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Sampson And Schley Win Renown






THE GREATEST SEA FIGHT OF THE CENTURY


I HAVE told you what Hobson did and what Wainwright did at Santiago. Now
it is time to tell all about what the ships did there; the story of the
great Spanish dash for liberty and its woeful ending.

Santiago is the second city of Cuba. It lies as far to the east as
Havana does to the west, and is on the south of the island, while Havana
is on the north. Like Havana, it has a fine harbor, which is visited by
many ships.

Well, soon after the war with Spain began, our naval captains were in
trouble. They had a riddle given them for which they could not find the
answer. There was a squadron of Spanish warships at sea, and nobody knew
where to look for them. They might fire into the cities along the coast
and do no end of damage. Maybe there was not much danger of this; but
there is nothing sure in war, and it does not take much to scare some
people.

The navy wanted to be on the safe side, so one part of the fleet was put
on the lookout along our coast; and another part, under Commodore
Schley, went around the west end of the island of Cuba; and a third
part, under Admiral Sampson, went to the east. They were all on the hunt
for the Spanish ships, but for days and days nothing of them was to be
seen.

After they had looked into this hole and into that hole along the coast,
like sea-dogs hunting a sea-coon, word came that the Spanish ships had
been seen going into Santiago harbor. Then straight for Santiago went
all the fleet, with its captains very glad to have the answer to the
riddle.

Never before had the United States so splendid a fleet to fight with.
There were five fine battleships, the Iowa, the Indiana, the
Massachusetts, the Oregon, and the Texas. Then there was the New
York, Admiral Sampson's flagship, and the Brooklyn, Commodore
Schley's flagship. These were steel-clad cruisers, not so heavy, but
much faster than the battleships. Besides these there were monitors,
and cruisers, and gunboats, and vessels of other kinds, all spread like
a net around the mouth of the harbor, ready to catch any big fish that
might swim out. Do you not think that was a pretty big crowd of ships to
deal with the Spanish squadron, which had only four cruisers and two
torpedo-boats?

But then, you know, the insider sometimes has a better chance than the
outsider. It is not easy to keep such a crowd of vessels together out at
sea. They run out of coal, or get out of order, or something else
happens. If the insider keeps his eyes wide open and waits long enough
his chance will come.

Admiral Cervera, the Spanish commander, was in a very tight place.
Outside lay the American ships, and inside was the American army, which
kept pushing ahead and was likely to take Santiago in a few days. If he
waited he might be caught like a rat in a trap. And if he came outside
he might be caught like a fish in a net. He thought it all over and he
made up his mind that it was better to be a fish than a rat, so he
decided to come out of the harbor.

He waited till the 3d of July. On that day there were only five of the
big ships outside--four of the battleships and the cruiser Brooklyn.
And two of the battleships were a little out of order and were being
made right. Admiral Sampson had gone up the coast with the New York
for a talk with the army general, so he was out of the way.

No doubt the Spanish lookouts saw all this and told their admiral what
they had seen. So, on that Sunday morning, with every vessel under full
steam, the Spaniards raised their anchors and started on their last
cruise.

Now let us take a look at the big ships outside. On these everybody was
keeping Sunday. The officers had put on their best Sunday clothes, and
the men were lying or lounging idly about the deck. Of course, there
were lookouts aloft. Great ships like these always have their lookouts.
A war-vessel never quite goes to sleep. It always keeps one eye open.
This Sunday morning the lookouts saw smoke coming up the harbor, but
likely enough they thought that the Spaniards were frying fish for their
Sunday breakfast.



And so the hours went on until it was about half-past nine. Then an
officer on the Brooklyn called to the lookout aloft:

"Isn't that smoke moving?"

The answer came back with a yell that made everybody jump:

"There's a big ship coming out of the harbor!"

In a second the groups of officers and men were on their feet and
wide-awake. The Spaniards were coming! Nobody now wanted to be at home
or to go a-fishing. There were bigger fish coming into their net.

"Clear the ship for action!" cried Commodore Schley.

From every part of the ship the men rushed to their quarters. Far down
below the stokers began to shovel coal like mad into the furnaces. In
the turrets the gun-crews hurried to get their guns ready. The news
spread like lightning, and the men made ready like magic for the
terrible work before them.

It was the same on all the ships as on the Brooklyn, for all of them
saw the Spaniards coming. Down past the wreck of the Merrimac sped
Cervera's ships, and headed for the open sea. First came the Maria
Teresa, the admiral's flagship. Then came the Vizcaya, the
Oquendo, and the Cristobal Colon, and after them the two
torpedo-boats.

"Full speed ahead! Open fire!" roared the commodore from the bridge of
the Brooklyn, and in a second there came a great roar and a huge iron
globe went screaming towards the Spanish ships.

It was the same on the other ships. Five minutes before they had been
swinging lazily on the long rolling waves, everybody at rest. Now clouds
of black smoke came pouring from their funnels, every man was at his
post, every gun ready for action, and the great ships were beginning to
move through the water at the full power of the engines. And from every
one of them came flashes as of lightning, and roars as of thunder, and
huge shells went whirling through the air toward the Spanish ships.

Out of the channel they dashed, four noble ships, and turned to the west
along the coast. Only the Brooklyn was on that side of the harbor, and
for ten minutes three of the Spanish ships poured at her a terrible
fire.

But soon the Oregon, the Indiana, the Iowa, and the Texas came
rapidly up, and the Spanish gunners had new game to fire at.

You might suppose that the huge iron shells, whirling through the air,
and bursting with a frightful roar, would tear and rend the ships as
though they were made of paper.

But just think how it was at Manila, where the Spaniards fired at the
sea and the sky, and the Americans fired at the Spanish ships. It was
the same here at Santiago. The Spaniards went wild with their guns and
wasted their balls, while the Americans made nearly every shot tell.

It was a dreadful tragedy for Spain that day on the Cuban coast. The
splendid ships which came out of the harbor so stately and trim, soon
looked like ragged wrecks. In less than half an hour two of them were
ashore and in a fierce blaze, and the two others were flying for life.
The first to yield was the Maria Teresa, the flagship of the admiral.
One shell from the Brooklyn burst in her cabin and in a second it was
in flames. One from the Texas burst in the engine-room and broke the
steam-pipe. Some burst on the deck; some riddled the hull; death and
terror were everywhere.

The men were driven from the guns, the flames rose higher, the water
poured in through the shot holes, and there was nobody to work the
pumps. All was lost, and the ship was run ashore and her flag pulled
down.

In very few minutes the Oquendo followed the flagship ashore, both of
them looking like great blazing torches. The shells from the great guns
had torn her terribly, many of her crew had been killed, and those who
were left had to run her ashore to keep her from going to the bottom of
the sea.

In half an hour, as you may see, two of the Spanish ships had been half
torn to pieces and driven ashore, and only two were still afloat. These
were the Vizcaya and the Cristobal Colon. When the Maine was sent
to Havana, before the beginning of the war, a Spanish warship was sent
to New York. This was the Vizcaya. She was a trim and handsome ship
and her officers had a hearty welcome.

It was a different sort of welcome she now got. The Brooklyn and the
Oregon were after her and her last day had come. So hot was the fire
that her men were driven from their guns and flames began to appear.

Then she, too, was run ashore and her flag was hauled down. It was just
an hour after the chase began and she had gone twenty miles down the
coast. Now she lay blazing redly on the shallow shore and in the night
she blew up. It was a terrible business, the ruin of those three fine
vessels.

There was one more Spanish ship, the Cristobal Colon. (This is the
Spanish for Christopher Columbus.) She was the fastest of them all, and
for a time it looked as if Spain might save one of her ships.

But there were bloodhounds on her track, the Brooklyn, six miles
behind, and the Oregon, more than seven miles away.

Swiftly onward fled the deer, and swiftly onward followed the
war-hounds. Mile by mile they gained on the chase. About one o'clock,
when she was four miles away, the Oregon sent a huge shell whizzing
from one of her great 13-inch guns. It struck the water just behind the
Colon; but another that followed struck the water ahead.

Then the Brooklyn tried her eight-inch guns, and sent a shell through
the Colon's side, above her belt of steel. For twenty minutes this
was kept up. The Colon was being served like her consorts. At the end
of that time her flag was pulled down and the last of the Spanish ships
ran ashore. She had made a flight for life of nearly fifty miles.

This, you see, is not the story of a sea-fight; it is the story of a
sea-chase. Much has been said about who won the honor at Santiago, but I
think any of you could tell that in a few words. It was the men who ran
the engines and who aimed the guns that won the game. The commanders did
nothing but run after the runaway Spaniards, and there is no great honor
in that. What else was there for them to do? They could not run the
other way.






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