UNITED STATES NAVY QUARTERMASTER USES RECORD BOOK AS DIARY TO DESCRIBE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR SERVICE OF USS EAGLE, A VERY LARGE YACHT CONVERTED TO A TORPEDO BOAT DESTROYER FOR WAR SERVICE
This Spanish-American War Record Book/Diary includes the June 29, 1898 shelling of the Spanish battery at Rio Honda and the capture of the Spanish merchantman Santo Domingo.
The diary was kept by Quartermaster 1st Class John Alley, who inscribed the blank inside page opposite the front board cover—“This book contains the records of the Spanish American War, 1898 as seen from the U.S.S. Eagle by John Alley QM 1st Class.” The book in which the record written in pencil is large, measuring wide by high. The very first page provides names of of the ship’s crew members and a detailed description of the vessel.
“Crew of the U.S.S. Eagle, formerly the Almy belonging to the Galetin Estate, and purchased by the U.S. Government and converted to a Torpedo boat Destroyer in New York Navy Yard between the dates of April 1st and 17th 1898. The Dimensions are length 178 feet depth about 11 feet tonnage Register 213-99/100. Triple expansive Engine driving her under ordinary pressure about 13 knots an hour. Her armament consist(s) of 4 six pounders rapid fire guns and two Automatic Colts Rifles. Her crew consists of 4 officers and 59 men.”
Quartermaster Alley had no doubt much time to fill during the voyage and devoted himself to writing very detailed accounts of his ship’s service beginning on April 2, 1898 to several months into 1899, when the Eagle was on surveying duty, her principal use through the remainder of her naval service. This duty started in late August. She compiled new charts and corrected existing ones for the waters surrounding Cuba, Puerto Rico and Haiti, continuing this work into 1899.
The following will provide examples of the Eagle’s combat service and QM Alley’s ability to describe his ship’s participation in the fighting at various times.
On August 22 and 24, following the June 10 major landing of U.S. troops at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, additional American forces were landed near the harbor city of Santiago.
Here’s how Quartermaster Alley described the action—
“The Eagle and the Glocester was pegging away at a couple of such forts about 3 miles East of Morrow. We soon found out there was no guns on the forts but a squad of soldiers was intrenched in rifle pits on the beach and kept in hiding so well that we did not discover them when we ceased fire and went to dinner. Then some men was seen running about on the beach wich soon drew our attention…we had not fired a shot in their direction and they evidently thought we were awful poor marksmen but when we again opened up on them we sent the shells right in amongst a lot of them who were sitting in a group. Them that could get up and ran helter skelter for a cave near by—and made them very scared for the rest of the afternoon. We then directed our fire on a blockhouse which soon was demolished…”
Here’s how he described the June 29, 1898 action—
“Early in the morning started in towards shore to land the 8 Cubans—ran along shore for two hours blowing our whistle to draw the attention of the Cubans on shore when at 800 am a Division of Cavalry was seen about 1000 yards from us. We were in doubt for some time what to take them for when suddenly we heard some shots and saw bullets strike the water 50 yards from us. We immediately opened fire on them and…made them scamper up the hill.”
July 5th—“At daybreak sighted land and a schooner close to shore with sails set. We gave chase—wind was light. The schooner realizing the dance up dropped anchor close to a small fishing village and deserted her. We lowered a boat sent away an armed crew and took possession of her. Some people on shore opened fire on her and several bullets went through her sails but none was hurt. She was brought out alongside and proved to be a small trading schooner about 50 tons. She had no cargo, only a few chickens, pigs and some coconut oil and letters for the Captain of Port at Batamarmo(?).”
The writer also records how other vessels are participating in battle action, describing in detail what he sees and identifying the ships by name.
The record is a fascinating historic account of American naval participation in actions during the Spanish-American War. The book in which the diary was kept is in good condition with one section of pages separated from the binding. However, all pages are present. $875