« PreviousContinue »
self and the result that was morally certain to follow. April 25 Congress, responding to a special message from the President, declared war with Spain to be in existence, and that it had existed since April 21, when Spain herself had severed relations with our Government. That same day the President's proclamation was given to the world. And the end for which so many forces of humanity, of justice and of national and individual interest had labored through fifty years was accomplished. The protest of a Christian nation against such savagery as heathens have not equaled was recorded. It is a little curious to reflect just here on the Service Mr. Roosevelt had rendered his country in the short year of his labor in the navy department. So far as the army was concerned, there was a distressing state of “unpreparedness.” The word is not agreeable to the ear, but it expresses the situation wonderfully well. So far as numbers went, the army was wholly inadequate. A new force had to be secured. Volumteers must be called for. They must be armed, clothed, equipped, paid and drilled. Not one step had been taken in preparation for the event which all men knew was certain to come. The legal limit of the regular army was twenty-five thousand men; and it did not contain so many. There was no clothing for the one hundred and twenty-five thousand volunteers called for by the President—and they offered themselves without delay. There were no arms for them. They lacked ammunition, especially the Smokeless powder which is necessary for the best results in warfare. Not only must men be recruited, but they must be officered, organized into an effective force and provided with all that an army needs for battle or for camp. On the other hand, the navy was ready. And there is no more significant fact in the whole history of the period than that the arm of the service which was first called upon to bear the brunt of the struggle was prépared at the first demand. The navy struck the first blow. Commodore Dewey was informed at Yokohama of the strained relations between the United States and Spain. He assembled his squadron at HongKong, and was ready for any orders that might come to him. He had plenty of coal, provided by the assistant secretary of the navy. He had an abundance of ammunition, which had been hurried from the United States months before. He had officers selected from the whole list in commission for their fitness and their readiness for orders. He had a crew on every ship trained to every detail of work, hardened by drill and efficient through practice. And there was not a vessel in his squadron which lacked even the smallest detail in preparation for any struggle, no matter how severe. It is idle here to tell again the battle of Manila Bay. Some have arisen with sneering criticism of the inequality in that struggle, describing the enemy's squadron as “a lot of tubs.” Yet they were capable war-vessels, and fought from the protection of forts which are always conceded to have an advantage. If Admiral Dewey had led to that task the navy of 1897 he might have won; but he would have paid for victory in the lives of American sailors, and in the loss of vessels that at the time could ill have been spared. Prepared as he was by Mr. Roosevelt's orders, he surpassed Salamis—and lost neither ship nor man. The event is without parallel in all the history of naval battles. Similarly, in the Western ocean, the same condition of “preparedness” was observed. Mr.