Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U.S.Flagship New York,1st Rate,             

Key West, Florida,          

April 8th,1898.   

Sir:-

     1.   Referring to the Department’s telegram of the 2nd instant requesting my plan of operations,and my reply thereto,I have the honor to suggest to the Department in this connection as follows:-

     2.   It is highly important that the scheme of operations against the forces and possessions of Spain should be clearly and cogently laid down and thoroughly understood by all officers in position of command and responsibility.  There are now,as I understand the situation,two squadrons ready for offensive operations; the one which I have the honor to command,and the Flying Squadron under the command of Commodore Schley.1 I request that I may be informed of the Department’s intentions and expectations as to the scope of action of the two forces,and especially as to the portion of the line of operations which is to be taken care of by the Flying Squadron.

     3.   The line of attack against Spain covers the distance from the western end of Cuba to Porto Rico (the islands held by Spain and the adjacent waters traversed by her fleet) and may extend into the Atlantic beyond Porto Rico for the purpose of intercepting her vessels of war coming from transatlantic ports;especially her torpedo Flotilla. Upon this line she has one strongly fortified port (Havana) and two heavy armored modern cruisers.2 These two factors are substantially all of a strictly military character with which we have at present to deal.  My desire to attack Havana without delay has already been conveyed to the Department and I have asked for the return of the MASSACHUSETTS and the ordering here of the AMPHITRITE to aid in its reduction.3  I am in hourly expectation of the arrival of the PURITAN.  With the battle ships and these monitors I should expect to speedily destroy its batteries and render the Cuban capital defenseless.  With a smaller force I still hope to satisfactorily accomplish this,but there is a certainty about overwhelming force in war which renders its employment desirable. Should,however, the batteries of Havana prove to be unexpectedly strong,thereby rendering it inadvisable to push the attack to a conclusion,I shall at once substitute a close blockade of the port,which will be extended east and west to the smaller places.

     4.   As to the VISCAYA and OQUENDO. Those vessels have left Havana,and where they are at present is not known to me.  They cannot operate without coal.  Our object should therefore be to cut them off from all coal supply.  The capture of Porto Rico and the destruction of its supplies of coal at one end of the line,and the effective blockade of Cuban ports at the other end would speedily put them in a very unpleasant predicament. The moment would soon arrive when they would be obliged to decide between returning to Spain or remaining upon the chances of fighting their way into a blockaded port,only,perhaps,to be surprised by a battleship.  I think it may be assumed that under such circumstances with diminishing coal,they would not attempt to raid the Atlantic Coast,with the chance of being caught in a trap without means of escape.

     5.   My opinion that these cruisers should be steadily and relentlessly pursued,their supplies cut off,and no rest allowed them,is indicated in the foregoing.  We have but three ships -the New York, TEXAS and BROOKLYN which are their equals in both speed and power.  We have two others,the COLUMBIA and MINNEAPOLIS which are their superiors in speed,although not equal in power.  Four of these vessels are in the Flying Squadron and these four could run down and capture the VISCAYA and OQUENDO or chase them out of the Cuban Atlantic. It is, I think safe to assume that this once accomplished,no vessels of Spain would again appear in these waters.

Very respectfully,                   

W.T. Sampson                

Captain,Comdr.-in Chief,             

U.S.Naval Force on North Atlantic Station.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 228. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department,/Washington,D.C.”. Document reference No.: “No. 23.” Docketed: Bureau of Navigation Stamp dated 13 Apr. with no. 101886. “U. S. Flagship New York,/(1st rate.)/Key West, Fla/Apr. 8 98/SAMPSON, W.T., Captain, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station./SUBJECT: Requests information as/to Cooperation of the two squadrons-”

Footnote 1: Commo. William T. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron.

Footnote 2: Almirante Oquendo and Vizcaya.

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