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Spanish American[Letterhead: New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company]

On Board: S.S. City of Washington

[Havana], February 16, 1898

Dearest,

I sent you two cablegrams last night telling you of my safety, and before they both reached you before the morning papers, and that you were spared the agony of suspense and uncertainty.


It seems almost selfish to speak of ourselves even when so many hundreds are mourning lost dear ones. Still I could only give you the brief statement that I was safe and unhurt.

I can not tell you now of my miraculous escape, as the scene is still too terrible to recall, even had I the time. I will only say that I was in my room, writing to you when the ship blew up, and that when I rushed for the ladder leading on deck I found the door closed. In pitch darkness, with explosion following explosion, and expecting each second to be blown into the air, or drowned by the inrushing water, I found the other door and reached the ladder - probably the last.

The whole ship was blown into the air, except the officer’s quarters - which explains why so many of them were saved. In fact we only lost two, and only our [unreadable] was slightly wounded. Among the men all [underlined] were blown up, but we saved about 50, leaving about 250 dead. I can not write of the horrors now. Each man lived a lifetime of horror in a few seconds and allwould like to forget it if possible.

Whether we were torpedoed by the Spanish, blown up by a mine, or whither the Cubans did it to bring on a war - or whether it was one of these spontaneous explosions, we do not know. I hate to suspect the Spanish, and their actions, sympathy and [unreadable] seems to indicate that they [underlined] are ignorant of the cause. For the present we must withhold our .... [part missing] It is almost certain that Congress will declare war today, without waiting -and it is possible that we may be prisoners before night. If so you must not worry, as we are sure to relieve good treatment on account of the sympathy of the people.

I escaped in my trousers, undershirt and [unreadable]. Of course lost my glasses and haven’t a cent in the world. [unreadable] will look out for us when he gets time. At present we have other and sadder duties to our lost shipmates.

do not worry about me darling, for I am strong and able to stand whatever may come - be it what it may. If we were destroyed by treachery, we must avenge our dead when the opportunity occurs. In my struggle in the darkness and water, you and the babies were in my mind, dearest. I found time to help our poor devil to climb to a place of safety. Whether he escaped or who he was I do not know. Nearly all the saved among the crew were people who had blown overboard and afterwards picked up. One man was picked up a hundred yards away.

The mail steamer has arrived and brought me your two dear letters of the 9th and 10th. As the mail goes out again immediately I must stop and read them and see if they require immediate answer. Well, dearest, I have read the letters and find they contain good news so I will not attempt to answer them now. God bless you dearest. He has been very good to us. Love and kisses for the dear little ones and a heart full to bursting of love and longing for you my darling.

I must go to work, love to all, Preston
Note: written the day after the USS MAINE was lost


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