« PreviousContinue »
and promptly taken, the subscriptions so far exceeding the call as to cover it many times over, while, preference being given to the smaller bids, no single allotment exceeded $5,000.
This was a most encouraging and significant result, showing the vast resources of the nation and the determination of the people to uphold their country's honor.
DEWEY'S GREAT VICTORY. The first encounter of the war in point of date took place April 27th, when a detachment of the blockading squadron made a reconnaissance in force at Matanzas, shelled the harbor forts and demolished several new works in course of construction.
The next engagement was destined to mark a memorable epoch in maritime warfare. The Pacific fleet, under Commodore Dewey, had lain for some weeks at Hongkong. Upon the colonial proclamation of neutrality being issued and the customary twenty-four hours' notice being given, it repaired to Mirs Bay, near Hongkong, whence it proceeded to the Philippine Islands under telegraphic orders to capture or destroy the formidable Spanish fleet then assembled at Manila.
At daybreak on the ist of May the American force entered Manila Bay, and after a few hours' engagement effected the total destruction of the Spanish feet, consisting of ten warships and a transport, besides capturing the naval station and forts at Cavite, thus annihilating the Spanish naval power in the Pacific ocean and completely controlling the Bay of Manila, with the ability to take the city at will. Not a life was lost on our ships, the wounded only numbering seven, while not a vessel was materially injured.
For this gallant achievement the congress, upon my recommendation, fitly bestowed upon the actors preferment and substantial reward.
The effect of this remarkable victory upon the spirit of our people and upon the fortunes of the war was instant. A prestige of invincibility thereby attached to our arms, which continued throughout the struggle. Re-enforcements were hurried to Manila under the command of Major-General Merritt and firmly established within sight of the capital, which lay helpless before our guns.
On the 7th day of May the government was advised officially of the victory at Manila, and at once inquired of the commander of our fleet what troops would be required. The information was received on the 15th day of May, and the first army expedition sailed May 25th and arrived off Manila June 30. Other expeditions soon followed, the total force consisting of 641 officers and 15,058 men.
Only reluctance to cause needless loss of life and property prevented the earıy storming and capture of the city, and therewith the absolute military occupancy of the whole group. The insurgents meanwhile had resumed the active hostilities suspended by the uncompleted truce of December, 1897. Their forces invested Manila from the northern and eastern side, but were constrained by Admiral Dewey and General Merritt from attempting an assault.
It was fitting that whatever was to be done in the way of decisive operations in that quarter should be accomplished by the strong arm of the United States alone. Obeying the stern precept of war, which enjoins the overcoming of the adversary and the extinction of his power wherever assailable as the speedy and sure means to win a peace, divided victory was not permissible, for no partition of the rights and responsibilities attending the enforcement of a just and advantageous peace could be thought of.
CAMPAIGN IN CUBA REVIEWED. Following the comprehensive scheme of general attack, powerful forces were assembled at various points on our coast to invade Cuba and Porto Rico. Meanwhile naval demonstrations were made at several exposed points. On May 11th the cruiser Wilmington and torpedo boat Winslow were unsuccessful in an attempt to silence the batteries at Cardenas, against Matanzas, Worth Bagley and four seamen falling.
These grievous fatalities were, strangely enough, among the very few which occurred during our naval operations in this extraordinary conflict.
Meanwhile the Spanish naval preparations had been pushed with great vigor. A powerful squadron under Admiral Cervera, which had assembled at the Cape Verde Islands before the outbreak of hostilities, had crossed the ocean, and by its erratic movements in the Caribbean Sea delayed our military operations while baffling the pursuit of our fleets. For a time fears were felt lest the Oregon and Marietta, then nearing home after their long voyage from San Francisco of over 15,000 miles, might be surprised by Admiral Cervera's fleet, but their fortunate arrival dispelled these apprehensions and lent much needed re-enforcement.
Not until Admiral Cervera took refuge in the Harbor of Santiago de Cuba about May 9th was it practicable to plan a systematic military attack upon the Antillean possessions of Spain. Several demonstrations occurred on the coasts of Cuba and Porto Rico in preparation for the larger event. On May 13th the North Atlantic squadron shelled San Juan de Porto Rico. On May 30th Commodore Schley's squadron bombarded the forts guarding the mouth of Santiago Harbor. Neither attack had any material result. It was evident that well-ordered land operations were indispensable to achieve a decisive advantage.
The next act in the war thrilled not alone the hearts of our countrymen but the world by its exceptional heroism.
• SINKING OF THE MERRIMAC. On the night of June 3d Lieutenant Hobson, aided by seven devoted volunteers, blocked the narrow outlet from Santiago Harbor by sinking the collier Merrimac in the channel, under a fierce fire from the shore batteries, escaping with their lives as by a miracle, but falling into the hands of the Spaniards.
It is a most gratifying incident of the war that the bravery of this little band of heroes was cordially appreciated by the Spaniards, who sent a flag of truce to notify Admiral Sampson of their safety and to compliment them upon their daring act. They were subsequently exchanged July 7th.
By June 7th the cutting of the last Cuban cable isolated the island. Thereafter the invasion was vigorously prosecuted. On June roth, under a heavy protecting fire, a landing of 600 marines from the Oregon. Marblehead and Yankee was effected in Guantanamo Bay, where it had been determined to establish a naval station. This important and essential port was taken from the enemy after severe fighting by the marines, who were the first organized force of the United States to land in Cuba. The position so won was held despite desperate attempts to dislodge our forces.
By June 16th additional forces were landed and strongly intrenched. On June 22d the advance of the invading army under Major-General Shafter landed at Baiquiri, about fifteen miles east of Santiago. This was accomplished under great difficulties, but with marvelous dispatch. On June 23d the movement against Santiago was begun.
On the 24th the first serious engagement took place, in which the First and Tenth Cavalry and the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, General Young's brigade of General Wheeler's division, participated, losing heavily. By nightfall, however, ground within five miles of Santiago was won.
The advantage was steadily increased. On July 1st a severe battle took place, our forces gaining the outworks of Santiago. On the 2d El Caney and San Juan were taken after a desperate charge, and the investment of the city was completed. The navy co-operated by shelling the town and coast forts.
DESTRUCTION OF CERVERA'S FLEET. On the day following this brilliant achievement of our land forces, July 3d, occurred the decisive naval combat of the war. The Spanish fleet, attempting to leave the harbor, was met by the American squadron under command of Commodore Schley. In less than three hours all the Spanish ships were destroyed, the two torpedo boats being sunk, and the Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, Vizcaya and Cristobol Colon driven ashore. The Spanish admiral and over 1,300 men were taken prisoners, while the enemy's loss of life was deplorably large, some 600 perishing.
On our side but one man was killed, on the Brooklyn, and one man seriously wounded. Although our ships were repeatedly struck, not one was seriously injured. .
Where all so conspicuously distinguished themselves, from the commanders to the gunners and the unnamed heroes in the boiler-rooms, each and all contributing toward the achievement of this astounding victory, for which neither ancient nor modern history affords a parallel in the completeness of the event and the marvelous disproportion of casualties, it would be invidious to single out any for especial honor.
Deserved promotion has rewarded the more conspicuous actors, the nation's profoundest gratitude is due to all of those brave men who by their skill and devotion in a few short hours crushed the sea power of Spain and wrought a triumph whose decisiveness and far-reaching consequences can scarcely be measured. Nor can we be unmindful of the achievements of our builders, mechanics and artisans for their skill in the construction of our warships.
With the catastrophe of Santiago Spain's effort upon the ocean virtually ceased. A spasmodic effort toward the end of June to send her Mediterranean fleet under Admiral Camara to relieve Manila was abandoned, the expedition being recalled after it had passed through the Suez Canal.
The capitulation of Santiago followed. The city was closely beseiged by land, while the entrance of our ships into the harbor cut off all relief on that side. After a truce to allow of the removal of non-combatants protracted negotiations continued from July 3d to July 15th, when, under menace of immediate assault, the preliminaries of surrender were agreed upon. On the 17th General Shafter occupied the city.
The capitulation embraced the entire eastern end of Cuba. The number of Spanish soldiers surrendered was 22,000, all of whom were subsequently conveyed to Spain at the charge of the United States.
The story of this successful campaign is told in the report of the secretary of war, which will be laid before you. The individual valor of officers and soldiers was never more strikingly shown than in the several engagements leading to the surrender of Santiago, while the