Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Passed Assistant Surgeon Andrew R. Wentworth to Medical Inspector Michael C. Drennan

U.S.S.Marblehead, 3rd Rate,

Guantanamo, Cuba,

June 20, 1898.

Sir:

    In obedience to squadron circular letter No.501 I have to report that at the present time the health of officers and crew on board this ship is as satisfactory as could be expected under existing circumstances. The prevailing diseases are malarial fevers, bowel trouble and heat exhaustion. The latter more often among the fire room force when extra exertion is required; the temperature ranging at times from 1180 in the engine room to 1400 in the fire room.

    The above conditions in part can also be accounted for by the fact that the present conditions require it impracticable for the men to have their hammocks and they have to sleep about the decks. Even could this be possible the air of the berth deck becomes very close and foul at night after closing the battle ports and removing the wind sails.

    Artificial ventilation from the air ducts of the ventilating blower has for a long time been impossible owing to the breaking down of this machine. Since October last repairs on board have been most unsatisfactory and only rendering it fit for use for a day or two at a time. During the past month it has become perfectly useless and cannot be repaired by the means at hand. The forward blower was removed at Navy Yard, New York, and not replaced as I have previously reported.

    The above conditions permit an accumulation of foul air in the store rooms and lower parts of the ship, and only an imperfect purification of the atmosphere on the berth deck, under the best of circumstances, which will be liable to more or less affect the health of the crew.

    The necessity of men sleeping at the guns in the open air render them liable to malarial and bowel troubles. Everything is done to counteract these conditions and hearty co-operation by those in command is at all times afforded when recommendations have been made. Rubber blankets have been furnished the crew to spread upon damp decks and the fire room forces when off watch are kept in the open air under an awning spread for that purpose.

    Fresh food and vegetables have been very scarce but it is hoped the presence of the supply steamer will obviate this discomfort.

    The water closets are in an unsatisfactory condition. The water pipes fore and aft are badly corroded. The urinal forward is badly corroded and the cement floor is saturated with urine.

    The medical and surgical outfits are satisfactory although a proper dietary for the sick, when necessary to retain them on board is impossible. In the treatment of contagious diseases on board it would be almost impossible to properly isolate them or give proper attention as there is practically no sick bay and all secretions from the sick have to be carried through the berth deck to the water closet. A liberal quantity of necessary supplies, taken on board before leaving Key West has, with but one or two exceptions, have been sufficient for proper care of the sick. Those deficiencies have been supplied from the U.S. Hospital Ship "Solace".

    The systematic use of Quinine as a prophylactic has done much to reduce our sick list.2

Respectfully,

A.R. Wentworth

P.A.Surgeon, U.S.N.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48. Addressed below close: “To the Fleet Surgeon/U.S.F.S. New York.” Docketing: “U. S. S. Marblehead/Guantanamo Bay, Cuba/June 20, 1898/Wentworth, A. R./A.S. Surgeon USN/Answer to Circular/Letter No 50.” Endorsement: “1st Endorsement./U.S.S. Marblehead, 3rd Rate,/Guantanamo, Cuba,/June 21st, 1898./SUBJECT:- Surgeon’s report on the/sanitary condition of this ship./1. Approved and respectfully/forwarded to the Commander-in-Chief./2. On the 28th ultimo., I/ asked Commodore Schley to cable/for a new engine for the after/blower. If this could be fur-/nished promptly the conditions/below would be materially im-/proved./B. H. McCalla/Commander, U. S. Navy.,/Commanding.” At the right hand corner is a stamped: “-USS-/*JUN 20 1898*/MARBLEHEAD.” At top right corner stamped: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N.A. STATION,/JUN 21 1898.”

Footnote 1: Circular Letter No. 50 has not been found.

Footnote 2: Quinine was used in the treatment of malaria.

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