Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Harry P. Huse to Lieutenant Commander Richard P. Wainwright

U.S.S.Gloucester,         

Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, 

July 4th, 1898.   

Sir:-

     1. I have the honor to submit the following report on the battle of Santiago, July 3, 1898.

     2. At 9.43 a.m., the Gloucester then being about 3,000 yards southeast of Morro, the officer of the deck reported that the Spanish fleet was coming out of Santiago. All hands were called to general quarters, you came on the bridge and took the deck. Fire opened at 3,500 yards from the after guns (3pdr.R.F.G.); and as they were brought to bear from the bow gun (3 pdr R.F.G.) and the starboard gun forward ( 6 pdr R.F.G.). The fireroom blowers were sta[r]ted and turning to starboard the range was decreased to 3,000 yards. Four Spanish cruisers came out in column and stood to the Westward close in shore. In the belief that the two torpedo destroyers known to be in the harbor would not come out , you directed me to slow down and wait for them, keeping up a deliberate fire on the cruisers from the port battery. There was no other gunboat with the fleet at the time, and the battle-ships Iowa, Indiana, Oregon, and Texas and the armored cruiser Brooklyn were engaged with the four Spanish vessels, Christobal Colon, Oquendo, Vizcaya, and InfantaMaria Theresa1 (flag) all standing to the Westward with full head of steam. The forts on shore kept up a slow fire throughout the action till it was evident to them that our boats were being used to rescue Spanish seamen, when their fire ceased.

     3. When the large vessels were well clear and near one about 1,500 yards to the Westward of the Morro, the destroyers Pluton2 and Furor came out and followed in their wake. At once we opened rapid fire on them from the starboard battery at a range of 2,500 yards, and the engines were run at full speed, the ship heading about W.N.W. Presently signal was made from the Indiana “Gunboats will advance”. After this signal it appeared that the fight between this ship and the two apparently uninjured destroyers was a thing apart from the battle in which the larger ships were engaged. The starboard forward guns ( one 3 pdr and 2 6 pdr. R.F.G. ) were turned on the leading vessel, the Pluton, while the starboard after gun and the stern gun ( both 3pdr.R.F.G.) were aimed at the Furor. The speed of the Gloucester was gradually inc[r]eased to over 17 knots, and we were slowly overhauling the torpedo destroyers and closing in toward them. The fire from both sides was vigorous, but while many shot struck the water close alongside or went whistling over our heads we were not hit once during the whole action. This is the more remarkable as the monotonous reports of an automatic gun could be heard after the 2,500 yard range was passed and the zone of fire could be distinctly traced by a line of splashes describing accurately the length of the ship and gradually approaching it. But at a distance variously estimated from ten to fifty yards, the automatic fire suddenly ceased. It was afterwards found to be from a 1 pdr Maxim, and the execution aboard would have been terrible during the few minutes that must have elapsed before the ship was sunk had the fire reached us.

Meanwhile the servicee of our own guns was excellent, and at a range of 1200 yards the two 6mm automatic Colt rifles opened on the enemy. The Pluton had now (about 10.15) slackened her speed, showing evident signs of distress, and our fire was concentrated on the Furor. The range was decreased to 600 yards, and at this distance the majority of shots seemed to strike. The Pluton was run on the rocks about four miles West of Morro and blew up. Our crew cheered at the sight of the explosion. The Furor soon commenced to describe circles with a starboard helm, her fire ceased, and it became apparent that she was disabled. A white rag was waived from forward and we stopped firing. Lieutenant Wood and Norman and Assistant Engineer Proctor3 were sent to rescue the crews and to see if the prizes could be saved. These found a horrible state of affairs on the Furor. The vessel was a perfect shambles. As she was on fire and burning rapidly they took off the living and then rescued all they could find in the water and on the beach. The Pluton was among the rocks in the serf and could not be boarded, but her crew had made their way ashore or were adrift on life buoys and wreckage. These were all taken on board. I have since learned that the New York passed a number of men in the water who had doubtless jumped overboard from the destroyers to escape our fire. All these were probably drowned.

4. While this work was going on several explosions took place on the Furor, and presently at about 11.30 she threw her bows in the air and turning to port slowly sank in deep water.

5. The following were rescued from the destroyers and are believed to be the only survivors:

     Furor:-

          Commander Carlier,

          Lieutenant Arderius (badly wounded),4

          3 petty officers.

          14 enlisted men.

          19 total.

     PLUTON:-

          Commander Vazquez,

          Lieutenant Boado,5

          4 petty officers,

          20 enlisted men,

          26 total.

6. It was stated by Commander Carlier that the total complement of the Furor was 64 officers and enlisted men. That of the Pluton was doubtless the same.

7. While one of our boats was still ashore, seeing heavy clouds of smoke behind the next point, the ship was moved in that direction, the men being at quarters, and everything in readiness for further action--On rounding the point, two men-of-war were found on the beach burning fiercely aft, the majority of the crew being crowded on the forecastle and unable apparently to reach land, only 200 yards away. Our boats under Lieutenant Norman and Ensign Edson6 put off to the nearer vessel which proved to be the flagship Infanta Maria Theresa, and rescued all on board by landing them on the beach on the serf. Lieutenant Norman formally received the surrender of the Commander-in-Chief7 and all his officers and men present, and as soon as all hands had been transferred ashore brought on board his ship all the higher officers including the Admiral. Lieutenant Wood meanwhile rescued the remaining survivors on board the Oquendo, the second of the burning vessels.

8. The Spanish officers not feeling that the prisoners on shore were secure from attack by Cuban partisans, by your order I directed Lieutenant Norman to land with a small force, establish a camp on shore, and hoist the United States flag over it. He took with him all the rations that could be spared from the stores aboard.

9. There were several incidents of interest that have not been related in this report which I will refer to briefly: The colors of the Furor and Oquendo were brought on board by Lieutenant Wood and the colors of the Pluton by Mr. Proctor.

10. The Flagship New York while hastening from Sabone8 to join in the general action saw the Gloucester close to her- two disabled antagonists and cheered her as she went by.

11. The Indiana made the general signal to the Gloucester “Congratulations”.

12. During the night the ship then being on the blockading station, the Assistant Chief of Staff9 hailed from a torpedo boat and after inquiring about our casualties, added:- “The Admiral10 admired your splendid work”.

11. By order of Captain Evans,11 the Admiral and his staff were transferred from this ship to the Iowa, all other unwounded prisoners were sent to the Indiana, and the twenty-two wounded were taken to Sabone, and put on bo)rd the Army hospital steamer Olivette. One wounded prisoner died on board and was buried at sea on the way back from Sabone.

12. A comparison of the armor of the contending vessels is interesting.

Furor:- Length 220 feet, Displacement 370 tons.

Armament:- 2 14 pr. R.F.G., 2 6 pdr. R.F.G. 2 1-pr Maxim Automatic, 2 14 inch torpedo tubes, Complement 67.

Pluton:- the same.

Gloucester:- ( late the yacht Corsair, N.Y.Y.C.)

     Length 24I feet, Displacement, 800 tons.

     Armament:- 4 6 pdr R.F.G., 4 3 pdr R.F.G., 2 6mm. Colt Automatic. Complement: 93.

13. The action was a remarkable one, . The material of the enemy was superior in every respect; and yet, having destroyed two vessels either one of which would have been a fair match for this ship and inflicted terrible loss to their personnel, I have to report not one casualty. This result I attribute wholly to the accuracy and rapidity of our fire, which made the proper service of the guns on board the Spanish ships utterly impossible. In this opinion I am borne out by the statement of our prisoners who commented on the awful destructiveness of our fire and spoke of their unsuccessful efforts to use their torpedoes, the crews being swept away repeatedly by bursting shell. They also referred to the deadly effect of the Colt automatic 6mm guns and said that the projectiles from these passed clean through the vessels.

14. While I may not say that any of our officers surpassed the others in gallantry or efficiency, I cannot refrain from enumerating them and again calling your attention to their good services.

15. Lieutenant Wood in command of the after division performed his duty in action with great energy and efficiency. After the action was over he bent all his efforts to saving life, and it is due to his efforts and Lieutenant Norman, Ensign Edson, and Assistant Engineer Proctor, ably seconded by the men under their commands that over 600 officers and men were rescued from drowning.

15. Lieutenant Norman showed qualities during and after the action that indicate unusual fitness for a naval career. It fell to this young officer to receive the surrender of the Spanish Commander-in-Chief after having rescued him from his burning flagship.

16. Ensign Edson, although the greater part of his life has been spent in sedentary studies and pursuits, showed the result of his early training at the Naval Academy and in the navy by the manner in which he fought his guns during the action. The skill and ability he showed in handling his boat in the surf in the work of rescue excited the admiration of the seaman under his command. On his return to the ship, Mr. Edson, who is a man of mature age and a Surgeon in high standing in New York, turned his attention to the wounded prisoners and seconded the efforts of Assistant Surgeon Bransford.12

17. Passed Assistant McElroy13 did not come under my notice during the action but the great speed developed by this ship when overtaking the enemy, the promptness with which this speed was attained from a condition of inaction, the intelligent response to signals from the bridge, all indicate the excellent condition of the discipline in his division and of the material under his immediate charge. Assistant Paymaster Brown14 did effective service with his division of 2 6mm Colt automatic Guns, the accuracy of the fire from these was testified to by our prisoners.

18. Assistant Engineer Proctor has just joined our ship. During the battle he acted as your aide, and afterwards took charge of a boat , with which at great peril to himself, he saved many lives from Pluton and Furor.

19. Assistant Surgeon Bransford also did double duty. He took charge of a gun in Mr. Edson’s division and fought gallantly through the action, his services as Surgeon not being called upon until the wounded prisoners were brought on board.

20. Among the men I beg leave to call your attention to the services of John Bond, Chief Boatswain’s Mate, Captain of No. 1 gun (3 pdr. R.F.G.) The excellent record of this man on board ship is known to you. His remarkable marksmanship, perfect coolness in action, his control over men, and his force of character would indicate his fitness for a higher position than he now occupies.

21. WillaimG. Bee, Chief Gunner’s Mate, also deserves special mention at this time. This man, an ex-apprentice, left a lucrative position on shore from a pure sense of duty and patriotism.15 His constant services on board have been almost invaluable, and his behavior during the action and in the work of rescue under Ensign Edson should in my opinion, be recognized by a material advancement that would keep him in the service.

22. Herman C. Green, Quartermaster 1st Class, steered the ship through the action without an error, where an error could have been so easily made and with disasterous results. His coolness and skill merit recognition.

23. The division officer, whose reports to you accompany this letter, have made certain recommendations in which I heartily concur.16

Very respectfully,          

Signed, Harry P. Huse,      

Lieutenant , U.S.N.,        

Executive Officer.          

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 313, Entry 44. Addressed below close: “To Captain.”

Footnote 1: That is, Cristóbal Colón, Almirante Oquendo, and Infanta Maria Teresa.

Footnote 2: That is, Plutón.

Footnote 3: Lt. Thomas C. Wood, Lt. George H. Norman Jr., Asst. Eng. André M. Proctor.

Footnote 4: Cmdr. Diego Carlier y Velazquez and En. Francisco Ardenus.

Footnote 6: En. John T. Edson.

Footnote 7: Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete.

Footnote 8: That is, Siboney.

Footnote 9: Lt. Charles C. Marsh.

Footnote 10: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 11: Capt. Robly D. Evans.

Footnote 12: Asst. Surgeon John F. Bransford. The crew of the Gloucester, both officers and enlisted men, was handpicked by Wainwright and consisted of wealthy men from New York and New England who volunteered for the duration of the war. En. Edson was one such volunteer. In his professional life, Dr. John Tracy Edson was the medical examiner at the Equitable Life insurance Company. He graduated from the Naval Academy’s in 1871, and was a friend and classmate of Wainwright. Henry Barrett Chamberlain, “Wainwright’s Men,” The Chicago Records War Stories (Chicago: The Chicago Record, 1898), 147.

Asst. Surgeon Bransford served as a Confederate infantrymen and artillerist and then distinguished himself as a United States Navy medical officer after the war. He resigned his commission in 1890 and re-enlisted to serve on the Gloucester at the beginning of the war. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 16 (New York: James T. White and Company, 1918), 308. 

Footnote 13: Passed Asst. Eng. George W. McElroy

Footnote 14: Asst. Paymaster Alexander Brown.

Footnote 15: William G. Bee was a wealthy businessman from New York City, who, like many of Wainwright’s crew, volunteered to fight for the duration of the war. 

Footnote 16: Reports mentioned were not attached and have not been found.

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