Cuban Numismatic Association Newsletter
April 2005
APRIL 2005
Editor – Frank Putrow
WebMaster - Stan Klein
Frank Putrow – President 
Andres Rodriguez – Vice President
Marysol Cayado – Secretary
Robert Freeman – Treasurer
Board of Directors – Richard Becker, Larry Casey, Enrique Cayado, Stan Klein, & Emilio M. Ortiz.

A Rich Naval Tradition, Trafalgar And Cuban Commemoratives

 by Enrique Cayado, Board Member

2005 marks the 200th anniversary of the October 21st 1805 naval battle of Trafalgar. The encounter is remembered for the death of British Admiral Horatio Nelson, commanding the British fleet in the 104 cannon HMS Victory. Trafalgar Square, and it’s many pigeons, are also reminders to those less versed in 19th Century history. Horatio’s brilliant victory against the combined Spanish – French fleet is credited with accelerating the decline of Spanish naval power, ending Napoleon’s ambition of an invasion of England, and facilitating the second American independence wars of 1809-1824.

At the time of Trafalgar, naval construction in Habana had a tradition of 2 centuries. Major ships, starting with the Nuestra Senora del Pilar, de la Vitoria, de los Remedios, del Peligro, and the well known “Treasure Galleon” Nuestra Senora de Atocha, were launched from 1607 to 1609.

The rise of English naval power and the frequent European conflicts in the 18th Century saw increases in size as well as sophistication of design, armament and sailing technology. No fewer than 90 ships, of the line from 60 to 120 cannon, were completed in the Habana shipyards during the century. Construction paused during the British capture of Habana in 1762, but resumed after the eleven month occupation ended with the cession of “Las Floridas” and Manila in exchange for Habana. Spain gracefully accepted the “Luisianas” from France as compensation for its losses.

c.Willys Betts, #443: 1763 Medal commemorating the Defense of "El Morro" by Luis Velasco and Vicente Gonzales who died in the battle. Velasco had arrived in Habana as Captain of the Habana built 70 cannon "Reina" captured in the engagements. Other ships built in Habana and lost in 1762 were the America (64 cannon), Infante(74 Cannon), Neptuno (74 cannon), San Antonio (64 cannon), San Genaro (60 cannon),San Genaro (60 cannon) and Tigre (70 cannon).


THE 1776 AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE WARS : Spain and France were quick to support the first American independence war, and Spain recuperated the “Floridas” and Manila in the process. The Habana built San Ramon (74 cannon) accompanied various Bernardo Galvez expeditions that sailed from Habana against the English in Baton Rouge, Mobila (Mobile) and Panzacola (Pensacola). These attacks were closely coordinated with George Washington and diverted substantial British forces from the struggle. Habana ladies, as a footnote, also donated more than 8 million reales from their grocery allowances to George Washington, who was deeply admired and possibly considered cute. These acts of friendship were recognized by an act of Congress in 1784.

Cuban shipyards had a significant role in the battle. Santisima Trinidad, Principe de Asturias and Rayo had been launched in Habana in 1769, 1794 and 1748 respectively.

Santisima Trinidad, a revolutionary four deck 120 cannon design was the largest war ship of its time. Although displacing 5,000 tons, 220 feet long, and boasting twice the firepower of HMS Victory, the Santisima Trinidad was made toothpicks after a five-hour engagement with HMS Victory, Temeraire, Neptune, Leviathan and Conqueror. Admiral Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros was wounded and one third of the complement of 1,048 sailors and marines were casualties. The Santisima Trinidad, towed by HMS Prince and Neptune sank shortly thereafter, about 28 miles south of Cadiz with further loss of life.
Principe de Asturias, a 112 cannon design was the flagship of Spanish Admiral Gravina, who was fatally wounded in the engagement. Despite severe damage and casualties, it escaped to Cadiz. Later in 1808, in alliance with England against Napoleon, it participated in the capture of French naval units Heros, Neptuno, Algesiras, Argonaute, Pluton and Cornelie in the Bay of Cadiz.
Rayo was converted from the original 80 cannon design to 100 cannon. Commanded by Enrique Macdonel, it was the oldest ship to participate in the battle. Severely damaged and adrift, it sank in the storm that followed the engagement.

Posted by: Enrique Cayado