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Precautionary Orders Issued by the Navy Department because of Increasing Tensions with Spain

     As early as the 1st of January, 1898, the increasing tension of our relations with Spain, on account of the Spanish war in Cuba, caused the Department and the Bureau1 to issue certain precautionary orders, the more important of which are below outlined in order to indicate the policy which controlled the Department at that time:

Jan. 11, 1898.—Commander in chief, European Station,2 ordered to retain men whose enlistments were about to expire.

Jan. 16, 1898.—Helena (en route to Asiatic Station) ordered to remain at Funchal.

Jan. 17, 1898.—Commander in chief, South Atlantic Station,3 informed of the condition of affairs in Cuba, and directed to proceed with the Cincinnati and Castine to Para.

Jan. 17, 1898.—Helena ordered to proceed to Lisbon.4

Jan. 17, 1898.—Wilmington (en route to South Atlantic Station), ordered to await orders in the West Indies.

Jan. 26, 1898.—Commander in chief, European Station, ordered to assemble squadron at Lisbon.

Jan. 27, 1898—Commander in chief, Asiatic Station,5 ordered to retain men whose enlistments were about to expire.6

Feb. 17, 1898.—Commander in chief, South Atlantic Station, ordered north with Cincinnati and Castine from Para.7

Feb. 24, 1898—Orders issued to commandant, navy-yard, New York, to watch movements of submarine torpedo boat in connection with Vizcaya.

Feb. 25, 1898.—Commander in chief, European Station, ordered to keep vessels under his command filled with coal.

Feb. 25, 1898.—Commander in chief, Asiatic Station, ordered to assemble squadron at Hongkong, and retain the Olympia (under orders at that time to go to San Francisco); instructions outlined for conduct and duty in case of hostilities.8

Feb. 26, 1898.—Commander in chief, South Atlantic Station, Pacific Station,9 Asiatic Station, North Atlantic Station,10 and European Station, ordered to keep vessels filled with the best coal to be had.11

Mar. 3, 1898.—Mohican to carry ammunition to Honolulu, transfer same to Baltimore, which vessel was ordered to proceed to Asiatic Station for duty in that squadron.12

Mar. 7, 1898.—Oregon (at Bremerton) ordered to San Francisco for ammunition.13

Mar. 7, 1898.—Brooklyn (at La Guayra) ordered to proceed at once to Hampton Roads; informed of situation.

Mar. 3, 1898.—Navy-yards at Brooklyn, Boston, League Island, ordered to enlist men for the Columbia and Minneapolis, which vessels were ordered to be prepared for service. This exceeded established quota of enlisted men.14

Mar. 7, 1898Oregon left Bremerton for San Francisco.15

Mar. 9. 1898.—Commanders in chief of stations ordered to husband ammunition.

Mar. 12, 1898.—Helena and Bancroft ordered to the United States.

Mar. 14, 1898.—Commander in chief, European Station, ordered to take charge of New Orleans and Albany, purchased in England.

Mar. 15, 1898.—Cincinnati, Castine, and Wilmington ordered to proceed to Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Mar. 18, 1898.—Massachusetts and Texas ordered to proceed to Hampton Roads.

Mar. 22, 1898.—Marietta (on Pacific) ordered to precede the Oregon and arrange for coaling that vessel, which was en route to Key West.16

Mar. 23, 1898.—Commander in chief, South Atlantic Station, ordered to proceed with squadron to Key West. Wilmington ordered to proceed to Jacksonville, Fla.

Mar. 23, 1898.—Newport ordered from Greytown, Nicaragua, to Key West.

Mar. 23, 1898.—Captain Sigsbee17 ordered to prepare for withdrawal of everything from Havana.

Apr. 2, 1898.—Captain Sigsbee ordered to leave Havana.

Apr. 4, 1898—Orders issued for procedure in case censorship of telegraph lines at Key West should be ordered.

Apr. 7, 1898.—Oregon informed of critical situation.18

Apr. 7, 1898.—All vessels ordered to land all woodwork and extra equipment.19

Apr. 19, 1898—Commander in chief, Pacific Station, ordered to proceed to the United States.

Apr. 21, 1898.—Service informed of blockade. War not declared. Commander in chief, North Atlantic Station, directed to blockade portion of northern coast of Cuba.

Apr. 23, 1898.—Minneapolis and Columbia ordered to the New England coast.20

Apr. 24, 1898.—Orders issued to commander in chief, Asiatic Station, to proceed to Manila: “War has commenced between the United States and Spain. Proceed at once to Philippine Islands. Commence operations at once, particularly against Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Us utmost endeavors.”21

     It will be seen that as a result of the foregoing orders the whole fleet was ready on April 15—four weeks before Admiral Cervera’s22 fleet reached this side—for any emergency, gathered practically in two fleets, each within striking distance of one of the two pints from which attack might come. Four months before the vessels were distributed much as in ordinary times. On April 15 all of the more powerful vessels were fully manned, the legal quota having been exceeded on account of the emergency.

Source Note Print: Annual Report of the Navy Department, 1898, pp. 325-26.

Footnote 1: A reference to the Navy Department and Bureau of Navigation.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Thomas O. Selfridge, Commander, European Station.

Footnote 3: Capt. Colby M. Chester, Commander, South Atlantic Station.

Footnote 5: Commo. George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station

Footnote 7: A reference to Paraguay.

Footnote 9: RAdm. Joseph N. Miller, Commander, Pacific Station.

Footnote 10: RAdm. Montgomery Sicard, Commander, North Atlantic Station

Footnote 17: Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee.

Footnote 19: See: Long to Dewey, 7 April 1898.

Footnote 22: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

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