Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

North Atlantic Fleet Squadron Bulletin No. 21

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U. S. Flagship New York,   off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

Sunday, July 3, 1898.

This is a red letter day for the American Navy, as dating the entire destruction of Admiral Cervera’s formidable fleet; the Infanta Maria Teresa, Vizcaya, Almirante Oquendo, Cristobal Colon, and the deep-sea torpedo-boats Furor and Pluton. The flagship1 had started from her station about 9 to go to Siboney, whence the Admiral2 had proposed going for a consultation with General Shafter; the other ships, with the exception of the Massachusetts and Suwanee, which had, unfortunately, gone this morning to Guantanamo for coal, were in their usual positions, viz.: beginning at the east, Gloucester, Indiana, Oregon, Iowa, Texas, Brooklyn and Vixen. When about two miles from Altares Bay and about four miles east of her usual position, the Spanish fleet was observed coming out, and making westward, in the following order: Infanta Maria Teresa (flag), Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, Almirante Oquendo, Furor and Pluton.

They were at once engaged by the ships nearest and the result was practically established in a very short time. The heavy and rapid shell fire was very destructive to both ships and men; the cruisers Infanta Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, and Vizcaya, were run ashore in the order named, afire and burning fiercely. The first ship was beached at Nima-Nima, five and a half miles west of the port; the second at Juan Gonzalez, six miles west; the third at Acerraderos, fifteen miles west. The torpedo-boat destroyers were both sunk, one near the beach, the other in deep water about three miles west of the harbor entrance.

The remaining ship, the Cristobal Colon, stood on and gave a long chase of forty-eight miles in which the Brooklyn, Oregon, Texas, Vixen and new york took part. The Colon is reputed by her captain3 to have been going at times as much as seventeen and a half knots, but could not keep this up chiefly on account of the fatigue of the men who, many of them had been ashore in Santiago the day before and had been, while there, long without food;4 her average speed was actually thirteen and seven-tenths knots, the ship leaving the harbor at 9.43 and reaching Rio Tarquino (forty-eight miles from the Santiago entrance) at 1.15. She was gradually forced in toward the shore and seeing no chance of escape from so overwhelming a force, the heavy shell of the Oregon already dropping around and beyond her, she ran ashore at Rio Tarquino and hauled down her flag. She was practically uninjured but her sea-valves were treacherously opened and in despite of all efforts she gradually sank, and now lies near the beach in water of moderate depth.5 It is to be hoped that she may be floated, as she was by far the finest ship of the squadron. All her breach-plugs were thrown overboard after the surrender and the breach-blocks of her Mauser rifles thrown away.

The flagship remained at Rio Tarquino until 11 p. m. and then returned to Santiago. The Texas, Oregon and Vixen remained by the prize. Commodore Second-in-Command of fleet, Captain Navio of the first class Don Jose de Paredes y Chacon, Captain de Navio Don Emilio Moreu, commanding the Colon, and Teniente de Navio Pablo Marina y Briengas, Aid and Secretary to the Commodore, were taken on board the new york. The 525 men of the crew of the Colon were placed on board the Resolute, which had come from Santiago to report sighting a Spanish armored cruiser which turned out to be the Austrian Maria Teresa.6 The other officers were placed aboard the Resolute and Vixen.

Admiral Cervera and many of his officers and men were taken off the shore by the Gloucester and transferred to the Iowa, which ship had already taken off many from the Vizcaya; 38 officers and 238 men were on board the Indiana. All these were in a perfectly destitute condition, having been saved by swimming or taken from the water by our boats. Admiral Cervera was in like plight; he was received with the usual honors when he came aboard, and was heartily cheered by the Iowa’s crew.

The following telegram was sent by the Commander-in-Chief:7

“The fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present the destruction of the whole of Cervera’s fleet. Not one escaped. It attempted to escape at 9.30 this morning; at two the last ship, the Cristobal Colon had run ashore 60 miles west of Santiago, and hauled down her colors. The Infanta Maria Teresa, Oquendo and Vizcaya were forced ashore, burned and blown up within twenty miles of the port. Loss:─One killed and two wounded. Enemy’s loss probably several hundred from gun fire, explosions and drowning.8 About 1,300 prisoners, including Admiral Cervera. The man killed was George H. Ellis, chief yeoman, of the Brooklyn.

Source Note Print: Squadron Bulletins, 40-43. This bulletin is a published document and it is formatted differently than the original.

Footnote 1: The flagship New York.

Footnote 2: RAdm. William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 3: Captain de Navio Emilio Díaz-Moreu y Quintana.

Footnote 4: Cristóbal Colón had also expended its high-quality coal.

Footnote 5: Once an enemy ship lowered the colors it therefore surrendered and became the prize (entailing ownership) of the successful combatant. The pulling of the sea-valves in order to flood the ship was then an illegal ex post facto act.

Footnote 6: SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia.

Footnote 7: The Commander-in-Chief was RAdm. William T. Sampson.

Footnote 8: The Spanish Navy lost at least 600 men. Cervera, Squadron Operations, 126.

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