Skip to main content
Documentary Histories
Spanish-American War

Memorandum from the Naval War Board

Navy Department,

Office of the Naval War Board.

Washington, D. C.       July 18th 1898



     Assuming that the Spanish force in the ports of Spain ought to be considered as more than a match for Watson’s1 two battleships; and that if another armored ship were added to his squadron, the said Spanish force, when properly handled, must be considered as able to inflict serious damage upon the squadron thus augmented; a plan of campaign in which the covering squadron figures is, of course, the ideal one; because this plan provides against all the contingencies that can be reasonably imagined to occur. Therefore, the only valid reason for advocating the omission of the covering squadron from our plans would be, because it was thought that Watson with three armored ships would certainly, without material damage, be able to beat off the strongest force that the enemy could at times concentrate against him. And this view would rest upon two principle assumptions:

     1st. The inherent superiority of our ships and their personnel, as compared with the Spaniards.

     2nd. The comparative speed with in which our three armored ships would pass those regions, with which it is reasonable to expect that a Spanish attack might be delivered.

     It will thus be seen that the advocates of the single squadron do not base their opinion upon any of the absolute rules of war, but upon their professional judgment as to the condition of affairs, the correctness of which depends entirely upon the correctness of their said judgment; which of course, might possibly be at fault, in one or more respects.

     While the plan of sending the three ships is not the safer, or the more correct one, I feel personally so satisfied of the inferiority of our enemy, in the matter of ships and men, as demonstrated in the late operations against him, that I am willing to assume that the risk of passing Watson’s squadron through the Straits, and through the enemy’s waters, is not one which need be seriously regarded by the Department in considering its plans; though I wish distinctly to admit that it is not the ideal campaign, as is the first one above mentioned.

M Sicard          

[I concur in the above statement]    

AS Crowninshield2     

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 235. Document is on “Naval War Board,” stationery.

Footnote 1: Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, Eastern Squadron.

Footnote 2: Commo. Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. “I concur in the above statement” is a handwritten interlineation.    

Related Content