Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington,

April 11, 1898.   

Sir:

     The Strategy Board has the honor to report as follows:1

If it seems unlikely that hostilities will occur for some weeks, then all the vessels possible, and especially the TEXAS and MASSACHUSETTS, should be docked.2 The Board would much like to have exact information as to when the New York and Port Royal docks will be ready to receive battleships. If there is any doubt about the New York dock being fit, then it would seem to be worth while to do everything possible to put the Port Royal dock in trim.

The four ships that have just been made auxiliary cruisers will be armed with ten instead of eight big rapid-fire guns.3 The Board has come to the conclusion that these vessels should form part of the deep-sea patrol for the protection of the coast trade, and undefended seaboard at once, from Cape Hatteras to Eastport.4 With this end in view they must be given a formidable battery, so as to enable them to out-fight any privateer or unarmored vessel likely to be brought against them. As there must be six of these patrols the Board recommends that the NITCHEROY, if purchased, be fitted with one 8-inch and six 5-inch modern rifles;4 and that another cruiser to carry eight, and if possible then, rapid-fire 5-inch guns be purchased. The ST. LOUIS and ST. PAUL should be used primarily as dispatch boats and huge colliers, and only need two or three four inch guns apiece.5

The Board has telegraphed to Admiral Sampson to find out what vessels are needed for blockaders if the coast of Cuba is to be blockaded, and also as to what kinds of vessels.6 For this blockade service the Board is inclined to think that smaller vessels, carrying but two or three rapid-fire guns apiece, will be sufficient.

Two colliers and a dispatch boat should be sent to the Flying Squadron at once, and this squadron, or at any rate the COLUMBIA and MINNEAPOLIS, should be exercised off the coast so as to get into good trim.

If possible confidential men should be obtained at the Cape Verdes and Port au Prince, who will telegraph us all possible information. The Bureau of Steam Engineering already have one such man at the Cape Verdes.7

Very respectfully,          

T. Roosevelt           

Assistant Secretary.

Source Note: TLS, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, Box 40. At top-left corner: “Theodore Roosevelt, asst. secretary.” Addressed below close: “The Honorable,/The Secretary of the Navy.” This document is on Assistant Secretary of the Navy stationery.

Footnote 1: The Strategy or Home Board are other names for the Naval War Board.

Footnote 2: There was concern at the time that the ships required maintenance. Roosevelt to Long, 14 February 1898, DLC-MSS, PTR.

Footnote 3: The four auxiliary cruisers were: St. Paul, Yale, Harvard, and ST. LOUIS.

Footnote 4: Panic spread along the East Coast that there would be an attack by the Spanish fleet. To allay this fear, the Flying Squadron, Northern Patrol Squadron, Coastal Signal Service, Auxiliary Naval Force, and coastal defense measures were established. For more information, see: Coastal Defense.

Footnote 5: Nitcheroy (originally El Cid) was purchased from Brazil by Capt. Charles E. Clark (Oregon) and subsequently fitted out as the auxiliary cruiser Buffalo.

Footnote 6: The St. Paul (Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee) and St. Louis (Capt. Caspar F. Goodrich) were used in reconnaissance and cable-cutting missions.

Footnote 7: The Department of the Navy, through the Office of Naval Intelligence, use the naval attachés and State Department networks to gather information. See: Naval Intelligence. 

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