Commodore John C. Watson, Commander, Blockading Squadron, to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet
Off Piedras Cay, Cuba,
May 27, 1898.
1. I have the honor to submit the following report:
2. On the morning of May 23d, 1898, when in your cabin, I heard Commander George A. Converse, U.S.Navy, commanding U.S.S.MONTGOMERY, state that in his opinion it was possible for one and perhaps both of the two monitors, AMPHITRITE and TERROR, and perhaps also the VESUVIUS to join you at the appointed rendezvous off Cay Frances, before an engagement with the Cape de Verde Squadron could probably occur,1 and when I also heard his earnestly expressed conviction that, taking into account the unreliability of the gun mounts of the MIANTONOMOH and the danger of her disabling herself very early in an action, your force then about to proceed to the rendezvous was not sufficient to ensure the success of such an engagement, I obtained your consent to proceed at once in the MONTGOMERY to Key West to arrange in your name with Commodore Remey2 and their Commanding Officers3 for your being joined by all the fighting ships that it was possible to despatch by the next morning.
3. I accordingly transferred my broad pennant from the DOLPHIN to the MONTGOMERY about 9 A.M. of that day and proceeded to Key West to carry out your instructions. On arriving there at 3:40 P.M., I was glad to learn the NEW ORLEANS had already been despatched to you.
4. Before landing, I went on board the TERROR, AMPHITRITE, VESUVIUS, and WASP; and with the exception of the WASP, found the condition of their machinery and boilers was such that it seemed impracticable for them to start even by eight the next morning. However I proceeded to Commodore Remey’s office and reported to him.
He understood the situation and did every thing in his power to carry out the instructions. After a conference with their Commanding Officers4 and after they realized the gravity of the occasion, I was assured that the AMPHITRITE would be ready to leave by daylight or as soon thereafter as the obtaining of fresh water would admit; and that if it was within the bounds of possibility, the TERROR would be ready for towing and partly coaled.
5. Commander George Reiter, U.S.Navy commanding U.S.S.PANTHER hearing that you needed one or both of these monitors, begged to be allowed to tow one of them so that you might be sure of having her in time, and on my stating that you authorized it, Commodore Remey directed him to land the marines as soon as possible and to take in tow whichever monitor was ready and required to be towed. Commander Converse, at the request of the Commanding Officer of the AMPHITRITE loaned that vessel a 4-1/2 inch steel wire hawser for towing in case of need.
6. The Commanding Officer of the CINCINNATI5 was making temporary repairs to enable that vessel to proceed to Norfolk, under orders of the Department, but with his accustomed zeal desiring to render such assistance as might be in his power, decided to start at daybreak and shape his course so as to join and be with you until after the probable engagement. In cooperation with the Commanding Officer of the VESUVIUS, he secured fresh water for the boilers of the CINCINNATI, and as we were leaving Key West at 8:50 P.M., informed me by signal, he would leave at daylight for the rendezvous; but would require more coal before proceeding to Norfolk.
7. I found the WASP was being held as a dispatch boat but Commodore Remey at once consented to my taking her, and she left at about 10 P.M. in compliance with my orders.
8. The Collier STERLING, with about 4000 tons of coal on board was ordered to proceed to the rendezvous immediately.
9. In conclusion, I desire to express my satisfaction at the zealous activity and efficiency displayed by the Commanding Officer of the VESUVIUS in suspending much needed work on her boilers and machinery and providing that she should be ready by daylight to proceed to join you in condition for active service.
Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 53. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/U.S.Naval Force on/North Atlantic Station.” Stamp in top-right corner: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/MAY 28 1898.”
Footnote 1: RAdm. William T. Sampson was searching for RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s squadron. The Spanish ships arrived at Santiago de Cuba on 19 May, but the U.S. Navy did not sight it until ten days later. Cayo Francés, the rendezvous point, is located on the northern Cuban coast. Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 393-99.
Footnote 2: Commo. George C. Remey, Commandant, Key West Naval Base.
Footnote 3: Capt. Charles J. Barclay, commander of Amphitrite; Capt. Nicoll Ludlow, commander of Terror; and Lt. Cmdr. John E. Pillsbury, commander of Vesuvius.
Footnote 4: Lt. Aaron Ward, commander of Wasp.
Footnote 5: Capt. Colby M. Chester.