Spanish cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa
Infanta Maria Teresa, probably in 1895 at the opening ceremonies of the Kiel Canal in Germany
|Career||Armada Española Ensign|
|Name:||Infanta Maria Teresa|
|Namesake:||Princess Maria Theresa of Spain (1638-1683)|
|Launched:||30 August 1890|
|Fate:||Sunk 3 July 1898; captured and later refloated by the U.S. Navy, but lost in a storm while under tow.|
|Class and type:||Infanta Maria Teresa-class|
|Length:||364 ft 0 in (110.95 m)|
|Beam:||65 ft 2 in (19.86 m)|
|Draft:||21 ft 6 in (6.55 m) maximum|
|Installed power:||13,700 ihp|
|Propulsion:||2-shaft vertical triple expansion|
|Speed:||20.2 knots (forced draft)|
|Complement:||484 officers and enlisted|
2 × 11 inch (280 mm) guns|
10 × 5.5 inch (140 mm) guns
8 × 12 pdr quick-firing guns
10 x 3 pdr Hotchkiss revolvers
8 x Nordenfeld machine guns,
2 x Maxim machine guns, br />8 × torpedo tubes (2 submerged)
Belt: 12-10 in (30.5-25.4 cm);|
Barbettes 9 in (22.9 cm)
Conning tower 12 in (30.5 cm)
deck 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm)
|Notes:||1,050 tons of coal (normal)|
Infanta Maria Teresa was built at Bilbao, Spain. She was laid down in 1889, launched on 30 August 1890, and completed in 1893. She had two funnels and was fast and well armed. Her main armament was mounted on the center line in single barbettes fore and aft. Her armor was poor: her 11-inch guns had only lightly armored hoods, her 5.5-inch guns were mounted in the open on the upper deck, her armor belt was thin and protected only two-thirds of her length, and she had a high, unprotected freeboard that took much damage during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba. Like other nineteenth-century warships, she was heavily furnished and decorated with wood, which the Spanish failed to remove prior to combat and which would feed fires during the battle.
Infanta Maria Theresa was flagship of Vice Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete, commander of the Spanish Navy's 1st Squadron, when tensions with the United States were rising after the explosion and sinking of the battleship USS Maine in the harbor at Havana, Cuba on 15 February 1898. The squadron concentrated at São Vicente in Portugal's Cape Verde Islands; departing Cadiz on 8 April 1898 Infanta Maria Teresa, armored cruiser Cristóbal Colón, and three destroyers arrived at São Vicente on 14 April 1898, experiencing machinery problems and burning excessive amounts of coal during the voyage. As more ships arrived over the next few days, it was noted that the 5.5-inch guns aboard Infanta Maria Theresa had defective breach mechanisms and had been supplied with defective ammunition, and that the fleet had a shortage of stokers.
The Spanish-American War began while Infanta Maria Teresa was at São Vicente. Ordered by neutral Portugal in accordance with international law to leave São Vicente within 24 hours of the declaration of war, Infanta Maria Teresa and the rest of Cervera's squadron departed on 29 April 1898, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cervera's ships reached French-owned Martinique in the Lesser Antilles on 10 May 1898. While Infanta Maria Teresa and the other large ships loitered in international waters, two Spanish destroyers went into Fort-de-France to ask for coal. France was neutral and would not supply coal, so the Spanish squadron departed on 12 May 1898 for Dutch-owned Curacao, where Cervera expected to meet a collier. Cervera arrived at Willemstad on 14 May, but the Netherlands also was neutral, and strictly enforced its neutrality by allowing only Infanta Maria Teresa and her sister ship Vizcaya to enter port and permitting them to load only 600 tons of coal. On 15 May, Cervera's ships departed, no longer bound for San Juan, which by now was under a U.S. Navy blockade, but for as-yet unblockaded Santiago de Cuba on the southeastern coast of Cuba, arriving there on 19 May 1898. Cervera hoped to refit his ships there before he could be trapped. His squadron was still in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba when an American squadron arrived on 27 May 1898 and began a blockade which would drag on for 37 days.
The blockade wore on, with Infanta Maria Teresa and the others enduring occasional American naval bombardments of the harbor. Infanta Maria Teresa still faced a serious problem with her 5.5-inch-gun ammunition, 80 percent of which defective.. Some of her men joined others from the fleet in a Naval Brigade to fight against a U.S. Army overland drive toward Santiago de Cuba.
By the beginning of July 1898, that drive threatened to capture Santiago de Cuba, and Cervera decided that his squadron's only hope was to try to escape into the open sea by running the blockade. The decision was made on 1 July 1898, with the break-out set for 3 July 1898. The crew of Infanta Maria Teresa spent 2 July 1898 returning from Naval Brigade service and preparing for action. With Vice Admiral Cervera aboard, Infanta Maria Teresa was to lead the escape, sacrificing herself by attacking the fastest American ship, armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, allowing the rest of the squadron to avoid action and run westward for the open sea.
As lead ship in the Spanish line, Infanta Maria Teresa was the first ship to receive concentrated fire from the blockading U.S. Navy squadron. With Vizcaya close behind her and the other Spanish ships turning hard to starboard to flee to the west, Infanta Maria Teresa charged Brooklyn as if to ram, closing the range to 600 yards (550 meters) by 1005 hours, forcing Brooklyn to turn away to the east. Infanta Maria Teresa turned west, brushing past the last obstacle in her path, the armed yacht USS Vixen, as battleship USS Iowa came up at a range of 2,600 yards (2,377 m) to port, with battleships USS Oregon and USS Indiana close behind Iowa. A general engagement ensued, with the U.S. ships to starboard of Infanta Maria Theresa and both sides firing everything they could.
One of the first shells Iowa fired hit the after main-battery turret of Infanta Maria Teresa, killing or wounding its crew and knocking out its gun. Infanta Maria Teresa had already taken many hits, and now Brooklyn and battleship USS Texas began to hit her repeatedly. Fires broke out, threatening to detonate her ammunition magazines. Seeing no hope for the ship and wishing to save as many of her crew as possible, Cervera at 1020 hours ordered her to beach herself. She turned to starboard, grounded at 1025 hours a few miles west of Santiago de Cuba and just west of Punta Cabrera, struck her colors, and flooded her magazines to prevent a catastrophic explosion.
Some of her sailors made it ashore, although they had to beware of Cuban insurgents, who began to shoot the survivors of the wrecked Spanish ships. Others were rescued by American sailors who brought small boats alongside the wrecks to take off survivors.
After the war, the U.S. Navy refloated Infanta Maria Teresa in the hope of putting her into service. She was towed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for preliminary repairs, then taken under tow by repair ship USS Vulcan en route Norfolk, Virginia, where her repairs could be completed. Caught in a storm during the voyage, she began to founder. Repair ship Merritt took off her crew, and Infanta Maria Teresa sank between two reefs off Cat Island in the Bahamas with a broken back, a total loss.
- The Spanish-American War Centennial Website: Infanta Maria Teresa
- Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905, p. 382
- Nofi, p. 58, p. 78
- Nofi, p. 78
- Nofi recounts Cervera's voyage p. 80 and p. 83-86
- Nofi, p. 163, claims that Infanta Maria Teresa suffered 35 hits and the death of her executive officer during an American bomdardment on 6 June 1898, but Cervera's papers, p. 101, and The Spanish-American War Centennial Website: Reina Mercedes both ascribe this damage and the death to cruiser Reina Mercedes
- Nofi, p. 169
- Nofi mentions the Naval Brigade on p. 146 and p. 172
- Nofi discusses Cevera's plan on p. 172-173
- Nofi, p. 175
- Nofi p. 176-177
- Nofi, p. 177-178
- Nofi, p. 183
- Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, Eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905. New York, New York: Mayflower Books Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
- Nofi, Albert A. The Spanish-American War, 1898. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania:Combined Books, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0938289578.
- The Spanish-American War Centennial Website: Infanta Maria Teresa
- Department of the Navy: Naval Historical Center: Online Library of Selected Images: Spanish Navy Ships: Infanta Maria Teresa (Armored Cruiser, 1890-1898)