The following letter was written by Bernard J. Keegan, a member of the crew of the Battleship IOWA on the day following the Battle of Santiago. It is not clear how many of the event he describes he was able to witness first-hand and how much he received from shipboard scuttlebutt.
Keegan does give more credit to the IOWA in the battle than it may truly deserve. Though very actively engaged, it did not bear the brunt of the action. Also, interestingly, tough he mentions the actions of the TEXAS and the OREGON, he does not mention Schley’s flagship BROOKLYN, which may reflect his view on the already simmering animosity between Schley and Sampson, which broke out into full debate following the battle.
Keegan is also incorrect that no American crewmen were killed. Chief Yeoman Ellis of the BROOKLYN died in the battle.
Lastly, the reference to white duck refers to the white uniforms
the men were wearing as they were having their weekly Sunday morning inspection.
The Naval Battle At Santiago
Described by a Brooklyn Seaman of the
Iowa, in a Letter to
The following letter, received by Mrs. J. Keegan of 27 Fort Greene place, will prove of interest to Eagle readers:
U.S.S. Iowa, first rate,
Santiago de Cuba, July 4, 1898.
Dear Mother – I suppose by the time you receive this letter you will know all the news. Let me assure you of my safety. I did not get a scratch in the engagement. I will now give you an account of what happened yesterday. We were all at quarters in clean white ducks and the executive officer was inspecting us when the signal was given that that Spanihs fleet was coming out of the harbor. We didn’t wait unit general quarters sounded, but each one went at once to his station. We turned our guns on them and showed them what “Yankee pigs” can do. It was this ship that spied the Spanish first and gave the signal to the rest of the fleet, firing a gun. Everyone of the Spanish ships fired on us and you might say the Iowa did all of the fighting; at least she did the most of it. The Oregon and the Texas worked well also. They chased and captured the Christobal Colon [Cristobal Colon]. We had to contend with three cruisers, two torpedo boat destroyers, so you can see that we had our hands full. One of our 12 inch shells hit the torpedo boat destroyers and all that one could see of them was a piece here and there. We now turned our attention to the Marie [Maria] Teresa and the Almirante Oquendo. We hit them so hard that we drove them on the beach and set their magazines on fire. So we finished them. We next engaged the Vizcaya and she met the same fate as the others. When the battle was over we lowered our boats, put off to the Vizcaya and took her crew. In all we took about 240 prisoners, most of them were wounded. Five of them died on board and were buried at sea. Their wounded bodies presented the most horrible sights I ever saw. They were buried with all honors, the chaplain of one of the Spanish ships performing the ceremony. Captain Eulate of the Vizcaya was shot in the head and is terribly scalded. When he came on board he cried like a woman and waved his hat to his wrecked vessel. Then turning around smartly he unbuckled his sword and tendered it to Captain Evans. Captain Evans is a perfect hero and as true a gentleman as he is a warrior. He refused to take Captain Eulate’s sword. We have on board as prisoner the captain of the Marie Theresa [Maria Teresa] and Admiral Cervera. The latter was very much surprised when he learned that not one man on any of our ships had lost his life. We had been waiting a long time to get a whack at the dons and we made up for lost time. Not one man shirked his duty. I know you will celebrate the Fourth as you never have before.
Trusting that all are well and with love to all I am your loving son,
BERNARD J. KEEGAN