Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Bowman H. McCalla to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

[Extract]

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

Guantanamo, Cuba. 

June 16th, 1898.

Sir:--

     1. I have the honor to inform you that on arrival of the Texas yesterday the Marblehead accompanied Captain Philip up the channel between Hicacal Point and Cay de Hospital in order to take part in the destruction of the fort near Caymanera.1

     . . . The supply of 5 inch [ammunition] for the Marblehead has now fallen belo[w] 400 rounds and I desire to request that steps may be taken to obtain the 500-5 inch shell sent to Tampa or Key West on the 23rd ultimo.

          I am happy to say that there were no casualties, the ship not having been struck by the enemy.

          I regret to inform you that the channel between Hicacal Point and Cay de Hospital does not seem to be free from mines as I had hoped from the searches made by Lieutenant Anderson.2

          I had been informed that mines had been laid on cable stretched from shore to shore, but we found yesterday that they had been planted singly here and there in this channel.

          On the way up the Marblehead picked up one mine with her starboard screw; and on the way down the Texas, apparently, cut the moorings of another which floated to the surface and was brought away by Ensign Sullivan with the steam launch and wherry of this ship.3

          Most providentially neither torpedo exploded. They are French mines with depth regulators containing 46.520 kilos of gun cotton, with six contact arms each, and were marked as follows:

              Placed on the 26th, of April 1898.

                   21 Agto. 1896.4

              P.  Total 57’320 kilos

              P.  a. p. n. 125 % 46’520 kilos.5

     3. During the day two Spanish soldiers named Patricio Arangue y Pinedo and Domingo Rico y Lopez gave themselves up and were transferred to the Collier Abarenda.

          One of them reports that the force near the Marine camp has been without food for three days and one body of 500 Spaniards would give themselves up were they not prevented by their Officers.

Very respectfully,

B. H. Mc Calla,

Commander, U. S. Navy,

Commanding.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/North Atlantic Station.” At the top of the page is typed: “(copy).” Document reference: “No. 91.”

Footnote 1: For more on this expedition and an assessment of its success, see: Captain John W. Philip to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, 16 June 1898. For the locations given here, see: Port Guantanamo Map, from in Marines in the Spanish-American War, p. xii.

Footnote 2: Lt. Edwin A. Anderson, serving on Marblehead.

Footnote 3: In a letter to Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee of this date, McCalla wrote that the Marblehead’s propeller had struck the mine and forced in two of the plungers. He wrote that Texas’ propeller struck the mine it brought to the surface as well. The retrieving party was commanded by Ens. Franklin B. Sullivan. DNA, RG 313, Entry 48.

Footnote 4: Presumably the date it was manufactured: 21 Agosto [August] 1896.

Footnote 5: This is probably a reference the amount of “algodón pólvora,” or gun cotton.

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