John Davis Long


John Davis Long : biography

October 27, 1838 – August 28, 1915

The loss of the Maine highlighted to the administration the nation’s shortage of modern warships, setting off a scramble for the acquisition of more ships.Traxel, pp. 109–110 One significant order Long gave was to transfer the USS Oregon, one of the Navy’s most powerful ships, from the west coast to the Caribbean;Traxel, pp. 109, 117–118 the ship made the journey around Cape Horn from San Francisco to Key West, Florida, in 66 days, a remarkable achievement.O’Toole, p. 221 When the war was declared in April 1898 Roosevelt resigned his post the next month, a move Long thought foolhardy but later acknowledged was significant in advancing Roosevelt’s career.Garrett, p. 302

Long directed the Navy’s activities throughout the war, significantly increasing its size in the process.Trask, p. 86 He ordered Dewey to neutralize the Spanish fleet in the Philippines, ordered the seizure of Spanish Guam, and worked to support a blockade and offensive operations against Cuba.Braisted, p. 21Trask, pp. 84–85Traxel, p. 123 He also directed naval resources into threatening postures against mainland Spain to encourage the Spanish recall of a fleet destined for the Philippines.O’Toole, p. 252

In response to increasing pressure from Navy brass, Long moved to create a permanent advisory staff after the war. The board, created in March 1900, was designed to unify the work of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Naval War College, and the fleet leadership for the production of war plans and the proper preparation, planning, and deployment of naval resources in pursuit of objectives defined in those plans.Beers, pp. 53–54 After the war Long moved forward plans to establish a naval base in the Philippines, but funding for the plans was held up in Congress, which repeatedly sought review of potential base locations in the islands.Braisted, pp. 21–25 The matter was also caught up in branch rivalry with the War Department, which objected to the Navy’s establishment of a permanent base there that was not under its authority. Construction of the Subic Bay Naval Base did not begin until after Long left office.Braisted, p. 26

Long was promoted as a potential vice presidential candidate by the Massachusetts delegation to the 1900 Republican National Convention, and was a personal favorite of McKinley’s for the position.Morgan, p. 375 However, party leaders objected to him on geographic grounds, and Lodge (with whom Long continued to feud) disingenuously wore a Long banner while supporting Roosevelt, who easily won the nomination. The McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won the election, and Long decided to stay on for McKinley’s second term.Garrett, p. 304

Writings and legacy

In addition to Long’s extensive journal, he wrote on a variety of other subjects. During his unsuccessful attempt to start a law practice in Buckfield he produced a paper on Congressional power and slavery. While in Boston in the eary 1860s he had a play produced locally.Taylor, p. 76 In 1878 he produced a verse translation of Virgil’s Aeneid.Taylor, p. 81 In 1903 he published The New American Navy, a history of the Spanish-American War and the development of the Navy during that time.Garrett, p. 310

Among Long’s charitable works was funding the establishment of a public library in Buckfield in 1900, which is now known as the Zadoc Long Free Library. USS Long (DD-209) was named in his honor.

Early years

John Davis Long was born in Buckfield, Maine on October 27, 1838, to Zadoc Long and Julia Temple (Davis) Long. He was named for Massachusetts Governor John Davis, a cousin of his mother’s father. He received his primary education at Hebron Academy, and then attended Harvard, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1857.Johnson and BrownBeedle, p. 259 At Harvard he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity’s Alpha chapter.Eliot, p. 236 While at Harvard he wrote both prose and verse for a student magazine, and was chosen to write an ode for his class’s graduation.Taylor, pp. 74–75 He also began a private journal some time before his arrival at Harvard, which he maintained with some regularity for his entire life.Taylor, pp. 71–72