Skip to main content

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L  M E M O R A N D U M  N o. 1 5.

U. S.Flagship, New York,          

At Sea, enroute to Porto Rico, May 7, 1898.


S I R:--

     The following information received from the Spanish American Iron Company,1 through the Bureau of Naval Intelligence, dated April 26th, is sent herewith for your information:


To the Secretary of the Navy,

     Washington, D.C.


S I R :--

          We beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of April 22nd advising us that the information and maps referring to the vicinity of the City of Santiago de Cuba furnished by our Company to your Department have been duly forwarded to the respective commanders of the North Atlantic and Flying Squadrons.2

          Mr. Robert H. Lyman, cashier of the Spanish American Company arrived from Santiago de Cuba on April 22nd, and brings the most recent news of the situation in that neighborhood, which we hasten to place at your disposal.

          He advises us that on the 12th of April six or seven hundred additional troops arrived from Santiago at the property of the Spanish-American Iron Company. This increases the total force on the property to eight or nine hundred. The Colonel and Staff are quartered at the mines two-and-one-half miles inland; 600 men are at the harbor of Daiquiri in the various houses of the company and the remaining men are in twelve or fifteen small forts already described in our correspondence with your Department. It is generally understood that this movement is in anticipation of the possible landing of the American forces at that point(Daiquiri)3

          The Spanish garrison on the property of the Juragua Iron Company was also similarly reinforced. We are unable to state the number of troops at this point, but it is probably equal to or greater than the force on the Spanish-American Iron Company’s property.

          Mr. Lyman further advises us that the unarmored cruiser “Reina-Mercedes”4 is in the harbor of Santiago. Her boilers are in bad condition, only four being serviceable, and the commander of this vessel has stated in our informant’s presence that his ship is not in condition to go to sea. She is anchored and moored just inside the entrance to the harbor on the left on entering. She lies between the main-land and the Cayo Smith and in such a position that her broadside commands the entrance to the harbor. The cruiser is not visible until the entrance is reached.

          At the entrance of the harbor he saw three or four rows of buoys marking the positions of torpedoes or mines; say, six buoys in each row, about thirty feet apart, the rows being fifty or more feet apart. Further in the harbor are several other buoys irregularly placed. The general arrangment of these buoys and the position of the Reina Mercedes are shown in the rough sketch enclosed. (Note by O.N.I.--No sketch found.)

          It has been variously stated that these buoys marked the positions in which it is intended to place torpedoes, and also that the torpedoes are now in place. As an expert in these matters has been in Santiago for some time it seems probable the latter statement is correct.5

          There is at this time in the harbor of Santiago some four or five thousand tons of coal. Of this amount probably one-half is the property of the Spanish Government, and the other half is the property of the two American Companies, the Juraugua Iron Co. and the railroad of Santiago de Cuba. At Daiquiri Bay this ######## Company has some 400 tons.

     We believe this information to be of value to your Department and we take pleasure in communicating the same.

     Very truly yours, C.F.RAND.6 President.

          Very respectfully,

              W. T. SAMPSON, Rear Admiral, U.S.Navy,

          Commander in Chief,U.S.Naval Force, N.A.Station.

Source Note: TD, DLC-MSS, Papers of William H. Emory, Jr. Addressed below close: “The Commanding Officer,/U.S.S.”

Footnote 1: The Spanish-American Iron Co., a subsidiary of Pennsylvania Steel Co., mined the rich “brown” iron ore located at Daiquiri and its environs. Christopher Ecclestone, “Coal Mining,” accessed February 23, 2015,

Footnote 2: RAdm. William T. Sampson and Commo. Winfield S. Schley respectively.

Footnote 3: This suggest that almost two months before the American forces landed at Daiquiri private citizens and Spanish officials were aware of the possibility for this impending event.

Footnote 4: The unprotected cruiser Reina Mercedes arrived at Santiago de Cuba before the outbreak of hostilities and remained in the harbor until scuttled on 7 July. It was later refloated by the U.S. Navy. See, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 557-58.

Footnote 5: In the wake of the battle of Santiago de Cuba, American naval authorities thought that the harbor mines were placed by men of RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s fleet after 19 May. See, Lt. Edward E. Capehart, “The Mine Defense of Santiago Harbor,” The Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute XXIV, 4 (Dec. 1898): 601.

Footnote 6: Charles F. Rand was a noted engineer and successful entrepreneur.

Related Content