Spanish Armoured Frigate, Numancia

In South America in March 1866, the French-built Spanish ironclad Numancia bombarded Valparaiso, Chile, in the presence of the warships of several nations including the U. S. “seagoing” monitor Monadnock. Numancia then went on to bombard the Peruvian port of Callao on 2 May 1866.

Spanish armoured frigate, built 1861-64. Numancia was one of the last survivors of the ironclad frigates that were built in considerable numbers for most navies in the 1860s. The French had built the first, Gloire, in the late 1850s and Numancia was built by the French shipyard of La Seyne. She was laid down in 1861, launched in 1863 and completed in November 1864, and was an iron hulled, fully-rigged three-masted broadside ironclad frigate. She had a ram bow, a single slightly raked funnel, and a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. Her original armament of 34 68-pdr guns was carried on the main deck broadside. She had a complete waterline belt which extended up over the main deck battery. It was 130 mm (5.1 in) thick over the guns and 120 mm (4.7 in) over the machinery, but tapered to 100 mm (3.9 in) at the ends. Her French-built compound reciprocating engine drove a single six-bladed screw, and she made 12.94 knots with 3708 ihp on trials.

She was rated as a line of battle ship by the Spanish, and immediately after delivery was sent to join the Spanish Squadron in the Pacific, which had been sent out to harass the coast of Peru. In company with the unarmoured wooden steam frigate Reina Blanca she fought an inconclusive action with the joint Chilean-Peruvian squadron off Tubilda near Huite on March 1, 1866, and she also took part in the bombardments of Valparaiso and Callao later in the same year, after which the squadron returned to Spain.

Juan Bautista Antequera: He distinguished himself in the the rebellions Alicante and Cartagena (Murcia), for which he was granted the Cross of San Fernando. In command of the brig Galiano in Havana he fought against pirates. During the war of Africa, in 1859, took part in the battles of River Martin, Larache and Arcila, being granted promotion to Colonel of Marine Infantry. During the Spanish-South American War of 1865, he took command of the armored frigate Numancia under the orders of Admiral Casto Méndez Núñez present at the bombing of Valparaíso and the battle of Callao. He later made the circumnavigation trip around the world back to Spain with Numancia.

By the 1870s her original armament had been replaced by a smaller number of 254- mm (10-in) and 203-mm (8-in) Armstrong RML (rifled muzzle-loading) guns. In 1873-74 she was seized at Cartagena, Colombia by the Intransigentes during the three-sided civil war, and in 1873 she rammed the Spanish corvette Fernando el Catolico, which sank.

After this she saw little service for the next 20 years, but the thick iron hull remained in good condition, and she was completely rebuilt at La Seyne between 1896-98. Her rig was reduced to two pole masts with fighting tops, she was reboilered, and was rearmed with four 200-mm (7.9-in), three 150-mm (5.9- in), ten 140-mm (5.5-in) QF, 12 47-mm (1.85- in) four 70-mm (2.76-in) and two 37-mm (1.46-in) guns and two 36-cm (14-in) torpedo tubes. Fortunately for the United States, perhaps, she was not ready in time to take part in the Spanish-American war, and in the early years of the twentieth century she became a gunnery training ship. She was reduced to harbour duties, and then scrapped in about 1920.


In the 1860s relations between Spain and its former colonies Peru and Chile deteriorated into open warfare after the Spanish seized Peru’s guano-rich Chincha Islands. Admiral Casto Mendez Nuñez steamed from Spain on board the newly built ironclad Numancia to take command of a Spanish squadron off the coast of Chile. He bombarded the port of Valparaiso in February 1866, then moved north to Peru, choosing the fortified naval base at Callao as his target.

The fighting Peruvians brought up two home-built ironclads, the Virginia-style casemated Loa and Victoria, which was purportedly a monitor-type ironclad powered by a locomotive engine. However, it is doubtful that the Peruvians, ingenious as they were, could manufacture a revolving-turret ironclad with their resources. More effective were the Peruvian turret shore batteries, whose return fire killed 43 Spaniards, compared to 200 Peruvian dead. The Spanish fleet had 245 guns on board, arranged in broadside. The Peruvian armament totaled around 90 guns, including some very heavy shore guns in armored emplacements. On the morning of May 2, the Spanish ships advanced within range and a ferocious gun duel began; it lasted six hours. The Spanish vessels received many hits, especially Numancia, deliberately positioned by Mendez Nuñez in the place of greatest danger. More than 40 Spanish officers and men were killed and a further 160 were wounded, including the admiral. But the Spanish had the better of the duel, silencing almost all the shore guns with their more skilful shooting. There were some 600 Peruvian casualties, including the minister of war Juan Galvez, killed in the destruction of an armored strongpoint. The Spanish squadron subsequently left for the Philippines, leaving the bombardment without consequence. Returning home to Spain, Numancia became the first ironclad to circumnavigate the globe.In Spain, during the Cartagena Revolt (July 1873), revolting Cantonists seized the naval base, taking control of globe-circling ironclad frigate Numancia, as well as Vitoria, Tetuan, and the ironclad corvette Mendez Nunez. The Spanish government, now bereft of most of its navy, hit upon the idea of declaring the insurgents pirates. Thus when the Cantonists threatened to bombard Almiera if a ransom were not paid, the German turret ironclad Friedrich Karl and the British box battery ironclad Swiftsure seized two insurgent unarmored warships and returned Vitoria to the Madrid government. Vitoria then clashed with the insurgent-held Tetuan. Badly damaged in the encounter, Tetuan was blown up in Cartagena harbor by the rebels to avoid capture. That October, the entire rebel ironclad fleet put to sea to engage the government squadron, which now included its one remaining ironclad, Vitoria. That single government ironclad apparently was enough to beat off the rebel fleet in an ironclad naval battle almost lost to history. After some coastal bombardments by government ironclads and unarmored warships, the civil war finally ended in May 1876.

Name: Numancia
Namesake: Numantia
Builder: Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne,
Laid down: 22 April 1862
Launched: 19 November 1863
Completed: 17 December 1864
Commissioned: 1865
Refit: 1897–98
Struck: 1912
Fate: Sank while under tow, 17 December 1916
General characteristics (as built)
Type: Broadside ironclad
Displacement: 7,305 metric tons (7,190 long tons)
Length: 95.6 m (313 ft 8 in)
Beam: 17.3 m (56 ft 9 in)
Draft: 7.7 m (25 ft)
Installed power: 3,770 ihp (2,810 kW)
Propulsion: 1 shaft, 1 Horizontal return connecting rod compound steam engine 8 boilers
Sail plan: Ship rig
Speed: about 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Range: 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km; 3,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 561
Armament: 40 × 68-pounder smoothbore guns
Armor: Belt: 100–130 mm (3.9–5.1 in) Battery: 120 mm (4.7 in)

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