Virginius affair, 1873, incident that came near to causing war between the United States and Spain. The Virginius, a filibustering ship, was fraudulently flying the American flag and carrying arms to the Cubans in the Ten Years War. It was captured by the Spanish off Cuba, Oct. 31, 1873. The captain, Joseph Fry, and 52 of the crew and passengers—among them several Americans—were executed. More would have been killed but for the intervention of the British ship, Niobe. After the incident, negotiations were undertaken by Daniel Edgar Sickles, U.S. minister to Spain, whose intemperate attitude worsened the situation. However, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish (1808–93) took negotiations out of Sickles's hands and a settlement was reached. Spain paid the United States an indemnity of $80,000.