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The 1898 Spanish American war
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spanish-american war
Most of the Spanish navy in 1898. Some of these vessels are heads class of up to 8 units.


Well above the U.S. Navy in the 1870s to the 1890s, the Spanish Armada was a serious conccurents for Navy freshly reconstituted ("New Navy"), with a handful of modern units. In gross tonnage as units, the Spanish navy was largely on paper over the Navy, the seventh largest in the world (behind the RN and the marine French, Russian, German, Italian and Japanese). She was at least equally impressive in 1870, building on its seven battleships, the ships of the line and frigates and sloops other.

Its huge colonial empire, the second behind Great Britain then extended over part of South America but also in the Caribbean, the Caribbean, Far East and the Pacific. Following the epic liberator Simon Bolivar, it gradually lost in the early nineteenth century the main colonies of South America and he remained in Cuba in 1898, controlling its possessions in the Caribbean, the Philippines, Guam, the islands Mariana and Carolina Islands having recently purchased by Germany. His classes of ships built from 1876 often included three units, one for the Metropolis (Cartagena), one for his possessions in the Caribbean in Cuba (Havana) and one for the Philippines and its possessions in the Pacific (Manila).

The financial situation deteriorated to the Spanish empire echo of a still turbulent political situation, made it an easy victim for the nascent colonial ambitions of the United States, which reach their climax with the election to the White House of George Mc Kinley. Many American businessmen, who have financial interests in Cuba, and support the local insurgents, are actively lobbying for the war and working in secret to find a flaw. This is an unexpected accident immediately exploited by the press that will give them the casus belli: The explosion of the Maine in Havana harbor. The case, probably an accident, becomes a deliberate attempt of Spain against the American people. The rest is history: the Pacific Fleet at Montojo orders, based in the Philippines, was wiped out on May 1 and that of Admiral Cervera was defeated July 3, 1898. (See fact sheets on the Battle of Santiago and the Raid of Manila). Quick succession, the "pearl of the empire" and the bulk of the Spanish colonies in the Pacific (including Guam) fell to the Americans that make them "protectorates", with new bases and strategic resources for firms expanding.
Infanta maria prow
Bow of the Infanta Maria Teresa in 1898.

Battle order in 1898 :

-3 Battleships : a single-modern battleship, the Pelayo and two oldest Ironclads, Numancia and Vitoria, recently overhauled in France, and the very old Mendez Nuez. Only the first was of a real fighting value, although ranked in second class, and with a configuration well below the British battleships, the others being in a hypothetical "third class". The Mendez Nuez, dating back from 1869, was in reserve, used as an officer floating mess and HQ. The Numancia and Vitoria by the way dating from 1860, were relegated to coastal defense) and none were to any level near to their U.S. counterparts, brand new.

-5 (6) armored cruisers: They are undoubtedly the backbone of the Spanish Navy: These were the Infanta Maria Teresa class (3), the Cristobal Coln (former Italian), and Emperador Carlos V ( being tested), while three others were completed, the class Princesa de Asturias. Only the first was completed, although other sources speak of a final commissioning in 1902, due to extensive testing. But it was afloat in 1898 and adapted to receive the crews. However it was doubtful that it can be operational in time, except in emergencies. -18 Cruisers: This was first of the recent class ships Reina Regente (3), Alfonso XII (3), and oldest Isla de Luzon (3), Velasco (6), and Aragon (3). In addition, the Rio de la Plata was under construction in France, and was scheduled to Estramadura Ferrol in 1899.

-12 Torpedo Gunboats: This was more precisely Destructor (1886), Filipinas (1892), the 7 Temerario (1889-1891), and 3 Doa Maria de Molina (1896-1897), brand new, then on trials.

reina cristina -6 Destroyers: Some ships of English origin (Two of Furor class) and built in spain (the Audaz 4), brand new.

-15 Destroyers: They were older (1878 to Castor, French origin) to 1887 (Ejercito, German original), commanded by unit or in two different sites, mostly British.

Left : The Reina Cristina was one of the numerous cruisers and ironclads the Spanish fleet was made of, a former glory of what remained the "armada" which used to be the most powerful in the world during Charles V reign. However, if on the paper this fleet was numerically impressive, the ironclads were at best good for coastal defence, some of the cruisers (like this one) were unarmoured and sometimes even unarmed, with obsolete guns and depleted or ill-trained crews, poorely supplied and commanded, although not lacking bravery in any aspect.

-1 Submersible: The Isaac Peral (1888), named after the talented Jewish engineer who conceived her, preceded by Ictneo, Narciso Monturiol in 1859. It goes without saying that the Peral was strictly coastal and experimental.

-37 Gunboats: The sailing sloop Jorge Juan (1876), the gunboats Class Fernando el Catolico (2) and those of class General Concha (4), and thirty light colonial gunboats, second-class (less than 100 tonnes and a single gun), as Alvarado, the Albay, Alsedo, Almendares, Arayat, Calamianes, Callao, Cocodrilo, Contramaestre, Criolo, Cuba Espanola, Diego Velasquez, Eulalia, Ferrolano, Flecha, Fradera, Glacela, gaditano , Indio, Leyte, MacMahon, Manileno, Mariveles, Mindanao, Mindoro, Pampanga, Panay, Paragua, Pelicano, Pilar, Ponce de Leon, Prueba, Salamandro, Samar, Sandoval, and telegramma.

  • The three ships of the class Alfonso XII, were built in Spain from 1881 to 1888, the final delivery slipping largely beyond schedule due to lack of materials. Lightweight ships, they were mostly wooden hulled, reinforced with steel, they did not have armor but 12 watertight compartments along the waterline.

    • Weight & dimensions : 3042 t ; 84,42 x 13,22 x 10,60 m
    • Propulsion : Steam only - 1 screw, 1 TE Compound engine, 8 boilers, 4400 hp, 17 knots.
    • Blindage : sides max 13 mm steel plating on oak.
    • Armament : Six 152 mm, height 57 mm, six 47 mm QF, five 356 mm TT sub.
    • Crew : 370

    ALFONSO XII (1887)
    Large 162 mm Hontoria guns were mounted laterally barbettes, and they had their fixed torpedo tubes, two in the stern, one in the bow, and two lateral, all submarines. Exceeded in 1898, they were nonetheless in use, the Alfonso XII and the Reina Mercedes are both on the mainland, and the Reina Cristina in Manila. There was also sunk by the American squadron on 1 May 1898. The other two survived until 1900 and 1907.
  • These three ships were designed in Spain in 1875, originally as second-class battleships. But by their weak protection and light weaponry upon a wooden construction, they appeared soon more suited as cruisers. Their construction lasted so long (launched in 1879, 1881, and completed in 1885-87) that they were nearly obsolete, retaining their venerable Armstrong smoothbore muzzle-loading 6 inches guns...

    • Weight & dimensions : 3289 t; 71,93 x 13,41 x 7,20 m
    • Propulsion : Sail and steam - 1 screw, Compound 3cyl TE engine, 4 Boilers, 4400 hp, 14 knots.
    • Armour : Max sides 25 mm
    • Armament : Four 5in (125 mm), Two 4in (120 mm), Two 7pdr and two 6pdr (87 and 76 mm), Ten 7,7 mm Mgs, two 356 mm TT.
    • Crew : 392

    ARAGON 1878Classified as fast unprotected cruisers, or second-class cruisers, Aragon, Navarra and Castilla, built in Cartagena, Ferrol and Cadiz, they differed in weaponry, Aragon artillery was made of 6 162 mm Hontorio ML, while the two others had four Krupps of the same caliber, like their artillery left, smaller guns. The Castilla was sunk at the Battle of Manila in 1898, where she played a minor role (anchored in the harbor but deprived of its propellers, the hull protected by two rotting barges filled with sand...) and the others were withdrawn from service in 1905 and later for the Navarra, who ended her career as a training ship in 1900.
  • The Coln was a last-minute acquisition to strengthen the fleet of Cuba. She was one of the few Italians armored cruisers successful in export (two in Japan, one in Spain, four in Argentina, in addition to the three Italians). So she was related to the Garibaldi, but had some specific features, including two 254 mm single mounts guns (one front and one rear instead of the twin 203 mm turrets).

    • Weight & dimensions : 7230-7980t FL ; 111,76 x 18,22 x 7,10 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 1 VTE engine, 24 Boilers, 14700 hp, 20 knots.
    • Armour : 138 to 50 mm
    • Armament : Single 8in (254 mm), 14 6in (152 mm), Ten 6pdr (76 mm), two MGs, four 450 mm TT.
    • Crew : 370

    She was originally built in Genoa by Ansaldo shipyards, christened as Giuseppe Garibaldi (second in this class named after this famous national hero...) and redeemed before completion. Two 254 mm guns were to be fitted on paper, but only one when she was issued before May 16, 1897. She fought and was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, the last Italian cruiser to escape the American "trap" at the mouth of the bay, briefly duelling with the battleship USS Iowa, which lost sight of, themuch faster Coln, defending herself with the single 254 mm left. But she was finally caught off coast (see Battle of Santiago de Cuba, 03/07/1898), and sunk.
  • Sole ship of its kind in Britain, commissioned and built on Clyde by Thomson yard, the Destructor was a relatively massive ship with three masts and two paired funnels, with rapid-fire light guns provided to hunt torpedo boats.

    • Weight & dimensions : 348t FL ; 58,70 x 7,62 x 7,10 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 1 VTE engine, 24 Boilers, 14700 hp, 20 knots.
    • Armour : 138 to 50 mm
    • Armament : Single 3in (90 mm), four 4pdr (57 mm), four 2pdr (47 mm), five 381 mm TT.
    • Crew : 45

    DESTRUCTOR (1886)
    This ship was fitted with a triple expansion engine, quite revolutionary at the time (she was the first Spanish ship equipped with one of the first kind and the world). She is sometimes considered as the ancestor of all torpedo-boats destroyers. She was in service during the Spanish-American War, but did not participate in large battles and was decommissioned and scrapped in 1911 ..
  • This large and fast ship was built at Cadiz naval yard, and commissioned in 1898. However, she never took action against the U.S. Navy and served in 1914-18 in spain, mainly as gunnery training ship, beeing eventually scrapped in 1933..

    • Weight & dimensions : 9090t FL ; 115,82 x 20,42 x 7,62 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 4 cyl VTE engine, 4 Boilers, 18500 hp, 20 knots.
    • Armour : Bulkhead 240 mm, sides 160 mm, decks 51 mm, CT 305 mm
    • Armament : Two 11in (280 mm), eight 5,5in (140 mm), four 4,1in (100 mm), four 2pdr, one 1pdr QF guns, 2 Mgs, six 14in (356 mm) TT.
    • Crew : 600

    She was one of the most powerful ship in the spanish navy in 1898. However she was based in Spain and never had any opportunity to take action against the US fleet.
  • The Furor and Terror were british-built, at Clydebank NY, resembling the "27 knotters", the standard destroyers of the Royal Navy. However, they were faster and more powerful. The following year, the very same yard produced the Audaz class on the eve of the Spanish-American War. They were the Audaz, Osado, Pluto and Porcupine, and had more to do with the "30 knotters". However they were fitted with Normand french built boilers, and Porcupine has two funnels.

    • Weight & dimensions : 400t FL ; 66,6 x 6,88 x 1,80 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 3cyl TE engine, 4 Norman Boilers, 7500 hp, 30 knots.
    • Armament : Two 2,5in (85 mm), four 2pdr, 2 Maxim 20 mm Mgs, two 12in (305 mm) TT.
    • Crew : 67

    Involved with the squadron of Cuba, the Furor, Terror and Pluto were in Santiago when the American squadron of Admiral Schley came to the pass leading to the port. The fierce battle that ensued saw the destruction of two of these units, the Furor and Pluton, the second after a brief but homeric artillery duel with armed yacht USS Gloucester, and then attacked by the larger guns of the main warships. The Terror was the only survivor of the fleet of Admiral Cervera. Her speed saved her. Of good construction, the other four remained in service well after the Great War: They were disarmed and demolished in 1924-31, after serving in mine-layers.
  • These three tiny and unprotected cruisers, were built in Britain (Armstrong), launched in November and December 1886 for the first two, Isla de Luzon and Isla de Cuba, and Ensenada in 1887, completed much later in 1892. The first two were all scuttled at the Battle of Manila, May 1, 1898.

    • Weight & dimensions : 1030t FL ; 56,11 x 8,87 x 3,84 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts, 2 HTE engines, 2 Boilers, 1897-2697 hp, 14/15,9 knots.
    • Armour : Decks, sides, 45 mm
    • Armament : Two 4,7in (120 mm), four 2pdr, 2 Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs, three 12in (305 mm) TT.
    • Crew : 164

    ISLA DE LUZON CLASS (1886)They were captured and recommissioned by the Americans and returned to service without change of name, but delivered as a white colonial gunboats, a rank corresponding to the reality of their dimensions. They served for Uncle Sam until 1920 for the Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba is sold in Venezuela in 1912. He served in the new building until 1918, and reset, renamed Mariscal Sucre yet He served until 1920. The city remained in Ensenada. She was decommissioned on an unknown date.
  • These two wooden ships, rigged as three-masted barquentines, Jorge Juan and Sanchez Barcaiztegui, were ordered at La Seyne Navy yard in Toulon and commissioned in 1877. They were the only sloops in service in the Spanish navy.

    • Weight & dimensions : 920t FL ; 63,72 x 9 x 4,72 m
    • Propulsion : 1 shaft, 1 HTE engine, 2 Boilers, 1100 hp, 13 knots.
    • Armour : Decks, sides, 20 mm
    • Armament : Six 4,9in (158 mm), Two 6pdr, 2 Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs.
    • Crew : 146

    JORGE JUAN (1876)
    In 1898 they had their sails removed. The Barcaiztegui was wrecked after hitting a reef off Cuba in 1895 and Jorge Juan remained in Spain during the war. He was laid up at unknown date, probably before the First World War.
  • Probably the oldest and most impressive Spanish ironclad, Numancia was built in France, ordered at La Seyne in Toulon, and designed as Glory, with a wooden, but fully armored hull above the waterline. Her original weaponry included a 40-strong smoothbore muzzle-loading 6in guns broadside, eight 254, seven 203, one 190 mm, 8 heavy Nordenfelt machine guns, and three submarines TT.

    • Weight & dimensions : 7200t FL ; 96 x 17,37 x 8,22 m
    • Propulsion : 1 shaft, 1 HTE engine, 6 Boilers, 6000 hp, 13 knots.
    • Armour : Composite armour plating on oak hull, Sides, 280 mm, decks 80 mm, CT 250 mm
    • Armament : Four 5,5in (163 mm), six 4,9in (140 mm), three 4,7in, twelve Nordenfelt 25 mm Mgs, two 305 mm TT sub.
    • Crew : 400 (512 as training ship)

    NUMANCIA (1865)In 1895, Numancia masts were shortened. Then in 1897-98, the ship was entirely rebuilt at La Seyne. Her main mast was removed, her original masts replaced by two heavy french style military masts with gunned armored tops, and received new machines, giving 13 knots. But as she was ready, the Spanish-American War ended. Numancia was used as a Coastal defence ship and then training hulk until 1906 and never left the port after 1909. She remained in commission until the early 20s and was scrapped.
  • Built in 1886-87 Thornycroft, two destroyers (Ariete and Rayo) first class, were the largest and fast in operation before the 1912 series. Commissioned in 1898, they were both lost by a wild fire in 1905 that was spread from one to another.

    • Weight & dimensions : 3450 t ; 78,80 x 16 x 3,40 m
    • Propulsion : Steam only - 2 screws, 2 Compound TE engines, 2 Boilers, 1300 hp, 26,5 knots.
    • Armour : none
    • Armament : Four 47 mm QF Revolver, two 356 mm bow TT, two spare torpedo reloads.
    • Crew : 25

    ARIETE (1886)
    Two Thornycroft-built torpedo-boat destroyers.
  • This relatively modern battleship was built in france at La Seyne in 1885-87 on French plans. With her typical lozange-like artillery and single turrets with Canet system, and sloping armor, she was not well-balanced comparing to the more homogeneous American counterparts.

    • Weight & dimensions : 9745 t ; 102,04 x 20,20 x 7,58 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 12 Boilers, 9600 hp, 16,7 knots.
    • Armour : Creusot steel - belt 11,5 in, barbettes 15in, shields 3in, CT 6,5in, decks 2,5in.
    • Armament : Two 12,5in (317 mm), two 11in (280mm), one 6,4in (162 mm), Twelve 4,7in (120 mm), five 6pdr (57mm) QF Revolver, 14 Mgs, seven 356 mm sub TT.
    • Crew : 520

    PELAYO (1893)
    Despite its odd design, the Pelayo was the most modern of any Spanish battleship and its potent (although slow firing) 317 mm (12,5in) long-range Schneider-Creuzot guns were more than a match for any American battleship. Canet system allowed them to be loaded in any position. In 1897 she was refitted at La Seyne with 16 more effective Niclausse boilers. A more uniform 5,5in battery was fitted. However, despite its qualities, the Pelayo remained in Spain and took no part in the conflict.
  • Like the previous Alfonso XII, the construction of these cruiser slept largely beyond schedule as they took 6 years to be completed. Although bigger and more effective than the Alfonso XII, They were nearly obsolete on commission.

    • Weight & dimensions : 4725 t ; 96,62 x 15,24 x 6,21 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts HTE, 8 boilers, 11 500 hp, 20,5 knots.
    • Armour : Decks 4,5in, sides 1in, gunshields 3in.
    • Armament : Four 7,9in (200 mm), six 4,7in (120mm), six 6pdr (57 mm) QF, six 20 mm Nordenfett Mgs, five 356 mm TT sub.
    • Crew : 440

    REINA REGENTE (1887)
    This class was also composed of Alfonso XIII (1891) and Lepanto (1892). The latter was completed in 1895. On trial they attained 18,5 knots their natural draught (20,5 knots on forced draught).
  • These seven spanish-built (at Cartagena and La Graa) gunboats were too slow to be effectively torpedo boats nor torpedo boats destroyers. But they effectively played their duty as colonial gunboats. They were rigged as two-masted schooners.

    • Weight & dimensions : 562 t; 58 x 6,76 x 3,16 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 4 boilers, 2600 hp, 19 knots.
    • Armour : Decks and bulkheads 1,5 in.
    • Armament : Four 4,7in (120mm), four 6pdr (57 mm) QF, one 25 mm Nordenfett Mg, two 356 mm TT.
    • Crew : 91

    TEMERARIO (1889)
    The class was composed of Temerario, Nueva Espaa, Martin Alonso Pinzon (1889), Galicia, Marques de Molins, Rapido, Vencente Yanez Pinzon (1891). Some were at Manilla harbor or fought at Cuba. They were followed by the Filipinas (1892), based at Manila, and Doa Maria de Molina class, three torpedo gunboats built in 1894-1897, not commissionned on time to be involved in the conflict.
  • These eight british, then spanish-built (at Blackwall, then Cartagena, Cadiz, Carraca and Ferrol) cruisers formed the bulk of the spanish cruiser force and played their part in both battles of the 1898 war. Two were lost at sea inculdin the Cristobal Colon off Cuba in 1895.

    • Weight & dimensions : 1152 t; 64 x 9,75 x 4,20 m
    • Propulsion : 1 shaft HC, 4 cyl boilers, 1500 hp, 13 knots.
    • Armour : none.
    • Armament : Four 4,7in (120mm), four 6pdr (57 mm) QF, one 25 mm Nordenfett Mg, two 356 mm TT.
    • Crew : 173

    VELASCO (1881)
    This class built between 1881 and 1888 comprised the Velasco, Gravina (British built, armed with two 6in guns, two 3in and 2 Nordenfelt Mgs), Infanta Isabel, Isabel II, Cristobal Colon, Don Juan de Austria, Don Antonia Ulloa, and Conde del Venadito. They were barque-rigged and their rigging was sometimes used at the beginning, but in 1890-92, all was removed and only the masts were kept. They were slow and the spanish-built less well-armed than the original british built. With no protection and poor training, they stood almost no chances against the US Fleet.
  • This sole centre battery Ironclad was built by Thames iron Works in 1863-65 and commissioned in 1866. In 1897-98 she was entirely rebuilt at La Seyne and re-commissioned too late to take part in the conflict, with the following specifications :

    • Weight & dimensions : 7200 t; 96,34 x 17,37 x 8 m
    • Propulsion : 1 shaft HC, 8 cyl boilers, 4500 hp, 12 knots.
    • Armour : belt 5,5in, battery 5,2in.
    • Armament : Six 6,4in (162 mm), Six 5,5in (135 mm), six 6pdr (57 mm) QF, six 25 mm Nordenfett Mgs, two 356 mm TT.
    • Crew : 500

    VITORIA (1865)
    Originally she was designed to bear a thirty 68pdr SB guns (approx. 250mm) broadside, but plans were altered and she was completed with a central battery of eight 9in. After her rebuilding at La Seyne, she was fitted with two military masts with small armoured tops for light Mgs. She was used as costal battleship, then training ship in 1900 to an unknown date.
  • The Infanta Maria Teresa (or Vizcaya) class formed the bulk of the armoured cruiser force during the war. The class comprised also Vizcaya and Almirante Oquendo, all built at Bilbao. With a good balance of protection, armament, speed, they were seen as the best spanish warships in 1898.

    • Weight & dimensions : 6890 t; 110,94 x 19,87 x 6,6 m
    • Propulsion : 2 shafts VTE, 8 cyl boilers, 13700 hp, 20,2 knots max.
    • Armour : Belt 10-12in, barbettes 9in, CT 12in, decks 2-3in.
    • Armament : Two 11in (280 mm), Ten 5,5in (155 mm), eight 12pdr (76 mm), ten 3pdr (37 mm) QF Hotchkiss revolver, eight 25 mm Nordenfelt and two maxim Mgs, eight 356 mm TT sub.
    • Crew : 484

    VIZCAYA (1890)
    Completed in 1890-91 they were some of the most heavily armed cruisers in the world and posed a real threat for the American fleet. However, if their protection was thick, it was not well-distributed. The armoured belt extended only two third of the total length and was narrow, the protective deck was flat and curved in the extremities but low-based, and consequently their high unprotected freeboard suffered badly during the battle of Santiago were all three were sunk.