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Report of the Operations of the U. S. S. "YANKEE."
In the spanish-American War
by Commander W. B. Duncan, Jr.

HEADQUARTERS FIRST NAVAL BATTALION, NEW YORK ,
Foot East Twenty-eighth Street,
U. S. S . " NEW HAMPSHIRE ,"
NE W YORK, September 22d, 1898.

Captain J . W . MILLER ,
Commanding Naval Militia, New York.
SIR :—

I beg to submit my report of the work performed by the detail, from the first naval battalion of New York on the U . S . S . " Yankee."

1 received orders on April 23d, to send a detail of officers and men to the navy yard, New York, who were willing to volunteer for duty on the "Yankee," and on A p r i l 26th, sent the detail as ordered. The men a l l enlisted, and the officers passed their examinations and were duly commissioned, having been granted leaves of absence by the commander-in-chief, New York state.

The crew of the " Yankee," with the exception of the commanding officer, executive officer and navigator, was entirely composed of men furnished by the first naval battalion of New York.

The only casualties occurring were the death of Landsman T. C. LeValley from appendicitis at Key West, Fla,,, after an operation had been performed by the surgeons of the hospital, and the wounding of Landsman S. P. Kennedy in an engagement with a Spanish gunboat at Cienfuegos, June 17th. The latter was transferred to the hospital ship " Solace," and has recovered. When the ship's company were paid off at Philadelphia, September 2d, 1898, there was no one on the sick list, and the battalion marched across to the " New Hampshire" with 100 per cent, present, which of itself shows the care and attention that was paid to the health and comfort of the men by the regular officers in charge of the ship.

I inclose abstract of the log of the " Yankee." We joined the ship May Gth; left the yard May 9th; proceeded to sea May 11th, and from that time on were continuously on duty on the northern patrol until May 29th, when she sailed from New York for Cuba, and from that date until the ship arrived in New York, August 28th, we were actively engaged in Cuban waters.

I am glad to report that during the whole cruise there were no serious Infractions of regulations, and nothing but very light punishments were found necessary by the commanding officer of the " Yankee." When the men first went aboard the " Yankee" they were absolutely unaccustomed to sea life and to looking after themselves in the messes or elsewhere, and the exigencies of the service were such that they were sent on a ship hurriedly and incompletely fitted out, and the day. after leaving the navy yard the ship went to sea on patrol duty, which kept the ship constantly at sea, and gave no chance for the usual shaking down. A l l this made it very hard on the crew, and It took longer for them to get In shape. As to handling the battery, that was picked up at once, and the men were always ready and keen at any time to jump to their guns. While in southern waters they were called on to coal ship several times night and day, vHiieh was work of a very trying character, and work which they never had been called on before to do, but it was done without any complaints, irrespective of time or temperature, and to the best of their ability.

The only criticism that has been made of the officers and crew was the fact that they were not seagoing men. and in this respect I would state that in January last I was unofficially in Washington, and while there called at the navy department and asked if they could tell me, supposing we had trouble with Spain, what the men of the first naval battalion, New York, would be required to do. I was told that we would be on the second line of defense, and I endeavored to get ready on that line. When the war did break out I was ordered, on very short notice, to furnish a crew for the U. S. S. " Nahant" and U. S. S. " Yankee," besides manning the signal stations. These crews were furnished when required. I respectfully suggest that if the naval militia, of New York state, is expected to furnish full crews for ships in times of war, the United States government should supply them with a seagoing vessel, capable of berthing at least one hundred men, and mounting a few modern rapid-fire guns, which vessel could be taken out on short cruises in summer, and would give the officers and men a chance to familiarize themselves in time of peace with the duties they would be called on to perform in time of war.

In conclusion, I beg to state that the officers and men of the first naval battalion, New York, have responded to every call of the government; have performed all the duties that were required of them cheerfully, and to the best of their ability.

Very respectfully, W. B. DUNCAN, J R . , Commander.

Extract of Log of the U. S. S. " Yankee ."

Thursday, A p r i l 14th: The U. S. S. "Yankee/' formerly the Morgan liner " E l Norte," was placed in commission in the Brooklyn navy yard.

Tuesday, April 19th: Commander Will aid H . Brownson joined the " Yankee " and took command of her.

Friday, May Gth: Naval militia joined the ship, and commenced taking on ammunition and stores.

Sunday, May 8th: United -States marine guard came aboard under the command of Lieutenant Pendleton.

Monday, May 9th: The " Y a n k e e " left the navy yard and proceeded to anchorage off Tompkinsville, where we remained until

Wednesday, May 11th: Proceeded to Provincetown, Mass., arriving there on the evening of the same day. That night received orders to proceed with the U. >S. S. " Columbia," to the vicinity of Block Island, and in company with that vessel to establish a patrol from Block Island to Henlopen. This duty we performed in conjunction with the " Columbia," for a portion of the time, and over the whole route from Block Island to Henlopen for the remainder of the time until

Thursday, May 26th: Proceeded to New York for coal. The orders under which we were acting, while on patrol duty, made it necessary for us to report every day, either at Block Island or Henlopen. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary for us to run at a high rate of speed, day and night, generally through thick and foggy weather. At night we were not allowed to show any lights or sound the whistle, so that this duty was a particularly dangerous one. This latter fact is evidenced by the accident the " Columbia" met with, shortly after we had returned to New York, when a British tramp vessel ran into her, ramming a large hole in her side and sinking the Englishman.

Sunday, May 29th: Sailed from New York, passing Sandy Hook at 5.09 p. m.; steamed to the southward.

Monday, May 30th: While at target practice, Corporal John James Murray was killed, and Private Jesse Fuller, both of the marine guard, was wounded by an accident at the forward port six-pounder, due to an unusually long hang-fire of the English cordite. At sunset Corporal Murray was buried at sea with appropriate ceremonies.

Thursday, June 2d: Arrived at Mole St. Nicholas at 5.30 p. in., and sighted in the dusk two suspicious steamers. We cleared ship for action and steamed slowly into the harbor. The suspicious steamers turned out to be the " St. Louis " and the collier " Justin." We all left the Mole that night.

Friday, June 3d: Arrived at Santiago de Cuba early in the morning, the " Justin " coming in after us. We found the fleet off Santiago to consist of the following: The flagship " New York," " Brooklyn," " Iowa," " Massachusetts," " Oregon," " Texas," " New Orleans," « Dolphin," " Mayflower," " St. Louis," " Porter," " Marblehead " and despatch boats. We at once reported to the flagship and took up our position with the fleet. About 11 p. nr., the " New Orleans," being stationed next to us, sent up three red rockets, and signalled that she had seen a torpedo boat putting off from the harbor. The u New Orleans " at once started blazing away at the torpedo boat, and the " Yankee " quickly followed suit. Signals were sent up summoning the entire fleet, and in a few minutes the whole squadron was bearing down upon the u New Orleans " and " Yankee," and amidst a terrific bombardment the torpedo boat disappeared. The next morning the " Porter " picked up two expended torpedo tubes.

Saturday, June 4th: In the afternoon we received a signal from the flagship to " clear ship for action," and to take up our position preparatory to bombarding the forts. We at once prepared to engage the enemy, the " Yankee" having the best position nearest the forts and the shore. When close inland we discovered a small battery, and Commander Brownson signalled to the. flagship for permission to bombard the fort near the railway trestle and reduce it, but the admiral signalled back " You may not reduce the fort," much to the disgust of all the officers and crew. About 5 p. m., the admiral signalled that the forts were not to be attacked to-day, and the fleet retired; each ship resuming its original position.

Sunday, June 5th: Lying i n our position with the fleet

Monday, June 6th: A t 5 a. m., all hands were called, and 7.30 the bombardment of the forts and batteries of Santiago de Cuba commenced. The " New York " was nearest the shore, and next to her and between her and the " New Orleans " the " Yankee " took up her position. The bombardment lasted three hours, during which time all the batteries were silenced. During the latter part of the bombardment the " Yankee " had the closest position to the batteries and shore. The " Yankee " and " New Orleans " also silenced the small battery near the railway trestle. About noon the " Dolphin " noticed a train running along the railway near the coast, and promptly opened fire on the train with its small guns, killing., it is reported, 112 men, and tearing up a great deal of the track. The " Yankee " was the last ship to retire from the bombardment.

Tuesday, June 7th: The " Yankee," " St. Louis " and Marbiehead " all sailed for Guantanamo, or Fort Cumberland, arriving there about 5 in the morning, when all hands were called. We at once started in bombarding a block-house and small village near the entrance of the harbor. The block-house was entirely destroyed, as was the village, by the " Yankee," and we (the " Marblehead " aud " Yankee ") then proceeded further up the harbor, until we sighted a Spanish gunboat, at which we took several shots, but were unable to hit her, owing to the fact that she retired behind the fort. We then sent several shots into the fort, and returned to the " St. Louis," which had been left at the entrance of the harbor to cut the cables. This she succeeded in doing, cutting both cables, the " Marblehead " cutting the third and a. smaller one; the result being that Santiago de Cuba, is now without cable connection of any kind, and is unable to communicate either by mail or cable with Spain or the rest of the world. At 10 p. m., the " Yankee " sailed for Santiago de Cuba.

Thursday, June 9th: Left Santiago de Cuba about midnight of Wednesday, arriving at Mole St. Nicholas at noon. On the way we overhauled two steamers—one turning out to be the " Norse," a Norwegian steamer, and the other the " E l y , " an Englishman. We fired a blank shot from our forward six-pounder to bring these vessels to. The papers of both were examined and found to be correct. A bumboat came alongside from the Mole, and we were able to buy oranges, alligator pears, and other fruit. Heat terrific. The troops of the fort at the Mole were paraded in our honor. We left the Mole about 7 p. m., and at 10 p. m., sighted a light off our port bow. Later on more lights were discovered, one of them being a very powerful search light, and it was supposed that we had ran across the Spanish fleet. We put on full steam and eventually succeeded in getting away from the fleet and arrived safely at Santiago de Cuba early

Friday, June 10th: We reported our experience to the admiral, and a boat was sent ashore to inquire definitely whether the Cervera fleet was still in the harbor. We left Santiago at noon and arrived at Port Antonio, Jamaica, at 7 p. m., leaving there

Saturday, June 11th, at 1 a. m., and arriving at Montego Bay, Jamaica, at 8 in the morning. We found in the harbor the English cruiser " Indefatigable," and our captain went on board. Later in the day Captain Primrose returned the visit.

Sunday, June 12th: Left Montego Bay Saturday evening, arriving at Santiago de Cuba early Sunday morning. At noon to-day we sailed from Santiago and proceeded along the southern coast of Cuba in search of the Spanish steamer " Purissima Conception," arriving at Cienfuegos

Monday, June 13th: At 1.15 p. m., we sighted a steamer near the entrance of the harbor, which proved to be a gunboat, apparently coming out of the harbor to capture what she thought to be an American merchantman. We trained our guns aft to keep up the illusion, and started for her at full speed. As soon as w7e were close enough to her we opened fire upon her, which she immediately returned with good aim. The forts and batteries in the harbor also opened on us, the shells from both the forts and the gunboat falling close around us. Another boat, a smaller one, at this time came out of the harbor and assisted the first gunboat and forts, but eventually we succeeded in driving both of the enemy's boats into the harbor after a hard fight, and we ourselves retired to a safe distance. During the engagement Landsman Kennedy- was seriously wounded in the left shoulder. We dropped several shells into the forts, exploding a magazine. We afterwards learned from the Cubans that we had hit the gunboat, killing four men and wounding seven, and the boat itself had to be beached as soon as it got to the river.

Tuesday, June 14th: Sighted a man-of-war coming out of the harbor; immediately cleared ship for action, and gave chase. She turned out to be the German cruiser " Geira." We spoke her, and she proceeded on her way. Returned to Cienfuegos, and continued the blockade of the fort.

Wednesday, June 15th: Still off Cienfuegos watching for Spanish nierchantman, but as she did not put in an appearance by noon, we started at 1 p. m., for Santiago de Cuba, arriving there Thursday, June 16th, at 1.30 p. m., too late for bombardment of the forts, which had taken place earlier in the day. The " Vesuvius " was very successful in dropping several dynamite shells into one of the batteries, creating great damage.

Friday, June 17th: Left Santiago at 11 a. nr., for Guantanamo, where we arrived at 2.30 p. m., finding in the harbor the " Oregon," " Dolphin," " St. P a u l , " " Solace," and several other American ships. The American flag was flying over an encampment occupied by the marines, and the Cuban flag flying over the village destroyed by us on our last visit. Landsman Kennedy and Seamen Whitman and Bogert were transferred to the hospital ship " Solace."

Saturday, June 18th: Coaled all Friday night and Saturday at Guantanamo, where we were joined by the " St. Paul," " New York," and. other ships. Left here 6 p. in., bound for Cienfuegos.

Sunday, June 19th: En-route for Cienfuegos. Overhauled and boarded the British schooner " Union," bound from Montego Bay to Trinidad, Cuba. A small lire was discovered in one of our bunkers, which was extinguished. Overhauled a Norwegian bark, and also overhauled and boarded the British steamer " Adula," of the Atlas line, with a number of Spanish refugees from Cienfuegos, bound for Kingston, Jamaica.. Arrived off Cienfuegos in the evening.

Monday, June 20th: During the night we arrived off Casilda and discovered a steamer in the harbor; also a dismantled gunboat. We opened fire on the steamer at 9.30 a. m., and she came out for a short time, but rapidly retreated to the harbor under our fire. A small gunboat also came out and fired at us without effect. We shelled the fort with shrapnel and did some damage, but, as we were unable to enter the harbor, could not destroy either the gunboat or steamer. We ceased firing at 12.30 p. m.

Tuesday, June 21st: While cruising along the coast to the west of Cienfuegos, about noon, we saw a small party of Cubans, and sent a boat ashore to communicate with them. The boat brought back three of their leaders, one of them being the governor of Matanzas, Colonel E. V . Zegueira, and we supplied them with provisions, medicines, tobacco, etc. The Cubans also told us that we sunk the gunboat that came out of Cienfuegos harbor on the 13th of June, and attacked us under cover of the forts. They said that the gunboat was riddled from stem to stern, and took fire and burned the moment she got back to the wharf. Pour of her men were killed and seven wounded. While the whaleboat was being hoisted after taking the Cubans ashore, it was dropped, and all the men were pitched Into the sea, but fortunately they were all saved. In the evening we sighted our sister ship, the " Dixie," and our captain went aboard her.

Wednesday, June 22d: Off Casilda harbor. Tried to make an entrance into the harbor, sending a whaleboat ahead of us to mark out the channel with buoys, but finally decided that it would not be safe to take such an unwieldy and cumbersome boat up the harbor. The " Dixie," Commander Davis, threw some shells into a small fort near Casilda., the fort answering once or twice, but without effect.

Thursday, June 23d: Still blockading Casilda and Trinidad de Cuba. Nothing of importance occurred to-day. We sent a whaleboat ashore near Casilda, but were unable to communicate with the insurgents.

Friday, June 24th: Off Trinidad de Cuba. At noon, while cruising along the coast, five miles to the west of Trinidad de Cuba, we discovered a Cuban flag on the shore. A whaleboat was sent in, and brought off a lieutenant of the Cuban army, who reported that there was a small force of Cubans in the vicinity. We supplied them with some provisions and tobacco.

Saturday, June 25th: We left Trinidad de Cuba at dusk on Friday evening, arriving off the coast of the Isle of Pines about noon, where we discovered several small sloops. We fired a blank shot across their bows, but, as they paid no attention to this, we sent a solid one, to which they replied by hoisting the Spanish flag and sailing close inshore under cover of the reefs. In the afternoon we sent two cutters to the fishing boats; one boat under Lieutenant Cutler and the other under Ensign Dimock. These boats captured the fishing smacks, five in number, and brought them alongside the "Yankee." They had a large quantity of fish aboard, intended for Havana; four dogs and two Spaniards. The dogs and Spaniards were brought aboard, and the Spaniards were allowed to return ashore with their own effects later in the evening. The boats were burned and sunk during the night. In the evening we sighted what was apparently a Spanish torpedo boat, but she disappeared on seeing us, and we saw no more of her.

Sunday, June 26th: Cruising off the coast of the Isle of Pines during the night and early morning. Boarded the American ship "Hollyhock;" found her papers were all right, and permitted her to proceed on her way to Honduras. Also boarded the British steamer " Bangore Head," bound from Swansea to New Orleans. About 9 a. nr., started for Key West, F l a . , arriving there without any further incident on Monday, June 27th, for coal, provisions, ammunition, etc., at 12.35 p. in., and found there among other ships the following: "Lancaster," flagship "Newark," " Amphitrite," " Terror," " Miantonomoh " and " Puritan."

Tuesday, June 28th: Commenced taking on coal at 7 a. in. Transferred Seamen LeValley and Fowler and Coal Passer Mackin to the Marine Hospital at Key West, Fla .

Wednesday to Saturday, July 2d: Taking on coal and provisions at Key West. On Friday, July 1st, Seaman LeVailey died in tlie Marine Hospital, Key West, from appendicitis.

Sunday, July 3d: Left Key West at 4 a. m. A. Kelly, jack-ofilie- dust, left in the Marine Hospital suffering from the effects of the sun.

Monday, July 4th: Fired a salute of 21 guns at noon. Bound north for New Y'ork on account of the report that Seaman Le Valley died of yellow fever contracted on board this ship. Wednesday, July Gth: Arrived off Tompkinsville at 9 a. m., having passed quarantine without any trouble.

Wednesday, July 6th, to Tuesday, July 12th: Taking on coal for ourself, and ammunition for ourselves and the ships constituting Watson's squadron. The crew was granted 24 hours shore leave, the port watch going ashore on Friday and the starboard on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 12th: Sailed from Tompkinsville at 3 p. m v and after a rough night arrived at Hampton Roads, Va.., Wednesday, July 1.3th, at 4 p. m., proceeding straight to the nayv yard, Norfolk, Va., where we arrived at 6.50 p. m.

Thursday, July 14th: Taking on ammunition for Watson's squadron and making a few changes in the ship. Commander Brownson went to Washington in the evening, returning Sunday, July 17th, -in the morning. Sailed from Norfolk, Va., at 3.00 p. m., bound for Santiago-de Cuba.

Monday, July 18th, a board was convened, consisting of Lieutenants Cutler and Greene and Passed Assistant Surgeon J . P. McGowan, to inquire into the circumstances of the death of Private W. W. 'Smith, U . S. M . C , who shot himself in the pilot-house of the "Yankee" on July 8th. The court found that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a revolver.

Wednesday, July 20th: Overhauled and boarded the British steamer " Brookline," of the Boston Fruit Company line, bound from Kingston to Boston, with mails aboard. Had to fire two solid shot across her bows before we could bring her to. Court-martial held to-day on an oiler and fireman for refusing to obey orders.

Thursday, July 21st: Arrived off Santiago de Cuba at 9.15 a. m. Commander Brownson went on board the flagship " Brooklyn " immediately. At noon we proceeded to Guantanamo, having in tow the converted yacht " Yankton," which had arrived off Santiago with only one ton of coal in her bunkers. We arrived at Guantanamo Bay at 4 p. m., and found assembled there the flagship " New York," " Oregon," " Indiana," " Iowa," " Vulcan," " Vesuvius," and a large number of colliers and supply skips.

Friday, July 22d: Commenced unloading the ammunition and supplies we had brought from New York and Norfolk for distribution among the fleet.

Saturday, July 23d: Still unloading ammunition.

Sunday, July 24th: The crew split up into visiting parties and went to see the other ships.

Monday, July 25th, to Thursday, Jul}' 28th: Unloading ammunition and taking on 400 tons of coal. On Thursday night the following official bulletin was posted on the gun deck, having been received from the flagship "New York " : "The following telegram has been received from New York by way of Santiago: ' Washington official bulletin states that Spain formally sues for peace through the French ambassador.' " The bulletin was read with much enthusiasm by the crew.

Friday, July 29th: At 7.15 a. m., the commander-in-chief of the North Atlantic squadron, Bear Admiral William T. Sampson, with his chief of staff, came aboard, and at 8 o'clock the " Yankee " left Guantanamo Bay, steering to the westward past Santiago de Cuba, and viewing the wrecks of the " Maria Theresa" and " Oquendo;" returning to Guantanamo Bay at 5.30 p. m. The commander-in-chief then left the ship.

Saturday, July 30th: Lying in Guantanamo Bay.

Sunday, July 31st: Still at anchor at Guantanamo Bay. Arisiting parties went to Camp McCalla and to the various ships in the afternoon.

Monday, August 1st: At 8 p. m., hove anchor and left for Ponce by the admiral's directions, with ammunition for the " Massachusetts."

Tuesday, August 2d: At 3 in the afternoon met the " Dixie," and upon Commander Davis informing us that the " Massachusetts " had left Ponce, Porto Rico, on Monday bound for Guantanamo, we reversed our course, returning to Guantanamo. At 11 p. m., we overhauled and boarded the British steamer " B u r ton," but finding her papers all right, permitted her to proceed on her way.

Wednesday, August 3d: About 9 a. m., sighted the Norwegian steamer " Marie," overhauled her and sent an armed boarding crew with Lieutenant Cutler to examine her papers; these and her cargo being suspicious, Lieutenant Cutler and his crew remained on board i n possession and brought her in behind the " Yankee " to Guantanamo, where we arrived at noon. Immediately upon our reporting to the admiral our catch, and the overhauling of the " Burton," he sent us out to sea again to endeavor to catch the latter ship which we succeeded in doing about 3.30 p. nr., that same afternoon, and placed Lieutenant Duncan with an armed boarding crew aboard her. The " Yankee " reached Guantanamo at 6 p. in., and the " Burton " about two hours later.

Thursday, August 4th: Lying in Guantanamo Bay. At 11 p. m., the admiral notified the " Burton " that she might proceed out of the bay at her own w i l l ; the " Marie " still held. At 10.30 p. m., the following signal was flashed from the flagship: " Secretary cables negotiations pending for peace. You will not sail until further orders."

Friday, August 5th, to Wednesday, August 10th: Lying at anchor in Guantanamo Bay. On Wednesday, August 10th, at 9.40 p. m., the following message was flashed from the United States flagship " New Y o r k " : "Associated press dispatch states that peace protocol has been agreed upon." On August 8th the Norwegian steamer " Marie " was permitted by the admiral to goto Santiago and unload her cargo.

Thursday, August 11th: Got under way and stood out of Guantanamo harbor at 5.45 p. in., bound for Crooked channel, which we, together with the " Dixie " and " Brooklyn," were to patrol in search of the blockade runner " Montserrat." We remained off Crooked channel until Sunday evening at 6 p. nr., without finding the u Montserrat."

Sunday, August 14th: At 6 p.m., started for Guantanamo, and at 10.20 p. m., passed the flagship " New York " with a number of other ships bound for home. The " N ew Y o r k " signalled to us: " Hostilities have ceased—blockade raised—we are bound to New York—proceed to Guantanamo." To which we replied: " Congratulations on going to New Y'ork."

Monday, August loth: Dropped anchor in Guantanamo Bay at 8.30 a. m. Commodore Watson in command of the " Badger." Tuesday, August 15th, to Wednesday, August 24th: Lying at anchor in Guantanamo Bay with the fleet under the command of Commodore J . C. Watson. On Tuesday evening, August 23d, at 6 p. m., we received orders to proceed the next day to Tompkinsville. Wednesday, August 24th: At noon left Guantanamo Bay, homeward bound.

Sunday, August 28th: Arrived off Tompkinsville at 10.35 a. m. Tuesday, August 30th: At 11 a. m., got under way, bound for League Island navy yard, Philadelphia, where we were ordered by the department to proceed and be mustered out. Arrived there early

Wednesday, August 31st, and on

Friday, September 2d, were mustered out; paid off and sent via the Pennsylvania railroad to New York.

 

A printable version of this report is here.

 

 

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