CIELO ROJO AL AMANECER, LA MAR SE HA DE MOVER
Según el American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign Shipping: Año de 1884, el pequeño remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ tenía las siguientes características técnicas:
…”Señal distintiva: NFBT; Núm. Oficial: 1825; nacionalidad: España; eslora entre perpendiculares: 75,1 pies; manga: 18,0 pies; puntal en bodega: 9,6 pies; registro neto: 68 toneladas; registro bruto: 34; construido (seguramente botado o entregado) en noviembre de 1883; astillero: American Shipbuilding Co. (en texto A. S.B. Co.) de Point Richmond, Pa; armador: F. Latasa & Co.; casco de hierro; 3 mamparos estancos; maquina compound de dos cilindros; diámetro: 15 y 26 pulgadas; carrera de los pistones: 22 pulgadas”…
El remolcador, a pesar de estar a nombre de F. Latasa y Cía., pertenecía a la Compañía Trasatlántica, y fue cedido por esta a la Armada en el año 1895.
En el American Lloyd’s Register of American and Foreign Shipping, figura entre los años 1884 y 1900, ambos incluidos. Su destino final lo desconozco.
En tiempos de paz, quizás su comisión más destacada fue el auxilio dado al VERACRUZ, paquete de su misma compañía. Lo confirma el diario El Bien Público, Año XVI, Número 4611, en su edición de 17 de mayo de 1888, en que cita:
…”El vapor correo VERACRUZ de la Compañía Trasatlántica española, navegando a la altura de Jaruco, distante 50 millas del puerto de la Habana, al que se dirigía, tuvo avería en la máquina, y siendo arrastrado por la corriente se mandó a tierra un bote, a pedir un remolcador. Le enviaron en su auxilio el remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ y el vapor trasatlántico PANAMA, que le hallaron a 10 millas de la Habana, donde entro sin novedad el 16 de abril a las siete y media de la noche”…
Como ya hemos dicho, se cedió a la Armada para actuar como patrullero de poco calado por los peligrosos cayos cubanos. En la Revista de Navegación y Comercio, en su edición de 30 de junio de 1895, n.º 160, página 39, anotaba:
…”Ministerio de Marina. Real orden de Marina dando gracias por la cesión del remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ para servicios en la costa de Cuba.
Subsecretaría.- Excmo . Sr.: Dado cuenta del acto realizado por la Compañía Trasatlántica, que en atenta exposición del 15 de Junio expresa su Representante en esta corte cediendo prácticamente á la marina el remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ, para utilizarlo en la campaña de Cuba, sin más condición que devolverlo en un actual estado ó indemnización de su valor á juicios de peritos en caso de pérdida. S. M. el Rey (que Dios guarde) y en su nombre la Reina Regente del Reino al aceptar dicho remolcador que con tanto desprendimiento ha entregado temporalmente al Gobierno esa Compañía Trasatlántica de su digna presidencia; se ha servido disponer se exprese á todos los que componen la Junta directiva dé la misma su Real aprecio y cuanta es la satisfacción del Gobierno de S. M. al ver traducido en hechos el patriotismo que tan necesario es entre todos los españoles.
De Real orden comunicada por el señor ministro de Marina lo digo á V. E. para su conocimiento, satisfacción y como resultado de la exposición que queda mencionada. Dios guarde a V. E. muchos años. Madrid 24 de Junio de 1895.- El Subsecretario, Zoilo Sánchez Ocaña (F.)-Señor Marqués de Comillas.—Es copia”…
El diario El Correo Militar, en su edición de 5 de julio de 1895, en su página 1, confirmaba el armamento del pequeño remolcador:
…”En Cuba se ha armado en guerra la cañonera «LEALTAD» y el remolcador «ANTONIO LOPEZ», con ametralladoras de 25 milímetros, y se destinarán á recorrer los cayos y demás sinuosidades de la costa”…
También el diario La Época, de Madrid, en su edición de 5 de julio de 1895, página 2, confirmaba este extremo:
…”El Diario de la Marina, de la Habana, dice en su número del día 19 de Junio que el nuevo comandante general de aquel Apostadero, Sr. Delgado Parejo, está desplegando extraordinaria actividad en todo el departamento de Marina.
El día 18 se armó la lancha LEALTAD, al mando del alférez, de navío D. Agustín Medina, y se hacían los preparativos para poner en condiciones de combate al remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ, habiéndose conferido su mando al teniente de navío D. Indalecio Casa.
Ambos buques están dotados con ametralladoras de 25 milímetros, y, según parece, se dedicarán á cruzar entro cayos”…
Publicado en El Liberal (El Liberal. 10/7/1896, página 2) a modo de réplica, hay un extenso artículo en que se rebaten los datos del diario sobre la colaboración de la Compañía Trasatlántica con el Gobierno de la nación. Un extracto de este articulo cita:
…” EI Gobierno aceptó como más á propósito y de más inmediata aplicación, por encontrarse en la Habana, el remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ, de 94 toneladas, valorado en 21.000 duros, y que desde entonces se halla prestando servicio de cañonero guardacostas, sin retribución alguna para la Compañía, que ha tenido que enviar otro barco desde la Península para sustituir á aquél, y construir uno para suplir la falta de éste”…
En la Revista de Navegación y Comercio, edición de 15 de abril de 1898, n.º 227, página 18, en un artículo titulado El Capitán Genis, se habla del pequeño ANTONIO LOPEZ:
…”La Cruz blanca del Mérito naval la obtuvo por los auxilios que prestó en el puerto de la Habana á la fragata de guerra CONCEPCION que, bajo un fuerte brisote, rompió la cadena de la boya en que estaba amarrada, y próxima á estrellarse contra la machina, acudió el Capitán Genis con el remolcador ANTONIO LOPEZ, con tan buena suerte, que consiguió darle un remolque y llevarla á seguro fondeadero”…
Su acción más heroica y de renombre la da en la acción de Cardenas -una pequeña victoria pírrica- en la que mostro lo que la voluntad de un comandante valiente puede hacer con medios muy reducidos. Al estar esta batalla –encuentro o acción sería más apropiado- muy comentada en Internet y en libros de nuestro idioma, he preferido ver cuál fue la visión desde el otro lado –el de los vencedores de la guerra- a través de un apunte del diario Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 95, Number 81, edición de 13 de mayo de 1898:
…”Fierce Battle at Cardenas.
American Vessels Engage Spanish Forces, Resulting in the Death of Five Brave Naval Men. Torpedo Boat WINSLOW Also Disabled and Badly Damaged.
Furious Havoc Made With the Harbor and Town of Cardenas, and One Spanish Gunboat Known to Have Been Destroyed.
Key West, May 12—When the United States gunboat HUDSON came up to the Government dock at 8 o’clock this morning the bodies of five dead men were lying on her deck. They were the remains of Ensign W. Bagley and four members of the crew of the torpedo boat WINSLOW, who were killed in an engagement in Cardenas harbor yesterday. The bodies were covered by the Stars and Stripes. In the cabin of the HUDSON was Captain J. B. Bernadou of the WINSLOW, who is slightly injured in the left leg, and several others of the WINSLOW‘s crew who are slightly injured. The dead are: Ensign Worth Ragley, John Vorver, oiler; Josiah Tunnett, cabin cook; J. V. Meeks, fireman; J Daniel, fireman. The wounded are: B. E. Cox, gunner’s mate; D. McKeen, quartermaster; J. Patterson, fireman; F. Gray, Lieutenant J. B. Bernardou. All are slightly wounded except Patterson, whose condition is serious. Ensign Bagley was appointed from North Carolina on September 7, 1805.
The engagement took place inside the harbor of Cardenas. The gunboat WILMINGTON, the torpedo boat WINSLOW and the gunboat HUDSON were the only vessels engaged. They entered the harbor for the purpose of attacking some Spanish gunboats which were known to be there. These latter, however, were not discovered by the American force until the Spaniards opened fire. The land batteries of Cardenas supported the fire of the Spanish gunboats. The engagement commenced at 2:05 p. m., and lasted for about an hour.
The battle, while it lasted, was terrific. The WILMINGTON and the HUDSON were ahead, and opened fire on the Spanish boats, which were lying at the dock. The firing began at a range of 3.500 yards. A few minutes later the WINSLOW came up and opened fire. In an instant the entire attention of the Spanish gunboats and land batteries was directed upon her. From all sides shot and shell poured in on the little torpedo boat.
The WILMINGTON and the HUDSON still kept up their fire, but they could not turn aside the terrible storm of fire and death pouring in upon the torpedo boat.
The crew of the WINSLOW, however, never faltered for a second. At 2:35 a solid shot crashed into the hull of the WINSLOW and knocked out her boiler. In an instant she began to roll and rock helplessly. Then there was a moment of awful suspense. A fierce cheer of triumph went up from the Spaniards on the gunboats and in the batteries, and again a storm of fire was opened up on the helpless boat. The gunboat HUDSON, which was lying nearby, started to the assistance of the WINSLOW. She ran alongside the torpedo boat and tried to throw a line to the imperiled crew. Up to this time, with the exception of the one shot which disabled the boiler of the WINSLOW, the firing of the Spanish gunboats had been wild, but as the WINSLOW lay rolling in the water the range grew closer, and shells began to explode all about her.
It was difficult for the HUDSON to get near enough to throw a line to the WINSLOW‘s crew, so terrible was the fire all about her. Finally, after about twenty minutes, the HUDSON approached near enough to throw a line. Ensign Bagley and six men were standing in a group on the deck of the WINSLOW.
«Heave her, heave her.» shouted Bagley, as he looked towards the Commander of the HUDSON and called for a line.
«Don’t miss it.» shouted an officer from the HUDSON, and with a smile Bagley called back «Let her come. It’s getting too hot here for comfort.»
The line was thrown, and about the same instant a shell burst in the very midst of the group of men on board the WINSLOW. Bagley was instantly killed, and a few others dropped about him. Half a dozen more fell groaning on the bloodstained deck. One of the dead men pitched headlong over the side of the boat, but his feet caught in the iron rail, and he was hauled back.
Bagley‘s body was stretched on the deck, with his face completely torn away and the upper part of his body shattered.
It was a terrible moment. The torpedo boat, disabled and helpless, rolled and swayed under the fury of the fire from the Spanish gunboats.
When the shell burst in the group on board the WINSLOW another wild shout of triumph went up from the Spanish boats and batteries, and again a heavy fire was opened on the torpedo boat. Finally the HUDSON succeeded in getting a line on board the WINSLOW, and was towing her out of the deadly range, when the line parted and again both boats were at the mercy of the Spanish fire.
At 3:06 p. m. the HUDSON managed to get another line on the deck of the WINSLOW, but there were only three men left at that time to make it fast. The line was finally secured, and the WINSLOW was towed up to Pedrias Island, where she was anchored, with her dead and wounded on her decks. There some men from the HUDSON went on board the WINSLOW, and took the most seriously wounded men off. Three who were taken on board the gunboat MACHIAS died shortly afterward.
At 9:15 p. m. yesterday the HUDSON with the dead bodies and some of the wounded started for Key West, arriving here at 8 o’clock this morning.
Commander Bernandou of the WINSLOW was wounded in the left leg, but not seriously.
Lieutenant Bernandou, with the surgeon bending over him, told the story of the battle to the representative of the Associated Press as calmly as if talking of the weather.
He began: «We went under full speed to attack the Spanish boats in the harbor, and you know the result. We went under orders from the commander of the WILMINGTON. Our boat is badly damaged, but she will be brought here for repairs, and 1 think she will be ready for service again in two weeks.»
Continuing, the Lieutenant said: «The WINSLOW was the worst injured, and had five of her men killed and I don’t know how many injured. We were ordered to attack the Spanish gunboats at Cardenas. We steamed in under full head, and were fired as soon as we were in range. The Spanish boats were tied up at the docks, and had a range on us. The batteries on shore also opened on us, and I think we received most of the fire. I don’t know whether anyone was hurt on the WILMINGTON or the HUDSON, but I think not.
«I have no fault to find with the WINSLOW‘s crew. They acted nobly all the way through. The men who were killed fell at the same time. We were standing in a group, and the fire from the Spanish was perfect. A shell burst in our very faces.»
The dead and wounded brought here by the HUDSON were taken in small rats to the Government docks. This was the first news of the engagement to reach Key West.
No time was lost in administering to the wounded. A quick call was sent to the Marine Hospital, and an ambulance came clattering down to the dock. The dead were taken to an undertaker’s shop, and the wounded conveyed to the hospital.
In the meantime the news had spread, and crowds gathered about the dock, but there was no demonstration. The success of the American ships in every action thus far has been so overwhelming that it was hard to realize that death had at last come to some of our men.
Ensign Bagley was about 23 years old, and when the fleet was started he was one of the most popular men in the service. The news of his death was a terrible shock to all who knew him. It has always been a foregone conclusion that the torpedo boats would be among the first to fall, as the work is most dangerous, but in spite of this, when the fleet was stationed here and changes in assignments were frequently made, all the young men of the servile were eager for torpedo boat duty.
The HUDSON shows the effect of the fight. Her smokestack is punctured with bullet holes, and her cabin and decks are smashed and splintered.
The WINSLOW‘s dead are now lying at an undertaking establishment. They were taken there in a rough wagon, still covered by the Stars and Stripes. The rude conveyance was followed by a large crowd, and all day long the doors of the shop have been surrounded by a large gathering. Naval officers, marines and sailors came there to look upon the faces of their dead comrades.
Some of the bodies show fearful wounds. Ensign Bagley was literally torn to pieces. His body will be embalmed and shipped home. Oiler Varveres had his throat cut open by a sharp piece of the shell, which apparently severed his windpipe as if slashed, with a razor. Fireman Daniels had his left shoulder ripped up and the right side of his head torn open. The body of Tunnell, the colored cook, shows no wounds. Fireman Meeks was hit in the groin.
No orders for the disposition of the bodies have yet been issued.
It is now known that the American boats made furious havoc with Cardenas harbor and town. The Captain of the HUDSON said:
«I know we destroyed a large part of their town near the wharves, burned one of their gunboats, and I think destroyed two of their torpedo destroyers. We were in a vortex of shot, shell and smoke, and could not tell accurately, but we saw one of their boats on fire and sinking soon after the action began. Then a large building near the wharf. I think the barracks, took fire, and many other buildings were soon burning. The Spanish had masked batteries on all sides of us. As soon as we got within range of their batteries they would move them. I think their guns were field pieces. Our large boat could not get into the harbor to help us, on account of the shallow water.»…
En el mismo diario, y en el mismo artículo, cita más adelante:
…»From Spanish Sources. Madrid, May 12. -8 p. m.- The following dispatch has been received from Havana: Early yesterday morning four American warships fired repeated cannon shots at Cienfuegos. In the meantime several steamboats, towing eight large boats loaded with arms and ammunition for the rebels, approached the shore. Several battalions of infantry drawn up on the sea shore fired upon the boats, which speedily retreated. At the same time the batteries of the fort and others along the coast fired upon the transport which tried to make a landing along the banks of the river Tremao. The Spaniards again repulsed them by hot volleys, inflicting heavy losses. Fourteen Spaniards were wounded.» A second dispatch from Havana says: «At 8 o’clock yesterday morning three large and three small American ships appeared off Cardenas. A small boat was dispatched with marines, who landed near the fort and seized it. They also seized the semaphore station, taking the coast guards prisoners.» Continuing, the second dispatch from Havana reads: «In the meantime the warships began a furious cannonading. Cardenas does not possess defenses of any kind, and only the little gunboats LIGERA and ANTONIO LOPEZ were in port. They replied to the attack. The ANTONIO LOPEZ was disabled, but 300 volunteers defended the town, prevented the landing, and compelled the American ships to retire with considerable loss. «A Spanish Sergeant and seven soldiers were wounded.”Captain-General Blanco has congratulated the authorities of Cardenas.»
No news at Navy department. Washington, May 12- The Navy Department has received no word of an engagement in Cienfuegos as reported from Havana, and think the Havana reports refer to the Cardenas engagement”…