Admiral Cervera's report of the Battle of Santiago



General:

The following is a translation from the Spanish newspaper La Corresponcia, dated August 22, 1898. It includes Admiral Cervera's report of the Naval battle of Santiago to the Spanish Ministry of Marine.

The Account:

Since it has not been practicable for us to copy the document, as we should have liked to do, and since we have to confine ourselves to the remembrance of the impression of a single rapid reading, there would be nothing, strange if some slight errors as to details should creep into our abstract, especially as  the report referred to embodies the telegram sent by Cervera to the minister at the time of the battle and the report forwarded to General Blanco at the same time.

The Admiral went out [of Santiago harbor with his Squadron] at 9.30 o'clock a. m., knowing, he says, what must necessarily happen, and what he had so many times foretold.

"The first ship that went out was the flagship MARIA TERESA, followed by the VIZCAYA, COLON, OQUENDO, and finally the destroyers, all under full steam.”

“When, the ships went out the engines were under such high pressure that the enemy was surprised, and has subsequently expressed great admiration on that account.”

"At 9.35 a. m. the MARIA TERESA attacked and opened fire on a hostile battle ship of the type of the INDIANA, and on the IOWA, then rushing upon the BROOKLYN, which, on account of her greater speed, offered for us the greatest danger."

He then enumerates the ships composing the hostile fleet, with which our readers are already acquainted, and among which special mention should be made of the NEW YORK, Admiral Sampson's flagship, the BROOKLYN, Commodore Schley's flagship, and the battle ships IOWA, TEXAS, OREGON, and INDIANA, besides armed trans-Atlantic liners.

Our fleet followed the course prescribed beforehand, and, the American ships coming alongside, the battle soon became general. "There could be no doubt as to the outcome," says Cervera, when he reaches this point, "but I should never have believed that our ships would be destroyed so rapidly."

The first injuries which the INFANTA MARIA TERESA had the misfortune to sustain consisted in the bursting of an auxiliary steam pipe and of the water mains.

Early in the battle Commander Concas, who was fighting with the greatest bravery, fell, wounded. Cervera then took command, intending that the second commander should take the place of the first; but this could not be carried out on account of the heat of the battle.

The dead and wounded were falling incessantly.

Admiral Cervera's apartments had taken fire through the explosion of some 57-mm. shells. There was not sufficient water to be had to extinguish the fire, which soon spread.

Cervera gave orders to an adjutant to flood the after compartments.

In view of the absolute impossibility of defending the ship any longer in that position, she was directed, with the greatest possible speed, toward the beach west of Punta Cabrera, where she ran ashore just at the moment when the engine stopped.

The second and third commanders agreed with the admiral that it was altogether impossible to continue the fight, and the MARIA TERESA hauled down her flag, which did not fall into the hands of the enemy, the flames having destroyed it. The compartments were then flooded.

The fire invaded the forward deck without giving the crew time to escape; they were saved with the assistance of two American boats.

Among the wounded were Lieut. Lopez Ceron and Ensign Carrasa. The following were missing: Captain of Infantry H. Rodriguez, who, according to Admiral Cervera, was killed by a projectile; Ensign Francisco Linares, Second Surgeon Julio Diaz, First-class Machinist Juan Montero, and Second-class Machinist Jose Melgares. The body of the latter afterwards drifted to the shore.

Those who knew how to swim jumped into the water; finally a rope was thrown to the shore.

A Spanish boat was lowered, but sank, owing to the injuries it had received; a steam launch had the same fate.

Cervera jumped into the water, followed by his son and two seamen.

Many reached the shore swimming, most of them arriving there naked.

The American officer who was in command of the life-saving boats invited Admiral Cervera to go to the yacht GLOUCESTER, which he did, together with his flag officer, who had been wounded, and his adjutant and the second commander of the TERESA, who was the last one to leave the ship.

The OQUENDO stranded half a league from the MARIA TERESA, and the VIZCAYA and COLON, pursued by hostile ships, were lost from sight.

According to the purser of the OQUENDO, the history of this ill-fated ship was as follows:

“The unequal battle became more so when a hostile projectile entered the forward turret, killing the whole personnel, with the exception of one gunner who was badly wounded. Of the 14-cm. battery 2 guns only remained in action, and these fought with incomparable energy. The after turret was soon without a commanding officer; he had been killed as he opened the door, being almost asphyxiated inside of the turret. There were two fires on board the OQUENDO, one in the orlop deck forward, which was soon gotten under control, and the other in the stern, which could not be suppressed, the pumps failing to give water. From the very beginning of the battle the 14-cm. ammunition hoists failed to work. When our commander, Mr. Lazaga, saw that the fire could not be controlled and that all the guns were out of action, he prepared to beach the ship, first giving orders to discharge all the torpedoes in order to prevent the enemy from approaching. Driven to the last extreme, and after consulting with all the officers present, he ordered the flag to be hauled down. The second and third commanders and three lieutenants had already been killed, and while Mr. Lazaga was directing the rescue of the crew he gave his own life for his country. The men of the OQUENDO witnessed calmly and without becoming terrified the constant explosions on board, determined above all things that the enemy should not set foot on the ship.”

Mr. Cervera , continuing his report, says:

“When the American officer invited me to go to the GLOUCESTER I gave instructions to the third commander of the TERESA, Mr. Aznar, for the reembarkation; and I have heard nothing further from him.”

“On board the GLOUCESTER were 20 wounded from the destroyers, the commanders and 3 officers of the TERESA and the purser of the OQUENDO, and about 93 men of the crews of the ships. We were the object of the greatest solicitation, all being anxious to administer to our needs, nearly all of us having arrived there naked.”

"The commander of the GLOUCESTER [Richard Wainwright] said: The vessel is small to receive so many people. I will try to find a larger one.”

"The insurgents had about 200 men of the fleet, among them five or six wounded. I spoke with some of them, and they said if we would go with the rebels they would assist us. I thanked them and added: ‘We have surrendered to the Americans. If you have surgeons I should be grateful if they would attend the wounded on the shore, some of whom are in a serious condition.’"

The commander of the GLOUCESTER offered Admiral Cervera that he would ask the insurgents for the men they were holding from the fleet.

Mr. Cervera, proceeding with his narrative, said:

“We proceeded westward until we met the nucleus of the fleet; some of us were transferred to the IOWA, others to the hospital ship.

"On board the GLOUCESTER I asked the commanders of the destroyers for news and learned the disastrous fate of these two ships.”

Villaamil found a glorious death in the battle, and the best proof of how the FUROR fought is found in the great number of casualties she bad. The commander of the FUROR was wounded in one foot.”

On board the IOWA Admiral Cervera was received with military honors.

“On the gangway," he continues, "I saw the commander of the VIZCAYA wearing his sword, which the commander of the IOWA [Robley Evans] did not wish to take from him on account of the valor the former had displayed in the battle."

From the IOWA, where he remained until 4 o'clock p. m., Admiral Cervera was transferred to the cruiser ST LOUIS, where he found the second commander of the fleet, Mr. Parades, and the commander of the COLON, Mr. Diaz Moreu.

The hostile forces were three times as large as ours.

At this point the Admiral reproduces the telegram which he sent to our Government immediately after the battle and in which it was stated that there had been 600 killed and many wounded.

The PLUTON was not sunk, but succeeded in running ashore.

Cervera devotes a long paragraph to the eulogy the chivalry and courtesy of the enemy. They clothed the naked, giving them everything they needed; they suppressed the shouts of joy in order not to increase the suffering of the defeated, and all vied in making their captivity as easy as possible.

Among the prisoners there were with Admiral Cervera the second commander, 1  chief, 4 officers, and 32 men of the MARIA TERESA; the purser and 35 men of the OQUENDO; 3 commanders, 11 officers, 7 midshipmen, and 347 men of the VIZCAYA; the 3 commanders, 14 officers, and 191 men of the COLON; the commander, the first machinist, and 10 man of the FUROR, and the commander, 1 officer, and 19 men of the PLUTON; also Lieutenant Enrique Capriles, who was on board the VIZCAYA, but did not belong to her crew. Most of the prisoners were taken to the steamer SOLACE.

Cervera's report, an abstract of which we have tried to give with the greatest possible accuracy (and if there are in it some errors or omissions it is not our fault), concludes with the following words:

"The 3d day of July has been one of terrible disaster, as I had foreseen. Nevertheless the number of dead is less than I had feared.”

"The country has been defended with honor, and we have the consciousness of duty well done, but with the bitterness of knowing the losses suffered and our country's misfortunes."



Bibliography:

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899). Vol. 2, p560-562


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