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Handling of the Spanish Dead

Following the Battle of Santiago

By Patrick McSherry

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The following accounts provide insight into the way in which the Spanish dead at the Battle of Santiago were treated by the Americans. The honor with which the dead and the prisoners of war of both sides were treated was highly spoken of by men on opposing sides in the war.

Accounts of the treatment of the Spanish Casualties after the Battle of Santiago:


(Peter Keller, Boatswain’s mate)

“After the wounded were all gone, and the prisoners all gone there was one dead man to be buried. Mr. Huse gave orders to Otto Brown to sew the body up in a hammock, put some ballast on his feet and get him ready. After everything was done, Mr. Huse called me and told me to call all hands to quarters, and we laid the dead man on a board, covered him with a captured flag from the PLUTON and brought him aft.. Mr. Huse called the master-at-arms, Mr. P. A. Mehan, to read a couple of chapters out of the Bible while the whole ship’s crew was present, captain and all. After this was done, we took the dead man, marched around the ship, put him on a rail, and Mr. Huse told me to pipe him over the side. Piping over the side is the greatest honor a man can get aboard a ship, and these honors are only given to an officer or a dead man so we buried the man with full honors.”


(Capt. Robley Evans)

“A number of dead Spanish sailors had been brought on board IOWA from the VIZCAYA…I had had them placed well aft on the quarter deck and covered with the Spanish flag. The time had come to bury them and I therefore stopped my engines and lowered my colors to half mast, and my motions were followed by the HARVARD and the troop ships. Then all hands were called to bury the dead; the service was read by their own padre in the presence of their own officers and men, and the bodies were committed to the deep while my marines presented arms and my officers and men stood uncovered and silent as if we were burying our own people. I doubt if a more impressive funeral ever took place from the deck of a vessel of was, certainly not on the conclusion of a great naval battle before the combatants had had the time to removed the powder stains.”


(Capt. Charles Clark)

After our men had taken possession, one of the wounded prisoners died. He was wrapped in the flag of his country, and as he was lowered into the deep, one of his drunken shipmates pronounced the benediction “pobre diablo! Viva Espana!”


(Daniel Mannix)

“Some of the bodies were not resting quietly in the water; they were twitching restlessly but would quiet down as our boats approached. They were being attacked by sharks or other fish.”

General statement by Chaplain William G. Cassard:

“Those who had been killed in action were burned where they fell, and doubtless many of the wounded who were in inaccessible parts of the ships shared a similar fate.”



(Keller, Peter, Boatswain’s mate USS GLOUCESTER, “The Rescue of Admiral Cervera,” Harpers Magazine, Vol. XCVIII, April 1899) 787.

IOWA account:

(Evans, Robley, CaptA Sailor’s Log. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1901) 455.

OREGON account:

(Clark, Charles, Capt., “The Story of the Captains,” The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. (New York: The Century Co., May, 1899) Vol. 56, No. 1, 111

INDIANA account:

(Mannix, Daniel, P., III, The Old Navy. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1983) 53.

(Capt. John Philip of the USS TEXAS makes a similar observation, Philip, John, Capt., “The Story of the Captains,” The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. (New York: The Century Co., May, 1899), Vol. 56, No. 1, 58)

Chaplain's statement:

(Cassard, William G., Chaplain,  “The Story of the Captains,” The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, New York: The Century Co., May, 1899, Vol. 56, No. 1, 117).

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