Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain John W. Philip to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U.S.S. “TEXAS”.

Off Santiago. July 4th, 1898.

Sir:-

     In accordance with the requirements of Article 437, Navy Regulations,1 I respectfully submit the following statement in regard to the part the TEXAS took in the engagement with the enemy yesterday.

     At daylight on the morning of the 3rd. the TEXAS stood out from the entrance to harbor, taking day blockading position about three miles from the Moro, (the Moro bearing N.N.E.).

     At 9:35, the Moro bearing N. by E, 1/2 E., distant 5100 yards, the enemy’s ships were sighted standing out of the harbor. Immediately General Signal 250 was made; this signal was followed by the Iowa’s almost at the same time.

     The ship, as Per order, was heading in toward the entrance; went ahead full speed, putting helm hard a-starboard, and ordering forced draft on all boilers. The officer-of-the-Deck, Lieut.M.I.Bristol,2 having given the General Alarm and beat to quarters for action at the same time.

     As the leader, bearing the Admiral’s flag,3 appeared in the entrance she opened fire, which was, at 9:40 returned by the TEXAS at range of 4200 yards, while closing in. The ship leading was of the Vizcaya class and the Flag-ship.

     Four ships came out, evidently the Vizcaya, the Oquendo, Maria Theresa and Colon; followed by two torpedo boat destroyers.4 Upon seeing these two we immediately opened fire upon them with our secondary battery, the main battery at the time being engaged with the second and third ships in line;5 owing to our secondary battery assisted by together with the Iowa and Gloucester, these two destroyers were forced to beach and sink.6

     Whilst warmly engaged with the third in line, which was abreast and engaging the TEXAS, our fire was blanketed for a short time by the Oregon forging ahead and engaging the second ship. This third ship, after a spirited fire, sheered in shore, and at 10:35 ran up a white flag; we then ceased fire on the third, and opened fire with our forward guns at long range (6600 yards) on the second ship which was then engaged with the Oregon, until 11:05, when she, (enemy’s second ship) sheered into the beach on fire.

At 11:10 she struck her colors, we ceased fire and gave chase with Brooklyn and Oregon for the leading ship, until 1:20 when the Colon sheered into beach and hauled down her colors, leaving them on deck at foot of her flag-staff. We shut off forced-draft and proceeded at moderate speed to close up.

     I would state, that during this chase the TEXAS was holding her own with the Colon; she leading us about 4 miles at the start.

     The reports of the Executive Officer and the Surgeon are transmitted.7

     I have the pleasure of stating that the entire battery of the TEXAS is in a most excellent condition, and ready for any service required by the Commander-in-Chief; especially calling attention to the efficiency of the two turret guns, due to the alterations recently made by Lieut.F.J.Haesler8 of this ship. The bearing and performance of duty of all officers met with my entire approval.

Very respectfully submitted,              

J.W.Philip                  

Captain.U.S.N.              

Commanding.                 

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 233. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/North Atlantic Station.” Stamp on first page: “RECEIVED/FLAGSHIP N. A. STATION/JUL 5 1898.”

Footnote 1: Article 437 requires that Captains, “after a battle, make a full report,” noting munitions used, details of the battle, movements and direction changes of the ship, and the efficiency of the crew. Regulations for the Government of the Navy of the United States, (Washington: Government printing Officer, 1896), 98.

Footnote 2: Lt. Mark L. Bristol.

Footnote 3: That is, Infanta Maria Teresa. Aboard was RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 4: The actual order of the ships was the Infanta Maria Teresa, Vizcaya, Christóbal Colón, Almirante Oquendo, Furor and Plutón.

Footnote 5: Philip was mistaken about the initial order of the ships and his subsequent order. He was probably confused because the Infanta Maria Teresa actually left the line to unsuccessfully ram the Brooklyn, while the other Spanish vessels fled westward being subjected to uneven fire from American ships, the Colón eventually overtaking the Vizcaya.

Footnote 6: Excluded from Philip’s report is a near collision between Texas and Brooklyn in the opening minutes of the battle. During the incident the Brooklyn turned from facing North to Northeast attempting to avoid being rammed by the Infanta Maria Teresa. Philips later wrote:

Occasionally I saw a column of water shoot straight up in the air, geyser like, where one of their shells had struck near the ship, but, as nearly as I could tell, most of their shots had too great elevation and were passing harmlessly over us. I had altered the TEXAS’s course to the westward seeing that that was the direction in which the Spanish squadron was going. Then occurred the incident which caused me for a moment more alarm than anything Cervera did that day.

As the TEXAS veered westward, the Brooklyn was plowing up the water at a great rate in a course almost due north, direct for the oncoming Spanish ships, and nearly a mile away from the TEXAS. The smoke from our guns began to hang so heavily and densely over the ship that for a few minutes we could see nothing. We might as well have had a blanket tied over our heads. Suddenly a whiff of breeze and a lull in the firing lifted the pall, and there, bearing toward us and across our bows, turning on her port helm, with big waves curling over her bows and great clouds of black smoke pour from her funnels, was the Brooklyn. She looked as big as half a dozen Great Easterns, and seemed so near that it took our breath away.

“Back both engines hard!” went down the tube to the astonish engineers, and in a twinkling the old ship was racing against herself. The collision which seemed imminent, even if it was not, was averted, and as the big cruiser glided past, all of us on the bridge gave a sigh of relief. Had the Brooklyn struck us then, it would have been an end of the TEXAS and her half-thousand men. had the TEXAS rammed the Brooklyn, it would have been equally disastrous; for the TEXAS was not built for ramming, and she would have doubled up like a hoop. Few of our ship’s company knew of the incident. It was really the one time in the battle when I thought for a second that I should have to give in to that woman in Brooklyn who shook hands with me just before the TEXAS sailed, explaining that she was the last woman who had shaken hands with the commander of the Huron, that ship having been lost with most of her company immediately after the fatal hand-shake. I always wanted to fool that woman if possible.

This happened about a quarter to ten. . .”

John W. Philip, “The Story of the Captains,” The Century, Vol. 58, May 1899-October 1899,(New York: Century Company, 1899), 90.

Footnote 7: For reports see, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 529-530.

Footnote 8: Lt. Francis J. Haesler oversaw the installation of electrically powered ammunition lifts in March 1898, in anticipation of war with Spain. See: Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Commo. Francis M. Bunce, 25 March 1898.

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