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

TELEGRAM

Playa de Este, via Hayti,       

June 26, 1898.

     Off Santiago de Cuba, June 26th. As the Department may not fully understand the situation here, I send the following: Nine vessels of convoying squadron are coaling at Guantanamo. The New York off Santiago and the others must be coaled in turn. The Yankee is at Cienfuegos, the Dixie at Cape Cruz; the Helena and Hornet left yesterday for those stations; the Detroit and the Eagle will follow; the St. Paul and Yosemite are at San Juan. In Smooth water ships can coal off Santiago with some difficulty. I regard it essential not to reduce this force too much for some days, in view of the fact that the weather may compel me to coal at Guantanamo. Channel was not obstructed by Merrimac and we must be prepared to make better arrangements the Spanish fleet, if they attempt to escape. I am preparing torpedo attack in order to hasten their destruction. Regret this method because of its difficulty and small chance of success, torpedo boats first class being subject to small arms and rapid fire guns for a long distance. I should not do this were present forces to be kept here, as it now ensures the capture which I believe will terminate the war. Shall U.S. ships named the Oregon, the Iowa, and Yankee, etc., be collected here for the proposed move?1

SAMPSON. 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, pp. 229-30. Addressed before opening: “Secnav,/Washington.”

Footnote 1: Sampson is referring to Long request that he prepare the Oregon, Iowa and Brooklyn for service in the Eastern Squadron, commanded by Commo. John C. Watson. The Department anticipated Sampson’s need for more vessels and dispatched Commo. John A. Howell, with his Northern Patrol Squadron, to reinforce the North Atlantic Fleet and take over Watson’s 1st Blockading Squadron off Northern Cuba. In his response, Long informed Sampson:

You are authorized to detain the Oregon and Iowa until the other armored vessels are coaled fully so as to be able to hold position at Santiago, but you will hurry this to the utmost possible as the Department desires to get these vessels to the East via Spain. Watson with Newark Leaves today to join to command division for Spain. Assemble at same time cruisers Yosemite, Dixie, and Yankee and coal them for same service.

See: Long to Sampson, 18 June 1898; Long to Howell, 25 June 1898; Long to Sampson, 27 July 1898, DNA, RG 80, Entry 194, vol. 1, 232; and Ibid., 233.

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