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Winfield Scott Schley

Winfield Scott Schley

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Winfield Scott Schley was a rear admiral in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and the hero of the Battle of Santiago Bay during the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...


Civil War

Born at “Richfields” (his father's farm), near Frederick, Maryland
Frederick, Maryland
Frederick is a city in north-central Maryland. It is the county seat of Frederick County, the largest county by area in the state of Maryland. Frederick is an outlying community of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of a greater...

, Schley graduated from the United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

 in 1860, and went as midshipman on board the frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

USS Niagara (1855)
The second USS Niagara was a steam frigate in the United States Navy.Niagara was launched by New York Navy Yard on 23 February 1855; sponsored by Miss Annie C. O'Donnell; and commissioned on 6 April 1857, Captain William L...

 to China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. On his return in 1861, the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 was in progress. He was made master, and was assigned to the Potomac
USS Potomac (1822)
The first USS Potomac was a frigate in the United States Navy.Potomac was laid down by the Washington Navy Yard in August 1819, was launched March 1822. Fitting out was not completed until 1831, when Captain John Downes assumed command as first commanding officer...

 of the Western Gulf Squadron until 1862. He then served on the sidewheel gunboat Winona
USS Winona (1861)
USS Winona was a built for service with the United States Navy during the American Civil War. Winona was heavily armed, with large guns for duels at sea, and 24-pounder howitzers for shore bombardment...

 of that Squadron, and later on the sloop
A sloop is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter....

s Monongahela
USS Monongahela (1862)
USS Monongahela was a barkentine–rigged screw sloop-of-war that served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War. Her task was to participate in the Union blockade of the Confederate States of America...

 and Richmond
USS Richmond (1860)
The USS Richmond was a wooden steam sloop in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.-Service in the Caribbean :Richmond was launched on 26 January 1860 by the Norfolk Navy Yard; sponsored by a Miss Robb. Richmond, commanded by Captain D. N. Ingraham, departed Norfolk, Virginia 13...

, and participated in all the engagements that led to the capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, in 1863, having been promoted to lieutenant on 16 July 1862.

Chincha Island War and San Salvador Revolution

He was ordered from the waters of the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 in 1864 to the Pacific Squadron
Pacific Squadron
The Pacific Squadron was part of the United States Navy squadron stationed in the Pacific Ocean in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Initially with no United States ports in the Pacific, they operated out of storeships which provided naval supplies and purchased food and obtained water from local...

, where he served on the Wateree
USS Wateree (1863)
The first USS Wateree was a sidewheel gunboat in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.Wateree was built at Chester, Pennsylvania, by Reaney, Son & Archbold; launched on August 12, 1863; and commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on January 20, 1864, Comdr. F. E...

 as executive officer until 1866. He suppressed an insurrection of Chinese workers on the Chincha Islands
Chincha Islands
The Chincha Islands are a group of three small islands 21 km off the southwest coast of Peru, to which they belong, near the town of Pisco,...

 in 1865, and later in the same year landed at La Union, San Salvador, to protect American interests during a revolution. He was promoted lieutenant-commander in 1866.

Korean Expedition

From 1866 to 1869, he was an instructor in the United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...

. He was then assigned to the Asiatic Station, and served there on the screw sloop Benicia
USS Benicia (1868)
USS Benicia was a screw sloop in the United States Navy during the late 19th century. She was named for Benicia, California.Benicia was launched 18 August 1868 by Portsmouth Navy Yard as Algoma; renamed Benicia 15 May 1869; and commissioned 1 December 1869, Commander S...

 until 1872 and was adjutant of the land forces during the attack by Rear Admiral John Rodgers
John Rodgers (naval officer, Civil War)
John Rodgers was an admiral in the United States Navy.-Early life and career:Rodgers, a son of Commodore John Rodgers, was born near Havre de Grace, Maryland. He received his appointment as a Midshipman in the Navy on 18 April 1828...

's expedition on the Korean forts on Ganghwa Island
Ganghwa Island
Ganghwa Island is an island in the estuary of the Han River, on the west coast of South Korea. Ganghwa Island is separated from Gimpo, on the mainland, by a narrow channel, which is spanned by two bridges. The main channel of the Han River separates the island from Gaeseong in North Korea.About...

 on 10 June and 11 June 1871. He then participated in the following Battle of Gangwha which caused the destruction of the Korean fortifications.

Between conflicts, 1870s-1890s

From 1872 to 1875, he was head of the department of modern languages in the Naval Academy. He was promoted commander in June 1874.

After serving in Europe and on the west coast of Africa, he commanded Essex
USS Essex (1876)
|-External links:*...

 from 1876 to 1879, most of the time in the South Atlantic on the Brazil Station. During the cruise he sailed Essex to the vicinity of the South Shetland Islands
South Shetland Islands
The South Shetland Islands are a group of Antarctic islands, lying about north of the Antarctic Peninsula, with a total area of . By the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, the Islands' sovereignty is neither recognized nor disputed by the signatories and they are free for use by any signatory for...

 in search of a missing sealer, and rescued a shipwrecked crew on the islands of Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha is a remote volcanic group of islands in the south Atlantic Ocean and the main island of that group. It is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying from the nearest land, South Africa, and from South America...


From 1879 until October 1883, he was inspector of the Second Lighthouse District.

After re-supply and relief missions repeatedly failed to reach Lieutenant Adolphus Greely
Adolphus Greely
Adolphus Washington Greely , was an American Polar explorer, a United States Army officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.-Early military career:...

's Lady Franklin Bay Expedition
Lady Franklin Bay Expedition
The 1881-1884 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition into the Canadian Arctic was led by Lt. Adolphus Greely and was promoted by the United States Army Signal Corps. Its purpose was threefold: to establish a meteorological-observation station as part of the First International Polar Year, to collect...

 in the Arctic, Schley was appointed in February 1884 to command the next relief expedition. On 22 June, near Cape Sabine
Cape Sabine
right|thumb|300px|Pim Island to the memory of dead men from the expedition of [[Adolphus Greely]]. Photographed in 2005Cape Sabine is a land point on Pim Island, in Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada.-History:...

 in Grinnell Land
Grinnell Land
Grinnell Land is the central section of Ellesmere Island in the northernmost part of Nunavut territory in Canada. It was named for Henry Grinnell, a shipping magnate from New York, who in the 1850s helped finance two expeditions to search for Franklin's lost expedition.The name was given by...

, Schley rescued Greely and six (of his twenty-four) companions, after passing through 1400 miles of ice during the voyage.

Schley was commissioned chief of the bureau of equipment and recruiting at the United States Department of the Navy
United States Department of the Navy
The Department of the Navy of the United States of America was established by an Act of Congress on 30 April 1798, to provide a government organizational structure to the United States Navy and, from 1834 onwards, for the United States Marine Corps, and when directed by the President, of the...

 in 1885, and promoted captain in March 1888.

He commanded Baltimore (C-3)
USS Baltimore (C-3)
The fourth USS Baltimore was a United States Navy cruiser, the second protected cruiser to be built by an American yard. Like the previous one, , the design was commissioned from the British company of W...

 in Rear Admiral George Brown's squadron off the coast of Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 in 1891. Going to the port of Valparaiso, Chile, when a number of American sailors there were stoned by a mob. In August 1891, the Baltimore, still under his command was detailed to convey the remains of John Ericsson
John Ericsson
John Ericsson was a Swedish-American inventor and mechanical engineer, as was his brother Nils Ericson. He was born at Långbanshyttan in Värmland, Sweden, but primarily came to be active in England and the United States...

 to Sweden.

Early in 1892 he was again transferred to the Lighthouse Bureau, and until February 1895 was inspector of the Third Lighthouse District. In 1895, he was placed in command of the New York
USS New York (ACR-2)
USS New York was a United States Navy armored cruiser. The fourth Navy ship to be named in honor of the state of New York, she was later renamed Saratoga and then Rochester ....

. From 1897 to 1898, he was a member (and chairman) of the Lighthouse Board.

Spanish War

Schley was commissioned commodore on 6 February 1898, and on 24 March, although lowest on the list of commodores, he was put in command of the Flying Squadron
Flying Squadron (US Navy)
The Flying Squadron was a United States Navy force that operated in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies during the first half of the Spanish-American War...

, with Brooklyn (CA-3)
USS Brooklyn (CA-3)
The second USS Brooklyn was a United States Navy armored cruiser.She was launched on 2 October 1895 by William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; sponsored by Miss Ida May Schieren; and commissioned on 1 December 1896, Captain Francis Augustus Cook in...

 as his flagship, for service in the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...


On 18 May 1898, Schley's Flying Squadron was sent by Acting Rear Admiral William T. Sampson
William T. Sampson
William Thomas Sampson was a United States Navy rear admiral known for his victory in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War.-Biography:...

 to Cienfuegos
Cienfuegos is a city on the southern coast of Cuba, capital of Cienfuegos Province. It is located about from Havana, and has a population of 150,000. The city is dubbed La Perla del Sur...

 to pursue the Spanish Squadron under the command of Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete
Pascual Cervera y Topete
Pascual Cervera y Topete served as an admiral of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron during the Spanish-American War, and prior to this served his country in a variety of military and political roles....

. When Sampson received news that Cervera was in Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

, not Cienfuegos, he initially vacillated, at first informing Schley of the rumor, yet requesting him to stay at Cienfuegos, then later changing his orders to have Schley investigate the situation at Santiago.

Although Schley was subordinate to Sampson, he was accustomed to exercising independent command of his ship. Schley decided to stay at Cienfuegos, feeling that all signs indicated that Cervera was there in the harbor. After hearing from Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

n insurgents that Cervera was definitely not at Cienfuegos, Schley decided to obey Sampson's orders three days after receiving them and go to Santiago. When the crew of three American cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

s he encountered denied knowledge of Cervera's whereabouts, Schley decided to return to Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida
Key West is a city in Monroe County, Florida, United States. The city encompasses the island of Key West, the part of Stock Island north of U.S. 1 , Sigsbee Park , Fleming Key , and Sunset Key...

, to get coal for his ship. The Navy Department sent a despatch to Schley asking him to stay at Santiago, but he replied that he was unable to obey these orders. Inexplicably, Schley decided mid-voyage to return to Santiago on 28 May, where the following day it was confirmed that the Spanish Squadron was there. Sampson arrived on 1 June and assumed command. The American ships formed a blockade across the harbor to trap the Spanish ships.

On 3 July, while Sampson was en route to meet General Shafter onshore, Cervera attempted to squeeze his squadron through the blockade. Schley had assumed control in Sampson's absence. When Maria Teresa of the Spanish Squadron tried to ram Brooklyn, Schley's flagship, he ordered the ship to steer away from Maria Teresa, causing a near collision with Texas. This gave the Spanish ships added time to escape, but the American fleet, including Brooklyn, pursued the Spanish Squadron and succeeded in destroying it completely.

When the victory message from Sampson was reported, it contained no reference to any officer other than himself, even though he was not involved in the actual fighting. Sampson was loath to praise Schley's role in the fighting, a fact which derived from professional jealousy, as was evidenced later by Sampson's own conduct at the subsequent court of inquiry. Sampson was of the opinion that had it not for the Battle of Santiago de Cuba
Battle of Santiago de Cuba
The Battle of Santiago de Cuba, fought between Spain and the United States on 3 July 1898, was the largest naval engagement of the Spanish-American War and resulted in the destruction of the Spanish Navy's Caribbean Squadron.-Spanish Fleet:...

, Schley would have been court-martialed. The public, however, regarded Schley as the hero not only of the battle, but also of the war, while Sampson was seen (accurately) as indecorous for not acknowledging Schley's role.
In August 1898, Schley was raised to the rank of rear admiral.

After Cuba

On 14 April 1899, Schley was commissioned rear admiral, ranking as major general. In November 1899, he was put in command of the South Atlantic Squadron, and, on 9 October 1901, he retired from active service upon reaching the age limit.


A controversy arose between partisans of Schley and those of Sampson over their respective claims to the credit of the victory over Cervera's fleet during the recent war. Of that discussion neither officer personally took public notice until after the appearance of a work by Edgar Stanton Maclay
Edgar Stanton Maclay
Edgar Stanton Maclay was a United States journalist and historian.-Biography:...

 entitled History of the United States Navy. In that book, the author referred to Commodore Schley as a “caitiff, poltroon and coward.” The proofs of the book had been read and approved by various naval officers, among them Rear Admiral Sampson.

At Schley's request, because of the charges made against him in the book, a court of inquiry was opened on September 12, 1901, composed of Admiral George Dewey
George Dewey
George Dewey was an admiral of the United States Navy. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War...

, Rear Admiral Andrew E. K. Benham and Rear Admiral Francis Munroe Ramsay
Francis Munroe Ramsay
Admiral Francis Munroe Ramsay was an officer in the United States Navy who distinguished himself in the American Civil War, and who later served as Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Navigation.-Early life and career:...

, which investigated Schley's conduct before and during the Battle of Santiago. On 13 December 1901, the court reported its proceedings and the testimony taken, with a full and detailed statement of all the pertinent facts which it deemed to be established, together with its opinion and recommendations. Various officers gave conflicting testimony as to Schley's conduct, with one, Captain Templin Potts
Templin Potts
Templin Morris Potts was a United States Navy Captain and the 11th Naval Governor of Guam. He held many important posts during his time in the Navy, including Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Naval attaché to Kaiser Wilhelm II, and aid for naval personnel...

, directly accusing Schley of cowardice.

The majority report of the court found that Commodore Schley failed to proceed to Santiago with due despatch, that the squadron should not have been delayed by the Eagle, that he should not have turned westward, that he should have obeyed the Navy Department's order of May 25, 1898, that he did not do his utmost to capture the Colon, that the turn of the Brooklyn caused the Texas to stop, for carelessness in endangering Texas, for blanketing the fire of other American vessels, that he did injustice to lieutenant-commander Hodgson (Navigation officer of the Brooklyn at the time of the incident), that his conduct in the Santiago campaign was characterized by vacillation, dilatoriness, and "lack of enterprise," and that his coal reports were inaccurate and misleading. Admiral Dewey, however, presented a minority report, in which he praised Schley for promptness and efficient service, and gave him the credit for the destruction of Cervera's fleet.

The court recommended that no action be taken in view of the length of time which had elapsed. Rear Admiral Schley filed a protest against the court's findings, which, however, were approved by the Secretary of the Navy Long
John Davis Long
John Davis Long was a U.S. political figure. He served as the 32nd Governor of Massachusetts between 1880 and 1883. He later served as the Secretary of the Navy from 1897 to 1902....

, who (expectedly) supported Sampson on grounds of rank and seniority. Nonetheless, the public press, and particularly the Hearst newspapers, saw the outcome as vindicating Schley, whose status as a war hero was enhanced by the exposure. In January 1902, Rear Admiral Schley appealed from the verdict to President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, who, however, confirmed Secretary Long's approval.

Schley wrote, with James Russell Soley, The Rescue of Greely (New York, 1885). He also wrote and published his autobiography, Forty-five Years under the Flag (New York, 1904). For the fullest treatment of the battle of Santiago, see George Edward Graham's Schley and Santiago: an Historical Account of the Blockade and Final Destruction of the Spanish Fleet Under Command of Admiral Pasquale Cervera, July 3, 1898 (W. B. Conkey, 1902).

Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley died on October 2, 1911, nine years after Rear Admiral Sampson, who barely survived his retirement in 1902. Rear Admiral Schley was buried with all military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, where he also has a street named for him.

There is a memorial to Schley in the lobby of the Maryland state house
Maryland State House
The Maryland State House is located in Annapolis and is the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, dating to 1772. It houses the Maryland General Assembly and offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The capitol has the distinction of being topped by the largest wooden dome in...

, and a bust of him by Ernest Keyser
Ernest Keyser
Ernest Keyser American sculptor born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 10, 1876. He studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, at the Art Students League in New York City and at the Académie Julien and with Denys Puech in Paris....

 in Annapolis.


  • USS Schley
    USS Schley (DD-103)
    USS Schley was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War I and later designated, APD-14 in the World War II...

     (DD-103/APD-14) was named in his honor.
  • Schley, Minnesota, an unincorporated community in Cass County
    Cass County, Minnesota
    Cass County is a county located in the U.S. state of Minnesota. As of 2010, the population was 28,567. Its county seat is Walker. A portion of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation is in the county.-Geography:...

    , is named after Commodore Schley.

External links