Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

 

[EXTRACT]

[Confidential-Private.]

The Minister of Marine,

Madrid, February 15, 1898.

His Excellency Pascual Cervera.

 

 My Dear Admiral and Friend:

. . . As to the war with the United States, I will tell you my ideas about it. A division composed of the Numancia, Vitoria, Alfonso XIII (or Lepanto), the destroyers Audaz, Osado, and Proserpina, and three torpedo boats would remain in Spain in the vicinity of Cadiz.1 In Cuba the Carlos V, Pelayo, Colón, Vizcaya, Oquendo, Maria Teresa, three destroyers, and three torpedo boats, in conjunction with the eight larger vessels of the Havana Navy-Yard, would take up a position to cover the channels between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and try to destroy Key West, where the United States squadron has established its principal base of provisions, ammunition, and coal.

If we succeed in this, and the season is favorable, the blockade could be extended to the Atlantic coast, so as to cut off communications and commerce with Europe—all this subject to the contingencies which may arise from your becoming engaged in battles in which it will be decided who is to hold empire of the sea. For your guidance in these matters, you are acquainted with the preliminary plans of the staff of this ministry, which I placed at your disposal, including the attack upon Key West. I will advise you as to the location of the United States ships and other data for which you ask.

I will also inform you that twelve or fifteen steamers will be equipped as auxiliaries to our fleet, independent of privateering, and in confidence I will tell you that if any ship of real power can be found, either cruiser or battle ship, we shall buy it, provided it can be ready by April.2 My life is getting to be a burden, for to all that is already weighing upon me under the circumstances are now added the elections and candidates for representatives.

I believe, my dear Admiral, that all the energy and all the good will of those who are wearing uniforms can do but very little toward preparing for the events which may happen.3

Yours, etc.

 Segismundo Bermejo.

Source Note Print: Contemporary translation, Cervera, Squadron Operations, 24.

Footnote 1: Cadiz was home port to the Spanish fleet.

Footnote 2: Spain unsuccessfully attempted to buy a number of ships, most notably the Amazonas and Almirante Abreu.

Footnote 3: Bermejo responded to the previous letter from Admiral Cervera three days before. The contrast between Bermejo’s effusion of patriotic glory and potential of Spanish might, irrespective of personal feelings, made it incumbent upon him to write this letter in official language. Here is what Cervera, in part, wrote to: “His Excellency Segismundo Bermejo” on February 16, 1898:

. . . The eight principal vessels of the Havana station, to which you refer, have no military value whatever, and, besides, are badly worn-out; therefore they can be of very little use. In saying this I am not moved by a fault-finding spirit, but only by a desire to avoid illusions that may cost us very dear. Taking things as they are, however sad it may be, it is seen that our naval force when compared with that of the United States is approximately in the proportion of 1 to 3. It therefore seems to me a dream, almost a feverish fancy, to think that with this force, attenuated by our long wars, we can establish the blockade of any port of the United States. A campaign against that country will have to be, at least for the present, a defensive or a disastrous one, unless we have some alliances, in which case the tables may be turned.

As for the offensive, all we could do would be to make some raids with our fast vessels, in order to do them as much harm as possible. It is frightful to think of the results of a naval battle, even if it should be a successful one for us, for how and where would we repair our damages? See, Cervera, Squadron Operations, 25.