Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard, Commander, North Atlantic Station
[Washington, D.C.] March 17, 1898.
The Department herby directs the formation of
division SQUADRON of the North Atlantic Squadron FLEET,1 to be assembled, without delay, in Hampton Roads, Virginia. This division SQUADRON will consist of the following named vessels:
TEXAS, MASSACHUSETTS, MINNEAPOLIS, COLUMBIA and BROOKLYN.
Other vessels may be added to this
division SQUADRON later.
You will be ordered, by telegraph, today, to send the TEXAS and MASSACHUSETTS to Hampton Roads. It is proposed that this
division SQUADRON of your squadron FLEET shall be commanded by a Flag Officer; you will be informed who this officer is as soon as he has been selected.2
Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 227. Addressed below close: “Commander-in-Chief/U.S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station,/Key West, Fla.” Reference number in right-hand corner: “97311.” In the top center are the typist’s initials: “EC.”
Footnote 1: Someone crossed through “Squadron” and handwrote “FLEET” as an interlineation above the line. That individual did the same for the other cross through/interlineations found throughout the letter.
Footnote 2: In a letter of 14 January to John D. Long, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt suggested the formation of a separate fleet to be employed in the waters off Spain. In that letter, he also suggested that there might be a need for a force of Navy ships to patrol American waters to prevent an attack on cities of the United States by a Spanish fleet. Eight days later, in another letter to Long, Roosevelt withdrew his recommendation about sending a fleet against Spain because he had received word that Spain was preparing to purchase ships in Europe, which would put an American fleet going against it in grave danger, especially in Spain’s home waters.
While the reason for creating a flying squadron had changed, the belief that such a mobile fleet would be useful had not. When it became reality, its mission was to defend American waters from a possible Spanish attack. To command this fleet, Long appointed Winfield S. Schley “About March 20th.” Although other officers were senior to Schley, Long thought that he was best suited to such an independent command because he was an officer of proven activity, “skill, judgment and resource.” See: Roosevelt to Long, 14 January 1898; Long, New American Navy, vol. 1 (New York: The Outlook Company, 1903), 148-49 and 207-08; Gardner W. Allen, ed., Papers of John Davis Long, 1897-1904, vol. 78 (Boston: The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1939), 41-42; and Winfield S. Schley, Forty-Five Years Under the Flag (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1904), 257, 212-13.