Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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



Aug. 10, 1898.


          The following extracts from letters received from the U.S.Naval Attaché in Paris1 are furnished for your information. Some of them, though not of very late date, throw light upon the condition of the Spanish fleet.

Very respectfully,


     The following are extracts from various letters received from the special correspondent at Carthagena.2

July 21, 1898.

     X    X    X    X    X    X     I observed that, in standing into the harbor, the vessels hugged the eastern shore passing close by the Santa Ana and San Florentine batteries, then stood north west for the end of the jetty or mole above mentioned and turning short around the end passed to the eastward. This I am informed was the route to follow to avoid the torpedoes, which are said to be stretched in line from the outer mole, called Pointe de la Navidad, on the chart given in la Defense des Cotes D’Europe, 1894,3 to a point just outside of the mole above mentioned, designated on the chart “Jette de la Cuppa.” From this point the line of torpedoes runs northward across the bay toward the Arsenal.

     x    x    x    x    x    x     the Numancia, the latter being very far from completed.4     x    x    x    x    x    x

     x    x    x    x    x    x    A number of modern guns have been mounted in the various fortifications, but the great majority of the guns are of old type. I am informed that a new modern battery of Ordonez guns is installed at Saint Floretine,5 and a battery of Krupp guns at Podadera.6 These batteries are placed low down and said to be protected by armor. No one is allowed to approach these works, and I have not been able yet to ascertain the number or caliber of these guns.

     The Lepanto is about completed and will have her trials next week.7

July 23rd, 1898.

     x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x

     To all appearances the Numancia will not be ready for business before the time already indicated (A couple of months).

     x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x

     The men who compose the crews of these vessels are mostly all quite young, and have had little experience in the handling of modern material. The vessels of the squadron are painted black, that is to say, they were black before the trip to Suez and return. Just now they are in a badly rusty state. The speed of the squadron has been sensibly diminished during the trip, particularly that of the Pelayo.8 There is some trouble with the tubing of their boilers, but I do not just now know what it is. There is some mystery in connection with these damages which they are carefully hiding.

     x    x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x

July 24, 1898.

     Work on the Numancia is being actively pushed, and is believed she will be able to leave soon for Cadiz, where she is to receive her artillery. The order has been given to prepare this vessel and the Lepanto with the least possible delay in order that they may join the squadron under Camara.

     x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x

     In the Arsenal here the stock of coal is estimated at 25,000 tons. A further supply is expected from Gijon in the Asturas district. The vessels carrying this coal are of slow speed and require ten days to make a trip to Carthagena.9

July 25, 1898.

     x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x

     I have ascertained today that the Ordonez and Krupp guns in the batteries at the entrance are 15 centimetre.     x     x

     The following are translations from a letter from the sub-agent at Cadiz.10

July 25, 1898.

     They have established three new batteries at Ferrol.

     The work on the completion of the defences at Bilboa is actively progressing, and they will soon be completed. There has been a serious panic among the Bilboa manufacturers whose establishments are on the river front between the sea and the city. This through fear of a possible bombardment by the American fleet.

     Although it has been said that the repairs to the cruiser Numanica are rapidly progressing, it is not true, either as regards the work actually being done on board the vessel or in preparing the material and battery at this place.        x   x

     x    x    x    x    x    x   there are now nearing completion 27 14-centimetre guns, with naval mounts, at Schneider & Co’s works for the Spanish Government.11    x   x   x 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 464. Addressed below close: “Commander in Chief,/U.S.Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.” The letter is typed on stationery. The portion down to the date is printed. Also, at the top right corner of the first page is printed: “John D. Long,/SECRETARY.”

Footnote 1: Lt. William S. Sims.

Footnote 2: The identity of Sims’ informant in Cartagena, Spain, is not known.

Footnote 3: The agent was referring to La défense des côtes d'Europe: étude descriptive, au double point de vue militaire et maritime by Charles Dedelot, published in Paris in 1894.

Footnote 4: The oldest (built in 1865) but most impressive ironclad in the Spanish Navy, Numancia had had its engines rebuilt and the Navy added rapid-firing guns in 1898. “Numancia,” accessed 17 December 2014,

Footnote 5: The Batería de San Isidoro y Santa Florentina protected the entrance to the harbor at Cartagena.

Footnote 6: La Podadera was another stone battery protecting Cartagena.

Footnote 7: The Spanish protected cruiser Lepanto launched in 1893 but not commissioned until 1898, and not in time to fight in the war. Squadron Operations, 27.

Footnote 8: The battleship Pelayo was the most powerful warship in the fleet sent under Adm. Manuel de Camara to attack American fleet in the Philippines. It went as far as Suez, Egypt, before being recalled. Pelayo’s reported top speed was 16.7 knots. “Pelayo,” accessed 17 December 1898,

Footnote 9: That is, the Principality of Asturias. It is on the northern coast of Spain. Cartagena is on the southeast coast of Spain.

Footnote 10: This sub-agent may have been the famous “Fernandez del Campo,” the pseudonym for an American agent who posed as a wealthy Mexican. His true identity has never been established, but one author has suggested that he was Lt. Col. Aristides Moreno, a Texan of Spanish ancestry and a graduate of West Point. Patrick E. McGinty, “Intelligence and the Spanish American War,” (Ph.D. diss., Georgetown University, 1983), 385-86 and n.

Footnote 11: Schneider-Creusot, or Schneider et Cie, was a French iron and steel-mill and major arms manufacturer. Today it is Schneider Electric. “Schneider Electric,” accessed 17 December 1898,

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