Sampson, William Thomas

Sampson, William Thomas,

1840–1902, American naval officer, b. Palmyra, N.Y. After serving with Union naval forces in the Civil War, he saw varied naval service and was (1886–90) superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. As chief of the bureau of ordnance (1893–97), he made important changes in naval gunnery. Sampson was president of the board of inquiry on the destruction of the MaineMaine,
U.S. battleship destroyed (Feb. 15, 1898) in Havana harbor by an explosion that killed 260 men. The incident helped precipitate the Spanish-American War (Apr., 1898). Commanded by Capt. Charles Sigsbee, the ship had been sent (Jan.
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 in Havana harbor. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War (1898), he was made commander of the N Atlantic squadron. He commanded the blockade of Cuba and the attack on San Juan. Although he was not present for most of the battle of Santiago de Cuba, where the Spanish fleet was destroyed, he claimed credit for the victory, since he had laid down the general instructions for the attack; his claim was contested by Winfield Scott SchleySchley, Winfield Scott
, 1839–1911, American naval officer, b. Frederick co., Md. After serving with Union naval forces in the Civil War, he held various naval posts. In 1884 he commanded the third, and successful, relief expedition to rescue the arctic explorer Adolphus W.
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, who actually commanded in the engagement. Public opinion favored Schley, and Sampson never received due recognition for his part in the victory. In 1899 he attained the rank of rear admiral and from then until his death commanded the Boston navy yard.
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Sampson, William Thomas

(1840–1902) naval officer; born in Palmyra, N.Y. He was superintendent of the Naval Academy (1886–89) and chief of the Bureau of Ordnance (1893–97). He commanded the North Atlantic squadron which blockaded Santiago and landed American troops on Cuba (1898). He commanded the Boston navy yard (1899–1901).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.