Antonio Lopez

By Nick Mituckov


For an American account of the May 11 action, click here!

GENERAL:

The small port tug, ANTONIO LOPEZ was armored during the Cuban Insurrection. During a naval action at Cardenas against the Americans, she fought with great heroism against the superior American forces...and won!

BACKGROUND:

When the Cuban Insurrection began, minor Spanish vessels in Cuban ports were armed to take part in the defense. Formally, these vessels were not on the Official List of the Armada Espanola, but some historians have classed these vessels as "Canero de Tercera," or "3rd Class Gunboats."  The armored tug ANTONIO LOPEZ was one of these vessels. The reader should note that this vessel should not be confused with the transport ANTONIO LOPEZ, discussed elsewhere on this website.

Cardenas is was minor port on the northern coast of Cuba, near Havana. Early in the war, it was thought that if Admiral Cervera's squadron came to Havana, the American troops would probably land at Cardenas to begin the invasion. This meant that the port had to be reconnoitered by the American Navy. The gunboats WILMINGTON, MACHIAS, the torpedo boat WINSLOW and the armored steamer HUDSON were sent to perform this duty.

Arriving on May 8, 1898, the Americans arrived. As the WINSLOW approached Boca Chalupa, the Spanish forces went on the attack. The ANTONIO LOPEZ, with Lt. Montez in command, led the way, with the ALERTA (Lt. Pasquin in command) and LEGERIA (Lt. Perez Rendon in command) following. The LOPEZ fired the first shot from her 57-mm bow gun. The American vessels and the other Spanish vessels opened fire. The action lasted about forty-five minutes. The greatest damage was not to any of the vessels, but to the lighthouse on Diana Island.

Both sides declared victory in the action, but the battle may be considered a draw. The Americans could not complete their reconnaissance, but the Spanish could not follow up the attack and drive the Americans away.

On May 11, another action occurred in the harbor. At about Noon, the WINSLOW, WILMINGTON and HUDSON came into the harbor, which this time was guarded only by the ANTONIO LOPEZ and the LIGERA. The Americans divided their forces with the WILMINGTON bombarding the city and the WINSLOW and the HUDSON attacking the Spanish vessels. The LIGERA had engine problems early on, and went out of the action.

The ANTONIO LOPEZ, one small vessel against three, retired to the waters immediately around the city where she could be aided by the batteries there. Lt. Domingo Montez, the vessel's commander manned her 57-mm bow gun himself. During the action, he fired about 135 rounds. Though the Americans reported the shot came from a coastal battery, at about 2:30 p.m., one of the LOPEZ's shells hit the WINSLOW, killing one officer, three enlisted men, and wounding two more. The total American casualties aboard the WINSLOW were five men killed and four wounded in the action. The officer killed, Ensign Bagley, was the sole American naval officer lost during the war. The WINSLOW had steering and boiler problems as a result of the damage and great efforts were made to extricate her from the action.

The action had been most unusual, and was unique in the history of the Spanish American War. The Spanish were victorious, through outgunned. At the time, the Spanish reported that the ANTONIO LOPEZ had been hit twelve times, but with no great damage. It was noted that one shell entered and exploded in the engine room, creating a fire, but that the fire was rapidly extinguished. The reports also claimed that only one Spanish sailor was wounded in the action. In spite of these early reports, the truth was that the Spanish had two men killed, twelve wounded. The ANTONIO LOPEZ was so badly damaged that took no part in any additional actions.
 

ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES:

The vessel was not intended for military service, but performed admirably.

TECHNOTES:

Classification Armored Tug
Armament: One 57 mm Nordenfeldt gun
One 37 mm Hotchkiss gun
Contractor: ?
Length: ?
Beam: ?
Draft: ?
Displacement 50 tons
Compliment: ?
Engine Type:  ?
Speed: ?
Coal bunker capacity: ?
Range  ?
Armor: Unarmored.
Cost: ?

Bibliography:

Ispano-Amerikanskaya Voina. Dnevnik Voiny // Morskoy Sbornik. 1898, #6.
- S. 1-25.

Olender P. Wojna, Americansko-Hispanska, (Warszawa, 1995) 216.

Zhilinsky Ya. G.
 


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