June 24. The details of the
bloodless capture of the principal of the Ladrone
Islands are thus told by a private letter from the
naval officer who figured in the leading rôle of the
exploit, Lieutenant William Braunerzruther, executive
officer of the cruiser Charleston:
S. S. CHARLESTON, AT SEA AND ONE
MILES FROM MANILA,
“We have just carried out our
orders to capture the Spanish authorities at the capital
of the Ladrone Islands, Agana. I was selected
by the captain to undertake this job, and given 160
men to land as a starter.
“I went ashore to have a talk
with the governor about affairs, and the results were
that I did not lose even a single man. The matter
was all settled in one day, and we are carrying with
us fifty-four soldiers (Spanish) and six officers,
besides a lot of Mauser rifles and nearly ten thousand
pounds of ammunition.
“I had the whole to handle,
and did it quickly. The captain’s instructions
were to wait a half hour for his answer to our ultimatum,
then use my troops. I waited, and in just twenty-nine
minutes the governor handed me his sealed reply addressed
to the captain of our ship out in the harbour about
four or five miles off.
“I knew this was sealed with
the sole object of gaining time, and hence I broke
the seal, read the contents, the governor protesting
and saying that was a letter for my captain.
I replied: ’I represent him here. You
are now my prisoners, and will have to come on board
ship with me.’
“They protested and pleaded,
and finally the governor said:
“’You came on shore to
talk over matters, and you make us prisoners instead.’
I replied: ’I came on shore to hand you
a letter and to get your reply; in this reply, now
in my hand, you agree to surrender all under your
jurisdiction. If this means anything at all, it
means that you will accede to any demands I may deem
proper to make. You will at once write an order
to your military man at Agana (the capital; this place
was five miles distant), directing him to deliver
at this place at four P. M. (it was 10.30 A. M., June
21st) all ammunition and flags in the island, each
soldier to bring his own rifle and ammunition, and
all soldiers, native and Spanish, with their officers,
must witness this.’
“They protested and demurred,
saying there was not time enough to do it, but I said:
‘Senors, it must be done.’
“The letter was written, read
by me, and sent. I took all the officers with
me in a boat, and at four P. M. went ashore again and
rounded in the whole outfit. I was three miles
away from my troops, and I had only four men with
me. At four P. M., when I disarmed 108 men and
two officers, I had forty-six men and three officers
“The key-note to the whole business
was my breaking the seal of that letter and acting
at once. They had no time to delay or prepare
any treacherous tricks, and I got the ‘drop’
on the whole outfit, as they say out West.
“The native troops I released
and allowed to return to their homes unrestricted;
they had manifested great joy in being relieved from
Spanish rule. While it is harsh, it is war, and
in connection with the Spanish treachery it was all
that could be done.
“Twenty-four hours would have - yes,
I believe even four hours with a leader such as the
governor was, a lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish army - given
them a chance to hide along the road to Agana, and
at intervals in the dense tropical foliage they could
have almost annihilated any force that could land.
“The approaches to the landing
over shallow coral reefs would have made a landing
without a terrible loss of life almost an impossibility.
“We have increased by conquest
the population of the United States by nearly twelve
thousand people. The capital has a population
of six thousand people. This harbour in which
we were is beautiful, easy of access, plenty of deep
water, admitting of the presence of a large number
of vessels at the same time, and is an ideal place
for a coaling station.
“If our government decided to
hold the Philippines it would then come in so well;
San Francisco to Honolulu twenty-one hundred miles,
Honolulu to island of Guam thirty-three hundred, and
thence to Manila sixteen hundred miles. With
a chain of supply stations like this, we could send
troops the whole year round if necessary, and any
vessel with a steaming capacity of thirty-five hundred
miles could reach a base of supplies.
“The details I have scarcely
touched upon, but had the officers and soldiers dreamed
for one moment that they were to be torn from their
homes, there would, I feel sure, have been another
story to tell, and I am firmly convinced this letter
would never have been written.
“The captain, in extending to
me his congratulations, remarked: ’Braunerzruther,
you’ll never, as long as you live, have another
experience such as this. I congratulate you on
“All this whole affair was transacted
in Spanish. I had an interpreter with me, but
forgot all about using him. I did not want them
to get a chance to think, even, before it was too
June 25. The Florida
and the Fanita left Key West Saturday, June
25th, under convoy of the Peoria, commanded
by Lieut. C. W. Rice. On board the steamers
were 650 Cubans under Gen. Emilio Nunez, fifty troopers
of the Tenth U. S. Cavalry under Lieutenants Johnson
and Ahearn, and twenty-five Rough Riders under Winthrop
Chanler, brother of Col. William Astor Chanler.
The cargoes were enormous. There
were the horses of the cavalry and 167 sacks of oats
and 216 bales of hay to feed them. Topping the
list of arms were two dynamite guns, with 50-pound
projectiles to fit them, and two full batteries of
light field-pieces, ten 3-inch rifles of regular ordnance
pattern, with harnesses that go with them, and 1,500
cartridges. In the matter of infantry rifles
there were 4,000 Springfields, with 954,000 cartridges,
and 200 Mausers, with 2,000 shells.
Fifty of the Cubans aboard were armed
with Mausers, and the others had Springfields.
For the insurgent officers were provided 200 army Colts
and 2,700 cartridges. Two hundred books of United
States cavalry and infantry tactics, translated into
Spanish, were taken along. In the expedition were
also 1,475 saddles, 950 saddle-cloths, and 450 bridles.
For the Cuban soldiers there were taken 7,663 uniforms,
5,080 pairs of shoes, 1,275 blankets, 400 shirts,
450 hats and 250 hammocks.
There were these commissary stores
carried, calculated by pounds: Bacon, 67,275;
corn-meal, 31,250; roasted coffee, 10,200; raw coffee,
3,250; sugar, 2,425; mess pork and beef, 9,600; corned
beef, 24,000; beans 18,900; hardtack, 1,250; cans
of corn, 1250.
June 29. The expectation was
that the landing would be effected at San Juan Point,
on the south coast of Cuba, midway between Cienfuegos
and Trinidad. This place was reached Wednesday
evening, June 29th. A scouting party put off
in a small boat and sculled toward shore, but had made
only half the distance when there came a lively fire
from what had been taken to be an abandoned blockhouse
near the point. The men were called back and
the three ships moved to the eastward. About four
o’clock the next afternoon they arrived at Las
Tunas, forty miles away.
Four miles west of the town, at the
mouth of the Tallabacoa River, stood a large fort
built of railroad iron and surrounded by earthworks.
The Peoria ran boldly in and fired several
shots from her 3-pounders, but brought no response
and no signs of life. Here was thought to be the
desired opportunity, and another scouting party was
organised. This was made up of fifteen volunteers
under Winthrop Chanler, and as many Cubans under Captain
The Peoria took a position
within short range of the fort to protect a landing
or cover a retreat, and the small boats headed for
the shore. They reached it five hundred yards
east of the fort; the boats were beached, and their
occupants cautiously scrambled toward the brush.
But at almost the very moment they set foot on the
sand, the fort and the entrenchments around it burst
into flame, and shot and shell screamed about the little
band of invaders. Captain Nunez was stepping from
his boat when a shot struck him between the eyes and
he went down dead. Chanler fell with a broken
arm. The others safely gained a thicket and replied
with a sharp fire directed at the entrenchments.
Meanwhile the Peoria set all
her guns at work, and rained shells upon the fort
until the enemy’s fire ceased. The moment
the gunboat slackened fire, however, the Spanish fire
was renewed with fury, and it became evident that
their forces were too large to allow a landing there.
A retreat was ordered, and the party on shore rushed
to the boats, but volley after volley came from the
shore, and they were compelled to throw themselves
into the water, and paddle alongside the boats with
only their heads exposed, until the ships were reached.
The Spaniards had the range, however, and five Cubans
were wounded, though none seriously. Returning
to the Peoria, the men reported that a vicious
fire had come from a grove of cocoanut palms to the
eastward of the fort. The Peoria opened
her guns on the place indicated, and must have killed
many Spaniards, for her shells dropped into the smoke
and flash of the adversary’s fire, silenced
it at once, and forced them to send up rockets for
A number of volleys were sent at the
Peoria with a view to disabling her gunners,
but they were badly directed, and fell against her
side and into the water. When the small boats
reached the ship it was dark. Then the discovery
was made that, besides Captain Nunez, whose body was
left on the beach, there were missing, Chanler, Doctors
Lund and Abbott, Lieutenant Agramonte, and two Cubans.
It was reported that Chanler had been mortally wounded,
and was kept hidden in the bushes along the shore by
the two doctors. Rescue parties were immediately
organised, composed of volunteers, and no less than
four were sent ashore during the night. Toward
morning Lieutenant Ahearn, in charge of one of these,
found Chanler and his companion.
Chanler’s wound proved to be
in the right elbow. After sunrise Agramonte and
his Cubans were discovered and brought off.
July 1. The next day the gunboat
Helena, under Captain Swynburn, arrived, and
she and the Peoria steamed in toward Las Tunas,
which the Spaniards had been vigorously fortifying.
Tunas is connected by rail with Sancti
Spiritus, a town of considerable size, and reinforcements
and artillery had been rapidly coming in. Range
buoys had been placed in the bay, but avoiding these,
the ships drew in to close range, and opened fire,
the Peoria at twelve hundred and the Helena
at fourteen hundred yards. The Spaniards had several
Krupp field-pieces of three or four inches, mounted
on earthworks along the water-front, and they began
a vigorous, but ill-directed reply with shell and
shrapnel. The fire of the American ships was most
accurate and terribly destructive. The Spanish
gunners had not fired more than fifteen or twenty
shots before their guns were flying in the air, their
earthworks a mass of blood-stained dust, and their
gunners running for their lives. Both the Peoria
and the Helena were struck several times, chiefly
by shrapnel, but no one on either ship was injured.
As they withdrew, several buildings on shore were
That afternoon both ships again turned
their attention to the fort and the entrenchments
at the mouth of the Tallabacoa River, and for half
an hour poured a wicked fire upon them. The Spaniards
had been largely reinforced during the day, and some
field-pieces had been mounted near the fort.
These replied to the American fire, but without effect,
and the shells of the two ships speedily silenced
them. The iron blockhouse was struck repeatedly,
and the earthworks were partially destroyed. No
damage was done to the ships, and they again withdrew.
That night the Spaniards burned a
large wharf and the adjacent buildings, evidently
expecting a landing in force the next day.
It was learned from various sources
that reinforcements were pouring into Las Tunas from
all directions; a newspaper from Sancti Spiritus
stated that two thousand men had been despatched from
the nearest trocha. It was determined to
proceed during the night to Palo Alto, fifty miles
to the eastward, the Helena remaining at Las
Tunas to confirm the Spaniards in the belief that
an attempt was to be made to land there.
July 2. At ten o’clock
Saturday night, while the Helena lay offshore,
making lively play with her search-lights toward shore,
the Peoria, the Florida, and the Fanita,
with all lights out, slipped silently away. Palo
Alto was reached at daybreak. There was not a
Spaniard to be seen, and the men and cargo were put
ashore without a single obstacle.
July 4. Gomez, with two thousand
men, was known to be in the vicinity, and scouts hurried
into his lines. On Monday the old warrior appeared
in person at Palo Alto.
July 5. A steamer was sighted
about midnight by the U. S. S. Hawk, formerly
the yacht Hermione, off the north coast of Pinar
del Rio, steaming eastward, close inshore.
She paid no attention to three shots across her bow,
or a signal to heave to. The Hawk then
opened fire and gave chase.
Twenty-five shots were fired, of which
only three were without effect. The vessel was
soon on fire, and flew signals of distress while making
full speed head on to the beach. The Hawk
ceased firing, and manned a relief-boat just as the
Spaniard ran high and dry on a reef, under cover of
Though the Spaniard as yet had not
fired a shot in response to the Hawk’s
attack, and was burning signals calling for help, the
American relief-boat was received with a joint volley
from both the sinking steamer and the neighbouring
fort, turning her back, luckily unscathed, By this
time daylight was breaking, and another Yankee ship,
the gunboat Castine, hove in sight, reinforcing
The two opened fire upon the Spanish
vessel and fort. A well-directed 4-inch shell
from the Castine blew the steamer up.
Most of the latter’s crew and
passengers by this time had, however, escaped by rowing
or swimming ashore. Just at sunrise, while the
Castine and Hawk were reconnoitring
in the vicinity of the wreck, a big Spanish gunboat
hove in sight, training all her batteries on the two
American boats. It was an exciting moment.
The Castine’s 4-inchers
opened promptly, and the Spaniard returned at full
speed to cover, under Morro Castle.
The Spanish fleet, commanded by Admiral
Camara, arrived at Suez, and was notified by the officials
of the Egyptian government that it must leave the
port within twenty-four hours.
The government also notified Admiral
Camara that he would not be allowed to coal.
While the U. S. gunboat Eagle
was on the blockading route in the vicinity of the
Isle of Pines, on the south Cuban coast, about five
miles from the shore, she sighted the schooner Gallito,
provision laden. She immediately gave chase,
and the schooner ran in until about a quarter of a
mile from the shore, when she dropped her anchor, and
those aboard slipped over her side and swam ashore.
Ensign J. H. Roys and a crew of eight
men from the Eagle were sent in a small boat
to board the schooner. They found her deserted,
and while examining her were fired upon by her crew
from the beach. Several rifle-shots went through
the schooner’s sails, but no one was injured.
The Eagle drew closer in, and sent half a dozen
shots toward the beach from her 6-pounders, whereupon
the Spaniards disappeared. The Gallito
was taken into Key West.
July 7. Congress having passed
resolutions to the effect that Hawaii be annexed to
the United States, the President added his signature,
and a new territory was thus added to the American
Secretary Long gave orders for the
departure of the Philadelphia from Mare Island
for Hawaii. She was to carry the flag of the United
States to those islands and include them within the
Union. Admiral Miller, commanding the Pacific
station, was charged with the function of hoisting
July 8. Admiral Camara, commander
of the Spanish fleet, which was bound for the Philippines,
informed the Egyptian government that he had been
ordered to return home, and would, therefore, reenter
the Suez Canal.
July 12. The auxiliary gunboat
Eagle sighted the Spanish steamer Santo
Domingo, fifty-five hundred tons, aground near
the Cuban coast, off Cape Francis, and opened fire
with her 6-pounders, sending seventy shots at her,
nearly all of which took effect.
While this was going on, another steamer
came out of the bay and took off the officers and
crew of the Santo Domingo. When the men
from the Eagle boarded the latter they found
that she carried two 5-inch and two 12-inch guns,
the latter being loaded and her magazines open.
The steamer had been drawing twenty-four feet of water
and had gone aground in twenty feet.
The men from the Eagle decided
that the steamer could not be floated, and she was
set on fire after fifty head of cattle, which were
on board, had been shot.
The Santo Domingo carried a
large cargo of grain, corn, etc. While the
steamer was burning, the vessel which had previously
taken off the crew emerged from the bay, and tried
to get off some of the cargo, but failed. The
Spanish steamer burned for three days, and was totally
July 17. The cruiser New
Orleans captured the French steamer Olinde
Rodriguez off San Juan de Porto Rico, as she was
trying to enter the port with passengers and a cargo
of coffee and tobacco.
The U. S. S. Mayflower captured
the British steamer Newfoundland off Cienfuegos
while the latter was trying to run the Cuban blockade.
The Spanish sloop Domingo Aurello
was captured by the U. S. S. Maple as the former
was leaving the port of Sagua de Tanamo, province of
Santiago, with a cargo of tobacco.
July 22. The following cablegram
was received at the Navy Department:
“Expedition to Nipe has been
entirely successful, although the mines have not been
removed for want of time.
“The Spanish cruiser Jorge
Juan, defending the place, was destroyed, without
loss on our part.
“The Annapolis and Wasp
afterward proceeded from Nipe to assist in the landing
of the commanding general of the army on arrival at
July 30. Another “jackie”
achieved the reputation of a hero. He is boatswain’s
mate Nevis of the gunboat Bancroft, and the
tale of his valour is not unmixed with humour.
The Bancroft, accompanied by
the converted yacht Eagle, which had been covering
the blockading station around the Isle of Pines, sighted
a small Spanish schooner in Sigunea Bay.
The Bancroft’s steam
launch, in charge of Nevis and one seaman, each armed
with a rifle, were sent in to take the schooner.
This was only a task of minutes, and the launch returned
with the prize, which proved to be the schooner Nito,
little more than a smack, and with no cargo.
Commander Clover sent Nevis in with
her to anchor near the wreck of the Spanish transatlantic
liner Santo Domingo, sunk by the Eagle
a few weeks ago. Then the Bancroft and
Eagle cruised off to Mangle Point, where they
happened to be put in communication with the insurgent
Two hours later they returned.
For a time nothing could be seen of the launch or
the prize. Suddenly Commander Clover, who was
scanning the waters with his glass, shouted to Captain
Sutherland of the Eagle: “By heavens,
they have recaptured my prize.” The little
schooner lay near the wrecked steamer, but the Spanish
flag was flying from her mast, and, instead of only
Nevis and his companion, she was apparently filled
Meanwhile the gunboat Maple
had drawn up, and Commander Clover ordered her into
the work of rescue. With guns ready she steamed
toward the schooner, but the sight that greeted her
was not what was expected.
Nevis and his companion sat at one
end of the boat attempting to navigate her out of
the harbour. Each had his rifle across his knee
and was keeping a wary eye on a party of half a dozen
cowering Spaniards huddled in the other end of the
The Maple asked for information,
and offered Nevis a tow, but he replied with a joke
and declined the proffered assistance. Then it
developed that, in going in to anchor, he had observed
two other small Spanish boats near the wreck of the
Santo Domingo, and had resolved to capture them,
too. He knew it was hazardous work, but “bluff”
carried him through.
He took the Spanish colours of the
schooner, ran them up, and boldly sailed in.
There were six men on the two other boats, and they
watched the approach of their supposed compatriots
with calmness that speedily changed to consternation
when Nevis and the other “jackie” suddenly
whipped their rifles to their shoulders, and demanded
an immediate surrender.
The scared Spanish seamen lost no
time in complying, and had the unique experience of
surrendering to their own flag. Then, scorning
all aid, Nevis took them out to his ship, and in the
most matter-of-fact manner reported the adventure
to his astonished commander.
The capture was no mean one, for these
six men gave important information to the American
August 1. The Norwegian steamer
Franklin, of about five hundred tons, bound
from Vera Cruz with a cargo of food supplies, was captured
by the converted yacht Siren off Francis Key,
August 6. The Norwegian steamer
Aladdin, sugar-laden, was captured by the auxiliary
gunboat Hawk off Cadiz Light, Isle of Pines.
August 7. The auxiliary gunboat
Viking captured the Norwegian steamer Bergen
off Francis Key.
August 8. General Shafter and
the Spanish General Toral held a consultation at the
palace in Santiago, with regard to the embarkation
of the Spanish prisoners of war. As a result
of the conference, one thousand of the Spanish sick
and wounded were taken on board the Alicante
next morning, to be sent to Spain as soon as the vessel
was properly loaded.
August 10. The President to-day
promoted Sampson and Schley to be rear-admirals, ranking
in the order named.
A department of the army, to be known
as the Department of Santiago, was created, and Maj.-Gen.
Henry W. Lawton assigned to its command.
The Norwegian steamers Aladdin
and Bergen were released, by orders from Washington.
August 12. The flag-ship San
Francisco, the monitor Miantonomah, and
the auxiliary yacht Sylvia were fired upon by
the Havana batteries. One 10 or 12-inch shell
struck the San Francisco’s stern as she
turned to get out of range, and tore a hole about
a foot in diameter, completely wrecking Commodore
Howell’s quarters, and smashing his book-case
to fragments. Nobody was injured, and, being
under orders not to attack the batteries, the ships
retreated as fast as their engines could carry them.
August 13. General Shafter,
at Santiago, learned that Manzanillo had been bombarded
for twenty hours.
General Shafter at once cabled to
the Spanish commander at Manzanillo that peace had
been declared,(35) and requesting him to advise the
American commander of the fact under a flag of truce,
which he did, and the shelling of the town ceased.
August 16. The following message
was the first received in this country from the territory
so lately annexed:
“Day, State Department: - Flag
raised Friday, the twelfth, at noon. Ceremonies
of transfer produced excellent impression.