1898, April 16 – Letter from George Hesse to brother Lewis Hesse

George send Lewis a 1 lb. shell from the USS Maine and explains how it works, discusses his raise to seaman pay & the amount of work that Lewis is doing.  Read a transcript of the letter below (original misspellings & all) or click on the image links to view the actual letter. As you read the transcript of the letter click on the links to view information & images about what they are discussing.


Click on a link to view the image: (some images can be further enlarged by clicking on them once they open)

Envelope Front     Envelope Back      Letter Page 1      Letter Page 2-3      Letter Page 4-5     Letter Page 6


Transcript of letter:

Key West Fla 4/16/98

Dear Bro: –

I received your welcome letter & read it with sorrow for you have to much work to do.  Say what do you get a week?  How is Geo V. & yourself Tell Geo to write to me & let me know how he is getting along.  My arm is doing good & I expect to be able to go to duty again in a fortnight or so.  all I have to do now is to stand quarter masters watch & that means that I do nothing that will hurt my arm.  I got a letter from Geo Heager last week & it is one of the silliest letters I have ever read that came from the pen of a man.  Well, things look better than for a week past I don’t believe we will have any war now for it has been put off too long now, & I think it will all blow over & I will tell you another thing & it is no lie either, that if we do not have war & avenge the death of 253 men, 1/2 of the men in the navy will desent it, I among the rest, for if one country can shit on us & afterwards rub it in, & we not make a kick, what will the world think of America?  & the country who did it, is nothing as compared to the U.S. she is as small comparitively, as a pug dog along side a newfoundland dog.  If they do not declare war, just as soon as I get to the mainland I will take a quiet sneak to myself & I will tell you that 4/5 of the men in her will do the same & don’t you forget it either.  & we have only 32 men all told, officers & men & that will put her out of commission.  Did I tell you that I got a raise in wages?  well I did.  I got a rate of seaman & that pays $5.00 more per month, now I am getting $24.00 per & my ration which is $9.00 but we don’t get to handle the ration money, for that goes to the cater of the mess, & he spends it as he sees fit, for our grub, & well he knows how to use it too, for we live like little lords.  Well tell Geo to write, & if you know a pretty girl up there, why just give me an introduction & tell her to drop me a line, for I am lonesome down here & want somebody to write to besides the folks.  Well I guess I’ll stop until next time so Good Bye, from

Your loving Bro


P.S. I think that with this mail you will receive a little package, it is a 1 lb shell that was received from the “Maine” in Havana Harbor.  I will tell you how to see all of it, first you will see that it is not together right; I put it together that way for it would role up better in paper, well, unscrew the end with the four little holes in it & you will see that the shell is hollow well that was filled with powder, for it is an armor piercing shell & when it strikes it explodes, well unscrew every thing on that small part that you unscrewed out of the shell & you will see how the charge in the shell is fired, in the large hollow you will find what is called the Firing Plug & in the small cap that is mearly two screws, one inside of the other you will find a small place that was filled with a fulminate of murcury cap, I took it out & threw it over baord for it was the only dangerous thing in the shell for all of the rest was not & it was dry & so sensitive that if you were to merely drop it it would go off now when the shell strikes anything this plug or Firing Pin strikes the fulminate murcury cap & it explodes the powder in the shell & of course the shell bursts & you know the rest – Geo


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s