Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

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

Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba,

June 1st, 1898.   

S I R :--

     Having recently inspected the hospital arrangements at Key West, Florida, I must report them to you as, in my opinion, unsatisfactory. Twelve beds are reserved at the Marine Hospital for Naval patients, and the so-called Army General Hospital has four hundred and fifty beds, exclusive of fifty kept for yellow fever cases. These are distributed though the convent and school buildings--offered first to the Navy--and a tobacco factory about a mile distant.

     2. With our present squadron force above seven thousand men, it must be estimated that at least two percent of hospital cases will occur constantly, exclusive of casualties, thus giving a daily occupancy of one hundred and forty beds. In fact, already, after a month’s experience--(and the force was not as large at the beginning of the month as it is now)-- there are eighty naval cases in hospital against one from the Army. Should a military force of fifty-thousand men be employed with Key West as a base, one thousand hospital cases, exclusive of casualties, should be counted upon daily. The inadequacy is plain.

     3. The means of transportation are so limited that should the “SOLACE”, or other vessel arrive with a large number of wounded, it would take many hours to convey them to the hospital from the landing.

     4. No records of the cases are kept beyond what is contained in the general register of patients. This, as explained to me by the Surgeon in charge(1) because he has no one to keep them--(2) because no blank forms such as are used in the Navy had been provided. He asks for the services of an experienced apothecary for this service.

     5. The Surgeon in charge complains that, although the hospital has been in operation for a month, no money has been received from the Navy to defray expenses.

     6. Our men sent to these hospitals pass entirely out of Naval control and professional care so that the experience in military surgery which would be so valuably to the Medical Officers of the Navy is lost to them.

     7. This war is not yet over and no man can say when it will be. It is therefore not too late to correct in some sort the present state of affairs. Building known as “la [Brisa]”--a pleasure resort on the windward face of the Island, would, I understand, be readily converted into a hospital, and several tobacco factories might be had. It would even be preferable, to my mind, to have our men treated in tents and have them still under Naval control [under] [existing] [arrangements].

                             Very respectfully,

                                  [William T. Sampson] 

Source Note: CbCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 41, vol. 3, p. 410.

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