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:

          I have the honor to report that to-day General Perez and his Chief of Staff did me the honor to visit the Marblehead. He was received with honors due to a Major General with the Cuban flag at the fore.1

     Later in the afternoon he visited the shore and inspected the position occupied by the Marines and Cuban forces.

     He stated in my presence that it was the only position on the bay that could have been occupied and successfully held by out small force, expressing the opinion that 500 Spaniards could not take it2. . . .

     I had the great personal and official pleasure to-day of receiving 47 Officers and men from General Perez’s Command. They were fed, clothed and armed on the Marblehead and landed at the Marine camp before dark.

     2. I have for some time formed the opinion that Guantanamo Harbor was the best and only place at which a force intended to attack Santiago de Cuba could be successfully based, and I have therefore to earnestly request that you give the subject your consideration.3

     Desiring the opinion of General Perez and his staff upon this subject, I took the liberty of asking their opinions before expressing my own conviction,

     These gentlemen stated that their instructions from General Garcia were to assist the army at any point which might be selected for it to land. After some hesitation, and in reply to my friendly request the General and the members of his staff expressed the opinion that this should be selected as the base for the attack upon Santiago de Cuba. They justly state that the Army can be easily disembarked under the guns of the ships in smooth water.

     There is a good road to Caymanera4 and a railroad and a good road from Caymanera to Guantanamo with plenty of good water.

     At present the command of General Perez is scattered along the sea coast from Santiago to Guantanamo while that of General Rabi5 is protecting the coast to the Westward of Santiago de Cuba. General Garcia6 himself is or will be very soon in rear of Santiago de Cuba with 3000 men in order to fall upon any locality of the sea front so protected.

     It seems quite clear that if this place were selected as a base for out Army, that, while the Officers and men were being disembarked and preparing for an advance, General Garcia could concentrate his whole force now scattered on a long front and attack and take Guantanamo with the assistance of our artillery, after which our combined forces could advance on Santiago de Cuba after taking several small towns in order to select the easiest route and meet with fewer obstacles, in my opinion, than if a landing point were selected West of Santiago de Cuba.

     I should be very pleased if you could inspect this locality before the arrival of our Army, on the South coast of Cuba. . . . Very respectfully,      B.H. Mc Calla

Commander U. S. N.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief.” At the top of the page is the notation: “(Copy)” and the document identification number “No. 92.”

Footnote 1: Maj. Gen. Pedro Pérez. For more on this salute, which embroiled McCall in controversy, see: From the Autobiography of Admiral B.H. McCalla; relating to the capture of Guantanamo (1898). Pérez’s chief of staff was Col. Gonzalo García Vieta.

Footnote 2: In his memoirs, McCalla remembers that an Cuban engineer officer told him that the position occupied by the Marines was the only one from which the Spanish could harass American shipping in the bay. Ibid.

Footnote 3: Guantánamo was never considered as a jumping-off point for a campaign against Santiago de Cuba.

Footnote 4: That is, Caimandera, Cuba.

Footnote 5: Jesús Sablón Moreno, who adopted the nom de guerre Jesús Rabi.

Footnote 6: Maj. Gen. Calixto García y Iñiguez, commander of the Cuban forces.

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