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very particular. In the past, gun practice on board of our war-ships had been largely a matter of simply going through the motions of handling the guns.
“ This will not do,” said the Assistant Secretary. “Our gunners will never make good marksmen in that way. They must practise with powder and ball, shot and shell.” And after that they did. Such tice cost a round sum of money, and the department was criticised for its wastefulness in this direction ; but the worth of it was afterward proven when Commodore Dewey sank the Spanish ships in Manila Bay, and the Atlantic Squadron likewise destroyed the enemy's ships that were trying to escape from Santiago Harbor.
In those days at Washington, Theodore Roosevelt made a warm, personal friend of Dr. Leonard Wood. Dr. Wood was an army surgeon, who had seen considerable active service while under General Miles in the campaigns against the Apache Indians. Mr. Roosevelt has himself told how he and Dr. Wood would often, after office hours, take long walks out of the city, or play foot-ball, or go snow-skating when the weather per
mitted, and during such pastimes their conversation was invariably about the situation in Cuba, and what each intended to do should war break out.
“If war actually comes, I intend, by hook or by crook, to get out into the field,” said Dr. Wood.
“I shall go with you," answered Theodore Roosevelt. “No more office work for me if there is any fighting to be done.”
In the meantime, as already mentioned, matters in Cuba were rapidly approaching a crisis. Spain could not send a large enough army to the island to conquer the people while they were at liberty to roam through the jungles and mountains, and so began to drive men, women, and children into various cities or camps, where they were kept, under penalty of death if they tried to escape. Thus large numbers were torn from their homes, and sent miles and miles away, with no money, and nothing with which to support themselves. Food became scarce and high in price, and many grown folks and children were literally starved to death.
To help these starving people the Con
gress of our country voted to expend fifty thousand dollars from the national treasury. This excited Spain more than ever, and we were accused of trying to prolong the rebellion. But the deed was done, and many would have had us go farther, and recognize Cuba as a free and independent nation. This desire was overruled on the ground that our government could not with propriety endanger the peace of the world by taking so serious a step at that time. But the strength of popular sympathy with an oppressed people was shown by the fact that many Americans at grave personal risk went to Cuba, and joined the army in one capacity or another, fighting as bravely as if for their own individual rights.
DESTRUCTION OF THE MAINE – DEWEY'S VICTORY
THEODORE ROOSEVELT BECOMES SOLDIER ORGANIZING THE ROUGH RIDERS — VARIOUS MEN IN THE COMMAND
“THE Maine has been blown up!”
Such was the awful news which startled this whole nation in the middle of February, 1898, and which caused the question of war with Spain to crystallize without further deliberation.
The Maine was a battleship of large size, that had been sent down to the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on nothing more than a friendly visit. The explosion that destroyed this noble vessel occurred about ten o'clock at night, and was heard for miles around. Soon after the explosion, the war-ship began to sink, and over two hundred and fifty sailors and officers lost their lives.
The entire nation was now aroused, and many wanted to go to war with Spain immediately. But the Spaniards professed to be
ignorant of the cause of the explosion, and said it must have come from the inside of the ship and not the outside. Without delay a Board of Inquiry was established, and it was settled that the explosion had come from the outside, probably from a mine set by the Spaniards in Havana Harbor.
“This means war, and nothing but war,' said even the wisest of our statesmen. And so it proved. Without hesitation the whole nation sprang forward to uphold the administration, and in a few days Congress passed an appropriation of fifty millions of dollars “ for national defence.” It may be added that this appropriation was passed unanimously, regardless of party politics and regardless of the differences which, in the past, had existed between the North and the South.
We have already learned what had been done to prepare the navy for the conflicts to follow. Now there was even more work on hand, to get the army into shape for service in Cuba and on other foreign soil.
The regular army at that time consisted of about twenty-five thousand men, scattered all over the United States, - on the frontier,