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  • Manila and Santiago: The New Steel Navy in the Spanish-American War
  • Harold D. Langley
Manila and Santiago: The New Steel Navy in the Spanish-American War. By Jim Leeke. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59114-464-9. Maps. Illustrations. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xi, 190. $29.95.

The author of this book served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and later studied journalisn at Ohio State University. His career in journalism included service as a police reporter, life style columnist, sportswriter, and the author of articles on business and technology in national magazines. In addition he edited three books on the Civil War and is the author of a work on President Kennedy’s funeral and a mystery novel. This background has taught Leeke how to engage and hold a reader. Drawing upon a wide variety of books and published sources he has presented a short and fast paced narrative that describes the circumstances and personalities associated with the naval battles of Manila and Santiago in the Spanish-American War. Details of the battles, including the poor results of naval gunnery, are duly noted. Appendices contain comparisons of squadron strengths at Manila and Santiago. In general, the book reflects the views and interpretations of contemporaries and historians who are sympathetic to admirals Dewey and Sampson.

A chapter entitled “Aftermath” deals with the subsequent history of the areas acquired by the United States as a result of the war. Also covered are developments in the U.S. Navy including the Sampson-Schley controversy. Leeke’s account of this affair is incomplete and superficial. Not mentioned is the fact that attacks by Sampson loyalists forced Schley to request a court of inquiry. This was granted but the scope of the investigation was so limited that only testimony relating to Schley was admitted. Schley’s lawyers were unsuccessful in fighting this ruling. Sampson was too ill to testify. The court’s verdict was mixed. It ruled that Schley’s campaign before June 1, 1898 was characterized by “vacillation, dilatoriness, and a lack of enterprise.” But on the day of the battle on July 4, he was “self possessed” and by his example he encouraged his officers and men to fight with courage. The court did not credit Schley with the victory that day. Admiral Dewey, the president of the court, filed a minority opinon that disagreed with most of the findings of the [End Page 1351] majority. Dewey said that Schley was in absolute command and deserved the credit for the victory. Schley’s lawyers appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt for a reversal of the court’s findings. Roosevelt studied the questions and solicited statements from five commanders of ships at Santiago, excluding those of Sampson and Schley. The president’s position was that most of the actions of Schley that the court condemned took place five or more weeks before the battle. Since Sampson did not call Schley to account for them, he, in effect, condoned them. If Schley’s actions merited censure he should not have been left as second in command. As for the battle, there was no overall commander directing things. The captain of each blockading ship responded independently to the departure of the Spanish warships. It was a captain’s battle. Roosevelt saw no need on the part of either side to keep the debate alive. Leeke fails to appreciate the full extent of the damage done to both Sampson and Schley by the controversy as well as to the navy in general, and to the public’s image of that service.

Another subject not treated in this book is that both Dewey and Sampson tried to collect naval bounty money for defeating a superior enemy force (including land based batteries). But the U.S. Court of Claims ruled that in both cases the enemy forces were inferior and therefore the cash award was smaller. Dewey was lucky in that he outlived both Sampson and Schley and much of the controversy relating to the Spanish-American War. Since more than a century has elapsed since the battles of Manila and Santiago, it would seem that a fair...