Commander Chapman C. Todd to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet
U.S.S.Wilmington, 3rd Rate,
Off Manzanillo, Cuba, July 18, 1898.
S I R :--
At 7: this a.m. this morning the vessels on blockade duty in this vicinity, consisting of the Wimington, Helena, Scorpion, Hist, Hornet, Wompatuck, and Osceola, approached the harbor of Manzanillo from the west-ward, having rendezvoused at Guaybal last evening.1
2. At 7:30 the Wilmington and the Helena entered the northern channel towards the city; the Scorpion and Osceola the mid-channel between two Cays not shown on the chart; the Hist Hornet and Wom[p]atuck entered by the South entrance. The movements of the vessels being so timed as to come within effective range of the shipping about the same time. At 7:50 fire was opened on the shipping as the vessels came into position; and after a deliberate fire lasting during two hours and a half, three transports, El Gloria, Jose Garcia, and El Purissima, were burnt and destroyed; the Ponton, which is the harbor guard and store ship, probably for ammunition, was burnt and blew up; three gun-boats were destroyed; one other driven ashore and sank, and another driven ashore and believed to have been disabled.2
3. The fire was maintained at a range that was believed to be without the range of the shore artillery known to be there, and continued up to the close of the engagement, by which time, by gradual[ly] closing in, the shore batteries and field artillery opened fire at comparatively short range, and the vessels were recalled, the object of the expedition having been accomplished and the ideas of the Commander in Chief carried out as I understood them; that is, to destroy the enemy’s shipping but not engage the field batteries or forts.3
4. No casualties occurred on board any of the vessels. One 3-pounder mount on board the Wompatuck was disabled, the reason being that it was not properly secured. The starboard 4-inch mount on board this vessel was for a few minutes disabled by reason of the elevating arm being cracked.
5. The present force will remain in this vicinity over night, to guard against possible attempts to escape on the part of the shipping here.
6. There being quite a large force of Cubans soldiers in the vicinity, the opportunity will be used, if possible, to communicate with them and get definite information as to the status of the force on shore.
7. Great care was taken in directing the fire that as little damage as possible be done to the City itself, and, as far as could be observed, little, if any, was done.
8. Further movements of the force will depend upon circumstances which may arise of which the Commander in Chief will be notified.
9. All the vessels were handled with sound discretion and excellent judgment by their several commanding Officers, which was to have been expected from the men commanding the vessels of this force. They appreciated in full, as shown by the handling of the several vessels, the wishes of the Commander in Chief in the operations now going on in these waters, that is, not to expose the vessels unnecessarily, but to burn and destroy where practicable any shipping that may prove of use to the enemy.
C. C. TODD,
Commander, U.S. Navy,
S. O. P.4
Source Note: TCy, RG 313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “The Commander in Chief,/U. S. Naval Force,/N. A. Station.” Identification number at top left corner of first page: “No. 22.”
Footnote 1: On 11 July, Lt. Cmdr. Adolph Marix of the Scorpion wrote Sampson on behalf of the commanders of Hist, Hornet, and Wompatuck requesting that there be no further operations against Manzanillo “until we have at least one protected man-of-war here.” These officers requested that the Helena be sent. Sampson decided to send both Helena and Wilmington. Chadwick, The Spanish-American War, 2, 344-45.
Footnote 2: The “Ponton,” the gunboat Pontón Maria, was burned and sunk as were the gunboats Estrella and Delgado Parejo. Two other gunboats—Guantánamo and Guardián—were forced ashore and sunk. Ibid., 346. By “El Purissima” Todd is referring to the Spanish blockade runner Purisima Concepción.
Footnote 3: Despite what Todd wrote here, Marix reported that his vessel, Scorpion, was so close inshore that sharpshooters from the vessel “endeavored to pick off the officers on horseback who were riding around issuing orders to the different batteries.” See: Marix to Sampson, 15 July 1898.
Footnote 4: That is, Senior Officer Present.