Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet

[Extract]

[May 20th.]

The following telegram was sent in cipher (Ragoutions) Replying to Department’s telegram of the 20th beginning Verberambam1 After duly considering the information therein contained I have decided to follow the plan already adopted to hold position Cienfuegos with Brooklyn, Massachusetts,Texas,and the Iowa,Marblehead, Castine,and Dupont and two auxiliary.2 There remains New York, Indianaand Monitor for Havana. The latter very inefficient and should not be sent from base. Have directed Schley3 to communicate with auxiliary at Santiago and direct one of them to report to Department from Mole or Cape Haitien. Then to return to Santiago and further report at Cienfuegos or Havana as he thinks best. Plan may be changed when it becomes certain that Spanish ships are at Santiago.4

May 21st.     Just before sailing wrote the following instructions (No. 8)5 for Commodore Schley) and sent them to the Marblehead to be delivered with all possible despatch.

May 20th.     The Department’s cipher telegram referred to above beginning Verberabam was “The report of the Spanish fleet being at Santiago de Cuba might very well be correct so the Department strongly advises that you send immediately by the Iowa to Schley to proceed off Santiago de Cuba with his whole command, leaving one small vessel off Cienfuegos. And meanwhile the Department will send the Minneapolis now at St.Thomas, auxiliary No. 4616 proceed at once off Santiago to join Schley, who should keep up communication via Mole,Haiti,or Cape Haitien,Haiti, If the Iowa has gone send order to Schley by the fastest dispatch vessel.”

              Cipher from Department, May 20th (Abalizaban) Army expect to have within a few days about thirty transport steamers at Tampa,Florida. Please take such means as you think proper for guarding them.

              Cipher from the St.Louis at Nicholas Mole (Resacrante) Have destroyed one sub-marine cable to Jamaica, although it is possible both under the fire of the battery at Santiago. If second cable is now in working order I shall require deep sea outfit. At Guantanamo Thursday was driven away superior Spanish force. I will attempt the French sub-marine telegraph elsewhere then proceed to Ponce, Porto Rico. Request orders at St.Thomas proceed to New York for coal and stores.

May 21st.     To Commanding Officer, Yale,7 Cape Haitien (Appiedino) Spainish squadron is reported at Santiago de Cuba. Flying Squadron will be at Santiago the 24th. Cruise in Bahama Channel and join Schley at Santiago May 24th.   C

              To Commanding Officer St.Louis8 at St.Thomas. Proceed selecting whichever point will give greatest dispatch. Report here.9

              To Minneapolis and St.Paul Curacoa (Marrana)

              To Department four word cipher (Gozais) Schley has been ordered to Santiago de Cuba.

              4.00 A.M. got underway with the Flagship10 arriving off Havana about noon. Fell in with Dolphin flying the broad pennant of Commodore Watson11 who came on board and was engaged with the Admiral all day. At 5.00 P.M. the Hawk was called alongside and sent with despatches to Commodore Schley (Duplicate of the order sent last night by the Marblehead).12 Hawk was also instructed if she met Vesuvius to send her to report to the Commander-in-Chief. The following additional instructions were sent to Commodore Schley “Instructions were sent to the St.Paul and Minneapolis at Nicolas Mole to scout off Santiago, and if the Spanish Squadron moves west the scouts to communicate with Schley who is expected at Santiago from Cienfuegos May 24th. If the Spanish go east the scouts are to telegraph the Admiral at Key West from Nicholas Mole and leave a letter for Schley then go off Santiago to meet him. The Admiral will go with the Squadron to Cay Frances Should two scouts be available one is to keep touch with the Spanish Squadron.  R

              About 9.00P.M. Lieutenant Staunton13 left in the Annapolis for Key West with despatches.

Source Note: Transcript, DNA, RG 313, Entry 56.

Footnote 1: Long to Sampson, 19 May 1898, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 393.

Footnote 2: St. Paul and Yale.

Footnote 3: Commodore Winfield S. Schley.

Footnote 4: Sampson’s 20 May 1898, instructions to Schley state:

. . . I have decided to make no change in the present plan:--that is that you should hold your squadron off Cienfuegos.-- If the Spanish ships have put into Santiago, they must come either to Havana or Cienfuegos to deliver the munitions of war which they are said to bring for use in Cuba. I am therefore of the opinion that our best chance of success in capturing these ships will be to hold the two points--Cienfuegos and Havana--with all the force that we can muster. If, later, it should develop that these vessels are at Santiago, we can then assemble off that port the ships best suited for the purpose, and completely blockade it. Until we receive more positive information we shall continue to hold Havana and Santiago. Sampson to Schley, 20 May 1898, DNA, RG313, Entry 56, Box 11.

Footnote 6: Axuliliary 461 was the St. Paul. For the full text of the order for the Flying Squadron to proceed to Santiago, see, Long to Sampson, 19 May, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 393.

Footnote 7: Capt. William C. Wise.

Footnote 8: Capt. Caspar F. Goodrich.

Footnote 9: Havana, Cuba.

Footnote 10: The armored cruiser New York.

Footnote 11: Commo. John C. Watson, Commander, Northern Blockading Squadron.

Footnote 12: See: Sampson to Schley, 21 May 1898. Sent by way of Hawk.

Footnote 13: Lt. Sidney A. Staunton.

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