William Thomas Sampson

From The Dreadnought Project
Jump to: navigation, search

Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson (9 February, 1840 – 6 May, 1902) was a United States Navy admiral known for his victory in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Early Life & Career

He was born in Palmyra, New York, and entered the United States Naval Academy on 24 September, 1857. After graduating first in his class four years later, he served as an instructor at the Academy. In 1864, he became the executive officer of the monitor Patapsco of the South Atlantic Blockading Station and engaged in sweeping mines (then known as "torpedoes") off Charleston, South Carolina. He survived the loss of that ironclad on 15 January, 1865, when she struck a torpedo, exploded, and sank with a loss of 75 lives.

Following duty in the steam frigate Colorado on the European Station, another tour as instructor at the Naval Academy, and in the Bureau of Navigation of the Navy Department, he served in the screw sloop Congress. He then commanded Alert, practice ship Mayflower, and Swatara while on duty at the Naval Academy.

During the next years, he was Assistant to the Superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory, then Officer-in-Charge of the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. On 9 September, 1886, he became Superintendent of the Naval Academy. He was promoted to Captain on 9 April, 1889, reported to the Mare Island Navy Yard to fit out San Francisco, and assumed command when that protected cruiser was commissioned on 15 November, 1889. He was detached in June, 1892 to serve as Inspector of Ordnance in the Washington Navy Yard and was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance on 28 January, 1893. He assumed command of the battleship Iowa on 15 June, 1897. On 17 February, 1898, he was made President of the Board of Inquiry to investigate the destruction of the Maine. On 26 March, he assumed command of the North Atlantic Station, with the temporary rank of Rear Admiral.

The United States declared war against Spain on 21 April; and, eight days later, Admiral Cervera's fleet sailed from the Cape Verde Islands for an uncertain destination. Admiral Sampson, in his flag ship New York, put to sea from Key West in search of the Spanish Fleet and established a close and efficient blockade on that fleet in the harbor of Santiago on 1 June, 1898. On the morning of 3 July, 1898, Cervera's fleet came out of the harbour and was completely destroyed in a running sea battle lasting five hours. The next day, Rear Admiral Sampson sent his famous message: "The Fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present, the whole of Cervera's Fleet".

Sampson was appointed Cuban Commissioner on 20 August, 1898 but resumed command of the North Atlantic Fleet in December. He became Commandant of the Boston Navy Yard in October, 1899 and transferred to the Retired List on 9 February, 1902. Rear Admiral Sampson died in Washington, D.C. a few months later and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of U.S.S. Alert
27 May, 1875
Succeeded by
Charles L. Huntington
Preceded by
Officer in Charge, Naval Torpedo Station, Newport
before 1886
Succeeded by
Newton E. Mason
Preceded by
Francis M. Ramsay
Superintendent of the Naval Academy
9 Sep, 1886 – 1890
Succeeded by
Robert L. Phythian
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of U.S.S. San Francisco
15 Nov, 1890
Succeeded by
Edwin M. Shepard
Preceded by
William M. Folger
Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance
28 Jan, 1893[1] – 1 Jun, 1897[2]
Succeeded by
Charles O'Neil
Preceded by
New Command
Captain of U.S.S. Iowa
16 Jun, 1897[3] – 24 Mar, 1898[4]
Succeeded by
Robley D. Evans
Preceded by
Montgomery Sicard
Commanding North Atlantic Squadron
28 Mar, 1898 – Oct, 1899
Succeeded by
Norman H. Farquhar


  1. Register of Officers, 1895. pp. 6-7.
  2. Register of Officers, 1898. p. 8.
  3. NavSource.org
  4. NavSource.org