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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Schley, Winfield Scott

SCHLEY, slī, Winfield Scott, American naval officer: b. near Frederick, Md., 9 Oct. 1839; d. New York, 3 Oct. 1911. He was graduated at the United States Naval Academy in 1860 and went as midshipman on the Niagara to China and Japan. Returning in 1861, he was made master, served on the Winona in the West Gulf blockading squadron, later on the Monongahela and the Richmond, and participated in all the engagements which led to the capture of Port Hudson in 1863, having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1862. Ordered from Southern waters in 1864 to the Pacific squadron, he served on the Wateree as executive officer till 1866, when he was promoted lieutenant-commander. In this period he suppressed an insurrection of Chinese coolies on the Chincha Islands, and for protection of United States interests landed a body of men at San Salvador during a revolution. From 1866 to 1869 he was instructor at the Naval Academy; then, being assigned to the Asiatic station, served there on the Benicia for three years, earning distinction at the taking of the Korean forts on the Salee River in 1871. Again, in 1872, he was detailed as instructor at the Naval Academy, and in 1874 was made commander. After serving in Europe and on the west coast of Africa, he commanded the Essex, on the Brazil station, 1876-79. He was selected to command the third government relief expedition (1884) for the rescue of Lieut. A. W. Greely (q.v.), which he promptly accomplished. Having served (1885-89) as chief of the Bureau of Recruiting and Equipment, he was promoted captain in 1888. From 1889 to 1891 he was in the southern Pacific as commander of the cruiser Baltimore, and in the latter year interposed at Valparaiso, Chile, when American sailors were assaulted in the streets.

In 1895 he was placed in command of the New York; was chairman of the Lighthouse Board 1897-98; in February of the last-named year became commodore, and after the outbreak of the war with Spain was given command of the Flying Squadron. Sailing from Hampton Roads, 13 May 1898, he began the historic search for Cervera's Spanish fleet, discovered it and finally established a blockade of the harbor at Santiago de Cuba (see United StatesWar with Spain), where, on 29 May, Cervera was found to be. Schley's squadron was united 1 June with the fleet under acting Rear-Admiral W. T. Sampson (q.v.) and the blockade was continued until 3 July, when the Spanish ships came out of the harbor and were destroyed by the American vessels, which, during the temporary absence of Sampson, were under the immediate command of Commodore Schley, on board the Brooklyn. In August 1898 Schley was raised to the rank of rear-admiral.

An unfortunate controversy arose between partisans of Schley and those of Sampson over their respective claims to the credit of this great victory. Of that discussion neither officer personally took public notice until after the appearance of a work by Edgar Stanton Maclay (q.v.), entitled ‘History of the United States Navy,’ in which the author referred to Commodore Schley as a “caitiff, poltroon and coward.” The proofs of the book had been read and approved by various naval officers, among them Rear-Admiral Sampson; and on 22 July 1901 Schley applied to the Secretary of the Navy for a court of inquiry. This request was granted 24 July. The court was convened 12 September and its sessions continued for one month. It consisted of Admiral Dewey, president, and Rear-Admirals Benham and Ramsey. The verdict, returned 14 Dec. 1901, was a disagreement, Admiral Dewey refusing to subscribe to censures on Schley's conduct which were made by the two other members. The “majority” report, signed by two members only, found Schley guilty of vacillation, lack of enterprise and disobedience, and in other particulars strongly criticised his conduct, both before and during the battle of Santiago de Cuba, while recognizing his personal courage in the action. Admiral Dewey, however, presented a “minority” report, in which he praised Schley for promptness and efficient service, and gave him the credit for the destruction of Cervera's fleet. Schley filed with the Secretary of the Navy objections to the “majority” report, but it was nevertheless approved by Secretary Long, 20 Dec. 1901. In January 1902, Rear-Admiral Schley appealed from the verdict to the President, who, however, confirmed Secretary Long's approval. On recommendation of the court, no action was taken upon its findings. Schley's retirement from active service at the age limit occurred 9 Oct. 1901. In collaboration with J. R. Soley (q.v.), he wrote ‘The Rescue of Greely’ (1886); he also wrote ‘Forty-five Years under the Flag’ (1904).