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Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station

From Secretary of the Navy.


Date February 26, 1898.

Subject Assemble Squadron

at Hongkong.

Prepare for war.

Secret and confidential.

Order the Squadron except Monocacy1 to Hongkong.

Keep full of coal.

In the event of declaration of war Spain, it will be your duty to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave Asiatic coast and then offensive operations in Philippine Islands.

Keep the Olympia until further orders.2

(Signed Roosevelt).

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, PGD. Document was: “Received Honkong Feb. 26/8:30 p.m.”

Footnote 1: The Monocacy was a side-wheel gun-boat built during the Civil War. Though it had a long career in Asia, serving as one of the ships that enforced the opening of trade with Japan, by 1898 it was considered only fit for service in the rivers of coastal China and was given the nickname “Jinricksha of the Navy.” Though the ship did not see combat during the Spanish American War it did participate in quelling the Boxer Rebellion and the rescue of the Western Foreign Legations at Peking in 1900. DANFS.

Footnote 2: This cable from Theodore Roosevelt is a highly controversial document. It is often used as proof that the jingoistic Roosevelt used his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to plan and escalate a war with Spain counter to the desires of his superiors. This theory has largely been refuted. The United States Navy’s plans for war with Spain dating to 1896 suggest the use of a naval squadron to attack and blockade Manila and had this order been considered provocative it would have only required a cable from Secretary Long to countermand it. See: Kimball, “War with Spain 1896, General Considerations of the War, The Results desired and the Consequent Kind of Operations to be Undertaken;” and Spector, Admiral of the New Empire, 44.

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