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Some fight, eh, Jack?
— Schley, to Captain John Philip

Winfield Scott Schley was a US Navy officer who served in the American Civil War and Spanish-American War, best known for his taking direct command of the US fleet at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, with his direct superior William T. Sampson being ashore at a meeting with Army General William Shafter at the time of the battle. The battle became known for a subsequent controversy over whether Sampson or Schley would take credit for the victory.

Schley was born in 1839 and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1860. Soon after, the American Civil War broke out, and served on various ships during the war, most notably taking part in the capture of Port Hudson, Lousiana as part of the Vicksburg campaign. After the war, Schley would serve in the San Salvador intervention of 1866 and the Korean Expedition of 1871. After these operations, he would serve in various commands until the Spanish American War was declared in 1898, where he would reach the rank of commodore and ended up a second-in-command of the Flying Squadron of the US Navy, consisting of various battleships, cruisers, and armed yachts, under Rear Admiral William T Sampson.

During the Battle of Santiago de Cuba on July 3rd,1898, Sampson was away on shore at a meeting with Army General William Shafter, so Schley was in command of the Flying Squadron in his absence. During the battle, Schley led the US fleet against the four cruiser and two destroyers of Spanish admiral Pascuel Cevera. Schley’s ships destroyed the Spanish squadron before Sampson was able to return from the meeting ashore. When Sampson returned, however, he sent a telegram taking credit for the victory without mentioning Schley. While Sampson was responsible for the ship position and some of the planning of the battle, Schley was in command for the actual battle.

This led to a controversy over whether Sampson or Schley should take credit for the battle practically divided the Navy into pro-Sampson and pro-Schley camps. This controversy led to a court of inquiry, where Sampson accused Schley of cowardice and ineptitude in his actions in the lead up to and during the battle, claiming he would have been court martialed had he not won the battle. The court of inquiry eventually found Schley had made several errors, however, due to the length of time elapsed, charges were dropped. The news media and the public sided with Schley, viewing Sampson as having taken credit for the battle and pressed the charges against Schley out of professional envy. In 1899, Schley was promoted to rear admiral, and he retired in 1902. Schley died in 1911 at age 71 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Battle vs. Tōgō Heihachirō (by SPARTAN 119)[]

North of Luzon, Philippines, 1903. In an alternate timeline...

1903. The United States is fighting a brutal guerilla war against the native Filipinos, who did not take kindly to their new Philippine Republic being colonized by yet another foreign power. Seeing an opportunity to expand their influence in the region, the Japanese step up the previously limited (the Japanese did actually provide very limited support to the Filipinos in real life, FYI) support, secretly providing arms and military training and support to the Filipinos. In late 1902, the Americans sunk a Japanese ship they suspected of transporting arms to the insurrectionists. In response, the Japanese declared war on the US and dispatched the Imperial Japanese Navy, under Admiral Heihachiro Togo to the Philippines. Defending the archipelago is a force of three American battleships under Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, a veteran of the Spanish-American War. A clash of two rising empires is about to begin...

The new Japanese battleship Mikasa steamed south towards the distance mass of green on the horizon, the island of Luzon, leading two other battleships. Admiral Heihachiro Togo stood on the bridge, looking out towards the distance. Suddenly, a message arrived from the lookouts: "Smoke spotted to the southeast in grid square 203".

On the southern horizon, a column of black smoke from the funnel of a ship was visible in the distance. "Get on the wireless", Togo ordered the wireless telegraph operator on the bridge, "Relay this message: 'In response to the warning that enemy ships have been sighted, the Combined Fleet will immediately commence action and attempt to attack and destroy them. Weather today fine but high waves.'"

"At once, sir", the wireless operator responded as the room was filled by the beeping sound of the telegraph, as well as alarms ordering the crew of the ship to battlestations. As soon as the previous message was finished, Togo ordered the "Z-flag" be raised, the meaning of that particular Japanese naval flag meaning: "The Empire's fate depends on the result of this battle, let every man do his utmost duty." On board the other two ships, Asahi and Shikishima, their crews too were making ready for battle. The first engagement of the Japanese-American War of 1903 had begun.

At a range of about 8000 meters, Togo gave the order for his ships to make a turn to port, crossing the T of the American ships. On the other side of the straight, Rear Admiral Schley had seen what the Japanese were doing, and ordered his ships to maneuver into a parallel course, so as to engage them with all of their guns. It was at that moment that a storm of 12 and 6-inch shells rained down from the sky. The first Japanese salvo overshot the Indiana, the lead ship in the formation, but while the first shots landed off well off the bow of the Oregon, the last two 12-inch shells and several six-inch shells struck it directly in the bow. The vessel went up in a flash of fire. The Oregon was still afloat, but its speed was slowed by several knots, the 12-inch turret had its traverse disabled and the forward 8-inch turret was wrecked completely.

The USS Iowa had maneuver around the crippled Oregon to rejoin the lines. As the Indiana was about half way into its turn to port, it was bracketed, but not directly hit by fire from the Mikasa. The Shikishima focused her fire on the disabled Oregon, scoring hits with all four of it's 12-inch guns, as well as the secondary battery. One particular shell landed just forward of the forward 12-inch turret of the Oregon, punching through the thin plating into the decks below. There was a great flash of fire as the magazine exploded, blowing the bow of the ship clean off. The Oregon sank within ten minutes, water pouring in through the gaping hole in the bow.

On board the bridge of the Indiana, Schley saw the explosion of the Oregon. He was down a ship, but he didn't retreat. Instead, the Imperial Japanese Navy, like the Spaniards before them, were going to learn what happens when you mess with Uncle Sam. The formidable main battery of the 4 13-inch guns, as well all 8-inch and 6-inch guns that could be turned on the Japanese fleet opened fire. The salvo landed a few hundred meters off the starboard bow of the Mikasa. Schley's two remaining ships made a diagonal course, firing their guns as they closed to about 5000 meters, trying to get close enough to use their intermediate batteries to full effect.

(Schley: 2/3, Togo: 3/3

While the first American Salvo missed, the second salvo, fired from the Iowa struck home, a lucky shot with a 13.5-inch shell hitting the bridge of the Shikishima, killing most of the occupants. Several other hits damaged the secondary battery and rear turret. The rear 13.5-inch turret and secondary 8-inch guns of the Indiana fired, struck the stricken Shikishima. One of the shells landed in the water a few meters from the side of the Japanese ship, and detonated underwater, blowing a gaping hole in the hull. Within five minutes, the Shikishima was listing badly, and the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

(Schley: 2/3, Togo: 2/3)

Schley gave the order for the Indiana and Iowa to fire their torpedoes, sending a spread towards the Japanese fleet. Togo ordered he Mikasa to turn to starboard, the slightly faster Japanese ship managed to evade the torpedoes. The Mikasa then turned her entire 12-inch main battery on the Iowa, landing multiple hits on the rear of the ship, disabling her engines and setting fires on board. More hits from guns of the Asahi to the stern and superstructure sealed her fate. With fires burning out of control and taking on water rapidly, the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

(Schley 1/3, Togo: 2/3)

As 12-inch shells splashed around the Indiana, Schley saw the writing on the wall. He gave the order to strike the colors of the last surviving ship, and raised the flags "XGE", the international flag code for surrender, as well as the a white tablecloth on the flagpole. The battle was over. Schley would be disgraced in the eyes of press, having lost two battleships and surrendered a third, but the men on board his ship would live.

Winner: Heihachiro Togo

Expert's Opinion[]

Heihachiro Togo won this battle thanks primarily to his far greater combat experience and tactical prowess, being widely considered the greatest commander of the pre-dreadnought era. In addition, the Japanese ships, while not as heavily armed as the Americans, had heavier armor, longer-range weapons, and were slightly faster.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.