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Captain Miller's Report of Guarding Mine Fields
In the spanish-American War

HEADQUARTERS N A V A L MILITIA, N . Y . ,
NEW YORK , May 23, 1898.
Adjutant-General, General Headquarters, Albany, N. Y.
SIR :—I have the honor to enclose herewith the detailed report of Lieutenant-Commander For shew, commanding the patrol fleet of tugs employed by the state in guarding the mine fields in Gedney, Swash and Main channels off Sandy Hook, at the Narrows and between Willet's Point and Throgg's Neck. The service performed by this detail from the second naval battalion was most arduous, and it was accomplished in a most creditable manner. The nature of the duty called for the exercise of most excellent judgment on the part of the officers, and the benefit derived not only by the army authorities engaged in laying and protecting the mines, but also by the commerce of this port, has been incalculable.

I have personally received assurances from interested parties, indicating a full appreciation of the service performed by the state i n the emergency which required immediate action in order to protect both lives and property.

Respectfully,
(Signed) J. W. MILLER,
Captain N. M..

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER FORSHEW'S REPORT.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND NAVAL BATTALION, N . Y.,
BROOKLYN, N. Y., May 18, 1898.
Commander W. H . STAYTON, Second Naval Battalion, N. Y.
SIR :—I have the honor to make the following report of the tour of duty performed by a detachment of the second naval battalion patrolling the mine fields at the eastern and southern entrances to New York harbor, acting under orders of Captain J . W. Miller of May 6th, and your orders of May 7th, 1898. Together with these orders were forwarded to me the following papers:

1. Copy of " Regulations for the Navigation of the Eastern and Southern Entrances to New Yrork Harbor in time of War."

2. Copy of letter from Rear Admiral Erben, U . S. N., dated May 7, 1898.

3. Memorandum entitled: "Signals for Patrol Vessels."

4. Copy of letter from Commander W. L. Field, U . S. N., dated May 7, 1898.

5. Copy of letter from Captain J . W. Miller, dated May 7, 1898.

I inclose copies of all the above papers.

The detail assembled at the armory at 3. p. m., May 7, 1898, where equipments and one day's rations were served out. Detail left armory about 5 p. m., upon receipt of your final instructions through Lieutenant W. G. Ford, and left Jewell's Wharf, Brooklyn, at 6.20 p. m., on the following tugs:

" Charm," Lieutenant-Commander R. P. Forshew and Ensign L. E. Tuzo.

" H e a l t h , " Lieutenant R. J . Beach, Lieutenant and Surgeon J . C. MacEvitt and Ensign Charles Hall.

" Raymond," Lieutenant Wo G. Ford and Engineer-Lieutenant R, E. Hall.

" Dalzell," Lieutenant Howard Patterson, Lieutenant and Paymaster A . R, Pardington and Ensign E . J . Welch.

" Moore," Lieutenant M . A . Orlopp and Acting Ensign F . Bloodgood.

" Excelsior," Lieutenant E. M. Harmon and Lieutenant (J. G.) C. E. Braine.

" Starbuck," Lieutenant (J. G.) B. E. French and Acting Ensign E. F. Haubold.

"Atwood," Lieutenant (J. G.) T. R. Beal.

Battalion launch, Lieutenant (J. G.) C. B. Reid and Ensign F . R. Hirsh.

The " Health " and Battalion launch were ordered to Willet's Point; the " Dalzell " to naval militia headquarters, and the other tugs to duty in lower bay.

Upon arrival at Fort Hamilton, about 7.30 p. m., Lieutenant Ford and myself landed and called upon Colonel Ramsey to consult about patrol of mine fields. At 9 p. m., the tugs were detailed to stations as follows: "Charm," to upper end of Narrows; " Excelsior " to lower end of Narrows; " Starbuek" to inner end of Swash channel; " Moore," inside of Sandy Hook; " Raymond " and " Atwood," outside of Sandy Hook.

On account of severe weather; limited knowledge of location of mines in lower bay, and the fact that all lights were extinguished, except at Sandy Hook and Navesink, the " Raymond " and "Atwood " were ordered not to go outside of Sandy Hook until daylight.

The weather during Saturday night was very severe, with wind, rain and heavy sea, and the officers and men were on duty all night.

Sunday morning, May 8th, the 12-hour boats, " Moore," " Excelsior " and " Charm," transferred their crews to other tugs and returned to the city, returning to the patrol fleet about 6. p. m. This was done every day we were on duty. The bad weather continued during Sunday and Sunday night, but the tugs were able to take their assigned stations. The above stations were continued during our tour of duty, excepting that tugs occasionally exchanged stations for purposes of relief, and in order that officers and men might obtain better knowledge of the different parts of the harbor. Reported at naval militia headquarters for further instructions. Commander W. II. Stayton visited the patrol fleet and arranged a set of signals between the forts and the patrol.

On Monday, May 9th, orders were issued to the officers commanding tugs to see that men stood their trick at the wheel, and were instructed in signals, channels, lights, buoys and ranges in lower bay, the use of the lead, and practice with rifles and revolvers. This instruction was to continue whenever possible and during continuance of our duty. Signal practice was held with Fort Hamilton.

Tuesday, May 10th, the tug " Raymond," Lieutenant Ford, picked up a mine adrift in lower bay and returned it to the officer in command at Fort Wadsworth. The " Dalzell " reported for duty from headquarters during the day and remained with us during the rest of tour.

Through the generous offer of Mr. Alfred Carr, of New York, the steam yacht " Llewellyn " was placed at the disposal of the second naval battalion for service during their tour of duty. A detachment of men was sent to Manning's basin, with an additional detail sent from the armory, and the yacht was put in commission and reported to me on Wednesday morning, May 11th, at 2 o'clock. The use of this yacht was of great benefit to us and enabled us to more efficiently perform our duty. The "Llewellyn" was used as flagship of the patrol fleet during the balance of our tour.

Thursday, May 12th, the flagship reported at naval militia headquarters and took Captain J . W. Miller and staff, and Commander W. EL Stayton, on a tour of inspection of stations in lower bay.

Friday, May 13th, a detail of officers and men detached to join a larger detail sent to Philadelphia to join the monitor " Jason " and bring her to New York.

Mines were placed in mid-channel at the Narrows near the middle buoy by the army officers, and a. tug was stationed there to keep passing vessels from fouling the mines. These mines were removed from the channel Saturday morning.

Saturday, May 14th, about noon the steamer " L a Tourraine " i n passing out of the main ship channel fouled a boat containing men working at the mines and two of the men were drowned. Two of our tugs immediately steamed to the scene of accident, but were too late to be of service. About 8 p. m., the tug " Raymond " picked up a small boat containing three men on the mine fields and turned the men over to the authorities at Fort Hancock.

Sunday, May 15th, the " Llewellyn " reported at naval militia headquarters and took Captain Miller down to the patrol fleet.

Monday, May 16th, I reported for duty at the armory leaving Lieutenant TV. G. Ford in command of patrol with orders to withdraw patrol at 3 p. m., Tuesday, and to notify the authorities at the forts before leaving.

Tuesday, May 14th, contract for tugs having expired, the detachment returned to armory, excepting engineer's force and five petty officers and men who remained on the "Llewellyn " to put her out of commission.

Our active work for each day began about 3:30 a. m., when vessels anxious to get in or out of the harbor began to approach the channels through mines, in order to get through as soon as possible after 4 o'clock, the time when channels were opened. The next four hours were very busy ones trying to straighten out the ever increasing fleet of vessels trying to get through, each one impatient at any loss of time, and many willing to violate the regulations if a little time could be saved. Vessels were hailed; given directions for passing through, and If possible a tug proceeded them, and at times vessels were towed out of the fields.

Several times buoys were carried away by vessel* and were replaced by us if possible, or if not the light-bouse service was B®tified to replace them. This work continued until 8 p. m., when channels were closed, and we began our all-night cruising across the entrances and from Navesink to Rockaway, keeping a l l vessels from passing out or in, or anchoring within the prescribed limits from Sandy Hook.

The weather, for the most part, was execrable; accommodations for the officers and men cramped, and for the first three days but few were able to remove their clothing at any time, yet all performed their duty cheerfully and well.

From time to time there has been forwarded to you reports of vessels violating the regulations of the harbor.

Lieutenants Beach and Reid who were in charge at Willet's Point, having been ordered to Philadelphia, no full report has yet been obtained from that end of the line. The last few days the detail was in charge of Acting Ensign P. Bloodgood. Wben Mr. Bloodgood reported to Major Knight at Willet's Point that the detail was to leave, Major Knighit took occasion to express his appreciation of the work of the detail and his regret at their departure. I judge from this that their work must have been satisfactory.

The authorities at the forts assisted us in every way possible and I would suggest that a letter conveying our thanks be sent to them.

Respectfully,
R. P. FORSHEW,
Lieutenant-Comnvandcr 2d N . B.
Approved May 21, 1898.

Respectfully forwarded to headquarters naval militia, N. Y . 1 request that Lieutenant-Commander Forshew be officially commended for his excellent and expeditious work in organizing and employing this detail. Very respectfully,
W. H. STAYTON,
Commander 2d N . B., N. Y.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND NAVAL BATTALION, N. Y.,
BROOKLYN, N. Y., May 7, 1898.
Lieutenant-Commander R. P. FORSHEW, 2d N. B., N. Y.
Sir:—I transmit herewith for your information and guidance, copies of the following papers relating to the patrolling of New York harbor and adjacent waters, viz.:

1. A letter from Commander Wells L. Field, United States navy, to the commanding officer of the naval militia of this state, together with the three enclosures therein referred to.

2. A communication from Captain J . W. Miller to the commanding officer of this battalion, dated May 6, 1898.

3. A communication from Captain J . W. Miller to the commanding officer of this battalion, dated May 7, 1898.

You are hereby detailed to command the force necessary for the performance of the duty referred to in said communications. You will select the officers (not exceeding sixteen) required to assist you in the performance of this duty. Such officers, petty officers and men, upon selection by you, and notification thereof, are hereby detached for duty as a special detail. You will cause their pay accounts to be made up on a single roll, regardless of the divisions to which the men belong.

You will station the vessels as follows:

First.—At Willet's Point and Execution Rock, the battalion launch and tug " Health." No vessels to be allowed to pass this station from 8 p. m., to 4 a. m. Vessels to be piloted through the proper channels, following patrol vessels, between the hours of 4 a. m., and 8 p. m.

Second.—At the Narrows, tugs " Charm " and " Excelsior." No vessels to be allowed to pass this station from 8 p. m., to 4 a. m. After the " Charm " and " Excelsior " are relieved in the morning one of the large tugs (" Raymond," " Atwood," or " Starbuck ") will patrol at the Narrows. From 4 a. nr., to 8 p. m., vessels will be escorted through the proper channel, following a patrol vessel.

Third.—At Sandy Hook, tugs " Atwood," " Raymond " and " Starbuck " outside, and " Moore " inside (by night). By day, one of the three large tugs to go to the Narrows, the other two to remain on duty at the Hook. A l l deep water channels, except Gedney's and the main ship, are permanently closed (except to sailing vessels, and vessels of three feet draft or less, by day). By night all channels are closed from 8 p. nr., to 4 a. m. From 4 a. m., to 8 p. m., vessels will be escorted through Gedney's and main ship channels, following a patrol boat.

Very respectfully,
W. H. STAYTON,
2d N. B., N. Y.

39 WHITEHALL STREET, NEW YORK , N . Y . , May 7, 1898.
Captain J . W. MILLER , Commanding Naval Militia, New York
Sir:—The eight (8) patrol boats furnished and manned by the state of New York are to take position off Sandy Hook, off the Narrows and off Willet's Point.

The duty of these boats will be to warn off all vessels both inward and outward bound during prohibited hours. In case the warning is disregarded, a signal will be made from the warning patrol boat to the forts. This service will be performed in strict accordance with the directions contained in the following papers., copies of which are enclosed herewith, viz.:

1. "Regulations for the Navigation of the Eastern and Southern Entrances to New York Harbor in time of War."

2. Letter from Rear Admiral Erben, dated May 7, 1898. '

3. Memorandum entitled: " Signals for Patrol Vessels."

During the hours when the passage of channels is authorized, patrol boats should precede passing vessels and properly regulate their speed and see they keep in the proper channels.

It is suggested that copies of the " Regulations for the Navigation of the Eastern and Southern Entrances to New York Harbor in time of War," be distributed to vessels.

Please confer with the army authorities at the posts and forts near which the vessels are stationed, and furnish me with copies of all instructions issued to the fleet.

Very respectfully,
W. L . FIELD ,
Lieut.-Com'der, U. 8. N., Com'ding
Third Div. Coast Defense.

REGULATIONS, ETC.

Submarine mines having been placed in position i n connection with the defenses of New York, the following instructions for safe navigation by friendly vessels, and for the protection of the defenses are hereby established by authority of the secretary of war:

1. No vessel will be allowed to pass Sandy Hook, the Narrows, or Execution Rock, except during daylight, between 4 a. in., and 8 p. m. At night vessels will not approach within three miles of Coney Island, Gedney channel, Sandy Hook, or the Narrows at the southern entrance or Execution Rock at the eastern entrance.

2. Patrol boats will be stationed above and below the defenses. These boats will be authorized to stop vessels, to inquire their character or to instruct them how to pass through the mine fields.

3. Sailing vessels and all small vessels, drawing three feet or less, can pass safely through any part of the channels during the daytime.

4. Steam vessels must run at slow speed through special channels marked by white nun buoys on the starboard, and white can buoys on the port side coming into the harbor.

5. Vessels are warned that if they disregard these regulations they will expose themselves to serious damage and will be liable to be fired on by the batteries.

EXTRACT FROM ADMIRAL ERBEN'S LETTER.

The eight (8) patrol boats furnished and manned by the state of New York, are to take position off Sandy Hook, off the Narrows, and off Willet's Point.

The duty of these boats will be to warn off all vessels, both inward and outwrard bound. These vessels will be warned to either anchor or to turn back.

In case the warning is disregarded a signal will be made from the warning patrol boat to the forts.

SIGNALS FOR PATROL VESSELS.

Each patrol boat to carry a distinguishing flag: Commercial code, letter " S " white field, blue centre.

W At night, same letter R W.

AT NIGHT.

In case it is necessary to call attention of authority at fort to an infraction of the regulations, a signal rocket will be fired to attract attention, also a succession of toots on whistle^ then red and green stars will be fired in the air.

BY DAY.

A red flag will be hoisted and the steam whistle will signal a succession of toots.

To communicate with the fort on other matters, the Myer's code will be used by toots of the whistle or the regular flag during the day, and the torch or whistle during the night. It is recommended that the signal men be examined in this system of signalling when not interfering with their other duties.
HENRY ERBEN,
Rear Admiral.

NEW YORK , May 6, 1898.
The Commanding Officer, Second Naval Battalion, Brooklyn.
SIR :—You will, in accordance with the military code of this state and under state pay and allowances, order to duty from the second naval battalion, a detail, consisting of 2 officers and 10 petty officers and men, for each of the vessels which will be designated to you in subsequent orders from these headquarters; ilso a crew of one officer and six men for the battalion launch.

II. The duty to be performed hereunder is to be rendered in aid of, and protection to, the commerce of this port and harbor.

III. You will consult with Rear Admiral Erben, Commander W. L. Field, the army authorities having control of the local mine fields, and with the commanding officer of naval militia of this state; and will after such consultation designate the harbors and mine fields to be guarded and patroled, and the hours during which the vessels are to remain on patrol duty, reporting to these headquarters the designations so made.

IV. You will also after consultation, issue such instructions (not inconsistent with the harbor and mine field regulations) as will best insure a carrying out of the purposes of this order, and you w i l l transmit to these headquarters copies of a l l instructions established by you hereunder.

V. You w i l l arrange to have the headquarters of the battalion in constant and certain communication with the vessels (by day and night) by means of telephone and signal stations.

VI . You will issue the necessary orders for the quartering and subsistence of the men ordered to this duty.

VII . You will keep very accurate and full reports of all men employed on this duty, and render full returns thereof to these headquarters.

VIII . You will prescribe the arms, equipment, and ammunition to be carried by the men detailed for duty hereunder, and issue the necessary orders as to the preservation and safe-stowage of such ammunition, and the conditions under which it is to be used.

Respectfully,
J . W. MILLER,
Captain, N. M.

NEW YORK, May 7, 1898.
Commander W. H. STAYTON, Second Naval Battalion, Brooklyn.
SIR:—You will execute the orders of Lieutenant-Commander W. L. Field, United States navy, commanding third division coast defense, as contained in his communication to me, dated May 7th, with inclosure therein.

2. The patrol boats have been chartered and will report to you at Jewell's wharf at 3 p. m., this afternoon. The names of the boats are:

"Raymond,"
"Atwood,"
"H. B. Moore, J r . "
"Charm,"
"Health,"
"Starbuck,"
"Excelsior,"
Steam launch, second naval battalion.

Of the above the following have been chartered for five days, 24 hours work: "Raymond," "Atwood," "Starbuck." The following from 5 p. m., to 7 a. m.: "Charm," " H . B. Moore, J r . , " " Health," " Excelsior."

3. You will arrange your patrol fleet in such manner that these latter tugs shall not be employed except during the above mentioned hours.

4. As soon as you establish the various boats on the stations you will inform these headuarters of such stations.

5. In addition to the orders received through these headquarters from the commanding officer, third division, coast defense, I would call your attention to the fact that the state of New York has established this patrol for the purpose of protecting its commerce, and you will render all facilities to ingoing and outgoing vessels, which may be consistent and necessary under the circumstances.

Respectfully,
J . W . MILLER,
Captain, N. M.

 

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