Cruiser DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA

By Patrick McSherry




Admiral Montojo's account of the Battle of Manila Bay ||| The full story of the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite


 GENERAL:
The DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was part of Admiral Montojo's squadron at the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite. She was damaged by the fire from the American squadron under Commodore George Dewey, and then scuttled by the Spanish. At the conclusion of the battle, a crew from the USS PETREL set the vessel on fire. Eventually she was raised, repaired and reused by the United States Navy.

BACKGROUND:

The DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was built at Cartagena for the Spanish navy, being completed in 1887. She was a sister ship to the DON ANTONIO DE ULLOA and the VELASCO, both of which were to share her fate at Manila Bay.

On April 25, 1898, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA accompanied Admiral Montojo on his abortive attempt to relocate his squadron from Manila Bay to Subic Bay. When it was found that the defenses at Subic Bay had not been completed, the squadron returned to Manila Bay. Admiral Montojo planned to make his last stand in the shallow waters at Sangley Point. DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was sent to Manila obtain a large number of barges, lighters, etc., which could be placed adjacent to the wooden cruiser CASTILLA to protect her at the water line.

With the arrival of the American squadron in the Philippines, Montojo formed his line of battle, with DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA being placed on the extreme end of the line, closest to Sangley Point. At 4:45 a.m., her crew was the first to spot the American Squadron. The battle was soon opened. Apparently, at one point, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA made an attempt to leave her position and engage the American ships at close range. She was battered back. When the CASTILLA was ablaze and had to be abandoned, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA came to her aid, though she, herself, was damaged. When the CASTILLA and REINA CRISTINA (the Spanish admiral's flagship) had been all but put out of action, the guns of the American squadron were focussed on the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA. Her pilot house was shot away, the helmsman killed, and steering control lost above decks. Though she retained some steering control below decks, she was essentially out of action.

After the damage became too great, in accordance with the orders of Admiral Montojo, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was scuttled in the shallow waters. She was riddled with hits from the American guns.  At the very conclusion of the battle, the crew of the PETREL was ordered to destroy any shipping it could find beyond Sangley Point, and in accordance, her crew set fire to the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA, which though scuttled, still had portions of her upper decks above the waves. The fire burned from the engine room to the stern.

After the war, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was raised, refitted at Hong Kong and commissioned as an American vessel on April 11, 1900. One of her first duties was to be anchored at Canton, China from June to October, 1900, while the "Boxer Rebellion" raged.

In November of the same year, the vessel was sent to the Philippines, where she supported the American army, served on the blockade, etc., aiding in defeat of the Insurrection. She stayed in the Philippines until April of 1903 when she was again repaired and sent briefly to China before being ordered to Portsmouth Navy Yard on the United States' east coast. She made her way to the U.S. via Mayalsia, India, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. The DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA arrived in Portsmouth in April of 1904, where she was decommissioned.

The vessel was recommissioned in 1906. In March of 1907, the vessel was loaned to the Michigan Naval Militia at Detroit to serve as a training vessel. She continued in this duty until the United States entered World War One. The DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was recommissioned in April of 1917, During the war, she patrolled off of New England, and acted as a tow vessel off of the U.S. east coast.

On April 8, 1919, the DON JUAN DE AUSTRIA was ordered to help escort the U.S. Army's 26th Division home from Europe. The vessel was decommissioned for the last time on June 18, 1919, and was sold on October 16, 1919.
 

ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES:

Being an unprotected cruiser, with small armament and low speed, she was was outdated, but no more so than some of the vessels in the American Squadron she fought. Her main problem was the overall lack of preparedness of the Spanish navy, through no fault of her  officers or crew.


TECHNOTES:

Classification: Unprotected Cruiser
Launched: January 23, 1887
Commissioned:  September 22,1887
Rig: Three masts
Armament: Four 4.7 inch Hontoria guns
Three 2.2 inch rapid fire guns
Two 1.5 inch rapid fire guns
Five Gatling guns 
Two 14.2 inch Schwartzkopff torpedo tubes
Contractor: Cartagena
Length: 210 feet
Beam: 32 feet
Draft: 12 feet 6 inches
Displacement 1,130  tons
Compliment:  130 Men 
Engine Type: Horizontal Compound Engines, 1200 hp., single screw
Speed: 8-12 knots
Sail Surface
                                ? 
Coal bunker capacity: 220 tons
Range  ?
Armor: Unarmored.
Cost: ?.

Bibliography:

Dewey, George, Autobiography of George Dewey. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987).

Ellicott, John M., Lt., USN, "Effects of Gun-Fire, Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898." Information from Abroad, War Notes No. V, Office of Naval Intelligence (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

Ellicott, John M., Lt., USN, "The Naval Battle of Manila," Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1900).

Jane, Fred T., All the World's Fighting Ships, 1898. (New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc, 1969). Reprint of 1898 edition.

King, W. Nephew, lt., USN, The Story of the Spanish American War. (New York: Peter Fenelon Collier & Son, 1900).

Naval History Department, Navy Department, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol 2, (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1963).

Our Fighting Ships" (Baltimore: R.H. Woodward Co., 1898) -Special Thanks to Fred Sura for this information!


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