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Former Spanish Gunboats in Cuban Service 

Notes by Alfredo E. Figueredo

Armada Cubana Base Armada Cubana en 1910
En 1920 En 1930
Los cuatro cañoneros construidos en La Habana por el Programa Naval de José Miguel Gómez (1911). El Cañonero Baire - 1906-1943
Antiguos Cañoneros Españoles al Servicio de Cuba - A.E. Figueredo El Caribe en la 2ª Guerra Mundial - Las Armadas Caribeñas en la lucha contra los U-Boats Guerra Mundial.


         The former Spanish gunboat Baracoa, scuttled by her own crew at the mouth of the Mayarí River on 21 June 1898 when attacked by the US gunboats Wasp, Topeka and Leyden, was raised by General Leonard Wood, military governor of Oriente province.  Upon entering Cuban service, she was given the name of Céspedes, the third ship so called.1  After a brief useful life, Céspedes was lost in Octuber, 1910, sunk by a hurricane near Arroyos de Mantua, Pinar del Río.  The captain, the engineer and some crewmen died.

          Gálvez Aguilera mentions that Céspedes was launched in 1895, and her steel hull measured 20 m. length, 3.75 beam, displacing 40 t., with an engine of 200 h.p., a speed of 10 knots and a sailing radius of 800 miles; she mounted a gun, 4.2 cm., with a crew of 22 men.  She forgot to mention that this craft is of the Almendares-class of seven gunboats, of British construction.  Her measurements, according to Sainte Hubert,3 were 40 t., 20 m x 2.65 m. x 1.2 m.; Jane’s Fighting Ships in addition reports that she carried 110 tons of coal, had a maximum speed of 12 knots, and mounted a 3.7 cm. gun.4  The 4.2 cm. gun was one of the González Hontoria system, replaced later with one somewhat smaller, seemingly a Hotchkiss model.   

         Another Spanish gunboat was the former Guardián.  Gálvez Aguilera says she was launched in 1895, with a steel hull, 65 t., 30 m. length, 5.19 beam, an engine of 200 h.p., a speed of 10 knots and a sailing radius of 500 miles; she had a Hotchkiss 3.7 cm. gun.  She was forced aground on the coast of Manzanillo on 18 July 1898 by the U.S. warships Hist, Hornet, Wompatuck, Scorpion, Helene, Wilmington and Osceola during one of the actions in front of that port.  Later floated, she was sent to the customs at Cienfuegos, where the shipping magnate Antinógenes Menéndez made a gift of her to the Coastguard Service under the name of Ignacio Agramonte . 5

         According to Sainte Hubert, the only Guardián around that date in Spanish service was one built in Brooklyn by the Delameter yard in 1869, with a wooden hull, 179 t., 32.51 m. x 6.76 m. x 1.70 m., then armed with a Parrott muzzle-loading gun of 100 lbs. (16 cm.); stricken from service in 1889.6 

         The two gunboat classes built between 1895 and 1896, with steel hulls, were the Alerta-class (12 units), of 43 t., and the Almendares-class (7 units), of 40 t.  The Alerta-class included Alerta, Ardilla, Cometa, Estrella, Flecha, Fradera, Gaviota, Golondrina, Ligera, Lince, Satélite, and Vigía.  The Almendares-class included Almendares, Baracoa, Cauto, El Dependiente, Guantánamo, Mayarí, and Yumurí.7   

         Some of the new gunboats of 1895-1896 took on the old names of the 1869 series.  Even though a new Guardián does not appear in some sources, this is due to our ship being an auxiliary gunboat, one of the 10 bought by the Spanish Navy in Cuba and the U.S. between 1895 and 1896.  It was the former Azteca, of the company of A. Menéndez; this second Guardián was built in 1893 in New York; she had a steel hull, displaced 65 tons and mounted a Nordenfeldt rapid-fire gun, of 4.7 cm./42 cal., and three machine guns.8  

         These are the specs of the latter Guardián pursuant to Jane’s Fighting Ships in 1919: formerly Spanish, 1895, 45 tons, a 1 lb. gun [3.7 cm.], a speed of 11 knots, 10 tons of coal.9  But 45, not 65 tons, and a speed between that given by Gálvez Aguilera and that given by Mitiuckov.  

         The former Spanish gunboat Intrépida, took the name of Antonio Maceo in the Coast Guard Service.  I believe she is the first Cuban warship so called.  It is a similar case to Ignacio Agramonte; she does not appear in the construction lists of 1869 or of 1895-1896.  Besides informing us that she comes from the customs at Cienfuegos, Gálvez Aguilera does not offer any more data on this ship. 10   

         Intrépida was one of the 10 yachts acquired as auxiliary gunboats by the Spanish Navy between 1895 and 1896.  Mitiuckov tells us that she displaced 25 tons.11  

         Jane’s Fighting Ships in 1924, under Maceo, states: former Spanish gunboat, 1896, wooden hull, 35 tons, 75 x 10 x 5 ½ feet, a 1 lb. gun [3.7 cm.], speed 10 knots, 8 tons of coal.9  This information from Janes, in this case, seems preferable to that given by Mitiuckov.   


1 The first Céspedes in Cuban service was an expeditionary steamship, the former blockade-runner Lilian, under the command of Domingo Goicuría, seized as a prize by HMS Sapring on 16 December 1869 near Nassau, New Providence.  Later that same Céspedes was acquired by the Spanish Navy and given the name of Victoria de las Tunas; she was lost on her first outing as a ship of that Navy, running into a hurricane before Mariel in November of 1870.  The second Céspedes in Cuban service was the mail steamship Moctezuma, captured by Leoncio Prado in November, 1877 while stopping at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and, under the Cuban flag, was baptized with that name.  This other Céspedes was surprised off the coast of Honduras by the Spanish warship Jorge Juan on 3 January 1878, and Prado, “lacking coal and offensive and defensive means, ordered that the ship be set on fire…” Morales Coello, La importancia del poder naval, passim, p. 52.   

2 Early Spanish Steam Warships, p. 43. 

3 Parkes and Prendergast, Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1919, p. 469. 

4 Sainte Hubert, Early Spanish Steam Warships, idem. 

5 Gálvez Aguilera, Marina de Guerra, p. 5. 

6 Sainte Hubert, Early Spanish Steam Warships, idem. 

7 Ibidem

8 Mitiuckov, Spanish Auxiliary Gunboats, s.v

9 Parkes and Prendergast, Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1919, idem

10 Gálvez Aguilera, Marina de Guerra, p. 5. 

11 Mitiuckov, ibidem.                                           

Works Consulted       

Balbis Torregrosa, Pelayo.  Historia de la Marina de Guerra Cubana.  Miami: Isa Printing & Binding Corp., 2001. 

Gálvez Aguilera, Milagros.  Expediciones navales en la guerra de los Diez Años: 1868-1878.  La Habana: Ediciones Verde Olivo, 2000. 

Gálvez Aguilera, Milagros.  La Marina de Guerra en Cuba (1909-1958).  Primera Parte.  La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Historia, 2007. 

Lledó Calabuig, José.  Buques de vapor de la Armada española: del vapor de ruedas a la fragata acorazada, 1834-1885.  Madrid: Agualarga Editores, S.L., 1998/ 

Mitiuckov, Nick.  Spanish Auxiliary Gunboats. The Spanish American War Centennial Website: http://www.spanamwar.com/spanauxgunboats.htm. 

Morales Coello, Julio.  La importancia del poder naval – positivo y negativo – en el desarrollo y en la Independencia de Cuba.  La Habana: Academia de la Historia de Cuba, 1950. 

Parkes, Oscar, and Francis E. McMurtrie, eds.  Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1924.  Reprinted by Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York. 

Parkes, Oscar, and Maurice Prendergast, eds.  Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1919.  Reprinted by Arco Publishing Company Inc., New York. 

Sainte Hubert, Christian de.  Early Spanish Steam Warships.  Part II. Warship International, vol. XXI (1984), No. 1, pp. 21-45. 


Este sitio es publicado por Carlos Mey -  Martínez - Argentina