U.S.S. "Oregon" San Francisco Cal. March 19th 1898
Weighed anchor at 4.45 .m. and got under way passing between Angel island and Alcatraz. Almost every whistle in the city and every ship on the bay saluted us as we headed for the Golden Gate at a 14 knot clip, even the little government tug "Gen McDowell" added her mite from the wharf at Alcatraz while the military prisoners on the "Rock" waved their hats and we could feel that they were cheering although too far off to be heard.
The Battery at the Presidio fired a salute at which we replied with our whistle only - every ounce of the 800 tons of powder in this is ship to be used at a Spanish target we hope. Capt. Clark himself made the remark that "we had no saluting powder". As we rounded Fort Scott and came in view of the hills beyond It seemed as if the whole city of San Francisco had turned out to bid us good bye, the hills were literally covered with people and they cheered us as long as they could be heard. There is no mistake the people out here are wild for war. After crossing the bar (or potato patch as some call it) the helm was put to starboard an the ship headed south at 9.12 a.m. at a 10 knot rate and we settled down for the longest run we had made so far. The ship is loaded far below what was ever calculated as her load water line, she has nearly 3,000 tons of ammunition alone beside all her coal and other stores. While in the bay the men volunteered to give up their provision lockers for coal and we put to sea without our usual fresh provisions but we have an extra hundred tons of coal in their place.
March 27th: Every thing going smoothly so far, the sea has been like glass all the way, we have no had to batten down once so we have lots of fresh air. Are only making 10 knots average. They are giving us firemen a fair chance to get hardened in. Have a good crew and every one is willing to do their share - the sore heads all run away when the "Maine" went down. Sighted the "Southern Cross" tonight for the first time, are about 12 [degrees] N. L. now.
March 31st: Crossed the Equator at 9.15 A.M. in Long 82.16 W. Every thing going lovely. In order to relieve the monotony of the thing old "Neptune" and his party of "Assistants" came on board and started in to initiate all the new members of the crew, after he got through with them they returned the compliment to the old members and the result was that all hands including the Captain got a free bath.
The initiation consisted of a course of treatment calculated to make a fellow sea sick and sick of the sea both at the same time.
First the Dentist examined our teeth to see if we could eat hardtack (and nearly broke your jaws at the same time.) Then the Doctor gave us a pill which was "fearfully and wonderfully made," it consisted of flour, molasses, mustard, red pepper and tar. Maybe some of the ingredients escaped my taste but I can swear to these. Then old "Neptune" gave us his blessing, his wife (who is surely a canibal) gave us a kiss (and took a bite as big as your fist at the same time) Then the barber got in his work, His assistants or "Assassins" grabbed us and beat you half to death with canvas sacks stuffed with coal dust or sand I should judge, then we sere set on a bench while some more assistants lathered us with a white wash brush and lather composed of tar, molasses, cylinder oil and the Lord only knows what else. Then the Barber shaved us with a barrel stave, (taking care to break your nose and knock your ears off.) When he got through we were dumped into a tank of water where some more Assassins got hold of us and what little life was left in us was knocked out by the time they got through.
After the so called "fun" was over each one was given a certificate entitling the holder to the same kind of treatment next time they crossed the Equator.
I enjoyed the first part of this ceremony immensely, having been across several times I ought to have been exempt but the new men wee in the majority and after we got through with them they turned the tables on us by the Captains suggestion. The best joke of it all was that they ducked the Officers and all - including the Captain. This certainly was a gay old day.
Apr 2nd; Sighted the lights of Callao during the night and at daylight this morning we steamed into the harbor with the Secondary battery loaded and their crews ready. Being in a country where the Spanish language is spoken Capt Clark evidently intended to take no chance but kept the ship clear of every thing and the whole time we were in Callao there were always men near the guns and the ammunition was not lost sight of quite. A boat was sent ashore as soon as we anchored and an Officer reported to the American Consul but the only news given out to the crew was to the effect that war had not yet been declared.
The "Marietta" had been here and after ordering coal for us had left on March 31st for Valparaiso where we hope to over haul her.
Owing to the coal being ordered in advance it began to come off in a short time after we dropped anchor and by noon we were coaling for all we were worth. Our boat had been sent ashore for fresh provisions and returned about non with sweet potatoes and some fruit, the only articles they were able to buy. The Doctor condemned the fruit an we had to dump it over board but we had a good feed on Sweet potatoes. We were all pretty hungry, having lived ten days on pay masters stores which are not good.
The canned meat is unfit to eat, the Salt meat has been in pickle so long that the bones are eat up and can be crushed in your hand. The coffee is ground and put up in 5 pound tins but has all molded and can not be used, the Sea biscuit is good as is also the Beans and some of the Rice, this is about what we have lived on for the last ten days.
On our run of 4,200 knots to this port we have used less than 1000 tons of coal, the coal we are getting here is miserable stuff and costs the government #17 per ton.
Apr 3rd A few of us were allowed to go ashore this morning to hunt for fresh provisions and got a few chickens at 6 cents apiece but they had been fed on fish till they were unfit to eat. Even the eggs had a fishy taste. However we ordered beef and it came off to the ship bout noon - a little bit tough and stringy but pretty good to men with our apetities. The Peruvians made a kick about towing the coal as far and tried to get the ship moved farther in but Capt Clark refused and we are at our first anchorage nearly three miles from the beach and clear of all the shipping. At night the two steam launches are kept circling around the ship armed with one pounders and a dozen men with small arms. No boats are allowed near the ship after dark wthout first being closely searched. We have had one lesson in the "Maine" and don’t need another.
Apr 7th. The Deck hands and coal Passers have been coaling the ship while the machinists and Firemen over hauled the machinery and boilers.
It has been slow and discouraging work as the coal all had to be brought off in lighter by Peruians and they will set the world on fire by work. However, it has given us the chance to the machinery all in good order again and as there is much of it there was plenty to be done. Put to sea about noon in a stiff gale and a thick fog, as we had a head sea we had to out on our hatch covers for the first time since leaving San Francisco. Stood out to sea till dark and then headed south, there had been a rumor that we were going to Honolulu so when the ships head swung South the crew gave a cheer that brought the Captain up to see what had happened. When told what was up he only smiled and went below without saying a word.
Increased speed to 13 knots and nearly killed all the firemen the first night. The most miserable coal I ever had the misfortune to handle, it forms in solid clinkers so hard they can hardly be broken. Had a felon on my finger that pained so much that I had to have it lanced but did not lose any time by it.
The Fire rooms and in fact the whole ship is as hot as a bake oven since battening down.
Apr 8th; Still bucking head seas that come clear over the turrets. I never saw a ship take such seas before, if she was any thing else but a battle ship a sea like some of these would crush her like an egg. Came near losing two of our men today, the Carpenter and Blacksmith, as it was they were washed into the Scuppers and badly injured. All boats have been thoroughly secured long ago, and man who falls overboard now is gone beyond all hope. A life boat couldn’t live in the weather we have had any way.
Have had fire in the bunkers nearly all the way. Its just Purgatory.
Apr 16th; reached the western entrance to the Straits of Magellen, passing Direction Island at noon and anchoring in Sunday Bay at night. We have had a miserable time ever since we left Callao. There had been one continual storm and head sea all the way. We were battened down the entire time, our provisions were poor, the sleeping quarters were hot as fire almost – the berth deck registered 130o and our work on the fires was enough to kill a mule. Our coal bunkers were on fire nearly all the time, at one time there were four of them on fire at once, at another time the forward bunkers caught fire, and the Automatic Alarms failing to work, the magazine bulkheads became so hot before it was discovered that the paint was burned off them. It was certainly a close call as there was hundreds of tons of Prismatic Powder on the other side of that bulkhead that must have exploded in a very short time and blown every thing to atoms.
I did not keep count of the number of times the bunkers were on fire, we had too much to do to keep a diary but it seemed as if there was one or more fires going all the time. Spontaneous Combustion was always the cause and it realy seemed as if the only place that coal would burn was in the bunkers.
Steam, the usual antidote, seemed to have no effect on the fires and the only method that we found effective was to begin on one side of the bunker and shovel away the the coal, piling it up in the fire rooms or any odd corners we could find till a clear space could be formed . Once a little room was obtained the real work began. Commencing on the side next the door we would shovel every bit of coal over, keeping the salt water hose turned on it as we went till every bit of coal in that bunker had been handled. The heat in the fire rooms generaly was about 150o, in the bunkers it often went up to 170o or more while no air could be allowed to circulate, so all the gas, coal smoke and steam that was generated was confined right there and the only outlet was through the firemens lungs. It was just terrible and the poor devils who had to stand it are to be pitied. The men were played out time and again but they never gave up. It used to be a rule to go in there and work till they dropped senseless, then some one else would pull them out and take their places while the rest of the men turned the hose on the man who had fainted and he was always ready for more of it soon as he recovered Men frequently had to work 24 hours at a time like this, at one time I got only 5 hours off out of 48, at another we all worked 19 hours straight and to add to all our trouble we had to keep up a speed of 13 knots on the poorest coal that God ever made. We are certainly having a hard time getting a place where we can turn loose and be savages but a game of kill or be killed would suit this crew better than any thing else just now providing it was played with the Spaniards.
Apr 17th; Got ready to get under way at 3 a m but did not raise the anchor till nearly 8. The interval was spent in clearing ship for action, loading guns, testing the compass and getting ready generally. When we did get up anchor we were ready for actual battle and rather expecting it too as it was reported in Callao that the the Spanish torpedo boat “Temerario” was to lay for us in the “Straits” (I saw this boat when she first came out here in 1892 but she did not impress me then as being dangerous, she is a “torpedo-gun-boat of 19 knots.” she was in montividio at a naval review when I saw her.)
Put on forces draught and proceeded through through the Straits at an average of 15.3 knots. Those waters are very dangerous but the Cpatain was evidently getting anxious for news especialy our own gunbaot “Marietta” which should have met us here, no doubt she waited for us in Valparaiso and is well behind us now.
Arrived at Punta Arean (Sand Point) Chili a 8.30 P.M. We made 153 miles in 10 hours with the entire crew at quarters and the guns loaded, the anchor was also kept hanging over the bows and men stationed at the anchor engines ready to let go at a moments warning. There was not an emergency in the catalogue that was not forseen and prepared for. Sent a boat ashore with an Officer to report to the American Consul while the same tactics employed at Callao were brought into play here. We anchored well clear of all ships and had the Steam launches doing patrol duty. Even an Argentine gun boat that came in an hour after we arrived was ordered to give us more room, as they seemed a little slow about doing so the Search lights were turned on her decks for a moment and then flashed up to our own mast head to show “Old Glory,” the moment they saw our flag and the men at quarters in the fighting tops they started off and dropped anchor three miles away.
About 10 O’Clock our boat came back and we were informed that war had not been declared up to the 10th (the day the last mail boat left montevidio. There are no cable connections here). We were all disapointed to some extent but not altogether as we want to be there when fun begins. The “Marietta” came in at 11.30 P.M. and tired as the men were they turned up to give her a cheer. We had barely missed her in Sunday bay as she was just leaving Smiths Straits as we passed the entrance. They saw our fighting tops but could not over haul us while we did not see them at all.
Apr. 18th. Began taking coal from an english hulk, worse than what we got in Callao if possible, I hear that our Pay Master is paying $25 per ton for this stuff too. A few of us got ashore again for fresh provisions this morning, fresh beef is worth 2 ½ cents per pound and mutton $1.00 per carcas no matter what it weighs. The beef is certainly splendid but can not be salted ----- ----- ---- told. Oh! What a feast we have today, we eat all we cared for at the table but some way we all got hungry before supper and it was fun to see the men frying steaks over a scoop shovel in the furnaces. That may not sounds apetizing to some but we were hungry as sharks and it was a treat to us. The international line between Chili and Argentine was through the town of Punta Arena and as the two countries are on the verge of war there are some interesting times here for us. Chili has an army here and Another marching overland it is said while Argentine has an Army here and is landing troops from a transport - both sides have men-of-war in the harbor, think there are eight altogether. The queer part of it is that the outposts of the two armies reach the international line so the two sentries can almost touch each other. We were told that hostilities were not to begin till may 4th.
Apr 20th; Left Punta rena at 7 A.M, the "Marietta" raising her anchor as we passed her and following us closely. We have put in full time while here and the the books show that we took in 1,100 tons of coal, in reality we took in about 600 tons of the worst stuff imaginable. Some one made a nice little stake out of this so we should have got some good coal at a much less juice.
50 miles east of Punta Arena we mat a couple of coasting steamers from New York, these little vessels were bound through the straits for San Francisco to go into the Alaska trade. They had left Rio de Janerio 15 days before so could give us no news except what we already had. They guyed the officer who was sent to them unmercifully and that was all the satisfaction we got.
Reached the Atlantic about 2 P.M. in a heavy gale and had to batten down again. Turned north at 3.30 and had to slow down fo the Marietta who was unable to proceed at full speed in the face of the gale. The Atlantic is more choppy that the Pacific and the absense of the heavy swell of the other side is in our favor but the little gun boat don’t stand the same show as we do.
Apr 21st; Have held a six knot gate for 24 hours. We are having a snap of this and the rest is fully appreciated - God bless the Marietta if she can run. If we were alone now we would be making 13 or 1 knots.
Apr 30th; Left the Marietta off the River Platte at day light and struck out for Rio. It had been intended to use her as a kind of picket boat but she is entirely too slow so we had to give her up. Arrived at Rio De Janerio at 2.30 P.M. and followed the usual custom of anchoring away off from the rest of the shipping and sending a boat to report to the American Minister this time. The Minister proved to be away at a summer resort in the mountains enjoying himself as they had to report to the consul who told them that War had been declared. As the boat came pulling off to the ship every man on board guessed the news without being told, we could see it in the bend of the oars and the faces of the men. Such a cheer as the crew gave when the news was finaly announced I never heard before but it was equaled by the by the way they made preparations to begin coaling. At noon the coal came off and was dumped into the bunkers for us by slaves but they were entirely too slow to suit our taste so the crew turned to without orders. The “Temerario” was laying in the harbor when we got in, she had just arrived from Montividio and it was said that she was sent out to intercept us at sea, if we had not fooled so long with the Marietta we might have had a go at her but it would have been like a bull dog fighting a rat. As it was we shifted our anchorage farther up the harbor and had a couple of six pounders looking her way till the Authorities could act. The Marietta came in at 2,30 P.M. and by orders of Capt. Clark anchored just outside the Temerario, this changed the complexion of affairs to such an extent that Capt. Clark sent a Steam launch armed with a one pounder to notify the Spaniards that we would “blow them out of the water if they moved.” After delivering this message the launch dropped anchor right alongside the “Temerario” and watched every move the Spaniards made. That must have been a bitter pill for them but the directions said take it and they did. That same evening the Brazilian government put an Officer on the Temerario’s deck to see that she did not move but we kept our watch all the time we were in port just the same. The regulations were carried out here in regard to patroling in the vicinity of the ship, as at Callao and Punta Arena, beside which the Brazilian government sent two armed tugs every night and one in the day time and no boat could come near the ship except on business. All the coal we got here as well as all the provisions were furnished by the Brazilian government. At very reasonable rates. The provsions were good and we needed them badly. At Punta Arena we had been unable to get any thing but meat which soon spoiled. We had an ice machine but the officers took all of the ice it made and left the crew without. Its an actual fact that I have seen a ton of ice stacked up in the Ward Room to cool the atmosphere while the crew were drinking water right from the Evaporators, hotter than Coffee could be drank with comfort. The Marietta’s crew are as wild over the news from home as we are but they don’t seem to have any confidence in their captain.
May 1st; The Machinists and firemen have been over hauling machinery as usual while the rest of the crew coaled ship.; Such work as this has not been done on as American ship for many a day, I put in 15 hours today in the fire rooms in a temperature of 145o. There is not a breath of air in the harbor. Every man on the ship been very busy today except Mr. Cogswell (our Executive Officer) he has been drunk ever since we heard that war was declared.
The American minister came back this evening and came on board about dark, he and Capt. Clark had a very sarcastic conversation on account of the minister having been away at the time we arrived. About 9 P.M. Mr. Cogswell and this same minister made their appearance on deck as drunk as lords, they made us stop coaling ship while they had the band up to play for them and delayed coaling for at least two hours. A very nice pair of Americans these.
May 2nd; The United States having bought the cruiser "Nichteroy" from the Brazilian government, a party of the Engineers force were sent over to examine her machinery today. They have had a force of men repairing her for some time but her boilers are in bad shape still. She used to have a Dynamite battery but has no guns at all now. (This ship is named after the city of Nichteroy, just across the bay from Rio)
May 3rd; Finished coaling last night every bunker is now full of the best coal we ever had on this ship, in contrast to the stuff we got in Punta Arena, which would not burn even in the bunkers. Left in company with the "Marietta" at 6.40 A.M. The Nichteroy not coming with us for some reason. There was a rumor last night that the American fleet had fought a battle at manila but the rumor was not confirmed up to the point we left port. Steamed north as far as Cape Frio (60 miles) and then hove to till dark, then started south again past the entrance to Rio Janerio bay and kept in that vicinity till mid-night. The crew supposed we were waiting for the Temerario to come out but she failed to come. All our guns have been loaded since we entered the Straits of Magellan and the men are kept at quarters day and night. About 1 A.M. we steamed into the shadow on a Cliff a few miles South of Rio and dropped anchor till daylight but got little rest as the Captain was evidently looking for some thing. Cogswell still drunk.
May 4th; Got up anchor at daylight and stood north past the harbors mouth, found the Marietta hiding behind an island or rock watching the entrance. Both ships started north but hove to off Cape Frio till noon. About 2 P.M. Capt. Clark signaled the Captain of the Marietta to come alongside and ordered him back to look for the Nichteroy, giving him a pretty hard calling down for being too slow in reporting. This is the second time this Captain has been on the Carpet since the two ships have been in company. Marietta and Nichteroy returned about ten O'Clock and all three ships laid a course to the north. This was the last we seen of either ship, for during the night we parted company, they to come on as best they could, while we started ahead at full speed.
May 5th;Capt. Clark sent Lieut-Com, Cogswell to his room to sober up. There are a few ore of these tanks who need a lesson and it is to be hoped they will get it. Averaging about 14 knots but run out of our way to examine every ship we sight.
May 11th; Reached Bahia Brazil after dark and entered the harbor about 10 P.M. Nearly scared the Custom house officers to death. They came off to the ship thinking us a merchantman and pulled off like mad when they found what we were. Sent a board ashore at once to report to the navy department by way of Liverpool and started in at once overhauling machinery.
May 12th; Telegram from the department was posted on the bulletin board giving us the result of the manila fight but no details, rumors from the shore say Dewey lost half his men. The men cheered themselves hoarse over the news. A local paper today published to a statement to the effect that the Spanish fleet had dodged the north atlantic Squadron and captured Philadelphia and Boston. There are some men who believe it but all are hoping for the best (It was from here that Capt. Clark sent his famous message "Don't tangle me up with instructions")
May13th Slipped out of the harbor after dark and put to sea although our Captain had previously reported his machinery out of order. By this means we observed the 24 hour law and kept the enemy in the dark as to our movements,
May 13th; The bulletin board was covered this morning with the dispatches from home giving the location of the Spanish ships and so on. One dispatch from the department told us that “the eyes of the world were on us.” The world must have little to do if that is the case.
Capt. Clark called all hands aft and gave us a lecture in which he stated plainly that he expected to meet the cape De Verd fleet. He gave us a full description of their ships and also told us of his plans in case we did meet them. Taken altogether the outlook is pretty blue, while we all have confidence in our ship, the odds of 4 to 1 and three torpedo boats besides is pretty big. The general talk among the men is that there wont be so many ships in that fleet when they get through with us. We certainly will have a share in the fight if we meet.
May 14th, The Boatswain, Mr Costello has been drunk for two days and today spoiled the chance of our lives – or saved our lives ---, God only knows which. About noon our anchor chain dropped over the side and it took two solid hours to secure the 20 fathoms of chain. This chain had previously been unshackled and stoppered to the Bitts in order to prevent the anchor engine from being injured in case the anchor or chain should be struck by a shot. Mr. Costello had been told several times that it was not secured properly but the drunken fool would listen to no one and the result was that we lost two hours of valuable time. About 11 O’clock we run square into the Spanish fleet, had that accident not happened we would have met them before it was fairly dark, as it was we sneaked through without being seen.
The Spanish fleet were strung out in a line looking for us, their hulls were black and each was showing one light, we saw three distinctly. Our own ship had been painted lead color in Bahia and we had no lights showing at all. We passed one Spanish Ship about a mile to port, training the forward 13 inch guns on her. The one to starboard was about a mile and a half away and the after 13’s were brought to bear on her, beside these we had 4 – 8 inch 2 – 6 inch and 10 – 6 pounders trained on each ship but as they showed no sign of having seen us we did not fire but held our course.
If they had made a single move to show that they had seen us those two ships would have been wrecked in a minute.
The third ship was three or four miles away, the rest of the fleet we did not see. The men are all cussing Costello but perhaps after all he saved our lives by his drunkeness.
There would have been an interesting session if they had seen us but I will confess that the odds were too much in their favor to suit me.
May 17th; Reached Bridgetown, Barbados today, have had nothing to complain of since the 14th. The coal we got in Rio is the best we ever had in the ship and our fresh provisions lasted till we got here. Every thing is lovely. Anchored and Reported to the department by way of Liverpool and begun taking coal on at once. Raised the yellow flag to scare visitors away as the natives were bothering us too much. Got the daily paper from shore, these papers confirm the report we got in Bahia that the Spanish fleet captured Philadelphia. The men are feeling pretty blue and are not very complimentary in their remarks about the North Atlantic Squadron. The Spanish Cruiser "Alfonso XIII" left here two days ago with a lot of troops for Martinique, we cincerely hope that we will go after her. There was a torpedo boat reported off this port last night but we can find out nothing about where she came from or where she went. We have been obliged to chip in considerable money out of our own pocket to help feed ourselves on this run. At Frisco we chipped in $5. At Callao $5. At Punta Arena $8. At Rio $10 and now we have to dig up another $10. The grub that we got from the paymaster is poor in quality so there is nothing else for it.
We got some garbled accounts of the Manila and Matanzas fights but no particulars. American flour cost us $17 per hundred here, other provisions in proportion.
Coaled ship all day and got away for home at dark; Hung around the entrance all night looking for any boats the enemy might have watching us but failed to find any so we headed east just before daylight and got well out of sight while the darkness lasted.
May 21st; We are now very nearly off the east end off the Island of Cuba and heading north. One of the funniest incidents of this long run happened this morning just before daylight The ship was making about 12 knots (showing no lights) when she suddenly run into a ship so close there was hardly room to turn. There was no time to see what she was and the first thought was that we were up against that Cape De Verd fleet. The wheel was jammed over and we took the back track as fast as the engines could drive us, the men were called to quarters and turned out with cheer, for we all felt for sure that their would be a fight this time sure. Lieut-Com Cogswell turned up drunk as usual having made a night of it and the Chief Engineer got so excited that he lost his false teeth while trying to give an order in the fire rooms (One of the firemen threw them in the furnace and the old coward was toothless for nearly six months afterward. We run for half an hour and then as daylight was breaking we took back on our course ready to fight but just image our disgust when the ship we had run from turned out to be a "Wind Jammer". This is the first case on record of a modern battle ship was chased by a Sailing Ship.
May 24th; Reached Jupiter inlet about dark and nearly scared every one to death. The whole town took to the hills while the telegraph operator telegraphed to Key West that a Spanish Ship was in the harbor. Sent a boat ashore with dispatches for the department.
May 25th. Got a dispatch from the Secretary of the Navy which was read to the crew at 4 A. M. by the Captain. The telegram was short and to the point, “ If you need repairs go to Norfolk, if ready to fight go to Key West.” That settled it, we were off for Key West in fifteen minutes after that dispatch came aboard. The only things we need is coal and grub and we need both badly.
May 26th. On Account of the shallow water on this coast we have had a slow run for the last 24 hours, we had no pilot and had to heave the lead all the way. Arrived here and dropped anchor six miles out at 10 A.M. Began taking coal from a big four masted schooner half and hour after anchoring and none too soon for I don’t think there is ten tons in the ship. If we had encountered a storm yesterday we would have been out of luck for two more hours would have used up our last pound of coal. Sent boats ashore for fresh provisions and news papers (I hardly know which we wanted worst.) and the rest of the day was spent over hauling machinery, coaling ship, eating and reading the news. Lord what a racket there was on the ship when we found we were in time for all the principle part of the fighting.
The ------ came past in the afternoon and when the word went round that she was in the fight at Cardenas the men gave her a cheer that nearly upset her crew. No doubt they thought we were crazy but they ought to be in our place. We have run nearly 15000 miles in a race against time and have had but one chance to fire a shot and I hardly think we can be blamed for not taking that, considering the odds against us. I am willing to bet that we never miss another chance even at those odds. Had to dig up another $ 10 for grub today – its getting about time the government put in its share, according to the articles we are entitled to rations.
The papers are giving us quite a send off for our long run and are taking us by surprise. Not a man on board had any idea of the excitement we were causing. We have felt all along as if we were being lost in the shuffle. Got a letter today form Ola, the only one from home.
May 27th. Continued taking coal all day and over hauling machinery, coal is going into those bunkers at a rate it never did before. The men are determined not to be tied up here longer than they can help and all hands are at it for all they are worth. Provisions are scarce and high. The government has plenty on the beach and the Officers get all they need but the men can get nothing. The “New York” came in today and anchored near us, her crew gave us a cheer as did the “Helena” which we returned with a will. The latter vessel is one of the picket boats here now and is a smart looking ship.
May 28th. Continued the same schedule today as yesterday, they have also been stripping the ship, sending all boats and every thing else ashore that could be dispensed with. All tables and benches were stowed in the hold as our bags and hammocks were ready to go ashore – in fact some of them had gone, mine among the number when the order was revoked. Received a draft of 60 men from the Chicago Naval Reserves late in the evening, the poor devils are expecting a snap but are not likely to find it on this packet, she is about the hottest old workhorse afloat. Owing to some mistake we have been unable to get more fresh provisions here than would last us from day to day, had ordered sea stores for 7 a.m. May 29th but owing to some order we stoppedcoaling and got under way at 10 P.M. with hardly any provisions at all. The Officers have plenty and that is all that seems to count in this ship.
May 29th. Joined the blockading fleet off Havana at 8 a.m.(At least we suppose we are off Havana from the direction we have come, there is hardly a map among the crew. The fleet consisted of the Battle Ship “Indiana”, (Sister ship to the “Oregon”) the monitors Terror, Puritan, Miantonomo, three torpedo boats whose names I did not learn and half adozen cruisers, including the New York. Also a supply ship or two.
The fleet gave us a rousing reception as we passed through them although we must have looked tough, the ship had not been cleaned since we coaled and had a great list to port owing to hasty coaling. The Indiana’s band played “When I run that bully down”. Put in the entire day drifting about among the fleet which is a very powerful one, they are ten miles or more from shore but have a lot of smaller craft closer in. Got under way at 4 P.M. standing S. E. till dark and then hove to till daylight.
May 30th, Started S. E. at daylight in company with the “New York”, the torpedo boat “Porter” and the converted yacht “Mayflower”, a very fine little vessel though they say she was a terror before she was “converted”. Hove to at 9 a.m. while the captains of every ship reported on board the New York, after which all the ships started westward except the torpedo boat “Dupont” New York, Oregon and Mayflower. The New York Got funny and tried to run away from us, giving us a hard run all day. Every half hour or so they would signal to know if we could make any better time, the affirmative flag was always the answer till we were going full 15 knots and finally when we were abeam of them and forging ahead they signaled to slow down. They had enough for once.
Hove to for the night at 9 p.m. with the Cuban Coast in sight on our starboard beam.
May 31st, Got underway at daylight, standing close in shore, then hove to till noon. The lookouts were busy examining the coast while the Dupont run close inshore, kept this up till dark, then stood out to sea and resumed our course. Rounded the S.E. Point of Cuba at 12:25 a.m. and turned westward.
June 1st, Arrived with the blockading fleet off Santiago at 9 a.m. The batteries fired half a dozen shots at us as we steamed past, all fell short and the New York being the closest in failed to reply. The“Marblehead” which was lying close in took up the challenge and the Forts shut up after she had fired a few shots. The fleet consists of the Brooklyn, Marblehead, Massachusetts, three torpedo boats seven or eight colliers and the ships which came with us. Sampson is in command and Como. Schley who has earned the title of “Commodore Cant” is second in command. The “Iowa” is also with us and the Texas, the former is our only “Sea going Battle Ship”. The other three are “Coast line Battle Ships 1st rate” and the Texas a “Battle Ship 2nd Class”. At 5 p.m. Stood in for close night blockade when the batteries again opened up without effect. Our ships did not reply.
June 2nd. The batteries saluted the stars and stripes at daylight with half a dozen shots but we heard nothing closer than the explosion of the guns and did not reply so they quit. Suppose this was another “Spanish Victory”. At 9 a.m. a small steamer started to run past the fleet without a flag, we went after her and had to fire a blank before she stopped. She proved to be the “Dandy” an associated press boat under the British flag. Her Captain got funny and in answer to Capt Clark’s question as to where his flag was he replied, “the crew are using it as a table cloth just now. He will run it up as the cook gets his dishes washed up”. He changed his mind quick when the order was given to “load with shell”, and run up his flag.
At 12:30 p.m. we were again sent to chase a steamer that had 8 miles the start of us and run like a scared wolf when she saw us coming. Put on forced draught and took her in after a 40 mile chase but it nearly killed every fireman to do it. She proved to be the “Triton” of Bath Me chartered by the New York “World” and was after a sensational article. We thought sure she was a prize and were badly disappointed when she run up “Old Glory”. (The first time I ever hated to see that flag). In the run we made 17.3 knots, the best time ever made by a ship of this class and it beats all previous records for us. They sent our Officers a bunch of bananas and squared them, as to the men – the men be d—d. As we turned back we met the Marblehead, a 19 Knot ship that started when we did but was left in the race – we were in no humor to be beaten at this time, almost every ship on this side has had some satisfaction but we have not even fired a shot yet.
June 3rd, Got the news of the sinking of the “Merrimac” this morning, it seems they were volunteers but there were no volunteers called for on this ship.
The forts fired a few shots at us again this morning and both Officers and men are growling, not only because we can’t return the fire but because they think Sampson sunk that ship in the channel so he would not be called on to fight the Spaniard fleet. Have not had a bit of meat or any thing else except hard tack and New Orleans molassis since the 1st of this month – not even coffee.
At 12:30 the Oregon got orders to take position inside the cable ship while the latter fished for the cable. Every one hoped this was our chance but in spite of the fact that we were within 8000 yards they failed to fire at us. They must have known what we were doing. Continued close inshore till 4 p.m. when the Spaniards sent a flag of truce. We were told that they brought word that the men on the “Merrimac” were safe. Resumed work in half an hour and about 5:30 the cable ship secured on cable and cut it, this was only 2800 yard from the “Morro” and the Oregon had to lay on this in-shore side of the cable ship to receive any shots that might be fired at her. Continued dragging until 8 p.m. but got no farther results. Stood in close for night blockade, the Oregon taking 2 hour shifts with the Iowa in using his search lights on the channel. 8 steam launches armed with a 1 pdr each and a force with small arms are sent close in to the entrance and kept there all night on picket duty. These little boats take the most desperate chances, firing on any thing they see moving although their chance of escape is very small if they are struck.
About 10:30, we had a chance to see what our fleet was like on night work, at this hour one or more of the Spanish torpedo boats made a sudden dash out of the harbor. Our steam launches gave the first alarm with their guns and whistles and were promptly backed by at least six of our ships, the boats, or at least one of them turned east and was headed off by the New York and New Orleans, the former playing his search lights while the latter worked her batteries, the Oregon slipped close in to the entrance to prevent the boats getting back into the harbor while the Marblehead and Mayflower kept them from getting to the open sea. Just what the result was is hard to say, but men on the New York say that the torpedo boat was fair in the glare of their search lights one second and the next had disappeared like a bubble. The Oregon did not get to fire a shot the New York not many but the New Orleans was fairly grinding them out, in fact they worked their guns so fast we
thought they were on fire at one time. The New Orleans is the only ship in our Navy using smokeless powder.
June 5th, Nothing of importance happening, all hands hungry as sharks, manage to catch a few fish over the side, this is our only change from hard tack and New Orleans molasses. The forts fire a shot at us occasionally but we never answer, they made one good shot at us today, the shot passing between our stacks and striking the water about a hundred feet from the ship. This is our only excitement today.
June 6th, Got our moneys worth today. All hands called to quarters at 4:30 a.m. got up ammunition and put on battle hatches, then stood by for an hour waiting for the flag ship to give the signal, finally it came at 5:30 or about that and we stood in shore with the rest of the fleet for our first go at the Spaniards and a go it proved to be. I had no idea they had so many guns, the whole crest of the ridge for a distance of at least 5 miles seemed to be covered with them and they gave us as good as we sent for at least three solid hours. They seemed to have all kinds of guns from heavy 10 inch guns down to field pieces, but should think about 6 or 7 inch siege guns were the most numerous. Our fleet certainly did some good execution, some of our ships getting in to point blank range, the battle ships and heavy cruisers had to be contented at a mile however but this is easy range for us. In fact three miles is really the best range for our heavy guns. The Spanish loss must have been heavy as two or three of their batteries were literally cut to pieces. The OREGON was only struck three times and did not have a man hurt. Ceased firing about 8:30 but the “Swanee” in having a tussle with a battery three miles east of the Morro drew the entire fleet in again and the bombardment continued hot and heavy till 11:00 a.m. when we fell back but several of the little gun boats continued to annoy the Spaniards till dark. During the second part of the attack the OREGON made one shot that was quite remarkable, one of the big guns in the eastern battery had been trained on the Swanee [SUWANNEE], this little vessel wasthen being fired on from three directions at once, in order to help her out one of our 13 inch guns was scaled on the eastern battery and the first shot struck exactly under the big gun – it looked to us as if that gun went at least 200 feet straight up into the air accompanied by tons of dirt. They never fired another shot out of that battery and in fact all their guns were deserted shortly afterward.
Up to 11:30 we had nothing to eat but after the fighting was over we fell back and had a sumptuous feast on hard tack and molasses - Oh ye Gods! And they tell us we are going to starve the Spaniards out. Cogswell and two or three other officers were drunk as lords.
Started east alone at 8 p.m. and shortly before midnight entered the harbor of Guantanamo, 40 miles or so from Santiago. This harbor had been seized by the Marblehead and some of our smaller ships some days before after destroying the battery commanding the bay.
June 7th, Began taking coal from a collier at 1 a.m. and kept at it till 9 p.m. At 8 a.m. our marines were landed to examine the country in the vicinity of the Spanish works and were kept on shore till 4 p.m. when they were withdrawn. They found several dead Spaniards but nothing more. At 4:30 the cruiser “Panther” came in and at once begun landing Marines of which she had several hundred, their first work was to burn a number of huts that had been used by the Spanish garrison. Got up anchor at 9 p.m. and started west.
June 8th, Rejoined the fleet off Santiago at 8 a.m. and one of the boilers being out of order a few of us got to put in the entire day making repairs in a temperature of 160 degrees.
June 11th, Have done nothing of importance since the 8th , just drifting around hungry looking for some thing to devour. The ships and forts have a shot at each other occasionally but nothing to speak of, the Spaniards are very poor shots in spite of the fact that they have French and German gunners. The U. S. Supply ship “Supply” came alongside today but she belied her name for she had no supplies except flour and a kind of macaroni (that is for the men. She had a full stock of every thing imaginable for the Officers including, beer wine, and all other kind of liquor). [It should be noted that the government did not provide supplies for the officers. The officers had to procure private contracts for their mess, and the contractors supplied them, independent of the navy supplies. in this case, the private contractors were fulfilling their contract to the officers' mess. The navy had fallen down on its job in supplying the crew. This arangement was apparently not understood by Robinson, or, probably, many others on the crew]
An English ship came in today as a prize to the “St. Paul”. She was caught in the act of coaling a Spanish Torpedo destroyer near San Juan. Don’t know what disposition will be made of her. The torpedo boat escaped.
At 7:30 p.m. the Spanish batteries are practicing on some of our ships and we are waiting for a call to quarters. From the shots they are making now it looks as if we were learning them to fight.
June 12th, No excitement today till 10:30 p.m. when the OREGON steamed in to 1400 yards and took her turn at the search lights. There was some kind of movement inside the harbor and we thought sure the Spanish fleet was going to make a run for it, the crew were called to quarters and a red rocket was fixed as a danger signal to the fleet. They closed up promptly and as they swung into line across the channel and 12 or 15 search lights were thrown inland it was the grandest picture I ever saw. Nothing came of it and finally the men were sent on deck but we spoiled the Spaniard’s sleep for they were exchanging signals all night and their sentries fired on our steam launches whenever they came in sight.
June 13th, The Dynamite Cruiser “Vesuvius” and the hospital ship “Solace” came in today. The former is some three miles away from us and we sincerely hope she will stay that distance away as she carries tons of high explosives and is quite dangerous, if the Spaniards ever hit her she might sink the entire fleet.
11:30 p.m. We have just had a sample of the “Vesuvius”, while the OREGON had her trick at the search light the “Dynamite” ran close under our bow and after carefully estimating the distance, let go three charges of gun cotton (220 lbs each). The object we understood was to explode the mines in the harbor entrance but although the explosion was some thing fearful we saw no results. After firing three shots in quick succession the Vesuvius run out of range as quick as possible while the Spaniards manned their batteries and let go a regular storm of shot at us. Glad there was no dynamite near us when they began to fire for some of their shots came close.
June 14th, The collier “Kingston” came alongside and we begun taking coal at sea about in range of the batteries. There is a stiff sea running and it is difficult work but we manage to take it on at a good rate just the same. This ship brought a lot more beer and wine for the Officers and some provisions but not a thing for the men. She also brings news of a battle at Guantanamo Bay between the Marines and Spaniards, according to their accounts it must have been fierce. Papers from New York received today say that “Sampsons fleet are living on the fat of the land”. If this is the fat I hope I shall never see the lean, the hungriest tramp in the United States would turn up his nose at the stuff we have to eat, - that is the men, the Officers have not been short in either grub or beer but of course they cant be expected to suffer. The Vesuvius fired three more shots for “target practice” this morning, her crew claim they were only at practice last night too, its great practice all right when a Spaniard has to keep score for us.
The Brooklyn had a good go at the western battery, mostly long range work ant the New Orleans did the same act with a battery at Aguadores. No results in particular. Ceased coaling and stood in for our turn at the search lights as soon as it got dark. From dark till daylight some ship has her lights on that entrance continually, those ships inside will never be able to move without us knowing it.
June 15th, Had our usual morning exercise at the batteries and then hauled off shore and coaled ship till 5 p.m. The hospital ship “Solace” came alongside and sent over some fruit contributed by the “National Relief Association”. The Officers seized the whole lot but were kind enough to allow each man one orange and two lemons. Secured 20 pounds of potatoes but they cost us ten cents a pound and there were no more to be had even at that price. Got the “New York World” of June 8th describing the bombardment of the 6th also the chasing we gave the “Triton”, there is hardly a word of truth in it and it might as well have been written by some one who never saw it at all. Bob Evans, Sampson, and Schley have a whole page to themselves, (and pay for it at advertising rates no doubt). Neither one of those three have distinguished themselves here except on paper.
Some firing from the west battery at sundown. At 11 p.m. the Vesuvius got in her work again while the OREGON held the candle as usual. Her object this time was a gun that our other guns can not reach, don’t know whether she succeeded or not but she waked the Dagoes up and they sent a shower of shells screaming out our way in a manner that was not pleasant.
This ship is so hot that it is impossible to sleep any where except on the open deck and it is rather hard on the nerves when you are waked up by a shell throwing water on you – that was the experience of at least a hundred men last night.
June 16th, Tried our luck again this morning with the same results. All hands called at 3:30 a.m. Breakfast (hard tack and molasses) at 4 a.m. and went to quarters immediately afterward. The fight started at 5 a.m. at 4000 yards range and lasted till 6:30 a.m., the last half hour of the fight the OREGON was only 1100 yards from the beach. Our Ship literally wiped out every thing in sight and before we got through the Spaniards had deserted every one of their guns except 5 mortars which are situated behind a hill or knoll, our guns can throw shells clear over them but can not drop a shell on them. It will either require mortars or some thing of their class unless the Vesuvius can do the trick.
These mortars are the only really dangerous guns we have to contend with, they throw their shells up and drop them vertically or nearly so, and they do fair shooting with them too. If they ever drop a shell on our deck the Lord only knows what the result will be for that is our weak point. The Texas exploded a magazine in the west battery with one of her shells and it looked as if it tore up the whole battery, there were six guns in the battery and the loss of men must have been great. The Spaniards have improved greatly in shooting since we came here, they gave us a close call at five miles range as we fell back. No one here seems to understand what we are trying to do, if we are trying to take this place, we have made two good starts but “Sensible Sampson” “Commodore Cant” and “Fightless Bob” always stop fighting as soon as the news paper boat comes in sight and spend the rest of the day telling the Reporters how they done it all. According to these reports there is only these three men in the fleet, it reminds me of the old gag about how “Me and the old woman killed the bear”.
This is a discouraging siege so far, the men on this ship have not had a full meal this month and the poor half starved devils are losing confidence in every thing. Its pretty hard to go hungry and see a lot of half drunken Officers having plenty but that’s the situation here exactly. Any one who saw this crew a month ago would hardly recognize them now, one of the signs is that nothing seems to interest them, today there was not even a cheer, they had all made up their minds that we would quit, and we did.
Lay out a few miles and watched the enemy repairing damages, could see them plain with a glass but did nothing more to bother them.
They opened on us again as we came in for the night blockade but we did not reply.
June 17th, Got under way at 3:30 a.m. for Guantanamo arriving at 7 a.m. and begun taking coal from two ships at once. Things here are in bad shape. The 800 Marines that landed here ten days ago have been joined by about 50 Cubans and this small force have been fighting night and day ever since. The only rest they can get is by falling back under the guns of the fleet. They have buried over 200 Spaniards by actual count but are nearly worn out themselves, they have a great number of prisoners too on board the Colliers in the bay.
About 9 a.m. a Spanish force made another attack on them but all the ships in the bay turned their secondary batteries on them and they had to fall back – the Marines did not have to fall in at all this time. What prisoners I have seen are a miserable, dirty looking lot, they have not been paid for over a year. The attacking force today is estimated at 2000 men with 4 pieces of field artillery.
About 4 p.m. we finished coaling for the day and tried our big guns on the Spanish works 7600 yards away. The result was not satisfactory as our gunners could not see their target but had to scale their guns by angles and degrees, after firing 8 shots of which only 2 of the 13 inch were observed to strike the mark we steamed back to Santiago arriving at 7:30 p.m.
June 18th, The Vesuvius threw a few more “Earth Quakers” last night, the Dagoes are getting on to where those shells are fixed from and this time they opened on our search light in earnest. The men were mostly all asleep when one of their shells came close over the fo’csle, the men were almost stampeded for a moment but some one had sense enough to sing out “High Ball”, the men were laughing at their scare almost at once.
The New York’s steam launch came alongside today, she was in a fight yesterday while rubbering up the coast, she was literally riddled with bullets but not a man on her was hurt and after a hot fight at 50 yards range the Spaniards gave leg bail – this is a good deal like driving bugs out of a potato patch.
June 19th, The “St Louis” secured and cut the Jamaica cable at 1 o’clock this morning, these cables seem to multiply down here, as soon as one is cut there is another to fish for.
June 20th, Every thing quiet today. The “Swanee” [SUWANEE] has been close in shore coaxing the batteries for a fight but cant get it. There is a large fleet in the offing said to be transports with that much talked of “Army”. This army has been the subject of all our talk by day and our dreams by night for a month but I have always doubted its coming here – Sampson has done nothing, wonder what the army will do.
June 21st, The supply ship “Celtic” sent us a few stores this morning and at 9 a.m. we had our first square meal for nearly a month. The mess I am in has had nothing but hard tack and New Orleans molasses for 22 days except 20 pounds of potatoes and 6 pounds of rice, as there are 26 men in the mess these did not last long. I have saw the mess fry hard tack in filthy tallow that was sent down here to use on the machinery. That sounds tough but we have been fairly starving. Our Officers have had plenty.
While patroling the beach in the steam launch today I had an opportunity to see a fight between 55 Cubans of Garcia’s Army and some 400 Spaniards of the Santiago garrison. This is the first chance we have had to see what the Cubans can do and we took it in from start to finish. The Cubans fired for a few minutes and then threw down their guns and charged with “Machetes, it was a good 200 yards over open ground and the Spaniards were shooting for all they were worth but it was no use, the Cubans got among them with those “Corn Cutters” and the work they did was awful till the Spaniards run away which was pretty quick. The Cubans lost 2 killed and 6 wounded, the Spaniards had 37 killed and no wounded at all. I don’t believe either side killed a man by shooting, their marksmanship was just about the worst I ever saw but when those knives got to work old St Peter was kept busy – providing he is bothered with Spaniards up there.
The Transports with the army on board are here all right and all steam launches and small gun boats are examining the coast for good landing places. They expect to land tomorrow.
Between 10 and 11 p.m. the Vesuvius threw three more shells while the OREGON held the “candle”, the forts fired at our light as usual and came near getting us too.
June 22nd, Transports begun landing troops this morning by means of boats and steam launches from the fleet. These troops are not on to themselves at all. There are not a dozen small boats among all the transports that can be used, some ships that carry a dozen boats have let them dry up and go to pieces till they would hardly hold straw. They could’nt land those men between now and Christmas without the navy.
The army officers were completely lost, some of them could not tell what ship their Regiment was on, one Regiment only had six of its Officers with it and did not know what ship the rest were on. Every thing was mixed up, Shafter was in command and no one knew any one else who was. There seemed to be no Quartermasters or any thing else – it took three solid hours after they were ready to land before we could find what ship was to begin first, then they sent us to a ship loaded with mules and hardly enough men to take care of them.
The blockading fleet strung out for 16 miles along the coast and shelled the hills all morning but there was little resistance. At Daiguira where the troops were to land the Spanish troops tried to destroy the Rail Road yard and 4 big freight engines but were prevented by about 1000 Cubans who charged them with those “Corn Cutters” of theirs, aided by the guns of the New Orleans. These Cubans assisted our troops greatly in landing afterward as the ground swell was very bad and landing was difficult. The Cubans would rush into the water up to their necks, seize a boat and then as a big wave came in they would run it high up on the beach. They helped our troops greatly by showing them
how to do such work and before night the boys got to be pretty handy themselves, the first few to land were about the most awkward men I ever saw around a boat.
The troops complain of having grub that they cant eat, one of the 1st Infantry inquired if we had anything to eat and when I offered him a handful of coal dust he got mad, I had to explain that I had eat many a bucket full of it, and even then he did’nt seem satisfied.
One of the Officers inquired what ship we belong to and when told he asked if the “OREGON” was one of their transports – and then got mad when it was explained that she was a flying machine. Its hard to please some folks any way.
The event of the day among the fleet was a duel between the Texas and the west battery, she dropped 23 of her 12 inch shells into the battery but was hit once herself and had 8 men hurt, one of them died a little later. After the crew were worn out she hauled off and the Indiana tried her luck but came near getting hit too. There are two 9 inch disappearing guns in this battery and 5 “Whitworth” mortars on Key or “Camp Smith” just inside the harbor that are still manned. Every battery except these we have destroyed and the appearance of the country has changed since we came here almost as if an earth quake had visited it, the whole face of the hill is marked like it had been plowed up. With a good pair of glasses the course of hundreds of our shells can be traced from one station on the blockade. The Spanish flag still flies over the “Moro”only because our gunners never fire at the historic old building. (There has never been any guns on the “Moro” during this war) [this was untrue - editor]. The Texas today did the best shooting I ever saw, the Spaniards too did much better than usual.
June 23rd, Troops continued landing all day without resistance. The “Vixen” went in with a flag of truce this morning, no firing during the rest of the day. Have run out of grub again and are on our old ration again. Troops continued landing all night, being helped out by the search light on our ships. A couple of their men fell between two transports and were crushed to death, they also lost one man and several head of mules by drowning.
June 24th, Troops moved westward five miles yesterday as far a Cabannas bay where the last of them landed this morning. Our boats are still landing their stores and ammunition.
The Spaniards tried an attack on them this morning but our ships stood in and mixed it up with them till they were sick of it and retired, there are reports of fighting farther inland but we have no details. Some of our smaller ships continued firing till dark but the larger vessels quit about noon.
One of the objects of our gun boats now is to prevent the Spaniards from destroying the bridge over the San Juan river at Aquadores and they had their hands full today. The peculiar part of this performance is this; When we first came here we did our best to destroy this same bridge and partly succeeded a couple of times but they repaired the damage. Now our Army has 4 Engines and a lot of cars and can use this rail road to great advantage so the other side want to blow it up – Well! They have the advantage of us there but if they succeed it wont be the fault of the “Swanee” [SUWANEE] at least for she has been under fire 18 hours today.
June 25th, The “Scorpion”, Gloucester”, Swanee [SUWANEE] and the torpedo boat “Porter” are making the fur fly down at the bridge yet. The New Orleans turned her search lights on the bridge for them last night and they have not quit firing since yesterday morning. Vesuvius fired 5 more shots last night.
Can get no information in regard to what the army is doing, they advanced some few miles westward yesterday but this base is still the same. It is reported that another fight is taking place but there is no way for us to find out except to wait. Lord, but this work is tiresome – and hungry.
June 26th, Got under way at 3:30 a.m. for Guantanamo, arriving at 7:30 and begun taking coal from two ships at once, continued all day and night, all hands working the full time.
June 27th, Continued coaling all day and finishing at 7 p.m. This makes more than 36 hours of work without rest. There was a ship in the bay with plenty of provisions but they would sell to no one but Officers. When we went to the Executive Officer and asked permission to buy provisions out of our own pockets he nearly had a fit, he inquired if we did not get enough to eat and when told, he made about this answer, “Hard tack and molasses is too d—d good for you. Get forward and shut up.” That was Mr. Cogswell – an Officer and a Gentleman by an act of Congress. He has been drunk almost continualy since this war begins, he has proved himself a coward in every fight we have had.
Got under way for Santiago at 7:30 but blew the packing out of the stuffing box of one of the main engines and had to stop for repairs. This is the first time this ship ever had to stop for any thing at sea. After repairing machinery continued our course and arrived with the fleet at 3 a.m. (28th), 45 hours of duty out of 48.
June 28th, Have been laying far out to sea all day repairing machinery. The Scorpion and Swanee [SUWANEE] were ;having “target practice” at the Spanish troops around Aguadoris but the “Yankee” (manned by New York naval Reserves) starting in to help them out and spoiled it all with her first shot. She knocked down a whole span of the very bridge they have worked night and day to protect (That means, of course the Glouster and Swanee [SUWANEE]) Nothing else worth recording today.
June 29th, Nothing moving today, this has been about the dullest day of this dull blockade. Our ships were shelling Aguadores bridge this morning but got no reply – The Spaniards had nothing to fight for there since the Yankee did their work for them yesterday. The supply ship Celtic came alongside and sent us a few provisions but a very few think the Captain of that ship imagined he was like the Lord when he fed the multitudes. We were told that he left “Gods Country” with 100 barrels of flour to feed 4000 men and 1700 barrels of bottled beer for the use of about 400 Officers. They had every thing that a well stocked grocery usually has and plenty of it but an enlisted man could get nothing, for love or money. Mr. Cogswell and a pet of his who was fired out of the U. S. Army for being a thief, have perfected a little plan to rob us in broad day light and they are working it to perfection too. Got some papers from home today but they only serve to make us tired, nothing but advertising for the “Imortal three” (Sensible Sampson” “Commodore Cant” and that other notorious fraud “Bob Evans”) The later is known in the
fleet as “Newspaper Bob” from the fact that his deeds always appear in the Advertising column of the New York World. The fact is that we have done nothing but show our own officers up since we came here. We have whipped every thing we could get at time and again but are always ordered back when every Spanish gun is silenced. Upon my word! I almost believe Sampson has some interest in prolonging this war.
June 30th, Still busy doing nothing but coasting and starving. Interesting work, very.
The New York and three of our fastest cruisers have just finished a race after a vessel which they mistook for a blockade runner but after a 20 mile chase she gave up – it was one of our transports with a funny Captain. A rope at the yard arm would stop some of this funny work and I should like to help use it too.
July1st, One of the tubes in No 2 boiler collapsed this morning and had to be shut down for repairs. All hands were called at 4:30 and after a “hard tack feast” were sent to quarters and the ship stood in shore about 5:30. Waited till 10 a.m. for the army to move from Siboney. Finaly they showed up with a line of Skirmishers, supported by two train loads of troops. They proceeded with the trains as far as the San Juan bridge (You remember that the Cubans captured these engines and trains on the 21st) Here they were obliged to halt as the Yankee had blown a span out of the bridge on the 29th. The army of course had no boats or pontoons so they could not cross either. They finaly moved inland and we lost sight of them although we tried to help them out by shelling the hills, we could hear them firing but could not see them. They lost 25 killed up to 2 p.m. 23 of whom were Cubans. At 2 p.m. they came back and all hands were put on board the cars and sent back to Siboney leaving their dead on the beach under cover of our guns.
We were kept at quarters till dark – all hands completely played out by heat, smoke and starvation.
The Army had a furious battle farther inland during the day but could not learn the results. They sent up a baloon during the day and kept it up quite a while.
July 2nd, Worked all night repairing No 2 boiler, finished and lit fires as all hands were called at 4 a.m. This was another “24 solid”.
Were sent to quarters at 4:30, some had breakfast but not many. Stood in for the Channel and started in to pulverize every thing in sight. All five of the battle ships turned loose on the west battery and the dust wont quit falling for a week. After about an hours work the “Iowa”was ordered in to close quarters, this is what Bob Evans has been begging for every bombardment we have had but today he was in to big a hurry to get to the news paper boat, so he signaled that his turrets were out of order and dropped out all together - ten minutes later he had a reporter on board and was telling him how the “Iowa” did it all. It just happened that it was not all over but that made no difference to a man like “Fightless Bob”. After the Iowa went to look for notoriety the OREGON took her place and went looking for trouble, we run into the mouth of the harbor within 300 yards of the Morro and turned loose for fair, we knocked the corner off the old Morro, tore the flag down and then started a duel with the “Blanco” battery like the Texas had with the other one, it was a duel too for nearly an hour. Times have been dull on this blockade but they were lively enough for that hour to suit any one. We were only hit once and not a man was hurt but we did fearful work with our own guns. I doubt if ever a battery was destroyed as that one was, the range was easy and the men were in about as savage a temper as it is possible to get them in. From the time we begun on that battery till we let up it looked like a sand storm was taking place in it. We could see guns, logs, men and every thing else thrown up by our shot. That battery was literaly wiped out. Capt. Clark signaled for permission to go in after the fleet but was ordered to fall back.
And this is war. We have to do this all over again next time.
July 3rd [Battle of Santiago], Every thing was quiet this morning till 9:30. The Oregon was on her station in front of and a little east of the channel, the Texas was off our port bow, the Brooklyn was three miles further west. The rest of the ships were scattered around farther out but within range though as it turned out, one of them had steam up sufficient to start at a fair rate of speed. The Iowa was three miles off her station, she ought to have been near us but was five miles out instead of two. I was on watch and having just finished cleaning fires was up taking a final breath of fresh air before morning quarters when the Spanish fleet came out. A six pounder was fired at them by a marine named O’Shea and then the men went to quarters without the usual signal. I waited perhaps two minutes and then slid into my fire room by means of the ventilator. The sight of those ships coming out of that harbor was the grandest sight I ever saw. The man who commanded them must have been a thorough sailor and it is almost a pity he could not fight as well as sail.
As to the fight that followed I prefer to let Fighting Bob tell. He took one of our best battle ships out of the fight as soon as he saw a newpaper boar. As a spectator is supposed to see such things best, this news paper hero ought to be the best judge in all our navy. The main part of the fight lasted a little over an hour and in that time the Oregon fired over 1700 shots including 60 thirteen inch – these guns use 550 pounds of powder at a charge. If there is any worse place in this world than our fire room during this hour I never want to see it. The smoke from the guns was forced into the fire rooms by the fans till we could hardly see or breathe while the concussion of the big guns was almost beyond endurance. We had to work for all there was in us to get the ship along at the pace the Spanish ships were setting for us but we stayed it out although every one of our ships dropped out except the Brooklyn – She got out of range and then followed up, keeping us between her and danger [In fact, Brooklyn suffered the brunt of the battle for the American squadron - editor]. After the “viscaya” went on the beach and blew up our guns took a rest and for nearly three hours it was a test of grit between the fire men on the ship and those on the “Christobal Colon”. The latter had got a ten mile start while the fight was going on and being a fast cruiser it realy looked as if she had shook us off but by hard work and every trick known in the trade we finaly got within about 7,500 yards of her and our big guns begun to talk again. After being hit 41 times she hauled down her flag, fired a gun to leeward and started for the beach.
During the entire race, even when it seemed sure that the Spanish ship was escaping, the Brooklyn either could not or would not go ahead. At the time the “Colon” hauled down her flag the Brooklyn was a good three miles off our port quarter and nearly 8 miles from the Colon but when Clark signaled that she had give up old “Comodore Cant” took the the Brooklyn past us at a speed that was surprising and the Colon actualy surrendered to the Brooklyn. Old “Commodore Cant” (Schley by name and Sly by nature) had the unlimited nerve to signal to Captain Clark, “thanks for your assistance”.
We started in at once making preparations to send a prize crew on board but owing to lack of small boats this was slow work, the Brooklyn too had the prize and this just took the very life out of our boys, besides which Schley seemed to be lost, he hardly seemed to know whether to seize that ship or salute her. Finaly an hour after it was all over the “New York”, “Texas” and “Resolute” came up and Sampson took charge, then Brooklyn was sent back to Santiago and the Oregon took the prize and sent a crew on board under Mr. Cogswell who was drunk. As soon as he got aboard the prize he begun shaking hands with the Spanish officers and they got him into the cabin and filled him up with wine till he hardly knew whether he was an American or a Spaniard. In the mean time the ship was sinking. The Spaniards had opened her sea connections, sawed away the valve stems and there was no way of closing them at this time. If we had acted promptly there is no reason why we should not have saved this ship and she was a good one too. I have no doubt in the world that we could have changed ships with them and whipped them justthe same, this ship was one of the best cruisers in Europe with 12” of armor and one of the finest rapid fire batteries I ever saw, they also had the advantage of us in using smokeless powder.
All the prisoners were sent to the Resolute except a dozen or so wounded who were divided among the ships present, the Oregon taking three, the dead were thrown over board. We had lively work to get them 700 prisoners off the ship with the few boats we had. The ship was taking water fast and turning over steadily and as there was no means of stopping the leak the engineers force devoted their time to securing every thing so the ship could be raised again. Finally about 11:30 she gave a lurch to starboard and the boats had to shove off, the men who were left on board had to swim for it but all of us made the boats without accident and a few minutes later the Colon turned over on her beam ends.
We reached the Oregon about mid-night, many of us had been on the hardest kind of duty for 28 hours and in that time we had one meal – hard tack and molasses. They talked about starving the Spaniards out of Santiago but the men on those ships were fat as pigs vompared to us. I stole a piece of meat off of that ship before she went down and it was the first meat I had tasted in weeks, if we had not been as much pressed for time, we could have got plenty of provisions out of her.
Our firemen are in a horrible condition as a result of this days work, they fired during that fight without regard to consequences. One of them accidently run his hand into the furnace and had every nail burned off that hand but he never stopped work for a minute. One of them had his head burned till the hair is coming off. Every one of them are burned and blistered beyond belief, several of them have broken down under the strain and for the present at least are out of their minds. And Schley will get the credit for it all.
July 4th, Stood by the wreck till daylight, then as we could do nothing more we started back to Santiago. The Chief Engineer having got scared to death yesterday tried to take his spite out on us today by making us “Shake it up” as he termed it but he took that steam just as fast as we seen fit to make it and no faster. There is not a single fireman in the ship fit to work and many of them never will be able to do a hard days work again. It was some thing frightful today to look over the work we did yesterday, the “Viscaya” was the first one of the wrecks we came to, she is a solid mass of fire, her magazines had exploded and torn her decks all to pieces. Her big 11 inch Hontoria still points over her stern and looks as defiant as she did yesterday. Many of her dead – and there were many of them – were being wasted on her deck today and could be smelled many miles at sea, it was simply horrible. According to the estimate of her own Officers a single 13 inch shell from the Oregon yesterday killed or wounded nearly 100 men beside setting the ship on fire from one end to the other. She was the hardest nut in the fleet to crack and lost more than half of her 700 men. Those people cant fight a little bit but they had the courage of devils.
A dozen miles or so further east we came up to two more of our “targets” of yesterday, there were the “Oquenda” and “Maria Teresa”, all these ships are still burning and the odor of burning flesh was sickening. The glossy black sides of these ships have been burned till they are a dull gray – the Yankee war color. Wherever we got a good look at one of them we could see holes in plenty to show where our gunners transferred ammunition” yesterday. Shortly after passing the last two wrecks we became aware of another by running through a number of floating dead, these were likely from the torpedo boats which were the first to be destroyed. One of them made the beach before sinking but the other was cut all to pieces.
Joined the fleet off Santiago about 1 p.m. There were two British and one Austrian Cruisers looking over the situation. (If they want our view of it they have only to look along the beach).
Comodore Watson came on board shortly after we arrived and raised his flag, this making us a “Flag Ship” but the honor failed to drive any one wild with joy. In a speech he made to the crew he told us we did well but intimated that we would have done better if he had been in command. As he never did any thing that any one knows of we all hold our own opinions on the subject.
The sole remaining cruiser of the Spanish fleet which failed to come out on the 3rd was run out at 11 p.m. today – most likely with the intention of sinking her in the channel as the Merrimac was sunk, but our ships caught on to the move and sunk her before she reached the proper position. The effective work was probably due the “Massachusetts” though the Texas helped. When the firing begun the “Iowa” was laying in such a position that she could not have fired an effective shot if she had tried but the minute news paper Bob learned what had taken place he fired a few shots toward the beach and then fun for sea as hard as the ship could go. A few minutes later we could see his search lights swinging to every point of the compass in search of a news paper boat and he never let up till he found one either. I would be willing to bet my neck that he claimed to have sunk that ship but as a matter of fact not one of his shells came within six miles of it. I forgot to state that the national salute was fired by all ships present at 12. m. As a novelty our guns were loaded with shell and pointed toward Santiago (This is a literal fact though it may sound like a joke.)
July 5th, Taking things as easy today as our half starved condition will permit. Our Army and Navy Officers don’t pull together worth a cent. They resemble a pair of balky horses and are just about as effective. We could hear the troops firing last night and know there was some kind of fight going on but can get little news from the field. Admiral Sampson has a bulletin of events published once a week and distributed among the fleet but to our disgust we find him a bigger liar than Bob Evans, - if that is possible.
July 6th, Some excitement was caused this morning before daylight by a general alarm being sprung, we all got to quarters and stayed there an hour or more but nothing came of it. It was said afterward that a meteor fell among the fleet and one of them mistook it for an alarm rocket and passed the signal on.
July 7th, Comodore Watson hauled down his flag today and went back to the “Newark”, I havent noticed any tears being she over his departure, in fact he was not at all well liked by the men, there was too much saluting and salaaming entirely to suit men as tired and hungry as we are. One of the worst features of this half starved condition is that men lose their patience too easy, it just makes every one hate themselves and every one else.
The Associated Press dispatch boat “Dandy” came alongside and gave us a paper or two. They report the Spanish Commander as saying that he is’nt half whipped yet. The Spanish admiral has’nt made any remarks to that effect lately that we know of.
Got under way at 4 p.m. for Guantanamo, stopped at Briguia and left a Steam launch to help transfer some wounded soldiers. There are a fearful lot of wounded and sick there and they don’t seem able to care for them at all, if it was not for the navy they could not even transfer them to their ships. They have very few boats and cant handle what they have.
Passed the “Harvard” out bound with prisoners from the fleet – or what was the Spanish fleet before the 3rd. Arrived at Guantanamo at 10:30 p.m.
July 8th, Let all fires die out in main boilers and started fires in the auxilaries. This is the first time this has happened since leaving San Francisco. The concussion of the guns on the 3rd shook every thing to pieces and almost every piece of machinery in the ship needs repairing.
The supply ship “Celtic” came alongside and begun delivering four months supplies. Great God! But we are hungry. Looking back now I can hardly remember when we last had enough to eat, not since May 4th I am sure. Its almost a sin to spoil a good apetite like this by eating.
This supply we are getting now is short on a good many articles, salt especialy.
The “Harvard” came in this evening and reports that her prisoners mutinied and tried to capture the ship. A good many of them were killed or wounded in the fight that followed. In this fight the crew were fighting with monkey wrenches or any thing they could get hold of as they had no time to arm themselves. This is the first time I believe that the Blue Jackets have had a chance at close quarters during this so called war.
They also bring the news of the transfer of the Merrimac crew – the best news of all.
July 9th, All of the fire room force scaling boilers today, a hot, dirty job. There is no air in this bay at all and the ship is like an oven.
Every thing is quiet here, there is some talk of us going home but no one knows sure what is in store for us. An examination of the ships bottom shows her to be foul and in need of paint, guess we wore all the paint off coming around.
Took in the last of our supplies today, are quite out of several articles yet, salt in particular.
Sent all our empty powder tanks back, we are quite short of ammunition now, we had plenty when we came down here, but, have “transferred” quite a lot of it to the Spaniards at one time or annother. There is one consolation though, we put a good deal of it where it would do the most good. We fired nearly 1900 shots on the 3rd including sixty 13 inch, while the 2nd took nearly as many more.
July 10th, Knocked off all work today. Got my first days rest since the 11th of last February.
Have been visiting among the different ships in the harbor, the New York, Iowa, New Orleans and several others are for coal and provisions but none of them seemed to be at all friendly except the Texas and a few of the Smaller ships. Got a good look at that notorious fake “News paper Bob” any way. He has quite a limp, owing it is said to being shot in the stern sheets with a bale of hay while running away from Fort Fisher during the civil war. The Iowa’s crew are a little sore over the way we scooped them on the 3rd but its not our fault that Capt Evans took his ship out of the fight in order to be the first to get to a news paper boat. The fun of the thing is that at the very time he was telling the reporter how he whipped the entire fleet the Oregon was fighting two of their ships at once in plain sight of him. There is nothing like gall and he has it.
Went in swimming in the evening, the water is fine but the sharks are as thick as flies, they did not bother us any though, I guess they know a live Yankee form a dead Spaniard. If one of them had got hold of me he would have found the toughest piece of pork he ever tackled – I weigh about 140 pounds now, I weighed over 190 when we left Frisco.
July 11th, Hauled the four masted Schooner “Mary E. Palmer” alongside and begun taking coal, the New Orleans begun taking coal from the opposite side at the same time so the two crews had a chance to visit when not too busy. Her crew are nearly all east coast fishermen and sailors from the cradle up, its no wonder she made a record for herself, there is not another crew like them in the navy.
Knocked off work at 8 o’clock in order to give the crew a whole night in but instead of turning in they got our band over on the deck of theSchooner and had a Jollification till 10 p.m. then they ended up by cheering every ship in the harbor except the Iowa.
Queer people these sailors are, if I knew what they would eat I would catch one and try to tame it. I forgot to mention that the Oregon has one of the best bands of peace disturbers in the navy – on circus music, and they can even play one or two tunes, including yankee-doodle.
July 12th, Continued taking in coal today, the New Orleans left this morning and we cheered her out of the harbor. Her place was taken later by the gun boat “Wilmington” which arrived this morning in company with the Helena from Havana. They report the same kind of monkey work up there that we had before Santiago. Got the Key West papers of the 4th with a fair description of the Naval Battle, there are some mistakes but it is a more impartial account than any one expected. Are waiting for the New York papers now, the World will swear that Evans did it all, the Journal will give it all to Schley and the Lord only know which one will stick up for Sampson - he was twelve miles away but that cuts no figure in the “war”.
Some of the steam launches had a fight today in the upper bay with a Spanish outpost. Our fleet is not making any effort to clear the upper part of the bay. We have no particular use for it at present and the Spaniards are doing us no harm. This is just one more mystery in this mysterious war. If they would only promise to be good they could play in our back yard, I guess.
Begun getting ready to light fires at 8 p.m. There must have been something urgent for they rushed us for all we were worth and we did finaly get fires going at 11:30 p.m.
July 13th, Got under way at 4:30 for Santiago, arrived at 7 a.m. and reported to the flag ship, then steamed down to Baiguira [Daiquiri-editor] where we begun taking powder and 13” shells from the “Fern”. These shells are what the Spaniards call “Yankee Pigs” I believe, on account of the way they rooted up the ground around their batteries at Santiago.
Let No 4 boiler die out and begun scaling inside before it got cool. A real nice, warm job for the winter time, temperature inside the boiler 160 and not much cooler in the fire rooms. If these firemen ever die and go where we are all likely to the Devil wont dare to look us in the face.
The “Columbia” and “Minneapolis” are both here, the fastest things in our navy if not in the world. This is my first sight of them and they certainly do look grand.
Comodore Watson came aboard again and raised that “broad pennant” of his so we are a flag ship again. In a speech he made to the crew he told then that he “wanted no better ship than the Oregon”. I wonder where in the world he expected to find a better one if he did want it. There is’nt a better one floating in salt water today by actual test. For an old granny that never did any thing he certainly has a nerve. I think he copied that expression from one of Coopers novels any way.
July 14th, All hands were called at 4:30 and had coffee served out, this is a luxury we have long been without but we have plenty of it now. We were told that there was no time for breakfast as we were going in for a finish, all hands were just in the humor for that kind of work - even Cogswell who was drunk as he always is where there is any sign of a fight, made us a speech from the top of the 8 inch turret telling us how he expected to distinguish himself and ended up by telling us all about ourselves. He had got to the point where he called us a lot of drunken loafers hen he pitched head first from the turret to the Super-structure deck. I thought for a while he had Extinguished himself but a drunken fool cant be killed except by lightning.
After waiting till eight bells for the signal that never came, breakfast was piped and time passed again till dinner. Finaly late in the after noon a launch came over from the flag ship and reported that Santiago had surrendered. I don’t know how the rest of the fleet took it but I don’t think there was a cheer on the Oregon. There was a general feeling on this ship that we should have carried that harbor by the run on the 1st of June. If we had done this it would have saved the lives of some 2000 of our soldiers but with all the news paper heros we have in this fleet and a board of strategy at home to act as a drag on every move we make it is a wonder we done so well.
The work of Comodore Watson today is a sample of what we have to contend with. When the men went to quarters this morning he took his bible and went inside the conning tower. The bible is all right in its way but it is out of place in a case like this With one Officer drunk and another scared to death the ship could hardly do much in a fight.
Taken all together this siege has been no credit to us as a fleet, the individual value of the different ships has been well tested but that is about all.
Got under way for Guantanamo at 5 p.m. on three boilers arriving at 8 in company with the Texas and Indiana. Lit fires in auxiliary boilers at once and let main boilers die out.
July 15th, Begun overhauling machinery this morning, hotter than the times in “old town”.
A collier came alongside at noon and we begun filling our after bunkers. There must be some move in store for us but what it is we cant guess. Every thing is now done under hurry orders.
We can only hope that the next move will be something final as we are nearly worn out. The fire room gang on this ship look like a lot of grey hounds, many of them physically exhausted and all will be soon at this rate.
July 16th, Still coaling and over hauling machinery. Nothing moving except mosquitos, there are plenty of them.
July 17th, Got through coaling at last but there is plenty of work to keep us busy for 14 hours a day.
We have a coal supply now good for 7000 miles if necessary. Understand we are to go to Spain – Well! If they will only nail old bible back Watson to the cross before we start I am willing but he is taking the very life out of the crew. One of his past times is to call the crew aft during meal hours and while they stand in the burning sun he sits under an awning with a nigger to fan him and reads the bible to them. They ought to take him home and build a church for him – or crucify him one.
The “Yale” came in today with 2500 troops aboard, (‘two Kentucky Regiments) and the “Rita” with an Illinoise Regiment but as they did not seem to understand the wig-wag we had no way of communicating with them. About the only thing they did make us understand was that they were hungry. It is said that they are bound for Porto Rica. There is annother ship in with troops but cant make out her name. They don’t seem to understand signals at all, this is a favorite pass time with us, its a wonder they don’t learn it.
July 18th, Cleaned ship today inside and out and begun painting her inside.
There are some forty ships here now and the harbor at night is a sight that has never been seen before in this world. I dont actually think there is a fleet in the world powerful enough to whip the one we have here now.
July 18th, We were officialy assigned today as flag ship of the European Squadron with headquarters or Station on the Mediteranean, this means of course that we are to have a go at the Spanish coast. There are about a dozen vessels here that are to comprise the fleet including every battleship we have. If they will cut out the “Indiana” we will surely have a fast fleet but she never could run fast enough to leave a wake and Just now she is broken down altogether.
They have established a port of entry here and a Quarantine station. Every vessel that comes in now is forced to fly the yellow flag for luck although I don’t think there is a case of ‘Yellow jack” here. Just the same I should be glad of a move even if we got nothing but a breath of fresh air – a thing we cant get in here. Another thing that bothers us is a lack of salt. They are feeding us on fresh meat here, (and it is good meat too) but for want of salt we can hardly eat it.
It seems queer that a nation that can furnish so much beer for the Officers cant send Salt to the men but thats the case here. The Salt works must be shut down at home and the breweries working over time. The New York papers are saying that we are laying here to rest the men - I wish the man who wrote that had to “rest” in the boiler with me for about one day, he would’nt want another days rest as long as he lived.
July 19th, Every thing moving about as usual today, finished painting ship but are still overhauling machinery. There is plenty of it and it all needs repairs but we are only giving it a lick and a promise this time. Five of our fire room force were sent north today – there insane, one broken down and one discharged, their places were taken by five negroes from the New York – black as the ace of spades every one of them.
Another ship came in today with troops, dont know what Regiment or the name of the ship.
July 20th, One of the “Torpedo – gunboats” captured at Santiago came in today. She is a smart looking boat but can hardly be called a gun boat by our ratings, in fact she is of a type between a small tug and a torpedo boat, we have none of this class of vessels in our navy. She is said to have a speed of 19 knots.
Comodore Watson is still stirring up trouble with the men. Every time the wind moves that “broad pennant” of his he wants it saluted, they have fired three salutes today – one for him, one for his bible and another for his nigger.
We are not allowed on deck now except in spotless white and as we are not allowed water to wash in that means that us “Underground Savages” are not allowed on deck at all in daylight and the Lord knows we need a breath of fresh air when we can get it. The men are all covered with prickly heat and many of them with running sores from the fact that we could not get water to wash with, many of them have not been able to wear a shirt at all for a couple of months, some of the Relief associations sent down bandages and many other things for us (as a gift) but Cogswell and that other thief, the Ships Writer put them in the commisary and are selling to the men at foul prices and putting the money in their own pockets.
There is going to be a change on this ship soon or there will be a mutiny as sure as fate.
July 21st, Several of the Merchant Vessels captured in Santiago bay came in last night, there are some 40 in all ranging from small coasting steamers to Ocean liners.
The “Imortal three” Sampson, Schley, Evans & Co worked their usual flim-flam game at Santiago by sending all the other ship away before they went in after these ships. Now if they are allowed prize money for them their share will be simply enormous while the rest of the fleet wont get a cent. Those three are bashful enough when there is any fighting to do but work like this is where they shine.
All the transports got up their anchors today and left for San Juan. One of the ships that was loaded with mules turned them all loose for exercise on the beach today, glad I didnt have the job of helping load them again for they certainly did make up for the week or so that they had been confined on shipboard.
One of our Monitors just come in with mail, she is either the “Puritan” or “Furor” but as they are just alike we cant tell which from here.
July 22nd, The Spanish Garrison at Caimaneira sent a gun boat down with a flag of truce today, did not learn their object. This place is in the Province of Santiago and the troops here were surrendered by Gen Toral but they have held out so far, as they are surrounded now it is only a matter of time till they must give in even if they are not bothered at all.
The “Yankee” came in last night from Key West with mail and ammunition for us. They have sent us smokeless powder at last. So far we have been using the old prismatic powder that smokes like a burning hay stack every time it is fired.
After July 22nd I gave up keeping a diary, partly owing to lack of paper but mostly owing to our over work. Capt. Clark left us about August 1st and his place was taken by Capt Barker. The latter had been in command of the ship before and was well liked by the men but he came back to us a badly disapointed man and a very disagreeable Captain, he did however straighten things out for a while but there was trouble in the ship till I left her in September.
We left Guantanamo bay for New York with the fleet on Aug 15th and arrived of the20th, on the way up the fire room force was almost in open mutiny, they blew the man-hole gaskets out of one boiler twice and wasted some 15000 gallons of water. They clogged the pumps and done every thing they could to injure the ship. In fact instead of being the best ship in the fleet as she always had been the Oregon became for the time being slower that even the Indiana.
After reaching New york the ship was sent to the Brooklyn Navy yard to be docked and after trying till Sept 15th to get the old fire room force to work they finaly gave up in disgust and transferred us to the “Vermont” where I served till Jan 6th when I was discharged by application.