The William L. Hill journals contain detailed daily accounts of life onboard the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn from December 1896-July 1899. The first volume has 152 pages, of which the first 13 are blank, and the second volume has 161 pages, with 4 pages of tables at the back of the book.
The first volume, entitled "Cruise of the U.S.S. 'Brooklyn,' Extracts from letters written by Boatswain Wm. L. Hill. U.S. Navy," consists of daily entries that Hill wrote from December 19, 1896-September 17, 1898, and December 14, 1898-December 31, 1898. He first chronicled his experiences as the Brooklyn sailed to Great Britain for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and along the East Coast of the United States before the Spanish-American War. On March 28, Commodore Winfield Scott Schley was given command of the ship, which became the flagship of his "Flying Squadron." After arriving in Cuba in May, the Brooklyn participated in various blockades, and Hill sketched a map of actions in Santiago Harbor (June 4, 1898). After the Battle of Santiago, Hill graphically described the death of George H. Ellis and reported the shelling the Brooklyn encountered throughout the engagement (July 3, 1898). Hill later recorded the ship's course around Cuba, particularly near Havana, and its return to New York.
Hill wrote the second volume, titled "U.S.S. Brooklyn, Notes on Cruise 1897 to 1899," from February 2, 1897-July 24, 1899. These journal entries cover many of the same events as those in the first volume and are frequently more factual. At the back of the volume are tables providing the number of miles sailed between ports and the time it took the ship to travel, as well as the number of tons of coal it used in 1897, 1898, and 1899.