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Spanish Cruiser ISLA DE CUBA

By Nick Mitiuckov and Patrick McSherry

Spanish Cruiser Isla de Cuba
Isla de Cuba 
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The ISLA DE CUBA was a small Spanish cruiser which served with Admiral Montojo's Asiatic Squadron. After the first phase of the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite, the damaged cruiser was scuttled by the Spaniards. After the war, the vessels was salvaged by the U.S. navy and recommissioned as a gunboat.

The ISLA DE CUBA was completed in 1887 and joined the fleet of metropolis, based at Cadiz, Spain. During 1893 and 1894, the vessel took part in the Moroccan War, and bombarded the reefs between Melilla and Chafarinos.

With the beginning of the Philippine Insurrection against Spain, The ISLA DE CUBA, along with her sister ship, the ISLA DE LUZON,  was sent to the Philippines to join the squadron of Admiral Montojo. At the beginning of the Spanish American War, she was one of the most powerful and modern vessel in the  squadron.

During the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite the ISLA DE CUBA served on the right flank of the Spanish squadron. At first the ships of the American Asiatic Squadron concentrated their fire on the larger REINA CRISTINA and CASTILLA. As a result, the ISLA DE CUBA suffered little damage. After Admiral Montojo's flagship REINA CRISTINA was disabled, Montojo transferred his flag to the ISLA DE CUBA. During the remainder of the battle, she suffered five hits of small caliber. Two of her crewmen were wounded. Immediately after the battle, a party from the PETREL was sent aboard the ISLA DE CUBA to set her afire.

After the cruiser was salvaged, she was towed to Singapore for repair. On April 4, 1900, the repair work on her was completed and she was commissioned as a vessel in the U.S. Navy under the command of Lt. J. N. Jordan. She served in the Philippines during the Philippine American War as a supply ship and a patrol boat. From November 17 to December 8, her crew landed and held the town of Ormoc, Leyte while the army garrison was away on a mission against the Filipino forces. Later, in 1901, she made a survey of the Ormoc anchorage as well as Parasan Harbor. In March and April, she "rendered distinguished service" in cutting off supplies to the Insurgents in Samar and in aiding in the capture of Lukban, the Insurgent leader in the area.

ISLA DE CUBA returned to the United States on March 4, 1904 and was decommissioned at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine on June 9. After repairs, in 1907 she was loaned to the Maryland Naval Militia as a training vessel.

She was sold to Venezuela on February 2, 1912 and was renamed MARISCAL SUCRE. She was in use until scrapped in 1940.


The vessel was a small protected cruiser, or, more properly a gunboat. Her ratio of length to beam was small, and as a result, she had poor seagoing capabilities. She had a tendency to bury her bow into the waves.


Profile of the Spanish Cruiser Isla de Cuba

Protected Cruiser, 2nd Class
Laid down:
February 25, 1886
December 11, 1886
September 22, 1887
Two masts, schooner rig
Four  120mm/35 cal. (4") Hontoria Breechloading guns

Four 57mm/43 cal. (6 pounder) Nordenfeldt guns

Three 37 mm/20 cal. revolving guns

Three 356 mm (14") torpedo tubes
Armstrong (Elswick, UK)
56.11 meters
8.87 meters
3.84 meters
1030 tons
164 Officers and Enlisted Men under the command of Capt. J. Sidrach
Engine type:
Horizontal triple-expansion engines, 2600 hp. Two shafts.
Boiler type:
Two boilers
15.9 knots (during speed trials)
Bunker Capacity:
160 tons
Coal Endurance:
2,000 miles
25mm to 64 mm, deck; 51 mm casemate
2.4 million pesetas


Aguilera, A., Buques de la Armada Espaniola (Madrid: 1967).

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. III (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977) 466.

Wilson, H. W.,  Downfall of Spain (London: 1900).

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