Description of the Battle of Santiago by Lieutenant Thomas A. Kearney, 07/03/1898
During the Spanish-American War, the Spanish Caribbean Fleet left its protected harbor at Santiago, Cuba, at 9:35 a.m. on July 3, 1898.
Lt. Thomas Kearny aboard the U.S. Armed Yacht Vixen wrote this account of the Spanish attempt to reach open sea and safety. The blockading American Fleet opened fire and began the largest naval engagement of the war. Seventy-five minutes later, the Spanish fleet ceased to exist; hundreds of Spanish sailors were dead; and all eight ships were destroyed or captured. Only 2 months earlier Spain’s Pacific Fleet had been sunk at the Battle of Manila Bay.
"You may fire when you are ready, Gridley"
With this command, Commodore George Dewey opened the first major engagement of the Spanish American War in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. Commanding from his flagship USS Olympia, Dewey’s American Asiatic Squadron would destroy the Spanish Pacific Fleet in little more than 7 hours. The battle was the beginning of the end for Spain’s aspirations in the Pacific, and would allow the United States to emerge as a global power.
Months earlier Dewey had earlier received coded orders from then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to seek out and engage the Spanish.
The Spanish American War began 115 years ago, following a series of events including the controversial de Lôme letter and the sinking of the USS Maine and increased tensions over Cuba. These culminated in the final disintegration of diplomatic relations when Spain declared war with the United States. Congress reciprocated with this Act of April 25, 1898, Public Law 55-69, which declared that a state of war existed between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain.
Many had prepared for this eventuality. Then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and future Rough Rider, and future President) Theodore Roosevelt had sent coded orders 2 months earlier to the Pacific Squadron to engage the Spanish Fleet.
Photograph of the wreckage of the USS MAINE, 1898
This telegram from the Key West Naval Station forwards word from Charles S. Sigsbee, Captain of the Maine about the destruction of his ship in Havana harbor on the evening of February 15, 1898, a pivotal event leading up to the Spanish-American War. Read More about the legacy of the USS Maine at Prologue…
On May 1, 1898, the American Asiatic Squadron, commanded by Commodore George Dewey aboard his flagship USS Olympia, would destroy the Spanish Pacific Squadron at the Battle of Manila Bay. Months earlier Dewey had earlier received coded orders from then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to seek out and engage the Spanish.
Battle report of Commodore George Dewey regarding the Battle of Manila Bay (Mirs Bay), May 1, 1898, 05/04/1898
Telegram, in code, from Theodore Roosevelt to Admiral Dewey, 02/26/1898
This telegram, in code from Assistance Secretary of Navy Roosevelt to Admiral Dewey, Commander, Pacific Squadron, was sent without the knowledge of Secretary of Navy Long. Sent 11 days after the USS Maine had been mysteriously destroyed in Spanish-controlled Havana, the telegram authorized Dewey to engage the Spanish fleet, although war would not be declared until April. Dewey would go to destroy the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1.
"Your Country Calls You."
Cover of Leslie’s Weekly magazine for June 30, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.