Skip to main content

North Atlantic Fleet Squadron Bulletin No. 5

Squadron Bulletin.

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

FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 1898.

EVERYTHING remains quiet at Guantanamo. Our people have been dragging for mines in preparation for attacking the gunboat in the upper bay.1

     The following letter was captured by the Cubans enroute to Santiago.

Excellent Sir:

     The seventh day, at dawn, brought seven ships before the port of Caimenara. They fired grape shot and all kinds of projectiles on the Playa del Este and Cayo Toro until they set fire to the fort on the Playa Este and burning the houses of the pilots which the detachment occupied. This lasted, cannonading with more or less intensity, until five o’clock in the afternoon.

     As the Playa del Este had only two muzzle-loading guns and sand intrenchments, the detachment could do nothing before the six ships,2 firing on them from all sides. They retired into Manigua and to the Cuzco Hill, where they remain to-day making sallies on the beach.

     From that day 150 men occupy Punta Caracolas, observing the movement of ships which occupy all the outer port, with a transport of war and a variable number of armed ships and other vessels of war and armed merchant ships; total never less than four.

     I have also taken Enanto Passes and the vigilant Magne which is disposed to fall on them where damage can be done.

     I remain in Caimenara and will only come to the Enanto when I think it necessary, as to-day. I have not been able to antagonize the American ships with rifle fire, no known ground being at hand. Yesterday the Captain of Engineers ordered to make safe protections that would impede and to make them low. The ground of Playa Este is better for this purpose. I refer solely to disembarkation. Dia F. Sandoval and Cayo Toro fired with their artillery, being impeded with their short range, when the ships retired to the centre of the Channel and took positions in the middle of the Bay, or they would not have stopped answering the fire which the enemy’s ships were keeping up with impunity. Sandoval has not over seven discharges of piercing projectiles, and Caimenara battery did not fire, reserving fire until the ships entered the Channel, which is where their guns reached. I am told that the insurgent forces at Baracao have come down to Siguabos, their increased happiness being noticed, and Palamar, and I do not know more.3

     The American Squadron in possession of the outer Bay has taken it as if for a harbor of rest, they having anchored as if one of their own ports, since the seventh, the day they cut the cables.4 In the entrance and centre of the harbor, I not being able to reach them, they have not again molested me except with two cannon shots on the eighth. It appears from the work that is being done that they are preparing to plant the harbor with mines, or place their ships for disembarkation, at Playa del Este, their favorite place. If it is the first, I call your attention to it, in case that some time our Squadron should come here.5 The forces of the Brigade are in good spirits. I continue serving one half rations of everything, and in that way I expect to reach only the end of the month, above all in bread, as I have no flour of any kind, as I said and no way of getting any on account of there having been no corn for some time. Quinine for the hospitals the same. In hard straits I have taken pri<vate drug stores, and will have enough until the end of the month. Town in needful circumstances, first need since the second ultimo. On the seventh we had only two wounded at Cayo Toro. The cable house, riddled with shell, still stands, and if Americans abandon port, which I doubt, everything possible will be done to re-establish communication, to which end I have everything ready.

     To-day there is in the harbor a large transport that appears to be a store ship. They patrol Playo del Este with armed launches, I have just been informed.

     I return to Caimenara on seeing the carrier of this start out, he meriting my confidence as a trusty of the Brigade, having rendered me good services up to date. By sea I have ready a youth that served in the navy and who offered himself spontaneously. I actively recommend him to your Excellency, should he arrive.

     Enanto, 10 June, 1898.


     [There is a seal that says Ejercito de Operaciones en Cuba, E[stado]. M[ayor]. Division de Cuba, 2a Bgde.]6

To His Excellency,

General Commanding Division of Cuba.

     The Porter communicated with La Sigua (near Bacanao) to-day, and brought on board the Flagship General Castillo and Colonel Verannes.7

     There are some 600 men now near La Sigua, some of whom needed arms, and all needed provisions. Two hundred and eighty rifles and equipments were sent from the fleet, and provisions for one week from the Flagship.

     General Rabi with several officers also came on board from Aserraderos with communications from General Garcia.8

     General Garcia is now on his way toward Santiago, and will arrive in the vicinity within the next three or four days. He will probably have with him some three thousand men, being obliged to leave behind a number to prevent any junction of the Spanish forces at Holguin, where there are some eight or ten thousand men, with those at Santiago.

     Garcia’s forces are now well armed and supplied, through the successful expedition of the Florida, which landed 7,800 rifles, over a million and a half of cartridges, and a large quantity of stores and provisions at Banes about the first of the month.9

     It is reported that General Pando, the second in command in Cuba, is now en route to Santiago by way of Manzanillo.10

     It is now understood the Army was not to leave until the 15th.>11

Source Note: Printed, DLC-MSS, Papers of William R. Shafter. 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 5 in Squadron Bulletins, 13-14, from which the portion of the text within angle brackets is extracted.

Footnote 1: A reference to the Spanish gunboat Sandoval.

Footnote 2: There is a discrepancy between the number of ships mentioned here and the preceding paragraph, but possibly one ship did not participate in the bombardment.

Footnote 3: This sentence was transcribed accurately, however, it was probably a poor translation from the original Spanish.

Footnote 5: A reference to the squadron commanded by RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 6: Translation: Army Operations in Cuba, General Staff, Cuban Division, Second Brigade.

Footnote 7: There are seven Cuban generals with a surname that contain “Castillo.” The full name of Col. Varennes has also not been located.

Footnote 8: Brig. Gen. Jesús Rabí (Sablón Moreno) and Maj. Gen. Calixto García Iñiguez.

Footnote 9: For more information on Florida expedition, see, Cosmas, Army for Empire, 112.

Footnote 10: These Spanish troops were under the command of Col. Frederico Escario. Trask, War with Spain, 230-31.

Footnote 11: The Army convoy left Tampa on 14 June.

Related Content