Reservist

ISS1 2019

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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when Hudson arrived to take on arms, armor and ammunition. The service's first steel-hulled cutter, the ninety-four-foot Hudson had a tugboat design; and her crew included five officers and eighteen enlisted men, including two warrant officers, a cook, ship's steward and ship's boy. The shipyard's commandant visited the cutter and asked Newcomb how soon the cutter could get underway. Newcomb answered, "As soon as we get food and coal." The commandant yelled back, "Why, you have no guns and your protecting plates are not finished." To which Newcomb replied, "I know that, but we could go." Hudson later received two six-pound rapid-firing guns, one each located fore and aft; and a Colt automatic "machine gun" mounted on top of the deckhouse. She also had a layer of five-eighths-inch armor bolted around her pilothouse and deckhouse. On April 21, Congress declared war with Spain and the Treasury Department formally transferred control to the Navy of several revenue cutters, including Hudson. Newcomb found himself serving as a part of the U.S. Navy once again. Within two days, Hudson set out from Norfolk for Key West, Florida, the staging area for U.S. naval operations around Cuba. Off the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the cutter met with a severe storm, including hurricane winds, thunder, lightning, mountainous seas, torrential rain and hail the size of "hen's eggs." The storm nearly washed away Hudson's pilothouse, but the new armor plate held everything together against the heavy seas. On Thursday, May 5, Hudson finally arrived in Key West and Newcomb received his orders. Due to her relatively shallow draft of ten feet, the naval command assigned Hudson to blockade the Cuban coast between the ports of Cardenas and Matanzas. On May 9, the cutter took up her duty station and, by the next day, Newcomb got busy scouting the approaches to Cardenas Bay. Cardenas had three shallow-draft gunboats defending it, and Newcomb tried his best to draw the vessels out for a fight, but they refused to leave the safety of the bay. Newcomb then sounded the two main channels into the bay only to find them filled with debris. He considered plowing his way through the debris, but feared underwater mines. After further reconnaissance, he found a third channel with no debris that was passable only at high tide by shallow-draft vessels. Newcomb developed a plan to capture the gunboats by sending American warships through the third channel at high tide. His squadron commander, Cmdr. John Merry of the gunboat USS Machias, presented Newcomb's plan to the fleet commander, Rear Adm. John Watson, on board the flagship USS Dolphin. Merry would later take credit for planning this raid in his after action reports. In his own reports, the humble Newcomb took no credit; however, histories later written by Hudson crew members indicate the battle's true tactician and planner. On Wednesday, May 11, the day after Merry pitched the plan to Watson, gunboats USS Machias and USS Wilmington, and torpedo boat USS Winslow appeared outside Cardenas Bay to assist with Newcomb's plan. The Machias drew too much water to enter the bay and participate in the attack on Cardenas. Instead, she laid down a barrage on the barrier islands to eliminate enemy snipers from the bay's entrance. Between noon and 1 p.m., Hudson, Wilmington and Winslow steamed slowly through the narrow passage and Wilmington's captain, Cmdr. Coleman Todd, sent Hudson in search of the gunboats on the eastern side of the bay and ordered Winslow to search the western side. Later, Winslow and Wilmington met about 3,500 yards offshore from the port of Cardenas, where Todd spied the enemy gunboats moored at the city's waterfront. Todd directed Winslow's commanding officer, Lt. John Baptiste The U.S. Revenue Cutter Hudson normally patrolled the waters of New York City. The Navy called her into service for the Spanish-American War and ordered Newcomb to bring the cutter to the Norfolk Navy Yard (shown above at the Yard) to be out•tted for war. U.S. Navy photo. A veteran of the Civil War as a Navy of•cer, and the Spanish-American War as part of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, Frank Hamilton Newcomb served for over 40 years in the American sea services. He was a progressive thinking man and considered one of the •nest of•cers of the Revenue Cutter Service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo.) Issue 1 • 2019 � RESERVIST 53

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