Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant John L. Purcell to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U. S. S. OSCEOLA,                 

Navy Yard, Norfolk, Virginia,

August 31, 1898.  

S I R:--

     The following summary of the cruise of the OSCEOLA for the month of August is respectfully submitted:

     The OSCEOLA remained at Guantanamo Bay coaling and doing special towing duty until the evening of the 8th instant, when she left for Daiguiri to water. During her stay in Guantanamo the commanding officer published a letter of the Commander-in-Chief commending the conduct of officers and crew during the engagement at Manzanillo July 1st, 1898.1 Returned to Guantanamo August 10th, and left immediately to join the NEWARK, SUWANEE and ALVARADO, convoying the RESOLUTE, a battalion of marines on board for the Isle of Pines.2 August 12th at daylight came up with the NEWARK and other vessels off Cape Cruz, and proceeded with them to Manzanillo, where we arrived at 10.50 A. M., August 18th.

     The senior officer present3 sent a demand ashore for the surrender of the military and naval forces of the city, within three hours from the time of delivery of the ultimatum. The ultimatum was delivered at 12.35 P. M., and the conditions were refused. At 1.25 P. M. on signal cleared for action, and proceeded to the entrance of the channel between Cays leading to Caimanera Point. At 3.35 P. M. entered the channel, OSCEOLA leading, SUWANEE and HIST following. About 3.45 P.M. we opened fire, shelling the beach at 4000 yards range and gradually closing. At 4.07 P. M. we saw a flaf [i.e. flag] of truce flying from the Commandant’s Headquarters. We ceased firing and communicated this information to the SUWANEE. The latter ordered an advance, and we went ahead. A signal from the NEWARK to cease firing was then flying. We went ahead, the SUWANEE, OSCEOLA and HIST in the order named, and when close abreast of the city water battery, we stopped to await the coming of the ALVARADO flying a flag of truce. When the latter had arrived in shore of the SUWANEE a fire was suddenly opened on us from the shore batteries, supported by heavy infantry fire. A general action followed, lasting about twenty minutes. This vessel remained in 2 3/4 to 3 fathoms of water, drawing at the time about fourteen feet. One shell struck across our stern and crushed a filled 3-pdr ammunition box, but did no other damage. We withdrew from action by order of the commanding officer of the SUWANEE.4

     The following morning a notice of the signing of the protocol was received and the declaration of armistice made known. We left that day for Cape Cruz by way of Manzanillo Channel, and the day following proceeded under orders to Cienfuegos, to notify the other ships of the armistice, and then proceeded to Key West, remaining at the latter place about twelve hours, and then proceeded to Hampton Roads. Anchored there August 22nd, about noon. August 24th proceeded to Navy Yard at Norfolk to repair pumps. Remained there coaling and scaling boilers with ship’s force and repairing pumps the rest of the month.

Very respectfully,

      J L Purcell                         

Lieutenant U. S. N., Com’d’g.             

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 47, Box 5. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief, Commanding U. S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station.” Stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/SEP 18 1898.”

Footnote 1: The commanding officer at Guantanamo was Cmdr. Bowman H. McCalla. Sampson’s letter of commendation has not been found.

Footnote 3: Capt. Caspar F. Goodrich.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Delehanty.

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