Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Bowman H. McCalla to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

U. S. S. MARBLEHEAD, 3rd. Rate,

At sea, Lat. 22 16’ N.,

Long. 85 01’ W.,

May 18th., 1898.

S i r :

     1.   I have the honor to report that at 9 A. M. on the 16th. of May, the Vixen brought information of the presence of the Spanish fleet off Martinique on the 12th.

     2.   At 6:30 P. M. of the same day, the Hornet arrived with the information that the Spanish fleet had been seen off Curacao on the 14th.

     The telegram from the Department also directed that all of the vessels off Cienfuegos except “one of the smallest” should return to Key West.

     One of the smallest vessels referred to either the Vixen, Eagle or Hornet.

     3.   From within the port of Cienfuegos I had reliable information that the Gallicia, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, and five or six canoneras1 were lying.

     And with the knowledge that the Spanish fleet was south of the Island of Cuba, it seemed to me that it would be unwise to subject one of the smallest vessels to destruction or capture, as she would be so far from support. I therefore brought the whole force from off Cienfuegos, trusting that my action would meet with your approval and that of the Department.

     4.   I transmit herewith a copy of the order received from the Commodore, Commanding at Key West.2

     5.   In connection with the duty off Cienfuegos, I have the honor to report that on information which I believe reliable, it is said that the Spanish troops on the 11th. instant had orders to take none of the Americans they might capture alive.

     I am also informed that the Spanish authorities, believing that the cutting of the cables was an attempt to land, finally concentrated a force of 1500 infantry and cavalry in the vicinity of ColoradosPoint.

     It is reported that a large number of the Spanish troops were killed and wounded by the gun fire from our two ships.

Very respectfully,               

BH McCalla                  

Commander, U. S. Navy, 

Commanding.       

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/North Atlantic Station.” Docketed: U.S.S. MARBLEHEAD,/ At sea, Lat. 22 16’ N.,/Long. 85 01’ W.,/May 18th., 1898./McCalla, B.H.,/Commander, U. S. Navy,/Commanding./Reports leaving Cienfuegos, etc.” Note: Document had “One (1) enclosure.”, but said enclosure was not found with document. Stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/MAY 19 1898”. Document reference: “No. 32.”

Footnote 1: Gunships.

Footnote 2: Commo. George C. Remey. These orders were issued on 14 May, by Secretary John D. Long and forwarded by Remey. The Department believed that the Spanish Squadron might make for Cienfuegos or another port in southern Cuba and feared for the small blockading groups while Sampson’s battleships were returning from Puerto Rico and the Flying Squadron had yet to reach as far south as Charleston, South Carolina. See, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 388-89.

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