HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Destruction of Admiral Cervera's Fleet
by Bancroft, Hubert H.

Admiral Sampson's Report

[The blockade of Cuba was enlivened by captures of Spanish merchantmen and several minor fights, but was wearisome to the splendid fellows on our ships, who were pining for a chance to show their quality. It came in due course. The bombardment of Matanzas opened the ball. The first American officer to sacrifice his life for his country was Ensign Bagley, who, with four of his men, met death in the engagement of Cardenas bay. Other sailors lost their lives in destroying the Spanish cables. There was peril in this coast-service all along the line, as the enemy had fortified the important points with rapid-fire guns.

The supposedly formidable Spanish fleet that had sailed from Cadiz as far back as March was causing our navy no little worry. It was deemed necessary to establish a complete patrol of our coast in case of isolated attempts to damage our great cities. Others suspected that Cervera's mysterious voyage was towards Manila, to overcome Dewey before his reinforcements could arrive, or to intercept the Oregon in its memorable rush from San Francisco round Cape Horn to Cuba. Admiral Sampson scoured the seas in search of his invisible foe, ending with his bombardment of San Juan, Porto Rico, by way of leaving his official message for the Spaniard who had not as yet arrived.

Cervera was actually wandering vaguely in search of coal, and had got to Martinique, where, to his sorrow, he learned that the neutrality of France prevented the local authorities from according him that favor. From the 12th until the 19th of May the Spanish fleet defied the vigilant efforts of Sampson's captains to locate, much more to capture, it. When at last Cervera was discovered he was in the snug harbor of Santiago, into which he had quietly sailed, with a cleverness worthy -- as a feat of seamanship -- of a happier ending than was in store for him. It was not until ten days later that Commodore Schley was able to certify the fact from personal investigation. He at once commenced a bombardment of the land forts, as a challenge, but a few saucy shots from the safe retreat was all the reply. When Admiral Sampson brought up his squadron all that was possible was to secure the enemy in his water-prison and await the results of other forces. No American ship could enter the well-mined narrow neck of Cervera's fatal "bottle." Those other measures included the sending of a land-force to co-operate with the navy. Major-General Shafter received orders, on the day that Schley reported his discovery of Cervera, to prepare some 20,000 troops for transport to Santiago. On June 1, Admiral Sampson arrived, took command of the whole fleet, and instituted a close blockade. Sampson now resolved to execute his plan for blockading the harbor with a collier, and asked Naval Constructor Richmond P. Hobson to draw up the plan. This he did, and received permission to execute it. This plan was simply to take in the collier Merrimac, until he reached a narrow place in the channel, anchor one end of the vessel, let the other swing with the tide, and, just as the collier was lengthwise across the channel, sink her with small torpedoes controlled by electricity. This was one of the most hazardous enterprises ever undertaken, yet when volunteers were called for nearly every man in the fleet wanted to go, and there were many heart-burnings over the refusals. Hobson chose only six men, picked for courage, physical and technical skill. They were Osborn Deignan, George F. Phillips, Francis Kelly, George Charette, Daniel Montague and J. C. Murphy. Randolph Clausen, a coxswain of the New York, determined to share in the work, concealed himself in the Merrimac, and when discovered at the last moment, refused to leave his self-chosen post, making the eighth man of the party. The first attempt was made June 2, but it was getting light, and the enterprise was postponed until the next night, when it was carried out, but not to a complete success. The Spanish batteries opened on the Merrimac, and the crew escaped death by a miracle. Unfortunately, the rudder chains were shot away, part of the torpedo wires cut, and when the collier sank it did not close the channel. Hobson and his men sank with the vessel and swam to a catamaran, from which they were taken at daylight by Admiral Cervera, who was out looking for an American war-ship he supposed he had sunk. On hearing Hobson's story Cervera was so impressed with his bravery that he sent an officer to Admiral Sampson under a flag of truce, to allow clothes and money to be sent to the American prisoners, who were the only ones captured by Spain during the war. This touch of kindness pleased the American people so much that, later, the Spanish Admiral received many attentions in this country.

The Morro Castle and batteries along the mouth of the harbor were repeatedly bombarded, and the men driven from the guns, but the permanent damage was small. A part of the fleet attacked the batteries at Guantanamo Harbor, east of Santiago, and on June 10, 600 marines landed and made a camp. They were attached by Spaniards for two days, and lost four men. The navy shelled the hills, and the marines held their ground. Admiral Sampson now believed that an army could capture the batteries at the mouth of the harbor, and wired the President that with 10,000 men he could take Santiago in twenty-four hours. An army, principally of regulars, had been collected at Tampa under General Shafter, and this was hastily embarked on a fleet of transports. There were two divisions of infantry under Generals Lawton and Kent and one of cavalry under General Wheeler, but the latter left their horses behind and fought as infantry. The only volunteers were two squadrons of First Cavalry (Rough Riders), the Seventy- first New York and the Eighth Massachusetts. Owing to a false alarm, raised by the report of Spanish cruisers in the Nicholas Channel, the sailing was delayed several days for more war-ships as convoys, but on June 13 the expedition sailed, about 16,000 strong, and was off Santiago on the 20th.

There was a difference of opinion between Admiral Sampson and General Shafter over the order of procedure, the latter declining to sacrifice his men in an assault which, if successful, would give the fleet a safe path to victory, but if a failure, as was quite probable, owing to the terrible conditions of heat, disease, and peril, would be blamed on his generalship. The details of the land- war follow on another page. Recurring to the Spanish vessels in the harbor: Cervera might have strengthened his cause by remaining where he was until the climate had further weakened our forces on land and time had enabled the Spanish army to send reinforcements to the defenders of Santiago. Instead of this, orders had been given to the Spanish admiral to make his escape to the harbor of Havana. He knew it was a fatal blunder, in the condition of his ships and the impossibility of breaking through the cordon guarding the harbor mouth. Early on July 3 General Shafter sent a summons to General Toral, commanding at Santiago, to surrender.

On that morning occurred the second great naval event of the war. General Shafter desiring to consult with Admiral Sampson as to the shelling of Santiago by the navy, the latter left on his flag-ship, New York, to meet the General. Not long after he had left, Cervera's fleet made a sortie out of the harbor. It was a surprise to the Americans. Being Sunday, many of the vessels had steam under only a few boilers, and some had their engines uncoupled. Commodore Schley, the ranking officer, set the signal to close in and fight. The Maria Tercsa, Almirante Oquendo, and Vizcaya were soon riddled with shot, set on fire and beached, the officers and crew surrendering. The torpedo-boat destroyers Pluton, and Furor were quickly sunk, while the Cristobal Colon managed to get started well to the west, followed by the Brooklyn, Oregon, Texas, and Iowa. The last two were sent to look after the three beached cruisers, and the others kept up the chase for about forty miles. The large guns seem to have done little damage, but the havoc of the smaller calibres was frightful. The Colon was overtaken, and ran on the beach just as the New York was coming up with Admiral Sampson on board. Admiral Cervera and all his surviving crew, amounting to 1,300, surrendered. Several hundred were killed or drowned. The Americans lost but one man. The Spanish officers were sent to Annapolis, and afterwards paroled. The sailors were sent to Portsmouth, and were finally allowed to go home.

On July 5, Toral, who had declined the first summons, was again ordered to surrender, and refused; but a truce was agreed on to allow foreigners and women and children to leave the city. As it was rumored that Shafter was in a dangerous situation, reinforcements had been rushed to him, and on July 11 General Miles arrived. Hobson and his crew were exchanged for Spanish prisoners. The navy bombarded the city on the 10th and 11th, and was preparing to do more execution when negotiations were opened by which, on the 14th, General Toral surrendered not only Santiago but the entire eastern end of Cuba, and about 23,000 men, on condition that they be sent back to Spain at the expense of the United States. This was agreed to and the Santiago campaign was over.

Owing to a wide difference of opinion as to whether Admiral Schley or Sampson was entitled to the credit for the victory off Santiago, the Senate confirmed none of the President's naval promotions for gallantry during the war. This controversy aroused much feeling. Admiral Schley was the popular hero, but officially Sampson was given the chief credit. It is about the only controversy over naval matters during the whole war.]

Admiral Sampson's Report to the Secretary of the Navy


SIR: I have the honor to make the following report upon the battle with, and the destruction of, the Spanish squadron, commanded by Admiral Cervera, off Santiago de Cuba, on Sunday, July 3, 1898:--

The enemy's vessels came quickly out of the harbor between 9:35 and 10 a. m., the head of the column appearing around Cay Smith at 9:31, and emerging from the channel five or six minutes later.

The positions of the vessels under my command off Santiago at that moment were as follows: The flag-ship New York was four miles east of her blockading station, and about seven miles from the harbor entrance. She had started for Siboney, where I intended to land, accompanied by several of my staff, and go to the front to consult with General Shafter. A discussion of the situation and a more definite understanding between us of the operations proposed had been rendered necessary by the unexpectedly strong resistance of the Spanish garrison of Santiago. I had sent my chief-of-staff on shore the day before to arrange an interview with General Shafter, who had been suffering from heat prostration. I made arrangements to go to his headquarters, and my flag-ship was in the position mentioned above when the Spanish squadron appeared in the channel. The remaining vessels were in or near their usual blockading positions, distributed in a semi-circle about the harbor entrance, counting from the eastward to the westward in the following order:--

The Indiana about a mile and a half from shore; the Oregon, the New York's place; between these two the Iowa, Texas, and Brooklyn, the latter two miles from the shore, west of Santiago. The distance of the vessels from the harbor entrance was from two and one-half to four miles -- the latter being the limit of day blockading distance. The length of the arc formed by the ships was about eight miles. The Massachusetts had left at 4 a. m. for Guantanamo for coal. Her station was between the Iowa and Texas. The auxiliaries, Gloucester and Vixen, lay close to the land and nearer the harbor entrance than the larger vessels, the Gloucester to the eastward, and the Vixen to the westward. The torpedo-boat Ericsson was in company with the flag-ship, and remained with her during the chase until ordered to discontinue, when she rendered very efficient service in rescuing prisoners from the burning Vizcaya. I enclose a diagram, showing approximately the positions of the vessels as described above.

The Spanish vessels were coming rapidly out of the harbor at a speed estimated at from eight to ten knots, and in the following order: Infanta Maria Teresa (flag-ship), Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, and the Almirante Oquendo. The distance between these ships was about eight hundred yards, which means that from the time the first one became visible in the upper reach of the channel until the last one was out of the harbor, an interval of only about twelve minutes elapsed. Following the Oquendo at a distance of about 1,200 yards, came the torpedo-boat destroyer, Pluton, and after her the Furor. The armored cruisers, as rapidly as they could bring their guns to bear, opened a vigorous fire upon the blockading vessels, and emerged from the channel shrouded in the smoke from their guns.

The men of our ships engaged in blockading the port were at Sunday "quarters for inspection." The signal was made simultaneously from several vessels, "Enemy's ships escaping," and general quarters was sounded. The men cheered as they sprang to their guns, and fire was opened probably within eight minutes by the vessels whose guns commanded the entrance. The New York turned about and steamed for the escaping fleet, flying the signal, "close in towards harbor entrance and attack vessels," and gradually increasing speed, until towards the end of the chase she was making sixteen and one-half knots and was rapidly closing on the Cristobal Colon. She was not at any time within the range of the heavy Spanish ships, and her only part in the firing was to receive the undivided fire from the forts in passing the harbor entrance, and to fire a few shots at one of the destroyers, thought at the moment to be attempting to escape from the Gloucester.

The Spanish vessels upon clearing the harbor at once turned to the westward in column, increasing their speed to the full power of their engines. The heavy blockading vessels, which had closed in towards the Morro at the instant of the enemy's appearance, and at their best speed, delivered a rapid fire, well sustained and destructive, speedily overwhelmed and silenced the Spanish fire. The initial speed of the Spaniards carried them rapidly past the blockading vessels, and the battle developed into a chase in which the Brooklyn and Texas had, at the start, the advantage of position. The Brooklyn maintained this lead. The Oregon, steaming with amazing speed from the commencement of the action, took first place. The Iowa and the Indiana having done good work and not having the speed of the other ships, were directed by me, in succession, at about the time the Vizcaya was beached, to drop out of the chase and resume blockading stations. These vessels rescued many prisoners. The Vixen, finding that the rush of the Spanish ships would put her between two fires, ran outside of our own column, and remained there during the battle and chase.

The remarkably skilful handling and gallant fighting of the Gloucester excited the admiration of every one who witnessed it, and merits the commendation of the Navy Department. She is a fast and entirely unprotected auxiliary vessel -- the yacht Corsair -- and has a good battery of light rapid-fire guns. She was lying two miles from the harbor entrance, to the southward and eastward, and immediately steamed in, opening fire upon the large ships. Anticipating the appearance of the Pluton and Furor, the Gloucester was slowed, gaining more rapidly a high pressure of steam, and when the destroyers came out she steamed for them at full speed and was able to close to short range, where her fire was accurate, deadly and of great volume. During this fight the Gloucester was under the fire of the Socapa battery. Within twenty minutes from the time they emerged from Santiago harbor, the careers of the Furor and the Pluton were ended and two-thirds of their people killed. The Furor was beached and sunk in the surf; the Pluton sank in deep water a few minutes later. The destroyers probably suffered much injury from the fire of the secondary batteries of the battle- ships Iowa, Indiana, and the Texas, yet I think a very considerable factor in their speedy destruction was the fire, at close range, of the Gloucester's battery. After rescuing the survivors of the destroyers, the Gloucester did excellent service in landing and securing the crew of the Infanta Maria Teresa.

The special method of escape attempted by the Spaniards -- all steering in the same direction and in formation -- removed all tactical doubts or difficulties, and made plain the duty of every United States vessel to close in, immediately engage and pursue. This was promptly and effectively done. As already stated, the first rush of the Spanish squadron carried it past a number of the blockading ships, which could not immediately work up to their best speed; but they suffered heavily in passing, and the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Oquendo were probably set on fire by shells fired during the first fifteen minutes of the engagement; it was afterwards learned that the Infanta Maria Teresa's fire main had been cut by one of our first shots, and that she was unable to extinguish fire. With large columns of smoke rising from the lower decks aft, these vessels gave up both fight and flight and ran in on the beach -- the Infanta Maria Teresa at about 10:15, at Nima, six and one-half miles from Santiago harbor entrance, and the Almirante Oquendo at about 10:30 a. m., at Juan Gonzales, seven miles from the port.

The cruiser Vizcaya was still under the fire of the leading vessels; the Cristobal Colon had drawn ahead, leading the chase, and soon passed beyond the range of the guns of the leading American ships. The Vizcaya was soon set on fire and at 11:15 she turned in shore and was beached at Aserraderos, fifteen miles from Santiago, burning fiercely, and with her reserves of ammunition on deck already beginning to explode. When about ten miles west of Santiago the Indiana had been signalled to go back to the harbor entrance, and at Aserraderos the Iowa was signalled to "resume blockading station." The Iowa, assisted by the Ericsson and the Hist, took off the crew of the Vizcaya, while the Harvard and the Gloucester rescued those of the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Almirante Oquendo.

This rescue of prisoners, including the wounded from the burning Spanish vessels, was the occasion of some of the most daring and gallant conduct of the day. The ships were burning fore and aft, their guns and reserve ammunition were exploding, and it was not known at what moment the fire would reach the main magazine. In addition to this, a heavy surf was running just inside of the Spanish ships. But no risk deterred our officers and men until their work of humanity was complete.

Of the Spanish ships there now remained afloat only the Cristobal Colon -- but she was their best and fastest vessel. Forced by the situation to hug the Cuban coast, her only chance of escape was by superior and sustained speed. When the Vizcaya went ashore, the Colon was about six miles ahead of the Brooklyn and the Oregon, but her spurt was finished, and the American ships were now gaining upon her. Behind the Brooklyn and the Oregon came the Texas, Vixen and New York. It was evident from the bridge of the New York that all the American ships were gradually overhauling the chase, and that she had no chance of escape. At 12:50 the Brooklyn and the Oregon opened fire and got her range -- the Oregon's heavy shell striking beyond her -- and at 1:20 she gave up without firing another shot, hauled down her colors, and ran ashore at Rio Tarquino, forty-eight miles from Santiago. Captain Cook, of the Brooklyn, went on board to receive the surrender. While his boat was alongside I came up on the New York, received his report, and placed the Oregon in charge of the wreck to save her, if possible; and directed the prisoners to be transferred to the Resolute, which had followed the chase. Commodore Schley, whose chief-of-staff had gone on board to receive the surrender, had directed that all their personal effects should be retained by the officers. This order I did not modify. The Cristobal Colon was not injured by our firing and probably is not much injured by beaching, though she ran ashore at high speed. The beach was so steep that she came off by the working of the sea. But her sea-valves were opened and broken, treacherously, I am sure, after her surrender, and despite all efforts she sank. When it became evident that she could not be kept afloat, she was pushed by the New York bodily upon the beach. The New York's stem was placed against her for that purpose, the ship being handled by Captain Chadwick with admirable judgment. She sank in shoal water and may be saved. Had this not been done she would have gone down in deep water and would have been, to a certainty, a total loss.

I regard this most complete and important victory over the Spanish forces as the successful finish of several weeks of arduous and close blockade, so stringent and effective during the night that the enemy was deterred from making the attempt to escape at night, and deliberately elected to make the attempt in daylight. That this was the case I was informed by the commanding officer of the Cristobal Colon.

It seems eminently proper briefly to describe here the manner in which this was accomplished. The harbor of Santiago is naturally easy to blockade -- there being but one entrance, and that a narrow one, and the deep water extending close up to the shore line presenting no difficulties of navigation outside of the entrance. At the time of my arrival before the port, June 1, the moon was at its full, and there was sufficient light during the night to enable any movement outside of the entrance to be detected; but with the waning of the moon and the coming of dark nights, there was opportunity for the enemy to escape, or for his torpedo-boats to make an attack upon the blockading vessels. It was ascertained, with fair conclusiveness, that the Merrimac, so gallantly taken into the channel on June 3, did not obstruct it. I therefore maintained the blockade as follows: To the battle-ships was assigned the duty, in turn, of lighting the channel. Moving up to the port at a distance of from one to two miles from the Morro -- dependent upon the condition of the atmosphere -- they threw a searchlight beam directly up the channel and held it steadily there. This lighted up the entire breadth of the channel, for half a mile inside of the entrance, so brilliantly that the movement of the small boats could be detected. Why the batteries never opened fire upon the searchlight ship was always a matter of surprise to me, but they never did. Stationed close to the entrance of the port were three picket launches, and, at a little distance farther out, three small picket vessels -- usually converted yachts -- and, when they were available, one or two of our torpedo-boats. With this arrangement there was, at least, a certainty that nothing could get out of the harbor undetected. After the arrival of the army, when the situation forced upon the Spanish admiral a decision, our vigilance increased. The night blockading distance was reduced to two miles for all vessels, and a battle-ship was placed alongside the searchlight ship, with her broadside trained upon the channel in readiness to fire the instant a Spanish ship should appear. The commanding officers merit the greatest praise for the perfect manner in which they entered into this plan and put it into execution. The Massachusetts, which, according to routine, was sent that morning to coal at Guantanamo, like the others, had spent weary nights upon this work, and deserved a better fate than to be absent that morning. I enclose, for the information of the department, copies of orders and memorandums issued from time to time, relating to the manner of maintaining the blockade.

Since all of the above-mentioned work was done so well, it is difficult to discriminate in praise. The object of the blockade of Cervera's squadron was fully accomplished, and each individual bore well his part in it -- the Commodore in command on the second division, the captains of ships, their officers and men. The fire of the battle-ships was powerful and destructive, and the resistance of the Spanish squadron was, in great part, broken almost before they had got beyond the range of their own forts. The fine speed of the Oregon enabled her to take a front position in the chase, and the Cristobal Colon did not give up until the Oregon had thrown a 13-inch shell beyond her. This performance adds to the already brilliant record of this fine battle-ship, and speaks highly of the skill and care with which her admirable efficiency has been maintained during a service unprecedented in the history of vessels of her class. The Brooklyn's westerly blockading position gave her an advantage in the chase, which she maintained to the end, and she employed her fine battery with telling effect. The Texas and the New York were gaining on the chase during the last hour, and, had any accident befallen the Brooklyn or the Oregon, would have speedily overhauled the Cristobal Colon. From the moment the Spanish vessel exhausted her first burst of speed, the result was never in doubt. She fell, in fact, far below what might reasonably have been expected of her. Careful measurements of time and distance give her an average speed -- from the time she cleared the harbor mouth until the time she was run on shore at Rio Tarquino -- of 13.7 knots. Neither the New York nor the Brooklyn stopped to couple up their forward engines, but ran out the chase with one pair, getting steam, of course, as rapidly as possible for all boilers. To stop to couple up the forward engines would have meant a delay of fifteen minutes -- or four miles in the chase.

Several of the pursuing ships were struck, the Brooklyn more often than the others, but very slight material injury was done, the greatest being aboard the Iowa. Our loss was one man killed and one wounded, both on the Brooklyn. It is difficult to explain this immunity from loss of life or injury to ships in a combat with modern vessels of the best type, but Spanish gunnery is poor, at the best, and the superior weight and accuracy of our fire speedily drove the men from their guns and silenced their fire. This is borne out by the statements of prisoners and by observation. The Spanish vessels, as they dashed out of the harbor, were covered with the smoke from their own guns, but this speedily diminished in volume and soon almost disappeared. The fire from the rapid-fire batteries of the battle-ships appears to have been remarkably destructive. An examination of the stranded vessels shows that the Almirante Oquendo, especially, had suffered terribly from this fire. Her sides are everywhere pierced, and her decks are strewn with the charred remains of those who had fallen.

The reports of Commodore W. S. Schley and of the commanding officers are enclosed.

A board appointed by me for the purpose several days ago has made a critical examination of the stranded vessels, both with a view of reporting upon the result of our fire and the military features involved, and of reporting upon the chance of saving any of them and of wrecking the remainder. The report of the board will be speedily forwarded.
Very respectfully,

Rear-Admiral United States Navy, Commander-in-Chief
United States Naval Force, North Atlantic Station.

[The following account of the battle-ship Oregon's remarkable voyage around Cape Horn was given by the vessel's chief engineer.]

June 22, 1898.

The Oregon is a first-class coast defence battle-ship of about 10,000 tons' displacement at the so-called normal draught. In this condition, however, she has only a certain limited amount of stores on board and only four hundred tons of coal. When she goes to sea, with her bunkers full of coal, with all stores and all ammunition on board, her actual displacement is something over 12,000 tons, and her draught of water is then over twenty-seven feet. She was, of course, in this latter condition when we started out from San Francisco, having on board at that time about 1,500 tons of coal, all bunkers being practically full.

We all knew, of course, that we had a remarkably fine ship, but before starting out we felt some little anxiety as to our ability to keep the machinery fully up to its work during such a long cruise. Nothing approaching it had ever before been attempted by a heavy battle-ship. Fortunately, we had just come out of dry dock in Bremerton (and our trip should really be considered as starting from that point rather than from San Francisco) and were only nine or ten days in San Francisco before starting for Callao -- just long enough to fill our bunkers and magazines. Our machinery, both engines and boilers, were then in excellent condition, everything having been thoroughly overhauled by our own people while in dry dock, so it was not necessary to do any great amount of work in San Francisco.

Having finally filled up with coal, ammunition and stores, we left on March 19, and proceeded under three boilers direct for Callao, which port we reached on the morning of April 4, having expended, during this run of sixteen days, nine hundred tons of coal, leaving six hundred tons still in our bunkers. This we consider a remarkably efficient performance, having averaged 4.24 knots perton of coal. The revolutions of the engines during this run were remarkably steady, averaging at least seventy-five per minute, day after day without a variation of a tenth of a revolution.

On the afternoon of March 27 smoke and gas were discovered to be coming out of one of the coal bunkers. This bunker was over half full at the time, having probably between sixty-five and seventy tons in it. There was nothing to do but dig for the fire, as it was evidently down somewhere in the body of the pile. So we started in, working a couple of men in the bunker for about ten minutes at a time and then sending in a couple more to relieve the first. After about two hours' work the fire was reached, only about a shovelful of live coal being found, but probably a couple of tons so hot that it was giving off smoke and gas. After about four hours' steady work all the dangerous coal had been removed, and no further trouble was encountered.

On arriving at Callao we found that our coal had been ordered for us by the Marietta. The lighters had all been loaded, and were brought alongside as soon as we let go the anchor.

Then began some real work. I started in on the starboard engine and Reeves on the port engine, and we overhauled connections, scraped in brasses where necessary, examined, cleaned, and repaired air-pumps, circulating pumps, wiped out and oiled all the main cylinders and valve-chests. Fortunately for me, my engine was in pretty good shape, needing only a slight amount of keying up here and there. Reeves, however, found one of his main cross-head slippers so badly cut and scored that it was deemed best to remove it and put in place a spare one, which we carried on board. This sounds easy, but it required twenty-four hours' continuous work, as it had to be fitted exactly, the face carefully scraped to a true surface; and, finally, the guides nicely adjusted.

When we arrived here it was evident that war with Spain was inevitable, but it had not yet broken out. However, every precaution was taken to guard against any treachery on the part of Spanish sympathizers. The ordinary number of sentries was doubled and these men were armed with ball cartridges, ammunition was gotten up for the rapid-fire guns, and the steam launches were manned with armed crews and kept patrolling around the ship all night, to warn off and prevent any strange boats from approaching. These precautions were observed whenever we were at anchor in any port during the whole trip.

All our coal was finally on board by the afternoon of April 7, and out we started again, using three boilers and averaging something over eleven knots per hour until the evening of the 9th, when the fourth boiler was put on and the average speed increased to about thirteen knots, and this was kept up until the evening of the 16th, when we reached Port Tamar, just inside the entrance of the Straits of Magellan. We had a few leaky tubes in one boiler a day or so after leaving Callao, and, of course, stopped them as soon as possible. Soon after this, in some way which we have never been able to determine, a small amount of salt water got into our boilers, just enough to cause the density of the water to become about what it would be if one-quarter of it were sea water. This, of course, meant a certain amount of scale, but fortunately the amount was so small that it merely served to make our tube ends tight, without being enough to cause any bad effects on the boilers. At all events, from that time until long after our arrival off Santiago we did not have another leaky tube.

We spent the night at anchor in Port Tamar, and the next morning started out with the intention of making Sandy Point by dark. This, of course, required a semi-forced draught run, what is known technically as "assisted draught"; that is to say, the forced draught blowers are run, but the firerooms are not closed up air-tight, as under full forced draught. We ran our boilers at such a speed as to give an air-pressure of one-quarter of an inch of water, and were thus able to run the engines at a speed of 107.3 revolutions per minute, giving the ship a speed through the water of 14.6 knots per hour. As a matter of fact our speed from point to point along the shore was much greater, as there was a very strong current running through the straits in our favor.

While at Callao we had heard that a Spanish torpedoboat was at Montevideo, and we thought it just possible that she might attempt to intercept us in the straits, lying behind one of the numerous high points and darting out on us. So the rapid-fire gun crews were kept at their guns ready for instant work. However, we saw nothing of her.

Sandy Point was reached in the evening, and the next morning (April 18) began our usual work -- coaling ship, cleaning, repairing and overhauling machinery. Of course, the only way to keep the ship going, was to turn to at every opportunity and do everything possible in the time allowed; but it was beginning to tell on all of us. We all had to stand watch at sea, and as soon as port was reached, all hands of the engineer's force had to go at the work and keep it up, going for every little thing that showed the least sign of wear, and not waiting even for it to show, but hunting for things of which there was the least probability of their becoming out of order. But all hands stood the strain well.

We remained at Sandy Point until the morning of April 21, leaving with about 1,200 tons of coal in our bunkers. The Marietta accompanied us from Sandy Point to Rio, or rather until the morning of the 30th, when we increased our speed to about fourteen and a half knots an hour, in order to arrive in port during the afternoon, leaving the Marietta to follow in later. The run from Sandy Point to Rio was without incident, and was at a lower speed than our previous runs, on account of the Marietta.

It was at Rio that we received the news that war was on with Spain, and at the same time a rumor of Dewey's victory at Manila reached us. We also received a long cablegram from Washington, informing us that Admiral Cervera's squadron of four heavy armored cruisers and four sea-going torpedo-boats had left for Cuban waters, and we were advised to avoid them if possible. We remained at Rio until May 4, doing what repairing we could and filling up with coal, taking something over a thousand tons. During our stay in this port we were not allowed to visit the shore. Here, too, we found the Nichteroy, which had been bought by an American firm and was flying our flag, and which was to be convoyed by us to the United States. However, she was not allowed to leave port with us, so we stood up the coast a few miles to wait for her. She joined us the following evening, but her boilers were in such bad condition that it was decided not to waste time with her, so she was left in charge of the Marietta, and we went ahead, arriving at Bahia on the evening of the 8th. Here we put on our war-paint and made arrangements for refilling our bunkers, but on the evening of the 9th a cablegram was received from Washington, ordering us to leave, so out we went immediately, headed for Barbadoes, which was reached at about 3 o'clock on the morning of May 18. Here we took 240 tons of coal and left the same evening, standing well to the eastward, and finally reached the Florida coast at Jupiter Light on the evening of the 24th, reporting our arrival to Washington. Orders came back to proceed to Hampton Roads if in need of repairs, otherwise to Key West. There was no hesitation as to which direction to take under these orders, and, finally, Key West was reached on the morning of the 26th, thus completing the most remarkable and successful performance ever undertaken by a battle-ship.

I have since heard that there was great anxiety among our own people at home on account of this ship, and that foreign nations were watching our run with great interest, while many doubted our ability to successfully accomplish it.

In the first place the machinery of the vessel was beautifully and strongly built, and, above all, was set in position with the greatest care and thoroughness. Great credit is therefore due to her builders and to the inspectors who supervised the work. From the day she went into commission the greatest care has been taken to keep everything up as nearly to perfection as possible. On the discovery of the least defect in any part, it has been remedied immediately. Whenever a run has been made, no matter how short it may have been, on reaching port again the cylinders and valve-chests, air-pump valves, etc., have been carefully examined, cleaned and oiled. The most careful attention has been paid to the condition of the boilers, and every endeavor has been made to avoid the use of salt water in them; that, indeed, is the point to which our success is largely due. Every leak, however small, in the boilers themselves, in the steam-pipes, in the engines or in the condensers has been stopped just as soon as possible, and thus only has it been possible to keep down the amount of water necessary for make-up feed to such a point that our evaporators have been able to furnish it, in addition to the water required for all other purposes.

The following is a summary, in tabular form, of our runs, showing at a glance the number of knots run, the speed of the ship in knots per hour, the consumption of coal, and the knots run per ton of coal. The data in this table are taken from the time of getting fairly under way, the time while entering and leaving port being eliminated. The coal, of course, does not include that used while lying in port, but includes coal consumed for all purposes while at sea.

   	Distance,	Time,	Speed,	Coal,	Knots
	Knots.	Hours.	Knots	Tons.	Run
	per Hour.	per Ton
	of Coal.
Bremerton to San Francisco	827.7	72	11.49	221.0	3.74
San Francisco to Callao	4,076.5	371	10.99	962.0	4.24
Callao to Port Tamar	2,529.9	212	11.93	785.0	3.22
Port Tamar to Sandy Point	132.0	9	14.55	66.0	2.00
Sandy Point to Rio de Janeiro	2,247.7	223	10.08	657.0	3.42
Rio to Bahia	700.0	(Speeds variable. Data unreliable.)	(Speeds variable. 
Data unreliable.)	288.0	..
Bahia to Barbadoes	2,229.0	193	11.55	620.0	3.59
Barbadoes to Jupiter	1,683.9	142	11.86	478.5	3.3
Jupiter to Key West	280.0	27	10.37	77.9	3.6
Totals	14,706.7	4,155.4	

C. N. Offley


Terms Defined

Referenced Works