Squadron Bulletins from the U.S. Flagship NEW YORK

Contributed by Mary Healy Smith

General:

The following are the Squadron Bulletins for the North Atlantic Squadron, under the command of Admiral William Sampson. These bulletins were written aboard the squadron’s flagship, the cruiser NEW YORK. Each of the bulletins is signed by J. J. Greiner, presumably the writer of the squadron, but possibly the person to whom these copies belonged to.

The bulletins are interesting in many ways. One particular item to note is the way the efforts on the BROOKLYN and Commodore Schley are barely mentioned in the account of the July 3 Naval Battle of Santiago. In addition,  the author of the bulletins writes the NEW YORK into the actual chase of the CRISTOBAL COLON, though the NEW YORK was, in fact, so far behind in the chase to have playe no actual role. Also, the account does not accurately indicate the true distance that NEW YORK was from Santiago when the action began. These inaccuracies indicate the ways in which some accounts of the battle were manipulated to support the views of the Sampsonites in the Sampson-Schley controversy in the attempt to give the NEW YORK an active role in the battle. In fact, she did very little in the actual battle.
 

The NEW YORK at the conclusion of the Battle of Santiago


The Bulletins:
 
 

SQUADRON BULLETIN

U.S. Flagship NEW YORK    Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Friday, July 1st, 1898.





The Army had very serious work of it today, losing heavily in killed and wounded, officers particularly suffering. The total of killed and wounded is probably a thousand.

A demonstration was made by a Michigan volunteer regiment toward Aguadores in the forenoon. The Navy was requested to assist beginning at daylight, but the troops which came by rail to within a mile and a half of Aguadores, did not arrive until about 8.20. The vicinity was shelled by the NEW YORK, the SUWANEE and the GLOUCESTER. There was no one in the old fort on which a Spanish flag has been so long displayed and a varying number of the enemy (16 to 20) were counted from time to time in the rifle pits on the hill. These disappeared as firing began. A corner of the fort was knocked off and the flagstaff was knocked down by the SUWANEE, which was allowed three shots in which to do it. The second shot tore the center from the flag and the third knocked down the staff. Desultory firing was kept up between the Spanish from the wood adjoining the rifle pit and about noon a small field piece was brought down the gorge, which fire four or five times. The New York, on observing this, enfiladed the gorge, firing several eight-inch and a number of four inch. No firing was observed by the enemy after this. It was reported that the troops had two men killed and several wounded. They returned to Sibouney about 12.30. The NEW YORK and OREGON fired a number of eight inch shell over the hills in the direction of Santiago and the ships in the Bay, using a range of from three and a half to four miles.



SQUADRON BULLETIN

U.S. Flagship NEW YORK    Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Saturday, July 2, 1898.

The day was chiefly marked by a very animated bombardment in the morning by the fleet, beginning at 5.49 and lasting until 7.45. The ships were, beginning at the eastward, the GLOUCESTER, NEW YORK, NEWARK, INDIANA, OREGON, IOWAMASSACHUSETTS, BROOKLYN and VIXEN. It was specially desired to fire at the Punta Gorda battery and particular attention after silencing the batteries was paid to this point by the battleships which were directed close to the entrance.

The Morro suffered very severely, being extensively damaged on the S. E. corner. The flagstaff was shot away, it was thought by the OREGON, but the INDIANA may have claim to the exploit, both being close under the Castle at the time. The bombardment was with a view to demonstrate at the sa[m]e time the army attacked, but the proposed assault was not made.

The Chief of Staff paid a visit to Sibouney [Siboney] with a view to arranging for a consultation between the Commander-in-Chief of the fleet and the Commanding General [Shafter], and while there saw some 200 prisoners brought in. perhaps three fourths were Cubans, being of those known as Mobilzados, but all Spaniards and Cubans showed emancipation from want of food. They were in pitiable plight in every way.

Some 400 of our army arrived in the HIST. This vessel, with the HORNET and WOMPATUCK, had had a very lively fight at Manzanillo with the Spanish gunboats at that point, and one off Neguero Bay near there; this latter was apparently beached and blown up. The three vessels entered Manzanillo Bay and found five or six armed vessels at anchor and soldiers at many points ashore; one gunboat was reputed blown up in the bay. The HORNET had a shot through her steam pipe and had to be towed out by the WOMPATUCK. She returned here, however, under her own steam. Though subjected to a very heavy fire there were no casualties from this, the only injuries to the men being the scalding of F. Madsen, S. Bakker and P. Griffin of the engineer force aboard the HORNET.

The HORNET captured the small steamer BENITO ESTANGER, leaving Manzanillo and two schooners loaded with provisions and attempting to run the blockade.



SQUADRON BULLETIN

U.S. Flagship NEW YORK,    Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Sunday, July 3rd, 1898.

This is a red letter day for the American Navy [“red letter” meaning a “banner” or great day – editor], as dating the entire destruction of Admiral Cervera’s fleet; the INFANTA MARIA TERESA, VIZCAYA, QUENDO, CHRISTOBAL COLON and the deep-sea torpedo boats FUROR and PLUTON. The flagship had started from her station about 9 to go to Sibouney whence the Admiral had proposed going for a consultation with General Shafter. The other ships, with the exception of the MASSACHUSETTS, and SUWANEE, which had, unfortunately, gone this morning to Guantanamo for coal were in their usual positions, viz., beginning at the east, the GLOUCESTER, INDIANA, OREGON, IOWA, TEXAS, BROOKLYN and VIXEN. When about two miles from Altesres Bay and about four miles east of her usual position, the Spanish fleet was observed coming out  ad making westward in the following order: INFANTA MARIA TERESA (flag), VIZCAYA, CHRISTOBAL COLON, ALMIRANTE OQUENDO, FUROR and PLUTON.

They were at once engaged by the ships nearest and the result was practically established in a very short time. The heavy and rapid shell fire was very destructive to both ships and men; the cruisers INFANTA MARIA TERESA, ALMIRANTE OQUENDO and VIZCAYA were run ahore in the order named, afire and burning fiercely. The first ship was beached at Nima Nima, five and a half miles east of the port; the second at Juan Gonzalez, six miles west, the third at Accerraderos, fifteen miles west. The torpedo boat destroyers were both sunk, one near the beach and the other in deep water about three miles west of the harbor entrance.

The remaining ship, the CHRISTOBAL COLON, stood on and gave a long chase of forty-eight miles in which the BROOKLYN, OREGON, TEXAS, VIXEN and NEW YORK took part. The COLON is reputed by her Captain to have been going at times as  much as seventeen and a half knots, but they could not keep this up, chiefly on account of the fatigue of the men [more importantly, she ran out of higher grade coal, and had to use poorer coal resulting in less speed], who, many of them had been ashore in Santiago the day before and been, while there, long without food. He average speed was actually thirteen and seven tenths knots, the ship leaving the harbor at 9.43 and reaching Rio Tarqunio (forty-eight miles from the Santiago entrance) at 1.15. She was gradually forced in towards the shore ad seeing no chance of escape from so overwhelming a force, the heavy shell of the OREGON already dropping around and beyond her, she ran ashore at Rio Tarquino and hauled down her flag. She was practically uninjured but her sea valves were treacherously opened and in despite of all efforts she gradually sunk, and now lies near the beach in water of moderate depth. It is to be hoped that she may be floated as she was far the finest ship of the squadron. All her breech plugs were thrown overboard after the surrender and the breech blocks of her Mauser rifles thrown away.
 

The CRISTOBAL COLON, on her side, awash.

The flagship remained at Rio Tarquino until 11:00 PM and then returned to Santiago. The TEXAS, OREGON and VIXEN remained by the prize. Commodore Second in Command of Fleet, Captain de Navio of the first class Don Jose de Paredes y Chacon, Captain de Navio Don Emilio Moeu, Commanding the COLON, and Teniente de Navio Don Pablo Marina y Briengas, Aid and Secretary to the Commodore, were take on board the NEW YORK. The 525 men of the crew of the COLON were placed on board the RESOLUTE, which had come from Santiago to report sighting a Spanish armored cruiser which turned out to be the Austrian MARIA TERESIA. The other officers were placed aboard the RESOLUTE  and VIXEN.

Admiral Cervera and many of his officers and men were taken off the shore by the GLOUCESTER and transferred to the IOWA, which ship had already taken off many men from the VIZCAYA. 38 officers and 238 men were on board the IOWA, and 7 officers and 203 men were on board the INDIANA. All these were in a perfectly destitute condition, having been saved by swimming or taken from the water by our boats. Admiral Cervera was in like plight. He was received with the usual honors when he came aboard, and was heartily cheered by the IOWA’s crew.

The following telegram was sent by the Commander-in-Chief:

“The fleet under my command offers the Nation as a 4th of July present the destruction of the whole of Cervera’s fleet. Not one escaped. It attempted to escape at 9.30 this morning; at two, the last ship, the CHRISTOBAL COLON, had run ashore sixty miles west of Santiago, and hauled down her colors. The INFANTA MARIA TERESA, OQUENDO, and VIZCAYA were forced ashore, burned and blown up within twenty miles of the port. Loss; One killed and two wounded. Enemy’s loss proably several hundred from gun fire, explosions and drowning. About thirteen hundred prisoners including Admiral Cervera. The man killed was George H. Ellis, chief yeoman, of the BROOKLYN.”
 


SQUADRON BULLETIN.

U.S. Flagship NEW YORK,    Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Monday, July 4, 1898




The prisoners are to be sent north in the HARVARD and ST. LOUIS. 39 officers and 959 men in the first; 76 officers and 641 men in the second; these with some sick and wounded aboard the hospital ships, amount to 1750. The number of dead is about 600.

The BROOKLYN went to Guantanamo to coal and overhaul; the MARBLEHEAD which came up today from Guantanamo carrying Commodore Watson, also went back today.

Just before midnight of this data the MASSACHUSETTS, which was in front of the port, with her search lights up the entrance, reported an enemy’s vessel coming out, and she and the TEXAS fired a number of shot in the direction of the harbor’s mouth. The batteries also opened and a number of shell fell at various points, the attention paid by the batteries to the ships being general. The INDIANA was struck on the starboard side of the quarter deck by a mortar shell which exploded on reaching the second deck, near the ward room ladder, causing a fire which was quickly extinguished. This is the first accident of the kind to the fleet. The vessel inside turned out to be the REINA MERCEDES, which was sunk on the east edge of the channel just by the Estrella Battery. She heads north and is canted over to port with her port rail just under the water. She does not appear to obstruct the channel.

General Pando has reached Santiago from Manzanillo with 5000 men.


SQUADRON BULLETIN.

U.S. Flagship NEW YORK,    Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Tuesday July 5, 1898

Mention of the presence of the torpedo boat ERICSSON on the 3rd inst., was, unfortunately, omitted. She was in company with the flagship and turned at once on sighting  the enemy. As she was drawings away from the NEW YORK she signalled, asking permission to continue the chase, but she was directed to pick up two men in the water, which she did, and, on reaching the VIZCAYA, she was directed by the IOWA - - the flagship having gone ahead – to assist in the rescue of the VIZCAYA’s crew. She took off eleven officers and ninety men. The guns of the VIZCAYA during the operation were going off from the heat and explosions were frequent so that the work was perilous for the boats of the two vessels (IOWA and ERICSSON) engaged.

The day was an uneventful from the naval standpoint. The flagship went to the wrecks of the INFANTA MARIA TERESA and the ALMIRANTE [OQUENDO] . The former lies in an easy position on sand and with almost her normal draft of water. She is, of course, completely burned out inside above protective deck, but the shell of her hull seems good, and her machinery is probably not seriously injured. It looks very as if she were salvable. The OQUENDO is much worse off. She had been subjected to a much heavier gun fire, being racked and torn in every part. She is much more out of the water and the forward part much distorted and torn by the explosions of her magazines and torpedoes. The loss of life was very great. Charred bodies are strewn everywhere, the vicinity of the port forward torpedo room particularly was almost covered. The torpedo exploded in the tube. It may be by a shot. This is a question which it is hoped, may be conclusively settled. The fact of so many bodies being about would seem to bear this out, but two of her crew, taken off the beach this afternoon, were questioned and both stated that it was the result of a fire, and that the number of bodies was to be accounted for by the fact that the operating room was just below and that many wounded came up that far and were there suffocated. The two men were intelligent young fellows and talked very freely. They said the gun fire was such that it was impossible to keep the men at the guns. One was a powder passer, the other at a 57 m.m. gun. In the forward turret were two officers and five men, evidently killed by the entry of a six pounder shell between the top of the turret and the gun shield. Altogether this ship is a striking instance of what rapid and well directed gun fire may accomplish. She was terribly battered about.

While the flagship was lying near the OQUENDO, and her steam cutter was alongside and a small boat from the press tug HERCULES lying on the starboard quarter, a shell exploded in a 15 c-m and a piece went through the tug’s boat, cutting it in two; the man in the boat was not hurt. It is somewhat extraordinary that this shell should have waited so long to act, as the after part of the ship was generally well cooled off. There was still much heat and some flames in the bows. One extraordinary fact s the survival, in proper shape, of many powder grains, baked hard; several of these were picked up about the decks.

A board has been ordered by the Comd’r-in-chief to report, in detail, upon the stranded ships.


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