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Commodore Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Second Squadron, to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, commander, North Atlantic Fleet


Second Squadron.


Off Santiago de Cuba,

July 10/ 1898.

My dear Admiral:

     1.   I beg to enclose herewith a copy of a cipher telegram which I sent today to the Secretary of the Navy with a view to correcting the accounts in the newspapers of July 6th which attribute the victory of July 3d to me.

     2.   My official report indicates very clearly what my views are upon the subject and I beg to say that so long as I am serving under your orders, I shall do my duty loyally, fully and without reserve.

Very respectfully,

W.S. Schley

Commodore, U.S.Navy,

Commanding Second Squadron, N.A.Fleet



Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D.C., United States of America.

     I feel some mortification that the newspaper accounts on July 6th have attributed the victory of July 3d almost entirely to me.1 The victory was secured by the forces under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of Naval Force on N.A.Station and to him the honor is due. The end of the line held by the BROOKLYN and the VIXEN was heavily assailed and had the honor, with the OREGON, being in the battle from the beginning to the end, and I do not doubt for a moment full and proper credit will be given all persons and all ships in the official report of the combat.


Source Note: TCy, RG 313, Entry 70. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/North Atlantic Fleet.” Document reference: “#M66.” Schley also enclosed a copy of the coded cipher cable that he sent to Long. The editors have chosen to print only the decoded translation.

Footnote 1: On 6 July, a resolution was introduced in the Senate and the following article concerning it appeared in a number of newspapers:

Resolved, That the thanks of Congress and the American people are hereby tendered to Commodore Winfield S. Schley of the United States naval force operating against the Spanish forces in Cuban waters for highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy, as displayed by him in the destruction of the Spanish fleet off the harbor of Santiago, Cuba, July 3, 1898.

"Section 2— That the thanks of Congress and the American people are hereby extended through Commodore Schley to the officers and men under his command for the gallantry and skill exhibited by them on that occasion.

"Section 3— That the President of the United States be requested to cause this resolution to be communicated to Commodore Schley and through him to the officers and men under his command."

Commenting upon the resolution, Sen. [Richard F.] Pettigrew [who sponsored the resolution] said the impression had been conveyed to the public that "not Commodore Schley but another man" had achieved the great success. "I know," declared he, "we shall be obliged to remove that impression by absolute proof to the contrary. All the accounts of the battle agree that Commodore Schley was in command of the vessels of our fleet. He pursued the last of the Spanish vessels sixty miles and personally brought to an end the most remarkable naval duel ever fought." [William M.] Stewart of Nevada thought Admiral Sampson had been unfortunate in the wording of his official announcement of the victory and in not giving in that dispatch the credit due to Commodore Schley. He thought it was due to Schley that the credit be given him by Sampson, but he believed the latter would yet do Justice to the commodore. [Sen. Eugene] Hale [from Maine] expressed great confidence in the character and ability of Admiral Sampson and Commodore Schley, and said the conduct and achievements of Schley during the historic battle had been most admirable. He felt assured that the little agitation concerning the bestowal of credit which was now disturbing some minds would disappear in the full light of the facts. There was, he said, glory enough for all in the destruction of Cervera's fleet, and he had no doubt it would be properly distributed. [Sen. William V.] Allen of Nebraska thought at least a few days' delay ought to elapse before action was taken upon the resolution and it was referred to the Naval Committee. San Francisco Call, 7 July 1898.

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