Lieutenant Joseph Beale to Captain Charles S. Cotton
Off Altares, Cuba,
July 4, 1898.
S I R :
In obedience to your verbal order I have the honor to call to your attention the conduct of the officers and men of the ship engaged under my charge in the rescue of 637 officers and men of the Spanish cruisers Almirante Oquendo and Maria Teresa1 on the afternoon of July 3rd.
2. The first two boats were sent at 4:40 p.m. to the Oquendo then ashore to "Gorgonzales Bay" and burning fiercely. Fifteen (15) exhausted men were here saved, most of them hanging on lines from the bows to escape the fire, and all of them in the last extremity from heat, smoke, and fright. In the meantime six (6) more of the heavy ship’s boats proceeded to the adjoining bay called "Praya Nima Nima" where the Maria Teresa was ashore and afire, with her bow not more than seventy–five (75) yards from the beach. The first boat in made fast to a small chain hanging from the bows of the ship and veered in through the surf close to the beach sending a line ashore. The survivors were taken into the boat over this line and transferred to the next boat ahead, which when loaded shoved off and pulled straight for the Harvard passing within a few yards of the burning ship.
3. In this way most of the survivors were taken off; two boat loads of the most seriously wounded were placed in a beached six-oared cutter of the "Gloucester" and taken off by the crew. The steam cutter of the Indiana was most useful in towing our heavy boats and in one instance pulled one of them off the beach. A detail of officers and men from the Indiana and Gloucester was most useful in helping the Spanish to the boats and succoring the wounded. For five hours the men were close to a fiercely burning ship amid the incessant explosion of small arm ammunition, at least one explosion of a more serious character taking place and, although warned frequently by the Spanish officers that a great explosion forward might take place at any moment, worked coolly and steadily.
4. In five hours 637 Spanish officers and men, all of them worn out and many seriously wounded, were taken from the burning Oquendo or through the surf and transferred to the Harvard, without accident to man or boat, by crews of men most of whom had been in the service only a month. Such a happy result under such trying surroundings could only have been brought about by the sustained courage of the men and their officers. I desire particularly to call attention to the humane way the men handled and helped the Spanish into the boats, treating them in all respects as comrades in distress. The humanity displayed by our men was fully equal to their courage.
(Signed) Joseph Beale
Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, Papers of Charles S. Cotton. Addressed below close: “The Commanding Officer,/U.S.S. Harvard.” At top left corner: “(COPY).” This report was appended to: Cotton to RAdm. William T. Sampson, 4 July 1898.
Footnote 1: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s flagship Infanta Maria Teresa.