The “Coast Guard” in the Spanish American War

Recently ran across a site dedicated to the Spanish American War.

There was a section dedicated to the Revenue Cutter Service. I found the stories I had expected about the HUGH McCULLOCH and the HUDSON. Also found that Captain Satterlee, who commanded TAMPA when she was sunk during WWI had participated.

What surprised me was the level of participation by the light house service. Four tenders were involved in the blockade of Cuba and one of their officers did a little spying, “On 11 June, Lieutenant Victor Blue of SUWANNEE (formerly MAYFLOWER) went ashore to make a visual reconnaissance of Santiago Bay and the ships in it. Guided by a member of the Cuban insurgent forces, he passed through enemy lines and observed the Spanish squadron on 12 June. His report confirmed that all of Admiral Cervera’s squadron had in fact entered the bay, thus enabling the blockade by heavy ships of the Navy to be concentrated at that point, without having to worry about threats to the troop convoys preparing to depart from Tampa. SUWANNEE’s night station among the blockading forces was two miles from Morro Castle as part of a picket line to detect any sortie by (Spanish torpedo boat destroyers) FUROR and PLUTON for a torpedo attack. She missed the battle, however, being one of the ships detached to Guantanamo bay for coaling at the time.”

There is more information on the cutters of the era here.
The home page for the Spanish American War site also asks for help in preserving the Cruiser OLYMPIA. She is truly unique, and probably the most important historical ship in the US after the USS CONSTITUTION.
There are many eye witness accounts including some from the McCULLOCH’s prospective. This one is particularly lively. It seems to capture the enthusiasm of the age.

2 thoughts on “The “Coast Guard” in the Spanish American War

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The “Coast Guard” in the Spanish American War - CGBlog --

  2. An interesting aspect of the RCS in the Spanish-American War was the status of the officers and men following the war.

    There has been some discussion about whether or not the RCS, and later the Coast Guard, was, or is, a military service. This particular conflict did not help.

    Following the war the men who served in the army and navy were allowed war bonuses. The members of the RCS applied and most were turned down because of a couple loose legal opinions and interpertations. What it came down to was whether or not a man was in the RCS before the war or joined, or enlisted, for the war. The latter people were eligible but the former not.

    The various opinions called back to the Civil War as an example. However, this case history was of no help either because it was determined that being in service during the war did not matter. What mattered was the nature of the service. For example, the cutters “guarding” the capital and the Chesapeake Bay from those rotten rebels and smugglers out of Maryland were considered in war service. Those cutters in New York or other ports were not. The further one got from the action the less likely they were get the war bonus. The cutters on the west coast or those serving the army were discounted all together. The irony is that no such provisions were made for the Mexican War and many of the RCS officers and men acquired land bounties from that service,

    Another peculiar factor was that of presidential direction. Abraham Lincoln never ordered the cutters to serve with the navy nor did the navy want them. The orders of William McKinley came in the form of letters directing various individual cutters to serve. However, a couple of the men making bounty decisions ruled that since there was no order returning them to the Treasury Department it was assumed they had no orders to go at all.

    Then there were those who died later. They were not allowed to be buried in the then national cemeteries because they were not military. This was not allowed until 1911.

    There is some interesting historical stuff in the bowels of thousands of pages of information. Ya just have to know where and how to look.

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