Capt. Antonio Eulate
Reports on the Actions of the Cruiser VIZCAYA
at the Battle of Santiago


The Vizacaya explodes following the Battle of Santiago 
The VIZCAYA suffers a massive explosion following the Battle Santiago (Library of Congress)

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General:

This is an account by Capt. Antonio Eulate, the commander of the Spanish cruiser VIZCAYA,  on the actions of his ship and crew at the Naval Battle of Santiago. The report is addressed to Admiral Pascual Cervera. Eulate comments on the attempt to ram the BROOKLYN. In the later controversy over the BROOKLYN's "retrograde turn" during the battle, it was claim that the manuever was required because of an attempt at ramming by the VIZCAYA. This report supports that claim.


Capt. Eulates's Report:

HONORED SIR: In compliance with the instructions received from your excellency, I got my ship ready on the morning of the 2d instant, to go out at 4 p. m. But as the embarkation of the first company did not begin until that time, it was 6.30 p.m. before the ship was ready to put to sea. At that moment the battle flag was hoisted by the officers, whom I addressed, reminding them of the obligations imposed upon them by the Ordinances, and the heroic deeds of our ancestors in our honorable career. After a prayer, we received, kneeling, the benediction of the chaplain.

With the flag hoisted we were awaiting your excellency's last orders, and at 9 o’clock a. m. of the day following, July 3, the ship was ready to follow in the wake of the flagship. At 9 o'clock (true time) she started up, following the TERESA, and at 9.30, after passing Punta Socapa, we went full speed ahead, steering in conformity with the instructions previously issued by your excellency. At the same moment we opened fire on the hostile ships, very heavy at first, but gradually decreasing in the 5.5-inch battery, owing to the defects of the guns and ammunition, of which your excellency is aware.

In spite of these defects, the enthusiasm and intelligence of the officers in charge of the battery and the excellent discipline of their crews made it possible to fire during the battle, which lasted two hours and a half, 150 rounds with the port battery, one of the guns alone firing 40 rounds, the others 25 and above, with the exception of one, which only fired 8 rounds. The deficiencies of these guns were numerous, chief among them, as you already know, the fact that the breech could not be closed, the projectiles jammed, and the firing pins failed to act.

One of the guns had to try seven shells before a serviceable one could be found, another gun even eight, and it was only by dint of hard work that this latter gun could be brought into firing position. In the lower battery the firing was very heavy during the first two hours; after that the number of hostile shells striking and injuring the port guns was such as to disable every one of them and dismount the majority.

In the high battery there were so many casualties that, although there was but one gun left that could be fired, there were not men enough to serve it. In the lower battery there were no men left either to serve the guns or to conduct the firing. It therefore became necessary to decrease the crew assigned to extinguishing the fires that were constantly breaking out everywhere, and as a result of this fact, in conjunction with the circumstance that the ire mains had become useless through hostile fire, the conflagration increased to such an extent that it was no longer possible to control it. It is safe to say that the number of victims in the two batteries two hours after the beginning of the battle was between 70 and 80, most of them killed, among them the captain of the lower battery, Lieut. Julián Ristory y Torres, who for his gallantry deserves a place of honor in the annals of the history of our navy.

Owing to the valiant attack which the flagship made on the enemy at the beginning of the battle, we did not at first have so much to suffer from hostile projectiles, as only two battle ships were firing upon us. But during the second hour we were the target of four, the BROOKLYN to port, the OREGON on the port quarter, the IOWA on the stern and the NEW YORK on the starboard quarter, but the last two very close so that only the after 11-inch gun could answer the fire of the
IOWA and NEW YORK. The guns of the starboard turrets forward and aft were able to fire four or five rounds against the NEW YORK, but the fire was very uncertain because the latter ship, after firing from her port broadside, yawed at the stern.

It was at 9.35 o'clock, after we had come out of the harbor and were shaping our course for Punta Cabrera, that we first received the enemy's fire, and 11.50, when we could no longer fire with a single gun, I wanted to try whether we could ram the
BROOKLYN, which was the ship that harassed us most on the port side and which was nearest to us. To that end I put to port, but the BROOKLYN did the same, indicating she was going to use only her guns. The undersigned, with his head and shoulder was obliged to withdraw to have wounds dressed., Almost faint from loss of blood, he resigned his command for the time being to the executive officer, with clear and positive instructions not to surrender the ship but rather beach or burn her. In the sick bay I met Ensign Luis Fajardo, who was having a very serious wound in one of his arms dressed. When I asked him what was the matter with him he answered that they had wounded him in one arm, but that he still had one left for his country.

When the flow of blood of my wounds had been checked, I went back on deck and saw that the executive officer had issued orders to steer for the coast in order to run ashore, for we had no serviceable guns left and the fire at the stern had assumed such dimensions that it was utterly impossible to control it. This sad situation was still further complicated by a fire breaking out on the forward deck as the result of the bursting of a steam pipe and the explosion of one or more boilers of the for- ward group. Although the executive officer, Commander Manuel Roldán y Torres, had acted in accordance with instructions, without exceeding them, I immediately convened the officers who were nearest, among them Lieut. Commander Enrique Capriles, and asked them whether there was anyone among then who thought we could do anything more in the defense of our country and our honor, and the unanimous reply was that nothing more could be done.

In order that the battle flag might not become a trophy of the enemy, I at once gave orders to Ensign Luis Castro to hoist another and lower the former and burn it, which order was promptly carried out. At 12.15, under the galling fire of the four battle ships mentioned above, the cruiser VIZCAYA ran ashore on the shoals of Aserradero under circumstances which made it impossible to save the ship, not only on account of her position on the shoals and the nature of the latter, but also because I knew that all the magazines must necessarily explode, though there would be time for the rescue, and that was indeed what occurred.

As soon as the ship had been beached, the executive officer gave instructions to make all arrangements for the immediate rescue of the crews. Attempts were at made to lower the boats. When I found that only one was in serviceable condition, I ordered that it be used mainly for the transportation of the wounded , and I authorized all those who could swim or who had life-preservers or anything else sufficiently buoyant to keep them above water to jump in and try to gain  the reefs of the shoal, which was about 98 yards from the bow.

The rescue was effected in perfect order, in spite of the awe-inspiring aspect of the ship on fire, with the ammunition rooms exploding, the flames rising above the fighting tops and smokestacks, and with the side armor red-hot.  I wad taken ashore by the officers in the last boat that carried wounded, and was subsequently picked up by a United States boat, which carried me to the Iowa. The executive officer  told me afterwards that only the dead were left on board, as he had at the last moment directed the rescue of those who had taken refuge aft, and whom he had ordered to jump into the water and hold on to ropes which had previously been made fast, and there he and the others waited until they were picked up by our boat. The conduct of the captain, officers, and crew of the
IOWA, the ship to which the United States boats carried us, was extremely considerate. I was received with the guard drawn up. When I wanted to surrender my sword and revolver to the captain, he refused to receive them, saying that I had not surrendered to his ship, but to four battle ships, and that he had no right to accept them.

The conduct of our officers and crew has been truly brilliant, and many deeds of heroism which have been recorded will in due season form the subject of a special recommendation, if your excellency should so order.

Of the wounded taken to the
IOWA five died soon after arriving there, and were buried with the same honors with which the Americans bury their own dead, with the guard drawn up and with the discharge of three volleys of musketry. Al the prisoners were present at these ceremonies, which were conducted by the chaplain of the late VIZCAYA.

The foregoing is all I have the honor of reporting to your excellency upon the loss of my ship in a battle against four far superior ships without striking her colors nor permitting the enemy to set foot upon her deck, not even for the rescue. There are 98 men missing of her crew.

ANTONIO EULATE
(Prisoner of war).
ON THE SEA, ON BOARD THE AUXILIARY CRUISER ST. LOUIS,
July 6, 1898.



Bibliography:

Cerver y. Topete, Pascual, The Spanish American War: A Collection of Documents Relatove to the Squadron Operations in the West Indies. (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1899) 130 - 132.


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