Sampson Medal, USS Harvard

Sampson Medal, USS Harvard, phase 1, reverse “Santiago de Cuba / July 3”. Officially named (impressed) “Wyllis J. Neal, O. Sea”. Wyllis Jukes Neal, of Alton, Illinois, is confirmed on the muster roll of the Harvard. He enlisted in the Navy on May 31, 1898 and was assigned to the USS Harvard shortly thereafter.

Medal is in good condition; some verdigris on obverse of planchet. Original machine sewn ribbon, typical of phase 1 Sampson medals. With original Sampson Medal case, showing some damage. Purchased (without case) from FJP Auctions in November 2001.

Price $950 (sold)

The USS Harvard, a schooner-rigged steamship was built in 1888 as City of New York by J. & G. Thompson, Clydebank, Scotland, for the Inman Line. Sister ship of City of Paris, City of New York was one of the largest and best liners of her day, and one of the first steamships with twin screws. She was transferred to American registry under the American Line in 1893 as New York. These ships brought the United States to the front rank in the Atlantic passenger trade, and New York established the record for the Southampton to New York crossing in September 1893. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, New York was chartered as an auxiliary cruiser with a civilian crew, commissioning 26 April 1898 at New York, Captain C. S. Cotton in command and renamed Harvard.

Assigned as a scout, Harvard departed New York 30 April to cruise West Indian waters in search of the Spanish fleet. After sending back several reports on the location of Spanish units in the Caribbean, Harvard was blockaded by a larger force at St. Pierre, Martinique, 11-17 May, after which she proceeded to Santiago de Cuba and St. Nicholas Mole, Haiti, with dispatches from Commodore Schley. Interrupting her scouting duties, Harvard returned to Newport News, Virginia, 7-26 June, during which time her crew was officially taken into the Naval Service.

Harvard returned to the Caribbean with troops and supplies, arriving at Altares, Cuba, about 1 July. The morning of 3 July she received the electrifying news that the Spanish fleet had sortied. After Rear Admiral Sampson's smashing victory off Santiago, she rescued survivors. Despite the high surf and ammunition explosions from the stricken Spanish ships, Harvard succeeded in recovering over 600 officers and men.

No longer needed as a scout in the Caribbean, Harvard was sent back to the United States 10 July 1898. She was temporarily turned over to the War Department, and returned to Santiago de Cuba to transport troops back to the United States. Harvard arrived at New York 27 August and decommissioned 2 September 1898 at New York Navy Yard.

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