Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Personal Log of Commander William H. Emory

“AT SEA, JUNE 10, 1898.

“Guantanamo was occupied several days ago by our naval force. Little, if any, opposition was met with. This is all the more peculiar as the harbour, although more contracted, is next in importance as a strategic base, to Santiago. It is only forty-two miles from Santiago, and this permits the vessels of the blockading fleet to coal quickly, and return to their stations on the blockade, whereas in the most favourable weather, coaling at sea is very difficult and the vessels liable to serious injury. The importance of this harbour cannot be over-estimated, either from a strategic or diplomatic point of view. It gives us a foothold in Cuba, which used as a base will soon end in the absorption of the entire Island by our military and naval forces.

     “At three o’clock the disembarkation of the marines commenced and was effected by the boats of the Yosemite, Marblehead, Panther and Dolphin.1

     “Before landing all of the buildings of Guantanamo were burned in order to avoid danger of yellow fever and to lessen the number of insects which the Spaniards do not dislike so much as do the Anglo-Saxon.

     “Of course the eight hundred and fifty marines under Colonel Huntington2 would be inadequate as a force to hold this position, were they not protected by the guns of the naval vessels which are anchored to command all of the approaches to the encampment.

     “About three miles above Guantanamo is the Port of Caymanera, where there is a railway connecting with Sta Catalina del Guaso3 and a military road direct to Santiago. This place is defended by a fort, a Spanish gunboat4 and about three thousand troops. The place would have been occupied several days ago, upon the first arrival of our vessels, were it not that the insurgents report all the navigable waters leading from our anchorage to Caymanera heavily mined. To ascertain this fact, steam launches were sent out at nightfall to examine the approaches to Caymanera. The steam launch from this ship was commanded by Lieutenant Newberry;5 Mr. Eustis6 volunteered and was permitted to go with the party. They returned at 6 A.M. this morning after having conducted an investigation to a position under the guns of the fort and report that they have carefully dragged the river and fail to find any submarine mines. Whether they are there or not, Caymanera must be taken, as it is the key to Santiago de Cuba, where Cervera’s Fleet is bottled. As our Fleet cannot now enter Santiago since the Merrimac was sunk, the capture of Santiago must be enforced by the army, which will have to land at Caymanera and march overland.”

Source Note Print: Albert Gleaves, ed., The Life of An American Sailor: Rear Admiral William Hemsley Emory United States Navy. From His Letters and Memoirs (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1923), pp. 241-44. The recipient of the letter is not given; from its style and content the editors have surmised it was addressed to Emory’s wife.

Footnote 1: This was the First Marine Battalion. For more on the landing see: Journal of the First Marine Battalion. Yosemite had been the escort vessel for the troopship Panther, which had transported the marines from Key West.

Footnote 2: Lt. Col. Robert W. Huntington.

Footnote 3: When first settled in 1819, the town of Guantánamo was called Santa Catalina del Saltadero del Guaso. Presumably, Emory was using the original name so as not to confuse the town with the harbor.

Footnote 4: Spanish gunboat Sandoval, Tenientede Navio Scandella, commander.

Footnote 5: Lt. Truman Newberry.

Footnote 6: Ens. George Eustis served as captain’s clerk.

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