I hope that this email finds all of it's recipients doing well. I rarely send out mass emails but feel that the following topic deserves the attention of anyone and everyone who is a citizen of the United States.
This upcoming Day, Friday, February 15th, 2008, is the 110th Anniversary of the loss of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba, and the deaths of the 266 of the 350 United States Sailors and Marines who were serving as her crew at the time.
The U.S.S. Maine was authorized by the United States Congress on August 3rd, 1886, and was constructed at the Brooklyn Naval Yard in Brooklyn, New York, from 1888 to 1889. The Maine was launched on November 18th, 1889, and after further work was completed upon her, she was commissioned into the United States Navy on September 17th, 1895, under the command of Captain Arent S. Crownshield. From 1895 to 1897 the Maine preformed duties along the Eastern Coast of the United States as part of the North Atlantic Squadron.
On December 11th, 1897, the Maine sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, for Key West, Florida, which place she reached on the 15th. There she was joined by three other vessels of the North Atlantic Squadron and set sail on maneuvers in the Gulf Coast for a short time before returning to Key West in January of 1898. On January 24th, 1898, the Maine was dispatched to Havana, Cuba, and left for that City that day, and arrived there on the following day, 25th. She anchored in the center of the Harbor, and immediately Captain Charles D. Sigsbee, commanding the Maine, set to work to ensure against any attack or attempt at sabotage to the vessel.
The next several days were quite and the men preformed routine duty. At 9:40 p.m. on the night of February 15th, 1898, the quite of the night was broken by a massive explosion which almost tore the entire forward portion of the Maine from the her. I would now like to quote from the official report of Captain Sigsbee as to what happened next, as a First hand account can do better justice to this disaster then myself.
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"I was just closing a letter to my family when I felt the crash of the explosion. It was a bursting, rending, and crashing sound, or roar of immense volume, largely metallic in character. It was succeed by a metallic sound - probably of falling debris - a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, then an impression of subsidence, attended by an eclipse of the electric lights and intense darkness within the cabin. I knew immediately that the Maine had been blown up and that she was sinking. I hurried to the starboard cabin ports, thinking it might be necessary for me to make my exit that way. Upon looking out I decided that I could go by the passage leading to the superstructure. I therefore took the latter route, feeling my way along and steadying myself by the bulkheads. The superstructure was filled with smoke, and it was dark. Nearing the outer entrance I met Private Anthony, the orderly at the cabin door at the time. He ran into me and, as I remember, apologized in some fashion, and reported to me that the ship had been blown up and was sinking."
"I reached the upper deck, asked a few questions of those standing about me - Lieutenant Commander Wainwright, I think, for one - then I asked the orderly for the time. He said that the exact time of the explosion was 9:40 p.m. I proceeded to the poop deck, stood on the guard rail and held on to the main rigging in order to see over the poop awning, which was baggy and covered with debris; also, in order that I might observe details in the black mass ahead. I directed the executive officer to post sentries all around the ship, but soon saw that there were no marines available, and no place forward to post them."
"Not being quite clear as to the condition of things forward, I next directed the forward magazine to be flooded, if practicable, and about the same time shouted out myself for perfect silence everywhere. This was, I think, repeated by the executive officer. The surviving officers were about me at the time on the poop. I was informed that the forward magazine was already under water, and after inquiring about the after magazine was told that it was also under water, as shown by the condition below, reported by those coming from the ward room and steerage."
"About this time fire broke out in the mass forward, over the central superstructure, and I inquired as to the spare ammunition in the Captain's pantry. That region was found to be subsiding very fast. At this time, I observed, among the shouts or noises apparently on shore, that faint cries were coming from the water, and I could see dimly white, floating bodies, which gave me a better knowledge of the real situation than anything else. I at once ordered all boats to be lowered, when it was reported that there were only two boats available, namely, the gig and whaleboat. Both were lowered and manned by officers and men, and by my direction they left the ship and assisted in saving the wounded jointly with other boats that had arrived on the scene from the Spanish man-of-war, and from the steamer City of Washington and from other sources. Later - I cannot state precisely how long - these two boats of the Maine returned to the starboard quarter alongside and reported that they had gathered in from the wreck all the wounded that could be found, and had transferred them to the other boats - to the Alfonso XII, or to the City of Washington."
"The poop deck of the Maine, the highest point, was by that time level with the gig's gunwale while she was afloat in the water alongside. The fire amidships was burning fiercely, and the spare ammunition in the pilot house was exploding in detail. We had done everything that could be done so far as I could see. Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright whispered to me that he thought the 10-inch magazine had been thrown up into the burning mass, and might explode in time. I directed him the to get everything into the boats over the stern, and this was done, although there was some little delay in curbing the extreme politeness of the officers, who wanted to help me into the boat. I directed them to go first, as a matter of course, and I followed and got into the gig. We proceeded to the steamer City of Washington, and on the way I shouted to the boats to leave the vicinity of the wreck, and that there might be an explosion. I got Mr. Sylvester Scovel to translate my desire to one or two boats which were at that time somewhat nearer the fire than we ourselves were. Having succeeded in this, I went on board of the City of Washington...."
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The survivors of the Maine were taken from the wreckage and placed on board of the Ward Line steamer City of Washington and the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. The Spanish officials at Havana showed every attention and courtesy possible to the survivors of the disaster and the greatest of respect for those who were killed.
Many people have speculated on the causes of the sinking of the Maine, and they have caused a great many debates and discussions. However the causes are not as important when one stops to consider the loss of the 266 Sailors and Marines who gave there lives while serving aboard her at the time of her loss, who knew neither the cause or the reasons. Today the remains of 163 of the Sailors and Marines from the Maine lie in rest at the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, several others are buried together in Key West, Florida, under headstones that simply read "Unknown Sailor, U.S.S. Maine," and many of the survivors in various Cemeteries across the United States.
So this coming day I would like to ask everyone to stop and take at least one minute to think about the men of the past, and in particular of those 266 American Sailors and Marines who at 9:40 p.m. on February 15th, 1898, in Havana Harbor, Cuba, gave there lives in the service of the United States, and for there generation and all those to come.
Thank you all for your time, have a good day.