“In view of the existing critical circumstances in Honolulu, including an inadequate legal force, I request you to land marines and sailors from the ship under your command for the protection of the United States legation and United States consulate, and to secure the safety of American life and property.” (Stevens to Wiltse, January 16, 1893)
“You will take command of the battalion, and land in Honolulu for the purpose of protecting our legation and the lives and property of American citizens, and to assist in the preservation of public order.”
“Great prudence must be exercised by both officers and men, and no action taken that is not fully warranted by the condition of affairs and by the conduct of those who may be inimical to the treaty right of American citizens. You will inform me at the earliest practicable moment of any change in the situation.” (Wiltse to Lt-Commander Swinburne, January 16, 1893)
“Promptly the men from the Boston were landed. Detachments were placed around the legation and the consulate, the principal members having marched to a central hall for shelter and headquarters …”
“… the night being at hand, the public anxiety being especially strong as to what might be done by irresponsible persons in the night, the landing of the men of the Boston so promptly gave immediate relief to the public anxiety.”
“The committee of public safety forthwith took possession of the Government buildings, archives, and treasury, and installed the Provisional Government at the heads of the respective departments. This being an accomplished fact, I promptly recognized the Provisional Government as the de facto Government of the Hawaiian Islands.”
“The English minister, the Portuguese charge d’affaires, the French and the Japanese commissioners promptly did the same; these, with myself, being the only members of the diplomatic corps residing here.”
“It is proper that I should add, that the presence of the Boston here has been of the highest importance, and the behavior of officers and men has been admirable.”
“Capt. Wiltse has exercised prudence and great firmness, while he and the undersigned have recognized only accomplished facts and have not allowed the use of the United States force for any but the most conservative reasons, I am, sir, John L. Stevens.” (Blount Report)
Let’s look back …
Gilbert Conwall Wiltse was appointed to the Naval Academy from New York, and graduated on September 20, 1855. He became a midshipman on June 9, 1859, and was ordered to the frigate, Congress, the flagship of Admiral JS Sands, cruising on the Brazilian Station from 1859 to 1861. He was made Lieutenant on Aug. 31, 1861.
The Congress was recalled from the station upon the breaking out of the civil war, and Wiltse was detached from that vessel and ordered to the St. Lawrence of the home squadron, in which ship he was present at the engagement of the Confederate ram, Merimac, with the Congress and the Cumberland, in Hampton Roads, on March 8 and 9, 1862.
He was also in the engagement with the Sewel Point batteries in May, 1862. He served on the steam sloop, Dacotah, of the West India squadron in 1862-63, and in the Atlantic blockading squadron in 1863-64.
He had a taste of hot work in the engagement of monitors with Forts Sumter and Moultrie in Nov. 1863. He was commissioned Lieutenant Commander on March 3rd, 1865. He served with distinction all through the civil war.
He served successfully on the steamer Agawam, Atlantic squadron, 1866-67; apprentice ship. Saline, 1867-68; navy yard, New York, 1868-69; on monitor, Saugus, North Atlantic fleet, 1869-70; navy yard, Pensacola, 1870-72.
On November, 8, 1873, he was made commander and put in charge of the Sawmut, North Atlantic squadron, 1875-76. He was on shore duty at the New York Navy yard, 1878-81, and assigned to the command of the Swatara, North Atlantic squadron, 1884-85.
When in command of the Swartara, he was the conveyor of several millions of dollars in silver coin from New Orleans to New York, and it was when in command of that vessel in the harbor of Aspinwall that he protected the three political refugees.
He was promoted to Captain on Jan. 20, 1887, and placed in command of the receiving ship, Franklin; and then the U. S. steamship, Minnesota. He was assigned to the command of the Boston in 1891. The Boston was under his command with the Baltimore and the Yorktown, in the harbor of’ Valparaiso, when the men of the Baltimore were attacked in the streets of that city.
His last service with the Boston. Captain Wiltse of the US Navy was in command of the USS Boston when the Hawaiian revolution occurred; and, at the request of United States Minister Stevens, landed a detachment of marines.
Following that, Captain Wiltse returned to New York City and died at his home, No. 42 East Fifty-third St., New York City, on April 26, 1893. “He was taken ill on Thursday night of last week with congestion of the brain. His condition was not considered serious until Monday night when he became unconscious. He remained so until his death. He was 54 years old.” (Wiltse)
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