Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Victor Blue to Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delehanty

U.S.S. Suwanee,    

Off [Santiago] de Cuba,

June 13, 1898.

Sir:-

     In obedience to your verbal order of the 11th instant1 I left the ship off Aserraderos Point2 and proceeded to the camp of the insurgent forces about one mile insland, finding General Rabi in command.3 On explaining to him that I was under orders from you to proceed to a good point of observation near the Bay of Santiago de Cuba for the purpose of observing unmistakably the enemy’s fleet, he gladly furnished me with a trustworthy guide and a good mule. In company with the guide Major Francisco H. Masaba y Reyes, I left the camp about 10:30 a.m. of the 11th instant, and taking generally a northerly course, arrived late in the afternoon at a Cuban outpost about 15 or 20 miles to the Northward and Westward of Santiago. The commander of this outpost furnished me with three additional guides to take me through the Spanish lines.- After going through the Spanish lines and traveling an hour after night fall the guides concluded that it was dangerous to proceed any further until next morning; whereupon we camped at the house of a Cuban sympathizer. The next morning we proceeded about 12 miles further to a point on a hill top a little to the Westward of the North end of the Bay, and about three miles distant from it. From this point I had an almost unobstructed view of the entire Bay except the part south of Smith Cay.4 In the Bay I counted five large vessels that were unmistakably men-of-war, three of these answered the discriptions of vessels of Admiral Cervera’s squadron; one could not be seen sufficiently well to discribe definitely anything more about her than that she was a large vessel and had one smoke pipe;5 the fifth was a large white vessel anchored near the city, and was said by the Cubans to be old and useless.6 Another large vessel was anchored near the city, but whether a man-of-war or merchant vessel I was unable to make out on account of the poor back ground.

     Anchored near the city were also three smaller men-of-war; one of about 1,500 tons displacement, one of about 800,7 and the last was what I made out to be a small gunboat.

     Near the entrance to the Bay was a vessel underway which, judging from her relative dimensions, I took to be a destroyer. Two other vessels resembled torpedo boats, but I am unable to state positively their character.

     Two launches and a larger vessel were in the channel near the position of the Merrimac.8

     The relative positions of all these vessels were included in my sketch which I submitted to you and the Admiral immediately after my return.9

     I remained at the place of observation about an hour and a half and then started back on the return trip. I was fully satisfied from my own Knowledge that the vessels I saw were those of Cervera’s Squadron.

     The point of observation was in plain view of a Spanish garrison about 1,000 to 1,200 yds. away. On our return Cuban sympathizers informed us that the road we passed over the day before was occupied by the Spanish troops. This necessitated our taking another route. Different people along the road would inform us how to proceed to keep clear of the Spaniards.

     On the 11th considerable firing could be heard at various places along the route, and the smoke at Spanish camps could occasionally be seen a mile or two away.

I arrived at the headquarters of General Rabi on the night of the 12th instant, and joined the ship off Aserraderos Pt. the next morning.10

Very respectfully,

Victor Blue,

Lieut., USN

Source Note: LS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 231. Addressed below close: “Lt. Comdr. D. Delehanty, U.S.N.,/Commanding U.S.S Suwanee.” Docketed on separate sheet: “U.S.S. Suwanee,/Off Santiago de Cuba,/June 13, 1898./Blue, Victor,/Lieut., U.S.N.,/Report of trip inland/to acquire information/in regard to enemy’s/ships in harbor of San-/tiago de Cuba.” At the top of the page of docketing is a stamp of the Bureau of Navigation with the date “Jul 11 1898” surrounding the identifying number “125792.” At the top of the first page is the stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAGSHIP N. A. STATION, JUN [13?] 1898. Below there is another stamp, which reads: “USS/*JUN 19 1898*/MARBLEHEAD.”

Footnote 1: In a letter to RAdm. William T. Sampson of 13 June, Delehanty wrote that he received a verbal order from Sampson to “communicate with the insurgent forces in this vicinity, and obtain through them positive information concerning the presence of the enemy’s ships in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba.” To get “absolutely reliable information” Delehanty sent Blue. Delehanty added that Blue “wore his uniform and side arms,” insuring that he could not be considered a spy. DNA, RG 313, Entry 48, Box 6.

Footnote 2: That is, Asserradero Point.

Footnote 3: Gen. Jesús Sablón y Moreno, who went by the nom du guerre Jesus Rabí.

Footnote 4: For the location of Smith Cay, see: Map of Santiago de Cuba harbor.

Footnote 5: All of the large cruisers in Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s squadron had two smoke stacks so it is unclear to which vessel Blue is referring.

Footnote 6: Presumably the Royal Spanish Navy cruiser Reina Mercedes, Capt. Rafael Micón, commanding. This cruiser’s boilers were in “very bad condition” but armament from this ship was used to bolster the defenses of the city. Müller y Tejeiro, Battles and Capitulation of Santiago de Cuba, 24.

Footnote 7: The two destroyers with Cervera’s squadron, Plutón and Furor, were 400 and 370 tons respectively. "Plutón and Furor," accessed 29 September 2014, http://www.spanamwar.com/tbd.htm.

Footnote 8: On the scuttling of the collier Merrimac in an attempt to block the channel leading to Santiago de Cuba harbor, see: Sinking of the Merrimac.

Footnote 9: The sketch that Blue provided for Delehanty and Sampson has not been found.

Footnote 10: On this same day, Sampson wrote Secretary of the Navy John D. Long reporting the return of Blue “after a detour of seventy miles” with word that all of Cervera’s squadron was “inside Santiago Harbor.” DNA, RG 313, Entry 51.

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