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How The Gloucester Revenged The Sinking Of The Maine






DEADLY AND HEROIC DEEDS IN THE WAR WITH SPAIN


IF you look at a map of the country we dwell in, you will see that it
has a finger pointing south. That finger is called Florida, and it
points to the beautiful island of Cuba, which spreads out there to right
and left across the sea of the South.

The Spaniards in Cuba were very angry when they found the United States
trying to stop the war which they had carried on so mercilessly. They
thought this country had nothing to do with their affairs. And in
Havana, the capital city of the island, riots broke out and Americans
were insulted.

Never before in the history of the United States navy had there been so
terrible a disaster as the sinking of the Maine by a frightful and
deadly explosion in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, on February 15, 1898,
and never was there greater grief and indignation in the United States
than when the story was told.

Do you know what followed this dreadful disaster? But of course you do,
for it seems almost yesterday that the Maine went down with her
slaughtered crew. Everybody said that the Spaniards had done this
terrible deed and Spain should pay for it. We all said so and thought
so, you and I and all true Americans.

Before the loss of the Maine many people thought we ought to go to war
with Spain, and put an end to the cruelty with which the Cubans were
treated. After her loss there were not many who thought we ought not to.
Our people were in a fury. They wanted war, and were eager to have it.

The heads of the government at Washington felt the same way. Many
millions of dollars were voted by Congress, and much of this was spent
in buying ships and hiring and repairing ships, and much more of it in
getting the army ready for war.

For Congress was as full of war-feeling as the people. President
McKinley would have liked to have peace, but he could no more hold back
the people and Congress than a man with an ox-chain could hold back a
locomotive. So it was that, two months after the Maine sank in the mud
of Havana harbor, like a great coffin filled with the dead, war was
declared against Spain.

Now, I wish to tell you how the loss of the Maine was avenged. I am
not going to tell you here all about what our navy did in the war. There
are some good stories to tell about that. But just here we have to think
about the Maine and her murdered men, and have to tell about how one
of her officers paid Spain back for the dreadful deed.

As soon as the telegraph brought word to the fleet at Key West that "War
is declared," the great ships lifted their anchors and sped away, bound
for Cuba, not many miles to the south. And about a month afterward this
great fleet of battleships, and monitors, and cruisers, and gunboats
were in front of the harbor of Santiago, holding fast there Admiral
Cervera and his men, who were in Santiago harbor with the finest
warships owned by Spain.

There were in the American fleet big ships and little ships, strong
ships and weak ships; and one of the smallest of them all was the little
Gloucester. This had once been a pleasure yacht, used only for sport.
It was now a gunboat ready for war. It had only a few small guns, but
these were of the "rapid-fire" kind, which could pour out iron balls
almost as fast as hailstones come from the sky in a storm.

And in command of the Gloucester was Lieutenant Wainwright, who had
been night officer of the Maine when that ill-fated ship was blown up
by a Spanish mine. The gallant lieutenant was there to avenge his lost
ship.

I shall tell you later about how the Spanish ships dashed out of the
harbor of Santiago on the 3d of July and what happened to them. Just now
you wish to know what Lieutenant Wainwright and the little Gloucester
did on that great day, and how Spain was made to pay for the loss of the
Maine.

As soon as the Spanish ships came out, the Gloucester dashed at them,
like a wasp trying to sting an ox. She steamed right across the mouth of
the harbor until she almost touched one of the great Spanish ships, all
the time firing away like mad at its iron sides.

The brave Wainwright saw two little boats coming out behind these big
ones. These were what are called torpedo-boats.

Do you know what this means? A torpedo-boat is little, but it can dart
through the water with the speed of the wind. And it carries
torpedoes--iron cases filled with dynamite--which it can shoot out
against the great warships. One of these could tear a gaping hole in the
side of a battleship and send it, with all on board, to the bottom. A
torpedo-boat is the rattlesnake of the sea. It is little, but it is
deadly.

But Lieutenant Wainwright and the men of the Gloucester were not
afraid of the Furor and the Pluton, the Spanish torpedo-boats. As
soon as they saw these boats they drove their little vessel toward them
at full speed. The Gloucester came under the fire of one of the
Spanish forts, but she did not mind that any more than if boys were
throwing oyster-shells at her.

Out from her guns came a torrent of balls like water from a pump. But

the water drops were made of iron, and hit hard. The Furor and
Pluton tried to fire back, but their men could not stand that iron
rain. For twenty minutes it kept on, and then all was over with the
torpedo-boats. They tried to run ashore, but down to the bottom they
both went. Of all their men only about two dozen were picked up alive.
The rest sank to the bottom of the bay.

Thus Wainwright and his little yacht avenged the Maine, and the
dreadful tragedy in Havana harbor was paid for in Santiago Bay.





Next: The Great Victory Of Manila Bay

Previous: The Sinking Of The Albemarle



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