1937 4¢ Army and Navy: Sampson, Dewey and Schley
US #793 pictures Sampson, George Dewey, and Winfield Schley.

US Navy Rear Admiral William T. Sampson was born on February 9, 1840, in Palmyra, New York.

Sampson graduated first in his class from the US Naval Academy in 1861. After graduation, he remained at the academy for a time to teach physics.

1937 5¢ Seal of U.S. Naval Academy
US #794 – from the Army and Navy Series

In 1864, Sampson was made executive officer of the monitor Patapsco. In that role, he was part of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron that swept enemy torpedoes away from the Charleston, South Carolina Harbor during the Civil War. In 1865, a torpedo struck the Patapsco, claiming the lives of 75 crew members, but Sampson survived.

After the war, Sampson served on the steam frigate Colorado with the European Squadron. He also returned to the Naval Academy to teach and worked in the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation. Sampson additionally served aboard the screw sloop Congress, commanded the Alert, the training ship Mayflower, and Swatara.

1998 32¢ Battleship “Maine”
US #3192 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War.

Sampson went on to serve as superintendent of the US Naval Observatory, officer-in-charge of the Naval Torpedo Station in Rhode Island, and superintendent of the Naval Academy. After being promoted to captain in 1889, Sampson was made inspector of ordnance in the Washington Navy Yard. Following the destruction of the USS Maine (an event that contributed to the Spanish-American War), Sampson was appointed president of the Board of Inquiry to investigate the explosion.

1906 16¢ Philippines, violet black, double-line watermark, perf 12
US #PH247 – As part of the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War, the US gained several territories, including the Philippines.

In March 1898, Sampson received the temporary rank of rear admiral and was placed in command of the North Atlantic Squadron. A month later the US declared war on Spain and shortly after, Sampson set out for Cuba aboard his flagship New York. Sampson supervised the blockade of Cuba and the bombardment of San Juan.

Sampson was then ordered to intercept Spanish Admiral Cervera’s squadron, whose whereabouts were unknown. On May 29, 1898, Admiral Cervera’s squadron was spotted moving into Santiago harbor. The harbor was blockaded to prevent Cervera’s escape.

1911 16¢ Philippines, olive green, single-line watermark, perf 12
US #PH267 – Sampson commanded the North Atlantic Squadron during the Spanish-American War.

Sampson was on land on the morning of July 3, 1898, planning a coordinated attack on the city of Santiago. Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley was in command in Sampson’s absence. Under Schley’s command, Sampson’s men met and destroyed the Spanish fleet in a five-hour battle. The following day, as America celebrated Independence Day, Sampson sent his famous message, “The Fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present, the whole of Cervera’s Fleet.”

1917 16¢ Philippines, light olive green, unwatermarked, perf 11
US #PH296 – The Navy created the Sampson Medal for those who served under him in the war. He’s one of just four people authorized to wear an official medal with his own image on it.

There was no mention of Schley’s leadership in Sampson’s declaration of victory. Soon after, a controversy arose over who deserved credit for this victory. Sampson had laid down the framework for the battle ahead of time and had the ships in the right positions, but Schley had actually commanded the fleet during the battle.

After that battle, Sampson was made Cuban commissioner, but shortly after resumed command of the North Atlantic Fleet. He served as commandant of the Boston Navy Yard before retiring in 1902.

Sampson died on May 6, 1902. Four destroyers were later named in his honor, as well as the US Naval Academy’s Sampson Hall. There’s also a town in Wisconsin named after him.

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  1. An. interesting tidbit of history but the article didn’t give to stated reason of his being honored on the stamp nor why Dewey is front and center.

  2. The commander in the field(or at sea), must be given his/her due, but when the operation goes badly, the senior commander will own the failure. Or, as often phrased, Sucess has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

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