Cristóbal Colón (1896)

Cristóbal Colón (1896)

Spanish Armada (1894-1898): Armoured Cruiser

The Spanish armored cruiser Cristóbal Colón was a warship that was built for the Spanish Navy in the late 19th century. It was launched in 1896 and commissioned in 1897. The ship was part of a naval program that aimed to modernize the Spanish Navy and increase its ability to project power overseas. Cristobal Colon was heavily armored and armed with a variety of weapons, including guns, torpedoes, and mines. It was designed to be fast and maneuverable, with a top speed of around 20 knots.
During the Spanish-American War of 1898, Cristobal Colon was part of the Spanish fleet that attempted to break through the American blockade of Santiago de Cuba. In the ensuing battle, the ship engaged in a running fight with several American ships, including the battleship USS Oregon.

Despite its speed and armor, Cristobal Colon was eventually cornered and heavily damaged by the American ships. The ship’s captain, Emilio Diaz Moreu, chose to scuttle the ship rather than surrender it to the Americans. The crew abandoned the ship and swam to shore, where they were captured by American forces.
The wreck of Cristobal Colon was discovered in 2015 by a team of researchers led by the Cuban-American explorer Robert Ballard. The wreck is located off the coast of Cuba and is considered a protected cultural site. #spanishamericanwar #1898 #battleofsantiago #spanamwar #cristobalcolon #garibaldiclass #armoredcruisers

Among the best armored cruisers of her day

The Garibaldi class Italian armoured cruisers were among the best of their time, with a record construction for Italy of more than 10 ships (11 planned, one cancelled). They were primarily sold to Argentina (four), Japan (two), and saw service with Italy which had three, Varese, Guiseppe Garibaldi and Francesco Ferrucio (1901). Spain soon also considering the design, amidst rising tensions with the USA, notably to reinforce its Cuban fleet under admiral Cervera’s command.
These ships had been designed by chief engineer Edoardo Masdea, back in 1893, so it was still perfectly relevant in 1896. These cruisers combined rapidity, a powerful armament, and an overall satisfactory protection for their size. The last aknowleging delivery were the Japanese in 1904 a mere year before the construction of HMS Dreadnought and right on time for the Russo-Japanese war.

Cristobal Colon’s design

Cristobal Colon was, like the rest of the Garibaldi class, a very versatile ship able to hold its line in a fleet and play its standard cruisers roles as well, in between heavy cruisers and battleships. These ships were built quickly at a lower cost than most European shipyards becoming the first Italian major export success for such class of ship.
Naval architect Edoardo Masdea known improved much on the former Vettor Pisani-class, submitting to the admiralty a competely reworked design under directives of Minister of the Navy Benedetto Brin and in collaboration with Ansaldo Yard charged to built the first Argentinian ship (named Garibaldi). Speed was probably the most important improvement factor, notably to catch up with the latest battleship generation.

Compared to the Vettor Pisani, the new design was 1,000 tons heavyer to match nigh-impossibly stringent requirements, as the ship needed a far larger powerplant. So it was to combined a better armament and better protection for 20 knots. In the end, 40% of the total displacement went structural weight (not including armor), 15% to artillery, including ammunition 25% to the armor and 20% to the powerplant. The new cruiser was to have two twin gun turrets fore and aft of the superstructure with 8-in guns. However It ws revised, and in the case of Spain, the Italian solution was chosen, a twin 8-in aft, single 10-in forward.

Design of the class

Hull and general design

The hull was flush deck with a rounded stern and ram bow. The width/length ratio imposed by the machinery was more for agility than speed, but they were stable platforms and their superstructures not tall (the funnel were), almost completely symmetrical. The rudder was semi-compensated type to ease manoeuver.

Armour protection layout

Armor was of the Harvey-type, with case-hardened steel for high hardness. It was uniform up to the deck: The nickel-plated steel plating reached 150 mm (6 in) down to 80 mm (3.5 in) on both ends of the belt. The central battery was protected by 130 mm (5 in) sides and the armored deck had 38 mm (2 in) flat section, with a slight curvature to the sides. The main 8-in/10-in turrets were protected by 150 mm (6 in), and the 152mm/40 (6-in) were protected by 130 mm casemate shield. Underwater protection comprised a partial double bottom and heavy compartimentation.


Cristobal Colon was powered by two vertical triple expansion (TE), reciprocating engines, fed by twenty-four coal-fired small-tubes boilers. Suppliers depended of the yard, which was here like most ships, Ansaldo, Genoa. It seems she had 24 Niclausse boilers and developed circa 13,600 shp for 19.5 knots. This output was passed onto two shafts ended by three-bladed bronze propellers.
Her range was 4,400 nmi (8,100 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h).


St Bon 10 inch gun turret right elevation
The main armament was specific to Cristobal Colon as designed: To the demand of the Spanish admiralty in 1895, Cristobal Colon was fitted initially with two Pattern R guns 10-inch guns: One forward and one aft. However the Spanish admiralty claimed the ones proposed by Ansaldo, Cannone da 254/40 A 1893, a patented version of the British ones, were defective, and asked for a replacement to Vickers Elswick, as the EOC 10 inch 40 caliber. However since the ship was urgently needed, she was sent to Cuba before this was done, and only ended with either only the initial aft gun or nothing at all as most sources states. She also gained ten smokeless powder Armstrong 6-in guns mounted in the hull casemates five on each side, instead of the Ansaldo models cannone da 152/40.
Thus, Cristóbal Colón should have been equipped with two 254mm (10 inches) cannons that were never fitted, leaving instead a different arrangement with a twin 8-in gun aft and not gun forward, leaving an empty turret.


She had ten single 152 mm/45 (6 in) guns – Standard Ansaldo Type, 1 rpm, mv 830 m/s (2,700 ft/s) range 19.4 km (12 mi) in casemate along the battery deck.
She also hand six single 120 mm (4.7 in) guns Modello 1893: 5-6 rpm, mv 2,215 fps (675 mps), 9,900 yards (9,050 m), in the castes bridges fore and aft and in hull’s recesses.


It was rather on the light side, but making in numbers what it lacked in punch or range with the following:
Ten single 57 mm (2.2 in) guns: Standard 2.2 pdr (QF 6-pounder) Hotchkiss: 25 rpm, mv 1,818 fps, 4,000 yards (3,700 m) range
Ten single 37 mm (1.5 in) guns: QF 1-pounder pom-pom (liquid cooled): ~300 rpm mv 1,800 ft/s, 4,500 yards (4,110 m) range
Two Maxim machine guns. The latter were designed to be carried ashore on boats and cover landing parties

Torpedo Tubes

Colon was completed like the rest of the class with four single 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. Supposedly same as the Italian type, Whitehead 1893 model. Reloads unknown.

Spanish Cruiser Cristobal Colon, the only one sunk, during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, 1898 Hispano-American war.

⚙ specifications

Displacement 6,840 t standard 7,400–7,700 t FL
Dimensions 108.8/111.73 oa x 18.9 x 7.32 m (366 ft 7 in x 62 x 24 ft)
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 8–24 Boilers 13,000–13,500 ihp (10,100 kW)
Speed 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Range 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament (2x 254mm), 10x 152mm, 6x 120mm, 10x 57 mm, 10x 37mm, 4x 450 mm TTs.
Armor Belt 70-150, CT 150, turrets 190, decks 100-150, barbettes 10-150 mm
Crew 555 total, 578 as flagship



Fraccaroli, Aldo (1970). Italian Warships of World War I. London: Ian Allan.
John Gardiner’s Conways all the world’s fighting ships 1860-1906, Italian section
Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906–1921.
“Professional Notes–Italy”. Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. NIP
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books
Sondhaus, Lawrence (2001). Naval Warfare, 1815–1914. London: Routledge.
United States Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy (July 1901). “Steam Trials–Italy”. Government Printing Office
Nofi, Albert A. The Spanish–American War, 1898. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania:Combined Books, Inc., 1996.
El condestable Zaragoza. Crónica de la vida de un marino benidormense, 1998. R. Llorens Barber. Town Hall of Benidorm.


Models Kits

Spanish Navy Cristobal Colon’s short career

Cristóbal Colón was built in Italy under the initial name Giuseppe Garibaldi (ii), second ship of class and name, laid down in 1895, launched by September 1896, and sold to Spain, then delivered at Genoa to a Spanish crew, and taken in hands on 16 May 1897 with a transfer ceremony. She was the Spanish Navy’s first true armored cruiser and her best cruiser so far. Due to the Spanish Ministryrejevting her planned main guns, she sailed without them in the hope to be able to fit some later. This was never done.

Impressed in the Spanish Navy’s 1st Squadron as tensions with the United States were degraded after the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor on 15 February 1898, she was prepared for war. The squadron was at first concentrated at São Vicente, in Portugal owned Cape Verde Islands. She arrived in Cadiz for preparations and departed on 8 April, learning of the war breaking out while off São Vicente. She was at first sent in by neutral Portugal toi recoal, but due to international law she had to leave within 24 hours of the declaration of war.

Thus, Cristóbal Colón and the rest of Cervera’s squadron was underway by 29 April, heading for San Juan in Puerto Rico. They needed to recal mid-way and stopped in French Martinique, Lesser Antilles, on 10 May 1898. While the bulk of the fleet stayed in international waters, only two Spanish destroyers entered Fort-de-France to ask for coal, but France pushed its neutrality and refused to supply coal. Thus Cervera had to sail out on 12 May 1898, heading for Dutch Curaçao (Western Indies) expecting to meet a Spanish collier here.

Cervera arrived at Willemstad, on 14 May 1898. The approach to neutrality was different. Given the emergency context, the Dutch authorities only authorized Cervera to send the cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa and her sister ship Vizcaya, and to load only 600 long tons. The meagre coal stock as later distributed between his ships and on 15 May instead of San Juan, now under U.S.N blockade, he wanted to make it to the still free Santiago de Cuba, at the the southeastern tip of Cuba.

Santiago’s Blockade

He managed to arrive on 19 May. The admiral hoped to refit his ships before being trapped, and recoal as well. But he was caught still there when the American “flying squadron” arrived on 27 May 1898, initiating the blockade, a 37 days long affair.

Cristóbal Colón at the time was anchored in the entrance channel. This was on purpose to support Santiago’s shore batteries. On 28 May she was spotted and recoignised by a naval detachment of the American blockade fleet. Therefore, admiral Sampson was to attack her in priority, recoignised as the best asset in Cervera’s fleet. Little they knew she lacked her main guns at the time. At 14:00, 31 May, the battleships USS Iowa and USS Massachusetts as well as the cruiser USS New Orleans closed in and opened fire on Cristóbal Colón, also engaging the shore fortifications from 7,000 yards (6,400 m). Both the Spanish cruiser and coastal artillery answered. A cease fire was ordered at 14:10 to assess the damage, whereas the Spaniard went on firing sporadically until 15:00. As seen above, Cristóbal Colón only had her casemated guns, cabable of 19.4 km (12 mi), so twice the normal range. But accuracy was still poor, and no side many any impression.

The blockade went on and the US fleet returned for an occasional gunnery duel or bombardment of the harbor. Cristóbal Colón was partly stripped of her crew, which joined others forming an ad hoc Naval Brigade sent to fight the U.S. Army inland as they approached Santiago de Cuba. It is likely also her two Maxim maching guns were also landed and sent with her contingent.

Cervera’s “mad run”

By early July 1898, this threat to Santiago de Cuba inland was closer and Cervera, being pressured by the government to act, having for them enough time to prepare, was forced to try a run out in the open sea, which he decided on 1 July 1898, to start on 3 July 1898. In between the crew of Cristóbal Colón was recompleted as the Naval Brigade inland was dissolved for this operation. The entire day was spent preparing for action, but Vice Admiral Cervera chosed Infanta María Teresa as his flagship. He took the lead and chosed a bold approach, sacrificing his ship by drawing fire frm the blockade fleet, to enable others to escape in several directions. He setup a plan to attack the fastest American vessel at the time, which was the armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, while Cristóbal Colón and the rest would make for it westward in the open sea.

At about 08:45 hours this 3 July, his squadron arrived in a single column and Cristóbal Colón was third in line. She was behind the flagship Infanta María Teresa, her sister Vizcaya, and Almirante Oquendo (third of the class) behind Colon, as the destroyers Furor and Plutón also right behind her. Sampson’s squadron sighted them at 09:35 and general quartrers alarm was heard on all ships. The opposition comprised, in addition to Commodore Winfield Scott Schley’s “Flying Squadron”, Sampson’s armored cruiser USS New York, Schley’s armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, while their best core was comprised by the slower but hard-hitting USS Indiana, USS Massachusetts, USS Iowa, and USS Texas, to which USS Oregon, coming from Mare Island, California and only battleship defending the US West coast, was to be added, making 66 days run to Cuba. Both forces were united under command of Sampson. On his side, Cervera only hope was to allow his three cruisers to out-run the battleships, and himelf trying to retain the fleet as long as he could.

And thus the Battle of Santiago de Cuba began. Infanta María Teresa and Vizcaya soon engaged USS Brooklyn, and Cristóbal Colón as well as Almirante Oquendo, and the two destroyers speeding up westwards out on the open sea. USS Brooklyn turned away from Infanta María Teresa and eventually all four Spanish armored cruisers stayed in line, heading directly at the armed yacht USS Vixen.
Cervera managed as he hoped, to escape. Thus the US squadron started a “hot stern chase”, steaming along a mile to port, slightly behind and all guns blazing along the way. Cristóbal Colón managed to hit Iowa twice with her casemate guns. The battleship’s dispensary was destroyed and she was holed belowed the waterline, taking some flooding, but still firing. Outgunned, the Spaniards were hit by 12-in shells (or 10-in from Texas and the two cruisers) which were armor piercing, making untold damage, while the range was close enough for secondary guns on both side to rain down high explosive shells, destroying superstructures and ingiting fires.
The cruisers started to ground themselves before theirr magazines could explode and save their crews, Infanta María Teresa being first, ending 10:25 west of Santiago, Almirante Oquendo was beached a few hundred yards away at 10:30 and Vizcaya in turn at 11:06, making it ashore. Alfredo Villamil (Spanish inventor of the destroyer)’s Furor and Plutón were soon devastated and sank in turn. The whole squadron only comprised Cristóbal Colón, which found iself alone, but also the most resilient of the pack.

Cristóbal Colón’s lone hour race

Her captain thought he still could get away, but her uncared machinery failed to give her expected 19 kts top speed after all this time, but she proved her extraordinary resilience so far, hit by two 5 or 6 inch hits, and still maintaining 15 knots (28 km/h). Only USS Brooklyn (capable of 20 knots – she even reached 21.91 knots on Trials) still was maintaining her chase 10 km behind her. USS Vixen followed Brooklyn, and next was the USS New York also maintaining 20 knots and now closing. The rest of the line comprised USS Texas, Oregon also in forced heat (they still can maintain 15 kts).

A full hour passed, after which Cristóbal Colón burned all her “best coal” and had to carry on with inferior grade, coal, resulting in thicker smoke and lesser output. Mechanically, she started to loose speed, from 14 to 13 and soon 12 knots. Soon the whole hunt was about to end: At 12:20 USS Oregon managed to land a 13-inch (330-mm) astern of her, and sen more closer, while the two armored cruisers managed to straddled her with 8-inch (203-mm) rounds.

Slowly but surely as the speed went down they were about to find their mark. The Spanish cruiser could do little but reply with mostly innacurate fire. She was hit six times but when the distanced closed to 2,000 yards (1,830 m), Cristóbal Colón’s Captain Emilio Díaz-Moreu y Quintana decided there was no hope of winning this one. He decided to beach his cruiser at the mouth of the Turquino River, located 75 miles west of Santiago (and probably signalled it for the US fleet to cease fire).

Emilio Díaz-Moreu’s report:
Complying with the orders received, I left with the ship under my command, occupying the designated position, from the port of Santiago de Cuba, being both ahead of the Morrillo at 9:45 in the morning, opening fire against the Iowa, which was the ship nearest at the time of departure.
Five minutes later, the Brooklyn being the most advanced ship in the enemy line, I ordered the batteries to direct all fire on her and whatever possible against the Oregon, which was on the port wing and which was not attention could be devoted due to lack of guns hunting and retreat. This was done, firing 184 shots against said ship with the 15 cm cannons and 117 with the 12 cm battery, having the certainty of having hit the target with 10 percent of the shots.
– Of course I saw that neither the Brooklyn nor the Oregon, which hunted me down, could catch up with me and the first one stayed faster than the second one and I continued close to the coast heading towards Cabo Cruz.- At 1 in the afternoon the boiler pressure began to drop, reducing the revolutions from 85 to 80, beginning, therefore, to win over the Oregon, which shortly after opened fire on the ship with its large-caliber hunting guns, which I could only answer with shots from the number 2 gun of the battery, winking to that effect as necessary, even if this shortened the distance.
– In view of this and given the absolute certainty of being captured by the enemy, according to Your Excellency, as it would not be advisable to distract any Chief and Officer from their destinations, given the structure and layout hatches, which represented a much-needed loss of time and with the aim of taking advantage of the opportunity, if it presented itself, to fire, and in order to avoid being captured, we decided to run aground and lose the ship and not sterilely sacrifice the lives of those who had fought with the heroic courage, discipline and seriousness that Your Excellency has been able to appreciate for yourself, and as a consequence of the agreement, we headed towards the Tarquino River, on whose beach I ran aground, with speed of 13 miles, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Once the ship was beached and the Chiefs and Officers assembled, they all expressed their agreement to what had been done, understanding that if they continued, even for only a few moments, they were in imminent danger of falling into the hands of the enemy and being a war trophy that was necessary at all costs to avoid.

Shortly afterwards we became prisoners of war on the Brooklyn, the Commander of which appeared on board shortly after. During the combat I had one dead and twenty-five wounded, whose list accompanied Your Excellency as a result of the enemy projectiles, which although they hit us in large numbers, did not cause damage to the protected part of the ship.

At 13:15 hours he ordered to open valves to scuttle his ship, preventing capture. The cruiser started sinking while sailors jumped out and tried to swim ashore. What they failed to realize was that they had been tracked by Cuban insurgents along the coast, which made all the way to this area, and started to shoot from the vegetation cover. Understanding what was happening, Sampson ordered to signal the insurgents to cease fire (apparently some that made it to the beach were butchered with machetes). He also ordered boats to be sent and rescued survivors still on the ship. Captain Díaz-Moreu survived the battle and was taken in custody until the end of the war.

She ship capsized, photo made by the USS Vulcan salvage team afterwards.

A colorized photo of Allison.V Armour in 1899 of the wreck being inspected.

That night a USN salvage team from USS Vulcan reported to Sampson that the Cristóbal Colón was worth salvaging. They managed to have her towed away, only to realize she had been scuttled and the flooding caused her so quickly capsizing and sink. The wreck is now part of the Naval Battle Underwater Park of Santiago de Cuba, open to divers.

Pelayo (1887)

Pelayo (1887)

Spanish pre-dreadnought Battleship (1885-1929)

Pelayo was a French-built Battleship, first modern one in service with the Armada. A fitting subject for the 12 October, Spanish National Day and Feria. Pelayo was also the most robust proposition of the whole Spanish Navy when the 1898 broke out. She stayed to defend the homeland, together with several rebuilt ironclads, never engaging the US fleet. She was still in service in WWI, and was a gunnery ship in 1920-21 until decommission. In between, the Armada indeed completed three Dreadnoughts (Espana class).

Development & Context

The “solitario” or “lonely” as nickamed was indeed, a revolution for Spain, which between economical decline and political turmoil experienced difficult decades post-1870. By that time, the homeland Navy counted mainly on five more or less modernized ironclads: Numancia, Vitoria, Zaragosa, Sagunto and Mendez Nunez. This was a potent force, but in 1880, woefully obsolete and in need of compehensive rebuilt. There was no extent of modernization however than can replace the contruction of brand new, state of the art battleships. The general staff of the Armada agreed on this fact and under the leadership of Admiral Antequera, a proposal was made of a large naval shipbuilding program with six modern, ocean-going battleships. For this, it was decided to launch a request for proposal to various Yards out of Spain, chief of Which were Britain and France, but also Germany and Italy. However the original program was cut down to just a single one.
The French proposal, from La Seyne, Toulon, soon attracted interest due to the French Jeune Ecole concepts, which had particular views for battleships, between their single-guns of heavier caliber and longer range, and typical tumblehome supposed to improved seakeeping.

Brasseys 1889 engraving
Brasseys 1889 engraving

The retained proposal in 1884 came from La Seyne, engineer Amable Lagane, based on the French Marceau class. It was just slightly longer, shallower in draft to allow her to use the Suez Canal. There was an option for her to carry a sail rig for 372 m² to be able to defend the Spanish Empire, but the design was changed again to military masts typical of French construction. The armour was made of Schneider Le Creusot steel with a full lenght belt going 1.5m below the waterline, 0.6m above and extensive compartmentation below the armored deck and 13 full transverse bulkheads, with additional rooms filled with cork, an idea of engineer Emile Bertin. What also won for this yard was the use of massive Canet guns, a very powerful 12.6 in (32 cm) 38 cal. which had little competition at that time. Typical of French designs, Pelayo also had two broadside turrets with 11 inch guns (28 cm) for closer range and with greater rate of fire, and a sizeable secondary battery. However these guns were not to be forged in France, but in Spain, by Hontoria, coming with a technology transfer which sealed the deal.

Pelayo’s hull ready for launch at La Seyne. A French TB was moved close to give the scale. Note the caracteristic clipper bow above the curved ram bow, unique to this battleship.

The new battleship would become the only capital ship of the 19th century, at least until the conversion into coastal battleships of the armored frigates Numancia and Vitoria, decommissioned as the Epana-class battleships arrived from 1913. “solitario” was indeed the lone modern Spanish Battleship, as finances were sufficient to modernize two ironclads, but not to purchase a a sister-ship to Pelayo. She became de facto flagship for many years, basically from 1888 to 1913, so for a quarter of a century.


Hull and general arrangements

Basically she was an elnlarged Marceau class battleship, a barbette ship (with open barbettes, armored rotating platforms) on all four turrets, in a typical lozenge pattern. Otherwise, her hull was typically French, with a ram bow, pointy stern with a walkway, and considerable tumblehome on her greatest beam. She was pear-shape. The oiriginal engineering idea was to decrese artifcicially topweight, to improve seakeeping, stability and procure a more preductable, gentle motion for the main battery. What also helped stability was her much reduced superstructures, in full constrast to some French ships like the Hoche. In general, she had an harmonious profile, with a long forecastle going aft of the second funnel, and continued by bulwarks until her aft mast.

She had two funnels mounted amidship, and two masts well spaced fore and aft. Unlike many contemporary French designs of the time, these military masts were relatively slender, yet tall, carrying two tops, one with Antit-TB light guns and one above with spotting equipments. A lower platfor projector was installed close to the base. The two tops were accessed by goold old fashioned rope ladders. Both also had service booms. She carried a crew of 520 officers and enlisted and two pinnaces, two yawls, a cutter and a steamboat picket ship plus four unidentified axtra ships). The two yawls were suspended over the tumblehome under davits amidship, while boats were located fore and aft of the superstrucuture and others four under davits, amidships and aft.

The hull measured 334 ft 8 in (102.01 m) overall, to the tip of the ram, significatly larger than the Marceau. The Beam was 66 ft 3 in (20.19 m) amidship, and draft 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m) max, for a total displacement of 9,745 tons. She was unusual as having her larger bridge superstrcture mounted in between funnel, with a conning tower in the main bridge and supporting a small walkway. The rest of the intermediate bridge supported a small command bridge with wooden panelling, and on top were platforms for four light QF guns. Her total cost, wihout armor nor armament has been 22 million pesetas in 1888.

Armour Scheme

It was all made of Creusot steel.
-Belt: 17.75–11.75 inches (451–298 millimetres)
-Barbettes: 15.75–11.75 inches (400–298 millimetres)
-Shields: 3.125 inches (79.4 mm)
-Conning tower: 6.125 inches (155.6 mm)
-Main armored Deck: 2.75–2 inches (70–51 millimetres)
-Midships battery unarmored (as built) 3 inches (76 mm)
Harvey armor was applied after the 1897–1898 reconstruction.


pelayo prow
Pelayo’s prow (src as the ones below)
She had two shaft propellers, connected to two, 2-cyclinder vertical compound engines, fed in turn by 12 return-tube boilers for an installed power of 9,600 ihp (8,000 ihp normal draft trials). However these Niclausse boilers working at 85 pound/sq. foot left much to be desired. During a refit 1897–1898 they were replaced by 16 Normand-class boilers. This procured 16.7 knots in forced draft as built in 1888 and after refit, 16.2 knots on natural draft in trials. This was later improved. She also carried in normal condition some 800 tons of coal, later extended to 1,000. Range was about 3,000 nautical miles at 10 knots.
To spare coal on long-range mission it was also decided she would carry an imposing sailing plan of 4,000 square feet (1,219 square meters), with schooner sails on the two masts, intermediary foclsails, spankers and intermediate ones, and three jibs from the mainmasts to the prow. It was quickly removed and in fact no photo shows her with it.


Broadside 28cm Canet gun
Her main guns could be loaded in any position, and consisted of two Gonzalez Hontoria-built 32-centimetre (12.6 in) Canet guns mounted fore and aft on the centerline and two Gonzalez Hontoria 28-centimetre (11.0 in) guns, also in barbettes, with one mounted on either beam.

Main 320 mm (12.6 in) Canet/Hontoria

Canet was contracted to to build 28 cm (11″) and 34 cm (13.4″) guns originally, These were export only and called 32 cm/35 (12.6″) Model 1880 in Spain. Others of similar types were also built for Japan. They were replaced by their equivalent made by Hontoria after her first refit. They were fitted on open barbette with some protection overhead, and could depress -5 and elevate +15 degrees max.
Projectile: AP (cast iron bomb) – 879.6 lbs. (400 kg)
Charge: 485 lbs. (220 kg) of prismatic powder
Velocity: 2,034 fps (620 mps)
Max Range: at 15°, 12,030 yards (11,000 m)
Penetration: At 3,230 yards (2,950 m) vs 13.9 in (353 mm) Krupp armor
Rate of fire: 0.2 rounds per minute

Main 280 mm (11 in) Hontoria

Called the Cañón Hontoria 280/35, mod.1883, these were manufactured in several Spanish workshops for the Infanta María Teresa class armored cruisers, Carlos V and battleship Pelayo.
They were designed by naval officer José González Hontoria in 1883 as an improvement on the French Canet 274 mm. It was performed at the Trubia state arms factory (Asturias) and the very first guns of that size to be built in Spain. They were both mounted on broadside barbettes. Tubes were often ordered abroad, in France and Britain for the cruisers.
Barrel Length: 9787mm
Projectile: AP shell 266 kg, HE shell: 315 kg
Rate of fire: 1 spm
Max range: 9,250 meters
Velocity: 620m/s

Secondary 120 mm/35 (4.7 in)

Secondary guns on Pelayo. Note the field gun on deck above.
The Gonzalez Hontoria de 12 cm mod 1883 were designed as an improved local variant of the Canet guns. They were procured to the three Isla de Luzon class, Reina Regente class, the TB gunboats Maria de Molina class and of the Temerario class and the Velasco-class cruisers. On her side, Pelayo a twelve casemated 12 cm guns in single mounts amidships.
Barrel weight: 2.6 t (2.9 short tons)
Barrel Length: 4.2 m (13 ft 9 in)
Total mount height: 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
Charge: Separate loading, 13 kg (29 lb) smokeless powder bagged charge
Shell: weight 24 kg (53 lb)
Breech: Interrupted screw
Muzzle velocity: 612 m/s (2,010 ft/s)
Maximum firing range: 10 km (6.2 mi) at +25°
They were to be replaced by nine 140 mm/

Light anti-TB armament

Three (later Five) Hotchkiss 57 mm L/42 (3 pdr)
Thirteen 37 mm Hotchkiss L/20 five-tubes QF guns (2 pdr)
Four Vickers 7.65 mm (0.3 in) Machine Guns, can be dismounted for a landing party.
They were kept pretty much until her deactivation, post-WWI.

Torpedo Tubes

Originally, Pelayo was equipped with seven 356 mm (14 in) torpedo tubes: Two broadside underwater, one at the bow, one at the stern. Probably of the Whitehead 1882 type, by default of other informations. In 1904, these tubes were reduced to three.

Major Reconstruction

Pelayo was reconstructed at La Seyne in 1897–1898, receiving armor for her midships battery and having her 16-and-12-centimetre (6.30 and 4.72 in) guns replaced by 14-centimetre (5.51 in) pieces, one mounted as a bow chaser and the rest on the broadside. However, the installation of these new guns was disrupted and delayed when she was rushed back into service after the Spanish–American War began. During a major refit in 1910, her torpedo tubes were removed.

Read More/Src

Aguilera A., “Pelayo,” Buques de la Armada Espanola. (Madrid, 1969) p. 13-16.
“Spanish Battleship PELAYO,” Warship International. (1970. – # 2) p. 183-184.
Mitiuckov N.V., “Ispanskiy Bronenosets PELAYO,” Krasniy Officer. (1996. #1) S.2-6.
“PELAYO” Voennie Floti i Morskaya Spravochnaya Knizhka na 1897 god.- SPb:
Typography by Edward Goppe, 1897. – S. 401-404.
Wilson H.W., Downfall the Spain. (London: Sampson Low, Maston & Co, 1900). p. 454
Cervera y Topete, Pascual. ONI War Notes No. VII on The Spanish–American War. Washington Government Printing Office, 1899.
Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers, Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. Salamander Books
Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905, 1906–1921. NIP
Nofi, Albert A. The Spanish–American War, 1898. Conshohocken, Combined Books
Pastor y Fernandez de Checa, M. (1977). “The Spanish Ironclads Numancia, Vitoria and Pelayo, Pt. III”.
Warship International Staff (2015). “International Fleet Review at the Opening of the Kiel Canal, 20 June 1895”. Warship International.


Noted in dispatches pelayo and pascual-cervera
The battleship that “terrorized” the US: Pelayo (archive)


Battleships of spain
The spanish Navy in 1898

Model kits

The arno 1/700 kit
Therse is also an old glory 1/600, annother 1:700 by Jadar, but that’s about it. And the book El acorazado “Pelayo”, Alejandro Anca – La Maquina y la Historia: Perfiles Navales Nr. 1
General query on scalemates

Pelayo in service

Pelayo in 1889
She was launched in Toulon on February 5, 1887 in a ceremony held by the Minister of the Navy, Admiral Rafael Rodríguez de Arias, Bishop of Toulon and other personalities. The old sailing Frigate Blanca was also present at sea to fire a gun salute. On September 8, 1888, Pelayo was handed over to the Arrmada in Toulon, with the presence of the Instruction Squadron under orders of Rear Admiral Don José de Carranza y Echevarría (Numancia, Castilla, Isla de Luzón).
Pelayo was commissioned in September 1888 after three years of construction, which was short to French standards of the time. She started her voyage to Spain and started training. Search of her records. Don Pascual Cervera supervised her construction and was first commander, raising his battle flag donated by Asturias. In January 1889 after trials, she returned to Toulon alterations and improvements and was back in Spain in September with the Instruction Squadron.

Pelayo in October 1892

As the first modern battleship of Spain, she was present in many event and port to show the flag and became quite popular. Still, the absence of a sister ship has the Naval staff seaching for a way to use “solitario”. In September 1889 the situation degraded in Morocco with several merchant ships seized and attacked, and the Training Squadron in Cádiz sailed for Alhucemas on the 23th under Rear Admiral Carranza. Outside Pelayo (flagship), still without her main artillery, Numancia and Castilla went with her. They relieved the frigate Gerona and cruiser Isla de Luzón, and received reinforcement from Isla de Cuba and Navarra from Tangier, to Al Hoceima with emissaries from the Sultan of Morocco. Rear Admiral Carranza made Gerona his flagship as Pelayo lacked her main armament.

By December 1889 she weathered a strong storm in the the Gulf of León, and stayed off Marseille before being able to proceed back to Mahón. She was summarily repairs and sailed in April 1890 to Toulon to have at last her main artillery installed. She hosted French President Carnot on April 19. She departed for her first Mediterranean tour, stopping at Piraeus in the spring of 1891 Reina Regente and Island of Luzon and torpeod boat squadron commanded by Admiral Butler. She hosted the Greek King and his family. In August 1 she was visited in Ferrol by the Minister of the Navy, José María de Beránguer. Later she was protecting the Royal Family in San Sebastián’s summer resort, being visited by the Regent Queen before heading back to Ferrol.

She was in Genoa for the fourth centenary of the discovery of America, arriving on September 4, 1892 under command of Rear Admiral Don Zoilo Sánchez Ocaña (Pelayo, Alfonso XII, Reina Regente, Vitoria<, Temerario). She embarked the Royal Family in Cádiz on October 10 and escorted the Conde de Venadito to Huelva with the cruisers Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzón, Torpedo gunboats Temerario and Cuervo. They took positon in parallel lines alongside the cruiser. After the cruise she headed back to Cádiz. At the end of August 1893, ships gathered in Cartagena for torpedo exercizes, off Santa Pola. Pelayo, took part with the cruisers Alfonso XII, Reina Regente and Isla de Cuba plus the TBs Barceló, Rigel, Habana from Cádiz. In October 1893, she took part in an exercize of the Instruction Squadron (Rear Admiral Don Zoilo Sánchez Ocaña) from Cartagena to Santa Pola, with a battle scenario off Alicante. Pelayo teamed with Reina Mercedes and Isla de Cuba, the TBs Barceló, Rayo and Rigel. She also covered a mock landing and the exercize ended on October, 22. Pelayo in London Engineering engraving
Pelayo in London Engineering engraving

In September 1893, the Rif War erupted near Melilla and the Training Squadron was ordered to North Africa under Rear Admiral (from November 1893) Díaz Moreu. They were gathered in Melilla at the end of November and covered a landong of troops commanded by General Martínez Campos. In 1895, Pelayo represented Spain at the opening of the Kiel Canal, with Infanta María Teresa and Marqués de la Ensenada led by Rear Admiral Martínez Espinosa. She left on July 12, 1895 for Tangier to pressure the Sultan after new incidents in Morocco. The new squadron was formed under Vice Admiral Don Florencio Montojo, with Vizcaya, Alfonso XII and Marqués de la Ensenada. The squadron departed for Algeciras on 17 August.

In 1896, Pelayo went on her training routing with her squadron and by January Rear Admiral Don José Reguera y González Polo took charge, Pelayo teaming with Almirante Oquendo, Infanta María Teresa and Vizcaya. She stopped in Barcelona in June-July and from November was in Toulon (captain Mr. José Ferrandiz y Niño) for an extensive modernization: Boilers, Schneider-Canet 14 cm rapid-fire guns, military tops removed, 7 cm Harvey KC thick plates on the secondary battery. However not only she had her seocndary guns removed, but the new ones not installed when ordered to be rushed out back to Spain.

As this was still ongoing,war broke out with the US and she set sail on April 7, 1898 to avoid internment in Toulon according to neutrality laws. She left without her intended secondary artillery, and joined the Reserve Squadron in Cádiz (Rear Admiral Don Manuel de la Cámara). The latter was soon reorganized into three divisions. A bold plan was planned by Minister Auñón’s for the squadron to operate in the Atlantic (see later), but the government wanted the Reserve Squadron in the Philippines to strengthen the Spanish fleet present in Manila.

The war of 1898

The squadron waiting in the Suez canal, 1898

During the Spanish-American War, the Spanish Admiralty still planned a sortie to alleviate the situation of Admiral Cervera in Cuba. The idea was also to conduct a relaliatory bombardment of the American coast. In fact in the US, a collective psychosis was on the East coast led the US government to order cities to turn off lights at night. For the operation, Admiral Manuel de la Cámara Livermore was chosen, and responsible to prepare the ships. However what he had was not impressive. She ships remaining in Spain were merely the Pelayo, five old coastal ironclads and a few cruisers. The prospect of victory would raise Spanish morale a great deal. In total, he managed to create three naval divisions to confuse the enemy:
-The 1st Division (flag division) saw him on armored cruiser Carlos V, and the torpedo cruisers Meteoro, Patriota and Rapido, plus the gunboat Giralda.
-The 2nd Division under Captain José Ferrándiz y Niño, comprised Pelayo, Vitoria, and the destroyers Audaz, Osado, and Proserpina.
-The 3rd Division under captain José de Barrasa y Fernández de Castro, comprised the auxiliary armed merchant cruisers Buenos Aires, Antonio López and the unprotected masted cruiser Alfonso XII.

Since Pelayo and Vitoria were “short-legged”, the 2nd Division was to lead a diversionary maneuver in the Caribbean Sea, changing course to return home, back to protect the Spanish coast, with the addition of the cruiser Alfonso XIII. Meanwhile, the 1st Division (Carlos V as flagship) was to sail to the Bermuda Islands before starting an attack of the American east coast while heading north towards Halifax to resupply and receive new instructions from the Embassy. After this the squadron was to return to the Caribbean Sea, and notably resupply at the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The 3rd Division was ordered to go to ​​Cabo San Roque in Brazil, and start a commerce raiding campaign against American merchant traffic along the coast, going north as far as the gulf of Mexico.
The project was leaked to British Authorities a some point, notably when preparing the 1st division stop in Halifax. British pressure, which did not wanted an extension of hostilities to the entire Atlantic (and keep trade safe), eventually won over Madrid’s Government.

The squadron back in Ferrol, 1898

Pelayo was kept at the head of its own squadron, but prepared for an alternative mission under Admiral Manuel de la Cámara, this time to retake the Philippines. She proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean, then started the crossing of the Suez Canal until she was blocked underway. Indeed, meanwhile, press tycoon William Randolph Hearst gave order one envoys to acquire a local Suez ship, sink it in place to block the passage. The situation remained tense until news arrived of the destruction of Admiral Cervera’s squadron. Under fear of an attack on the Spanish coast, Admiral Cámara’s squadron was ordered back home to defend the coast. Plans for other operations were over and the war ended soon.

Late career: Before and after WWI

In 1900, a Decree of May 18 by the Ministry of the Navy followed a report about the general condition of the fleet. Technically 25 units were either too old and obsolete or in general poor conditions, and decommissioned to spare maintenance costs and crews. Pelayo was put into scrutiny also, and an examination commission soon raised the need of urgent modifications: Firts came out the need to better protect her main battery, having better boilers, engine and a modernized artillery. At the time she was assimilated to a second-class battleship.

In May 1901, there was a workers’ strike in Barcelona, on which the Government cracked down by sending the army. Many workers were arrested and since jails were overwhelmed, they were sent to be detained in Pelayo at anchor.

Pelayo took part in the 1901 naval review in Toulon and Lisbon, going up the Vigo estuary in 1904. Still, the Navy had a hard time defining an adequate role for Pelayo, being the only one in her class. At least in 1913, the first of the modern Espana class battleships entered service, and Pelayo was now too slow top operate in squadron. She was now retained for training, but managed at least to fire her guns once in anger, when bombarding insurgent positions in Morocco, during the Rif War, on September 1911.

As preconised by the report, she was refitted and updated in 1910 at La Seyne, and notably she saw her torpedo tubes removed. In 1912 she was stranded in Fonduko Bay due to a navigational error and later repaired, but from there, officially tasked to train gunners and navy personal. She spent WWI as such, and until 1921.
Pelayo was eventually decommissioned on August 1, 1924, disarmed, and sold at auction to a Rotterdam company, leaving to be scrapped in April 1926.

Battle of Santiago de Cuba (july, 3, 1898)

Engraving of the Battle of Santiago
Spanish Armada vs US Navy

Cuba’s decisive naval battle

The Battle of Santiago de Cuba, was seen by some as a naval “execution squad”, as US ships (with large firepower superiority) just awaited the Spanish squadron to leave and force its way out of Santiago’s bay. Some duelling occurred nevertheless, but the fate of the Spanish fleet in the Caribbean was decided this 3th of July, and all but precipitated the end of the war (and of the Spanish Empire).

Forces in Metropolitan Spain

By the time the war erupted over Cuba (and the sparkle which was the explosion of the Maine), Spain had its only ironclads and battleships, the Pelayo, and older Vitoria and Numancia in drydocks at La Seyne at Toulon, while the Mendez Nunez was in reserve, as well as the coastal battery Duque de Tetuan (1874) and the training ship Puigcerda, a monitor from 1874. The Emperador Carlos V and the Princesa de Asturias has been freshly accepted into service but were stationed at Cadiz and Cartagena, carrying out patrols during the war. Most of the torpedo boats were also stationed in Spain.

Author’s map of the battle of Santiago

Cervera’s squadron

In Cuban waters, the colonial squadron at the time of declaration of war was composed of a few minor units, while a strong squadron was just being assembled at the Cape Verde Islands, headed by Admiral Ocquendo. He commanded the armoured cruisers Vizcaya, Infanta Maria Teresa, Cristobal Colon, the destroyers Furor, Terror and Pluto, under the command of the best Spanish admiral, the respected Pascual Cervera y Topete. This officer and Gentleman, 59, was a former minister of the navy with 47 years under his belt, notably in Cuba that he knew well, as well as in the Far East. Cultured, polite, competent, courageous, he was appreciated by the court but much more by his men.

Spanish armoured cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa

At the time of declaration of war, Cervera proposed to Madrid that the fleet waited in the Canary Islands, as the U.S. Navy would not fail to track the coastal metropolitan areas, combining his forces with the squadron of Cartagena, sent as reinforcement. He planned to take in a pincer the “Yankees” and inflict them a crushing defeat. All his commanders had approved the plan. But to his dismay he learned that his orders were instead to defend Cuba as quickly as possible. He then departed in the same sad resolution than Admiral Sir Charles Cradock, sent to sacrifice against Spee’s superior ships off the Falklands.

He knew well that on paper his forces were outclassed by number and tonnage by the American ships, compounded by the fact they suffered from a poor supply of shells, had breech blocks issues left unaddressed, lack of maintenance (no fooling) such as Vizcaya could barely sustain 12 knots, not to mention the Cristobal Colon, which was so fresh she still then missed her main guns.

Cristobal Colon
Profile of the Cristóbal Colón prior to the battle. Notice the forward turret is there, but the gun is absent. A dummy one was fitted at the rear. It would have been one 254 mm (10 in)/45 cal. gun. Secondary armament comprised still two 8 in (203 mm)/45 cal. guns
and fourteen single 152 mm (6 in) guns. She has been sold shortly after completion to the Spanish Navy at Genoa on 16 May 1897.


Nonetheless the fleet leaved St. Vincent on April 29, 1898. A long detour which -it was believed- the squadron would run out quickly from coal, therefore the Americans thought it would rather join the fortified port of Puerto Rico first. Meanwhile on May 1, far away in Cavite (Manila Bay) in the Philippines, an American fleet sank at anchor, by surprise, the Spanish Pacific fleet. Back in the Carribean, Sampson knew he must also necessarily score points, even if only for the sport. But Cervera’s squadron was a far more serious prey than the collection of old colonial gunboats in the Far East. On May, 4, Admiral Sampson tried to intercept Cervera on its way to Cuba. On May 11, Sampason arrived at San Juan, and began to shell the harbor, thinking Cervera was there already. Faced with the evidence of his absence, he decided to sail back to Key West. He was to coal in Martinique and headed for Curacao.

Battleship USS Iowa

Then he returned to Key West where he was joined by Schley’s squadron on May 18. Key West was not far from Havana, so it seems unlikely that Cervera would try to risk lifting the blockade. It was believed the squadron would settle in the south of Cuba, to be anchored under the protection of the fortified ports in this area, at Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. The combined American squadron, now under the command of Schley sailed to Cienfuegos. American confidence in the outcome of the battle ahead is such that the US Navy squadron is surrounded by a picturesque array of luxury yachts attending a “picnic” in case. However some of these Yachts has been equipped after requisition, such as USS Gloucester, sharing his part in the heart of the battle.

USS Brooklyn (ACR3), perhaps the most recognizable and famous American armoured cruiser of that era.

Arrival and deployment

The 22, at Cienfuegos, the eye in the telescope, Admiral Schley observed the apple mast emerging from the hills hiding the harbor, judging how many ships are present, but failed to identify them formally. Are they those of Cervera? The next day a messenger joined the squadron with a message confirming Sampson’s order to stay put. A few hours later, he received another one ordering to sail quickly to Santiago, as rumors indicated the Spanish Admiral was anchored.

But Schley then still felt that the presence of cervera at Cienfuegos was still possible. On 25, Sampson’s cruiser arrived with the first copy of the message, reiterating the order to steam to the port of Santiago, that he hid reluctantly. At dusk, he learned by the commander that Cubans resistants signalled by three shafts of light from the window of a house near to the harbour the Spanish fleet was there. Schley received later formal confirmation from other sources. He could then no longer remain in doubt.

Another view of the USS Brooklyn, the battle’s hero

Coaling and preparing for battle

Schley could not intervene however right away: He was to wait for Weather conditions were rapidly deteriorating, and his coaling fleet still struggling to separate, like the Merrimack still tied due to serious problems of boilers. At 20 nautical miles from Santiago, he sent three ships to try to see the Spanish fleet. They come back empty. Schley decided nevertheless, fearful of falling short of coal decided to return to Key West to refuel, to the dismay and wrath of the Secretary of the Navy for whom that move confined to insubordination. He sent an urgent telegram on May, 27 classified “top priority” by which he intimated Schley to stay.

Idealized painting of the battle, showing Schley’s brooklyn leading the line. In reality this clean “battle line” duel never happened.

Fortunately, the admiral gave up on the idea to leave the area, even before receiving the telegram, as the sea calmed down, and the coaler Merrimack eventually be able to deliver his payload and exit. He the took all his squadron on May 29, and parked his battleline in front of the mouth of the harbor. He could see from there the glow of sunset falling on the Cristobal Colon and planned action for the next day at dawn.

First shots on the Cristobal Colon

As planned the next day, American ships opened fired and the duel was rapidly unequal but yet, shells missed. The Colon escaped and joined the rest of the squadron, to be placed directly under the protection of Santiago’s forts. The day after, Sampson joined Schley’s squadron.

Santiago’s siege

U.S. forces began a fully-fledged siege of the harbour. Cervera had its only exit cut off, but still had the possible double cover of darkness and bad weather. But still, the sea remains of oil. For their part the two admirals do not intended to force the Bay: Large batteries commanding the mouth of the harbor and approaches were a real threat, not to mention long-range batteries in the fortified port itself, and mines laid across the mouth. On the other hand, they could wait for General Schaft that landed nearby, aimed at taking the city and harbour with his troops and capturing forts and batteries, forcing Cervera to leave the harbor.

Meanwhile Sampson, who hoisted his mark on the Armoured Cruiser New York, just developed an ingenious plan thanks to the inspiration of RP Hobson, a naval lieutenant and brilliant engineer: They were to send the old Merrimack through the mouth, lights off, machines shut, helped by the currents and momentum. Then the steamer would to be scuttled after maneuvering across the entrance and firmly anchored with her carefully placed charges set to detonate and scuttle her. Thus, she was to cut off any possibility of retirement for Cervera’s squadron.

Illustration of the battle.

The operation was conducted on the night of June 2-3, but proved a failure: The steamer, still hampered by boiler pressure problems was poorly operated, and eventually scuttled but into a position and place still allowing Cervera to escape. For his part, the latter had in a few days carried ashore most of his sailors with all weapons available to strengthen lines of defense to the rear against Schaft, which was approaching dangerously. Before news of the American commando arrived, “Captain General” Blanco, governor, and commander in chief of Cuba, ordered Cervera to leave the harbor in force, yet still unmanned and under-supplied.

Cervera’s options

Cervera studied his (bleak) possibilities: Exiting by night was to take the risk of managing his way across in the narrow mouth of course and always possible collision with the Merrimack. After careful consideration, he decided to sail on Sunday, July 3rd, at nine in the morning hours, when traditional religious services in the United States Navy took place (Yamamoto had this detail in mind years later when planning his attack on Hawaii). From Saturday two o’clock in the afternoon, boilers had to be set in motion while the sailors stationed at the front lines in the back of the town would return urgently to prepare the ships to depart.

Cristobal Colon
Cristobal Colon. A recent armoured cruiser built in Italy (Garibaldi class), she was so new that the main battery has not yet even been installed.

Cervera’s squadron strength

The Spanish squadron consisted of the cruisers Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya, Infanta Maria Teresa, and Cristóbal Colón plus Villaamil’s destroyers Pluton and Furor. The 7,000 tons cruisers were not heavily armored, nor armed at least compared to the US battleships. With At best they displayed two 11 inch guns and ten 5.5 inch guns (Infanta Teresa Class) each. In addition the condition of the ships was rather poor, The breech mechanisms were dangerously faulty, boilers were in need of repair, some even needed intensive fouling treatment in drydock. The best protected was the Italian-built armored cruiser Cristobal Colon, but she still lacked her main battery, dummy guns being placed. Crews were also poorly-trained, mostly in gunnery drills, concentrating on rapid fire at regular intervals.

The Battle

Cervera leaves the bay

On July 3, at 9:00, as expected, the Spanish squadron set off. Watchmen in the flagship of Commodore Schley (USS Brooklyn), saw multiple smoke plumes rising from behind the hills and gave the alarm. Schley sent the small and fast yacht Vixen to inquire about the Spanish preparation state in case of a sortie. But despite his precautions, Schley had to acknowledge also the disappearance at dawn of the cruisers New Orleans and Newark, left coaling in Guantanamo, escorted by the battleship Massachusetts. This by the way unlocked a new massive opportunity in the West.

USS New York, Sampson’s flagship. A powerful armoured cruiser by 1890s standard.

Sampson, on USS New York, sailed from his position to “close the gap.” The latter and the Brooklyn were now the only two units that can effectively intercept Cervera’s squadron, at both ends of the pincer. At 9:35 on a glassy sea and bright sunshine, Cervera on board Infanta Maria Teresa followed the pilot guiding his way to the mouth. His ships followed at intervals of 7 minutes. Brooklyn’s watchman saw the plume of smoke moving behind the hill, closing to the entrance and gave the alarm, quickly confirmed by Schley himself. Battle flags were drawn to the apple of the masts, but Sampson on USS New York had then disappeared from view and was not informed.

The duel starts

The duel began between Maria Teresa and the battleship Iowa, across the mouth. It was almost an execution: The Spanish admiral ship, going at full speed, could only present part of her front battery and a few pieces in barbettes, while the squadron formed in a semicircle presented almost all its broadside. The whole horizon barred with black silhouettes which could explode with multiple lights -followed by detonations at any moment. Fortunately for Cervera, there was not a breath of wind, and thick white smoke partially hid her ship and he fired. He fired a second time, but missed despite the closing distance. At seven miles east of Santiago, Sampson had an interview with the General when one of his watchers signaled the white fumes of the Spanish guns. He spotted the Teresa and realized that the time had come. He ordered his his huge cruiser to turn for “crossing the T” of Cervera’s line of battle. At this distance it was still impossible however to predict if Cervera would escape east or west.

Cervera’s chivalrous diversion

Cervera also quickly studied his options and decided to practicing one of these chivalrous gestures which was the pride of the Spanish crown: Heading due west towards the Brooklyn, he would try to ram her, allowing the rest of the squadron to respond effectively to the Americans and escape to the east, apparently empty of USS New York, as none were able to follow them. As expected, the subterfuge worked and the battleship Texas, very close to the Brooklyn, believed that Cervera was to sail due west, and began his maneuver, dragging the rest of the squadron. The Brooklyn was the only one that effectively turned her prow east (by mistake, not prescience!).

Through the fog generated by the greasy smoke lingering and spreading to the surface due to lack of wind, one of the watchmen of USS Texas suddenly spotted with amazement the emerging white bow of a cruiser, adorned with the stripped coat of arms and Eagle. He shouted “Brooklyn straight ahead!” and thanks to the presence of mind of the mate who manned the bar on “full astern”, and the readiness of the helmsman, the Texas avoided a fatal collision…

Wreck of the Vizcaya

Leaving the bay, Cervera saw the Brooklyn coming eastward with him over the side. Declining a ramming, he then confirmed his early heading west to deceive the US Fleet. Penetrating deeper into the American fire square, he drew all the shots, while Colon and Vizcaya started to escape by shaving the coast. Banking heavily, Maria Teresa was hit by a large caliber that destroyed the bridge, killing all present officers including the captain. Cervera then took personal command of the ship which began to burn, fire spreading dangerously into the corridors at the rear, next to the ammunition bunkers, which could not be drowned. Cervera decided to save his men while allowing some hope to continue the fight from the shore: He turned his ship towards the beach hoping to ran aground. The American ships still could not follow their boilers being only half of their maximum heat or even cold. These same measures ordered the night before to prevent the ships falling short of coal weighed heavily on the action.

Cruiser Almirante Oquendo is next

Situation of the cruiser Almirante Oquendo then changed dramatically. The cruiser, just passing the harbour’s mouth and was left alone until then. But because fire subsided on the Maria Teresa, now helpless and burning like a torch, they pointed their sights on the unfortunate cruiser. The Ocquendo fired back, but all her guns were silenced one after the other. After less than half an hour, officers were all killed as more than half of her, and she ran aground in turn, less than a mile from Teresa. But at that precise moment of impact at 10:30, her hull was so battered that she that broke in two in a tremendous explosion.

Spanish Cruiser Almirante Oquendo- Wikipedia

Spanish destroyer’s turn

Finally, the hull was achieved by fire from destroyers Furor, Terror, followed by Pluto. The first two escaped, zig-Zagging between high geysers of large calibers, but the Pluto received an impact of large caliber (330 mm) on its rear deck, destroying its engine room and distorting her rudder. Veering sharply to the coast, she almost immediately struck a reef, destroying its bow. Fortunately her crew jumped out and swam to shore in minutes. The irony of all this was these were the world’s first practical destroyers, due to Captain’s Villaamil vision, but they never went into action as planned.

Furor chased by USS Iowa. The Furor class, creation of Aug. Villaamil was arguably the first purpose-built destroyer worldwide.

Meanwhile for the Furor, situation was not better: First impact on the bridge killed officers and the bar went stuck at its highest incidence just when ordered a tight turn. Like the Bismarck years later, the unfortunate destroyer began to turn around, turning into a sitting duck. Unable to replicate with its inadequate guns, she was quickly evacuated, just before another shell 330 mm landed in the engine room, sending pieces of boilers brought to white into the blue. Water rushed immediately and the Furor sank in an instant. In thirty minutes, two cruisers and two destroyers has been destroyed. Schley could savor his victory by advance.

Vizcaya’s deperate duel

The kill board however was not yet fully completed: The USS Brooklyn, followed by Texas and Oregon were chasing the slow Vizcaya, closing along the coast. Battleship Iowa and the yacht Gloucester fished survivors, leaving Indiana behind, still heating up. A tremendous artillery duel began at close range (900 meters) between the Vizcaya, protecting Colon’s escape, and USS Brooklyn, sandwiching her as in Nelson’s finest hours. At such distance, all guns erupted, even machine guns crackled with rage. For a bit Schley and his crew felt their own finest time has come.

Regular exercises of American gunners began to bear fruit. While reloading slower because the officers asked them to take time before fine-tuning the sights, their hits multiplied to the point that a sailor was baffled not to see any white plumes misses. For their part the Spanish gunners were a little faster, and had the advantage of a thicker hull armor. But 1898 was the only fiscal year where gunnery practices were curtailed, leading to some imprecision in return fire. At one point, the Brooklyn suffered a 280 mm shell that penetrated the hull just below the bridge but did not explode, injuring two sailors superficially. A moment later another shell decapitated a gunnery lookout standing in the sight top.

But the next moment, a hit at the stern of the Vizcaya blew the torpedo tube and the ship began to burn furiously, pouring blinding smoke on the unfortunate gunners. The fate of the vessel was sealed. Slowly but surely all her guns were put out of action, so much so that after a while, there were thoughts of preparing the ship for ramming, or beaching the ship, like the other two. The commander was seriously wounded, the second took over, and after a quick “vote” with the officers and men presents to see if something more could be done for the crown and honor of Spain, it was decided to ground the cruiser onto the beach.

Vizcaya’s men ordeal

Seeing the ship heading towards the coast, the Brooklyn and Texas ceased fire. Texas’s crew was rejoicing, starting a song of victory when Captain Philips ordered them to be quiet, saying “Do not sing, boys, those poor devils are dying”… Indeed, from there they could see small red and white spots in a macabre and sobering picture of scorched and twisted corpses littering the bridges, sometimes emerging from open wounds of the hull. The Vizcaya was transformed into a floating hell, with a continuous rumbling in the background. The fire became so intense masts began to writhe under the heat. Planks of the bridge that did not burn gave way, opening the buckling mess of steel raised to red by pressure. The entire ship’s belly was just a huge boiler vomiting tortured men and parts from all its reddish orifices.

The Vizcaya explodes, hull split in two

But for the survivors ordeal was not over: Jumping to the water knowing what would be the pain of a salty water in contact with their burned flesh and open wounds, they had to remain afterwards immersed intermittently to escape gunfire from Cuban resistant firing from ashore or attending the show passively, capturing those washed ashore. They eventually decided to go after the representatives of the hated regime, swimming painfully to shore, yet inflicting them another horrible death with machetes and guns. The scene was such that Commander Evans, from USS Iowa, who had launched all his boats to pick up survivors, sent one with an officer voicing ahead to discourage Cubans to continue their killing, under the threat of a volley of his large guns.

Gun on Vizcaya’s wreck

Spanish sailors seeing the massacre playing ashore began to turn back for the rescuing Americans despite their exhaustion, but had to contend with sharks, attracted and maddened by the smell of blood, barring their way back and striking at random. This horror went to the very doorsteps of the American boats: The first master of Iowa, Jeffrey Davis, recalled giving a hand to an officer, heavily burned and calling for help. As he leaned to grab his forearm, he saw a gray spinning close to the board, and next fell back into the boat, with the trunk of the unfortunate: A shark just took the rest.

Cristobal Colon’s fate

The Cristobal Colon, meanwhile, seemed to left his pursuers. She was now chased by the Brooklyn, whose machines were still not yet fully heated, the Oregon, whose crew redoubled efforts. Finally, Texas, to the rear, continued on her course. The hunt lasted for two hours, to the point the Cuban coast was about 110 Kilometers away. The Colon was making then twenty knots and distances stretched, but soon a fateful decision was made to spare coals stock and reduce consumption.

Schley was jubilant: The Spanish cruiser seemed to put more miles between his own ships and her, but he knew that soon the coast’s shape would oblige the Iberian cruiser to change course, this time closing the gap with her pursuers. On the bridge of Colon, the commander studied his options. He knew full well that in one hour his exhausted drivers, toiling in the hell of the engine room (over 50° at full steam) would have ran off Asturias coal and commence feeding the local low quality coal instead. As expected, at nine in the evening, while the coast was starting to get closer, the smoke plume still visible on the horizon from USS Oregon changed imperceptibly. Slowly but surely, they began to distinguish a shiny black bow with hints of red in the setting sun, until large main guns were ready to bear, and later close enough that the 203 mm from the Spanish ship came also within range. The final duel between the two vessels began.

wreck of Admiral Ocquendo
Wreck of he Almirante Ocquendo

End duel

On the sixth salvo, the Spanish ship was now cornered to the coast which now barring the way. The Captain decided not to be caught: Despite honors commanded, he noticed a group of reefs in order to ran aground her ship, then scuttle her. It was done and sailors and officers quietly gained their boats and aimed to the shore, waiting to surrender to the Americans. When Admiral Sampson arrived at full speed on the USS New York, it was all over. He could only watch the wreck of the Colon marking out the side, ripped, twisted, whence torrents of thick curls. He could also see the bridge crowded with men from the USS Indiana and Iowa, a ballet of boats pulling bodies tossed like puppets on black water.

USS Oregon leaving California to join the Caribbean in 1898, nicknamed “the bulldog of the fleet” she was the fastest and most recent battleship of the US Navy.

In the whole Cervera’s squadron, only the small, but aptly named Terror had survived. The Battle of Santiago de Cuba was over. The Spanish Empire not only had lost the same day his best admiral, taken prisoner along with 1600 men and 70 officers but had to deplore 323 dead or missing and 151 injured, the loss of the best fleet, and its possessions in the Caribbean, this, a few months after the fall of the Philippines. Only a handful of the crews successfully joined the lines defending the city. The Americans had lost one officer and deplored nine minor injuries and one seriously. Santiago will fall on July 17, resisting over two weeks against much superior forces.

Wreck of the Almirante Ocquendo in 1899.
Wreck of the Almirante Ocquendo in 1899.


The battle’s lessons were numerous, although the whole affair was very much one-sided, between a cornered admiral with inadequate ships trying to escape a veritable “execution squad” of battleships and armoured cruisers blockading Santiago’s bay. It showed some difference in gunnery practices, but probably the most intriguing fact was the postwar Sampson-Schley Controversy. The whole point among naval officers was to determine which commanding officer deserved credit for the victory. When Sampson’s New York approached Schley’s Brooklyn, the latter singalled by flag “The enemy has surrendered” and “We have gained a great victory”, on which Sampson answered later with a “terse and seemed needlessly brusque” message according to naval Historian Joseph G. Dawson and tension grew between the men, but really exploded when the press decided to choose its champion, Sampson’s Fourth of July Victory, after his cable to Secretary Long. This was heavily resented by many in the fleet, moreover Schley.

On July, 5, Kentucky Congressman Albert S. Berry argued publicly that “Schley is the real hero of the incident” and that his actions deserved much of the credit for the American victory. The controversy gained momentum in the press, sides were chosen, with more credits to Schley be given on the popular opinion though a young cinema, Thomas Edison making an acclaimed film of the battle. Of course this divided the Academy and Officer corps as well, Alfred Thayer Mahan backing Sampson. When Secretary Long proposed the two officers being promoted Vice-admiral, Sampson was promoted first despite his lower rank in the promotions list which was seemed by many as “a great injustice” and the case was eventually ported to a court of inquiry which opened on September 12, 1901 at the Washington Navy Yard, with 14 charges of negligence over Schley, finding he did not “project the right image of a naval officer”. Schley did appealed to Theodore Roosevelt which called for an end to all public disputes but the affair somewhat tarnished what was otherwise a true, legitimate naval victory.

The Reina Mercedes, abandoned in Santiago Bay because of engine troubles. This unprotected cruiser was captured by the U.S. Navy and used as a receiving ship until 1957 as the USS Reina Mercedes. Two other colonial cruisers (Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon) were also reclassified as gunboats in US service?


The effects of this victory resonated less in the Spanish Congress as well as the popular press, than on elites who saw the last ships down with a final dream of matching Charles V Empire. In August, deprived of any support from the metropolis, Cuba surrendered and Spain sued for Peace in August. The war was over. Meanwhile a legend was forged on land, on San Juan hill: a stocky, highly energetic officer shouting orders to “Battler Joe” Wheeler (a celebrity of the former Confederate Army), with mustaches and little round glasses, climbed under fire at the head of his dismounted Rough Riders and entered the legend. Former Assistant Secretary of State for the Navy, avid reader of Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt was also an adept of the Monroe doctrine. He was elected 12 years later, President of the United States. A great lover of hunting and nature, he was also the driving force behind a navy that will raise in a matter of 15 years, to a level close to the Royal Navy, making it known worldwide through the acclaim “great white fleet” cruise. See US Navy in ww1.


Fernando Villamil Fernando Villaamil: A competent Spanish naval officer, designer of the first destroyer warship in history (Furor) and for the Battle of Santiago de Cuba as the highest ranking Spanish officer killed that day, of an heroic death.

Winfield Scott Schley:

A rear admiral in the United States Navy and the hero of the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, Schley was debated over Sampson about who really won the battle. He was put in command of the Flying Squadron, with U.S.S. Brooklyn (CA-3) as his flagship. His ships engaged that day probably the best cruisers of the Spanish Navy, the Teresa, the Vizcaya, and the Colon. His duel with the Vizcaya could have turned more vicious if that was not for the help of the USS Oregon. His maneuvers were later magnified by the press and perhaps gave him more credits that he actually deserved.

Almirante Cervera

Almirante Pascual Cervera y Topete:

A highly decorated veteran of the Spanish Navy, which also distinguished himself during the Carlist Wars. Later as head of Spain’s Ministry of Navy, he attempted a number of far-reaching reforms but eventually resigned. At Cuba he led a brilliant circumnavigation of U.S. naval forces but did not had the necessary ships to face the US Navy there, his position being betrayed by the governor. Leaving Santiago to try leave the blockade ended in failure, but Cervera was upon his returned cleaned of any competence failings after the trial for the loss of his command, mostly because of the effort of his crew and was honored by the Republican Navy years after, naming a cruiser after him.

Admiral William T. Sampson

. Due to his senior position of command, Sampson was generally given full credits for his victory at Santiago. A New Yorker, pure product of the United States Naval Academy, he served in the Union Navy in 1864 with the monitor Patapsco of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In the 1880s he was a Superintendent of the Naval Academy, and he became Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance in the 1890s. He was also appointed as commander of the battleship Iowa in 1897 and led the enquiry for the destruction of the Maine. A rear admiral in 1898 his flagship was the armoured cruiser USS New York. He undertook the Cuban blockade and bombarded San Juan before being sent to intercept Cervera’s squadron.


About the battle

This article is part of a Triptych: The war of 1898.

Links & Sources
Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905

Battle of Manila May, 1, 1898

battle of Manila bay
Spanish Armada vs US Navy

Map of Manila’s battle actions (public domain)

Swapping an Empire for Another

The origins

The war of 1898 which emerged from the question of the independence of Cuba from Spanish so-perceived tyrannic colonial rule, was resolved rapidly through two naval battles. Strangely the first one did not occurred in the Caribbeans, but far away in Asia, in the maze of tropical islands called the Philippines. Thus remote possession of the Spanish Empire was all that left from its former Empire there since 1565, but still, a vital trade and materials provider (notably rubber), which was defended by a squadron while the capital Manila was well protected by a chain of forts all along the bay, easy to close and defend. The American attack came as a surprise (the local forces were not prepared, neither to the ferocity of the assault, nor to fight in any way).

USS Olympia
USS Olympia, Commodore Dewey’s flagship at the battle. It has been preserved and can be visited in the Independence Seaport Museum, Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia. Illustration by the author.

The battle and its consequences

It was called soon a “splendid example of a splendid naval action” with tremendous consequences. For Spain, the fall of its Asian operating base (soon Guam followed) and the beginning of the end, confirmed at Cuba in July, which precipitated the end of the war. It proved that despite falling to near oblivion after the civil war, the American Navy was no longer a Joke for European powers. It changed the lives of all Filipino, that much like their Cuban counterparts, lived under a harsh colonial regime and developed resistance movements. First perceived like liberators, the new power however settled in a quasi-colonialist fashion, going as far as ordering fierce repressions leaving the impression to the locals of having swapped an imperialist power for another.

Dewey on the lookout post of the USS Olympia, a painting now at Vermont State.

The Battle of Manila was mainly a surprise attack by a U.S. Navy squadron on the Spanish Pacific Squadron anchored at Manila Bay. Complete destruction of the fleet prevented any reinforcements to Cuba and offered the United States a brand new platform in Asia for future expansions and its fleet support in this area. The victory was all the more dazzling for the Navy, its realization was daring, hazardous and risky, ended with no casualties but minor injuries, a feat rarely achieved for the scale of such battle. The strong impression it left, conducted the Japanese to apply the very same tactic at Port Arthur against the Russians some seven years later. This surprise attack and preventive strike would inaugurate a kind of action soon famous in warfare in general, in a sense prefiguring the blitzkrieg. Like Napoleon once stated, the “best defence is attack”. This success was largely celebrated and do well for the war nickname “the splendid little war” soon relayed by all the press, in the US and abroad.

Cruiser USS Raleigh (C8) circa 1900
Cruiser USS Raleigh (C8) circa 1900

Commodore Dewey’s Pacific Squadron

It all started with the plans reviewed by the Admiralty in the event of confrontation with Spain, a few years ago. That’s when Commodore George Dewey, then based in Hong Kong, was appointed to head the U.S. Pacific fleet at the insistence of the personal assistant to the secretary at the Naval affairs of the White House, Theodore Roosevelt. His squadron was quite thin in Asia in terms of impact force, especially compared to the Spanish fleet, reinforced by many land-based coastal batteries. His squadron included the cruiser USS Olympia, USS Boston, gunboat USS Petrel and the very old steam paddle USS Monocacy. That was only a mere fraction of the US Navy at that time, which bulk was facing Cuba.

Gunboat USS Petrel, circa 1900
Gunboat USS Petrel, circa 1900

Intelligence of the Armada

In addition, knowledge of the Spanish forces in the sector was meager, based on assumption that the bulk of the fleet was anchored in Manila, which was confirmed later by the American consul there, Oscar. F. Williams. Lieutenant Upham (USS Olympia) was also there in civilian disguise, roaming in the capital of the Philippines to try to glean detailed information on ships in harbour and movements. Finally Dewey himself has his own personal sources, form an American businessman who went there regularly and also passed more valuable information.

Cruiser Castilla
Spanish cruiser Castilla with full rigging in the 1880s.

State of Dewey’s squadron

But the supply of ammunition (as well as coal quality) was a real problem for the US squadron. Dewey’s ships had, few days before the battle, not yet received a quarter of their shell stock. Supply ships were hard to find and charter, many companies and crews refused to take the risk. The cruiser USS Baltimore, dry-docked, has her hull cleaned and repainted in dark gray within 48 hours, a more suitable livery than the classic peacetime classic “black hull, white and canvas superstructures” for naval operations. However, reinforcements arrived on the eve of the battle, with some equipment for the fleet and ammunition to complete inventories (40% Empty), accompanied by the cruiser USS Raleigh and a Customs patrol boat, the USS MacCulloch. Still later after the departure of the squadron, the gunboat USS Concord joined the group. Other depot ships were also collected for the purposes of last-minute supplies. At the outbreak of war, the squadron has coaled after many difficulties, but was now ready to depart, and morale was very high.

USS Baltimore (C3) starboard bow view in 1891. Notice the reduced military masts.

State of the Armada in Manila

Meanwhile the local Spanish pacific fleet was managed by Admiral Don Patricio y Montojo Pasaron, whose fleet included the cruisers Don Antonio de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria, Reina Cristina, Castilla, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, and the gunboat Marques del Duero. Stationed at Manila Bay, they were deployed in front of Subic Bay, which defenses has been considerably reinforced after the outbreak of war. At the last minute, spare battery from the old gunboats Don Antonio and General Lezo were placed on coastal fortifications, as well as the guns of the cruiser Velasco. Castilla was also in such bad condition that its 150 mm (6 in) guns were landed, but left shortly before the attack on the beach instead of being swiftly mounted in position. The entrance of Subic Bay was mined, as well as that of the harbor of Manila. But if Subic bay of a tactical standpoint remains an excellent choice, no fortification was there, and there was a risk that the planned batteries carried by land could not be installed on schedule. Shallow water of the area also allowed in the worst case ships to be sunk on purpose to serve as fixed batteries. It also rendered a fleet moves difficult, lowering speed and easing the work of coastal artillery batteries.

Revenue cutter USRC McCulloch circa 1900
Revenue cutter USRC McCulloch circa 1900.

The battle

First moves

Since Montojo’s forces gradually showed signs of a defensive stance, most of the action and initiative would came from the Americans: On April 28, Montojo learned the departure of Commodore Dewey’s squadron. In emergency, he tried to install some extra guns, but officers in charge warned him that the defenses would not be ready on time. In addition he received a message from one of the highlights of Subic bay that Dewey already had sent some vanguard units in recognition. Therefore Montojo preferred to retreat under the protection of the guns of Manila and emboss his ships in front of the fortified Sangley Point, and the battery of Ulloa on Cavite. Vessels were sunk by opening valves, still able to continue firing, solidly planted on the sand. The cruiser Castilla, partly disarmed, has her sides protected by two old collier hulls filled with sand shells. Other preparations were in progress when the American fleet stood at the entrance of the bay. The latter could hear from the bridge the distant roar of the city of Manilla.

Engraving by J.D. Gleason (USN archives)n

Dewey prepares at Luzon

On april 30, the fleet arrived in Luzon. Dewey sent USS Boston and USS Concord in recognition of Subic, and USS Baltimore, which followed them in front of the fleet, received an erroneous report alleging artillery duels, quickly rectified. It was agreed that the Spanish fleet was no longer in Subic. Dewey turned to his Chief of Staff and said, “Now we have them!”. The ship’s bridges were prepared in case of fire by throwing overboard all that was made of wood, except on the ship bearing the Admiral’s flag, the USS Olympia. Tons of sand were also thrown on bridges to allow grip because of probable seawater from plumes and blood, and certain sensitive parts were protected with thick cloth soaked in vinegar, as was done traditionally to ensure no fire can take root or spread.

Dewey’s approach to the Bay

The fleet headed for the entrance of the bay, protected by islands and islets, forming two more or less wide entries: Boca Chica and Boca Grande. This was dangerous because of its many reefs and narrows, although the maneuvers was feasible. Boca Grande entrance was marked by the forts of the island of Caballo and El Frail, and Boca Chica was even narrower and more heavily defended, notably by the island of Corregidor, surrounded by fortresses able to deliver (at least in theory) a punishing crossfire. Dewey did finally move his squadron in Boca Grande, at 23 pm, lights off except the pilot stern that allowed the battle line to follow. His line passed between Caballo and El Fraile north to south, included leading USS Olympia, followed by the steamer USS Nanshan, Zafiro, McCulloch, and Petrel, then the USS Raleigh, Concord and Boston.

Forts are the first to fire

The poor coal used by USS McCulloch made that little flame that arose from her high chimney an easy pick for the watchman of fort El Fraile, which promptly ordered to open fire. The first salvo fell between Raleigh and Petrel. The whole line answered, and quickly silenced the battery. However, the telegraphist was able to sent an alert at 2 am to Admiral Montojo, already on his feat after hearing the rumbling in the distance, frowned behind the hills of Cavite.

Painting of the battle by J.G. Tyler (USN archives)
Painting of the battle by J.G. Tyler (USN archives)

Spanish Actions Station

He sounded the rally and crew hurried to put away, or throw overboard everything that was a source of bursts, removing the boats, placing here and there many sandbags. Dewey line of battle went up quietly in the middle of the bay, and at 4:00, the armada signaled the general steadiness for combat. The men were at post, cruisers ready from the tip from Cavite to the batteries of Sangley Canaco. The Spanish fleet was forming a line of stepped defence in front of the city of Cavite, the Velasco drawing the battle line to the east of the fort at Sangley. The Zafiro, the Nanshan and McCulloch, the first two unarmed, were eventually sent back into the bay as observers, while the line drawn by the Olympia arrived at Manila, finding only cicilian steamers, tacked through the course to the southeast toward Cavite.

Dewey’s First pass

Dewey’s squadron was walking very slowly, at 3 knots, as he hoped that his vessels still could remain unspotted. However, Don Juan of Austria watchman saw at 4:45 am, still dark, the fire arose from U.S. ships chimneys and gave the alarm. The American line was then at 5 o’clock in the morning, dawn, under fire of the heavy batteries of the forts of Manila. Two cruisers responded with strict orders to use ammunition against these forts with economy, sparing them for the enemy ships. Montojo, seeing the artillery duel in front of Manila, decided to allow his ships to sail in an emergency and lay a few mines blocking Dewey, a risky maneuver performed by his admiral ship, cruiser Reina Cristina. Dewey spotted then at at 5:15 pm the light of the guns of Fort Canacao (one 120 mm/5-in gun) and Sangley Point (two 150 mm or 6-in guns), soon followed by those of Spanish cruisers.

Engraving of the battle, USN archive photo funds
Engraving of the battle, USN archive photo funds

Only 35 minutes later he ordered a counter fire when everyone was ready. The two 203 mm guns (6 in) of the USS Olympia front turret thundered, followed by those of other vessels of his squadron. By presenting the Spanish his ship’s prow first, Dewey did not run a great risk. But soon the Olympia began to turn course East to present its broadside, quickly followed by whole line, opening fire at point-blank range (400 meters).

First, the Reina Cristina was badly hit, after few impacts sparking a fire and knockout her main artillery. Dewey initiated to bring a turning movement, the famous “spiral” in reduced mode (6-8 knots, approx. 10-12 km/h), precisely in order to concentrate his fire back to the north, then back again from the east, each time bearing all its broadside. The line was far enough, however, to avoid the shallows of Canacao’s bay.

Drawing of the battle by W.G. Wood
Drawing of the battle by W.G. Wood – USN photos archives

Dewey’s incredible withdrawal

At 7:30 am, Dewey suddenly learned that his main battery had only fifteen rounds left. The situation still could turn out badly very quickly. He decided, though men were still ready to fight, to withdraw to replenish his ships, and allowed his men to take a breakfast, while always under Spanish range. This reckless feat was later noted in the press as further evidence of the extraordinary American confidence over the final issue (or arrogance). But in truth the inventory had been misinterpreted, because only fifteen rounds has been fired by gunners in all that time, taking even more time for aiming than the exercise!… This was repeated later at Santiago.

USS Olympia leading the battle line in Manila Bay
USS Olympia leading the battle line in Manila Bay

But the results seemed to pay off at this distance, with more than 2% hits (at the time was a good result). The retreat order given by Dewey in any case was not well received by the crews, especially the gunners and their officers which suddenly had to provide a detailed report of losses in men and ammunition remaining while those from the boiler rooms had to run along the ships to check for damage. Confusion even shortly reigned aboard the Olympia, which amid the smoke of the fire falsely spotted a torpedo attack from two Spanish steamers, quickly knocked out by small quick-firing pieces. It turned out later that these were two small civilian boats, wrong place, wrong time.

Cruiser Alfonso XII class. 1885, 3000T, wooden hulled with iron plating. The Reina Cristina was present at Manila. She had (in theory) six Hontoria 152 mm.

Dewey’s second pass

After this surrealist pause, unique in naval warfare, Deweys resumed his attack. Meanwhile indeed, the Spanish did not remain idle. Not only they replicated feverishly, but they also attempted an attack in the old style, Don Juan de Austria and Reina Cristina placing themselves in position to launch a ramming attack. When spotting the manoeuver, a barrage of fire kept them at bay. The Cristina, already deprived of its firing direction, was therefore struck by other shells, one of which entered her hospital room and the other penetrated its rear ammunition store. The latter started to burst but did not explode, promptly drowned by pumps. Nonetheless the fire quickly spread elsewhere and soon ran out of control. Later on, with only a handful of gunners remaining, half her crew ashore, and most officers killed or wounded, Montojo decided to scuttle his flagship. Taking a skiff, he quickly joined the cruiser Isla de Cuba to raise his mark and give orders. The Don Antonio de Ulloa was soon disabled and scuttled as well in shallow water, so that the crew remained on board and resumed firing. Despite the short distance, the poorly trained Spanish gunners scored almost no hit. The Castilla followed suite and was also evacuated and scuttled. Montojo ordered the remaining ships to sail towards Bacoor Bay to pursue the fight, and be scuttled in shallow water. They eventually surrendered before it took place.

Spanish cruiser/gunboat Isla de Luzon.

The battle ends

The American fleet had taken several hits buy almost without damage and no casualties. The only serious hit was taken by the USS Baltimore, that struck the freeboard, ricocheted off the bridge, crossed a deckhouse, bounced inside the shield of a 6 inch from the opposite side, ricocheted a second time on the bridge and buried itself without exploding… There was eventually 8 minor injuries as a result of sparks and splinters. More fear than harm.

Wreck of the Castilla

At 11h 16 pm, the cease-fire became evident as the Spanish squadron appeared to have been completely knockout. However there was a final artillery duel between USS Baltimore and the still undamaged Canacao and Sangley forts, which were silenced in turn. Yet Dewey was warned that the crew of Don Antonio de Ulloa, although half submerged, was still firing with the last usable gun. In fact this was not true, but a rain of shells quickly fell on the already wrecked ship, slaughtering survivors. Yet the last remaining sailors did not capped their flag. American gunners themselves were impressed by the bravado of these Spanish crews. Gunboat USS Petrel was ordered to enter the harbor, checking unit still able to fight and then be back to make a report. Off the town of Cavite, she wiped out and silenced another battery with her 6 inches guns.

Sunken wreck of the Reina Cristina


At noon, the case was made. All Spanish ships were reported permanently disabled. Montojo noted in his report 127 dead and 214 injured. The heavy batteries of Manila however, were still able to sink any American ships, but incredibly stood quiet for fear of reprisals. The only two American deaths were due to the chief engineer of the McCulloch, Randall, having a heart attack during Boca Grande maneuvers, and Captain Charles Gridley, already ill, which directed Olympia’s fire from blockhouse, transformed into real oven under the scorching sun of the region. He too badly suffered from the heat, but died a month later at Kobe, back home.
Later, the Americans would seize the cruisers Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon, repair them, and resumed their service in the US Navy as gunboats under their original names. In 1912, the Isla de Cuba was also sold in Venezuela, which kept it in service until the late 40. As for the Olympia, the Isla de Cuba was preserved and is currently the visiting centerpiece of Independence Seaport Museum, at Philadelphia.

Sunset victory

At sunset, the USS Olympia came quietly to the mooring at the waterfront of Manila, all flags were raised like for a parade, sailors and officers aligned in perfectly clean uniforms, and the full orchestra dressed in regalia lined up on the rear deck, beginning a series repertoire of songs in honor of the defeated man of the day, Montojo, and the gallantry of the entire Spanish fleet.
The astonished Manilese came to hear these tunes on the docks, while echoing from Cavite continuous explosions of the last stocks of ammunitions in still smoldering wrecks.

The flag is raised over the fortifications

Manila’s control

While the Spanish fleet was clearly out of action, Dewey still did not controlled the city, which unlike Cuba, became the prey of insurgents. The entire American squadron cannot not even muster a company capable of reaching the governor palace. Dewey then took the decision after news of his victory cabled, to set up a naval blockade of Manila Harbour until reddition of the officials. He was promised troops quickly. In town, several persistent rumors spoke of an alliance between Germany and Spain, in Habsburg memory. Some even predicted an imminent declaration of war by Germany, another rumor pretended an army of 10,000 Germans from Tsing Tao just landed at Subic… However, the Filipino independence movement was quickly sent into action, and revolutionaries under the leadership of Vicente Catalan, provoked the mutiny of the steamer Compania de Filipinas, July 5, 1898. Spanish officers were executed, and the ship rallied Manila, with other steamer crews. Promoted “Admiral of the Mosquito Fleet” and flying a provisional flag of the Philippine Republic, Catalan ordered to paint false barbettes on the hull and installed on the main deck dummy guns made with copper pipes painted black. Thus disguised as “cruiser”, the Compania of Filipinas, a former Tobacco carrier, rallied Subic Bay in order to obtain the surrender of the garrison of the fort, under the threat of his “guns”.

Filipino guerrillas, 1899

Philippines Control

But the Spanish garrison refused and Catalan decided to send a company to finish them. Preparations went on, when the sailors of the improvised cruiser discovered with amazement the “real” German cruiser Irene nearby. The latter raised on her mast a recognition signal and summons the company to stop. The Filipino steamer was seen indeed by the Germans as a “pirate”, the Philippine Republic being not recognized. Meanwhile a diplomatic waltz took place in Europe, each nation sending vessels to “show the flag” in these waters. The Filipino mock cruiser was no match and hoisted the white flag. Informed of the situation, Dewey sent the Concord and Raleigh to intervene and require in turn the Spanish surrender. The Irene, seeing the American ships arrived, went quietly mooring on the other side of Isla Grande, and after a warning shot from Commander Coghlan of USS Raleigh, the garrison stir in turn the white flag.

Reassured by the hope of surrendering to regular troops, the Spanish garrison left the fort in good order and joined the Raleigh. Coghlan, however, had been ordered to assign prisoners to Catalan, while the latter was ordered to hand them over to the Governor of Manila. The Philippine “independence” was granted by the Treaty of Paris signed Dec. 10, 1898, but in reality the first elected president, Emilio Aguinaldo, was seen as a puppet of the White House by the majority of former revolutionaries who took over arms. U.S. military presence, was soon dragged into a new bloody and bitter insurgency war.

New threats and challenges

Later, U.S. troops also had to face the revolt of the indigenous Moros. US presence solidified in the interwar as former Spanish bases were developed and strengthened, fortified over the years 20-30, to the point of building a “concrete battleship”. In 1941, General MacArthur directed the U.S. forces in the Philippines, and considered the approaches to Manila (by jungle or sea), impregnable. It was December 1941, but that’s another story…


Admiral Patricio Montojo

Born in Ferrol, in Galicia (naval base, shipyard and major industrial hub), Montojo was graduated from the Naval School in Cadiz and spend years in the Philippines fighting the Moros. He was commander also of the Cuba squadron and later Río de la Plata. Montojo was wounded during the Manila Bay battle, as was one of his two sons, and was court-martialled after the war in Madrid, and imprisoned. He was released later, thanks to the intervention of his subordinates and …Dewey himself.

Georges Dewey

Cdr Georges Dewey

A graduated from the naval Academy, born in Montpelier, Vermont, he was also a decorated veteran of the civil war, for his service on the USS Mississippi, ramming the CSS Manassas. He also took part in the Battle of Port Hudson, and promoted by Farragut, commanded the USS Agawam, USS Colorado and fought at Ft Fisher. As a commodore he was assigned to the Pacific Squadron in 1893 and acted masterfully at the head of his squadron from the USS Olympia at the battle, for which he became a hero after the war, being offered multiple decorations and a priceless sword by the president.

spanish-american war
This article is part of three dedicated to the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War of 1898

How the “splendid little war” began

As we know, this war began with the blowing up of the USS Maine in Havana harbor. The explosion later formally identified it as accidental, but the American public then has been pushed “white hot” by the press and recent events, such as the Cuban rebellion led since 1869 against Spanish occupation. Cuba was the last of its former South American colonial empire, shattered by revolutions following Simon Bolivar epic. Spain clung to her last possessions (including the Philippines) in 1897.

USS Maine illustration
USS Maine, author’s illustration

The accident was actually interpreted as a Spanish sabotage, and United States declared war on Spain April 25, 1898, two months after. Originally the Maine has been sent in the harbor of Havana, in order to recover US citizens informally possibly threatened by the general insurrection. Insurgents were then supported covertly by the United States.

Battleship USS Maine at the time of the fatal explosion inside Havana. That bad fortune bring the Casus Belli the Americans waited for. To date, the hypothesis of an accidental explosion of the forward ammunition magazine is accepted my mainstream historians.

President McKinley, without formal proofs, but backed by the press and Congress, had accused the Spanish local authorities of sabotage, making it a perfect Casus Belli. Operations soon started, after a failed negotiation for a Spanish withdrawal from Cuba, naturally refused. Admiral Sampson began a blockade of the North coast of Cuba, preventing the arrival of reinforcements.

Far away though, on 1 May 1898, the U.S. Pacific Fleet attacked the Spanish fleet in the harbor of Manila, the Philippines, under the command of Admiral Montojo, and crushed it without a single loss, to prevent reinforcements from the Spanish Pacific and threatening Spanish colonial interests in the area. The Atlantic Fleet was responsible for the area of Santiago de Cuba, when Cervera’s squadron came from Spain with reinforcements, trying to break the blockade when took place the famous battle of San Juan.

Cruiser Vizcaya. To support its fledgling empire, the Armada (Spanish Navy) was on paper twice as large as the US Navy back in 1898. She was however only a shadow of its former glory, and the total defeat suffered mirrored the crippling Russian losses at Tsushima six years later. New powers challenged old Europe.

This was a disaster for the Spanish navy, which lost its main armored cruisers, and more than half of the fleet. Peace was signed in Paris December 10, 1898. The United States emerged as a protectorate over Cuba, bases in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and especially Hawaii, the future headquarters of the Pacific Fleet. This was the beginning of the American “imperialism”.

The US Navy in 1898

There are two basic major periods to qualify the United States Navy in the nineteenth century: There is the “Old Navy”, which included ships from some of the wars of independence against England in the Napoleonic era, ships as old as the USS Constitution (“old Ironsides”, 1797), but also all vessels originally designed before, during and after the Civil War of 1861-1865. One thing was sure, the finances of the United States after the secession war did not allow to built a Blue Water Navy to speak of: The years 1870-80 were years of crisis.

It was not until 1890 a semblance of rebirth of what is now called the “New Navy” began, under the influence of thinkers like Mahan and prominent Republicans like “Teddy” Roosevelt. Almost all the remaining units of the Old Navy would be scrapped and a few survivors of the 1870s served as depot or training ship.
From the rebirth of the “Navy” to 1898, it will take eight years, used to provide a real potential and eventually resort as more than a match for its Spanish opponent.




Ironclads 0 5
Cruisers 3 17
TBs 2 16
Gunboats 3 43
Miscellaneous 32 3

*Small table comparing American and Spanish navies in 1890: It shows the overwhelming Spanish superiority.
* While the two fleets have submersibles, in 1898, they are not included in this table for obvious reasons: At that time it was experimentation: Their military value was purely theoretical.




Battleships 6 4
Armoured Cruisers 2 6
Cruisers 15 18
Destroyers 0 6
TBs 5 13
Monitors 6 0
Gunboats 16 43
Miscellaneous 20 3

As can be seen, the superiority of the Spanish navy in 1898 is still obvious, at least on paper. But on the battleships, one is truly “modern”, although its design dates back, the Pelayo. In contrast, American battleships are recent and of good quality, which gives a real balance of power 6 to 1. The same applies to the cruisers. Those aligned by Spain are older than ten years and so small that they could be likened to gunboats.

However the American domination in monitors is of little interest in the conflict of 1898, this type of vessel being recorded in coastal defense, not to distant operations, like the whole of American TBs. The apparent dominance of Spain in gunboats also illusory: Thirty of them are small colonial units of less than 100 tons and lightly armed, those of high seas being over-age, while the U.S. units are modern, powerful and designed for the high seas. What is quite instructive in this regard: When the Americans took possession of protected cruisers Spanish Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon, they were reinstated in the Navy as gunboats (See fact sheets on the Battle of Santiago and the Raid of Manila).

Battle order of the US Navy in 1898

6 Battleships:
Unquestionably, the highlight of the Navy. They were known to be slower than the armored cruisers, but proved fast enough in front of the old Spanish buildings poorly maintained. There were Texas, Maine, the three Indiana, Iowa. Two other (class Kearsarge) were completed, three (class Illinois) under construction, three more (Class Maine (2)) Scheduled for 1899. The name “Maine” was given shortly after the loss of the first in Havana. Texas, Indiana, Oregon, Massachussetts, Iowa, were all present at the battle of Santiago.

6 Monitors: There were 12 already in service from the end of the Secession war, relegated as second-class monitors. They are bottom of the list. The only monitors worthy of the name in the Navy buildings were modern and high water if able to cross the Atlantic. They were the USS Puritan (1882), initiated in 1876 and completed much later, in 1896. In terms of weaponry, she had the value of a battleship. The four Amphitrite (1896) were in the same case. Finally, the Monterey was in cons but is started in 1889 and completed in 1893. So she was more modern. All of them were much higher than the Puigcerda, who also served as a training ship in 1898. They hardly took part in any act of war but did patrolled.

2 Armored cruisers: Relative disadvantage because the Navy had only two, the USS New York, flagship of Commodore Sampson in the Battle of Santiago, and the USS Brooklyn, flagship of Schley at that battle. The Brooklyn distinguished herself while USS New York, absent from the combat, is practically not involved. Compared to Spanish ships, they were more recent, more accurate, fast but relatively less well protected. In battle a duel to the death between the Brooklyn and Viscaya, ended in the destruction of the latter.

15 Cruisers: Apparent inferiority also the Navy, at least on paper. As noted above, the Spanish units from the 1880s would be classified as “gun” in the Navy. Only Alfonso XII and Reina Regente could bear comparison. They were sometimes old ships, like the two Atlanta (1884), Chicago (1885), Charleston (1888), the Newark and San Francisco (1889), and other more “modern” as the two Baltimore (1888), Olympia (1892), both Cincinnati (1892), the three Montgomery (1893), both Columbia (1893). For good measure, two summers had ordered an emergency at the deteriorating relations between the United States and Spain to Britain, to Armstrong projects, both New Orleans. They will be accepted for service in 1898 (but too late to serve during the war) and 1900. Most distinguished themselves during the great raid on the Philippines in May 1898. In pure tonnage, in armament, quality and modernity, the report was totally in favor of the Navy.

16 Gunboats: These were ocean-going vessels, recent and heavily armed: The Dolphin (1886), the three Yorktown (1889-1890), the Petrel (1888), the Bancroft (1892), the Nashville (1895), the two Machias (1891), the two Wilmington (1895), the two Wheeling (1897), the three Annapolis (1896) brand new, and a fourth class, completing in 1898. They were much larger than their Spanish equivalents, which would have classified as “cruisers”.

No Destroyer so far: The USS Farragut was the first. In 1898, she was under construction. She will be launched in July 1898 and completed in March 1899. The Armada had an incontestable advance in this field.

5 TBs: All Torpedo Boats were of local construction and new, their military value was greater than their Iberian antagonists at least on paper. However, they played no role in the campaign, because of coastal nature and limited range. These were the old Stiletto (1886), Cushing (1890), Ericsson (1894), two of the Foote class (1897), a third would be accepted for service in mid-1898. Several others would be operational before the end of the war, whereas new orders were placed. In total 35 boats would be accepted until 1905.

1 Submersible: The Holland (1897), probably the most famous Anglo-Saxon submarine, was just tested in 1898. She was revolutionary at the time, designed by John Holland, who created a few years later Electric Boat to mass produce these, today’s still the largest manufacturer in the world in this field. She was already more reliable and efficient than the experimental Spanish submarine Isaac Peral.

20 Miscellaneous ships: This is difficult to classify these ships, due to their typology: The most recent and interesting were the USS Kathadin ramming cruiser, launched in 1893 and inspired by ships developed by France and Britain. At this time of passion for antiquity, the spur was favored to the extent that we designed units specifically dedicated to this purpose. The other ship is the only pneumatic guns gunboat/cruiser that ever existed: The USS Vesuvius. She bombarded the port of Santiago de Cuba, but this was her only military action.

Moreover, the lists still included number of older units, used mostly as a training ships, old monitors, used as second-class coastal units, eight of the Passaic class, four of Canonicus class, old sailing sloops, two of the Galena class, USS Marion, Mohican (1876 -85), the first a naval militia school and the second as a more advanced training ship, four Enterprise Class (1874-78), three of which served as training ships, the Alliance, Enterprise, and Essex, and the Adams as a patrol ship, two of the Alert class, and one Ranger, also a patrol ship. All were composite ships (rigging and steam) and low military value.

In this chapter, detached from the comparison table above as specially chartered for the war and only during that one year of the conflict are different units, armed in haste to the declaration of war: These were the auxiliary cruisers USS (former SS) Saint Paul and Saint Louis, liners of 1894-95, 15,000 tonnes, well armed.

The USS Harvard and Yale (1888), also well armed. They are also the steamers Badger, Buffalo, Dixie, Panther, Prairie, Yankee, Yosemite, dating from 1889 to 1893 and renamed, and converted Yachts as Auxiliary patrol ships (although their speed allows them to be used as scouts), the Dorothea, Eagle, Gloucester, Hornet, Mayflower, Scorpion, Vixen and Wasp (renamed and recent, 1890-1898). They played a definite role in the Battle of Santiago as they accompanied the squadrons of Sampson and Schley on the wings. The Vixen was used as a dispatch vessel with the Admiralty and Schley and Samspon, while USS Gloucester moan down Spanish destroyer Pluton with her two QF 57 mm guns.

Spanish Armada


Well above the U.S. Navy in the 1870s to the 1890s, the Spanish Armada was a serious adversary for a new, still green “New Navy”, and its handful of modern units. In gross tonnage, the Armada was largely on paper over, and the seventh largest in the world (behind the British, French, Russian, German, Italian and Japanese Navies of the time). She was at least equally impressive in 1870, counting seven ironclads, many ships of the line, large frigates and sloops.

Its huge colonial empire, the second behind Great Britain then extended over part of South America but also the Caribbean, Far East and Pacific. Following the epic of Simon Bolivar’s revolutions, Spain gradually lost in the early nineteenth century her main colonies of South America and only remained Cuba in 1898, controlling its possessions in the Caribbean, but also the Philippines in the far east, and also Guam in the Pacific, the Mariana and Carolina Islands being recently purchased by Germany. Her fleets from 1876 were stationed in the Metropolis (Cartagena), on her possessions in the Caribbean in Cuba (Havana) and one fleet was stationed in the the Philippines also guarding her possessions in the Pacific (Manila).

Financial situation deteriorated as an echo of an internal quite turbulent political situation, making Spain an easy victim for the nascent colonial ambitions of the United States, which reach their climax with the election to the White House of George Mc Kinley. Many American businessmen, who have financial interests in Cuba, and support the local insurgents, are actively lobbying for the war and working in secret to find a flaw.

Prow Infantry Maria Teresa This was an unexpected accident, immediately exploited by the press, giving a perfect casus belli: The explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor. The case, probably an accident, became a deliberate attempt of hatred Spain authorities against the American people. The rest is history: the Pacific Fleet (Montojo) of the Philippines was wiped out on May 1 and the Cuban release fleet of Admiral Cervera was defeated July 3, 1898. In a quick succession, the “pearl of the empire” and the bulk of the Spanish colonies in the Pacific (including Guam) fell to the Americans, now “protectorates”, with new precious bases and strategic resources for an expanding naval power.

Armada – Battle order in 1898

-3 Battleships :
A single modern battleship, the Pelayo and two older Ironclads, Numancia and Vitoria, recently overhauled in France, and the very old Mendez Nuñez. Only the first was of a real fighting value, although ranked second class, with a configuration in lozenge unlike British battleships, the others being in a hypothetical “third class”. The Mendez Nuñez, dating back from 1869, was in reserve, used as an officer floating mess and HQ. The Numancia and Vitoria dating from the 1860s, were relegated to coastal defense and none were near to their U.S. counterparts, brand new battleships.

Cruiser Castilla

5 (6) armored cruisers: They are undoubtedly the backbone of the Spanish Navy: These were the Infanta Maria Teresa class (3), the Cristobal Colón (former Italian), and Emperador Carlos V (being tested), while three others were being completed, the class Princesa de Asturias. Only the first was completed, although other sources speak of a final commissioning in 1902, due to extensive testing. But it was afloat in 1898 and adapted to receive the crews. However it was doubtful that it can be operational in time, except in emergencies.

18 Cruisers: This was first of the recent class ships Reina Regente (3), Alfonso XII (3), and oldest 2nd class Isla de Luzon (3), Velasco (6), and Aragon (3). In addition, the Rio de la Plata was under construction in France, and was scheduled to Estramadura Ferrol in 1899.

12 Torpedo Gunboats: This were more precisely the Destructor (1886), Filipinas (1892), the 7 Temerario (1889-1891), and 3 Doña Maria de Molina (1896-1897), brand new, then on trials.

reina cristina
Reina Cristina. She was one of the numerous cruisers and ironclads the Spanish fleet was made of, a former glory of what remained the “Armada” which used to be the most powerful navy in the world during Charles V reign. However, if on the paper this fleet was numerically impressive, ironclads were at best only good for coastal defence, some of the cruisers (like this one) were unarmored and sometimes even unarmed, with obsolete guns, depleted or ill-trained crews, poorly supplied and commanded, but not lacking bravery in any aspects.

6 Destroyers: Some ships of English origin (Two of Furor class) and built in spain (the Audaz 4), brand new.

15 Destroyers: They were older (1878 to Castor, French origin) to 1887 (Ejercito, German original), commanded by unit or in two different sites, mostly British.

1 Submersible: Isaac Peral (1888), named after the talented Jewish engineer who conceived her, preceded by Ictíneo, Narciso Monturiol in 1859. It goes without saying that the Peral was strictly coastal and experimental.

37 Gunboats: Sailing sloop Jorge Juan (1876), gunboats Class Fernando el Catolico (2) and those of class General Concha (4), plus thirty light colonial gunboats 2nd class (less than 100 tonnes and a single gun), the Alvarado, Albay, Alsedo, Almendares, Arayat, Calamianes, Callao, Cocodrilo, Contramaestre, Criolo, Cuba Espanola, Diego Velasquez, Eulalia, Ferrolano, Flecha, Fradera, Glacela, gaditano , Indio, Leyte, MacMahon, Manileno, Mariveles, Mindanao, Mindoro, Pampanga, Panay, Paragua, Pelicano, Pilar, Ponce de Leon, Prueba, Salamandro, Samar, Sandoval, and telegramma.

The USN in 1898

USS MAINE (1895)
USS Maine
This was the second battleship to enter US Navy service in 1895 was built at NY navy Yard from 1888 to 1889 from a Samuda design originally made for the Brazilian Riachuelo. It was considered not a proper battleship but more a heavy armoured cruiser. Although not a satisfactory design, being a “second rate” battleship, the Maine kept the Echeloned turrets seen in the previous USS Texas, but with more space between them. It was sent to be anchored at La Havana harbor, “showing the flag” during the Cuban revolution. After three weeks it blew up under circumstances which has been clarified far later as an accident in forward magazines, but was also instrumental to forge a casus belli as the Spanish were accused.

  • Weight & dimensions : 6682 t (7180 t FL); 97,23 x 17,37 x 6,55 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 4 cyl Boilers, 9000 hp, 17 knots.
  • Armour : Harvey belt 12in, barbettes 12in, turrets 8in, CT 10in
  • Armament : 2×2 10in (254 mm), six 6in/30 (152 mm), 7-6pdr (57 mm) and four 356 mm sub TT.
  • Crew : 374

USS Newark
Being officially the C1, first cruiser of a very long line in the US Navy, the Newark was mostly based on a previous steam-and-sail vessel, USS Chicago, and relatively conservative in its design although more successful. With a better protective deck, the Newark was more successful than the Chicago, laid down 6 years before. She was rigged as a barque but the sails were soon removed. She played no active part during the 1898 war and was stricken in 1913, serving as a quarantine Hulk at Providence until being sold in 1926.

  • Weight & dimensions : 4083 t (4592 t FL); 99,97 x 14,98 x 5,74 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts HTE, 4 cyl Boilers, 8500 hp, 18 knots.
  • Armour : Complete 2in and 3in amodship protective deck, CT 3in
  • Armament : Twelve 6in/30 (152 mm), 4-6pdr (57 mm), 4-3pdr (47 mm) and 2-1pdr (37 mm) QF guns.
  • Crew : 374

USS Cincinatti
Authorized in 1888, these two cruisers were loosely based on the classic Armstrong-Elswick style export cruiser. But they had a single 6 inches gun and her 5in were not as efficient. Commissioned in 1895, they played no active part in 1898 battles. These two small and relatively fast cruisers built in NY navy yard and Norfolk were originally rigged but their fore and aft sails were removed in 1899.

  • Weight & dimensions : 3183 t (3339 t FL); 93,13 x 12,80 x 5,49 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl Boilers, 10 000 hp, 19 knots.
  • Armour : Complete 2in and 2,5in amidship protective deck, CT 2in
  • Armament : One 6in/30 (152 mm), 10x5in (127 mm), 8-6 pdr (75 mm), 2-1pdr (37 mm) QF guns, four 457 mm TT sub
  • Crew : 322

USS San Francisco
Almost a sister-ship to the USS Newark, the San Francisco was rigged as a three masted schooner. Its fore and aft 6in guns were not mounted in sponsons, but on the forecastle and poop, but they were rearmed in 1902-03. She was built at Union Iron works, the keel laid down in august 1888 and commissioned in november 1890. She played no major part in the 1898 war and was used as a minelayers in WW1, decommissioned in 1921 and stricken in 1939.

  • Weight & dimensions : 4088 t (4583 t FL); 98,91 x 14,98 x 5,74 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts HTE, 4 cyl Boilers, 10 500 hp, 19 knots.
  • Armour : Complete 2in and 3in amidship protective deck, CT 3in
  • Armament : Twelve 6in/30 (152 mm), 4-6pdr (76 mm), 4-3 pdr (47 mm), 2-1pdr (37 mm) QF guns.
  • Crew : 384

USS Stiletto
This very first American torpedo-boat was purchased after completion by Herreshoff as a private speculation, in 1887. Built in wood, she was fast but unreliable and mainly used for testings. An experimental, wooden hulled torpedo-boat, using coal.

  • Weight & dimensions : 31 t; 28,64 x 3,50 x 0,91 m
  • Propulsion : 1 shaft VC, 1 Almy Boiler, 359 hp, 18,2 knots.
  • Armour : None
  • Armament : Two Howell torpedoes for trials.
  • Crew : 384

USS TEXAS (1892)
USS Texas
Although she was laid down in 1889 and launched in june 1892 at Norfolk NYd, after the Maine, whe was commissioned earlyer, thus gaining the title of first american battleship. Texas fought at the battle of Santiago. This first battleship was relatively weak in european standards, with two single-gunned en echelon turrets. Fought at Santiago, but not seriously tested.

  • Weight & dimensions : 6135 t (6665 t FL); 94,13 x 19,53 x 6,86 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 4 cyl Boilers, 8600 hp, 17 knots.
  • Armour : Harvey NS 12in protective deck,Turrets 12in, hoists 6in, CT 12in
  • Armament : 2×1 12in (305 mm), 6-6in (152 mm), 12-6pdr (57 mm), 6-1pdr (37 mm) QF guns, 4 356 mm TT.
  • Crew : 508

USS Baltimore
USS Baltimore was given the number C3 (older Chicago and Atlanta class were not included in this nomenclature, and authorized in august 1883. In fact she was based on the losing plans of the Elswick design for the Reina Regente, with a high freeboard, aprotective deck about 2,5 to 3 inches and a main armament of 8 in and 6 in guns. Launched in 1888 at Cramp, NY and commissioned in 1890, this cruiser was seen as the most successful design of the 1880s. This ship played no part in the 1898 war, and was rearmed in 1900-1903 with an all-6 in/40 mk.VII armament (seven guns, height amidship and four on the poop and forecastle. She was used as a minalyer in the Atlantic in WW1 decommissioned in 1922 but not sold prior to 1942.

  • Weight & dimensions : 4413 t (5436 t FL) ; 102,11 x 14,78 x 5,94 m
  • Propulsion : Steam only – 2 shafts, 2 HTE Compound engine, 4 boilers, 10750 hp, 19 knots.
  • Blindage : Deck 2,5 in, 4 in amidships, 3 in conning tower.
  • Armament : Four 8 in (203 mm), six 6 in (152 mm), four 75 mm, two 47 and two 37 mm QF.
  • Crew : 386

USS Columbia
This class of cruisers built at Cramp with a year between respective commission were approved in 1890 and designed as commerce raiders, with a good speed and great autonomy. They differed by their funnels arrangement, Minneapolis having two of them. However they were often considered undergunned for their size. A class of cruisers which were relatively good steamers, Columbia for example was able to cross the atlantic, from Southampton to Sandy hook in just six days 23 hours, although they had a high coal consumption which led to decommission them from 1907 to 1915.

  • Weight & dimensions : 7357 t (8270 t FL); 125,90 x 17,72 x 6,88 m
  • Propulsion : 3 shafts VTE, 8 cyl Boilers, 21 000 hp, 21 knots.
  • Armour : Belt 2,5-4in, turrets 4in, secondary 2in, CT 5in
  • Armament : One 8in/40 Mk.III (203 mm), Two 6i/40n (152 mm), eight 4in/40 (152 mm), 12-6pdr (75 mm), 4-1pdr (37 mm QF) four 457 mm sub TT.
  • Crew : 477

USS Olympia
The cruiser USS Olympia was the most famous during in the entire war, as beeing the flagship of Commodore Dewey, the Hero of the battle of Manilla. She was relatively fast but small and cramped, and not seriously tested during the battle. Authorized in 1888, built at Union Iron Works in 1891-92 and commissioned in 1895, this cruiser was brand new when the war erupted. Protection was guaranteed by 3,5 to 4,5in Harvey nickel steele plates, which would have been probably not sufficient against some spanish ships. However the engines room was well protected by a 4in glacis. She was a good steamer, capable of 17 300 hp on forced draught, giving 21,7 knots. She is famous for beeing the flagship of Commodore Dewey, leading the American squadron in Manila harbor. She is now the only preserved warship of its kind in the world, and can be seen in the Independence Seaport Museum, philadelphia PA.

  • Weight & dimensions : 5862 t (6558 t FL); 104,78 x 16,15 x 6,55 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl Boilers, 13 5000 hp, 20 knots.
  • Armour : Harvey belt 3 in, barbettes 4,5 in, turrets 3,5 in, secondary 4 in, CT 5 in
  • Armament : Four 8in (203 mm), ten 5in (127 mm), fourteen 6pdr (57 mm), six 1pdr (37 mm QF) and six 457 mm aw.
  • Crew : 411

USS FOOTE (1896)
USS Foote
The USS Foote was one of a serie of three torpedo boats, built in 1896 at Columbian Iron Works. They fought during the 1898 war at Cuba and survived WW1. This class was preceded by the US Ericsson (1894) and USS Cushing (1890), both deriving from the experimental Stiletto, the first American Torpedo boat. They were seaworthy but short range boats, with a better speed than previous boats, and fought at Cuba. However, the following Porter (two ships launched in 1897) were faster and better armed. These were all the Tbs available when war broke out.

  • Weight & dimensions : 142 t (155 t FL); 48,76 x 4,91 x 1,52 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 2 cyl Thornycroft/Mosher Boilers, 3200 hp, 25 knots.
  • Armour : none
  • Armament : Three 1pdr (37 mm QF) and three 457 mm TT.
  • Crew : 20

USS IOWA (1897)
USS Iowa
This battlehip, the BB4, was launched at Cramp in 1896 and commissioned in june 1897, prior to the war. She was generally similar to the previous Indiana class, but with a better distribution of armor, and more powerful, beeing 1 knot faster. She played her part but was not seriously tested during the battle of Santiago. This unique battleship was an improvement of the preview Indiana class. She was better protected and faster, capable of 17,1 knots with forced draught, and recoignisable with its tall funnels. She fought at Santiago, and received a cage foremast in 1909, and its 6 pdrs and TT removed to make way to four 4 in guns. She made some patrols in the atlantic during WW1, was decommissioned in 1919 and used as a radiocontrolled target ship, beeing finally sunk in 1923.

  • Weight & dimensions : 11 410 t (12 647 t FL); 110,47 x 22 x 7,32 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 5 cyl Boilers, 11000 hp, 16 knots.
  • Armour : Harvey belt 14 in, barbettes 15 in, turrets 17 in, secondary 8 in, CT 10 in
  • Armament : 2×2 12in (305 mm), 4×2 8in (203 mm), six 6in (152 mm), 20-6pdr (57 mm), 4-1pdr (37 mm QF) and four 356 mm sub TT.
  • Crew : 654

USS Oregon (1897)
USS Oregon
The USS Oregon was one of the three Indiana class battleships, authorized under the act of 30.6.1890. This “new navy” prototype was in reality not very successful as for its severe limitations in displacement that hampered some characteristics, like the low freeboard. One one ships turrets were unbalanced with hydraulic training and steam on the two others. They had two chimneys and a military foremast. USS Indiana, Massachusetts and oregon were laid down in 7.5, 25.6 and 19.11 1891, launched in 1893 and commissioned in 1895 (Indiana) and 1895 for the two others. Indiana and Oregon took part in the battle of Santiago but were not seriously tested.

  • Weight & dimensions : 11 288 t (11 688 t FL); 106,95 x 21,10 x 7,32 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 6 cyl Boilers, 9000 hp, 15 knots.
  • Armour : Harvey belt 18 in, barbettes 17 in, turrets 15 in, secondary 8 in, CT 9 in
  • Armament : 2×2 12in (330mm), 4×2 8in (203 mm), four 6in (152 mm), twenty 6pdr (57 mm), six 1pdr (37 mm QF) and six 356 mm sub TT.
  • Crew : 586-636

The “dynamite gun cruiser” tested pneumatic power to project 15-inch (38-cm) shells. An invention by D. M. Medford, it was developed by US Army officer (ret.) Edmund Zalinski. The range was limited to a mile or about 1.6 km, so basically the “cruiser” was a costal gunboat ideal to fire on fixed positions, the entire hull turned to face the objective as there was no traverse.

USS Vesuvius served during the Spanish-American War in 1898, shelling objectives in Cuba, with the advantage of not being heard at a distance, therefore making counter-battery fire difficult for the Spaniards. However due to high maintenance, the concept was dropped after the war, although the ship was in reserved at Boston Navy Yard until 1904, modified as a torpedo-testing vessel, and damaged in May 1915, repaired and in srvice until 1921.

The Spanish Armada in 1898

USS Alfonso
The three ships of the class Alfonso XII, were built in Spain from 1881 to 1888, the final delivery slipping largely beyond schedule due to lack of materials. Lightweight ships, they were mostly wooden hulled, reinforced with steel, they did not have armor but 12 watertight compartments along the waterline. Large 162 mm Hontoria guns were mounted laterally barbettes, and they had their fixed torpedo tubes, two in the stern, one in the bow, and two lateral, all submarines. Exceeded in 1898, they were nonetheless in use, the Alfonso XII and the Reina Mercedes are both on the mainland, and the Reina Cristina in Manila. There was also sunk by the American squadron on 1 May 1898. The other two survived until 1900 and 1907.

  • Weight & dimensions : 3042 t ; 84,42 x 13,22 x 10,60 m
  • Propulsion : Steam only – 1 screw, 1 TE Compound engine, 8 boilers, 4400 hp, 17 knots.
  • Blindage : sides max 13 mm steel plating on oak.
  • Armament : Six 152 mm, height 57 mm, six 47 mm QF, five 356 mm TT sub.
  • Crew : 370

ARAGON (1878)
Castilla, Aragon class
These three ships were designed in Spain in 1875, originally as second-class battleships. But by their weak protection and light weaponry upon a wooden construction, they appeared soon more suited as cruisers. Their construction lasted so long (launched in 1879, 1881, and completed in 1885-87) that they were nearly obsolete, retaining their venerable Armstrong smoothbore muzzle-loading 6 inches guns.
Classified as fast unprotected cruisers, or second-class cruisers, Aragon, Navarra and Castilla, built in Cartagena, Ferrol and Cadiz, they differed in weaponry, Aragon artillery was made of 6 162 mm Hontorio ML, while the two others had four Krupps of the same caliber, like their artillery left, smaller guns. The Castilla was sunk at the Battle of Manila in 1898, where she played a minor role (anchored in the harbor but deprived of its propellers, the hull protected by two rotting barges filled with sand…) and the others were withdrawn from service in 1905 and later for the Navarra, who ended her career as a training ship in 1900.

  • Weight & dimensions : 3289 t; 71,93 x 13,41 x 7,20 m
  • Propulsion : Sail and steam – 1 screw, Compound 3cyl TE engine, 4 Boilers, 4400 hp, 14 knots.
  • Armour : Max sides 25 mm
  • Armament : Four 5in (125 mm), Two 4in (120 mm), Two 7pdr and two 6pdr (87 and 76 mm), Ten 7,7 mm Mgs, two 356 mm TT.
  • Crew : 392

Cristobal Colon
The Colon was a last-minute acquisition to strengthen the fleet of Cuba. She was one of the few Italians armored cruisers successful in export (two in Japan, one in Spain, four in Argentina, in addition to the three Italians). So she was related to the Garibaldi, but had some specific features, including two 254 mm single mounts guns (one front and one rear instead of the twin 203 mm turrets). She was originally built in Genoa by Ansaldo shipyards, christened as Giuseppe Garibaldi (second in this class named after this famous national hero…) and redeemed before completion. Two 254 mm guns were to be fitted on paper, but only one when she was issued before May 16, 1897. She fought and was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, the last Italian cruiser to escape the American “trap” at the mouth of the bay, briefly duelling with the battleship USS Iowa, which lost sight of, the much faster Colon, defending herself with the single 254 mm left. But she was finally caught off coast (see Battle of Santiago de Cuba, 03/07/1898), and sunk.

  • Weight & dimensions : 7230-7980t FL ; 111,76 x 18,22 x 7,10 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 1 VTE engine, 24 Boilers, 14700 hp, 20 knots.
  • Armour : 138 to 50 mm
  • Armament : Single 8in (254 mm), 14 6in (152 mm), Ten 6pdr (76 mm), two MGs, four 450 mm TT.
  • Crew : 370

Emperador Carlos V
She was one of the most powerful ship in the spanish navy in 1898. However she was based in Spain and never had any opportunity to take action against the US fleet. This large and fast ship was built at Cadiz naval yard, and commissioned in 1898. However, she never took action against the U.S. Navy and served in 1914-18 in spain, mainly as gunnery training ship, beeing eventually scrapped in 1933.

  • Weight & dimensions : 9090t FL ; 115,82 x 20,42 x 7,62 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 4 cyl VTE engine, 4 Boilers, 18500 hp, 20 knots.
  • Armour : Bulkhead 240 mm, sides 160 mm, decks 51 mm, CT 305 mm
  • Armament : Two 11in (280 mm), eight 5,5in (140 mm), four 4,1in (100 mm), four 2pdr, one 1pdr QF guns, 2 Mgs, six 14in (356 mm) TT.
  • Crew : 600

Involved with the squadron of Cuba, the Furor, Terror and Pluto were in Santiago when the American squadron of Admiral Schley came to the pass leading to the port. The fierce battle that ensued saw the destruction of two of these units, the Furor and Pluton, the second after a brief but homeric artillery duel with armed yacht USS Gloucester, and then attacked by the larger guns of the main warships. The Terror was the only survivor of the fleet of Admiral Cervera. Her speed saved her. Of good construction, the other four remained in service well after the Great War: They were disarmed and demolished in 1924-31, after serving in mine-layers. The Furor and Terror were british-built, at Clydebank NY, resembling the “27 knotters”, the standard destroyers of the Royal Navy. However, they were faster and more powerful. The following year, the very same yard produced the Audaz class on the eve of the Spanish-American War. They were the Audaz, Osado, Pluto and Porcupine, and had more to do with the “30 knotters”. However they were fitted with Normand french built boilers, and Porcupine has two funnels.

  • Weight & dimensions : 400t FL ; 66,6 x 6,88 x 1,80 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 3cyl TE engine, 4 Norman Boilers, 7500 hp, 30 knots.
  • Armament : Two 2,5in (85 mm), four 2pdr, 2 Maxim 20 mm Mgs, two 12in (305 mm) TT.
  • Crew : 67

Isla de Cuba
They were captured and recommissioned by the Americans and returned to service without change of name, but delivered as a white colonial gunboats, a rank corresponding to the reality of their dimensions. They served for Uncle Sam until 1920 for the Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba is sold in Venezuela in 1912. He served in the new building until 1918, and reset, renamed Mariscal Sucre yet He served until 1920. The city remained in Ensenada. She was decommissioned on an unknown date. These three tiny and unprotected cruisers, were built in Britain (Armstrong), launched in November and December 1886 for the first two, Isla de Luzon and Isla de Cuba, and Ensenada in 1887, completed much later in 1892. The first two were all scuttled at the Battle of Manila, May 1, 1898.

  • Weight & dimensions : 1030t FL ; 56,11 x 8,87 x 3,84 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 2 HTE engines, 2 Boilers, 1897-2697 hp, 14/15,9 knots.
  • Armour : Decks, sides, 45 mm
  • Armament : Two 4,7in (120 mm), four 2pdr, 2 Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs, three 12in (305 mm) TT.
  • Crew : 164

Jorge Juan
In 1898 they had their sails removed. The Barcaiztegui was wrecked after hitting a reef off Cuba in 1895 and Jorge Juan remained in Spain during the war. He was laid up at unknown date, probably before the First World War. These two wooden ships, rigged as three-masted barquentines, Jorge Juan and Sanchez Barcaiztegui, were ordered at La Seyne Navy yard in Toulon and commissioned in 1877. They were the only sloops in service in the Spanish navy.

  • Weight & dimensions : 920t FL ; 63,72 x 9 x 4,72 m
  • Propulsion : 1 shaft, 1 HTE engine, 2 Boilers, 1100 hp, 13 knots.
  • Armour : Decks, sides, 20 mm
  • Armament : Six 4,9in (158 mm), Two 6pdr, 2 Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs.
  • Crew : 146

In 1895, Numancia masts were shortened. Then in 1897-98, the ship was entirely rebuilt at La Seyne. Her main mast was removed, her original masts replaced by two heavy french style military masts with gunned armored tops, and received new machines, giving 13 knots. But as she was ready, the Spanish-American War ended. Numancia was used as a Coastal defence ship and then training hulk until 1906 and never left the port after 1909. She remained in commission until the early 20s and was scrapped.

  • Weight & dimensions : 7200t FL ; 96 x 17,37 x 8,22 m
  • Propulsion : 1 shaft, 1 HTE engine, 6 Boilers, 6000 hp, 13 knots.
  • Armour : Composite armour plating on oak hull, Sides, 280 mm, decks 80 mm, CT 250 mm
  • Armament : Four 5,5in (163 mm), six 4,9in (140 mm), three 4,7in, twelve Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs, two 305 mm TT sub.
  • Crew : 400 (512 as training ship)

PELAYO (1893)
Despite its odd design, the Pelayo was the most modern of any Spanish battleship and its potent (although slow firing) 317 mm (12,5in) long-range Schneider-Creuzot guns were more than a match for any American battleship. Canet system allowed them to be loaded in any position. In 1897 she was refitted at La Seyne with 16 more effective Niclausse boilers. A more uniform 5,5in battery was fitted. However, despite its qualities, the Pelayo remained in Spain and took no part in the conflict. This relatively modern battleship was built in france at La Seyne in 1885-87 on French plans. With her typical lozange-like artillery and single turrets with Canet system, and sloping armor, she was not well-balanced comparing to the more homogeneous American counterparts.

  • Weight & dimensions : 9745 t ; 102,04 x 20,20 x 7,58 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 12 Boilers, 9600 hp, 16,7 knots.
  • Armour : Creusot steel – belt 11,5 in, barbettes 15in, shields 3in, CT 6,5in, decks 2,5in.
  • Armament : Two 12,5in (317 mm), two 11in (280mm), one 6,4in (162 mm), Twelve 4,7in (120 mm), five 6pdr (57mm) QF Revolver, 14 Mgs, seven 356 mm sub TT.
  • Crew : 520

ARIETE (1886)
Two Thornycroft-built torpedo-boat destroyers. Built in 1886-87 Thornycroft, two destroyers (Ariete and Rayo) first class, were the largest and fast in operation before the 1912 series. Commissioned in 1898, they were both lost by a wild fire in 1905 that was spread from one to another.

  • Weight & dimensions : 3450 t ; 78,80 x 16 x 3,40 m
  • Propulsion : Steam only – 2 screws, 2 Compound TE engines, 2 Boilers, 1300 hp, 26,5 knots.
  • Armour : none
  • Armament : Four 47 mm QF Revolver, two 356 mm bow TT, two spare torpedo reloads.
  • Crew : 25

Reina Regente
This class was also composed of Alfonso XIII (1891) and Lepanto (1892). The latter was completed in 1895. On trial they attained 18,5 knots their natural draught (20,5 knots on forced draught). Like the previous Alfonso XII, the construction of these cruiser slept largely beyond schedule as they took 6 years to be completed. Although bigger and more effective than the Alfonso XII, They were nearly obsolete on commission.

  • Weight & dimensions : 4725 t ; 96,62 x 15,24 x 6,21 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts HTE, 8 boilers, 11 500 hp, 20,5 knots.
  • Armour : Decks 4,5in, sides 1in, gunshields 3in.
  • Armament : Four 7,9in (200 mm), six 4,7in (120mm), six 6pdr (57 mm) QF, six 20 mm Nordenfett Mgs, five 356 mm TT sub.
  • Crew : 440

This class was also composed of Alfonso XIII (1891) and Lepanto (1892). The latter was completed in 1895. On trial they attained 18,5 knots their natural draught (20,5 knots on forced draught). Like the previous Alfonso XII, the construction of these cruiser slept largely beyond schedule as they took 6 years to be completed. Although bigger and more effective than the Alfonso XII, They were nearly obsolete on commission.

  • Weight & dimensions : 562 t; 58 x 6,76 x 3,16 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 4 boilers, 2600 hp, 19 knots.
  • Armour : Decks and bulkheads 1,5 in.
  • Armament : Four 4,7in (120mm), four 6pdr (57 mm) QF, one 25 mm Nordenfett Mg, two 356 mm TT.
  • Crew : 91

VITORIA (1865)
Originally she was designed to bear a thirty 68pdr SB guns (approx. 250mm) broadside, but plans were altered and she was completed with a central battery of eight 9in. After her rebuilding at La Seyne, she was fitted with two military masts with small armoured tops for light Mgs. She was used as costal battleship, then training ship in 1900 to an unknown date. This sole centre battery Ironclad was built by Thames iron Works in 1863-65 and commissioned in 1866. In 1897-98 she was entirely rebuilt at La Seyne and re-commissioned too late to take part in the conflict, with the following specifications.

  • Weight & dimensions : 1152 t; 64 x 9,75 x 4,20 m
  • Propulsion : 1 shaft HC, 4 cyl boilers, 1500 hp, 13 knots.
  • Armour : none.
  • Armament : Four 4,7in (120mm), four 6pdr (57 mm) QF, one 25 mm Nordenfett Mg, two 356 mm TT.
  • Crew : 173

VIZCAYA (1890)
Completed in 1890-91 they were some of the most heavily armed cruisers in the world and posed a real threat for the American fleet. However, if their protection was thick, it was not well-distributed. The armoured belt extended only two third of the total length and was narrow, the protective deck was flat and curved in the extremities but low-based, and consequently their high unprotected freeboard suffered badly during the battle of Santiago were all three were sunk. The Infanta Maria Teresa (or Vizcaya) class formed the bulk of the armoured cruiser force during the war. The class comprised also Vizcaya and Almirante Oquendo, all built at Bilbao. With a good balance of protection, armament, speed, they were seen as the best spanish warships in 1898.

  • Weight & dimensions : 6890 t; 110,94 x 19,87 x 6,6 m
  • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 8 cyl boilers, 13700 hp, 20,2 knots max.
  • Armour : Belt 10-12in, barbettes 9in, CT 12in, decks 2-3in.
  • Armament : Two 11in (280 mm), Ten 5,5in (155 mm), eight 12pdr (76 mm), ten 3pdr (37 mm) QF Hotchkiss revolver, eight 25 mm Nordenfelt and two maxim Mgs, eight 356 mm TT sub.
  • Crew : 484