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Fantastic Spanish-American War Predictions by Navy Admiral from 1896
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In an insightful paper he read before the Navy Board in 1896, Admiral Francis M. Bunce predicted that the best way to isolate Cuba and support the insurgents in their war with Spain was to use the U.S. Navy to neutralize the Spanish navy and blockade Cuba and Puerto Rico.

This small archive also includes Bunce’s 1899 honorary degree from Yale University and a copy of a fascinating April 1898 letter by Union Army veteran John J. McCook to President William McKinley, urging him to leave any fighting in a war against Spain to the professional military men rather than the “Jingoes” (of whom Theodore Roosevelt was the most famous).

[SPANISH AMERICAN WAR]. Francis M. Bunce Archive, 1896-1899. 3 documents, 10 pp.

Inventory #27771       Price: $1,250

Acting Secretary of the Navy William McAdoo called high Naval officials to a secret defense planning meeting. Attendees included Rear Admiral Francis M. Bunce, commanding the North Atlantic squadron; Rear Admiral Francis M. Ramsay, chief of the Bureau of Navigation; Captain William T. Sampson, chief of the Bureau of Ordnance; Captain Henry C. Taylor, president of the Naval War College; and Lt. Commander Richard Wainwright, chief of the bureau of naval intelligence.[1] On December 23, the board submitted their report to Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert, outlining a plan for the defense of the coast in case of war with Spain.

FRANCIS M. BUNCE, Autograph Document Signed in docketing with initials, “FMB. “Special Problem—Cuba, Dec. 1st 1896,” Paper read before Board of Navy Department on War College plans concerning war with Spain, December 16, 1896. 7 pp., 8 x 10 in. #27771

This island extending E & W. about 600 miles with an average width of about 60 miles, is in its eastern and western parts hilly & difficult for military operations. Its central portions are also mountainous. The Spanish occupy the coasts and fortified ports with their army and navy and have garrisoned the principal interior cities, few in number however and of minor importance politically and economically. The insurgents hold the open country in general and moving in small bodies, destroy crops, railways, and the small detachments of Spanish troops, endeavoring to protect them. Occupying central and interior positions they strike from these in all directions towards the coasts but are prevented from occupying any ports upon either by the garrisons thereat and the naval forces.” (p1)

The Statesman’s Year Book 1896 gives ten per cent of Cuba’s area as cultivated & states that its annual imports of a value of 56 millions pesos are chiefly food—rice, jerked beef and flour. The present war has continued since February 1895, upwards of 100000 additional troops have been landed and half that number of men of its residual population have been in arms. To these add all non producers the inhabitants of cities and consider the destruction of crops by both parties with loss of production from the war and the conclusion is inevitable that an imported food supply is absolutely essential to the continued maintenance of the war or indeed the occupation of the island by Spain. Food stopped, the garrisons of all fortified seaports & cities must capitulate, an uprising of their population and humanity compelling.

A blockade by our naval force, with the destruction or capture of that of Spain about the island, would produce this result and that quickly. Vessels not destroyed or captured but forced to take refuge in protected harbors would add their crews to the consumers. Relief could only come by sending a superior naval force from Spain. If sent it would arrive only after a consumption of its coal and water. Unless immediately reinforced greatly by purchase it could not hope to succeed in defeating our forces awaiting its coming. Our available force at home is sufficient to meet any arriving fleet in action. For blockade however it should be increased by a large number of small fast armed steamers from the steam yatch [yacht?] and coastwise shipping. The deep water ports of Cuba & Porto Rico should be closely blockaded, and the Windward, Bahama and Jamaica channels thoroughly patrolled and proclamation of the blockade of Cuba and Porto Rico made.” (p2)

The strangulation process outlined can be quickened in its operation greatly by the bombardment of San Juan, Porto Rico, and Havana, which are the civil, commercial, military and naval capitols of the islands of Spain on our coast, the headquarters of all military and naval forces. Should this be done it should be a first step and the battleships be retained here until after the bombardment, more force could then be spared for the coasts of Spain and the protection of our base of operations.” (p3)

The above plan of operations avoids the great expenditure of money and of lives incident to a military operation and the excitement and disturbance of our whole population that would be occasioned by raising an army equal in force to that of Spain in Cuba, which is adding the number of troops stated to be en route, 200000 men.” (p4)

The best attainable opinion, that of Consul General Fitzhugh Lee, is that a stoppage of supplies by sea to Cuba would in two weeks cause distress!” (p4)

The War College scheme is therefore disapproved as to its general conception for the above reasons. It is also disapproved from its manifest defects even should a military expedition to Cuba be determined upon. Argument as to these is unnecessary a brief statement of them I think sufficient.” (p4)

[Follows with a list of 16 objections.]

Matanzas secured as a base, the military advance on Havana would have two good roads and two railways with its right flank in constant touch with the fleet, for the shore is generally clear and bold.” (p6-7)

Francis Marvin Bunce (1836-1901) was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1857. He was promoted to lieutenant by the beginning of the Civil War and participated in the Union blockade of the Confederacy as part of the Gulf Squadron and then served as executive officer of the gunboat USS Penobscot during the siege of Yorktown in the Peninsula Campaign. He later supported the attack on Morris Island and Fort Wagner outside Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. In 1863, he participated in the siege of Charleston aboard the monitor USS Patapsco. He later served on or commanded several other monitors for the remainder of the war. After the war, he commanded the monitor USS Monadnock in its voyage around Cape Horn to San Francisco, the first extended ocean voyage by a monitor. Over the next three decades, he alternated land and sea duty and gained promotion to captain (1883), commodore (1894), and acting rear admiral (1895), when he took command of the North Atlantic Squadron. He favored training ships to act as a squadron rather than individually as the outbreak of the Cuban War of Independence heightened tensions with Spain. In 1897, he took command of the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn, from which he sent the battleship USS Maine to Key West, Florida, from which it was deployed to Havana, where its explosion triggered the Spanish-American War. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1898 and retired from the Navy at the statutory retirement age of 62 on December 25, 1898.

JOHN J. McCOOK, Original carbon copy of Typed Letter, to President William McKinley, April 21, 1898, Washington, D.C. 2 pp., 8 x 10½ in.  #27771.01

I venture to submit for your consideration a few suggestions in relation to the Cuban campaign.

1. Invest and blockade the Island and starve the Spaniards until they surrender. This can be done quickly and without firing a gun.

2. Encourage and promptly send arms, ammunition and supplies to the insurgents, and let them do the land fighting until October 15th.

3. Do not land any considerable force upon the Island, until our fleet has secured control of the Cuban waters.

4. Disaster to our fleet means also the loss of our troops on the island and a delay of three years, for recuperation and to build a new navy. The naval battle will be fought under unknown and untested conditions. A few torpedoes may determine the result. We ought to win and I believe we will win but I shrink from even the contemplation of a reverse under such conditions.

5. Fever will kill fifty per cent of the unacclimated soldiers landed in Cuba before October 15th and spread pestilence and contagion throughout the United States.” (p1)

Hence, let the experienced and technically trained military and naval officers absolutely control the campaign and not the Jingoes, however patriotic and enthusiastic they may be.” (p2)

John James McCook (1845-1911) was an attorney, a business director, and a Union Army officer during the Civil War. He was a member of the “Fighting McCooks,” a family of Ohioans who provided at least sixteen members of the Union Army and Navy, including six who reached the rank of brigadier general or higher. After the War, he graduated from Kenyon College in 1866 and Harvard Law School in 1869. He began a prosperous legal career in New York City and declined an offer to serve in the first cabinet of President William McKinley. During the Spanish-American War, he chaired the Army and Navy Christian Commission and became a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt.

[YALE UNIVERSITY] Timothy Dwight V, Partially Printed Document Signed, Honorary Master’s Degree for Francis Marvin Bunce, May 4, 1899. In Latin. 1 p., 19½ x 15¾ in. #27771.02

Timothy Dwight V was the President of Yale from 1886 to 1899, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Timothy Dwight IV, who served as President from 1795 to 1817.

Condition: Expected folds; some toning; very good.

[1] The Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 23, 1896, 2:4.

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