Archive for the 'Spanish-American War' Category

Jul 3

July 3rd, 1898: Remembering the Battle of Santiago

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 11:51 AM

On this date in 1898, Rear Admiral William T. Sampson’s squadron destroyed the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Santiago, Cuba. The article Sampson and Shafter at Santiago, by Commander Louis J. Gulliver, U.S. Navy, which detailed the battle and aftermath, was originally published in The Proceedings in June, 1939.

SAMPSON AND SHAFTER AT SANTIAGO

The inherent and ancient difficulties involved in joint operations of army and naval forces in war have never been more unhappily illustrated than in the war with Spain when army troops under General William R. Shafter, U. S. Army, encircled Santiago, and the Fleet commanded by Admiral William T. Samp­son blockaded the port during the months of June and July, 1898. Here where success of joint action depended vitally on the sine qua non of swift and sure communications and the maximum in co-op­eration, one observes evidence of lamen­tably poor communications from shore to ship and vice versa, a condition that can be understood and partially excused. Not so easy to account for, however, are the relations-not making for co-operation ­that existed between General Shafter and Admiral Sampson. It is with these relations, as they are revealed in the communications between the two officers, that this article is concerned.

USS Oregon bombarding Cuban fortifications

USS Oregon bombarding Cuban fortifications

The question most likely to puzzle the reader as he examines the Sampson­-Shafter communications, as each strove, for the most part at cross purposes with the other, to capture or destroy the enemy, is why the two commanders in chief neg­lected to employ the conference method for composing their radically differing opinions instead of standing apart and firing letters, telegrams, telephone mes­sages, and bridge signals at each other. They conferred only once during the pe­riod of hostilities and then only for a short time on the day that Shafter arrived in Cuba, before co-operative joint action could be effectively got under way.

The reasons why the two commanders never conferred thereafter are not easy to understand. Only a few miles of relatively smooth water on which no enemy could threaten separated the General’s headquarters tent at Siboney on the coast and the Admiral’s blockading station outside Santiago. Conceivably, General Shafter could have come out to the flagship, though the boat trip for one of his reported excessive weight might be considered hazardous. Absences from the fleet to engage in conferences on shore were forbidden to Admiral Sampson at the outset by the exigencies of the situation; he never left the blockading line but once and that, the fates alone can explain, was on the morning of July 3, when he set out in the ‘ flagship New York for Siboney to confer with General Shafter. At that precise moment, the Spanish Admiral Cervera de­cided to lead his fleet out of Santiago Harbor.

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May 1

Battle of Manila Bay

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 1:00 AM

May 1st, 1898

Commodore George Dewey wins the Battle of Manila Bay

Official Battle Report as published in Proceedings

 The Battle of Manila Bay marked the first major victory in the Spanish-American War. The battle, which ended in less than a day’s time, demonstrated the naval prowess which earned the United States a quick and decisive victory in the war against the Spanish Empire, which only lasted four months. Furthermore, as a result of his successful leadership in the battle, Commodore George Dewey became the first and only person to hold the rank of Admiral of the Navy. In the year following the war, Proceedings published a report of the battle written by Dewey himself, in response to a previously-published account of the battle, which Dewey found to be erroneous and inaccurate. Dewey’s report, and a letter from the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation requesting that the Naval Institute publish his report, appear below:

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY. BUREAU OF NAVIGATION.

WASHINGTON, D. C., September 21st, 1899.

SIR:—The following is a copy of a letter received from Admiral George Dewey: Read the rest of this entry »

 
Mar 19

USS Oregon (BB-3) Begins Her “Dash” Around South America, 19 March 1898

Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:01 AM

USS Oregon (BB-3) was commissioned in San Francisco, California, in 1896, and was serving on the West Coast in 1898 when she was ordered to the Atlantic for service in the impending Spanish-American War. Departing San Francisco on 19 March, Oregon coaled in Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Barbados, and experienced severe weather along the way that included a dangerous storm in the confining Strait of Magellan. Oregon arrived in Florida on 24 May, 66 days and 14,000 miles out of San Francisco, and by 1 June was in the war zone off Cuba.

This epic voyage—conducted without radar, radio, or underway logistics, and with the power for every knot delivered by stokers moving coal with shovels—caught the attention of the American public. It demonstrated the ability of Navy ships to operate in all conditions, and underscored the need for a Central American canal between the oceans. Five years later, construction on what is now the Panama Canal began.

Oregon returned to the Pacific in 1899 and supported the Army during the Philippine Insurrection. The rest of Oregon’s career was anticlimactic. The battleship alternated between periods out of commission and quiet peacetime service between 1906 and 1917, and played only a small role in World War I. By the end of 1919 the ship had been decommissioned for the last time. Oregon was loaned to the state of Oregon in 1925 and was on public display in Portland until 1942. The Navy retrieved the ship for her scrap value, but changed its mind and converted the ship to an ammunition storage hulk for use at newly reconquered Guam. The ship remained at Guam past the end of the war, although in 1948 a typhoon broke the ship from her moorings, to be recovered several weeks later and 500 miles away. Oregon’s hulk was sold for scrapping in 1956.

 
Feb 15

Destruction of USS Maine and the Rush Toward War

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:01 AM

The Spanish-American War (21 April–13 August 1898) was a turning point in United States history, signaling the country’s emergence as a world power. The sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor on 15 February 1898 was a critical event on the road to that war.

Many Cubans desired independence from Spain, and political instability in those countries led to riots in Havana in January 1898. Concerned for the safety of Americans there, U.S. President McKinley sent Maine from Key West to Havana to remind Spain of America’s serious interest in seeing an end to the Cuban conflict. Spanish authorities in Havana were wary of American intentions, but they afforded Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee and the officers of Maine every courtesy.

At 9:40 on the evening of 15 February, a terrible explosion on board the U.S. warship shattered the stillness in Havana Harbor. More than five tons of powder charges for the vessel’s 6- and 10-inch guns had ignited, virtually obliterating the forward third of the ship, and the remaining wreckage rapidly settled to the bottom of the harbor. A total of 266 American sailors lost their lives. Spanish officials acted quickly in rescuing survivors and caring for the wounded, allaying initial suspicions that hostile action caused the explosion. Sigsbee concluded his initial telegram with the cautionary phrase, “Public opinion should be suspended until further report.”

A Navy board of inquiry concluded that a mine had detonated under the ship, but did not assign blame for the device’s placement. The American public reacted with predictable outrage to this verdict. Fed by inflammatory articles in the media, the public had already placed blame on the Spanish government and called for the liberation of Cuba.

While modern investigations indicated that a mine did not sink Maine, the incident accelerated the growing diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain, and served as a catalyst for the subsequent Spanish-American War.