Battle of Santiago 1898


In April, 1989, the Spanish American War began. It started after the USA decided to support the Cuban people in their struggle against Spanish colonial rule. Initially, USA intended to stay neutral in the conflict but then the US battleship Maine was sunk while stationed off the Havana Harbor.

American press blamed this on the Spanish forces and the public opinion finally forced the American government to go to war with Spain. The war was mostly fought in the Philippines and Cuba. The main objective of the American forces during the war was to take over the control of major cities in both Philippines and Cuba, ending Spanish rule. The Spanish objective, on the other hand, was to resist this as effectively as possible.

Before the Battle

By the beginning of July, 1898, the US land forces had already reached the city of Santiago, the main Spanish stronghold in Cuba. Before this, a large fleet of American ships had laid a naval blockade to the Santiago Harbor. This was done so that the Spanish fleet docked at the harbor would have no way of escaping.

The American fleet continued the blockade for around two months. Then on July 1, the outer Spanish defense of the Santiago city collapsed under an American attack. Seeing that their land support was dwindling, the Spanish fleet decided to try to escape through the blockade and would fight their way out if necessary.

When and where did the battle take place?

The Battle of Santiago took place in the waters near Santiago de Cuba in Cuba. It took place on July 3, 1898.

Commanders on both sides

The Spanish fleet was commanded by Admiral Pascual Cervera. He commanded a fleet comprising of six vessels which included 4 armored cruisers and 2 destroyers.

The American fleet was commanded Rear Admiral William T. Sampson and Commodore Winfield Schley. Together, they commanded a total of 5 battleships, 1 armored cruisers and 1 armed yacht.

The Fighting

On the early morning of July 1, 1898, the Spanish fleet moved from the harbor. Its objective was to escape beyond the blockade imposed by the American fleet and then try to fight the American ships. So as soon as they had moved away from the blockade, they turned and attacked the American vessels.

The Spanish fleet had hoped that after inflicting some damage on the American ships, they could escape to the open sea. But the American fleet was quick to respond and had superior artillery capabilities. This ultimately proved a decisive advantage, resulting in the devastation of the Spanish fleet.

Results and Aftermath

Nearly the entire Spanish fleet was devastated in the battle. At the same time, the Spanish ships sustained heavy damages before they were disabled or had to be run ashore. In all, the Spanish fleet lost 300 soldiers and suffered 150 wounded soldiers. 1800 Spanish men and officers were taken as prisoners by the American fleet. The American fleet, in contrast, sustained little to no damage. Only 1 American sailor died and 1 was wounded in the battle while none of the American vessels were damaged.

Battle of Santiago: The Annihilation of Cervera’s Fleet

Learn More about the Battle of Santiago 1898 at Wikipedia