Skip to main content

Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete to Minister of Marine Segismundo Bermejo y Merelo



Cartagena [Spain], February 12, 1898.

 His Excellency Segismundo Bermejo.1

My Dear Admiral and Friend:

... I am very anxious for this ship as well as the Vizcaya2 to complete their voyages and be incorporated with the fleet, either at Havana or in Spain, without running into the mouth of the wolf. I can not help thinking of a possible war with the United States, and I believe it would be expedient if I were given all possible information on the following points:

  1. The distribution and movements of the United States ships.
  2. Where are their bases of supplies?
  3. Charts, plans, and routes of what may become the scene of operations.
  4. What will be the objective of the operations of this squadron—the defense of the Peninsula and Balearic Islands,3 that of the Canaries or Cuba, or, finally, could their objective be the coasts of the United States, which would seem possible only if we had some powerful ally?
  5. What plans of campaign does the Government have in either event? I should like also to know the points where the squadron will find some resources and the nature of these; for, strange to say, here, for instance, we have not even found 4-inch rope, nor boiler tubes, nor other things equally simple.4 It would also be well for me to know when the Pelayo, Carlos V, Vitoria, and Numancia5may be expected to be ready, and whether they will be incorporated with the squadron to form an independent division, and in that event what will be its connection with ours? If I had information on these matters I could go ahead and study and see what is best to be done, and if the critical day should arrive we could enter without vacillations upon the course we are to follow. This is the more needful for us, as their squadron is three or four times as strong as ours, and besides they count on the alliance of the insurgents in Cuba, which will put them in possession of the splendid Cuban harbors, with the exception of Havana and one or two others perhaps. The best thing would be to avoid the war at any price; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to put an end to the present situation, because this nervous strain can not be borne much longer....

Yours, etc.

 Pascual Cervera.

Source Note Print: Contemporary Translation, Cervera, Squadron Operations, p. 22-23. RAdm. Pascual Cervera y Topete was assigned command of the West Indies squadron.

Footnote 1: RAdm. Segismundo Bermejo y Merelo was the Minister of Marine under the Sagasta government. For his response three days later, see: Bermejo to Cervera, 15 February 1898.

Footnote 2: Vizcaya, an armored cruiser under the command of Capt. Antonio Eulante y Fery, had been sent to New York City on a courtesy call after Maine was dispatched to Havana. Vizcaya was sunk by the U. S. Navy at the Battle of Santiago on 3 July 1898.

Footnote 3: A reference to Spain, which is on the Iberian Peninsula. The Balearic Islands belong to Spain and are due east in the Mediterranean.

Footnote 4: Chronic problems plagued the Spanish Navy because Madrid was unable to provide adequate funding.

Footnote 5: Pelayo was Spain’s only battleship and patrolled Spanish waters during the war; it also served as RAdm. Manuel de la Cámara y Libermoore’s flagship in his failed attempt to send a fleet to Asian waters. Emperador Carlos V, an armored cruiser, also joined this fleet; and Vitoria and Numancia were armored frigates that patrolled the Spanish coast.