USS Winslow in Action



For information on the Armored Tug Antonio Lopez, which was in action against WINLSOW, click here!

Extracts of the report of Lt. J. B. Bernadou, commanding the USS WINSLOW in action in Cardenas Harbor, Cuba on May 11, 1898

"The WINSLOW arrived off Cardenas from Matanza at 9 a.m. on the 11th, having left her station on the blockade to obtain an additional supply of coal, the amount of fuel in her bunkers being reduced to 5 tons....I was directed to apply to Captain Todd, commanding the U.S.S. WILMINGTON, for necessary supplies.

On boarding the U.S.S. WILMINGTON I was informed by her commanding officer of his intention to enter Cardenas Harbor on the afternoon of that day.....[as one of the channels into the Harbor was approximately 10.5 feet, and the WILMINGTON drew 10 feet] I was directed to receive on board a Cuban pilot, Santos, to take with me the revenue cutter HUDSON to sound this channel, and, in company with the HUDSON, to sweep the channel for torpedoes [mines]. This work I completed by noon, except for sweeping the channel which could not be done on account of the grounding of the HUDSON. That vessel touched lightly but managed to work off without injury. The WINSLOW, therefore, dragged the channel with grapnels and returned to the WILMINGTON, reporting to captain Todd upon the practicality of the entrance.

The entrance was begun at 12.30, high tide, the HUDSON on the starboard side and the WINSLOW on the port side of the WILMINGTON.......As it was thought possible that gunboats might attempt to escape, the HUDSON was sent along the western side and the WINSLOW along the eastern side of the bay to intercept them in event of such movement. Not finding them the three vessels met off the town at a distance of about 3,500 yards. When in this position the WINSLOW was signaled to approach the WILMINGTON within hail and I was directed by Captain Todd to go in and investigate a small gunboat then observed for the first time, painted gray with black smokestack, apparently not under steam and moored to a wharf, to the left of which arose a compact mass of buildings close to the water front. Torpedoes were set for surface runs, the fans upon the war-noses were run up so as to provide for explosion at short range for use alongside the gunboat, and all preparations were made for immediate action.

At a distance of about 1,500 yards, at which time the WINSLOW was advancing at about 12 knots, which seems her maximum speed in quiet shoal water, the first gun of the engagement was fired from the bow of the Spanish gunboat, marked by a clear puff of white smoke. This shot, which passed over the WINSLOW, was at once replied to by that ship and was the signal for the commencement from the beach of a rapidly sustained fire, characterized primarily by a total absence of smoke. At the commencement of this firing I received a flesh wound in the left thigh. As the action advanced a cloud of haze collected on shore at the location of this battery and when closer I detected one or two gun flashes from among the buildings but at no time could I detect the exact position of the guns. My uncertainty as to the position of the enemy was attested to by the commanding officer of the HUDSON and by officers commanding gun divisions on the WILMINGTON who inquired of me shortly after the action what I made out to be the enemy's exact position.

At this time the wind was blowing from the ships toward the shore. The first shot that pierced the WINSLOW rendered her steam and hand-steering gear inoperative and damaged them beyond repair. Efforts to work the hand-steering gear from aft were frustrated by the wrecking of that mechanism and the rupture of both wheel ropes; relieving tackles failed to operate the rudder. For a short time the vessel was held on her bows in position by use of her propellers. She then swung broadside to the enemy. A shell now pierced her engine room rendering one engine inoperative. I directed my attention to maintaining fire from her 1-pounder guns, to keep the vessel constantly in movement, so as to reduce the chances of her being hit, to endeavoring to withdraw from short range, and to keeping clear of the line of fire of the WILMINGTON and HUDSON. The use of the remaining engine, had the effect of throwing her stern toward the enemy upon backing, while going ahead, threw her bow in the same direction. Under the heavy fire of the WILMINGTON, the fire of the enemy slackened. The Spanish gunboat was silenced and put out of action early in the engagement.

The WINSLOW now being practically disabled, I signaled to the HUDSON to tow us out of action. She very gallantly approached us, and we succeeded in getting a line to her. Previous to this, the alternate rapid backing and steaming ahead of the WINSLOW had had the effect of working her out from under the enemy's batteries, and in this way a distance of about 300 yards was gained. Finding that we were working our way out in this manner, I directed Ensign Bagley to concentrate his attention upon the movement of the ship, watching the vessel so as to keep her out of the WILMINGTON's way, and to direct the movements of the man at the reversing gear, mechanical communication from deck to engine room being impracticable. This necessitated Mr. Bagley making repeated short trips from the deck to the foot of the engine room ladder while directing the vessel's course, and at the moment of being on deck he stood abreast the starboard gun close to a group of men who had been stationed below, but who had been sent on deck from the disabled machinery. A shell hitting, I believe, a hose reel, exploded instantly, killing Ensign Bagley and two others and mortally wounding two. This accident, which occurred at the close of the action, was virtually its end; the enemy fired a few more shots, but was soon completely silenced by the heavy fire of the WILMINGTON. The conduct of Ensign Bagley and the men with him, as well as that of the crew who survived the fight, is beyond commendation. After seeing the dead and wounded removed from the WINSLOW and conveyed on board the WILMINGTON, I turned over the command of the ship to Gunner's Mate G. P. Brady, my own injury preventing me from performing active duty for the time being."


Bibliography:

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899. 4 vols. (all are documents relating to the war).


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