Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

North Atlantic Fleet Squadron Bulletin No. 6

Squadron Bulletin.

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

SATURDAY, JUNE 18, 1898.

A RECONNAISSANCE was made yesterday of the vicinity of Cabanas Bay. The force under command of Lieutenant Harlow consisted of two steam cutters, one from the New York in charge of Naval Cadet Powell, the other from the Massachusetts in charge of Naval Cadet Hart;1 the launches left the picket line at 3.30 and reported alongside the Vixen and started into the bay at 4.45. Almost immediately after passing the old fort at the entrance they were fired upon and the fire was so continued and heavy and at such short range that they were obliged to retreat. Much of the firing was from within 50 yards. The two launches were struck seventeen times but no one was injured. The Texas and Vixen came to the support of the launches and opened a vigorous and effective fire at short range dispersing the enemy. Lieutenant Harlow particularly praises the conduct of Naval Cadets Hart and Powell, and coxswain O’Donnell and seaman Blom.2

     Matters remain quiet at Guantanamo Bay. The Spanish, from good accounts, are transporting their artillery to Guantanamo town. A shell fired yesterday by the Oregon destroyed a railroad car and set fire to a warehouse. It is stated by a spy that the Sandoval gunboat is filled with straw preparatory to being destroyed.3 It would seem that the forces at Guantanamo are looking to attempting to join those at Santiago. It seems clear, from an intercepted communication that nothing is known in Santiago of affairs at Guantanamo. The Cuban forces hold all the country between the two places and the Cubans state that it will be impossible for the Guantanamo garrison to pass.4

     General Garcia is within two or three days of Santiago with about 3000 men, leaving about the same number behind him to observe the Spanish in the virinity of Holguin.5 General Rabi, near Acerradero (18 miles West,) has 930 men. All these are well armed.6

     The following information regarding the batteries and mines of Santiago has been received, and is believed to be reliable: The Socapa Battery, opposite Estrella, two Hontoria guns of 16 c-m, four Maxim-Nordenfeldt rapid firing 37 m-m, one Maxim-Nordenfeldt of 57 m m, and one Gatling of 25 m-m. All those guns were taken off the Reina Mercedes.

     At the Morro two Maxim-Nordenfeldts of 75 m-m were taken off the Terror, and brought by one of Cervera’s ships.

     The Punta Gordo Battery in the harbor has two Ordonez guns of compressed brass, 15 c-m calibre, one Hontoria of 16 c-m, and another gun was taken off the Reina Mercedes, and when the informant left Santiago this gun was all ready on the lighter to be taken to Punta Gorda.―(This gun was observed from the New York being parbuckled up the hill to the Punta Gorda Battery.)7 Besides these guns there are at all the batteries some old muzzle-loading guns.8

     There are two electrical stations for torpedoes at the Socapa, one at the Estrella, and one at the Cayo Smith. These stations are connected with two lines of torpedoes of the Latimenclar system.9 One line in the channel had seven torpedoes, of which one was fired when the Merrimac was sunk, but without any effect on her, as the torpedo went off <<when she cleared this line. The second line had five, also in the channel, about one hundred meters from the first. One of these torpedoes was also fired at the Merrimac without any effect. The torpedoes are in square boxes of iron, containing 226 kilos of gun-cotton. They had also made ready to sink some Bustamente torpedoes.10

     Our informant states that the Merrimac does not block the channel. He says that she is a little to the right of it and vessels can go in and out without touching direct.11

     He states that on the bombardment of the 3d instant a shell killed Capitan de Fragata Emilio Acosta y Herman, second in command of the Reina Mercedes, and five men, and wounded six men.12

     Our informant thinks that now Mr. Hobson and his men have been taken up into Santiago.>>13

Source Note: Printed, DLC-MSS, Papers of William Fullam. 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 6 in, Squadron Bulletins, 14-17, and is formatted differently. The section in double angle brackets is extracted from this book since the original copy is incomplete. The words in single angle brackets are handwritten interlineations.

Footnote 1: Naval Cadets Joseph W. Powell and Thomas C. Hart.

Footnote 2: For Harlow’s report, see: Charles H. Harlow to Alexander Sharp, Jr., 16 June 1898.

Footnote 3: The Sandoval was not destroyed but was captured by the Americans when Santiago de Cuba surrendered.

Footnote 4: The Cuban forces successfully prevented the Spanish garrison at Guantánamo from reinforcing Santiago.

Footnote 5: Gen. CalixtoGarcía. García’s forces were to prevent the reinforcement of Santiago. While they did prevent Spanish troops from Guantánamo and Holguín from reaching the city, they were unsuccessful with 3,300 Spanish soldiers, though 400 of the latter were killed. Trask, War with Spain, 211-12.

Footnote 6: The force under Gen. Jesús Rabí was later moved by ship from Aserraderos to Diaquirí and Siboney to support American troop landings. Ibid., 204.

Footnote 7: A rope loop arranged in a sling manner that is used for lowering and raising cylindrical objects.

Footnote 8: For a detailed discussion of the make-up of these batteries and the gun transfers from Reina Mercedes, see Müller y Tejeiro, Battles and Capitulation of Santiago de Cuba, 17-26.

Footnote 9: That is, two lines of mines (torpedoes).

Footnote 10: The Bustamente torpedo was invented by Capt. Joaquin Bustamante y Quevedo.

Footnote 11: On the unsuccessful attempt to block the channel into Santiago harbor by sinking the collier Merrimac, see: RAdm. William T. Sampson to John D. Long, 3 June 1898.

Footnote 12: During the 6 June bombardment of Santiago, Reina Mercedes was hit thirty-five times. Two of the shells ignited fires. While directing the fire-fighting, Emilio Acosta y Eyermann’s right leg and hand were severed. He reportedly exclaimed "This is nothing.....Viva Espana!" before he died. Acosta y Eyermann was the first Spanish naval officer killed in the war. Patrick McSherry, “Reina Mercedes,” accessed October 2014, http://www.spanamwar.com/reinam.htm.

Footnote 13: Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson and the seven men who accompanied him in scuttling Merrimac, were captured after its sinking. They were first taken to Reina Mercedes, then to Morro Castle, and finally to the Cuartel, a barracks in Santiago. Richmond P. Hobson, The Sinking of the “Merrimac" (New York: The Century Co., 1899).

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