Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Robly D. Evans to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U.  S.  S.  I O W A ,   1st   Rate.       

Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba,

July 4, 1898.

S i r :-

          I have the honor to make the following report of the engagement with the Spanish Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on the 3rd of July.

          1. On the morning of the 3rd while the crew was at quarters for Sunday Inspection, the leading vessel of the Spanish Squadron was sighted at 9:31 coming out of the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. Signal “Enemy’s Ships coming out” was immediately hoisted, and a gun fired to attract attention. The call to General Quarters was sounded immediately, the battery made ready for firing, and the engines rung full speed ahead.

          2. The position of this vessel at the time of sighting the Squadron was the usual blockading station off the entrance of the harbor; Morro Castle bearing about North, and distant about three to four miles. The steam at this time in the boilers was sufficient for a speed of five knots.

          3. After sighting the leading vessel the InfantaMaria Teresa (Admiral Cervera’s1 Flagship), it was observed that she was followed in succession by the remaining three vessels of the Spanish Squadron, the Viscaya, Cristobal Colon,2 and Almirante Oquendo. The Spanish ships moved at high speed of about 8 to 10 knots, which was steadily increased as they cleared the harbor entrance and stood to the Westward. They maintained a distance of about 800 yards between vessels. The Squadron moved with precision and stations were well kept.

          4.  Immediately upon sighting the leading vessel fires were spread, and the IOWA headed toward the leading Spanish Ship. About 9:40 the first shot was fired from this ship, at a distance of about 6000 yards.

     The course of this vessel was so laid that range speedily diminished. A number of shots were fired at ranges varying between 6000 and 4000 yards. The range was rapidly reduced to 2500 yards, and subsequently to 2000 and to 1200 yards.

          5. When it was certain that the Maria Teresa would pass ahead of us, the helm was put to starboard, and the starboard broadside delivered at a range of 2500 yards. The helm was then put to port and the ship headed across the bow of the second ship, and as she drew ahead the helm was again put to starboard, and as she received in turn the full weight of our starboard  broadside at a range of about 1800 yards. The IOWA was again headed off with port helm for the third ship, and as she approached, the helm was put to starboard until our course was approximately that of the Spanish Ship. In this position at a range of 1400 yards the fire of the entire battery, including rapid-fire guns, was poured into the enemy’s ship.

          6. About 10:00 O’Clock the enemy’s torpedo-boat destroyers “Furor” and “Pluton,3 were observed to have left the harbor and to be following the Spanish Squadron. At the time that they were observed, and in fact most of the time that they were under fire, they were at a distance varying from 4500 and 4000 yards. As soon as they were discovered the Secondary Battery of this ship was turned upon them, while the Main Battery continued to engage the Viscaya, Oquendo and Maria Teresa.

     The fire of the Main Battery of this ship when the range was below 2500 yards was most effective and destructive, and after a continuance of this fire for perhaps twenty minutes it was noticed that the Maria Teresa and Oquendo were in flames and were being headed for the beach. Their colors were struck about 10:20; and they were beached about eight miles west of Santiago.

          7. About the same time (about 10:25) the fire of this vessel, together with that of the GLOUCESTER and another smaller vessel, proved so destructive that one of the torpedo-boat destroyers (Pluton) was sunk, and the Furor was so much damaged that she was run upon the rocks.

          8. After having passed, at 10:35, the Oquendo and Maria Teresa, on fire and ashore, this vessel continued to chase and fire upon the Viscaya until 10:36, when signal to cease firing was sounded on board; it having been discovered that the Viscaya had struck her colors.

          9. At 11:00 the IOWA arrived in the vicinity of the Viscaya which had been run ashore, and as it was evident that she could not catch the Cristobal Colon, and that the OREGON, BROOKLYN, and NEW YORK would, two steam cutters and three cutters were immediately hoisted out and sent to the Viscaya to rescue her crew. Our boats succeeded in bringing off a large number of Officers and men of that ship’s company, and in placing many of them on board the torpedo-boat ERICCSON and the Auxiliary Despatch Vessel HIST.

          10. About 11:30 the NEW YORK passed in chase of the Cristobal Colon, which was endeavoring to escape from the OREGON, BROOKLYN and TEXAS.

          11. We received on board this vessel from the Viscaya, Captain Eulate,4 the Commanding Officer, and 23 Officers, together with about 248 petty officers and men, of whom 32 were wounded. There were also received on board five dead bodies, which were immediately buried with the honors due to their grade.

          12. The battery behaved well in all respects. The dash-pot5 of the forward 12 - inch gun, damaged in the engagement of the 2nd, having been replaced the same day by one of the old dash-pots, which gave no trouble during this engagement.

          13. The following is an approximate statement of the ammunition expended during the engagement. A more exact statement cannot be given at this time:--

          31, 12 - inch Semi A. P.6 Shell, with full charges.

          35,  8 - inch Common Shell, with full charges.

          251, 4 - inch Cartridges, Common Shell.

          1,056, 6 pdr. Cartridges, Common Shell.

          100, 1 pdr. Cartridges, Common Shell.  

          14. This ship was struck in the hull, on the starboard side, during the early part of the engagement by two projectiles of about six - inch caliber; one striking the hull two to three feet above the actual water line and almost directly on the line of the berth deck, piercing the ships side between frames 9 and 10; and the other, piercing the side and the coffer-dam between frames 18 and 19.

     The first projectile did not pass beyond the inner bulkhead of the coffer-dam A 41 - 43. The hole made by it was large and ragged; being about 16 inches in a longitudinal direction and about 7 inches in a vertical direction. It struck with a slight inclination aft, and perforated the coffer-dam partition bulk-head (A 41/43 - 45/47). It did not explode, and remained in the coffer-dam.

     The second projectile pierced the side of the ship and the coffer-dam A 105, the upper edge of the hole being immediately below the top of the coffer-dam on the berth deck in Compartment A 104. The projectile broke off the hatch plate and coaming of the water tank compartment, exploded, and perforated the walls of the chain locker. The explosion created a small fire which was promptly extinguished. The hole in the side made by this projectile was about 5 feet above the waterline, and about 2 to 3 feet above the berth deck. One fragment of this shell struck a link of the sheet-chain, wound around the 6 pdr. ammunition hoist, cutting the link in two. Another perforated the coffer-dam on the port side and slightly dished the outside plating.

     These two wounds, fortunately, were not of serious importance.

     Two or three other projectiles of small calibre struck about the upper bridge and smoke-stacks, inflicting trifling damage. And four other small projectiles struck the hammock nettings and the side aft.

          15. There are no casualties among the ships company to report. No Officer nor man was injured during the engagement.

          16. After having received on board the rescued crew of the Viscaya, this vessel proceeded to the eastward and resumed the blockading station in obedience to the signal made by the Commander-in-Chief about 11:30.

          17. Upon arriving on the blockading station, the GLOUCESTER transferred to this vessel: Rear-Admiral Cervera, his Flag Lieutenant, and the Commanding Officers of the Torpedo-boat destroyers “Furor” and “Pluton;7 and also one man of the Oquendo’s crew rescued by the GLOUCESTER.

          18. Naval cadets Frank Taylor Evans and John E. Lewis, and five men belonging to the MASSACHUSETTS were on board the IOWA when the enemy’s ships came out. They were stationed at different points and rendered efficient service.

          19. The Officers and men of this ship behaved admirably. No set of men could have done more gallant service.

     I take pleasure in stating to you, Sir, that the coolness and judgment of the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Raymond P. Rodgers, deserves, and will, I hope, receive a proper reward at the hands of the Government. The test of the Executive Officer’s work is the conduct of the ship and crew in battle ---- in this case it was simply superb.

     The coolness of the Navigator, Lieutenant W. H. Schuetze, and of Lieutenant F. K. Hill,8 in charge of the rapid-fire guns on the upper deck, are worthy of the greatest commendation.

     Other Officers of the ship did not come under my personal observation, but the result of the action shows how well they did their duty.

     I cannot express my admiration for my magnificent crew. So long as the enemy showed his flag they fought like American Seamen; but when the flag came down they were as gentle and tender as American women.

          20. In conclusion, Sir, allow me to congratulate you on the complete victory achieved by your fleet.

Very respectfully,          

R.D. Evans        

Captain, U. S. Navy,   

Commanding.         

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 233. Addressed below close: “THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF,/U. S. NAVAL FORCE,/NORTH ATLANTIC STATION.” Stamp: Rectangular “BUREAU OF NAVIGATION,” stamp with the reference numbers: “131408.” Docketed: “Off Santiago Cuba/July 4: 98/Evans, R/CAPTAIN U. S. NAVY./COMMANDING./Reports engage-/ment with Span-/ish Squadron/July 3rd 1898.”

Footnote 1: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 2: That is, Vizcaya and Cristóbal Colón.

Footnote 3: That is, Plutón.

Footnote 4: Capt. Antonio Eulate y Fery. Eulate tried to surrender his sword to Evans on the deck of the Iowa, but the American captain politely declined to receive it. As the two men were walking to Evan’s cabin, Eulate looked back at Vizcaya, lifted his right hand, and bid his ship “Adios Viscaya,” just as the burning ship was rocked by a massive explosion in the forward magazine. Trask, The War with Spain, 266.

Footnote 5: Dashpots are mechanical devices designed to use friction to absorb the resulting force of firing the guns.

Footnote 6: Armor Piercing.

Footnote 7: Flag Lt. Antonio Lopez Cerón; Capt. Fernando Villaamil Fernandez Cueto of the Furor died in the battle. The Commanding Officers referred to are Lt. Diego H. Carlier y Velazquez, of Furor, and Cmdr. Pedro Vazques, of Plutón.

Footnote 8: Lt. William H. Scheutze and Lt. Frank K. Hill.

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