Spanish cruiser Castilla

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Castilla class cruiser
An unidentified Aragon-class (here called Castila-class) cruiser in the 1880s or 1890s, showing the appearance of Castilla
Armada Española EnsignSpain
Name: Castilla
Namesake: Castile, an historical region of Spain
Ordered: 1869
Builder: La Carraca shipyard, Cadiz, Spain
Laid down: May 1869
Launched: August 1881[1]
Completed: 1881 or 1882[2]
Commissioned: 1882
Fate: Sunk 1 May 1898
General characteristics
Class and type: Aragon-class unprotected cruiser
Displacement: 3,289 tons
Length: 236 ft 0 in (71.93 m)
Beam: 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)
Draft: 23 ft 6 in (7.16 m) maximum
Installed power: 1,400 ihp (1,000 kW)
Propulsion: 1-shaft, 3-cylinder, horizontal compound
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Complement: 392 officers and enlisted
  • As completed, included 8 x 8 in (203 mm) 180-pounder rifled muzzle-loading guns
  • By 1885:
  • 4 × 5.9 in (150 mm) guns
  • 2 × 4.7 in (119 mm) breech-loading guns
  • 2 × 87 mm guns
  • 4 × 75 mm guns
  • 10 × machine guns
  • 2 × 14 in (356 mm) torpedo tubes
Notes: 460 tons of coal (normal)

Castilla was an Aragon-class unprotected cruiser of the Spanish Navy that fought in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War.

Technical characteristics[edit]

Castilla was built at Cadiz, Spain. Her construction as an armored corvette with a central battery ironclad design began in 1869, with plans to give her 890 tons of armor and 500 millimetres (19.7 in) of armor at the waterline. In 1870, her design was changed to that of an unprotected cruiser or wooden corvette, and, after political events delayed her construction,[3] she finally was launched in this form in 1881[4] and completed in 1882.[5] Her original conception as an armored ship and the change to an unarmored one during construction left her with an overly heavy wooden hull that was obsolescent by the time of her launch.[6]

She had two funnels and was rigged as a barque.[6] Her machinery was manufactured at the naval shipyard at Ferrol.[5] The original main battery of Armstrong-built 8-inch (203 mm) guns was obsolescent when she was completed, and were quickly replaced with more modern Krupp-built guns, with the 5.9-inch (150 mm) guns mounted in sponsons.[6] Designed for colonial service, she was never intended to fight the kind of heavily armed, armored, steel-hulled warships she would face in the Battle of Manila Bay.[5]

Operational history[edit]

Castilla was commissioned in 1882. She spent her early years in Spanish waters as a part of the Spanish Navy's Instructional Squadron, making several courtesy visits to Mediterranean ports.[5]

In 1890, Castilla was sent to the Philippines to reinforce the Asiatic Squadron. During the first two years of the Philippine Revolution in 1896–1897, referred to by colonial Spaniards as the "Tagalog Revolt", Castilla patrolled to intercept contraband destined for the Philippine insurgents and supported Spanish Army forces fighting ashore in Cavite Province on Luzon.[5]

When the Spanish–American War broke out in April 1898, Castilla was part of the squadron of Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón in Manila Bay. At 1100 hours on 25 April 1898, Castilla and five other ships of the squadron set out for Subic Bay, where Montojo hoped to take advantage of minefields and shore batteries in the likely event of an attack by U.S. Navy forces on his squadron. During the voyage, Castilla began to take on water through her propeller shaft housing. Her machinery and boilers had been in such poor shape that she was capable only of low speed already, and the only method of stopping the flooding—plugging the hole with concrete—immobilized her propeller shaft, leaving her to rely on sails or towing for propulsion. Montojo's flagship, the unprotected cruiser Reina Cristina, took her under tow.[7]

In this 1898 painting of the Battle of Manila Bay by J. G. Tyler, Castilla is the second ship from the left.

Arriving at Subic Bay, Montojo found that few of the mines had been laid and the shore batteries had not yet been mounted. At 1030 hours on 29 April 1898, Montojo's ships departed Subic Bay to return to Manila Bay, where shore batteries could support Montojo's squadron and where the shallow water might reduce the loss of life if the Spanish ships were sunk; Castilla again was towed by Reina Cristina on this return voyage. The squadron anchored later that day in Cañacao Bay off Sangley Point, in the lee of the Cavite Peninsula, about 8 miles (13 km) southeast of Manila.[8] Unprotected cruiser Don Juan de Austria made a quick trip to Manila to procure small craft, such as lighters, small boats, and barges, to be tied up alongside Castilla to protect her wooden hull from hostile gunfire.[9] Castilla also was sandbagged along the side exposed to enemy fire.[5]

The wreck of Castilla, with Dewey's squadron and merchant ships in the background.

At 0400 hours on 1 May 1898, Montojo signaled the anchored squadron to prepare for imminent action. The U.S. Navy's Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey was sighted approaching the anchorage at 0445 hours. Castilla and the other Spanish ships opened fire at 0520 hours, beginning the Battle of Manila Bay, the first major action of the Spanish–American War.[10]

A view aboard the wreck of Castilla.

Dewey's squadron made a series of slow firing passes at the Spanish squadron.[11] Still unable to get underway, Castilla had to fight it out at anchor. She had not been repainted, and still sported her peacetime white sides and yellow funnels, making her an easy and attractive target for American gunners. At 0630 hours, Castilla had one 5.9-inch (150 mm) and one 4.7-inch (119 mm) gun disabled by an American shell hit, which also killed several of her crew. American shellfire cut her anchor cables, and she drifted to expose her unprotected side to Dewey's squadron. Three 8-inch (203 mm) hits started a large fire, which by 0715 had begun to destroy her deck, and she was ordered abandoned at 0830;[12] unprotected cruiser Don Juan de Austria rendered assistance to Castilla under enemy fire.[9]

Hit by five 8-inch and 6-inch (152 mm), twelve 5-inch (127 mm), and about 33 smaller shells, Castilla soon sank, a total loss, having suffered 23 to 25 men killed and 80 wounded during the battle.[5]

Trophy cannon[edit]

In 1902, one of the breech-loading guns from Castilla was presented by Oscar F. Williams, U.S. Consul at Manila, to the city of Rochester, New York. It is currently located in Highland Park in Rochester. The Vermont State House features a pair of the same cannon, with an almost identical plaque, as decoration on the front lawn. The only difference in the plaque is the parts pertaining to the locality the gun was presented to.


  1. ^ Castilla at the Spanish–American War Centennial website claims an 1879 launch, but Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 383, claims 1881 and Spanish Wooden Cruisers at the Spanish–American War Centennial website specifies August 1881
  2. ^ Castilla at the Spanish–American War Centennial website claims completion in 1881, while Spanish Wooden Cruisers at the Spanish-American War Centennial website claims completion in 1882.
  3. ^ Castilla, the Spanish–American War Centennial website, and Spanish Wooden Cruisers, the Spanish–American War Centennial website
  4. ^ Castilla at the Spanish–American War Centennial website claims the launch year was 1879, but Spanish Wooden Cruisers at the Spanish–American War Centennial website and Conway's All the World's Fighting Ship 1860–1905, p. 383, set the year as 1881
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Castilla the Spanish–American War Centennial website
  6. ^ a b c Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 383
  7. ^ Nofi, pp. 69–70; Castilla, the Spanish–American War Centennial website
  8. ^ Nofi, pp. 17, 70
  9. ^ a b Don Juan de Austria, the Spanish–American War Centennial website
  10. ^ Nofi, p. 20
  11. ^ Nofi, pp. 20–23
  12. ^ For details of Castilla's experience in the Battle of Manila Bay, see Castilla at the Spanish–American War Centennial website

See also[edit]


  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. New York: Mayflower Books Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
  • Nofi, Albert A. The Spanish–American War, 1898. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Combined Books, 1996. ISBN 0-938289-57-8.

External links[edit]