File No. 311.523/41

The Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, certain correspondence received from the Commandant of the Portsmouth Navy Yard relative to the transfer of the remains of Spanish sailors on Wednesday April 12, 1916.

Sincerely yours,

Josephus Daniels

Captain Howard to the Secretary of the Navy

The remains of the thirty-one (31) Spanish sailors who died at this yard while prisoners of war were transferred to a representative of the Spanish Embassy at 11:30 a.m., April 12, 1916.

The thirty-one metal lined and hermetically sealed caskets had rested in the mortuary chamber of the naval hospital since the remains were exhumed in March, covered by the Spanish Ensign and guarded by U. S. marines. This chamber was visited by the Spanish military and naval representatives, who placed wreaths on the caskets.

A funeral escort, composed of band, a battalion of one company of marines and three companies of blue jackets from the Washington, Sacramento and Southery, followed by four hearses with thirty-two body bearers, and six carriages containing foreign and our own officials left the hospital at 10:30 a.m. The line of march was from the hospital to the Almirante Lobo, which was moored alongside the Flat Iron pier. Here the battalion faced the ship, the hearses passing in front of the battalion, which was at Present Arms, and each hearse unloaded by our body bearers, the caskets being placed on a low platform just abaft the gangway of the Almirante Lobo.

Admiral Knight then made the official delivery, which was replied to by Colonel Urcullu; a short prayer was then read by a Catholic Priest, followed by the band playing the Spanish national air, then three volleys from the marines and taps sounded on the bugle, which concluded our part of the ceremonies.

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The following officials were present:

  • Colonel Nicolas Urcullu, Spanish Army, representing the Spanish Embassy;
  • Mr. Thomas Hinckley, representing the Department of State;
  • Admiral Knight, U. S. N., representing the Navy Department;
  • Commander Luis Suanzes, and officers of the Almirante Lobo;
  • The Commandant, and officers of Portsmouth, N. H. Navy Yard;
  • Captain Wallace and Aid, from Fort Constitution.

W. L. Howard

Admiral Austin M. Knight, representing the Navy Department, delivered the following address, delivering the Spanish bodies over to that Government:

Colonel Urcullu, Captain Suanzes and men of the Spanish Navy:

As the representative of my Government and especially of the Department of the Navy, I am charged with the duty of transferring to your custody the remains of these brave men, your countrymen, whose fate it was to die far from the land which they loved and which they honored by their valor. They have slept for many years in the soil of an alien, though a not unfriendly country. Today they enter upon their journey home. We rejoice with, you that this is so; and yet we would not have you feel that we have thought of them as strangers in these years through which they have rested in this, to them, a strange land. What we could do we have done, to create about their resting place an atmosphere not of respect alone but of affection. Year after year in honoring our own heroes we have honored them, with little thought of any difference. Year after year on our Memorial Day, the flag they loved has been planted above their heads. The time has come when they are to pass beneath the folds of that flag never again to leave its shelter. And so to you who represent the great and gallant nation to which they and the memory of their deeds belong, we commit their sacred dust. Bear it lovingly across the sea, and with it bear to your Sovereign and your people the assurance of the heartfelt sympathy of the President and people of the friendly nation in whose care you have left it so long.

May your voyage be happy and your home coming marked by brighter skies than you have found in our cold northern clime. You will believe, I know, that our climate does scant justice to the warmth of our friendship and our sympathies.

Col. Urcullu made the following reply in behalf of the Spanish Government:

In the name of the Government, His Majesty, the King of Spain and of his Ambassador to the United States, I have the unmerited honor of receiving the remains of these thirty-one sailors who died on American soil.

These special honors which have been conceded to them by order of the President of the United States and his Government, and to which the American Navy and the people of Portsmouth have so brilliantly contributed have moved me deeply, for, being not only a testimony of respect to the humble sailors which in the flower of their youth have lost their lives in the service of their country, it is also a proof of the friendly relations between the American and Spanish nations.

For almost eighteen years these bodies have reposed here, cared for and honored by the Navy of the U. S. and by the American people. And now that my King and my Government have ordered the conveyance of these bodies that they may rest forever in the land which has witnessed their birth, I believe that in offering my deep gratefulness to the American President, Government and Navy for the care which they have given and the honor which they, upon this occasion attributed to them; in doing this, then, I believe that I manifest faithfully the sentiment of my King, of my Government and of the Spanish Navy.