Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII
Alfonso XII during the 1890s
|Namesake:||King Alfonso XII of Spain|
|Laid down:||August 1881|
|Launched:||21 September 1887|
|Class and type:||Alfonso XII-class cruiser|
|Length:||278 ft 3 in (84.81 m)|
|Beam:||43 ft 4 in (13.21 m)|
|Draft:||20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)|
|Installed power:||4,400 ihp (3,300 kW)|
|Speed:||17 kn (31 km/h; 20 mph) (designed)|
|Complement:||370 officers and enlisted|
Alfonso XII was built by the naval shipyard at Ferrol; she and her sister ship Reina Cristina were the first two steel-hulled cruisers built there. She was laid down in August 1881, but shortages of materials delayed her construction and she was not launched until 21 September 1887.
She had two funnels. Her main armament was built by Hontoria and sponson-mounted. Her five torpedo tubes all were fixed; two were forward, one was on each beam, and one was aft. Although unprotected and therefore lacking armor, she had 12 watertight compartments built in a French-style cellular system to help her resist flooding. She was designed for colonial service, with an emphasis on speed and moderate armament, but in practice machinery problems made her a much slower steamer than her designers had hoped.
Alfonso XII commissioned in 1891. By 1897 she was anchored in Havana harbor in Cuba, serving as flagship for Admiral Vincente Manterola, but she was unable to put to sea because her boilers required a major refit, and some of her guns had been put ashore to aid in the harbor's shore-based defenses.
Amid growing tensions between the United States and Spain, the U.S. battleship Maine arrived in Havana harbor unexpectedly on 25 January 1898. Her commanding officer, Captain Charles Sigsbee, fearing Spanish mines, requested that Maine be allowed to anchor in the berth occupied by Alfonso XII, where he presumed there could be no mines, but the cruiser's immobility forced him to accept an anchorage about 200 yards (180 m) away.
Maine was still there when she exploded and sank on 15 February 1898. The crew of Alfonso XII was heavily involved in rescuing the battleship's survivors, treating them in the cruiser's sick bay, and guarding the battleship's wreck, and marched in the funeral cortege during services ashore in Havana for the men who had died aboard Maine.
With war approaching, Alfonso XII put more of her guns ashore to reinforce the coastal batteries of the Torreón de la Chorrera, and these guns did fire on American ships occasionally after the Spanish–American War broke out in April 1898. But Alfonso XII herself, immobilized in a harbor that played little part in the war, could contribute nothing else to the Spanish war effort.
- Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 384; The Spanish–American War Centennial Website: Alfonso XII claims the launch date was 21 August 1887.
- Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, Eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. New York, New York: Mayflower Books Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
- Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland:Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
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