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Admiral Cervera Explains His Expectations

for the

Fate of His Squadron

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Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete

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.

The Letter:

April 22, 1898.


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 asked for?

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 MARIA 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.

Yours, etc.,



Excerpted  from:

Cervera y. Topete, Admiral Pasqual, Collection of Documents Relative to the Squadron Operations in the West Indies. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing  Office, 1899. 56.

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