Captain John W. Philip to Josefa T. Philip
Letter No. 43. From the U.S.S. TEXAS, off Santiago de Cuba. Dated July 4th, 1898.
H U R R A H ! H U R R A H !! H U R R A H !!!
I can’t write: you must not expect it for a day or two ----- we all are too wild with joy!!!
We have at last PERMANENTLY located Admiral Cervera’s Fleet.1
The four cruisers and three destroyers came out about nine yesterday morning and ATTACKED US.2 They opened fire (on Sunday), and of course you know the result: EACH ONE IS DESTROYED.
It was a grand and beautiful sight even if shot and shell did fly around: and how we did howl and cheer, when one after another of the dagoes were blown up, set on fire or beached.
The Viscaya paid close attention to the TEXAS, but hit us only three times. We paid her up though, and with interest.
One man only was injured on the TEXAS: he was knocked down an ammunition hoist, ---- (I think, by dodging), by a shell, and broke his leg: had he stood up like a major, I don’t believe even he would have been hurt.
Only FOUR of our ships were engaged ---- they whipped the dagoes. The Brooklyn, Oregon, Iowa and the TEXAS. Poor old Higginson!!3 The Massachusetts was in Guantanamo coaling ship. The New York and the Indiana were too far to the Eastward. They never fired a shot.4
Sampson has always remained about four miles east of the entrance. I have begged him and have written him to lie directly off the entrance. Have told him, he “never would even hear a gun” he was so far away: but alas! I couldn’t move him and the result, he never fired a gun, ---- but WILL reap the reward though.5
The honor of the day belongs to the Oregon and Clark:6 they are both trumps. He will be promoted, Schley too.7
About 9:18 Bristol8 saw the dagoes coming out at full speed. As soon as they were clear of the entrance, the Oquendo, flagship of Admiral Cervera, leading, opened fire.9
You know what is God’s truth regarding Sunday: When I saw that first shot, I KNEW what the result of the battle would be, and mentally thanked God, for He is on the side of right.
When I saw the destroyers, I was more fearful from them than all of Cervera’s ships. Seeing them and coming, I directed the TEXAS’ fire to be delivered on them: and oh! how we did rain shot and shell around them, from ALL our battery, except the 12” guns.
‘Twas an awful sight, when later the Oquendo was blown up: there were 3 heavy explosions ----- evidently the magazines. I am glad to hear though that Admiral Cervera was not hurt. He is a prisoner on one of our vessels.10 Of course I have not yet heard the result of loss of life, hits, etc. But like Manila, I do not think our vessels have lost any number.
The Colon was the last to give up. She made a run for it. The Brooklyn, Oregon and TEXAS chasing her some fifty odd miles, when she ran in and on the beach and hauled down her flag.
In this chase, the Oregon beat the Brooklyn and the TEXAS all to pieces. Hurrah for the Union Iron Works of San Francisco!!!11
The New York came steaming up in the rear and got up to us about 2:00 P.M., after the Oquendo had been beached, flag down, etc.
About five o’clock the Resolute came steaming up the coast as fast as she could go. Eaton had a signal flying,12 “Have sighted enemy’s battle-ship, etc.” ----- the Carlos Fifth. Rot! Rot!! ROT!!! It proved to be an Austrian man-of-war;13 but Eaton had not lost even an Austrian. But the Resolute came in the nick of time though; for Sampson dumped some 530 odd dago prisoners on board of her and sent her off.
The New York, Oregon and the TEXAS were busy transferring prisoners, when Resolute came. (The Brooklyn’s boats being damaged) so she was sent to give chase, etc.
We got all prisoners off about 7:00 P.M. and about eight, the Oquendo14 fell over on her side (starboard), and sunk. The New York went back to Santiago, whilst the Oregon and the TEXAS were ordered to stand by the wreck till this morning.
This morning at seven, we, the O and the T.,15 left, and we both are now steaming, 9:00 A.M., back for Santiago. I did not expect I would ever be glad to return there, but we are after the “news” now.
Before beaching the Oquendo, the infernal dago destroyed everything that a sledge could demolish, and opened up every valve that led to the sea, so as to fill her with water. She was the only one that we hoped to save. I don’t know as I blame him much.
How about certain “critics” now? who said that we never could repeat Dewey’s actions?16 This Cervera Squadron was far superior to the one that Dewey tackled. His was the first and it went with a Hurrah, but you won’t see much about this victory, mark my words.
To change the subject. Just before dark last evening, we saw smoke inside, as of ships moving, and the Flag signalled “Suspicious movements of the enemy’s vessels: close in for the night”. We all did close in, and what a night it was!
Wind and rain, thunder and lightning. In some of the rain squalls we could not see the searchlight at the entrance at even a 1000 yards.17 It was a typical night for a torpedo boat attack. We had a long and anxious night, but thanks to the Good Lord, the dago stayed inside and did not venture out. So this morning we all can return thanks to him for a peaceful and safe night.
When I say we, I mean all our ships, for IF a dago should try it there is no telling which vessel he would attack: we are all in it.
------- Lunch (?) is now ready for me, but it is not a King’s repast to-day, for I can see upon the table, bread, codfish cakes and “pin money” pickles, (there are no more), and it all can wait for me till I finish writing to you. -----------
Source Note: Transcript, DN-HC, “Extracts from Seven Letters Written by the Late John W. Philip United States Navy; During the West Indian Campaign in the Spanish-American War, MDCCCXCVIII.”
Footnote 1: Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.
Footnote 3: Capt. Francis J. Higginson.
Footnote 4: According to an official report by Capt. Henry C. Taylor, Indiana took an active role. See: Taylor to Sampson, 6 July 1898.
Footnote 5: RAdm. William T. Sampson’s flagship New York was steaming eastward to meet Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter on the morning of the battle.
Footnote 6: Capt. Charles E. Clark.
Footnote 7: Commo. Winfield S. Schley, Commander, 2nd Blockading Squadron.
Footnote 8: Lt. Mark L. Bristol.
Footnote 9: RAdm. Cervera’s flagship was Infanta Maria Teresa. The Spanish cruiser Almirante Oquendo was also in the battle as well.
Footnote 10: RAdm. Cervera was finally received on St. Louis.
Footnote 11: Oregon was laid down by the Union Iron Works on 19 Nov. 1891 and launched 26 Oct. 1893.
Footnote 12: Cmdr. Joseph G. Eaton.
Footnote 13: Imperial German cruiser Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresa.
Footnote 14: Capt. Philip is describing Cristóbal Colón in this and the succeeding paragraph.
Footnote 16: A reference to Commo. George Dewey’s victory at Manila Bay on 1 May. See: The Battle of Manila Bay.
Footnote 17: At night the American fleet blockading Santiago de Cuba harbor used searchlights to illuminate the mouth of the harbor.