Captain William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Station, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
U. S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate,
Key West, Florida,
April 16, 1898.
S I R :--
Referring to your letter of April 6th, 1898, and particularly to the seventh paragraph with reference to submarine cables, I find, upon inquiry, that material and appliances for picking up sub-marine cables can be obtained at this port, making use of those belonging to the “Western Union Telegraph Company”, and by supplying the deficiencies from the fleet in the way of steel hawsers for grappling, we can fit out an expedition for cutting the cables at Santiago de Cuba, and at Guantanamo. Of course such an expedition would not be as well supplied as a steamer especially fitted for this purpose, with experts on board, accustomed to the work, which the Department speaks of employing in the letter above referred to.
2. If a cable steamer be not employed by the Department, I propose to send an expedition, consisting of the “INDIANA”, “MARBLEHEAD”, “DETROIT”, and one or two tugs, with the Coast Survey vessel “BLAKE” for dragging, on this duty immediately upon the outbreak of war. While the expedition may be considered too large for such an object, I do not deem it prudent to send vessels so far from their base of supplies without the protection of a vessel, which, together with the other vessels of the expedition, would be able to resist any probable force which may be brought against it.
3. Besides the prime object of the expedition--- to destroy the sub-marine cables---it would also search the coast on the South side as far as could conveniently be done, for small vessels of the enemy. The distance to be travelled by this expedition would be virtually entirely around the Island of Cuba. The time required to accomplish this work would be twelve days.
4. In this connection I desire to call your attention to the request contained in my letter, No. 32, of April 12th, regarding the employment of pilots. Without such pilots it will be quite impossible to search the Southern coast of Cuba, of which we have not suitable charts. I have information that plenty of good pilots for this part of the Island are to be obtained at Jamaica, and, if the Department approves, the State Department can instruct our consul, by telegraph, at San Antonio, to retain two pilots for this expedition, which would call for them after leaving Santiago de Cuba.
Captain, U. S. Navy,
Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force
North Atlantic Station.
Source Note: TLS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 228. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Navy Department,/Washington, D.C.” Identification number in top left corner: “No. 41.” On separate sheet is a “BUREAU OF NAVIGATION” stamp with the date “APR 19” and identification number “103033.” Docketing on same page: “U.S. Flagship New York,/(1st RATE.)/Key West, Fla.,/April 16-98/SAMPSON, W.T.,/Captain,/ Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Force,/North Atlantic Station./SUBJECT:/Submarine cable/expedition/Pilots.” Some parts of the docketing—the parts in all capitals or small capitals--are printed; the other entries are handwritten.