Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

(COPY)

July 3, 1898.

    The fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present the whole of Cervera’s fleet.1 It attempted to escape at 9.30 this morning. At 2 the last ship, the Cristobal Colon,2 had run ashore 75 miles west of Santiago and hauled down her colors. The Infanta Maria Teresa, Oquendo,3 and Vizcaya were forced ashore, burned and blown up within 20 miles of Santiago. The Furor and Pluton4 were destroyed within 4 miles of the port.5

SAMPSON.

Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, Papers of William T. Sampson. Addressed before opening: “Secretary of the Navy,/Washington,”

Footnote 1: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete. 

Footnote 2: That is, Cristóbal Colón.

Footnote 3: That is, Almirante Oquendo.

Footnote 4: That is, Plutón.

Footnote 5: This telegram was the subject of considerable controversy. The telegram was actually drafted and sent by an aide to Sampson without his consultation and greatly overstates the Commander in Chief’s direct role in the battle. On 3 July, Sampson was not on the blockade, having traveled 20 miles east to meet with Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter. Commo. Winfield S. Schley was the senior officer in command of the combat forces at the time of the battle, but Sampson’s message makes no mention of him. The press saw the message as an unfounded boast, and just who should receive credit for the battle became a point of contention between the Sampson and Schley camps. After the war, the Navy Department determined that Sampson, having planned the blockade and battle-plan to prevent an escape, should receive credit for the victory. See: Sampson to Long, 15 July 1898; and Schley to Eugene Hale, 18 February 1899; and Trask, War with Spain, 266-267.

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