Joaquín Vara de Rey y Rubio

Joaquín Vara de Rey y Rubio (1841 – July 1, 1898) was a career Spanish military officer. He is best known for leading the stubborn defence of El Caney against a massively superior American army during the Spanish–American War.

Joaquín Vara de Rey y Rubio
Joaquín Vara de Rey.jpg
Ibiza, Spain
DiedJuly 1, 1898 (aged 56–57)
El Caney, Cuba
Allegiance Kingdom of Spain
Service/branchSpanish Army
Years of service1862–1898
RankBrigadier General
AwardsLaureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand

Military careerEdit

Vara de Rey was born in Ibiza in 1841. He graduated as a second lieutenant from the Colegio General, rising to the rank of first lieutenant in 1862. He fought against uprisings in Cartagena and Valencia and against the Carlists in the Carlist Wars. He requested a transfer to the Philippines in 1884 and remained there until 1890, serving as military political governor of the Mariana Islands and straightaway of Zamboanga. The following year he was promoted to colonel and returned to Spain.

In 1895, Vara de Rey volunteered for service in Cuba. He commanded the Spanish forces at Bayamo and led his regiment to victory at the Battle of Loma de Gato in which the Spaniards killed revolutionary leader José Maceo, brother of Antonio Maceo Grajales.

On July 1, 1898, Brigadier General Joaquín Vara de Rey, with only 550 men and two 80mm mountain cannons artillery, heroically defended Battle of El Caney for ten hours against a Second Division under Lawton and an Independent Brigade of the U.S. Army totaling more than 8,000 men. Vara de Rey lost two sons in the battle and was himself, mortally wounded in the fighting; only 84 Spanish soldiers survived unscathed. His well-placed defenses involved small covered bunkers that employed mutually-protected supporting fires so that an attack on an individual bunker caused the attackers to be hit by enemy supporting fire from several other forts.

Impressed by his generalship, U.S. troops buried Vara de Rey with full military honours. American accounts of the campaign praised the "magnificent courage" of Vara de Rey's soldiers and described the man as "an incomparable leader; a heroic soul."[1] Vara de Rey's remains were repatriated to Spain in November 1898 with American cooperation. He was posthumously awarded the Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand, Spain's highest military decoration.



  • Albert A. Nofi (1997). The Spanish–American War, 1898. Combined Books. ISBN 0-938289-57-8.