Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Francis A. Cook to Commodore Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Second Squadron

[Extract]

U.S.F.S.Brooklyn, 1st Rate,

At anchor, Guantanamo Bay,

July 7th, 1898.

Sir:-

     1.   At 9:00 A.M.July 3d, I gave orders and arrangements were made for General Muster at 9:30 A.M. At 9:30 A.M.the enemy were telegraphed by the Iowa as coming out. At the same time they were discovered by the Quartermaster on watch, N. Anderson,1 of this ship,and reported to the Officer of the deck. The Executive Officer,Lt.Comdr.Mason,2 who was on deck about to execute the order for General Muster, immediately gave the order,“Clear ship for action and General Quarters”-Signal [aw] was made at the same time,“Enemy coming out,action”. I went immediately forward,stood for the enemy and gave orders to get steam on all boilers.

     We started with steam on three boilers at about twelve knots speed.

     2.   The head of the Spanish Squadron,in column,was just outside the entrance of the Harbor of Santiago heading about S.W. The Spanish Squadron consisted of the Maria Teresa(Flag,) Vizcaya,Oquendo and Colon and two torpedo destroyers.3 We opened fire on the leading ship in five minutes from the discovery.

     3.   The port battery was first engaged as we stood with port helm to head off the leading ship,and giving them a raking fire at about fifteen hundred yards range. The enemy turn to the westward to close into the land. We then wore around to starboard,bringing the starboard battery into action.The enemy hugged the shore to the westward.

     4.   The Brooklyn leading,was followed by the Texas,Iowa,Oregon,Indiana and Gloucester. The Vixen, which had been to westward of us on the blockade,ran to the southward and eastward of us,and kept for some time off our port side distant about one thousand yards,evidently intending to guard against torpedo attack upon this ship;the shell passing over us fell very thick about her,some passing over her. At this time the firing was very fast,and the whistling of shell incessant,and our escape with so little injury was miraculous,and can only be attributed to bad marksmanship on the part of the enemy. The Maria Teresa,which had dropped astern while we were wearing,under the heavy fire of our fleet ran ashore.

     5.   The Vizcaya,Oquendo and Colon continuing on and gaining in distance. The Brooklyn was engaged with the three leading ships of the enemy which were forging ahead,the Texas,Iowa,and Indiana keeping up a heavy fire but steadily dropping astern. The Oregon was keeping up a steady fire and was coming up in the most glorious and gallant style outstripping all others. It was an inspiring sight to see this battle ship,with a large white wave before her,and her smokestacks belching forth continued puffs from her forced draft. We were making fourteen knots at the time and the Oregon came up off our starboard quarter at about six hundred yards and maintained her position though we soon after increased our speed to fifteen knots,and just before the Colon surrendered were making nearly sixteen.

     6.   The Oquendo,soon after the falling out of the Teresa,dropped astern and on fire ran ashore. The Vizcaya and Colon continued on,under fire from Brooklyn and Oregon. The other vessels of our fleet were well astern and out of range. The Texas was evidently coming up fast. At about [10:18] A.M.the Vizcaya was seen to be on fire,and the Colon passed inside of her with increased speed,took the lead and gradually forged ahead. The Vizacaya soon after ran on the beach,ablaze with fire. We signaled the Oregon to cease firing on the Vizacaya as her flag was down. Firing immediately ceased and we both continued the chase of the Colon,now about twelve thousand yards awat. The ranges ran from fifteen hundred to three thousand yards with the Vizacaya as she kept in and out from the coast. We steered straight for a distant point near Cape Cruz,while the Colon kept close to the land,running into all the bights. She could not have come out without crossing our bows and we were steadily gaining on her. We were getting more steam all the time and now had four and one half boilers on,and the remaining one and one half nearly ready.

     7.   After running for about fifty miles west from the entrance,the Colon ran into a bight of land,beached,fired a gun to leeward,and hauled down her flag. The Oregon and Brooklyn had just previously begun to fire upon the Colon and were landing shells close to her.

I was sent on board by Commodore Schley to receive the surrender. The Captain4 spoke English,and received me pleasantly,though naturally much depressed. He surrendered unconditionally. He was polite,shook hands and said that his case was helpless,and that he saw that we were too much for him. I was on board about fifteen minutes. As we came from the Colon the Flagship New York came in with the Texas. I reported on board the Flagship to Rear Admiral Sampson-5I stated to him that I believed the Colon could be gotten off the beach.

     8.   During the entire action I was in constant communication with you so that I was enabled to promptly execute your orders and instructions. The officers and crew behaved with great and unexceptionable coolness and bravery, so that it is difficult to discriminate. They were encouraged in their best efforts by your enthusiasm, and your cheery words- “Fire steady Boys and give it to them”.

     9.   The Executive officer,[N.E.] Mason,with his usual zeal,was continually at the battery directing the firing and keeping me well informed of the exact condition of the ship,and in encouraging both officers and men by his example of coolness and courage.

     10.   Lieut.Hodgson6 was on the bridge cooly and deliberately taking bearings,and measuring and giving ranges.He was assisted in getting ranges and noting time by Chief Yeoman Geo.Ellis7 with a stadimeter until Ellis was killed by a passing shell. . . .8

     24.   We had but two personal casualties , Geo. H. Ellis, ( Chief Yeoman), killed and J. Burns, (P,Ic).9 The ship was struck twenty times by whole shot and many times by pieces of bursting shell and from small shot of machine guns. No serious injury was done to the ship,and all repairs can be temporarily done by the ship’s force-excepting to the 5” elevating gear. The smoke-stacks were hit in several places,the signal halliards,rigging and flags were cut in many places. The flag at the main was destroyed,being much cut by shot and flying pieces of shell. The 8” guns worked satisfactorily,some trouble and delay was caused by jamming of locks. The turrets worked well. The 5” battery gave great trouble with the elevating gear. At the end several were rendered useless for battle. Two are bulged at the muzzle. This ship should have new elevating gear for 5” as soon as practicable. We fired 100 rounds of 8”, 473 of 5”, 1,200 of 6pdr,and200 of 1 pdr ammunition.

Very respectfully,          

F.A. Cook         

Captain, U.S.N.,Commanding,

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 234. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief, 2d Squadron,/U.S.Naval Forces,N.A.Station.”

Footnote 1: Chief Quartermaster Nils Anderson.

Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. Newton E. Mason.

Footnote 3: That is, Infanta Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya, Cristóbal Colón, Plutón and Furor.

Footnote 4: Capt. Emilio Díaz-Moreu y Quintana.

Footnote 5: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 6: Lt. Albon C. Hodgson.

Footnote 7: Yeoman George Ellis.

Footnote 8: For a full list of the crew’s accolades, see the original document, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 234.

Footnote 9: Fireman J. Burns.

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