1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sampson, William Thomas

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SAMPSON, WILLIAM THOMAS (1840–1902), American naval commander, was born at Palmyra, New York, on the 9th of February 1840, and graduated at the head of his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1861. In this year he was promoted to master, and in the following year was made lieutenant. He was executive officer in the “ Patapsco ” when she was blown up in Charleston Harbor in January 1865. He served on distant stations and (1868–1871 and 1876–1878) at the Naval Academy, and became lieutenant-commander in 1866 and commander in 1874. He was a member of the International Prime Meridian and Time Conference in 1884, and of the Board of Fortifications in 1885–1886; was superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1886 to 1890; and was promoted to captain and served as delegate at the International Maritime Conference at Washington in 1889. He was chief of the Bureau of Ordnance in 1893–1897. About 95% of the guns employed in the Spanish-American War were made under his superintendence. His influence was felt decisively in the distribution of guns and armour, and in the training of the personnel of the navy. He superintended the gunnery training and prepared a new drill-book for the fleet. In February 1898 Sampson, then a captain, was president of Board of Inquiry as to the cause of destruction of the “ Maine.” At the outbreak of the war with Spain he was placed in charge of the N. Atlantic squadron, and conducted the blockade of Cuba. When it was known that Admiral Cervera, with a Spanish fleet, had left the Cape Verde Islands, Sampson withdrew a force from the blockade to cruise in the Windward Passage, and made an attack upon the forts at San ]uan, Porto Rico. After his return to the coast of Cuba he conducted the blockade of Santiago, and the ships under his command destroyed the Spanish vessels when they issued from the harbor of Santiago and attempted to escape (see Spanish-American War). Sampson himself was not actually present at the battle, having started for Siboney just before it began to confer with General Shafter, commanding the land forces. He reached the scene of battle as the last Spanish vessel surrendered, and the engagement was fought in accordance with his instructions. He was promoted to commodore in 1898, to rear-admiral on the 3rd of March 1899, and was made commandant of the Boston (Charlestown) Navy Yard in October of the same year. He died on the 6th of May 1902.