The Spanish ironclad Numancia, the first ironclad to circumnavigate Earth, saw action in the Chincha Islands War ( 1864 to 1866 ) between Spain and her former colonies of Chile and Peru .
Both countries were caught off guard by the war, as most thought it would be solved diplomatically . If is doubtful Spain could have significantly improved its military assets even if it had zealously tried to do so. Its economy, much smaller than Americas to begin with, was already strained by its years of fighting insurrectionists in Cuba and the Philippines . It's armed forces were geared toward fighting rebels,or South American countries,such as in the Chincha Islands War not a major power such as America .The Spanish commanders in the field were for the most part were very fatalistic about their chances and more concerned with fighting with honor than dynamic, innovative thinking, while the overall commanders in Spain were forced to be wildly over optimistic due to political concerns . America, with its far greater resources and population has much less of an excuse for the sad state of it army, its navy however had been built up from the post Civil War decay .No real planning was initiated till the Maine sank to the bottom and the howls for war were heard from the public .
The Preparations of Spain
As noted above, the Spanish leaders hope the crisis would be solved diplomatically, somehow without really giving up Cuba . Spain misjudged the clamor for war in America after the sinking of the Maine, and thought things would blow over as they had under the Cleveland administration . A last minute scramble to get the other European powers to help solve the crisis came to nothing and Spain found itself at war with a first rate power, with a navy at least three times as strong as their own in tonnage and seriously outclassed in firepower . As a consequence it did not make the necessary efforts beforehand for a major war. Many ships were undermanned, needed repairs and new guns. Coastal batteries were obsolete, there weren't enough mines and torpedoes, etc .
The Plan of the Spanish Navy
Rear admiral Segismundo Bermejo ( 1832 - 1899 )
The overall commander of the Spanish Navy, called the Minister of Marine was Rear Admiral Segismundo Bermejo who was force by political circumstances to adopt a posture of unwarranted optimism, even though he understood the odds the Spanish navy faced in a war with America. His overall plan for the Spanish navy was to keep some vessels in Spain for defense of the homeland and use a squadron of ships consisting of the battleship Pelayo, the armored cruisers Carlos V, Cristobal Colon, Vizcaya, Almirante Oquendo and Infanta Maria Terasa, three destroyers and three torpedo boats as escort. These would join the eight ships in Cuba attack the naval base at Key West, destroy the American squadron in a decisive naval battle and blockade the American east coast . After the defeat of Montojo's squadron in Manila, popular riots in Madrid after the defeat led to the removal of Bermejo from office in May 16, 1898.
Admiral Cervera's fleet gathering at
the Cape Verde islands .
To this plan the commander of the Spanish naval squadron, Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete ( 1839 - 1909 ), was flabbergasted . He was very pessimistic about Spain's chances against the United States . He doubted the Pelayo and Carlos V, which were still being built or repaired , would be ready in time .The eight ships in Cuba would be worthless against the Americans. He urged peace at any price, even giving up Cuba, since there was no way it could be held and had cost too many men and material already . However, the Spanish government would not give up Cuba and Bermejo insisted that the Spanish crews were better trained than the Americans and that the Pelayo and Carlos V would be ready in time . Spain would follow the Bermejo plan, starting April 1 the Spanish squadron consisting of Cristobal Colon, Vizcaya, Almirante Oquendo and Infanta Maria Terasa,three destroyers and three torpedo boat would starting massing at the Cape Verde Islands . It is hard to believe that Bermejo and prime minister Sagasta would be so blind to the true situation, they may have hoped that a show of strength would convince the Americans to return to negotiations .They may have also feared surrender or giving up Cuba without a fight would lead to civil war in Spain, leading to many more deaths than a short war with America. The most powerful ship, the Cristobal Colon did not have its main 10 inch guns . After Spain declared war on April 23, it would have to leave Cape Verde in 24 hours as it was Portuguese territory and neutral . So, instead of sending one large, powerful force, Spain divided its navy .
the Ministry of the Marine realized Dewey's squadron would attack the Philippines several months before the war . A German consul in Hong Kong learned of it and passed the information to Spain .The admiral there, Commander Patrico Montojo ( 1839 -1917 ), knew his squadron could not defeat Dewey's or prevent the bombardment of the city . Bermejo, ordered him to mine the ports with torpedoes, to which Montojo replied ' You know I have no torpedoes, I will do what I can .' One wonders if maybe Bermejo sent the message hoping it would be intercepted .
The Preparations of the United States
The Cadiz coastal defense guns, part of the reason
not to attack Spain itself
Despite fears from Atlantic coast cities of raids by Spanish warships, Theodore Roosevelt and his senior naval officers decided to blockade Cuba under the command of Captain Samson and find the Spanish fleet enroute there or to Porto Rico. An attack upon Spain itself was considered but demeaned too risky until Cervera's fleet was found and destroyed . From March 16 to August 12, the navy acquired 103 ships.
To acquire information on the Spanish fleet the Navy set up an intelligence in Europe which provided useful information such as the activities of Admiral's Camar's squadron in Spain .
Commodore Dewey would attack Spanish ships in Manila .
The army need time to mobilize the large force of 275,000 McKinley authorized with the $50,000,000 war bill, there only being 28,183 men in the army at the time of the war .