Rhode Island Stamp Issues and Covers 1846 to 1900
1898 Registered Letter from Minor R. Jacobs, USS Vesuvius
To J. T. Rawdon in Providence, Rhode Island

(Scroll Down for History, Background Information & Complete Letter Text)


The registered letter above was sent by Minor R. Jacobs, a crewmember on the USS Vesuvius while the ship was being removed from service at Charlestown, Massachusetts, (Boston Navy Yard) on September 6, 1898 to Mr. J. T. Rawson (or Rawdon) in Providence, Rhode island. (The cover is addressed to J. T. Rawdon, however the salutation in the latter is addressed; J. T. Rawson. I checked records under both names and could not determine which was the correct name.)

The four 2-cent Trans-Mississippi Exposition (Brown-Red, June-1898, Scott #286) issues at top paid the 1898 registry fee of 8 cents. The 5th Trans-Mississippi and the 2-cent Washington (Type III - Pink, November-1897, Scott #267a) paid double the first class rate for a letter weighing more than 1 ounce.

The cover bears a Charlestown, Station, Boston, MA Registry cancel and the reverse of the cover has a Providence Registry cancel. the docketing on the left side of the cover reads, "M. R. Jacobs - U.S.S. Vesuvius - Navy Yard - Boston, Mass."

The letter contained a Five-Peseta Spanish Coin taken from the "Infanta Maria Teresa" after the "Battle of Santiago Bay," (Cuba). She was the flagship of the Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete

NOTE: In 1898, a Spanish 5-Peseta coin was equal to about $20.00 American and in 1897 before the war bought about its depreciation, to about $30.00. I am certain, given the exchange rate that the 5 -Peseta coin enclosed in the letter was a "gold coin."

Notes on the Spanish-American War
The Infanta Maria Teresa was commissioned in 1893. She was classified as an intermediate cruiser and was 366 feet in length with a beam of 65 feet. She carried 497 officers and enlisted crewmen and had a top speed of 20 knots. Her main armament consisted of two 11-inch guns, ten 5.5 inch guns and 8 torpedo tubes. The cruiser was one of the top-of the line Spanish Vessels; unfortunately she went into battle with an untrained crew, short of ammunition, and with several of her guns inoperable. 

The Battle of Santiago was fought on July 3, 1898 when Admiral Cevera, who had been bottled up in Santiago Harbor, attempted to run the the American blockade being maintained by Commodore Schley and his "Flying Squadron" consisting of the battleships Massachusetts and Texas, and the cruisers Brooklyn, Minneapolis and Columbia. The Brooklyn served as Schley's flagship.

At 9:00 AM, Sunday morning, Cevera steamed out in "Line of Battle" attempting to slip past the Americans. Admiral Cevera's Flagship, Maria Teresa, leading the fleet out of the harbor took the brunt of the American fire and after less than an hour, the entire aft portion of the ship was a blazing wreck. Admiral Cevera then grounded his ship to save his crew. In short time, the rest of the Spanish fleet was either sunk or grounded. The Battle of Santiago effectively ended Spanish power in the Western hemisphere; there were over 8000 Spanish casualties compared to only 1 death and 10 wounded for the Americans

Admiral Sampson was in overall command of the American Naval forces, however he missed the battle because of a scheduled meeting with General Shafter, commanding the American forces ashore. Admiral Sampson turned his flagship, New York around and attempted to join the fight, however the battle ended before he arrived on station.

A controversy has existed to this day over who should get credit for the victory; Commodore Schley who fought the battle or Admiral Sampson who drew up the battle plans. Although a Naval Court of Inquiry backed Admiral Sampson's claims; public opinion favored Schley.

USS Vesuvius
The USS Vesuvius was commissioned on June 7, 1890. She was a one-of-a-kind ship; her main battery consisting of three pneumatic 15-inch dynamite guns. Vesuvius joined the fleet on October 1st and operated with the North Atlantic Squadron until April 25, 1895 when she was decommissioned. She was recommissioned on January 12, 1897 and on May 28, 1898 she was attached to the fleet blockading Cuba. During the war, Vesuvius conduced eight bombardments of Santiago and also carried dispatches between Cuba and Florida.

Vesuvius was removed from service on September 16, 1898 and remained at the Boston Navy Yard until 1905 when she was converted to a Torpedo Testing Ship. (The letter was written on September 5, 1898; 11 days  prior to the ship being removed from service.) She was decommissioned again in 1907 for repairs. Commissioned again in 1910; Vesuvius served in the Narragansett Bay area, operating out of Newport, Rhode Island. Vesuvius was decommissioned for the final time on October 21, 1921 and scrapped in 1922.

Vesuvius was 252 feet in length overall, with a beam of 26.5 feet and displaced 930 tons. She carried a crew of 69 officers and enlisted men and had a top speed of 22 knots. Her design contained many flaws and in spite of the recommendations by Admiral Sampson, a second planned Dynamite Gun Ship was never built.

SEE ALSO: The Spanish American War - Centennial Website (A very detailed overview of
                    the war including the Battle of Santiago

The Complete Text of the Letter Follows Below:

      U. S. S. Vesuvius
                          Navy Yard Boston Mass
                                            September 5th/98
Mr. J. T. Rawson
           Providence, R.I.
      Enclose you will please find a Spanish
(5 Pesetas) which I got from the Spanish
flag Ship the Infanta Maria Teresa. I undertaken
to clean it but failed in the attempt it was very
black from the effect of the intense
heat from the fire believe me
                           Very truly
                                   Minor R. Jacobs U.S.N.

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