Mount for Spanish Cannon
Backstory and Context
The granite mount that was installed on State House ground in Columbia, South Carolina in 1900 once held a cannon captured in Santiago, Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898. The cannon, which was removed in 1942 to be made into weapons during World War II, was taken from the Battle of Santiago, which marked the end of the Spanish-American War and secured American victory. On May 19, 1898, a month after the outbreak of the war, a Spanish fleet under Admiral Pascual Cervera arrived in Santiago harbor on the southern coast of Cuba, but was immediately blockaded by U.S. warships from squadrons in the Atlantic under Rear Admiral William T. Sampson and Commodore Winfield S. Schley. The Spanish fleet remained protected within the mines and shore batteries of the harbor, but were also unable to challenge the blockade. By July, however, progress of U.S. land forces in Cuba put Cervera’s ships at risk and forced movement on part of the Spanish.
During land operations, U.S. troops, including Theodore Roosevelt’s volunteer cavalry regiment Rough Riders, disembarked east of the city and broke through outer defenses. From July 1 to July 3, the village of El Caney was captured along with San Juan Ridge’s highest point, San Juan Hill, beginning the siege of Santiago de Cuba the same day Cervera made the decision to move his fleet out of the harbor. From Havana, Governor-General Ramon Blanco had ordered Cervera to break through the blockade and save his ships, an order which was protested by Cervera several times. While both Blanco and Cervera were aware that the Spanish fleet was outgunned, Blanco wanted to preserve the honor of the Spanish navy by having the flotilla go down fighting rather than surrender in Santiago harbor. However, after the U.S. captured San Juan Hill, Blanco ordered Cervera to depart immediately on July 2.
Because the entrance to the harbor was difficult to navigate at night and the American fleet was spread over a wider area during the day, Cervera decided to wait until first light on July 3 to depart. Blockaders were formed in a semicircle around the mouth of the harbor, with the converted yacht Vixen close to the shore. The ship Brooklyn, which was meant to support the Vixen and was the fastest American ship, was farther out to sea than any other American ships. Cervera’s plan was to use the flagship Infanta Maria Teresa to ram and disable Brooklyn in order to allow the rest of the Spanish fleet to escape.
At 9:35 a.m., several American ships signaled that the Spanish squadron was steaming out, which took 12 minutes, during which time they were under fire but were unable to retaliate. The Infanta Maria Teresa was destroyed after engaging Brooklyn, along with the cruiser Vizcaya after battling for an hour with the battleship U.S.S. Texas. The crew of the cruiser Oquendo scuttled their ship, and the two Spanish destroyers were sunk. The only Spanish ship to escape was the cruiser Cristobal Colón, which was chased by the U.S.S. Oregon for 50 miles before it, too, was finally overhauled, with its captain scuttling the ship in shallow water to avoid deaths. Wounded and prisoners were placed on the auxiliary Harvard to be treated by American ship surgeons and be given clothing before being placed aboard the hospital ship Solace. On July 16, 1898, two weeks after the battle, Spain surrendered Santiago de Cuba, resulting in U.S. victory and suppressing Spanish naval resistance in the New World. The Spanish had 474 dead or wounded, 1,800 captured, and all six ships lost, while the U.S. had one dead, one wounded, and no ships of eight lost.
The Spanish cannon that was once part of the State House monument was a 14-foot brass muzzleloader made in Spain in the 18th century. It was acquired February 2, 1900 and installed on State House grounds in the fall of that year. On October 18, 1942 the cannon was removed to be melted into weapons during World War II. Now, the granite mount remains as both a monument to the Spanish-American War as well as the civilian effort during World War II.
- Spanish American War Cannon Base, South Carolina State House. Accessed November 19th 2020. https://www.scstatehouse.gov/studentpage/Explore/map/spanish_amer_war_cannon_base.html.
- Mount for Spanish Cannon, Historic Columbia. Accessed November 19th 2020. https://www.historiccolumbia.org/online-tours/state-house-monuments-tour/mount-spanish-cannon.
- Grant, R. G.. Battle of Santiago de Cuba, Britannica. Accessed November 19th 2020. https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Santiago-de-Cuba.
- Spanish-American War, Naval History and Heritage Command. Accessed November 19th 2020. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/publications/documentary-histories/united-states-navy-s/the-battle-of-santia.html.
- Spanish American War Cannon - Columbia, SC, Waymarking. June 1st 2010. Accessed November 19th 2020. https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM8YXT_Spanish_American_War_Cannon_Columbia_SC.