The Eagle and the Phoenix: a Less Than Splendid Little War

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Chris Triangle, Nov 24, 2019.

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  1. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    The Eagle and The Phoenix:
    A Less than Splendid Little War

    Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at a timeline, after years of wanting to start one and as such, it is an outline for a more refined forthcoming version, so bear with me as I edit this thing. IN short, this one's about the Spanish American war. I won't be putting up any graphics initially as this is a preliminary version but I will try to outline the course of the events as they unfold. I'm releasing the first update as two pieces all at once because I drew them up before starting. By the way, please give me some feedback as I write it. It is very valuable to me!

    The basic premise is that the Spanish American war goes relatively poorly for the United States leading to a very different legacy of the "splendid little war". Spanish manage to make some modest preparations, fight from a better initial position in Cuba and have a bit of luck here and there. The Americans, in turn, charge in unprepared at a bad time of year and eventually end up winning at relatively high cost. There are kind of multiple PODs here. One is that Antonio del Castillo is not assassinated, thus Valeriano ("The Butcher" to Americans) Weyler remains and the Americans become increasingly enraged at his actions. Another is that the Maine happens to not explode in Havana and the whole crisis over the de Lome letter is sort of butterflied away too, so that tempers things enough that the war breaks out after a bizarre series of events involving two warships. I've taken some liberties but am trying to keep things relatively plausible so don't expect to see an inversion of the war where Spain brings a whole company of maxim guns to San Juan hill or something along those lines.


    Introduction.​

    (You can skip this if you want to get to the war)

    The Spanish-American war of 1898-1899 is one of the most studied and influential conflicts in American history, as it came at a time when both nations faced a great degree of uncertainty over their own futures. Its tales of tragedy and triumph persist even today, well over a century after the war ended. The war represented the United States' first major conflict since its own civil war ended over 30 years ago, the skirmishes with Indians in the West and the plains notwithstanding. As such, it represented a test to the notion of a strictly defensive-minded military, of the ability of the American to rise up and defend liberty against the European colonial powers, and to enforce the spirit of the Monroe doctrine with real force by sweeping away those old world vestiges when the time came. Not since the revolution had a war been so steeped in the sense of a national mission and destiny. There were those at the time feared that the American man, now accustomed to peace and settled life, might somehow grow soft and lacking in the vigor of his forebears. The men of the era sang loudly in favor of modernity and progress while still holding on to the romanticism of the past. In reality, the rather short but intense conflict proved to be far deadlier than anyone had anticipated and the considerable loss of life brought a sense of cynicism.

    For Spain, the war was a test of the nation's vitality and many believe that as a wake up call, it came at just the right time. The country's long decline had continued through 19th century and had left doubts as to Spain's viability as a world power. There were those who believed, even lied to themselves as to the glory of the nation as if the 16th century golden age were still a reality. Spain's ultimate loss was, in retrospect, largely inevitable but its conduct in the war would vindicate those who called to resist the American demands and ultimately, help Spain to at last emerge from its relative isolation and national malaise with the affirmation of the young, centralized state that had emerged from the Carlist wars. It is ironic that the nation that ostensibly lost the war would come out of it with arguably more optimism than the victory. Modern Catalans may be surprised to hear this but the generation of 98 would not only produce many of Spain's most prominent generals in the next century, but it would also produce a new generation of men utterly convinced that with enough, modernization, the Spanish people as a whole were capable of greatness.
    The Lead Up to the War
    Note: I plan to expand this to cover the Cuban revolution in more detail and edit it as needed.


    The war itself is often regarded to have begun with the attack on the USS Massachusetts, though in reality, the lead up to the war had been far longer. By this time, the Spanish empire was reduced to a shadow of its former self and was limited to: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, some small African territories and island chains in the Western Pacific. With this waning realm overshadowed by the waxing empires of Western Europe, including even newcomers like Germany and Italy, what Spain held was of considerable value and prestige. The wealthy island of Cuba in particular representing something of a jewel in this imperial crown. At the same time, Cuba was an ulcer on the nation with its constant rebellions virtually negating its very wealth. It took everythinig the Spanish had to retain control there and in the equally restless Philippines. As Spain's control slowly slipped away from Cuba after 400 years, the United States of America had more commercial interest in the island than ever and in terms of exports, considerably more than Spain itself. Any Americans were increasingly convinced that Spanish rule was simply unsustainable and that it had to end in ordef to restore order there, both for the sake of the Cuban nation and for the sake of the USA's own security in the Caribbean.

    A truce had prevailed in Cuba after the 10 years war, yet the conflict had already flared up once again by 1895. The Spanish realized that they needed to end the rebellion once and for all if they were to keep Cuba within the Spanish nation and their strategy took on a new character as a result. A large army of Peninsular soldiers under the command of general Valeriano Weyler slowly succeeded in restoring order to much of Cuba, clearing rebel forces away from strategically vital areas, even at considerable cost in human life and suffering. This suffering caught the attention of the American press, which lambasted general Weyler for his brutal methods, which included some of the earliest use of concentration camps to detain civilians. Though something of a hero in Spain at the time, he was widely referred as the "Butcher" to most Americans for such acts. That label was probably a bit simplistic but it was not without reason; though his true intentions were not necessarily to inflict mass casualties, they often did just that in an indirect way. They also displaced a shocking number of people in a relatively short time giving rise to the large Cuban exile population in the United States that had worked tirelessly to promote their cause there in the hopes of gaining the direct aid they needed to prevail at last in their struggle.

    By the fall of 1897, many in Spain were increasingly convinced that the Americans really might go to war over the army's actions and there was a sense of fear about the whole issue. The Spanish press and people both noticed that ever more prominent Americans began to speak out in favor of doing so and the tone grew more belligerent with time even as the Republican McKinley administration sought peace. Weyler remains controversial and probably always will. At the time, he had won himself considerable support among conservative nationalists in Spain and among loyalists in Cuba, where the immensely polarizing figure could be seen as anything from a noble savior of Cuba to a coldhearted devil bent on its subjugation. Perhaps more i
    mportantly, the policies were starting to show results. Weyler's supporters were quite convinced that after decades of fighting, a long term peace and order was worth the veritable humanitarian disaster.


    For their part, the rebels continued to fight all the way up until the USS Massachusetts sank but the outlook was starting to look grimmer by that time; the Americans, hoped to be the saviors of the revolution, had not come and it was beginning to look as though nothing be able to bring them in to the war. The insurgents again retreated to ever more remote areas as the Spanish cut them off from their supplies, slowly but steadily crippling the guerilla campaign. By March of 1898 the Spanish were certain that victory was within reach (though in reality, the Rebels still controlled large areas of countryside in the East of the island) and by June, the last of revolutionaries had been driven from Western Cuba, just as planned. Even as negotiations with rebel forces proceeded, Weyler was, amazingly, still under some pressure by liberals to resign. He chose to remain anyway, partly in the belief that his presence had a certain intimidating effect but also partly in order to obtain a legacy for himself as a man responsible for restoring order rather than merely inflicting devastation. It also meant that the American calls for war would continue. The Spanish authorities took notice of this alarming momentum in the American attitude and even as their own war dragged on, their concerns slowly shifted from fighting a protracted guerilla conflict to a defensive war against the United States. Preparations for this war went forward at a much greater pace, with varying results.

    The worries were well-founded. Even with the fear of war still running high, the McKinley administration was willing to disregard public opinion and oppose intervention in Cuba. His country, much less inclined to take a calm approach to the situation there, felt differently. The newspapers, embroiled in an era of notorious yellow journalism, continued to rail against Spain, dredging up the Black Legend from the depths of history and drumming up the need for war. They did their best to make sure that cooler heads would not prevail with little concern for the carnage that they would unleash. The short term result of course, was tremendous interest in stories relating to Cuba, some fanciful and virtually all unthinkable by later standards of journalism. Screeds telling tales of varying truth were printed alongside cartoons of Uncle Sam vanquishing King Alfonso, Weyler and the rest of the Spaniards in some way or another.

    As the press attacks became ever more frequent and insulting, the Spanish military and government began to take the American threat seriously. Pascual Cervera, the most famous Spanish admiral of the war, had made many attempts to ready the fleet for actual combat in the years leading up to the war. Now, at the proverbial 11th hour and with the ground war looking winnable, his own government, realizing that an army overseas was useless without a fleet behind it, was at last prepared to divert some of the resources spent on the army to the navy in order to implement these changes. The Spanish navy began a rapid overhaul of its cruisers, torpedo boats and its only battleship, Pelayo. Though work began in 1897, the work needed just to bring the fleet up to its purported strength was so great that even when the war broke out in August of 1898, many ships still had major unresolved problems, though far fewer than there had been at the beginning of the year. The armament problems for the armored cruisers had just barely been resolved and many ships, suffering from years of poor maintenance under a stingy budget, struggled with frequent engine trouble which thus limited their speed and operational capabilities. This was especially true of the torpedo boats, which some have speculated could have proven to be a decisive weapon had they been properly used.

    Despite the villainous reputation Hearst and Pulitzer have gained in the aftermath of the war, the tension they drummed up did not alone cause the Spanish-American war. Ultimately, it was always the destruction of not one but two ships that would precipitate the actual conflict and without these events, it is highly unlikely the war would have been fought. The US and Spain had already had a close call in the spring of 1898 over fears that Spain was making preparations for a war with the US.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
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  2. Threadmarks: Sabotage!

    Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    NOTE: this capter has been edited and was formerly titled "One Tragedy in Savannah and Another in Havana" which rhymed but is no longer accurate since the changed timetable removes the hurricane from the picture. See Chapter 4 for Details.

    2. Jumping to Conclusions, From The Big apple to Havana

    The unfortunate fate of the new British-built destroyer Audaz in New York came at a particularly unfortunate time. This handsome vessel was one of the latest Spanish destroyers, a cornerstone of the navy's new strategy and one of two military technologies that Spain could claim to lead the world in, the other being the Submarine (the US was catching up however). It arrived alongside the new warship Carlos V, which Spain was proudly displaying as a symbol that it could again build world class ships in its own shipyards. Aboard the Audaz was admiral Fernando Villamil, an expert in Torpedo boat warfare and a pioneer of the destroyer. This was a friendly visit, meant to help bring about a detente in this long, drawn out conflict, though it would do precisely the opposite. On the night of May 13th (ominously, this was a Friday the 13th), while Villamil was attending a banquet ashore, the Audaz exploded without warning. The whole event occurred in am immensely tense atmosphere that turned the incident into a near crisis. The traditional narrative in Spain is that once they arrived in port, some surviving Spanish sailors reportedly said they were jeered at and taunted by angry Americans in boats in the harbor. There is no evidence that this actually happened and neither captain Villamil denied this ever happened. He did note being harassed by a handful of protestors on the shore waving signs related to Weyler and his Reconcentrados, but for the most part, he was welcomed in his say. More likely, the "suspicious boats" were nothing more than the usual maritime traffic in the harbor. Regardless, the blast was inconvenient and it alerted the Spanish to the strong possibility of war, while stirring significant passion in the nation, pent up from months of tension with the United States.

    It was also deadly; few men survived the accident and the wreck because it sank so rapidly and none witnessed the cause of the accident. It is widely believed that one of the torpedoes suffered a fault and detonated aboard the ship while being handled, as the blast appeared to come from inside the vessel. Though the navy never entertained the notion, some particularly nationalistic Spaniards initially responded with visceral outrage and absurd rumors spread throughout the country that the explosion was an act of sabotage by angry mobs of Americans and the conservative government, though it did not endorse them, was embarrassingly critical of the Americans and suggested that they had deliberately stirred up angry mobs and sabotage could have occurred as a result, possibly by Cuban Americans. They suggested that Villamil may have been the target of an assassination. Why exactly they thought somebody would blow up the whole ship and not check that their target was even on board is not clear but the Spanish circulars that spread these rumors were not in the business of fact checking. How could such a new vessel, many asked, suffer such a fate if not for foul play? Surely the skeptics said, this could be no accident. The majority of Spaniards accepted the investigation's findings but it took a to few weeks so the rumors kept spreading and the damage was done such that a time bomb, both figurative and literal, had been armed.

    Though the American government was still not actually expecting a war over the Audaz, the breakdown in trust after the incident was disconcerting and in response, it took an action that it felt would be relatively safe. The battleship Massachusetts, the second oldest but one of the most formidable in the US navy, sailed to Havana in the immediate aftermath of the incident with the intent to again provide some degree of protection to US citizens and assets during this latest crisis. Another battleship, the Maine, had done this earlier in the year and despite fears that her presence could escalate the conflict, Maine's presence was believed to have had a stabilizing effect on negotiations and reinforce the principle that the USA, while not aggressive, would still protect its citizens and their assets as it had in the past. Massachusetts, it was hoped, would have a smooth and uneventful voyage as the Maine had.

    The tragic loss of the ill-fated Battleship Massachusetts in Havana was the ultimate catalyst for the war and had come right as the mood was starting to shift such that people felt the worst was behind them. At approximately 5:45 AM on the 3rd of June 1898, a lone man slowly swam out to the battleship Massachusetts with the intention to destroy it. He carried a large, mine-like explosive charge with him to perform his deed and managed somehow to remain undetected until he was up against the ship. What happened in those few moments before the bomb detonated and whether the assailant ever intended to take his own life, we will never know, for the body was not recovered and the witnesses to the confrontation aboard the Massachusetts were killed in the blast as were the witnesses to the event who confronted him. Regardless of his plans, his deed crippled the mighty battleship and sent it to the bottom of the harbor by the morning, taking 14 American sailors with her, the death toll being relatively low thanks only to the tireless work by her crew to keep the ship afloat long enough for most men to get off. The Massachusetts remained barely afloat until finally coming to rest on the bottom of the harbor in shallow water around 9:00 AM, where it remained partially submerged for the remainder of the conflict.


    It is now generally accepted that a small group of very radical Cuban rebels obtained and detonated the large explosive charge on the battleship in an effort to draw the USA into the war. The truth over the matter was of course, covered up for months, and would shake the faith of the American people in their government as well as their press, for years to come, but for the time being, cooler heads did not prevail.

    The man believed to have masterminded the operation, oddly enough, appears to have been himself a Spanish-born political radical named Alfredo Torres* sympathetic to the Cuban cause and desperate to reignite the war. Few Cuban rebels actually approved of this action and he was nearly exposed when a colleague, upon learning of the intention to attack an American vessel, attempted to alert the colonial authorities and would have done so had Torres own allies not caught wind of his intentions and murdered the would be informant. Some first hand reports did indicate that Spain itself, or at least a rogue in the army, may indeed, as Hearst claimed, ordered the attack (some Americans still believe this) but the later American investigation would uncover, much to the horror of the investigators, that the Spanish account was quite accurate and that the attack had indeed been carried out by elements of the very Cuban revolutionaries the United States was fighting to protect.

    I'm the meantime, it became clear that the blast that rocked Havana on that fateful morning of June 3rd, 1898 signaled the start of a war and it really didn't matter whether Spain had anything to do with the bombing. For the most part, the American public would not take long to jump to the conclusion that it was a sneak attack and came to this conclusion largely on their own. Within a day, the country cried out for an invasion of Cuba to avenge the Massachusetts even before the ship herself could be raised and, hopefully, repaired. As far as they were concerned and as far as the papers said, the Spanish authorities had ordered the USS Massachusetts sunk as revenge for the loss of their own ship a few weeks prior and must have hoped to pass it off as another accident or to blame the Cuban insurgents. It all made perfect sense to most Americans, who still believed that most Spaniards blamed the Americans for their own accident in Savannah. "It
    is in the nature of the hot blooded Latin races to react to a perceived slight in the most rash of ways..." wrote one article "...and we can see quite clearly from the outrageous opinions in his periodicals that the Spaniard, contrary to the words of his treacherous government, holds our nation and its ideals in utter disdain." Such claims were taken at face value and ironically, with furor over the
    Massachusetts at full volume, the American backlash to the perceived Spanish outcry was beginning to grow more aggressive in tone than the latter's own actual response. After years of being fed stories of Spanish atrocities in Cuba, the crisis had at last come to a head in the most insulting way imaginable and the resulting hysteria led to riots all along the coast in fear of Spanish warships and spies. There were even reports of mysterious dirigibles in the sky. Rumors speculated that the Spanish were planning to cooperate with the Kaiser against the USA.

    Canovas's government, convinced that this was the trigger they had been expecting for the past year, began to take every precaution available to them to either diffuse the situation or prepare for an invasion. They attempted to round up the guilty parties in the Massachusetts incident, investigated the incident swiftly and extremely harshly. They offered monetary compensation to the US for the loss of life under their watch, as well as a willingness to assist in raising the ship s othat it could be towed back to the United States. Indeed, for a brief period of time, the Spanish public, who did not have any doubts as to the party responsible for the act, was suddenly quite sympathetic to the Americans, and hoped that the event would end their love affair with the rebels. They underestimated the momentum of the American cause however, and none of their efforts to prove guilt would matter to the American people, who were well aware of the Spanish response to their accident in the US. It would not matter to McKinley either: as far as he was concerned, he could tolerate the chaos in Cuba no more and regardless of who had blown up the ship (though if it did turn out to be the Rebels, this was to be concealed), the situation in Cuba was clearly untenable because Spain could clearly not even provide the most basic security from such an attack, even when it claimed to be mopping up the last of the rebel forces (it had claimed that the war was virtually won since at least March). The United States was now prepared to end this seemingly endless crisis on its Southern frontier once and for all and Spain would pay. The United States navy under admiral William T. Sampson began preparations to enforce a blockade of Cuba and seize the island, beginning to implement the plans within 24 hours of Massachusetts' sinking. Meanwhile, and to nobody's surprise, an ultimatum was quietly prepared demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Cuba by Spain, to be delivered immediately after the investigation released it reports, regardless of what they found. "
    Avenge the Massachusetts" was the battle cry. Unofficially, and despite substantial effort to discourage such vulgarity among enlisted men, variations on the less dignified "Remember the Mass, We'll Kick Spain's Ass!" could be heard as well. By the end of July, both the Spanish and American investigations had determined that the blast was a deliberate attack, but the Americans refused to acknowledge the Spanish claims of who was responsible.

    * Placeholder name for a totally Fictional person inspired by "anarchists" of the day. I'll try to think of something clever or find a specific person in history to fill the role of the saboteur.


    USS Massachusetts.png
    The USS Massachusetts (BB-2) sinking in shallow water in Havana, June 3rd, 1898 approximately 8:30 AM, not long before it came to rest on the bottom.

    This Photo is from US Navy National Museum.

    This one shows the ship sinking near Fort Pickens in Florida after being used as Target practice. The Naval museum photo I posted was posted on atlas obscura and the wreck is a dive site; you can see pictures of it there. This is a big reason for the choice of this ship, though I may go back and change the Massachusetts to another vessel later if I decide its necessary for the story to work. BTW, try and ignore that cage mast for now.

     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019 at 2:25 AM
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  3. haider najib Well-Known Member

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    Nice!.
     
  4. rommel12 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting start, I hope to see more.
     
  5. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Thanks,

    The next part will focus on the opening naval movements, some of which have already begun before the war.

    Since this is the first version, don't be surprised if I go back and retcon some things as I write.

    By the way, to anyone reading this, I had a hard time coming up with a title. The current one is pretty generic IMO. Does anyone have any suggestions for a better one?
     
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  6. haider najib Well-Known Member

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    Im a bit sad
    spain will still lose hoping for them to retain there land

    Hopefully the spanish use the gatling gun to more effect.
     
  7. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    I should specify: they will eventually have to leave Cuba. The American force will become overwhelming by the end, largely because of the naval situation.

    Funny you should bring Gatling guns up. There may be a surprise as to weapons the Spanish use and the reason for that. I was going to save it for later but I think I'll update sooner.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  8. jony663 Well-Known Member

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    Good start, will you also be covering Dewey in Manila?
     
  9. Threadmarks: Background: weapons

    Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Since I hinted at it and I know you're curious, I want to establish the technological situation and how it differs from OTL.

    Prologue: Technological Transitions

    The Spanish-American war fell in an awkward time in terms of the technology available. Many telegraph cables ran around the world, even beneath the Atlantic, and allowed nearly instantaneous communication over vast distances. New telephone lines allowed speech to be transmitted as well. At the same time, wireless communication had scarecely left the laboratory, thus, while a telegraph in Cuba could send a message across the sea in an instant, any ships just off shore had to still communicate with visual signals. Extensive railways and steamships allowed rapid movement of material throughout the civilized world, and many of the uncivilized parts as well but the automobile was a rare novelty. Electrification proceeded rapidly but still could not keep up with demand. The Spanish American war would even feature some of the first motion pictures and audio recordings of any war in history. All around the world the potential of the vast numbers of new innovations developed from the era were in the process of being implemented.

    So it was with weapons technology as well. The muzzleloading musket, whose fundamental design resembled the first arquebuses of old, had at last given way to a rapid firing breech loader. Even gunpowder itself, the very source of the word firearm, was fast becomming obsolete. New chemical propellants were several times more powerful than black powder and nearly smokeless when ignited. But of all the weapons technologies that made a name for themselves in the dreadful little war of 1898, the so-called machine gun was the most famous. In fact, most of the weapons used would not qualify as such by the modern definition for they were powered by hand cranks rather than recoil or gas-operated mechanisms. Nevertheless, the origins of these lethal contraptions dated all the way back to Dr. Gatling's famous revolving gun, a weapon which would emerge during the American civil war but prove its worth on the plains in the Indian wars. Here, in 1874, general George A. Custer of the 7th cavalry managed to hold off a far larger band of Sioux warriors using his Gatling guns, and though the Lakota were arguably victorious in the end, Custer himself did manage to escape and his last stand would have been nothing but a massacre without those guns. The US army was thoroughly convinced of the value of such weapons and so was the rest of the world. Orders rolled in from around the world, as Custer's story and his flamboyant personality would, ironically, lend a sort of oddly grim romanticism to a gun whose designer hoped would prove a deterrent by sheer virtue of its firepower. Britain, Russia, France, China and many others wanted to get their hands on the new weapon. Its actual usefulness was limited by its sheer mass, though later versions became far lighter and more practical than the 7th Cavalry's comparatively cumbersome machines. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of Custer's supposedly triumphant last stand, the Gatling fad was such that it would stifle innovation and adoption of other weapons for some time. Hiram Maxim, the American inventor who developed the first truly automatic weapon found that the United States military had no interest in his weapon and he would find only lukewarm support in Europe as well. The famous gun, though developed years earlier, wouldn't find significant use until about 1890.

    In the meantime, a third design was gaining traction in a few other nations: the Gardner gun. William Gardner sought to build a lighter and simpler rival to Gatling's carriage-mounted gun and conceived of a simple, twin barreled (usually) piece with a hand crank. Each turn of the crank would chamber, fire and extract two rounds from the barrels in a beautifully simple but effective mechanism. Its rate of fire was lower than Gatling's revolving weapon but the little Gardner's practicality made up for that in other ways. The gun's mechanism was reliable, sturdy, and most of all, lightweight. It was uniquely well suited to colonial campaigns but attracted essentially no interest whatsoever from the US military and was rejected by the Royal navy after testing went wrong due to a faulty prototype embarassingly jammed many times (some believe it may have been sabotaged, but the conditions at the test site and dirt getting into an unperfected mechanism are more likely to blame). Though Gardner managed to correct most of the mechanism's fundemental problems, the damage had been done and the British would find another design more to their liking. Indeed, As the Americans refined the venerable Gatling gun the British experimented with the other gun the Americans had rejected: the fully automatic Maxim. But the dijected Gardner had one last chance to prove a design that he knew was sound and he would find his vindication across the channel. From almost the moment William Gardner landed there, the French took a particular interest in his new weapon. Soon, Gardner's refined prototype gave a flawless demonstration in Paris and wowed military men. His timing was good, to be fair. After the Franco Prussian war, the French army was fascinated with the idea of a more effective successor to the famously flawed early machine gun, the Reffye Mitrailleuse. They had dabbled with the Gatling and found it impressive in its own right. The Gardner's simplicity suited quick local manufacture and its weight suited colonial campaigns and the Frencfh felt they had stumbled upon a weapon design uniquely valuable, and one they could develop on their own. Thus, by the 1890s, French and Belgian (which also took a keen interest) arsenals had produced thousands of the iconic Gardner Mitrailleuse, and had put considerable energy into refining them to the fullest possible extent, producing guns able to handle very rough conditions yet still lighter in weight. In a sense, they were perfectly tailored for colonial battles. Though the very early Gardners struggled even more than the Gatling in dusty or sandy environments, some clever French modifications largely eliminated the problem. In fact, the improved Gardner was arguably the most dependable gun until the late-model Maxim machine guns of the early 20th century.

    The Spanish army had been fighting two long colonial campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines. They had experimented with Gatling guns in the hopes of using them for a sort of shock and awe effect against Cuban and Filipino rebels but found the heavy carriages difficult to use in mountainous jungles and the pieces to be very expensive. Spanish troops often simply left the Gatlings behind and, in contrast to the British in Southern Africa, had little good to say of their utility in actual fighting. They were heavy, stuck in the mud and the models tested jammed frequently. From 1895, they had also purchased some Maxim guns,which they hoped would provide a modern, lightweight alternative. These too proved unsatisfactory, for the expensive Maxim (the earlier models were difficult to use in such conditions) seemed even more prone to jam in their service and few spare parts were forthcoming. However, the French, Italian and Belgian-built Gardners would prove far better suited to their needs. Its durability and simplicity, refined by this time, made it absolutely ideal for the environment in Cuba. The mere sound of the gun's rapid firing was rather intimidating. Though the earlier models would still often jam like the other early machine guns, it was also easier to clear these than was the case with its rivals and the newer colonial models in French service were exceptionally reliable. Its tremendous affordability was of particular benefit (as Spain's military budget had been tested by the war in Cuba). This was possible not only because the gun was simple to make and maintain but because it was available in large quantities at rock-bottom prices secondhand from the French, Italians and Belgians with some newer examples being built under license in Bilbao from 1896. By 1898, Spanish troops had begun to make frequent use of the Gardner* and had used it to good effect in several engagements with Cuban rebels. As such, they shipped over scores of these primitive machine guns in the months leading up to the war.

    Gardner.png
    Classic Victorian Firepower: The famed Gardner machine gun, this one of the water jacketed variety, common in Spanish service in the 1890s. Each revolution of the crank fires two rounds. It is said that an enthusiastic gunner could nearly match the smaller Gatling models in rate of fire. American soldiers would refer to these lethal machines as 'coffee grinders'. These iconic symbols of the Spanish-American war are exceedingly rare today. This particular example was captured in pristine condition in 1899 and is on display in Havana at the Presidential Palace.

    (Actual Image Source: usarmamentcorp.com)

    Note: the other armament is basically the same and the biggest Spanish advantages remain their new Mauser-designed rifles. Their Krupp mountain guns are also of considerable value.


    * By this time, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain had all experimented with the single barrel, twin barrel and 5-barrel versions and found the twin barrel by far the most satisfactory in combat, though some 5-barrel models were used on gunboats.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
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  10. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Yes, though his campaign won't be quite so easy.
     
  11. haider najib Well-Known Member

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    Damn gatling gun won't get its moment to shine wouldn't it make a much better defensive weapon?
     
  12. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    It would.... but only in a world where Spain didn't have to deal with guerilla insurgents and thus had substantially more funding to play around with such fancy toys. To be sure, the Gatling gun's rate of fire was unmatched, even by the Maxim gun, but it had some strikes against it which probably prevented the Spanish from using it OTL either. For one, it was a very expensive weapon. The pieces were difficult to manufacture they were largely built in the United States, with whom relations were deteriorating. It is also less portable than the lighter Gardner (weighing less than 100 pounds) so it would be less useful against the Cuban rebel forces as an offensive weapon (OTL, Gatling guns on carriages proved cumbersome in Cuba OTL). Additionally, the tri-pod mounted Gardner wouldn't burn through ammo quite as fast, so that's a bonus when you don't want your soldiers wasting bullets. Until relatively recently, the army's priority was still on defeating the rebels, not defending against invasion, so they have only perhaps a handful of second-hand Gatling guns ready to go, if any, virtually all of which are in cities like Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago. Same for the Maxims, by and large. By this time, the Spanish army is relatively familiar with the Gardner and likes the ease with which it can be serviced in the field. In particular, the ease of clearing jams.

    So the Gardner is the main Spanish rapid fire weapon for both defense and offense. I wrote this in partly because I thought that the later versions are well-suited to Spanish needs and the gun was OTL very impressive in trials. Again, it would be easier for them to maintain in the field and to clear jams than anything else and was affordable enough to fit into their budget in a way that neither Gatlings nor Maxims really could. It is also partly because I feel that the weapon never got the attention it could have had it received more interest and very nearly could have. ITTL, it has succeeded more than in OTL because interest in hand-crank Gatling weapons has been accelerated, interest in fully automatic weapons has been slightly delayed and Spain has obtained large quantities of them from relatively friendly nations.

    By the way, just look at this beautiful thing. Here's a video of the twin barrel Gardner firing. Is that cool or what? It absolutely feels like it belongs in the Spanish-American War.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2019 at 12:57 AM
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  13. Alpha-King98760 Aku's most favorite assassin, babe!

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    This is a marvellous little TL, consider it watched. Also it’d be interesting if Spin managed to hold onto the Philippines while having to lose Cuba (only for Spain to lose the Philippines to another up and coming nation).
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019 at 8:02 AM
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  14. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    I've faced a huge dilemma as I write the next update: Does Spain hold back in Europe, where it's got a chance to seriously hurt the US navy, or does it make a mad dash for the Caribbean? I've considered both scenarios and the course of the timeline since the beginning but reading up on the conflict has raised nearly as many questions as it has answered. You could make a good case for either one. As interesting as it would be to write about a battle near the Canary Islands, complete with US landings to establish a base there, I'm not sure that the Spanish government and military would have been on board for doing it, and not just because of military factors. I'm also not so sure that the Americans would have crossed the Atlantic until the war in Cuba was pretty much wrapped up, largely because that could seriously compromise the blockade. On the other hand, with the Spanish navy in better condition, people might have acted differently. I've drawn up both scenarios but at this point I'm leaning to the one where Cervera goes to the Caribbean with pretty much the whole fleet. Maybe I'll have to write both versions...

    I guess you'll just have to wait and see.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019 at 12:13 PM
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  15. Alpha-King98760 Aku's most favorite assassin, babe!

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    I’d say I’m in favour of the Spanish Navy heading for the Caribbean. But the choice is yours.
     
  16. Lord Okkirke Active Member

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    IMO what is the mix of vessels of the Spanish? Less Battleships but more Cruisers? Then Spain should concentrate on raiding US merchant shipping(this will ultimately have to lead to some US-ships being used to hunt them down which would leave US and Spanish ships fighting 1 on 1 and negate any Advantage the US have in Terms of more (modern) Battleships)
    And the Phillipins should also not be forgotten.
     
  17. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    That sounds good but the trouble is their operational range and the lack of any real allies. They cannot safely travel the Caribbean alone and the Western Atlantic is virtually devoid of safe coaling stations. The armored cruisers must also be largely kept together in one big fleet so that it will have a better chance in any encounters with the enemy. They do have some auxiliary cruisers that likely will do some commerce raiding however...

    And the Philippines have not been forgotten. Dewey has been lurking around there for long enough that they have much better harbor defenses and at least one decent ship.

    OTL they were also considering an interesting diplomatic ploy meant to keep the war confined to the Atlantic.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019 at 9:49 AM
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  18. Chris Triangle Edits a lot

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    Ah, but the real question is, where in the Caribbean is he going to go first? The minute he departs, the Americans will have no way of knowing where the enemy squadron is going to appear because Cervera has complete freedom to go virtually wherever he wants, as long as he gets to Spanish territory.
     
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  19. Alpha-King98760 Aku's most favorite assassin, babe!

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    That’s a tough one, initially I’d say Cervera should make a b-line to Cuba but the Americans would be expecting that. Hmmmmm, does America have important interests in the Caribbean outside of Cuba?
     
  20. Lord Okkirke Active Member

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    Range should not e that big a Problem sine they (the Spanish) can refuel(take on coal and Food but no ammo) at any of the "neutral" powers ports in the Caribbean or northern South America. This is afterall what the German Raiders under the command of von Spee did in WW1(I am refering to them takeing on oal in Argentina).
     
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