Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet
Washington, May 6th 1898.
Referring to the Department’s confidential instructions of the 6th April, 1898; to confidential order of April 21st, 1898, modifying the above in so far as it concerns the blockade of Cuba, and to the Department’s cipher despatches of April 21st 1898 and April 26th 1898,-1
You are informed that the Department has not intended to restrict your operations in the West Indies, except in regard to the blockade of certain portions of Cuba, and in the exposure of your vessels to the fire of heavy guns mounted on shore, which are not protecting or assisting formidable Spanish ships.
The Department is perfectly willing that you should expose your ships to the fire of the heaviest guns of land batteries, if in your opinion there are Spanish vessels of sufficient military importance protected by these guns to make an attack advisable; your chief aim being for the present the destruction of the enemy’s principal vessels.
The Department writes this letter because it has been intimated by civilians, and it is believed by officers of rank serving under you, that you are not permitted to take the offensive even against small land batteries; and that you must wait to be fire upon before making an aggressive movement against any port, no matter how poorly fortified.
The Department does not think, however, that you have personally held this view; but in order to guard against any probable misconception on your part, it has concluded to define more particularly its views as expressed as above.
Source Note: CbCyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 29. Addressed below close: “Commander-in-Chief/U.S.Naval Force ,/North Atlantic Station.” Document on “John D. Long./secretary/NAVY DEPARTMENT,/Washington,” stationary.
Footnote 1: See: Long to Sampson, 6 April 1898; Long to Sampson, 21 April 1898; and Long to Sampson, 26 April 1898.