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Battle of Santiago took place on the 3rd of July, 1898, between Spain and the United States (Beede, 1994). It was fought in the waters near Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, and was part of the Spanish-American War (Beede, 1994). The result of the battle was a decisive victory for the U.S., and the destruction of the Caribbean Squadron of the Spanish Navy. The battle came about after a realization by Spain that the campaign in Cuba would be the deciding factor in the war, and that something had to be done quickly or the U.S. would have the advantage too strongly. The original plan was to go to Puerto Rico, but that was quickly changed to Cuba (Symonds & Clipson, 2001). There was no clear strategy held by Spain at that time, but the overall plan was to end the war very quickly. Spain knew that the U.S. had a stronger navy and military in general, but if Spain could get the upper hand it would be able to gloriously defeat the U.S., at least in that particular battle (Symonds & Clipson, 2001). That would give Spain strength moving forward, and help keep the troops' morale high, which could lead to the winning of further battles with the U.S.
While there was a great deal of buzz about the mission, the Spanish admiral in charge felt as though he was sailing right into a doomed situation (Goldstein, et al., 2001). Writings located after the fact indicated this, along with a study of the problems that were seen on a number of the ships. Although they were relatively modern for the time period, they had significant issues. The breech mechanisms often jammed, and caused mishaps that could put crew members at risk. They were faulty on a very dangerous level, but there was no time to fix them, and the resources to do so were not available. The ships needed bottom-cleaning, and there were problems with the boilers in many of them, as well (Dolan, 2001). The crew also struggled, as very few of them had much, if any, practice firing live rounds due to budgeting issues (Beede, 1994; Goldstein, et al., 2001). Since they did not have the experience, they could not be expected to handle the battle properly.
Cervera, the Spanish Admiral, wanted the ships painted, cleaned, fixed, and overhauled, and wanted to see that done near the Canary Islands, where there was a better chance of holding off the U.S. fleet (Nofi, 1996). He had asked for that early in the year, but had been met with resistance and did not have any luck getting any work done on the ships. One of the main ships did not even have the armament battery installed, and all the "guns" it carried were wooden dummies (Nofi, 1996). Cervera worked hard to show why his strategy was the best, and every single officer under his command sided with him. Despite that, Spain's Admiralty flat-out rejected the idea (Beede, 1994). This would ultimately lead to the demise of the squadron Cervera piloted. While there is no guarantee that the battle would have gone differently if Cervera's desired plan would have been followed, it was clear that it was the best choice for protecting Spain's fleet as much as possible. It would have also worked well for surprising the U.S. fleet, which could have led to Spain gaining the upper hand against the U.S. Navy (Beede, 1994).
The turn of the tide in that particular battle could have been swift and significant, and could have changed the entire war. Cervera had to follow orders, though, even if they were not the orders that he believed were correct. For a number of weeks, Cervera evaded the U.S. fleet, and people along the U.S. east coast were very nervous regarding what Cervera's fleet might do. Eventually, the U.S. fleet spotted Cervera and his ship in the harbor in Santiago (Nofi, 1996). At that time, nearly every one of the warships the U.S. had was already headed to Cuba. A few ships remained so that the U.S. coastline could be defended, but the Navy wisely decided to send most of its ships out in search of Spain's ships, rather than sit and wait for them to appear on the horizon (Dolan, 2001). That was an excellent strategic move by the U.S., as it took the battle to Spain instead of waiting, and sent a clear signal that the U.S. was not simply going to sit back and wait around to see what Spain decided to do next.
When Cervera's squadron was found to be in Santiago Bay, a general blockage was set up in order to keep Spain's ships from leaving the harbor. At that point, the battle would have to take place, and it would clearly take place in the waters near Santiago. The U.S. was not backing down, and the Spanish ships had nowhere else they could go. There were no options to leave the area through another channel, so they would have to make their stand there, and fight the U.S. Navy. While it may sound like a serious problem for the Spanish ships to be "trapped" in the harbor, it was actually a fairly good thing for them. They were able to defend themselves against the Navy because they had their "backs" to the city (Symonds & Clipson, 2001). There were guns in the city that could be used, as well, in order to keep the U.S. ships from getting too close or taking over. Torpedoes and sea mines were also available, helping to keep the ships of the U.S. Navy out of the harbor, and blocking them from coming too close to the Spanish fleet (Symonds & Clipson, 2001).
Unfortunately, being relatively safe from immediate harm meant little. The ships of Cervera's fleet were not numerous enough to defeat the U.S. Navy's massive number of ships, so there was little they could do in that regard (Dolan, 2001). There were also problems with the guns on the ships, and they were not the best quality when compared with their rivals. Because of the issues they were facing, and because Santiago was not set up to work on and improve the quality of the ships in the Spanish fleet, it was only a matter of time (Beede, 1994). A waiting game ensued, and the next month brought a few skirmishes between the two fleets. None of those particular skirmishes amounted to much, as they were just the build-up to the actual battle that was to come. Cervera decided he was just going to wait things out. He was hoping that bad weather would come along and give him an advantage, or that it would push the U.S. fleet further away or even cause damage to their ships (Goldstein, et al., 2001). If the weather was bad enough the U.S. fleet would have to scatter, and that would be an advantage to Spain's fleet (Symonds & Clipson, 2001).
It was even possible that Cervera would be able to make a run for it and get to a place that was more favorable for his fleet and his position. Unfortunately for Cervera, that was not going to work out for him. Instead, U.S. land forces began to advance into the city, forcing Cervera to move from the safe haven he had created within the harbor (Beede, 1994). That put him closer to the U.S. ships, where they were able to get to him and his fleet. The plan was to head out at nine in the morning on a Sunday, because the American troops would have been at religious services and not paying as much attention to the Spanish fleet (Beede, 1994). Leaving at night was also considered, but that plan was cancelled because it would have been very treacherous and could have caused significant damage to the ships. There was a certain level of honor to perishing in battle, if that is what it came to, instead of sneaking away in order to try to avoid the skirmish. Saturday saw them in position, waiting for Sunday to come (Symonds & Clipson, 2001).
Fortuitously, two of the American ships had adjusted their positions during the night, leaving a window for Cervera to get through, if he did it properly. If Cervera was able to break through the blockade, there were only two ships in the U.S. fleet that would be fast enough to potentially catch him (Dolan, 2001). Seeing a plume of smoke on Sunday morning, the navigator on the Brooklyn stated that the Spanish ships were headed out of the harbor (Dolan, 2001). Cervera's ships began their race out of the harbor at nearly 10am, and formed three echelons. The ships did not get far, and were still in the channel when the U.S. Navy started firing on them (Symonds & Clipson, 2001). The Spanish ships fired back, but their guns did not work that well and they were greatly outnumbered. Their escape…[continue]
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