Letter aboard the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor

by Charles Hamilton,

Apprentice, 1st Class, Battleship Maine

(courtesy of Monica Hamilton)


This remarkable letter was written by a seventeen year old crewmen of the battleship MAINE, as she floated in Havana harbor, awaiting her terrible fate. The crewman, Charles Hamilton, picked up his pencil and wrote this letter home to his father, Samuel Hamilton of Newport, Rhode Island. The envelope bears the date of February 5, 1898. The letter shows the tension that existed aboard the ship at this time. Charles was lost when the ship exploded ten days after this letter was written.

Biographical info:

Charles Alexander Hamilton was born in Newport, Rhode Island March 22, 1881, near the "rear of the gas works."  His father, Samuel Hamilton, was a groom on the estate of George P. Lawton, in Newport. His mother, Johanna Duggan, was a nanny for the Lawton family at the time of Charles' death.

The Letter:

"U.S.S. Maine
Havana, Cuba

Dear Father,

I received your loving letter a few days ago and was pleased to hear from you.  I would have written sooner but owing to us having to been ordered to sea so soon.  I didn't have any chance.  We are now in Havana Cuba.  We arrived here yesterday after a five hour run around a place called Dry Tartogos a small Florida reef.  We were out to sea when the orders came for us to proceed to proceed at once to Havana.  We are the first American ship that has been here in six years.  We are now cleared for action with every gun in the ship loaded and men stationed around the ship all night.  We are also ready to land a battalion at any moment.  By the looks of things now I think we will have some trouble before we leave.  We steamed the whole length of Cuba and about every mile you can see puffs of smoke and the Spainards firing on the rebels.  There are three German ships (?) loading.  here was Old Moro Castle stands at the entrance of the harbor, there are thousands of Spanish inside you can see them all sitting on the walls at any time of the day.  This is a landlocked harbor but I think we could get out of it all right although we are in a pretty dangerous position at the present time and we hardly know when we are safe.  Well dear Father I will now have to close sending my best love and wishes to all and hoping that I may be alive to see you all again.  I remain you loving son. Charles

U.S.S. Maine in the charge of Council General of the United States
Havana, Cuba

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