Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William L. Hill Journals, 1896-1899

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, October 2011

Summary Information
Title: William L. Hill journals
Creator: Hill, William Lowell, 1855-1922
Inclusive dates: 1896-1899
Extent: 2 volumes
The William L. Hill journals contain detailed daily accounts of life onboard the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn from December 1896-July 1899. Hill reported on several significant incidents during the Spanish-American War, and his journals include a firsthand description of the Battle of Santiago.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2009. M-4762.4.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

William L. Hill Journals, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


William Lowell Hill was born in Auburn, Iowa, in 1855 and enlisted in the United States Navy on November 18, 1873. Hill remained in the navy throughout his life, received a Medal of Honor in 1884, and rose to the rank of chief boatswain. During the Spanish-American War, he served onboard the cruiser USS Brooklyn and saw action at the Battle of Santiago. He left the Brooklyn on July 24, 1899, and moved on to other posts. He ended his career with the command of two prison ships at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he committed suicide in 1922.

Collection Scope and Content Note

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.

Subject Terms

    • Brooklyn (Armored cruiser)
    • Cuba--History--1810-1899.
    • Sailors--United States.
    • Santiago, Battle of, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, 1898.
    • Spanish-American War, 1898--Campaigns--Cuba.
    • Spanish-American War, 1898--Naval operations, American.
    • United States. Navy--History--Spanish-American War, 1898.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Santiago de Cuba Bay (Cuba)
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    William L. Hill journals [series]
    Box   1  
    Volume 1: "Cruise of the U.S.S. 'Brooklyn.' Extracts from letters written by Boatswain Wm. L. Hill. U.S. Navy,"  December 19, 1896-September 17, 1898;  December 14, 1898-December 31, 1898
    Volume 2: William L. Hill journal,  February 2, 1897-July 24, 1899
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Milne Special Collections unit at the University of New Hampshire Library has an extensive collection of William L. Hill papers.


    United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps to January 1, 1903. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1903.