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The Spanish Prisoners of War

Held at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine

Courtesy of the Shipyard Museum at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Navy yard

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The following information concerns the Spanish Prisoners of War who were held at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery Maine during the Spanish American War.

Spanish Prisoners of War at Portsmouth Navy Yard

Spanish Prisoners of War at Portsmouth Navy Yard

The Museum's Article on the Spanish Prisoners of War:

"During the Spanish American War the American government decided to utilize the Portsmouth Navy Yard as a temporary facility to house Spanish prisoners of war.  On July 5, 1898 a statement was made in the Portsmouth Herald that Admiral Cervera and 1700 prisoners were going to be split between camps in Annapolis, MD and the Navy Yard near Portsmouth, New Hampshire (with the Navy Yard technically being in Kittery, Maine).  The USS ST. LOUIS and the USS HARVARD arrived on July 10, carrying a combined number of 1562 prisoners.

 The detention facility [constructed on the site where the old Naval prison now stands*] was a ten foot stockade with eight barracks, a large cookhouse, officer’s quarters and other service buildings.  It became known as Camp Long.  Although temporary hospital was constructed on the grounds staffed with Red Cross Nurses and military surgeons, more severe cases were still brought into the Naval Hospital on the Shipyard for treatment.  Marines from the Boston Navy Yard were brought to the Shipyard to guard the prisoners.

Upon arrival many of the prisoners were injured or weakened by an outbreak of influenza.  Shortages of clothing were experienced by almost all of the prisoners; many attempted to resolve the situation by wrapping themselves in blankets from the transport ships.  The youngest prisoner at Camp Long was twelve years old.  It was later learned that he was the son of wealthy Cubans who resided near the coast.  His parents were killed during one of the nights of fighting.  Since the boy’s life was spared, the sailors took him aboard one of the Spanish warships that were later to fall in the hands of the Americans.

After being kept at the camp for awhile, the Americans began the process of allowing the prisoners parole.  Once Admiral Cervera approved, many of the man took advantage of the fifteen days of liberty, which allowed access to Seavey’s Island, the Navy Yard, and the town of Portsmouth.  Four of the prisoners, two surgeons and two priests, were of great help in rendering assistance to the sick and wounded.  Despite many efforts by Navy and Spanish surgeons, thirty-one prisoners died during their period of incarceration. [On September 12, 1898, the prisoners were released to return to Spain on the steamer CITY OF ROME.

On April 12, 1916 the Spanish transport AMIRANTE LOBO received the bodies of the Spanish prisoners that died during their incarceration.  Col. Nicholas Urculla, the Attaché to the Spanish Embassy in Washington, ceremoniously accepted the flag covered metal lined caskets from Rear Admiral Knight.  Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, representing the Department of the Navy, stated, 'As the representative of my government and especially of the department of the Navy, I am charged with the duty of transferring to your custody the remains of those brave men, your countrymen, whose fate it was to die far from the land which they loved and which they honored by their valor.  They have slept for many years in the soil of an alien, though a not unfriendly country.  Today, they enter upon their journey home.  We rejoice with you that this is so; and yet we would not have you feel that we have thought of them as strangers in these years through which they have rested in this, to them, a strange land.  What we could do we have done, to create about their resting place an atmosphere not of respect alone but of affection.  Year after year in honoring our own heroes we have honored them, with little thought of any difference.  Year after year on our Memorial Day, the flag they loved has been planted above their heads.  The time has come when they are to pass beneath the folds of that flag never again to leave its shelter.  And so to you who represent the great and gallant nation to which they and the memory of their deeds belong, we commit their sacred dust.  Bear it lovingly across the sea, and with it bear to your sovereign and your people the assurance of the heartfelt sympathy of the President and people of the friendly nation in whose care you have left it so long.'

 'May your voyage be happy and your home coming marked by brighter skies than you have found in our cold northern climate.  You will believe, I know, that our climate does scant justice to the warmth of our friendship and our sympathies.'

 A Battalion of Marine from the Navy Yard and the USS SOUTHERY, a company of bluejackets from the cruiser USS WASHINGTON, a company from the USS SACREMENTO, and a company from the USS SOUTHERY escorted the coffins to the pier and presented the bodies to the Spanish sailors.  The coffins were then brought on board for their final trip home while a bugler from the USS WASHINGTON sounded taps."


All Information is courtesy of the Shipyard Museum at the Portsmouth Navy Yard

* Doyle, Thomas M., "Spanish Graves," September 26, 1986 (an additional article provided by the Museum.)

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