Page images

Cervera, an old and able naval commander. In the fleet were four large cruisers and two torpedo-boats. Three of the cruisers were of seven thousand tons burden each, and all could make from eighteen to nineteen knots an hour. Each carried a crew of about five hundred men, and all were well supplied with guns and ammunition.

To keep this fleet “bottled up,” our own navy had a fleet of its own just outside of the harbor, where it had been stationed ever since Admiral Cervera had been discovered within. The American fleet consisted of the cruiser Brooklyn, which was Commodore Schley's flag-ship, the battle-ships Texas, Iowa, Indiana, and Oregon (the latter having sailed all the way from the Pacific coast around Cape Horn to get into the fight), and the converted yachts Gloucester and Vixen. There were also close at hand, but not near enough to get into the fight, the cruiser New York, Admiral Sampson's flagship, and several other vessels of lesser importance.

For a long time it had been thought that Cervera would try to escape from the harbor, in which he could not be reached because of

the strong forts that protected the entrance. To bottle him up more effectively, the Americans tried to block up the harbor entrance by sinking an old iron steamboat, the Merrimac, in the channel. This heroic work was undertaken by Lieutenant Hobson with a crew of seven daring men, but the plan failed, for the Merrimac, instead of sinking where intended, swung to one side of the main channel.

When it was reported to him that the Americans had taken the heights of El Caney and San Juan and were strongly intrenched in their positions, Admiral Cervera concluded that Santiago Bay might soon become too hot to hold him. The capture of the city would be followed by the taking of the forts at the harbor entrance, and then there would be nothing left for him to do but to surrender.

San Juan and El Caney had been taken on Friday, and all day Saturday occurred the shooting at long range, as already described. In the meantime the war-ships outside of the harbor kept up a close watch on the harbor entrance, lying well out dur ing the day, but coming in closer at night,

and using their powerful search-lights from sundown to sunrise.

Sunday dawned bright and clear, and for the time being all was quiet both ashore and afloat. In the trenches the Rough Riders and other soldiers were still on guard, doing what they could for their wounded, and trying to get the rations which were still delayed.

Presently, those on board of the American fleet noticed a thick cloud of smoke hanging over the harbor, coming from the funnels of the Spanish war-ships. Then one of the enemy's vessels showed itself, quickly followed by the others, and all turned westward, to escape up the coast.

“ The enemy is escaping !” was the signal hoisted. And then one cannon after another boomed out, giving the signal to all our ships in that vicinity. The booming of the cannon was heard away eastward at Siboney, whither Admiral Sampson had gone with his ship to confer with General Shafter, and without delay the New York raced madly back to get into the fight that followed.

“ Remember the Maine ! was the cry. “Down with the Spanish ships! Give 'em

what Dewey did!” And this cry, “Give 'em what Dewey did !” was heard on every hand.

The first vessel to go down was a torpedoboat, sunk by the Gloucester, and this was quickly followed by the sinking of the second torpedo-boat. In the meantime the larger vessels were pouring in their rain of steel upon the Spanish cruisers with deadly effect, knocking great holes into the ships and killing scores of those on board.

The Spanish cruiser Teresa was the first to succumb to the heavy attack, and soon she turned in to shore to save her crew from drowning. Then the Oquendo caught fire in several places, and burning fiercely from stem to stern, she, too, turned in.

But two ships were now left to Admiral Cervera, the Vizcaya and the Colon, and each had suffered much. Both were doing their best to get out of reach of our guns and the marvellous accuracy of our gunners.

“Don't let 'em get away!” was the cry. “Give 'em what Dewey did !” Forward went the war-ships of Uncle Sam, the powerful Oregon leading, with the Brooklyn and Texas not far behind. The rain of steel

continued, and at last, burning like her sister ships, the Vizcaya turned shoreward, and many of her crew leaped overboard to save their lives.

Only the Colon now remained. She was still in fair condition, and it was the Spaniards' ardent hope to save at least one ship from the dire calamity that had overtaken them. But this was not to be, and after a run of a few miles, during which the Oregon and Brooklyn continued to pound her with shot and shell, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the Colon also ran ashore.

It was assuredly a mighty victory, a fitting mate to the great victory won by Admiral Dewey, and when the news reached our country there was such a Fourth of July celebration everywhere as will never be forgotten. Twice had our navy met the ships of Spain, and each time we had sunk every vessel without losing any of our own. More than this, while the Spaniards had lost many men through shot and fire and drowning, our total loss was but one man killed and a handful wounded.

The loss of her second fleet was a bitter blow to Spain, and many predicted that the

« PreviousContinue »