Weyler, Valerià, 1838-1930

Alternative names
Birth 1838-09-17
Death 1930-10-20
Spanish; Castilian

Biographical notes:

Spanish army officer, colonial administrator, and statesman.

From the description of Valerià Weyler report, 1888-1891. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70981574

Valeriano Weyler, a descendant of a military family, was born on 17 September 1837, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain . Wanting to follow the steps of his father, a military physician, Valeriano enrolled in the Spanish Army. In 1853, he enrolled in the Tercera Compañía del Colegio de Infanteria de Toledo (Third Infantry Company of Toledo - Spain) and after a few years he received the rank of second lieutenant. Years later, he entered the Escuela de Estado Mayor (School of the Chiefs of the Army).

In March 1863, he was sent to Cuba as a Comandante del Cuerpo de Estado Mayor del Ejercito de Cuba (Chief of the Cuban Army). The Spanish government was looking for candidates to take military control of the last bastions of the Spanish Empire in Latin America but few wanted to face the risk of yellow fever in Cuba, which was devastating the population. However, Weyler considered this a great opportunity. At twenty-six years old he had the chance to become a commander, while his fellows of the Military School at Toledo were still lieutenants. Once in Cuba, he received the news about a revolt in Santo Domingo and Weyler requested a transfer to Santo Domingo to take control of the insurgents.

Having been liberated, first from Spain (1821) and then from Haiti (1844), Santo Domingo suffered from ongoing attacks of Haitian guerrillas. Since the end of the eighteenth century, Haiti, a colony of the French government, was having constant revolts that threatened the newly independent country of Santo Domingo . In light of this situation, the conservative government of Santo Domingo asked the Spanish Crown to accept them as a colony again. The Spanish Prime Minister, Antonio Canovas, appointed Weyler to end the revolt. The situation in Santo Domingo provided Weyler with the experience to develop his military tactics in a jungle battlefield. The Spanish Military Army decorated him with the Cruz Laureada de San Fernando (Laureate Cross of Saint Fernand), the highest medal of the Spanish Army during a combat, for his efficient handling of the guerrillas in Santo Domingo . In September of 1865, he was appointed as an Estado Mayor (Army Chief) in Puerto Rico, which was a minor Captaincy General.

In October of 1868, Cuba experienced a rebellion of the Creole oligarchy against Spanish domination. The insurrection was lead by Carlos Manuel Cespedes, a landowner, who was supported by the freed slaves of his own plantation. Weyler was sent to Cuba by the Spanish government to fight against the insurrection. This stage of Cuba's struggle for independence continued for a decade, known as the "Ten Years' War".

Later Weyler was appointed chief of the battalion Cazadores de Balmaceda . At this time he wrote about military tactics and new war strategies as well as documenting his theories and views on Cuba war. He was the first military officer to define the Guerra de Guerrillas . Following his appointment with the Cazadores, he was ranked as Brigadier and sent to Port Princess in Haiti .

Years later Weyler returned to Spain, and as soon as he arrived he was assigned to fight in the Carlista War. The Spanish Government recognized his service as demonstrated in the Bocairente Battle, and in recognition of his accomplishments, he was appointed Field Marshal. In 1875, Weyler was sent to the Canary Islands as a General Captain. His rank permitted him to go to the Senate as a representative of Canary Island. Subsequently, he received a lifetime nomination as Senator.

In 1883, he was sent to Baleares Islands and then to the Philippines where fought against the rebellion of Talagos, a native indigenous uprising. When he came back to Spain, he was again appointed as a Captain General and served in different regions of Spain . In Cataluña, he faced anarchist attacks in Barcelona.

Following these actions, he returned to Cuba as a Chief of the Army. This time his mission was to stop the revolt lead by Antonio Maceo . Weyler ruled his officers with an iron hand. To deal with Cuban guerrillas, Weyler instituted a policy of herding the rural population into garrisoned towns, where they could be controlled and the Cuban guerrillas could not recruit or use them for support. His name was synonymous with fear, and this policy caused considerable suffering to the civilian population. Spanish liberals began to criticize Weyler's policies, as did the American press. The United States government identified him as a bloodthirsty commander and asked the Spanish Government for Weyler's discharge. After that, Weyler began to lose ground politically. The situation was exacerbated when the Filipino rebellion drained Spanish troops out of Cuba . In 1897 with the assassination of Prime Minister Antonio Canovas, Weyler lost his political influence. He again returned to Spain, where he died in Madrid in 1930.

Valeriano Weyler is a significant figure in Spanish history and one of the most controversial. Throughout the years, historical opinion has identified him as both a heroic officer and as a bloody and defeated general, particularly because of his actions during his years in Cuba .

From the guide to the Valeriano Weyler Papers., 1863-1930., (Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center .)


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  • Free ports and zones


  • Army officers, Spanish
  • Colonial administrators
  • Statesmen--Spain


  • Spain (as recorded)
  • Philippines (as recorded)
  • Philippines--Zamboanga City (as recorded)
  • Philippines (as recorded)
  • Zamboanga City (Philippines) (as recorded)