Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Caspar F. Goodrich to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U. S. S. St L O U I S.      

Portsmouth, N.H., 

July 10, 1898

Personal

     My dear Mr Long:-

              By careful husbanding of our fuel I have been able to make a cruise of six weeks from the day of leaving New York until my arrival here. During that time the ship has been very useful, as Admiral Sampson1 was good enough to say to me. What with cutting cables, blockading off Cape Cruz, taking prizes, landing the Army and bringing home the captives, she has certainly not been idle.2 It is pleasant to think that she has been able to cut no less than three foreign cables leading to Cuba-while the Army boat ADRIA, a steamer completely equipped for the purpose, only cut the one which I had already cut three weeks before. The newspapers give the credit to General Greely3 and his “able assistants in Cuban waters” but as a matter of fact the St. LOUIS did the work. For instance, in one night she found and cut a second Jamaica cable which the ADRIA had grappled for in vain for days.

              I am a bit apprehensive that totally unnecessary changes are contemplated in this ship which will be costly in the first instance and much more costly when she comes to be refitted for transatlantic trade. As things are, the St LOUIS could be handed back to her owners on a Monday-be coaled and provisioned Tuesday and sail her regular trip Wednesday. A few hundred dollars would pay for the damage done to the upper rail where it was removed to make way for her battery; and a few hundred more for overhauling and repairing her boats which suffered somewhat in landing the army-a couple of hundred more for miscellaneous items and there you have practically the whole bill. Yet no one can say that the St LOUIS has not done well.

              With a couple of larger guns and no more men I am ready to join the fleet going abroad-or return to Sampson. I can do the work on board. For this there is no necessity of sending the St LOUIS to Cramps4 or indeed any Navy Yard. The war is drawing to a close and I am anxious to see the end from the deck of my ship while cruising-and not at a dockyard undergoing alterations.

              If it must be give me at most, four six inch guns one forward, one aft and one on each side, with twenty more marines to man them and please send me not another soul. We are all as happy as clams on board and we only ask to be let alone. I have never commanded a more harmonious ship. I hear we are to have a Paymaster. Please countermand his orders; I have no need of him at all. The Officers accounts are taken up at some office or other on shore and those of the marines can be similarly dealt with.  The business of the ship and her crew is done by the American Line purser in a business way. A Paymaster is superfluous; were one sent to replace the Purser dire confusion would result.

          It is but right to commission the officers (yet unexamined by the way), but it would be a great mistake, in my judgement to enlist the crew. They are content with their present status and compensation. Why alter an arrangement which has served its purpose well?.

              I have diligently sought these four things, harmony, efficiency, usefulness and economy. I am happy to be able to think I have succeeded in all. When the St LOUIS goes back to the American Line, her crew and her staff will be justly proud of the part she played in the war.

              Admiral Sampson told me that in recognition of my services he had purposed giving me command of the CRISTOBAL COLON-the least injured of the vessels of Cervera’s5 fleet-but she proved to be too badly aground to get off speedily. I can’t express my disappointment. I hope you will see your way clear to giving me an armored ship now-one that is to go to Spain. The heroes of the 3d of July6 can well afford to give others a chance. Some of them need a change of air although they wont say so-Evans7 among the number; he would flay me alive if he heard me say so, but its true. But-any fighting ship that is to take part in the last act of the drama will do. I have worked faithfully and well-as Sampson will tell you-with the tools at hand-now put a weapon into them, I pray you.

              I wish the Army appreciated the excellent work done for it by the Navy, but our sister branch of the service is a spoiled child and takes every exertion on our part as a matter of course. From its point of view the Navy is but a handmaid to the Army. Some of the things done lately have not been calculated to soothe the nautical temper. Especially is it hard for us to put up with an irritating assumption of superiority. Of its only maritime enterprise-the moving of the troops from Tampa to Daiquiri-it is well not to speak. Some day a grave scandal will probably be unearthed. After getting the troops there the Army was as helpless as a babe until the Navy stepped in and landed them. Had the Army frankly said“This is a matter appertaining to ships-let the Navy manage it” the case would have been different-but it assumed the task gaily. The coming accountability will be heavy. Then too, with lots of empty transports lying idle off Siboney and Daiquiri-it must needs call on the Navy for its big liners to bring more troops from home. I hear that even this noble vessel was to have had its share of this disagreeable, dirty and thankless task. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have escaped it. Had it been a real national exigency no one would have responded to the call more promptly or cheerfully than I, but knowing, as I did, the Army’s wealth in transports that are doing nothing but burn up their coal in port it was impossible to take interest or pleasure in the prospect. Every such employment will entail a large expenditure in refitting these vessels at the end of the war-something I have up to the present time been able to avoid.

              It will be just like the Army to want the St LOUIS and her sister ships to bring north any prisoners whom General Shafter8 may have taken. Of course this would not be an emergency and therefore would not be permitted. I found in my intercourse with Army officers that a most courteous “No” always worked well. It achieved its immediate purpose and was of educational value as well. They need lots of the same kind.

              We have no news from our prize the TWICKENHAM. If the court should decide to acquit the ship - a very dangerous precedent will be established under shadow of which neutrals can serve a belligerent - practically with impunity. Should such an unfortunate decision be reached, I know Admiral Sampson will be glad to have the government appeal the case. A very important principle is at stake.

              Recurring to the personal matter of giving me a fighting ship, I hear that Captain Philip9 who is on the eve of promotion is quite ready to give up the TEXAS now that he has had his fight and done so well.

              Was I not right about Sampson ? and is not his fight the most complete victory on record ?

              Pardon the length of this letter and believe me

          Very sincerely and respectfully

                   C. F. Godorich

Source Note: TLS, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, Box 43.

Footnote 1: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 3: Gen. Adolphus W. Greely.

Footnote 4: Cramp’s Yard was a nickname for the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Footnote 5: That is, Christóbol Colón and Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 6: Goodrich is referring to the 3 July, Battle of Santiago Bay.

Footnote 7: Capt. Robly D. Evans.

Footnote 8: Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter. St. Louis’ sister ships were the other American Line auxiliaries: Harvard, Yale, and St. Paul.

Footnote 9: Capt. John W. Philip.

Related Content