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Commodore Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron, to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

Flying Squadron.


Off Cienfuegos, Cuba,

May 23, 1898.


     1.   In reply to your letter No. 8,1 I would state that I am by no means satisfied that the Spanish Squadron is not in [Cienfuegos]. The large amount of smoke seen in the harbor seems to indicate the presence of a number of vessels, and under such circumstances it would seem to me to be extremely unwise [and reporting] a probability at Santiago de Cuba reported via Havana, no doubt as a ruse

     2.   I shall therefore remain off this port with this Squadron, availing every opportunity for coaling and keeping it ready for any emergency.

     3.   Regarding the enclosed information from Commander McCalla.2 I would state that I went twice yesterday close in to the mouth of the harbor; the first time about two thousand yards and the second time and within about fourteen hundred yards but saw no evidence of any masked battery near the entrance. Well on the river across their torpedo mine fields, now laid across the mouth of the harbor, there is a new battery constructed hardly within range from the mouth of the river.

     4.   The CASTINE, MERRIMAC, and HAWK arrived this morning and I send the HAWK back with these despatches.

     5.   Last night I send the SCORPION east to Santiago de Cuba to communicate with scouts off that port, with instructions if they were not there to return at once to me here and I expect her back day after tomorrow.

     6.   I am further satisfied that the destination of the Spanish Squadron is either Cienfuegos or Havana. This point being in communication by railroad with Havana, would be better for their purposes if it was left exposed, and I think that we ought to be very careful how we receive information from Havana which is no doubt sent out for the purpose of mis leading us.3

     7.   The IOWA is coaling today, having reached this station with only about half of her coal supply.

Very respectfully,              

Sgd WS Schley                    

Commodore, U. S. N.         


Flying Squadron.  

Source Note: CbCyS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 68, p. 354. Addressed below close: “The Commander-in-Chief,/U.S. Naval Force on North Atlantic Station.” Document reference: “No. 3.”

Footnote 2: Comdr. Bowman H. McCalla, commanding officer of the Marblehead. For this report, see: McCalla to Sampson, 18 May 1898.

Footnote 3: Sampson received this message on 26 May 1898 and sternly ordered Schley to go to Santiago, writing:

Every report, and particularly daily confidential reports received at Key West from Havana state Spanish Squadron has been in Santiago de Cuba from 19th to the 25th instant inclusive, the 25th being the date of the last report received. . . You will please proceed, with all possible dispatch, to Santiago to blockade that port. If, on arrival there, you receive positive information of the Spanish ships having left, you will follow them in pursuit. Sampson to Schley, 27 May 1898, DNA, RG 313, Entry 56. For Sampson’s personal feeling regarding Schley’s remaining at Cienfuegos, see: Sampson’s Journal entry of 26 May 1898.

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