Admiral Cervera Explains His
Fate of His Squadron
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Pascual Cervera y Topete
This is a letter written by Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete to
Segismundo Bermejo, the chief of staff of the Spanish
Navy. Cervera explains that he expects the expedition to end
in disaster, and explains that he had considered resigning. He also
provides insight into the condition of his squadron. His predictions
proved to be true with his squadron being completely destroyed that
the Naval Battle of Santiago.
ST. VINCENT, CAPE VERDE,
April 22, 1898.
His Excellency SEGISMUNDO BERMEJO.
MY DEAR ADMIRAL AND FRIEND: I have not yet answered your letter of the
7th, which the SAN FRANCISCO brought me, because, though I have written
you since, I đid not have it before me. It is impossible for me to give
you an idea of the surprise and consternation experienced by all on the
receipt of the order to sail. Indeed, that surprise is well justified, for
nothing can be expected of this expedition except the total destruction of
the fleet or its hasty and demoralized return, while in Spain it might be
the safeguard of the nation.
It is a mistake to believe that the Canaries are safe, which is only the
case with reference to Santa Cruz, Las Palmas, and one or two other
places. But is Graciosa Island safe, for instance? If the Yankees should
take possession of it and fortify the port they would have a base for any
operations they might wish to undertake against Spain, and surely the
battalions will not be able to eject them from there. Such a thing will
not be possible at present, with the squadron at the Canaries, but it will
be inevitable when the squadron has been destroyed.
You talk about plans and in spite of all efforts to have some laid out, as
would have been wise and prudent, my desires have been disappointed to
such an extent that if the circumstances had been different I should have
applied to be placed on the retired list, and I shall ask lor it, if God
spares my life, just as soon as the danger is over. I should even apply
for it to day, without caring a straw for being accused of cowardice, if
it were not for the fact that my retirement would produce among the
squadron the deplorable effect of a desertion of its admiral before the
enemy. How can it be said that I have been supplied with everything I
The COLÓN does not yet have her big guns, and I asked
for the poor ones if there were no others. The 5.5-inch ammunition, with
the exception of about 300 rounds, is bad. The defective guns of the VIZCAYA
and OQUENDO have not been changed. The
cartridge cases of the COLÓN can not be
recharged. We have not a single Bustamente torpedo. There is no plan nor
concert, which I so much desired and have suggested in vain. The repairs
of the servomotors of my vessels were only made in the INFANTA
TERESA and the VIZCAYA after they
had left Spain.
In short, it is a disaster already, and it is to be feared that it will be
a more frightful one before long. And perhaps everything could be changed
yet. But I suppose it is too late now for anything that is not the ruin
and desolation of our country. I can understand that your conscience is
clear, as you state in your letter, because you are a good man and your
course is clear before you, but think of what I tell you and you will see
that I am right. I assembled my captains, as you told me, and sent you by
telegraph an extract of their opinions.
I have since forwarded you a copy of the proceedings, and by this mail I
send you an official letter commenting thereon. I have nothing further to
add. The VIZCAYA can no
longer steam, and she is only a boil in the body of the fleet. But I will
trouble you no more. I consider it an accomplished fact, and will try to
find the best way out of this direful enterprise.
Cervera y. Topete, Admiral Pasqual,
Documents Relative to the Squadron Operations in the West Indies.
(Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1899. 56.
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