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Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U.S.Flagship New York,1st Rate,        

Key West,Florida,               

March 30th,1898.       

My dear Mr. Secretary:-

     Replying to your note received by mail to day,I dont know how you got the impression that I was against the scheme of making a direct attack upon Havana.1 So far from this being the case,my present plan contemplates an attack the very moment the dogs of war are let loose. My force here now is small for that purpose. The INDIANA and IOWA. The INDIANA is retubing her boiler but will probably have the work finished this week. The New York is hardly suitable for such work,though she would have to do her share if it were to be now. I would commence with one ship if necessary,for either battle ships could fight the VISCAYA and OQUENDO.2 The New York must stand by to follow either or both of these ships if they try to escape.

     When the PURITAN, TERROR, and AMPHITRITE arrive we shall be well off,I have however just written the Secretary asking him to send the MASSACHUSETTS back here.3 She is not suitable to catch the VISCAYA or OQUENDO should they attempt to make a raid. I am confident you have nothing to fear on that score. If war comes soon I shall be prepared to act at once,and shall expect to find the Spaniards somewhat unprepared. If my force should be small at the time and I should find upon trial that I was not able to silence the batteries,I would not make a point of doing so at once,but turn our attention to less important places while waiting,but would keep them well stirred up. Havana is Cuba and its capture is the one principal thing to be done to put an end to the war so far as the navy is concerned. I will write you more in detail soon.

Yours sincerely,

W.T. Sampson                     


U.S.Naval Force on the North Atlantic Station.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 227. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Navy department,/Washington, D.C.” Docketed on separate sheet: U. S. FLAGSHIP New York,/(1st Rate)/Key West Fla/Mar. 30 98/SAMPSON, W. T.,/Captain/Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station./SUBJECT:/on the plan of/attacking Havana &/request the Mass. be/returned to Squadron.” The words in the docketing in capitals or small capitals are printed. On the docketing page is also a Bureau of Navigation stamp with the date “3 MAY 1898” and the identification number “99672.” At the top left corner of the first page is a document reference number: “No. 13.”

Footnote 1: Long’s letter has not been found. Presumably the Secretary of the Navy was reacting to Sampson’s letter to him of 29 March. See: Sampson to Long, 29 March 1898.

Footnote 2: The modern Spanish cruisers Vizcaya and Almirante Oquendo were in the harbor at Havana.

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