Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

North Atlantic Fleet Squadron Bulletin No. 25

Squadron Bulletin.

U. S. Flagship New York.         Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

THURSDAY, JULY 7, 1898.

THE Massachusetts and Texas paid a visit to the wrecks of the [Almirante Oquendo] and Infanta Maria Teresa.

An effort was made by the flagship to communicate with General Cebreco1 at Guayacabon and deliver some provisions for the Cuban troops, but without avail; the whereabouts of none of his force could be discovered. It was important to communicate with him in order to inform him as to the existence of a truce which was to last, under certain circumstances, until noon of the ninth. The basis of this was the following letter from General Shafter to the Spanish Commander-in-Chief.2

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Headquarters 5th Army Corps.

Camp near San Juan River, Cuba.

The General-in-Chief,                           July 6th, 1898.

Commanding the Spanish Forces,

Santiago de Cuba.

SIR:

     1.─In view of the events of the 3rd instant I have the honor to lay before your Excellency certain propositions to which I trust your Excellency will give the consideration which, in my opinion, they deserve.3

     2.─I enclose a bulletin4 of the engagement of Sunday morning which resulted in the complete destruction of Admiral Cervera’s fleet, the loss of 600 of his officers and men and the capture of the remainder.5 The Admiral, General Paredes6 and all others who escaped alive are now prisoners on board the Harvard and St. Louis, and the latter ship, in which are the Admrial, General Paredes and the surviving Captains (all except the Captain of the Almirante Oquendo, who was slain,)7 has already sailed for the United States. If desired by you, this may be confirmed by your Excellency sending an officer under a flag of truce to Admiral Sampson and he can arrange to visit the Harvard, which will not sail until to-morrow, and obtain the details from Spanish officers and men aboard that ship.

     3.─Our fleet is now perfectly free to act, and I have the honor to state that, unless a surrender be arranged by noon of the ninth instant, a bombardment of the city8 will be begun and continued by the heavy guns of our ships.9 The city is within easy range of these guns, the eight-inch being capable of firing nine thousand five hundred yards, the thirteen-inch of course much farther. The ships can so lie that with a range of eight thousand yards they can reach the center of the city.

4.─I make this suggestion of a surrender purely in a humanitarian spirit. I do not wish to cause the slaughter of any more men either of your Excellency’s forces or my own; the final result, under circumstances so disadvantageous to your Excellency, being a foregone conclusion.

5.─As your Excellency may wish to make reference of so momentous a question to your Excellency’s home government,10 it is for this purpose that I have placed the time of the resumption of hostilities sufficiently far in the future to allow a reply being received.

6.─I beg an early answer from your Excellency.

I have the honor to be your Excellency’s obedient servant,

WILLIAM R. SHAFTER, Major-General, U. S. V.,

Commanding 5th Army Corps.

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     During the evening the Commander-in-Chief was informed, by letter from General Shafter, that the Spanish Commander had decided to refer the question to Madrid.

     Commander Watson11 shifted his broad pennant from the Oregon to the Newark.

     The Brooklyn, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Schley,12 returned from Guantanamo.

Source Note: Printed, DNA, RG 313, Entry 56. This bulletin was produced on a printing press on New York (the flagship of RAdm. William T. Sampson’s North Atlantic Fleet) and was distributed to the vessels. It is listed as number 25 in Squadron Bulletins, 48-50.

Footnote 1: Maj. Gen. Agustín Cebreco y Sánchez.

Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter and Gen. José Toral y Vázquez.

Footnote 3: Gen. Shafter would later recount on 1 November 1899, that: “I told Chadwick that I had prepared a letter demanding the surrender of Toral, and then and there read it to him. When I had finished reading it, he said “General, will you take a few suggestions?” and I said “certainly, I shall be very glad to receive them” He then said “If I were in your place I would make a change in my method of addressing Gen. Toral and instead of saying “You” or “Your army” I would say “Your Excellency” and “Your Excellency’s Army.”. . .  I handed him the pad and pencil, and he embodied my views in the letter which he copied, which was all my own, except, in the course of his copying it I asked him to state to Gen. Toral the ranges of our guns so that Toral might know that Santiago was fully within range of our guns. The whole matter was of so little importance that I never thought of it since, as it was not worth thinking about, although the Navy, in their desire to get personal credit for public service. . . jumped at this episode as a drowning man would clutch at a straw.” Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter to Brig. Gen. Henry C. Corbin, DLC-MSS, Papers of Henry C. Corbin, Box 2.

Footnote 5: Six Spanish ships were destroyed and approximately 1,720 prisoners were taken. Trask, War with Spain, 265.

Footnote 6: There is a mistake with the title “general.” The second in command of the Spanish squadron was Capt. José Maria de Paredes.

Footnote 7: The commander of Almirante Oquendo was Capt. Juan B. Lazaga y Garay.

Footnote 8: Santiago de Cuba.

Footnote 9: For more on the bombardment of the city, see: Joint Operations at Santiago de Cuba.

Footnote 10: The home government in Madrid deferred the decision to Capt. Gen. Ramón Blanco y Erenas, the leader of the Autonomist Government of Cuba at Havana.

Footnote 11: Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, Eastern Squadron.

Footnote 12: Commo. William S. Schley, Commander, 2nd Blockading Squadron.

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