Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station, Cruising Orders for the North Atlantic Squadron

[Mar. 26-Apr. 9, 1898]

In case of War the vessels of the squadron will proceed at once to the coast of Havana.1 The approach will be made from the Northward and to the Westward of Havana,about Roques Point.

     The cruising formation is given below.

          Upon approaching the coast,the fighting ships will take the lead,and,upon signal,form column with Iowa leading,which will carry the pennant of the Commander in Chief. The column will be so directed as to approach the westernmost battery from the Westward. The Iowa will lead close in shore at a distance of 800 or 1000 yards. Each ship in the line will open fire on the nearest battery as soon as she can bring her guns to bear.

     The rapid fire guns will commence firing as soon as they can fire into the embrasures.2

     The distance between ships in order that they may support each other,will be three hundred (300) yards,and the speed eight ( 8 ) knots; the steam pressure being kept low.

     Should it be found that the smoke from the ship ahead interferes with the aim of the following ship,the distance can be increased,or,each ship may steer3 inside the smoke of Her leader,bringing each succeeding ship somewhat nearer the batteries than her leader.

     If the resistance of the batteries is not great the vessels will go to the Eastward until they have passed the Santa Clara Battery,when they will turn with starboard helm and return along the battery front.  Great care will be exercised by each ship in returning to avoid running into smoke of her leader. If the resistance is great for the number of ships available,the leader will turn after passing the battery to the Westward of Santa Clara.

     If at any time any of the enemies vessels appear,they will immediately be attacked by the cruisers,and the armored vessels will assist them if thought necessary. Should the attack on the batteries prove satisfactory,demand under a flag of truce will be made for the city to surrender or suffer bombardment in twenty four hours.

     Should the attack on the batteries be unsatisfactory either owing to their power of resistance,or,to too few ships,it will be temporarily abandoned for a close blockade of Havana,which will be gradually extended both east and west.

     At night fall the squadron will haul off the coast five miles,and resume cruising formation.

     All the ships will keep their position with regard to the Flagship which will slowly steam to the westward whenever necessary to maintain her position.

O R D E R  O F  C R U I S I N G

I.   The armored ships to be designated the Ist. Squadron,and the cruisers the 2nd. Squadron,and to be referred to as such by squadron flags or displays.

2.   The signal 231 to designate “ form in first order of cruising as designated by the Commander-in-Chief. ” The signal 232 to designate “ form in second order of cruising,as designated by the Commander-in-Chief.”

3.   CRUISING FORMATION.  At the signal 231 the armored ships will form in double line,same number of ships in each line,Flagship ( Iowa )4 on the left of the rear division; Indiana to be on the left of the van division,and the New York on the right of the rear division, so as to give the heaviest possible flank fire in case a torpedo boat eludes the scouts. It is considered that there is little chance of attack from other classes of vessels. Distance, 400 yards. Order, natural.5

     Cruisers to act as linkers, the Nashville ahead of the van division,within easy signal distance,and the Cincinnati the same distance ahead of the Nashville. The Marblehead and the Detroit on the flank,within easy signal distance of the Flagship: the Castine and Newport astern in similar positions to those ahead. If more cruisers are available,they are to be posted on the flank.

     Torpedo boats to act as scouts,and to be stationed as shown, the heaviest,and the one with the right-ahead fire,being in the van.

4.   On approaching the coast,signal 232 ( second order of cruising ) is to be made, when the force will form in three lines:

          (I)  The first squadron,or armored ships;

(2)  The second squadron,or cruisers,including the New York.

(3)  The torpedo boats. ( the New York is now to be considered as having left the 1st squadron and joined the second.)   

This is to be accomplished by the rear division of the first squadron ( except F ) forming line to the left of the van division: the cruisers to form on ( N ) as a base file, ( W ) ( C ) and ( F ) obliquing to the right and stopping to allow the first squadron to pass,then,with ( L ),obliquing to the left and closing in on ( N ) who proceeds to the front at reduced speed.  ( T ) and ( U ) change speed and oblique so as to form on the left of ( N ): torpedo boats to manoeuvre so as to form line to the rear of the cruisers,in the order shown.

5.   The force will proceed in this order,the interval between the lines being regulated by the limit of visibility of signals.  When the first squadron is sufficiently near the coast,the second squadron will be signalled to stop,and it,and the torpedo boats,will keep out of range,but within signal distance of the first squadron and will be manoeuvered by the senior officer of the second squadron with that end in view: he will,if necessary,detail a ship to take position between the two squadrons to repeat signals. He will be ready to make such an attack on the batteries as may be designated by the Commander in Chief,and,together with the Commanding Officer of the Flotilla,will be on the alert to frustrate a torpedo attack by boats attempting to slip out of Havana harbor, or out of the small bay to the Westward of the battery under cover of the smoke.

     The first squadron will execute “ Vessels left turn ”, and attack the batteries in column,as already detailed, the squadron regulating course and speed by Flagship, with or without signal.

A  Iowa,                G  Terror,           O.D.Dupont,

C Cincinnati,           P  Puritan,           O.E.Ericsson

F  New York,            T  Detroit,           O.F. Foote

J  Indiana,             U  Newport,              O.[C.]Cushing

L  Marblehead,            W  Nashville,         O.P.Porter

H  Castine,                                   O.W.Winslow






T    U    H    W    P    [O]  L


O.E. [O.W.]  [O.D.]  O.P.  O.F.  [O.C.]

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 36. These orders date to between 26 March 1898, when Sampson was made Commander-in-Chief, and 9 April 1898, when Sampson submitted his intention to Secretary Long and makes note that he had already submitted plans for a siege of Havana to his commanders. See: Sampson to Long, 9 April 1898.

Footnote 1: The United States Navy never actually besieged Havana. The Naval War Board and Secretary Long indicated to Sampson as early as 6 April 1898, that it would be his job to seek out and destroy the Spanish fleet or to practice a close blockade of Cuban ports. The War Department’s intention was to use ground troops to assault and hold primary ports in Cuba and it was the Navy’s responsibility to keep Spanish ships from interfering in the transit of U.S. Army troops to Cuba and to blockade relief for Spanish soldiers attempting to maintain a tenable defense of Cuba’s major cities. See: Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Sampson, 6 April 1898.

Footnote 2: The writing of this plan predates Capt. Sampson transferring his flag to the armored cruiser New York from the Iowa, where he previously served as Captain. Sampson planned to command the North Atlantic Station from aboard the Iowa.

Footnote 3: “Order, natural” refers to the predesignated formation of ships before any intervening factor would alter it.

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