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R. F. Shier of the USS HARVARD

Writes Home about the

"HARVARD Incident"

Contributed by Kim Smith 
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Click here to read about the "HARVARD incident," and what actually happened
Click here for a letter from crewman Clay Butler concerning the Battle of Santiago and the HARVARD Incident"
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This letter was written by Rex F. Shier, apparently a marine serving aboard the USS HARVARD. It reflects the view of the crewmen concerning the shooting of several Spanish prisoners of war aboard the vessel. In the confusion of the event, it took some time for the Americans to fully understand what had happened, and the dreadful error which had occurred.

Crewmen Shier's letter sounds somewhat brutal today, but it would have been his understanding at the time that the Spanish prisoners of war had tried to take over his vessel...however, the letter was also probably intended for "home consumption." There is no indication that an sort of hand-to-hand combat occurred with the Spanish prisoners. Therefore the reference to receiving a dagger wound and his "cutting down" the Spanish did not occur in reality. The letter represents a partial "tall tale."

At present, we have not been able to determine what ship the "ELAMNICA" was. Most likely, it was a transport renamed by the U.S. Navy.

Rex Shier survived the war, and moved out west where he managed the "Silver King" and "Black Eagle" mines in Oregon. In 1910, he married Miss Margaret Ballard.

The letter:

[The letter was written on stationery Shier would have recieved when aboard the U.S. Receiving Ship Vermont, which reads "U.S.S. Vermont" across the top]

July 7

Dear father & mother

I am well and hope this will find [you] the same  I have been raised in rank to captain of a gun on board the U.S. Cruser Elmanica we sail monday the 18 July for manila to deweys fleet  She is a big ship  we have a good time on board  I have  not heard from you yet since  [unreadable] 1 month were just arrived here today from newport news va with a load of spanish Prisoners At about 7 00 c night before last there was a muteny among the prisoners and we had to kill 5 of them to stop the mutiny  I was below when it took pace and got out of it pretty easy  I only got a dager wound in the left arm. I cut the spaniards down as fast as I culd reach them

Admiral Cervera fleet was destroyed on July the 4 so we had a glorious time on the ship  my salry will be about $1.00 a month [unreadable] on my arm a eagle and 2 crossed canons and 2 bars shaped like this [small sketch]  and to stripes around my cufs and stars

that is all I can think of now so write soon if you want me to get your Letter for me go to the coast of china Shanghai so it will along time befor I can get a letter so Good By to all from your son R. f on bourd the USS Cruser Elmanica, USS Navy Yard, NY

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