Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain John W. Philip to Joesfa T. Philip

 

 

Letter No. 45. From the U.S.S. TEXAS, off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Dated July 6th, 1898.

 

          --------- My! but what a relief since that that scrap of Sunday!1 Since then we have relaxed our vigilance so much and are getting “rested out”.

          During the day, since then, we all, ships, sort o’ drift about, paying little or no attention to the entrance, knowing that there is nothing inside to look out for or fear. We now are simply doing pure and simple blockade duty.

          Yet, we will be obliged to bombard those fortifications again sure. Speaking of bombarding, do you realize what it costs Uncle Sam for these vessels to bombard for about an hour? We figured it up the other night, and we reckon that it costs between 20 and $30,000 each time for the squadron to go in and open fire. Rather an expensive amusement that, ----, yet we wanted the war and of course wont object to paying the expense of it.

          Admiral Cervera told Watson,2 (Watson at Guantanamo Bay) heard at 1 P.M [on July 3]. on the Newark, that the fleet had escaped. He jumped on a torpedo boat and started for this place at a 30 knot clip. In fact the Massachusetts let go Colliers and the Marblehead also started). Well Cervera told Watson, after he had been taken to the Iowa, that he lost over 1000 men killed. Each of his ships were set on fire by our shells. He said, too, that he never could believe that any nation could deliver the fire that the American ships, and also that the accuracy of it was both marvelous and incredible.

          Just think of it: three of the ships and two of the destroyers were destroyed within an hour: two of the ships and the two destroyers lie within five miles of the entrance, one is about 15 miles away and the Colon is about 40 odd.3 It is just incredulous, to say the least.

          As soon as the news of the “escape” reached Jamaica, two English and one Austrian men-of-war came over here hot foot to congratulate the dago.4 I mean that the Austrian came for that purpose.

          The senior English commanding officer called on Sampson5 and without waiting for FACTS, said, “I don’t see how you could have allowed all to escape you.” Old Sampson in that cool way that he has, said “Yes! they escaped from the harbor, but, ----- but the remains of ALL lie on the beach to the westward.” Then when told of the killed and wounded, on both sides, the prisoners etc., that Englishman’s eyes commenced to bulge.

          I don’t know who the infernal Austrian congratulated: he left after a few hours, I guess he evidently had got hold of the wrong news for his side. Fuss him!!

          The poor old TEXAS still holds the record for having lost more men, (down here t‘other day) than all the rest of the fleet combined. I am sorry to say.6

          We left up during the day, but as the dago still has a destroyer and two torpedo boats inside the harbor, we still keep up our night lookout and preparedness;7 for I wouldn’t trust the cuss in the least.

          Yet as I said before, WHAT a change!!

          The New York, now at 2 P.M. is ‘way off to the Eastward: I think that Sampson is communicating with the Army. Perhaps tonight we will have some news from it.8 Yet we dread to hear for it is not having the success that it expected, when it left the States.

          Cracky! but wouldn’t I give a heap could we all see a newspaper of yesterday and to-day. What a “Fourth” our people must have had. Now, I wish that they would detach me. I have had my cruise, and have helped to “permanently locate the dago fleet”, so now our people can go to the sea-shore resorts without fear of having the Spaniard appear off the beach front, besides I am ready and I want to come, or go home, but I would not have missed the show of Sunday last for anything at all.

          WE SAW IT: but mark my words, our Congress will not jump to promote us, as it did those Manila Captains.9

          Higginson10 and I are going over to the New York to see Sampson, for news, and I will drop this in the mail box on board her.

          Hobson,11 as you know, was exchanged last night. Happy fellow, if they allow him to go North, but being a bachelor, he would just as life12 remain here.

          I am going to try and “work” Sampson to let us be recommended to go North for a few weeks for repairs. She needs them, more than ever, and ought to go North for her old Skipper’s sake, eh? ----------

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: A reference to the American victory off Santiago de Cuba on 3 July.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete and Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, First Blockading Squadron.

Footnote 3: In all, six Spanish ships were destroyed. “Colon” refers to the Cristóbal Colón.

Footnote 4: Capt. French E. Chadwick wrote that the only British ship in the area was Pallas under the command of Capt. Richard P. Humpage. The Austro-Hungarian ship was Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia. Relations of the U.S. and Spain, II: 188.

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

Footnote 6: On Texas, apprentice Frank J. Blakely was killed and nine men were wounded on 21 June. John R. Spears, Our Navy in the War with Spain (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1898), 280-81.

Footnote 7: Philip is referring to the possibility of there being additional gunboats in Santiago de Cuba.

Footnote 8: That is, the U.S. Army.

Footnote 9: A reference to the victory of Commo. George Dewey and his fleet at Manila Bay on 1 May.

Footnote 10: Capt. Francis J. Higginson of Massachusetts.

Footnote 11: Asst. Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson commanded a mission to block Santiago de Cuba harbor with the collier Merrimac. See: Scuttling the Merrimac.

Footnote 12: “Lief” means gladly or willingly. 

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