Disputed Victory

Schley, Sampson and the Spanish-American War of 1898

Quintin Barry

An account of the naval campaign of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the subsequent public controversy and Court of Inquiry.
Date Published :
May 2018
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
16pp b/w plates, 6 b/w maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781912174911
Pages : 256
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


In 1898 the United States went to war with Spain over the future of Cuba. The American navy had, in the preceding decade, been revived after years of neglect, and was much stronger than anything that the Spanish could bring against it. In the Philippines, Admiral George Dewey easily destroyed a weak Spanish squadron. A military invasion of Cuba was supported by the rest of the US Navy, under the command of Admiral William T Sampson. An important part of this force was the Flying Squadron, led by Commodore Winfield Scott Schley. Meanwhile a Spanish squadron under Admiral Pascual Cervera sailed from Europe to the Caribbean and, after disappearing for some days, reached the port of Santiago de Cuba. Schley was the first on the scene; his movements were later to be severely criticized. When Sampson arrived with the rest of the fleet, a blockade of the port was instituted. In the end, Cervera was obliged to make an attempt to break out, but his squadron of four cruisers was overwhelmed and destroyed. During the battle on Sunday July 3, Schley was in effective command, as Sampson had gone ashore to confer with the army commander. Although the Americans had won another easy victory, a bitter dispute arose between the respective supporters of Schley and Sampson as to who was entitled to the credit. Fanned by the popular press, the issue split the U S Navy to the point where its morale was seriously affected. Matters came to a head with the publication of a book violently attacking Schley’s conduct. He demanded a Court of Inquiry; this sat for forty days at the Washington Navy Yard, presided over by Admiral Dewey. It was one of the great trials of American history, as the lawyers refought the campaign in minute detail. In the end, the verdict went against Schley, though this was offset by a minority opinion from Dewey that he had indeed been in command and deserved the credit for the victory. This book explores the rights and wrongs of the conduct of those principally involved in a battle that marked the dawn of the American empire, and closely examines the dramatic proceedings of the Court of Inquiry.

About The Author

Quintin Barry is a solicitor and retired Employment Judge. He has also held a wide varirty of offices in both the public sectors, including the NHS and local radio. Following a lifelong interest in military and naval history, he is the author of a number of books in both fields. These include an acclaimed two volume history of the Franco Prussian War of 1870-1871; a history of the Austro Prussian War of 1866; and the first modern history of the Russo Turkish War of 1877-1878. He has also written a number of books of naval history, including a well reviewed account of the war in the North Sea in 1914-1918.


“Barry spends more time than is commonly found in accounts of the war on the Spanish side, offering an analysis of Spain’s options, which were not as grim as is sometimes suggested, albeit that overall the U.S. was greatly superior. This is an excellent account of the naval side of the war, useful even for someone unfamiliar with the events, reminding us of how personalities and politics can affect the historical record.”

- The NYMAS Review

The author provides does an excellent job in telling a two-part story, first of the naval battle and then the ins and outs of the formation of the two camps that would duel over who deserved the honor of winning the naval battle of Santiago de Cuba.”

- PowerShips

‘’...provides a detailed and fascinating account of particularly the naval aspects of the Spanish-American War of 1898..The final chapter... is especially well-written...also reasonable value for money...If looking for something different, this book is worth picking up.'' 

- The Naval Review

"I found it profoundly interesting and educational. It is a valuable contribution to the generality of the world's naval history."

- Army Rumour Service

"Photos of individuals and ships, including action shots, assist the mind’s eye in creating scenes while the maps place the combat in geographic context."

- The Northern Mariner

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