Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Charles D. Sigsbee to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

U. S. S. ST. PAUL,       

Off Santiago de Cuba,       

10 A. M., May 29, 1898.

Steaming at full speed for

Mole St. Nicholas, Haiti.

Sir:-

     The U. S. S. ST. PAUL, under my command, arrived at Key West, Fa., at 8.10 A. M. on May 17, 1898, having made the passage from Hampton Roads at full speed. On her arrival at Key West I made application for 1100 tons of coal. There was sent to me one four-masted schooner with three hatches and one very small brigantine with one hatch, and, therefore, coaling proceeded very slowly on one side. I found the stevedore arrangements far from perfect.

     The next day, Rear Admiral Sampson,1 the Commander in Chief, and Commodore Schley2 arrived at Key West with their respective Squadrons. That evening I received telegraphic orders from the Department through Commodore Remey,3 to proceed to Cape Haitien for orders, and if I sighted the Yale, to direct her to proceed also to Cape Haitien. I picked up the Yale in old Bahama Channel and we proceeded together to Cape Haitien, where we arrived near midday of the 20th. There I received telegraphic orders from the Department, which had been received at Cape Haitien at 10.45 P. M. on the 19th, to proceed to Santiago de Cuba and communicate occasionally, and was informed that Commodore Schley was under orders to proceed to the same place. My orders stated that the Spanish Fleet had been reported at Santiago.

     I left Port Haitien without anchoring, and arrived off Santiago de Cuba the following day, Saturday the 21st, at 9.30 A. M., and engaged in target practice some five 5 or six 6 miles from the fortifications at the entrance to the Port. Thereafter, until this morning, I remained cruising off the entrance, occasionally in company with the Yale and Harvard. Since these vessels were commanded by my seniors,4 I gave them such communications as I had to make from time to time, and they took them to port and, doubtless, gave full information to the Department.

     On the morning of the 25th I gave chase to a steamer standing in at a good rate of speed for Santiago entrance, and managed to intercept her just out of gun-shot of the entrance, about 6.00 A. M.. The sea being somewhat rough, we boarded her with some difficulty, and directed her to steam out to the offing. She proved to be the British Steamer Restormal from Cardiff, Wales, with coal, evidently for the Spanish Fleet. She had been at San Juan, Puerto Rico; thence to Curacao, where she was informed that the Spanish Fleet had left two days before her arrival. She was then directed to proceed to Santiago de Cuba. Her Captain stated frankly that he expected to be captured. Both her Captain and crew exhibited great good nature on being captured, and seemed rather pleased at the result. I sent her to Key West, via Yucatan Channel, with an ample prize crew in charge of Acting Lt. J. A. Pattson,5 U. S. n., of the ST. PAUL. The Restormal had on board 2400 tons of coal and seemed to be an excellent vessel. Her master said that at Puerto Rico he had left two other colliers which he stated, in conversation, he hoped would be captured also. I understood that these three colliers were from the same Company and under similar instructions.

     On the 26th I boarded a British Steamer which showed no desire to escape us. She proved to be the Jason, bound from Jamaica to New York with fruit and produce. She brought me two letters from Consul Lewis A. Dent, of Kingston, Jamaica, and two Cubans, one of whom was an interpreter who had lately been a clerk in the Consulate at Santiago, and the other a colored pilot said to have been recently a coast-pilot for the Spanish Navy at Santiago. Their names were, respectively, Louis M. Preval and Edwardo Nunez. The clearance papers of this British vessel did not bear the Consular seal of the United States Consul, nor did the letters. I took the men on board, and, later on the same day, when Commodore Schley arrived off Santiago from the Westward, I transferred them to the Flag-ship. Commodore Schley remained arrived with his Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on the evening of May 25th, and remained there until 4.00 P. M. of the 27th, apparently because of the disabled condition of his collier,6 which was finally taken in tow by the Yale, and the Squadron proceeded Westward. I was directed to remain off Santiago, which I did. Afterwards I gave chase to three United States press-boats, one belonging to the New York World and Herald, another to the Chicago Record, and last night I chased another, belonging to the New York Sun, all of which I allowed to proceed.

     This morning, while working in towards the coast after chasing, I saw the smoke of a number of vessels to the Westward and at once made for the Santiago entrance, believing it possible that the strangers were the Spanish Squadron approaching that Port. The vessels proved to be those of Commodore Schley’s Command, - viz: the Brooklyn, Massachusetts, Iowa, Texas, Marblehead, Vixen, and a collier. When just to the Eastward of the entrance, I saw two Spanish War vessels in the channel between the outer entrance and Smith’s Island, which seemed to be coming out. One was a large vessel having two smoke stacks and one military mast between the smoke stacks, and the other was of the Viscaya class, having two smoke stacks and two masts. I signaled to the Flag-ship what I had seen, and soon received notification that she had also seen the ChristobalColon, the Infanta Maria Theresa, and two torpedo vessels.7 Although I had been off Santiago for a week and had been daily near the entrance, yesterday four and a half 4½ and five 5 miles from the Morro, sketching in very clear weather, I had never before seen any sign of a Spanish man-of-war.

     This morning, about 8.30, when I joined company, the Flag-ship signaled for Commanding Officers to repair on board the Flag-ship. On arriving on board, I was given a dispatch from Commodore Schley from for the Department and Rear Admiral Sampson, and told to proceed at once to Mole St. Nicholas and send the despatches, and thereafter, in view of possible orders awaiting me at that place, to my best judgment, preferably to find Admiral Sampson, at or near Cay Frances in the old Bahama Channel and inform him of the condition of affairs at Santiago, especially of the shortness of coal on board Commodore Schley’s vessels. I was further informed that on finding Admiral Sampson I should proceed to Key West to recoal, - a necessary procedure.

My information from Commodore Schley states that the Spanish Fleet were believed to have arrived at Santiago de Cuba on the morning of Saturday, the 21st inst..8 The ST. PAUL arrived off Santiago at 9.20 A. M. on that day. Since her arrival, I believe the ST. PAUL has been most persistent in watching the Port and its locality. It is difficult to understand why we have never been attacked by torpedo boats at night, although I so managed the movements of the ST. PAUL as to deceive vessels at Santiago. On one night we had a very decided impression that they were out after us, the evidence being a search light in shore to the Eastward, and occasional flashes of light between the ST. PAUL and the shore, the night being very dark. The size of the ST. PAUL and her immense volumes of smoke when under way make her a conspicuous mark.

The work of those on board the ST. PAUL has been both difficult and exhausting from the time of her arrival at Cramp’s Yard at Philadelphia. Unless the facilities afforded us at Key West are much better that those we found available on our recent visit, it will take at least a week to coal this vessel at that place.

Of the Squadron assembled here by Commodore Schley on the 26th, it is probable that the Minneapolis and the Yale, both of which needed coal, proceeded to Key West via Yucatan Channel. It appeared to me that Commodore Schley, having with him today four battleships and the Marblehead and Vixen, was probably lacking in small vessels for patrol duty at night. He, thinking, was apparently of the same opinion. Fortunately the moon is now at the end of its first quarter, and he will have moon-light nights until he can receive well coaled reinforcements.

At 10 A.M. the ST. PAUL started for Mole St. Nicholas at full speed.

Very respectfully,     

C.D. Sigsbee           

Captain, U. S. n.,

Comdng.      

Source Note: TDS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 230. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Washington, D. C.” Document reference: “No. 27A.” Docketed: “U. S. S. ST. PAUL,/Off Santiago de Cuba,/10 A. M., May 29, 1898./Steaming at full speed for Mole St. Nicholas, Haiti./Sigsbee, C. D.,/Captain, U. S. n.,/Commanding./Copy of Letter from Captain/C. D. Sigsbee, U. S. n., to/the Navy Department informing/it of the movements of the/U. S. S. ST. PAUL, and the/identification of the Spanish/Fleet by Commodore Schley and/the ST. PAUL./Original forwarded through Comdr-in-Chief.” Stamp: Rectangular “BUREAU OF NAVIGATION” stamp from 6 July 1898, with the numbers “116999” are in the middle. Note: Handwritten at the top of the first page is: “Copy: Original forwarded through the Commander in Chief/This sent to expedite its reception by the Department.”

Footnote 1: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 2: Commo. Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron.

Footnote 3: Commo. George C. Remey, Commandant, Key West Naval Base.

Footnote 4: The Yale was commanded by, Capt. William C. Wise, and the Harvard was commanded by, Capt. Charles S. Cotton.

Footnote 5: Probably, Asst. Eng. James W. Patterson.

Footnote 6: The collier referred to was the Merrimac.

Footnote 7: That is, Infanta Maria Teresa, Plutón, and Furor.

Footnote 8: The Spanish Squadron arrived at Santiago de Cuba on 19 May 1898. Cervera, Squadron Operations, 80.

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