & will be at Fort Monroe3 Mch 25. If nothing better comes my way give me the St Paul—4
Regard this as absolutely Confidential.
Source Note: LS, DLC-MSS, PTR.
Footnote 1: RAdm. Montgomery Sicard commanded the North Atlantic Station; his chief of staff was Cmdr. Clifford H. West.
Footnote 2: Torpedo boats were fast, small boats designed to fire self-guided torpedoes; torpedo catchers (first built by the British in the late 1880’s) were designed to counter torpedo boats. Although not as fast as torpedo boats, they were built larger so that they could maintain speed in rough seas and were fitted out with torpedo tubes in order to double as a torpedo boat. They were found to be ineffective in all but the roughest seas and were soon superseded by torpedo boat destroyers, more commonly referred to as destroyers. Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics for the State of Maine, 1896 (Augusta, ME: Burleigh & Flint, 1897), 132.
Footnote 3: Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Footnote 4: The auxiliary cruiser St. Paul.