Rear-Admiral Bowman H. McCalla, U.S. Navy
Navy Yard, Mare Island, Cal.
It is my firm opinion that the naval force under command of Lieutenant F.N. Freeman saved the waterfront of San Francisco from destruction. No praise can be to great for him, for Lieutenant W[allace]. Bertholf, Midshipman J.E. Pond, and P.A. Paymaster Henry de F. Mel and the enlisted men of the force.
From the top of Russian Hill, whence I observed the progress of the fire
from 10:00 a.m. of April 18th, until 3:00 a.m. of April 19th, I noticed
with astonishment, the apparent immunity from the conflagration of the
waterfront from the foot of Broadway to the Transport Dock, (beyond
which I could not see). The Ferry Building, the wharves, the Harbor
Hospital and the other features of the front remained intact. I was unable to
account for the salvation of the waterfront until the afternoon of April 19th
(Thursday), when I went there in person and saw the Navy in charge.
Although one of the worst sections of the city, lined with low groggeries
and peopled with beach-
I did not see a building on fire the whole length of East Street [now the Embarcadero]; some had been damaged, but the fire had been confined to the west side of the street. The ferries, the wharves, the ferry building, branch postoffice, harbor hospital and coal docks were safe, and to the Navy, and the Navy alone, was their safety due.
Although they had been working hard day and night, in the face of great danger, and often interfered with by worthless waterfront loafers, every officer and man in Lieutenant Freeman's party, when I saw them, was alert, zealous, energetic and eager to do his duty to the utmost.
I write this report entirely of my own volition, without hint or suggestion
from anyone, in the hope that the written testimony of an experienced
newspaper man, trained to observe closely, may aid in securing for
Lieutenant Freeman, his officers and men, some of the credit due them for
saving one of the most vitally important parts of the city,
I have reported only what I personally observed. From numerous other persons I have heard loud praise of the Navy's work.
I was at Fort Mason when the Marines arrived, under command of
(Signed) Arthur H. Dutton,