Page images


Although mercilessly pounded by the guns of the American fleet, with her fighting masts down, her steam pipes broken, and dead and wounded everywhere, she gallantly pushed forward, and had reached Aserraderos, 21 miles from Morro, before she was run on the beach. Her experience was tragically revealed to the rescuers from the American ships by her condition. In places the decks were red hot, and it was impossible to get some of the wounded off owing to the escaping steam and exploding magazines. Some minutes before the vessel gave up the struggle, the operating-room was filled with the wounded, for whom the surgeons could do nothing, as they were driven out by the superheated steam and the rapidly spreading flames. Her captain, AnHer captain, Antonio Eulate, was severely wounded, but preserved, even as a prisoner of war, that pride of bearing popularly conceived to be the universal characteristic of the Spaniard.

By the time the Vizcaya had cleared the harbor the American gunners had recovered from the nervousness and excitement of the beginning of the action. Their aim became more steady and more fatal in its effect. Owing to the peculiar situation of the Spanish ships, each one had to bear the concentrated fire of the American ships. Thus it was that the third ship, the Almirante Oquendo, was lost almost before reaching the open sea. As the ship turned in its course, following the Teresa and Vizcaya, it staggered from the terrific storm of


projectiles that struck it at every point, exploding torpedoes and magazines, and putting a third of the crew out of action. Soon after the exit, the forward turret of the Oquendo was struck by an 8-inch shell, which exploded, killing the gun crew and disabling the gun. Within a few minutes the vessel was a mass of flames, which could not be extinguished, as the water mains had all been cut by the American projectiles. In her death struggle she passed a few hundred yards beyond the wreck of the Teresa and was beached; her captain dead, and a third of the crew dead or wounded.

The Texas was one of the ships that was pressing the Oquendo closely, and when one of her projectiles struck the latter amidships, causing the explosion of a magazine, the crew burst into a cheer. They were silenced, however, by Captain Philip with the words: "Don't cheer, boys, the poor devils are dying."

Following the Oquendo came the Cristobal Colon, the splendid new cruiser just purchased from the Italian government (formerly the Guiseppi Garibaldi). This was theoretically the most efficient vessel in the fleet, but, as was later shown, its large guns were not in the turrets, and the equipment was far from complete. In fact as an offensive weapon of war the Colon was practically useless; hence the sole object of its captain was to flee without making even the pretense of a fight. It was the merest chance that he failed in his purpose.

Putting on full head of steam the Colon rapidly overtook the other ships, and going inshore was protected by them during the hottest part of the fight. The Colon passed these at great speed and it seemed for a time as if the cordon of American ships would be broken by the fleeing vessel. But the Brooklyn, Texas, and Oregon were watching her, and, leaving the slower battleships to finish the contest, began a chase that lasted for two hours, and ended with the Colon beneath the waves, off Cape Cruz, 50 miles west of Santiago.

The Brooklyn, by its turn to the starboard, had been thrown to the seaward back of the line of American

ships. Commodore Schley therefore thought that by directing steaming in a direct course towards Cape Cruz,

which extended some distance out in

the sea, he would be able to intercept the Colon, which was following the curve of the shore. The Oregon and the Texas, however, settled down to a steady stern chase. Here the Oregon again distinguished herself, showing remarkable speed for a battleship. She was soon abreast of the Texas, and within a short time the ships drew within range of the Colon. The Brooklyn had been firing at long distance without effect, but as soon as the Oregon dropped two of her 13inch shells within a few yards of the Spanish ship, her captain saw that further resistance was hopeless, and ordering the sea-valves to be opened, turned her prow to the shore.*

"Her sea valves were opened and broken, treacherously, I am sure, after her surrender, and

Last of all to emerge were the destroyers, Furor and Pluton, doomed from the first shot fired against them. Their experience proved how little dependence can be placed in such craft in the open and subject to the fire from secondary batteries on armored ships. When the destroyers came out, they seemed to hesitate as to the course to be taken, one of them apparently making a move to return to the harbor, but fruitlessly so, for a shell from the Indiana struck it amidships, the cloud of steam that arose revealing that a mortal blow had been struck. Another vessel, the converted yacht Gloucester, under command of Lieutenant-Commander

Wainwright, was also doing fearful injury to the Furor and Pluton. In spite of the lack of defensive armor, she steamed up to a short distance of the enemy, and poured into them such a destructive fire from her machine guns that in a few moments the Furor was sinking in deep water, and the Pluton was running ashore, both meeting the end near the ill-fated Teresa and Oquendo. In command of the destroyers was the well-known officer, Captain Fernando Villaamil,

who was killed in action.

The flag-ship New York, which,

despite all efforts, she sank."- Report of Admiral Sampson.

"Admiral Sampson states in his report official that the valves had been opened treacherously, supposing that it had been done after the flag was lowered; but this is not correct, not only because neither the distance nor the condition of the ship made any precipitation necessary, but also she did not surrender until she was thought to be a total loss."-Conchas y Palau.


during these events, had been madly racing from Siboney, arrived in the neighborhood of the sinking ships of the enemy in time for Admiral Sampson to give orders regarding the saving of the survivors from the wrecks, and then hurried on in chase of the Colon, arriving just as the ship had surrendered to Captain Cook of the Brooklyn.

The Spanish vessels had hardly struck their colors before the men of the American ships set themselves at work with equal enthusiasm in saving the lives of the officers and sailors of the enemy. Many of these were still on board the wrecks, in imminent danger of death from fire and explosions; others were in the sea, clinging to wreckage; and still others had reached the shore, where they were without food, shelter, or adequate clothing. It was reported after the battle that the survivors from the Spanish ships were fired upon by the Cubans, but this is doubtless a falsehood, for none of the Spanish reports mention the fact, and the report of Lieutenant Hazeltine of the Hist specifically denies the assertion.†

"I cannot express my admiration for my magnificent crew. So long as the enemy showed his flag they fought like American seamen; but when the flag came down they were as gentle and tender as American women."- From the Report of Captain Robley D. Evans.

"The Cubans at Aserraderos did not fire on the Spaniards. In fact, when our boats were taking the Spaniards from the beach the Cubans rendered valuable assistance.”— Report of Lieutenant Hazeltine.

"They made a raft [the survivors of the Oqu endo] and lowered two launches, the only service. able boats they had left, and were finally assisted


In some cases the task of getting the Spanish sailors from the burning ships was far more dangerous than the fighting itself, and many heroic rescues were made. The smaller craft, the Gloucester, Ericsson, Hist, Vixen, and auxiliary vessels, the Harvard and the Resolute, approached to dangerous proximity to the burning hulks, their men risking death numbers of times in order to take their unfortunate opponents from the doomed vessels.*

The result of his expedition to the West Indies was clear to Cervera from the beginning, and his correspondence throughout the entire campaign is marked by the greatest pessimism. What the result would have been if the squadron had been commanded by a more hopeful and daring man cannot be known, yet in

by the United States boats, and, according to the statement of an insurgent with whom I talked on the beach, also by an insurgent boat."- Report of Admiral Cervera.

"It remains to communicate to you that our enemies behaved toward us with great chivalry, providing us with good clothes, and suppressing almost entirely the usual hurrahs, to prevent hurting our self-respect, and offering to us the most anxious solicitude."-Report of Admiral Cervera.

"In short, it is a disaster already, and it is to be feared that it will be a more frightful one before long. And perhaps everything could be changed yet. But I suppose it is too late now for anything that is not the ruin and desolation of our country."- From a letter to Minister Bermejo, by Admiral Cervera, April 22, 1898.

"To sum up, 3d of July has been an appalling disaster, as I had foreseen. The number of dead, however, is less than I feared. Our country has been defended with honor, and the satisfaction of duty well done leaves our consciences clear, though we bitterly mourn the loss of our beloved companions and the misfortunes of our country."— Report of Admiral Cervera, July 9, 1898.

the long run the result would not have been materially different. Cervera's squadron, in the last analysis, was nothing more than a sacrifice to the pride of Spain.

The story of the engagement is best told by its statistics.* The American ships, though hit a number of times, were practically uninjured. The Brooklyn received the hardest blows, and, in addition was the only vessel to experience any loss of life, one man being killed and another wounded. The whole battle was fought accord

ing to a prearranged plan; by ships

that were in perfect readiness; maneuvered by officers who were skillful and possessed in the highest degree of the initiative necessary for success in warfare; manned by sailors and gunners who were inspired by patriotic enthusiasm, and a tireless energy that was irresistible in its effect.

It is true there was an overwhelming force against the luckless Spanish ships, but it is almost inconceivable that six tremendous machines of war, costing ten million or more dollars, should be unable to do damage costing more than a few thousand dollars to repair. It would appear that both at Santiago and Manila, if the Spanish commanders had formed any very clear plans of attack or defense, they found it impossible to carry them out in the face of the sudden and awful torrent of destroying missiles hurled against their

* Total number on the Spanish fleet, 2,243; killed and wounded, 540; prisoners of war: officers, 86; men, 1,615.

ships. With respect to Cervera, however, it is evident that the one idea in his mind was to escape with as many ships as possible. On his part the battle was not even a defensive one; it was a flight. Had he been willing to sacrifice one or two of his ships by throwing them boldly into the midst of the American fleet, or had divided his squadron, a few vessels might have escaped, but in permitting all to seek safety in flight, the morale of the entire fleet was de

stroyed, and all the ships doomed. It is a significant and curious series of coincidences that the war-ship named after Christopher Columbus should have left the port touched by the great explorer in one of his earliest voyages, voyages, and the site, too, of the earliest Spanish settlement of any consequence in the New World, and steaming forth should have met its fate almost at the same place where the men from the Virginius were captured and put to death. The end of the Cristobal Colon marked the end of the majestic empire given to the rulers of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, by the Colon after whom it was named.

Officers of the American fleet:


W. T. Sampson, Commander-in-chief; Capt. F. E. Chadwick, Chief-of-staff and commander of the New York; Commodore W. S. Schley, second in command; Capt. F. A. Cook, of Brooklyn; Capt. R. D. Evans, of Iowa; Capt. H. C. Taylor, of Indiana; Capt. C. E. Clark, of Oregon; Capt. J. W. Philip, of Texas; Lieut-Com. Richard Wainwright, of Gloucester; Lieut. Alexander Sharp, Jr., of Vixen; Lieut. N. R. Usher, of Ericsson; Lieut. Lucien Young, of Hist.






Dangerous situation of the army

[ocr errors]

- Attack on American line, July 1-Shafter plans to withdraw Opposed by generals-"The darkest day of the War"- News of naval victory - The sinking of the Reina Mercedes- Exchange of Lieutenant Hobson- Shafter demands surrender of city Toral's proposal to withdraw― Shafter's acceptance of terms refused by administration — Bombardment of July 10-The capitulation-The army and the navy-Garcia and the Cubans. The capture of El Caney and the heights of San Juan, while a victory, nevertheless left the American army in a very dangerous position. With the arrival of Bates and Ludlow, whose men were advanced to the front without delay, practically the whole army was on the firing line. Even when the enemy had been driven back to Santiago, the soldiers got no rest, but worked throughout the night to strengthen their defenses. Trenches were dug with bayonets, tin cans, in fact, any improvised implement that could be obtained. When the morning came, they were weary, but reasonably sure of holding their own against any force the Spaniards might send against them.

The anticipated attack came almost with dawn. The Spanish army, reinforced by a detachment from the fleet under Captain Bustamente, made a vigorous assault on the American lines, but was repulsed with heavy losses to the Spanish forces. Both General Linares and Captain Bustamente were wounded, the latter mortally. The struggle continued

throughout the day, but at the end the positions of the two armies were unchanged. The perilous situation of the American forces, however, continued to disturb General Shafter's peace of mind, and the temptation persisted to withdraw the men to less exposed points. He accordingly called a conference of the generals (Wheeler, Kent, Lawton, and Bates), informing them that as large reinforcements were approaching Santiago, he considered it the wise course to withdraw, and asked their advice. General Wheeler earnestly sought to dissuade him. General Kent supported Wheeler. The bluff Lawton's advice was "Hang on." The only dissenting voice was that of General Bates, who thought that his men would be forced to retire. After the conference General Shafter was still undecided, but dismissed the conference with the words: "We shall hold our present position for the next twenty-four hours, and if our condition is not improved I shall call upon you again for an expression of your views."

« PreviousContinue »