Lieutenant Commander Adolph Marix to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet
( C O P Y ) U. S. S. SCORPION, (25)
Off Manzanillo, Cuba,
July 19, 1898.
In accordance with the requirements of Article 4371 of the Navy Regulations, I respectfully submit the following report in regard to the part taken by the “SCORPION” during yesterday’s engagement in the harbor of Manzanillo.
1. My orders from the Senior Officer2 were to enter the harbor, accompanied by the “OSCEOLA”, by a channel discovered by us on July 1st, nearly abreast of the city, and to open fire upon the gunboats at the same time that the “WILMINGTON” opened fire upon the transports and the Ponton Maria; but as far as possible to keep out of range of the shore batteries.
2. In obedience to this order we entered the harbor at 7 A.M., firing the 6-prds, and machine guns into the cays on the port side as we passed in; and then approached the gunboats opening fire upon the southernmost one at the same time the “WILMINGTON” commenced firing.
After running this gunboat on shore, to all appearances destroyed, this ship backed in and took the other three gunboats, which were south of the city, in the order in which they were lying. It was advisable to back in so that our port battery would be brought to bear, one of our starboard 5” guns being disabled. In succession another gunboat was sunk and a third set on fire and blown up; she had considerable ammunition on board.3
So far the gunboats had made very slight resistance, and as far as we could see there had been no reply from any of the shore batteries. Not being able to reach the fourth gunboat where she lay close inshore and near the city, without having the houses in range, the SCORPION was turned around, steamed in, and placed in position abreast of and close to the vessel. Orders were given to obtain the range with two of the 6-pdrs, after which the first shell from the 5” gun blew her up, apparently having struck the boilers. Either this, or our close proximity seemed to decide the enemy at the fortifications and the artillery batteries to open fire; which they did concentrating their fire at first upon this ship.
We were so close inshore that our sharpshooters endeavored to pick off the officers on horseback who were riding around issuing orders to the different batteries.
3. As soon as the shore batteries opened fire upon us, we returned it and continued firing until we had steamed out of range; having in obedience to a signal from the Senior Officer retired.
4. There were no casualties on board this ship, nor was she hit.
5. In my opinion the successful result of this engagement is due to a large extent to the system of “Gun Captains” lately established in the Navy.4 The four on board this ship did splendid firing with decisive results. No doubt the want of a similar system in the Spanish Navy accounts for the few casualties we have had during the present war.
Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 235. Addressed below close: “Commander-in-Chief/U.S.Naval Force, N.A.Station,/U.S.F.S.NEW YORK.” Docketed: “‘E’/(Copy)/U.S.S. SCORPION (25)/Off Manzanillo Cuba/July 19, 1898/Marix, A./Lieut Comdr U.S.N./Comdg./Report of battle by/SCORPION in engagement at/Manzanillo, July 18, 1898.”
Footnote 1: Article 437 stipulates that commanding officers were to submit reports after any engagement with the enemy.
Footnote 2: Cmdr. Chapman C. Todd.
Footnote 3: For a list of the Spanish gunboats, see: James M. Helm to Sampson, 18 July 1898.
Footnote 4: “Gun-captains” were “men who have attained special proficiency as marksmen with great guns or small arms, or whose superior intelligence fits them to acquire such proficiency, and who, by force of character and ability to command, are suitable to fill the ratings of gun captains.” General Order No. 520, 30 June 1899 in Hearings Before the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives, 1908-1909 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1908), 917.