The Battle of Santiago Bay

The Battle of Santiago Bay


SPANISH AMERICAN WAR April 1898 - December 1898.

Stories about The Battle of Santiago Bay


    The Spanish American War was fought in 1898 and was a very quick war. Every battle fought was an American victory and the war was over so quickly that the Rochester troops who volunteered for the war never made it in. Their division (the 1st NH) stayed in the United States and did not participate in the overwhelming victory over Spain. Even so the 1st NH Infantry did not see military action in the war it had to survive the unsanitary conditions, food scandals and inadequate equipment at Chickamauga Park, GA.

    Hussey particpated in the Battle of Santiago Harbor. Charles Hussey was the first American to raise the United States flag on a captured Spanish ship and would later become an Admiral in the Navy. Joseph Beaudoin supplied the following interview about the battle to the Rochester Courier.

    The Battle of Santiago Bay occurred on July 3, 1898. The American defeat of the Spanish was the end of centuries-long Spanish power/influence in the western hemisphere. 1,800 Spaniards died in the battle, compared to one American death and one American wounded seaman. All of the Spanish ships were beached, either sinking or burning. Two weeks later the Spanish forces defending Santiago surrendered and the Spanish-American war was over. The following account is from the Rochester Courier in 1898. It is an interview with Joseph E. Beaudoin who served on the Battleship Iowa and participated in the Battle of Santiago.

    Joseph E. Beaudoin, though of French parentage, is every inch an American Seaman. He was born in Rochester and enlisted in New York on June 24, 1895, in the United States Navy for a period of three years. It will be seen therefore, that his term of service expired sometime previous to the close of war with Spain, but he was anxious to remain with his ship until the end and did so, receiving an honorable discharge on the recent arrival of the Iowa at Thompkinsville.

    "Joe", as all his chums like to call him, says the Navy Department has made no mistake in lavishing the honors of war on Admiral Sampson. The officers of the department, he says "know full well to whom the credit of destroying Cervera's fleet belongs." He says that no less than three captains of vessels told Com. Schley that Cervera's fleet was lying in Satiago's harbor but Schley refused to believe it until convinced by the actual sight of the Spanish vessels. Among seaman, Joe says that the opinion in general that Schley is slow, that he is all right as a commander of a single vessel in combat, but that he is incapable of commanding a whole fleet. Why, said he: "There were as many as three times previous to the arrival of Sampson, that our vessels were withdrawn to such a distance from the entrance to the harbor, that had the Spaniards been aware of the actual conditions that existed they could have easily sneaked out of the harbor and had an excellent chance of getting away from us, for they had a decided adavantage in speed, nearly all the Spanish ships being 21 knotters."

    "Another time when Schley missed his opportunity was when one of the Spanish gun boats lay at the mouth of the harbor and within easy range of our guns but not a single shot was sent after her".

    "When Sampson arrived," said he "all this was changed. Our vessels were all given a station and commanded to maintain the position even if it became neccessary to operate the engines in so doing. The whole fleet was arranged in a semi-circle, commanding the entrance to the harbor. A sharp lookout was maintained both day and night, each vessel of the fleet doing two hours searchlight service by night. From that time on there was not a moment when the Spaniards could have evaded us and still on that Sunday morning of July 3d when they did come out, they came very near us at a decided disadvantage, for according to some of the Spanish officers, who were afterwards taken on board the on board the Iowa, they had planned their exit from the harbor so that they might swoop down on us while we were at church. But, they came out thirty minutes too soon. We were all dressed in spotless white ready for the Sunday morning inspection by the Admiral, before going to chapel, when the watch sang out: "The Spaniards are coming out." The Iowa, on which I was a loader in the Starboard forward eight inch turret, fired the first signal gun as a warning to the American fleet, and the next instant we saw the warning, meaning clear the ship for action. On the same instance, the engines were started and in accordance with orders of Admiral Sampson which had been previously given to every vessel, we began to close in on the enemy. I remember hearing officers in the turrets sing out to Capt. Evans 'We can't train our guns, no steam on turrets'; His reply was 'If you can't train the guns I'll train the ship'. The next moment however, we had plenty of steam on the turrets. The fire range we got was 6000 yards and we began banging away, the next was 4000 and this we kept reducing until we got within 1400 yards. The moment that the first signal for action was given on the Iowa, the men stripped themselves to the waist and rolled their trousers as high as possible to save them from becomig soiled with grease and powder grim, so that we appeared almost naked".

    "Sometimes we could not see for the smoke and I said to a fellow gunner, "They must have got away from us", but he replied, "No, three of them are afire and one, a torpedo boat destroyer, has sunk".

    "We saw the Vizcava boat when she was making for the beach and we saw the Texas put a twelve inch shell into her and that settled her".

    "Then we saw the Cristobal Colon steaming away at a good 17 knots with the Oregon, the Brooklyn, the New York and Texas in hot pursuit. As the New York passed us we gave her three cheers. The reason the Oregon was able to get after the Cristobal Colon so quickly was because her had stokers had just been changing her fires from one set of boilers to the other when the signal to clear ship for action was given. She therefore had steam on all her boilers. The New York is a faster boat though. The battle lasted just 51 minutes. The noise in the turrets was so terrific that we could not hear the command to cease firing unti it has been repeated three times. We fired 27 twelve inch shells from out turret. The twelve inch shells and 4000 shots from the automatic fire guns in the fighting top, making a total of 6110 shots. We were struck nine times. a twelve inch shell struck just below our waterline and the stokes who were knocked down by the concussion said that it sounded just like striking a big bell with a hammer. One six inch shell entered our chain hatch and and pieces of it struck in as many as 148 places, one piece cutting a link of steel cable in twain".

    "We had ceased firing and Capt. Evan summoned us aft to listen to a few words of thanksgiving for the victory we had won, when what was suppose to be a Spanish battleship was seen bearing down upon us. Instead of going to prayers we all went to quarters to be ready for immediate action but the stranger proved to be Austrian. By this time the smoke had cleared and we could see hundreds of Spaniards struggling in the water. Capt. Evans ordered the boats lowered to go their assistance. We rescued 36 Spanish officers and 245 seaman. Many of these were badly wounded and Capt. Evans continually cautioned us to handle them gently remarking; 'My men can fight as well as any American Seaman and when the battle is over they can be as gentle as American women'.

    We hauled up Captain Eulate of the Vizcava, up in a chair. He was wounded in two places by bullets from the automatic rapid fire gun which sent out 400 shots per minute. As he saw stem of the Vizcava go down he cried, 'Goodbye, goodbye, my Vizcava.' and he seemed to be vert much affected by the loss of his vessel. As we saw him thus humiliated, we could not help thinking of that boast of his; "he would tow the Iowa into Cadhz". It was a great cheer when they saw Capt. Evans refuse to take the sword offered by Capt. Eulate, Capt. Evans remarking to him: "You have been sufficiently humiliated. I will not disgrace you."

    "The scene after the battle would be hard to describe. To see the American seaman going to the rescue of their Spanish foes, it was hard to realize that a terrible battle had been fought. One would have thought that the rescued men were our dearest friends, instead of our bitterest enemies. One poor fellow had his arm torn off below the shoulder, was hauled up to the deck. A sailor attempted to untie the rope that encircled his chest but it was wet and he could not. He whipped out a knife and as the Spaniards eyes rested on the blade, it was evident that he thought his last hour had come. But as the sailor gently severed the rope, his countenance brightened and he looked the thanks he could not utter. Another poor fellow has seven shots from a rapid fire gun in his leg. You see that the only way you can miss getting more than one shot from one of these guns is to get the last shot fired. If you get the first it is impossible to avoid getting more, for they come in a perfect stream. All of the wounded were taken to sick bay and their injuries attended to as promptly as possible. When Admiral Cervera was captured he was attired only in a suit of underclothing and a pair of slippers but when taken on board the Iowa, he was dressed in a suit of blue serge, loaned him by Lieut. Commander Wainwright of the Gloucester. He had no sword but annouced he would surrender to the Admiral of the American fleet. During the battle the Spaniards cheered twice believing that their shells had set fire to our ship but they learned later that the fire was from the muzzles of our guns. From the Spaniards we learned that they had four times been ordered to come out of the harbor before they did so. After it was over, Admiral Cervera cabled to Captain General Blanco, that in obedience to his orders he had come out and lost all.

    "The only thing I thouht of when the battle once begun was how quickly I could do my share in serving that gun, my duty being to assist in placing those eight inch shells in position. Half the time we were in action, we could not hear the range when it was given to us. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of Capt. Evans pacing the flying bridge with the butt of a cigar betwen his teeth. Entering the conning tower only to give instructions to his officers".

    "We had previously bombarded the land batteries of around Santiago, four times, but the first time I was under fire was at the bombardment of Porto Rico. Our starboard battery was not in action owing to the fact there was danger of hitting some of our own vessels. We were all at our positions in the turret however, engaged in cracking jokes, but I can tell that we were not doing that because we felt that way. Inside we were not laughing at the danger a little bit. I don't think that we would have minded if we could have had a part in it. It was there I saw the indomitable courage of Admiral Sampson displayed. He was on the bridge and was just about to step on a rope ladder when a shell from a shore battery swept it beneath his feet. Most men would have dodged into the conning tower, but he didn't. He stepped back on the bridge and looked up calmly to see where the shell came from. Some of the idea of the ammunition used on war vessels may be gathered from the fact that the weight of a four inch shell is 33 pounds, a five inch shell is 50 pounds, and a 12 inch 850 pounds. Little more than half the weight of each being powder".

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