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President William McKinley to the Congress of the United States

55TH Congress,}    SENATE.   {Document

2d Session.}            {No. 324.











June 27, 1898.—Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.




To the Congress of the United States:

On the morning of the 3d of June, 1898, Assistant Naval Constructor RICHMOND P. HOBSON, United States Navy, with a volunteer crew of seven men, in charge of the partially dismantled collier Merrimac, entered the fortified harbor of Santiago, Cuba, for the purpose of sinking the collier in the narrowest portion of the channel, and thus interposing a serious obstacle to the egress of the Spanish fleet which had recently entered that harbor. This enterprise, demanding coolness, judgment, and bravery amounting to heroism, was carried into successful execution in the face of a persistent fire from the hostile fleet as well as from the fortifications on shore.

Rear-Admiral Sampson, commander in chief of our naval force in Cuban waters, in an official report dated “Off Santiago de Cuba, June 3, 1898,” and addressed to the Secretary of the Navy, referring to Mr. Hobson’s gallant exploit, says:. . .1


. . . The members of the crew who were with Mr. Hobson on this momentous occasion have already been rewarded for their services by advancement which, under the provisions of law and regulations, the Secretary of the Navy was authorized to make; and the nomination to the Senate of Naval Cadet Powell,2 who, in a steam launch, followed the Merrimac on her perilous trip for the purpose of rescuing her force after the sinking of that vessel, to be advanced in rank to the grade of ensign, has been prepared and will be submitted.

Cushing, with whose gallant act in blowing up the ram Albemarle during the civil war Admiral Sampson compares Mr. Hobson’s sinking of the Merrimac,3 received the thanks of Congress upon recommendation of the President, by name, and was in consequence, under the provisions of section 1508 of the Revised Statutes, advanced one grade, such advancement embracing 56 numbers.4 The section cited applies, however, to line officers only, and Mr. Hobson, being a member of the staff of the Navy could not under its provisions be so advanced.5

In considering the question of suitably rewarding Assistant Naval Constructor Hobson for his valiant conduct on the occasion referred to, I have deemed it proper to address this message to you with the recommendation that he receive the thanks of Congress, and, further, that he be transferred to the line of the Navy and promoted to such position therein as the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may determine. Mr. Hobson’s transfer from the construction corps to the line is fully warranted, he having received the necessary technical training as a graduate of the Naval Academy, where he stood No. 1 in his class;6 and such action is recommended, partly in deference to what is understood to be his own desire, although, he being now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, no direct communication on the subject has been received from him, and partly for the reason that the abilities displayed by him at Santiago are of such a character as to indicate especial fitness for the duties of the line.7

William McKinley.

Executive Mansion, June 27, 1898.

Source Note: T, DLC-MSS, Papers of RICHMOND P. HOBSON. This document was glued on cardboard.

Footnote 2: En. Joseph W. Powell.

Footnote 3: Radm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet. During the American Civil War Lt. William B. Cushing and his crew rammed the CSS Albemarle on the Roanoke River on 27 Oct. 1864.

Footnote 4: Section 1508 (Title XV-The Navy) states: “Any line officer, whether of volunteers or of the regular Navy, may be advanced one grade, if, upon recommendation of the President by name, he receives the thanks of Congress for highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy or for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession.” Revised Statutes of the United States Passed at the First Session of the Forty-Third Congress, 1873-’74 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1878), 260.

Footnote 5: Line officers and constructors (considered part of the staff corps) were ranked separately at this time despite attempts at regularization. See, Walter R. Herrick, Jr., The American Naval Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Press, 1966), 163-64.

Footnote 6: Richmond P. Hobson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1889.

Footnote 7: For more information about Hobson’s exploits see, Richmond P. Hobson, The Sinking of the “Merrimac”: A Personal Account (New York: The Century Co., 1899). 

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