After encountering only peasants and servants in the family tree, you can imagine how pleasant it is to find a genealogical link with a man who could well be considered a national hero. The courage and patriotism that he, Luis Cadarso, showed during the days and hours prior to his inevitable death in the Spanish-American War (1898) garnered him the admiration of many in his native Spain. Today his name is still remembered by a few, and although he was by no means comparable to Columbus or any subsequent conquistadors, Luis Cadarso’s story ought to be commemorated. At least on my blog.
Luis Cadarso Rey de Andrade was born in the Galician fishing village of Noya (La Coruña) in 1843. He was christened Luis after an elder brother who had died only months before Luis’s birth. His mother belonged to a somewhat respectable and higher-middle class family of old Galician stock, while his father was a Doctor in Law who had left his native Navarre in the early 1800’s in order to claim a valuable inheritance left to him by his uncle, who was the local priest of Noya.
Luis was the youngest of five; when he was just two years old, his mother died, and very soon thereafter his own siblings started founding their own families. Surrounded by this atmosphere, Luis decided to join the navy, and took to the sea. In 1858, when he was just 14 years old, he joined the Spanish Naval Military College, and was promoted two years later to second midshipman. In 1863 he was promoted to first midshipman, and in 1865 to Second Lieutenant, followed by Frigate Lieutenant (second class) in 1870 and again (first class) in 1878. By 1895 (he was only 52) he had already reached the rank of Captain; I think thus far his dedication and compromise toward the Spanish Navy could not have been in doubt.
Luis was married for the first time in 1870 to his brother’s wife’s sister, Demetria de Andrés-Moreno Curiel. The couple soon settled in the city of Ferrol, one of the most important naval cities on the Iberian peninsula. There, their first daughter was born a year later. The following year, in 1872, Luis’s pregnant wife was packed off to Noya due to a Republican insurrection which threatened the stability of the monarchy instituted only a year before by the Liberal monarch Amadeus of Savoy. Once the insurrection had been quashed, Luis resumed his life as a family man; Demetria recovered from the birth of their second child, but died suddenly the following March. She was just 26.
Understandably Luis Cadarso decided to marry again. By the time he did, he had already left Spain and settled in the Philippines, maybe taking his children with him, and there he married Natalia Fernández de Cañete, a young Andalusian who had close contacts in the local political scene. They had four children, all born in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which was at the time one of Spain’s most important and last remaining dominions overseas. Some time between 1888 and 1896, Natalia died.
While in the Philippines, Luis Cadarso became involved in politics; between 1887 and 1891 he was governor of the Eastern Caroline Islands, a remote colonial outpost under Spanish suzerainty at the time. By the 1890’s he decided to marry a third time, only this time his chosen bride was a much younger woman called Petronila de Sévigné, a Navarrese almost three decades his junior. Their only daughter, Josefina, was born in 1897 in Spain, where Petronila had been sent back from Manila for her own protection; trouble was afoot in the Philippines.
In 1898 the American battleship USS Maine blew up in Havana, Cuba (another Spanish colony). Washington blamed Spain for the provocation; Spain denied it all, to no avail. The Spanish-American war began on April 25th. Only four days before, Luis Cadarso wrote back to his elder brother Alejandro Cadarso (who was married to my great-great-great-grandmother’s first cousin) about the tight situation: “My dear brother, the French mail ship leaves to-morrow and I only have time to write but four lines. Last night we received cablegrams from the [Spanish] Navy and Overseas Ministers, stating only that diplomatic relations [with the United States] had been broken off; we are therefore awaiting the declaration of war any time now, which is why we are preparing all our battleships we have here. Mine [the Spanish battleship Reina María Cristina] is already on stand, with its spars and masts down, and everything painted grey, prepared to go into combat. As you well know, this ship has six guns, but nothing to protect its hull, so anything that hits us will inevitably cause damage to the ship. But even so, and despite the American Navy having six ships in the bay at Hong Kong (for of them armour-plated), we will do our duty, for it has always been the creed of the Cristina‘s commander [Cadarso himself] never to lower her flag, and only by Admiral Montojo giving such an order, who will soon board this ship with his insignia, could I cease to follow this creed. I am leaving poor Petronila under the care of the Mother Superior of Santa Isabel school; with the Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzón, Cristina and Castilla (wooden ship), we are going to defend Subic’s arsenal and turn later, according to the circumstances. Farewell, greet all those great relatives and friends with affection, and receive a heartfelt hug from your brother, Luis”.
Cadarso died heroically on May 1st 1898 in the Battle of Cavite, in Manila Bay. His ship was irremediably lost, as he had so accurately foreseen. His death, which was not altogether inevitable (he had recently been diagnosed with cancer, which would have surely cut his life short anyway), was met with a huge out-pour of grief both in his native Noya and other parts of Spain. But his sacrifice was in vain. Spain lost the suicidal war against the United States, and with it gave up all of its historical colonies in Washington’s favour. Puerto Rico, Philippines and Cuba became American colonies. The family had lost, this time round.