American Forts Network


Bahía Honda | Camagüey | Guantánamo Bay | Havana | Santiago de Cuba
American Occupation Posts (NOT INDEXED)

Baracoa | Caibarién | Cárdenas | Cienfuegos | El Ramón | Gibara | Holguín | Isabella de Saqua
La Sierra | Las Tunas | Manzanillo | Matanzas | Pinar del Río | Rincón | Trinidad | Trocha Line



Last Update: 02/AUGUST/2009
Compiled by Pete Payette - ©2009 American Forts Network

NOTE: After acquisition from Spain as a result of the 1898 Spanish-American War, Cuba became a U.S. Military Territory from 1899 - 1902 before independence. American troops were sent back in 1906 - 1909, and again in 1912, to restore civil order. Cuba became a U.S. Protectorate from 1902 to 1934. There were many minor forts, blockhouses, and batteries throughout Cuba, but we were primarily interested in the three major harbors and their defenses during the 1898 Spanish-American War. A selected listing of other colonial Spanish forts follows.

Bahía de Guantánamo
During the 1898 Spanish-American War the Spanish had shore batteries and a blockhouse on the eastern side of the bay, but they were quickly abandoned when the U.S. Marines landed onshore on June 10, 1898. The Marines set up fortified Camp McCalla along the eastern headlands (Fisherman's Point) at the mouth of the bay, now known as McCalla Hill. The last Spanish resistance was at the "Well of Cuzco" located about two miles southeast of Fisherman's Point. The U.S. Army set up Camp Lawton in the area in July 1898 as a staging area for the invasion of Puerto Rico. The Marines left in August 1898. The Army remained in garrison until 1902.
Battle of El Cuzco by Nigel Hunt

Spanish Coast Defenses of Guantanamo Bay in 1898 included Fort Toro on Cayo del Toro (North Toro Cay) at the entrance to the inner harbor (just north of the present Naval Station boundary), armed with three old 6.4-inch bronze ML guns and one modern 3.5-inch Krupp BL gun; a three-gun battery (6.4-inch bronze ML guns) at Caimanera; and Rowell Barracks (7000-man garrison) at Guantánamo City. The harbor was also mined. The Spanish also had a small gunboat with one 6-pounder quick-firing gun. Caimanera was bombarded by the American Navy on June 7, 1898. Fort Toro was put out of action on June 15, 1898. The Americans did not actually occupy Caimanera and Guantánamo City until October 1898.

The present 43-square mile U.S. Naval Reservation was created by treaty in 1903 as an American naval and coaling station. The U.S. Navy and Marines still maintain a presence here, in perpetual lease from Cuba since 1903. The base is strictly off-limits to the general public, Cubans and Americans alike. Tourists may "spy" on the base from a Cuban military command post located at Mirador Los Malones, about 15 miles east of Caimanera. The Hotel Caimanera in Caimanera also has a designated lookout (special permit required for travel beyond Guantánamo City).
(see also the GUANTANAMO BAY page for American defenses after 1903)

Santiago de Cuba
During the 1898 Spanish-American War eight (or ten ?) Spanish forts surrounded the entrenched city, including Forts Canosa (or Canovar), Horno, Centro Benefico, Las Canadas, St. Iñez, Cuabitas, Yacayo, and Harbor Fort. There were three blockhouses on the southeastern side of the city, one on the northeastern side, one on the eastern side (Sueno Blockhouse), and a fortified bull arena to the northeast. Another blockhouse was at Dos Caminos del Cobre (aka El Cobre), northwest of the city. A blockhouse at Cubanitas was abandoned before the battle. Two blockhouses protected the railroad terminal pier (Iron Pier) at the harbor. The Spanish garrison post was at Reina Mercedes Barracks (1759), east of the city center, the second largest garrison post in Cuba. This was later known as Moncada Army Barracks (Cuartel Moncada) under the Cuban National Army, which was the focus of the July 1953 revolt led by Fidel Castro. Since 1959 the former barracks has become a school and the Museo Histórico 26 de Julio (admission fee). Santiago was captured by American forces in July 1898, occupied until 1904.

An old Spanish fort (16th-century) was once located in the city center at the corner of Calle Mariano Corona at Calle Bartolomé Masó. Only fragments of the walls remain. Site now the Balcón de Velázquez (admission fee).

San Juan Heights: San Juan Blockhouse was at the top of San Juan Hill. It has been reconstructed in a small park with exhibits, near the Motel San Juan. Nearby at El Caney (northeast of the city) there were three wooden blockhouses, a stone blockhouse, and a small stone fort, called Fuerte El Viso (ruins still extant). Another blockhouse was located at Marianage, east of San Juan Heights.

Santiago Harbor: Spanish coastal artillery, consisting of 11 modern guns at five different batteries, aided the protection of Santiago Harbor. The harbor was also mined. Spanish Coast Defenses of Santiago in 1898 included El Morro Castle (2) (formally called Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro), built from 1638 to 1700, converted to a prison in 1775, located at the eastern side of the harbor entrance (two 8.3-inch ML howitzers, five 6.3-inch RML), and five outer batteries: Estrella Battery (two 8.3-inch ML howitzers, two 3.2-inch BLR, two bronze 5.7-inch ML); Santa Catalina Battery (obsolete); Cayo Smith Battery (obsolete); Western Battery (aka Zokapa Battery) (three 8.3-inch ML howitzers, two 6.3-inch Hontoria BLR, one 6-pdr QF, four 3-pdr QF, one 1-pdr QF); and Punta Gorda Battery (two 6-inch BL howitzers, two 3.5-inch Krupp BLR, two 6.3-inch Hontoria BLR). The detached batteries no longer exist, the sites are now hotels and restaurants. The Estrella and Santa Catalina works were originally old Spanish forts built in support of El Morro Castle. El Morro Castle, restored in the 1960's, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Castillo del Morro info by Nigel Hunt

Additional Spanish blockhouses (1898) nearby were at Daiquiri, Siboney, Juraguasito, Las Guasimas, and Sevilla. An American war monument is located at Sevilla.

Located here were Camp Allyn Capron and Camp Carpenter, American occupation camps until 1899 at the former headquarters of the Spanish Army Cavalry in Cuba. At the time, the name of the town was Puerto Príncipe. The Spanish Cavalry headquarters post became a hotel in 1905, and in 1948 became the Museo Provincial Ignacio Agramonte (admission fee), a regional art and history museum located on Avenida de los Mártires.

The Cuban National Army in the 20th-century used the nearby Iglesia y Hospital de San Juan de Dios (1728) (admission fee) at the Plaza San Juan de Dios as a military infirmary, which is today the Dirección Provincial de Patrimonio and the Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad.

La Habana
There are several Spanish colonial forts still extant here. Old Havana (Habana Vieja) was a walled city (built from 1674 to 1740, 10 meters high with ten equidistant bastions, mounting 180 guns). The wall was demolished beginning in 1863. A small portion of the original wall (Lienzo y Puerta de la Tenaza) still exists near the National Railways Station (Estación Central), along Avenida Bélgica. A wooden palisade with several bastions was first erected around the city in 1603. The British captured and occupied the city for 11 months in 1762 - 1763. By the 1763 Treaty of Paris it was returned to Spain in exchange for East and West Florida. The old city, including most of the forts, was declared a Cuban National Monument in 1978 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
There were no major engagements here, by land or sea, during the 1898 Spanish-American War. The city was not occupied by the Americans until December 1898, well after hostilities ended. Camp Columbia was the American occupation camp near the city in 1898 - 1899 (exact location undetermined - one source lists it near Buena Vista).
Habana Histórico (en Éspañol) from Habana
Havana Forts by Ian Stevenson, Fortress Study Group

Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (aka La Punta Fort), built from 1589 to 1630, is a small fortress on Punta Sotavento at the entrance to Canal del Puerto (ship channel into Havana Harbor), directly opposite El Morro. Now used as a Naval Museum (admission fee).
Castillo de la Real Fuerza, built from 1558 to 1577, is a small square-bastioned stone fort with a wet moat, facing the ship channel, located at Cuba Tacón and O'Reilly, adjacent to the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, across from the Plaza de Armas in the old city. It was the earliest maritime defense of the city, and the first bastioned stone fort built in North America. It was actively used as a defense until the early 1600's, then used as the Governor's residence. It has been completely restored. Located here is the Museo Nacional de la Cerámica Cubana. Admission fee.
Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (aka El Morro Castle (1)) (Parque Histórico Militar), built from 1589 to 1630, is a large triangular-shaped fortress on Punta Barlovento at the entrance to the ship channel into the harbor. El Morro Lighthouse (La Torre Blanca), originally built in 1581, became a lighthouse in 1764. The present light was built in 1845. A four-gun battery was added to the tower in 1583. The original Water Battery is below the lighthouse. The "new" water battery was built in 1739 behind the old. Velasco Battery (1740) was located just to the southeast. Admission fee. The two Cohima Batteries (Battery A and Battery B) (1898) were east of the fortress.
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (aka Cabaña Castle), built from 1763 to 1774, is a very large five-pointed fortress on the north side of the ship channel in East Havana. It is the largest Spanish-built fortress in North America, at about one half-mile (2300 feet) long, and about 200 yards wide, covering about 25 acres. San Diego Battery (1898) was east of here. New Battery (1898) was on the opposite side of the channel. A few relic Soviet missiles from the 1962 Missile Crisis are located here on display. Also here is the Museo Monográfico and the Museo de Armas y Fortificaciones (admission fees), and the Comandancia del Che, the former Spanish military governor's residence that was commandeered by Che Guevara in 1959. The "Cañonazo" ceremony is held in the parade every evening at 9 PM. There is still a small Cuban military presence here. Admission fee.
El Presidio de la Plaza de La Habana was noted to be in existence around 1700.
Southwest of the Old City at the head of Ensenada de Atarés, just south of the Cristina Train Station, is Castillo de Santo Domingo de Atarés, built beginning in 1764 as a five-pointed star masonry fort, built for land defense of the city. Still extant, no public access, now used by the Cuban Army.
Castillo del Príncipe, a five-bastioned fort built from 1774 - 1794 (still extant), and Príncipe Barracks were located southwest of the old San Nazario Fort on Aróstegui Hill at the present intersections of Avenida de los Presidentes, Avenida Salvador Allende (Carlos III), and Calzada de Zapata. Originally built for land defense of the city. No public access, used by Cuban Army as a military prison. The present-day Parque de la Fraternidad (laid out in 1892, renamed in 1928) located on Calle Dragones behind the Capitolio was once used as the garrison parade ground (Campo di Marte).
1898 Spanish-American War Defenses: West of Punta Sotavento was the Reina Battery (obsolete in 1898), and west of that was Santa Clara Battery (still exists with two original guns (one Krupp and one Ordoñez) on the grounds of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba at Calle O and Calle 21 in Vedado). The hotel was built in 1930. The Santa Clara battery was declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Havana in 1982. North of Santa Clara Battery was New Battery, and west of that was Battery A and Battery B on Punta Brava. South of Punta Brava was the old San Nazario Fort (noted as obsolete in 1898), and west of that was Vedado Battery.
Fuerte del Cojímar (aka El Torreon) is in Cojimar, six kilometers east of Havana. It is a small square-shaped tower fort built in 1649. Still exists adjacent to the Ernest Hemingway Monument. No public access, presently used by the Cuban Coast Guard.
Torreón de Bacuranao was built in 1650 to defend the eastern outskirts of Havana. Located by the Bacuranao River at Bacuranao Beach. A National Monument.
Torreón de San Lázaro is a watchtower built in the mid 17th-century in San Lázaro. Located by Parque Antonio Maceo, in Malecon y Marina, central Havana.
Fuerte de Santa Dorotea de la Luna en La Chorrera is located six kilometers west of Havana, near the mouth of the Río Almendares. This small square-shaped tower fort, built in 1647, captured by the British in 1762, was not shown on 1898 battle maps. Still extant, it is a National Monument.
Several Spanish earthen redoubts (1898) were located outside Havana: Redoubts Chipre, Mazo, and Mordazo, among others.

Castillo de los Caballeros is located in Old Havana in the block bound by Chacón, Cuba, and Cuba Tacón, adjacent to Parque Céspedes. Not a true historic fortification, it was built circa 1940 as the city jail and police headquarters. At present the building serves as the headquarters of the Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (National Revolutionary Police Force) of Havana. No public access except by special permission.

Bahía Honda
(1903 - 1911), Bahía Honda
The U.S. Navy acquired the use of this bay in the same treaty as Guantánamo Bay. It was abandoned after only eight years of limited use. Located on the northern coast west of Havana, north of Soroa.

Other American Garrison Posts

Territorial Occupation Posts and Garrisons
(1898 - 1904), various locations
(NOTE: dates are from U.S. National Archives post returns, may not reflect actual occupation dates)

Baracoa (1898 - 1902)
Bayamo (1899 - 1901)
Cabana Barracks (1899 - 1904)
Caibarien Barracks (1899 - 1900)
Ciego de Avila (1899 - 1901)
Cienfuegos (1899 - 1902)
Columbia Barracks (1898 - 1902)
El Caney (1899 - 1900)
Gibara (1899 - 1900)
Guanajay Barracks (1898 - 1900)
Guantanamo (1898 - 1902)
Hamilton Barracks (1898 - 1902)
Havana (1898 - 1902)
Holguin (1899 - 1902)
La Popa Barracks (1899 - 1900)
Camp Maceo, Las Minas (1898)
Camp R.S. MacKenzie, near Puerto Principe (1898 - 1902)
Manzanillo (1899 - 1902)
Mariano Clothing Depot (1898 - 1902)
Matanzas (1898 - 1903)
Mayari Barracks (1899 - 1900)
Morro Castle, Santiago (1898 - 1904)
Nuevitas (1898 - 1902)
Palma Soriano (1899 - 1900)
Pinar del Rio Barracks (1898 - 1900)
Placetas Barracks (1899 - 1900)
Ronnell Barracks (1899 - 1903)
Sagua Barracks (1899 - 1900)
Sancti Spiritus (1898 - 1900)
San Luis (1898 - 1902)
Fort San Severino (1899 - 1901)
Santa Clara (1898 - 1900)
Santiago (1898 - 1904)
Triscornia (1899 - 1902)
Tunas (1900)
Vedado (1898 - 99)

Civil Order Occupation Garrisons
(1906 - 1909), various locations
(NOTE: dates are from U.S. National Archives post returns, may not reflect actual occupation dates)

Caibarien (1906 - 09)
Camp Camaguey (1907 - 09)
Camp Columbia (1906 - 09)
Prison Officer (1906 - 09)
Casual Detachment (1906 - 09)
Cardenas (1906 - 09)
Ciego de Avila (1906 - 08)
Cienfuegos (1906 - 09)
Constancia (1907 - 09)
Quartermaster (1906 - 09)
Guanajay (1906 - 08)
Guines (1906 - 08)
Havana (1906 - 09)
Matanzas (1906 - 08)
Pinar del Rio (1906 - 09)
Placetas (1906 - 09)
Sagua La Grande (1906 - 09)
Santa Clara (1906 - 08)
Santiago (1906 - 09)
Soledad (1907 - 09)

Colonial Spanish Fortifications
(This listing makes no claim of completeness.)
The Provincial Fortifications During the Spanish Colonial Era by Peter Harrison, Fortress Study Group

Pinar del Río Barracks
(1895 - 1900), Pinar del Río
A Spanish garrison was quartered here. No action occured here in 1898. Occupied by the Americans in December 1898.

Fuerte de San Severino (National Monument)
(1693 - 1895, 1898 - 1901), Matanzas
A Spanish colonial square-bastioned masonry fort, on the north side of the bay. Still exists.

The harbor was fortified by the Spanish in 1898. The American Navy bombarded an uncompleted Spanish shore battery at Punta Gorda on April 27, 1898.

East of town on the south side of the bay opposite Fort San Severino is Castillo de Peñas Altas, and also Fuerte de Costa Morillo, built in 1720 at the mouth of the Canímar River. Rebuilt in 1776, 1807, and 1830. Now a museum (admission fee).

Cárdenas Barracks
(1850, 1898), Cárdenas
Spanish Army barracks were located at the Dominica building (still extant). Cuban nationalists raised the Cuban flag here for the first time in 1850. A stone tower built after 1850 still exists near Varadero Beach.
PHOTOS by David Stanley

The harbor was protected by a Spanish shore battery in 1898, which was bombarded by the American Navy on May 11, 1898.

Castillo de Jagua (National Monument)
(1733 - unknown, 1898 ?), Jagua
A Spanish colonial stone fortress (still extant), completed in 1745, formally known as Castillo de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Jagua, located at the mouth of Bahia de Cienfuegos to protect the bay from pirates. The town of Cienfuegos was not settled until 1819. The original moat and drawbridge are still intact. Access by ferry from Cienfuegos. Admission fee. Beginning in 2010 the fort was undergoing extensive restoration. INFO

The harbor was fortified by the Spanish in 1898. The American Navy raided the harbor on May 11, 1898 to sever the telegraph cables to Jamaica. The first American casualties of the war occured here at that time.

Trinidad Barracks
(1895 - 1898), Trinidad
The Spanish Army took over the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (1730) for use as barracks. The dilapitaded structures were demolished in 1930 except for the bell tower and several out buildings, which were then used as a school until 1984. Now the Museo de la Lucha contra Bandidos (admission fee), a museum devoted to the anti-Castro counter-revolutionaries in 1959. Located at the corner of Calle Hernández Echerri and Calle Piro Guinart. The city center, founded in 1514, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Caibarién Blockhouse
(1898), Caibarién
A Spanish blockhouse was located here. Located on the coast east of Remedios. The American Navy bombarded a Spanish shore battery here on July 28, 1898.

La Trocha Line (National Monument)
(1896 - 1898), near Ciego de Ávila
The Spanish built a fortified line of entrenchments and redoubts/blockhouses/towers running between Morón on the Atlantic coast, and Júcaro on the Caribbean coast, each about 1 km apart, during the Cuban War for Independence. Also manned for use against the Americans in 1898. Several redoubts/towers still exist outside of town, and are open to the public. History of the Trocha Line is at the Museo Histórico Provincial in town.
PHOTOS by David Stanley

Fuerte de La Loma (National Monument)
(1868 - 1895, 1898 - 1902), Puerto Padre, near Las Tunas
A Spanish outpost built to halt the advance of the Mambí rebels (Cuban nationalists) during the Ten Years' War (1868 - 1878).

Holguín Barracks
(1868 - 1872), Holguín
Spanish barracks were at "La Periquera", originally a ballroom and casino (1860), located adjacent to Parque Calixto Garcia (formerly known as Barrack Square). The Cuban nationalists (mambises) overran the garrison in 1872 and liberated the city. The building is now the Museo Provincial de Historia (admission fee). North of town on Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross) is a Spanish lookout tower (1868 ? or 1895 ?).

Gibara Barracks
(19th-century), Gibara
Ruins of a Spanish garrison are reported here located along the harbor, according to tourist guides.

Nearby along Bahía de Bariay is the recorded landing place of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

El Ramón Battery
(1898), El Ramón
The Spanish had a shore battery on Punta Ramón that was bombarded by the American Navy on July 21, 1898. The entrance to Bahía de Nipe was also mined and protected by a small gunboat.

Manzanillo Battery
(1898), Manzanillo
The Spanish had a shore battery just south of town that was fired upon by the American Navy on July 18, 1898.

Baracoa Forts
(1739 - 1902), Baracoa
Beginning between 1739 to 1742 there were several forts built to control pirate raids and British and French attacks.
Castillo de Seboruco, on a hill overlooking the town from the southeast. Occupied by the American Army in 1898-1902. Now the El Castillo Hotel.
Fuerte de la Punta, on the northwest end of town along the bay. Now a restaurant.
Fuerte de Majana, located on the Ensenada del Miel. No remains.
Fuerte Matachín, on the southeastern end of town facing the ocean, at Esteban Point. Now the Museo Municipal (opened 1981) (admission fee).
Torréon de Joa, Torréon de Paraíso, Torréon de Caguasy (aka Sabas Marín) were built in the 19th-century.

Other known forts over time were Fuerte Elvira, Fuerte Maraví, Fuerte Nibujón, Fuerte Guandao, Fuerte Casa Mata, Fuerte Capiro. None of these remain.

Baracoa is the oldest city in Cuba, founded in 1511. It was the capital until 1515.

NOTE: Other Spanish blockhouses (1898) were located at Rincón, Isabella de Saqua, and La Sierra (locations undetermined).

QUESTIONS ? Please send any corrections and/or additions to this list to:
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Latin American Forts