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George W. Robinson Diary, 1898: Finding Aid

Published in November 2008

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 344
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: George W. Robinson Diary
  • Dates: 1898
  • Size: 0.08 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 76 leaves
  • Creator: Robinson, G. W. (George W.)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: George W. Robinson was a fireman aboard the battleship Oregon (BB-3) during the Spanish-American War. In addition to describing the firemen's work, Robinson's diary includes accounts of the bombardment of Santiago, Cuba and his assessment of Admirals William T. Sampson, Winfield Scott Schley, and Robley D. Evans.

Biography of George W. Robinson

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.

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Description of Contents

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.

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The entries within the diary are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The George 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.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of LT Sean A. Cox, CHC, USNR in June 1999. Accession No. 99-56.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to naval operations during the Spanish-American War can be found in the Order Book of U.S.S. Yosemite, MS 275 in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

George W. Robinson Diary, MS 344

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer A. Bryan in November 2008. Finding aid written by Jennifer A. Bryan in November 2008.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Evans, Robley D. (Robley Dunglison), 1846-1912
  • Oregon (Battleship : BB-3)
  • Robinson, G. W. (George W.)
  • Sampson, William Thomas, 1840-1902
  • Santiago, Battle of, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, 1898
  • Schley, Winfield Scott, 1839-1911
  • Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Naval operations

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

G[eorge] W. Robinson Diary, 1898

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