Sunday, July 26, 2015

That headline, Wikipedia, is HORRIBLY MISLEADING.

Frankly, there was no two-month American "bombardment" of Puerto Rico.

The first engagement of any kind between U.S. and Spanish forces in Puerto Rico occurred on May 10. The USS Yale, an ocean liner converted to naval ship, captured a Spanish cruiser, the Rita, in San Juan harbor on May 8. A second Spanish ship attacked the Yale on May 9, and the Spanish shore batteries fired on the Yale on May 10, driving her off.

A single bombardment of the capital of San Juan occurred on May 12, 1898. The U.S. North Atlantic Squadron sailed into the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it was believed that the Spanish Atlantic Squadron had anchored. The Spanish were not there (having sailed directly to Santiago de Cuba, a port in Cuba), but Rear Admiral William T. Sampson orders the city bombed anyway. Somewhere between nine and 39 people died, including one Spanish soldier. One American sailor was killed. Destruction was scattered and light.

The tragedy of the bombardment of San Juan was that it was completely unnecessary. Sampson had no orders to bombard the city, and any U.S. invasion was months (perhaps as much as a year) off. Cuba was the first concern. At any rate, at least the damage and loss of life was minimal.

A naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 22, when the cruiser USS Saint Paul, commanded by Captain Charles D. Sigsbee (former commander of the USS Maine), disabled the Spanish Navy destroyer Terror while blockading San Juan, Puerto Rico. No attack on the island occurred.

Another naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 28. President McKinley extended the American naval blockade of Cuba to include a blockade of Puerto Rico. The cruiser USS Yosemite attacked the Spanish Navy transport Antonio Lopez, which was defended by the Spanish cruisers Isabel II and Alfonso XIII. Although the Antonio Lopez ran aground near the city of San Juan and was destroyed, most of her cargo (including heavy artillery) was saved by the Spanish. (The Antonio Lopez would be shelled and destroyed by the USS New Orleans on July 15.)

And that's it. Period. No "over two months of bombardment". Spanish forces in Cuba capitulated on July 17 after the Siege of Santiago de Cuba -- which effectively ended land combat in Cuba for the duration of the war. (Five very, very minor naval and ship-to-shore engagements occurred thereafter.)

The American land invasion of Puerto Rico began on July 25 when U.S. forces came ashore at Guánica. No shots were fired. On July 27, three U.S. Navy ships secured the surrender of the city of Ponce, and again no shots were fired. The port of Arroyo surrendered without a fight on August 1.

And that's it. All other combat in Puerto Rico was land-based and involved no naval vessels. The U.S. and Spain signed an armistice on August 12, and the last battle fought in Puerto Rico occurred near the town of Las Marías when U.S. and Spanish forces briefly skirmished. (Three military engagements still occurred, however. The USS Newark, USS Hist, USS Suwanee, USS Alvarado, and USS Osceola -- at sea and not aware of the armistice -- bombarded the Cuban port of Manzanillo and captured it the night of August 12-13. News of the armistice did not reach the Philippines in time, and U.S. troops captured the city of Manila on August 13. On August 14, the USS Mangrove fired on two Spanish Navy ships off Caibarién, Cuba. The Spanish surrendered, and explained that an armistice has been signed.)

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