This past year the second supplement for the Pre-dread period was releases "Rise of the Battleship II" which includes data for the Spansih American war ships as well as many other fleets from around the world. As a result of these rules My interest has really peaked in this time period and I have done much reading on the subject. It is a very interesting period in world history when batttleships were making their presence known on the world stage and battleship diplomancy was becoming the symbol of a nations military strenght.
Below is a history of the Battle of Santiago De Cuba along with pictures of my 1/2400 scale fleets that I use to game this and other famous engagements along with many "what if" ahistorical battles. In school I was taught that the Spanish American war was were America made a debut on the world stage defeating a world power. Going back now and reading what what not in the text books it is clear that the United States was already a world power and that the outcome of that war was never in question from a military standpoint.
The historical text below comes from the wikepedia entry on the battle.
The Spanish realized that the war would be decided by the campaign in Cuba. Even before the opening of hostilities, Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete had been dispatched from Spain with the ultimate destination of Cuba. At best, the Spanish hoped to show the flag in their largest remaining New World colony; at worst, they hoped to have a force prepared to meet the powerful U.S. Navy.
|Admiral Pascual Cervera|
However, it is evident from the records of the time and from Cervera's own writings that the Spanish admiral had the feeling that he was sailing to his doom. The breech mechanisms in many of the Spanish guns were dangerously faulty, causing jams and other mishaps. Many of the ships' boilers were in need of repair; several ships, including the armored cruiser Vizcaya, desperately needed bottom-cleaning as they were suffering from extra drag due to fouling. Worse yet, many of the gun crews were out of practice, having little experience with firing live rounds due to naval budget cuts since the Rif War in 1893-1894 and funding priority given to the Spanish Army. The most well-protected ship in Cervera's fleet, the second-generation armored cruiser Cristobal Colon, had not even had her main battery installed and carried wooden dummy guns instead.
- It is impossible for me to give you an idea of the surprise and consternation experienced by all on the receipt of the order to sail. Indeed, that surprise is well justified, for nothing can be expected of this expedition except the total destruction of the fleet or its hasty and demoralized return.
|Cristobal Colon (left) and Vizcaya|
Cervera managed to evade the U.S. fleet for several weeks, confounding his American counterparts and managing to re-coal in the process. Meanwhile Villaamil, who was in disagreement with both the Spanish Government's shaky war direction and Cervera's rather passive strategy, advocated trying to offset the superiority of the American forces by scattering the fleet and taking the initiative through quick and dispersed actions; he even volunteered to lead a diversionary attack to New York with his destroyers, but his proposals were not accepted.
Finally, on 29 May, after several misadventures, Cristóbal Colón was spotted in the harbor at Santiago de Cuba by an American squadron.
|Rear Admiral William T. Sampson|
With the exception of Commodore George Dewey's squadron in the Pacific, nearly every warship in the United States Navy was near or on its way to Cuba. Only a handful of reactivated American Civil War era monitors and cutters of the United States Revenue Cutter Service remained to defend the U.S. coastline.
The primary elements of the U.S. force in Cuban waters were divided between two men: Rear Admiral William T. Sampson of the North Atlantic Squadron and Commodore Winfield Scott Schley and the "Flying Squadron".
On the morning of 29 May, Cervera's squadron was sighted inside the safety of Santiago Bay, Cuba, by elements of the "Flying Squadron". On 31 May, Schley was joined by Sampson, who took command of the situation and instructed a general blockade.
US North Atlantic Squadron - Rear Admiral William T. Sampson
•Armored Cruiser USS New York (flagship)
Stand-off in Santiago Harbor
So long as Cervera remained within Santiago Harbor, his fleet was relatively safe. The guns of the city were quite sufficient to make up for deficiencies in his own, and the area was well defended with sea mines, torpedoes and other obstructions. Nevertheless, Cervera was terribly outmatched. Though his ships were modern, they were too few, and their technical problems compounded his worries. The failure of Cuba's governor to assist with the repairs of the vessels in Cervera's squadron made the situation all the more desperate.
For more than a month, the two fleets faced off, with only a few inconclusive skirmishes resulting. For his part, Cervera was content to wait, hoping for bad weather to scatter the Americans so that he could make a run to a position more favorable for engaging the enemy. However, U.S. land forces began to drive on Santiago de Cuba, and by the end of June 1898, Cervera found himself unable to remain safely in the harbor. He would have to break out immediately if the fleet was to be saved.
The breakout was planned for 09:00 on Sunday, 3 July. This seemed the most logical time: the Americans would be at religious services, and waiting until night would only serve to make the escape that much more treacherous. By noon on Saturday, 2 July, the fleet had a full head of steam and had fallen into position for the breakout.
At about 08:45, just as his ships had slipped their moorings, Admiral Sampson and two ships of his command, his flagship, the armored cruiser USS New York, and the torpedo boat USS Ericsson had left their positions for a trip to Siboney and a meeting with Major General William Shafter of the U.S. Army. This opened a gap in the western portion of the American blockade line, leaving a window for Cervera.
Sampson's New York was one of only two ships in the squadron fast enough to catch Cervera if he managed to break through the blockade. Further, the battleship USS Massachusetts had left that morning to coal. With the departure of Admiral Sampson, who had signaled "Disregard movements of flagship," immediate command devolved to Commodore Schley in armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, which now became the de facto flagship of the U.S. blockade.
Thus, the American blockade formation that morning consisted of Schley's Brooklyn, followed by the battleships USS Texas, Oregon, Iowa and Indiana and auxiliary cruisers USS Vixen and Gloucester.
At 09:35, the navigator of Brooklyn sighted a plume of smoke coming from the mouth of the port. He anxiously signaled the rest of the fleet:
The models pictured above are 1/2400 scale resin models produced by Panzerschiffe.
The picture at the right shows the models before they were painted. I have used Panzerschiffe for just about all my Pre-dread fleets because they are very affordable and have a decent amount of detail.
In my opinion the only thing lacking for detail in these models is the lack of masts. As a result through researching the web, time and patience I have added the masts you see in the pcitures. The process I use is fairly simple. I use various thickness of piano wire whichI purchase from the hobby store. I then drill small holes in the model at the appropriate locations and insert the guage wire I want to use making sure it is a tight fit. If it is a two part mast I then glue and upper section to the lower thicher wire. I usually paint the wire first as the glue seems to bond better for a quick hold. In order to model the crows nest I use a thin sheet of styrene. I drill an approprite size hole in the styrene and then use a standard paper hole puch center it over the drilled hole and punch it out. This is then slid over the mast an glued in place. Overall I think the masts really add alot to the collection and bring out some eye popping detail on the gaming table especially at the 1/2400 scale.
Once the models are completely painted to my satifaction I mount them on 1"x 3" metal bases that have been pre-pianted. I use metal bases as my storage trays are lines with magnetic sheets to hold them in place for safe transport. Once mounted I add the labels and some wakes for visual effect. Once complete and dry I spray all my military models with two light coats of testors dull coat to seal them and provide a protective coating.
At this time I have the complete order of battle for the above battle as well as the Battle of Manilla bay. The rules I use are Naval Thunder Rise of the Battle ship. I only had the opportunity to sail these ships once since I completed them (See "Remeber the Maine" post). What I learned when comparing the stats is that gaming the Spanish American war is a severly lopsided affair when using historical OoB. As a result when I return home I plan to add several more spanish units for more "What if" gaming action like I did in 'Remeber the Maine" on a larger scale.
Until next time.........