Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to President William McKinley

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington,

January 13, 1899.

To the President:

I have the honor to suggest that the thanks of Congress be given Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, U.S. Navy.1

On March 24, 1898 Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, U.S.N., Then Captain, was appointed by the Navy Department as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Naval Force on the North Atlantic Station, to replace Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard, U.S.N., who, unfortunately, fell ill, and, on account of his health, was unable to retain command of the Fleet. Two days afterward, Rear Admiral Sampson hoisted his flag on board the U.S.S. NEW YORK, as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Naval Force on the North Atlantic Station.

    As is well known to yourself, Rear Admiral Sampson was in command of the naval operations in the West Indies during the late war between the United States and the Kingdom of Spain. He had the confidence of this Department, and, while he was given wide discretion as to the conduct of the naval operations in the West Indies, he responded promptly to all the orders and suggestions made to him by this Department, displaying, at all times, the greatest good judgment. No naval officer during the war had greater naval responsibilities. As Commander-in-Chief, he was charged not only with the pressing responsibilities of that command, involving communication with a vast number of vessels and officers, constant communication with the department and the management of the clerical administration of his office, but also with the great functions: first, of superintending the blockade of Cuba; second, of cooperating with the Army, landing its troops, and, by the aid of his fleets, ensuring the success of its operations; and third, of the pursuit, blockade and capture of the Spanish squadron.

    His execution of the whole naval campaign, which embraced these objects, in its wide and varied extent, entitles him to the greatest credit. He conducted a campaign of great scope and enormous responsibilities to a successful and brilliant close, which terminated the war by the destruction of Admiral Cervera's fleet and, thereby, the destruction of Spanish sea power.2 From the time of his arrival off Santiago, on the first day of June, his blockade of Admiral Cervera's fleet was maintained with the utmost efficiency and fidelity, and with untiring vigilance day and night. His plans for the blockade, and for the destruction of the Spanish fleet in case it should attempt to escape, were carefully made at that early date, and standing orders issued for the action of our fleet in that emergency, which were faithfully obeyed when that emergency occurred and were carried into effect by his officers and men with the precision, brilliancy and vigor unsurpassed in the annals of naval warfare.

I am, Sir, with great respect,

(Signed) John D. Long,

Secretary.

Source Note: TCy, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, Box 47. Stationery: “John D. Long./secretary.” “On first page above salutatory: “157250/FWD/COPY.” On last page left side: “JMH.” Spacing between words has been gently corrected.

Footnote 1: On 14 Feb. 1901 President McKinley in his “Message to Congress Requesting Thanks to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson” wrote:

During our recent war with Spain the United States naval force on the North Atlantic Station was charged with varied and important duties, chief among which were the maintenance of the blockade of Cuba, aiding the army, and landing troops and in subsequent operations, and particularly in the pursuit, blockade, and destruction of the Spanish Squadron under Admiral Cervera.

This naval campaign, embracing objects of wide scope and grave responsibilities, was conducted with great ability on the part of the commander-in-chief, and of the officers and enlist men under his command. It culminated in the annihilation of the Spanish fleet in the battle of July 3, 1898, one of the most memorable engagements in history.

The result of this battle was the freeing of our Atlantic coast from the possibilities to which it had been exposed from Admiral Cervera’s fleet, and the termination of the war upon the seas.

I recommend that, following our national precedents, especially that in case of Admiral Dewey and the Asiatic Squadron, the thanks of Congress be given to Rear-Admiral William T. Sampson, United States Navy, and to the officers and men under his command for highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy, and in carrying on the blockade and naval campaign on the Cuban coast, resulting in the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba July 3, 1898. Accessed 20 April 2015, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=660.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s fleet was destroyed on 3 July.

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