Battle of Santiago 1898
The American ships
The American fleet included the bulk of that nation's armored ships, including the Oregon which had been transferred from the Pacific fleet during the war.
The battleships were smaller than rival European battleships but were very heavily armed and had thick armor. The sacrifice was in seaworthiness, although the Oregon managed to pass from the Pacific to the Atlantic around South America (this was pre-Panama Canal).
The Texas was a second-class battleship much inferior to the Oregon type; it was similar to the Brazilian battleships, and also comparable to the Maine (sunk before the war).
The armored cruisers Brooklyn and New York were fast and heavily armed, but their side-armor was thin compared to most later armored cruisers. (At this time, however, the British had abandoned side armor in first class cruisers to building oversized protected-deck cruisers, and so in this context the Brooklyn's armor scheme was not so extreme.) Most of the smaller American cruisers and monitors were engaged in other areas of the Caribbean, since the only dangerous Spanish ships were trapped here.
The Spanish ships
The Spanish armored cruisers of the 'Maria Theresa' class were fairly strong, moderately-sized ships based on a British design. These ships had a powerful main armament for armored cruisers--equivalent to a second-class battleship--but this was insufficient in the face of the overwhelming number of heavy guns on the American battleships and armored cruisers. The armor belt was thick, but did not cover enough area on the ships' sides, making them vulnerable.
The Cristobal Colon was an Italian-built armored cruiser. This class of moderately-sized ships was very well-built, and were sold to Argentina and Japan as well as Spain and Italy. Unfortunately the Colon had been rushed into battle by the Spanish without its main weapons.
All of these ships suffered from wear-and-tear and poor supplies, which decreased their speed compared to the rival American ships.
The would also burn rapidly due to the woodwork that had not been cleared from the superstructures.
The protected cruiser Reina Mercedes was also present; this was a sister-ship to the Reina Cristina in Manila. This ship did not participate in the battle and was scuttled later. Another sister-ship was also in the spanish Caribbean defense squadron, but was in Havana, not Santiago. The destroyers (one of the original three had been left behind before reaching Cuba due to a mechanical breakdown) were supposedly fast, dangerous enemies but here were easily wiped out by the American firepower.
MORE DETAILED INFORMATION
An account of the battle at the Spanish-American War website
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