U.S.S. Oregon (BB-3), 1898.
U.S.S. Oregon (BB-3), 1898.

Guide to the G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary, 1898

MS 344

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: Jennifer A. Bryan

Descriptive Summary

The G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary was donated to the Special Collections & Archives Department by LT Sean A. Cox, CHC, USNR. Accession No. 99-56.
1 item.
Access to the G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary is unrestricted.
The G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary is the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary, MS 344
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Sketch

George W. Robinson was a fireman on board the U.S.S. Oregon (BB-3) during the Spanish-American War. He was discharged from the Navy on January 6, 1899. According to the diary, he served in the battleship's Number 1 Fire Room.

Scope and Content Note

The document is a photocopy of a manuscript which appears to be Robinson's fair copy of his original diary, kept from March 19, 1898 to July 22, 1898 with a few additional remarks up to the time of his discharge from the Navy. Included are photocopies of two photographs (one depicting Robinson), a letter from C. T. Phillips to Robinson dated July 28, 1937, a picture of the Oregon, and a typed list of the battleship's officers. These items were probably either tipped in or inserted in the front of the manuscript. Robinson gives detailed descriptions of the Oregon's activities, the fighting, and the back-breaking labor of the firemen on board the battleship.

The diary begins with the Oregon leaving San Francisco and rounding Cape Horn to eventually join the American fleet stationed off Santiago, Cuba. Upon arrival at Rio de Janeiro on April 30, the crew learned that war had been declared - "such a cheer as the crew gave when the news was finally announced I never heard before." On May 12, they received a telegram from the Navy Department giving the results of the action at Manila. After recoaling at Key West, the Oregon arrived off Santiago with the blockading fleet on June 1.

Robinson recounts that after arriving off Cuba, the only food the men had to eat for almost a month was hardtack and molasses. His opinion of the vessel’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander James K. Cogswell, is very low. According to Robinson, Cogswell was frequently inebriated and had proven himself a coward in every fight. The fireman also has harsh words for Admiral William T. Sampson (1840-1902), Commodore Winfield Scott Schley (1839-1911), and Captain Robley D. Evans (1846-1912), referring to them as Sensible Sampson, Commodore Can't, and Fightless Bob. (Both Schley and Evans would later retire as rear admirals). By the middle of June, Robinson indicates that the men's morale has deteriorated, caused chiefly by the lack of fresh provisions (although the officers seem to have plenty), Lieutenant Commander Cogswell's behavior, and the perception that Sampson, Schley, and Evans were more interested in getting their names and exploits in the newspapers than in aggressively prosecuting the war. The last entry in the diary is for July 22, after which Robinson adds a paragraph that describes events up to the time of his discharge from the Navy on January 6, 1899.