Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, to Commodore John C. Watson, Commander, Blockading Squadron

U.S. Flagship New York, 1st Rate.

Key West, Florida,     

May 29, 1898.

My dear Watson:--

          Matters seem to have become somewhat mixed since I wrote you last. A telegram from the Department, received this morning, at two o’clock, informed me that Schley1 has telegraphed the Department that he must leave the blockade at Santiago and go to Key West, with his Squadron, for coal. The Department has therefore asked me, in the same despatch, how long it would require me to go to Santiago after Schley had arrived at Key West.2 I replied at once that to go with the “OREGONNew York and the “INDIANA” would require three days after Schley’s arrival here. I also suggested that I should go at once to Santiago, in company with the “INDIANANew York and the “OREGON”, and if I met Schley, to turn back a part of his Squadron, and re-establish the blockade at Santiago with the least possible delay.3

     2.    We are still coaling, but ready to start as soon as a reply has been received from the Department to my telegram.4

     3.   I am entirely unable to understand why Schley said he must leave his station for the purpose of obtaining coal, when he undoubtedly has his big ships half full of coal and at least four thousand tons in his collier. I also fail to understand why the Department should wish me to remain here until Schley arrives, for, in the meantime, the Spanish ships would be unopposed at Santiago for the space of four days. I hope within a short time to receive the Department’s reply, giving me permission to start immediately.

     4.   When I do leave I wish to take the “OREGON” with me, fearing that I might not fall in with Schley if he has left Santiago.

     5.   I have, this morning, directed the “LEBANON”, a collier containing fourteen hundred tons of coal, to report to you for the purpose of coaling the vessels which you have with you, except the “INDIANA”, which should come directly here for coal.

     6.   Schley has sent back, by way of Cape Antonio, the “CASTINE” and the “SCORPION”, which were two of his ablest cruisers, so that he now has remaining only the “MARBLEHEAD”, the “EAGLE” and “VIXEN”. Therefore, if you can coal the “DETROIT” and the “MAYFLOWER”--or either of them--I would like to take them with me in case I do not obtain the use of those now in Schley’s Squadron.

     7.   Notwithstanding Schley’s statement that he must leave Santiago and come to Key West, it is possible that, after receiving my communication sent by Folger,5 which should reach him this morning, he may change his mind and remain on the blockade.

              Very respectfully,

                   W.T. Sampson

                   Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy,

              Commander in Chief, U.S.Naval Force,

                   North Atlantic Station.

Source Note: CbCyS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 53. Addressed below close: “Commodore/John C. Watson, U. S. Navy,/Commanding Blockading Squadron, Off Havana, Cuba.” Document reference: “No. 2”

Footnote 1: Commo. Winfield S. Schley, Commander, Flying Squadron.

Footnote 4: Long’s response to Sampson of 29 May stated:

Your telegram of May 29 received. Department thinks it very desirable that you carry out recommendation to go yourself with two ships to Santiago de Cuba. Act at your discretion with the object of blockading Spanish division soon as possible. Captain [Caspar F. Goodrich] report Guantanamo very weak; the seizure of, immediately, is recommended. See: Journal of RAdm. William T. Sampson, 29 May 1898; and Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 399.

Footnote 5: Comdr. William M. Folger, commanding New Orleans.

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