Read CHAPTER XII - THE SPANISH FLEET of The Boys of 98, free online book, by James Otis, on ReadCentral.com.

Don’t cheer; the poor devils are dying.

It was Sunday morning (July 3d), and the American squadron lay off Santiago Harbour intent only on blockade duty.  No signs of life were visible about old Morro.  Beyond and toward the city all was still.  After two days of fighting the armies of both nations were resting in their trenches.

The fleet had drifted three miles or more from the land.  The battle-ship Massachusetts, the protected cruiser New Orleans, and Commodore Watson’s flag-ship, the cruiser Newark, were absent, coaling fifty miles or more away.

Shortly before nine o’clock Admiral Sampson, desiring to ascertain the exact condition of the Spanish coast defences about Aguadores, ordered the flag-ship to go that way, and after flying the signal, “Disregard the motions of the commander-in-chief,” the New York steamed leisurely off to the eastward.

The little Gloucester lay nearest the shore; the Vixen was opposite in a straight line, and to the eastward of her about five miles.  A mile or less from the Gloucester, to the seaward, was the Indiana.  Nearly as far from the latter ship, and southeast of her, lay the Oregon.  The Iowa was the outermost ship of the fleet, lying four miles from the harbour entrance; next her, to the eastward, each vessel slightly nearer inshore, were the Texas and the Brooklyn in the order named.

Shoreward, inside the harbour, could be seen a long line of black smoke.  On board the fleet religious services were being held, but the lookouts of every ship were at their stations.

Suddenly, at about half past nine, a dark hull was seen coming out past the point of the harbour, and instantly all was seemingly confusion on the big fighting machines.

“The enemy is escaping,” was the signal run up on Commodore Schley’s flag-ship, and within a few seconds the roar of a 6-pounder on the Iowa broke the stillness of the Sabbath morning.

It was as if every American vessel was put in motion at the same instant, and even as the flag-ship’s signal appeared, the clouds of dense smoke from their stacks told that the men in the furnace-rooms had already begun their portion of the task so unexpectedly set for all the fleet.

John R. Spear, author of “The History of our Navy,” who was with Sampson’s fleet, wrote this complete story of the marvellous naval battle off Santiago and along the southern shore of Cuba, for the World

“The enemy was first seen at 9.30, and at 9.32 the men of the American batteries were standing erect and silent beside their loaded guns, waiting for the order to commence firing, and watching out of the corners of their eyes the boys who were still sprinkling the decks with sand that no one’s foot might slip when blood began to flow across the planks.

“But though silence prevailed among the guns, down in the sealed stoke-hole the click and ring of the shovels that sprayed the coal over the glowing grate-bars, the song of the fans that raised the air pressure, and the throb of pump and engine made music for the whole crew, for the steam-gauges were climbing, and the engineers were standing by the wide-open throttles as the ships were driven straight at the enemy.

“For, as it happened, the Texas had been lying directly off the harbour, and a little more than two miles away the Iowa was but a few lengths farther out and to the westward, while Capt.  Jack Philip of the one, and ‘Fighting Bob’ Evans of the other, were both on deck when the cry was raised announcing the enemy.  Hastening to their bridges, they headed away at once for the Spaniards, while the Oregon and the Brooklyn went flying to westward to intercept the leader.

“The mightiest race known to the history of the world, and the most thrilling, was begun.

“They were all away in less time than it has taken the reader to get thus far in the story, and in much less time still, - indeed, before the gongs in the engine-rooms of the Yankee ships had ceased to vibrate under the imperative order of ’Ahead, full speed!’ - the Almirante Oquendo, fugitive as she was, had opened the battle.  With impetuous haste, and while yet more than two miles away, the Spaniard pointed one of his long 11-inch hontoria rifles in the direction of the Texas and pulled the lanyard.  The shell came shrieking out to sea, but to sea only.

“Instantly the great guns of the Morro, 180 feet above the water, and those of the Socapa battery, lying higher still, with all the batteries beneath those two, began to belch and roar as their crews strove with frantic energy to aid the flying squadron.

“Now, it was about three minutes from the appearance of the first Spaniard to the firing of the first American gun.

“In these three minutes the distance between the squadrons was lessened by at least a mile, - the range was not more than two thousand yards.

“But while two thousand yards is the range (about one and one-sixth miles) selected for great gun target practice, it will never do for an eager fight, and as the trend of the land still headed the Spanish off to southward, the battle-ships were able to reduce the range to fifteen hundred yards before they were obliged to head a course parallel with the Spaniards.

“Meantime the Oregon and the Brooklyn, as they were stretching away toward the coast, had opened fire also, and then the last of the big Spaniards, the Infanta Maria Teresa, having rounded the point, the magnificent spectacle of a squadron battle on the open sea - of a battle between four of the best modern armed cruisers on the Spanish side, against three battle-ships and an armoured cruiser on our side - was spread out to view.

“And their best was the worst struggle the world ever saw, for it was a struggle to get out of range while firing with hysterical vehemence their unaimed guns.

“The first shot from the American ships fell short, and a second, in like fashion, dropped into the sea.  At that the gunner said things to himself under his breath (it was in the forward turret of the Iowa), and tried it once more.

“For a moment after it the cloud of gun smoke shrouded the turret, but as that thinned away the eager crew saw the 12-inch shell strike into the hull of the Infanta Maria Teresa.  Instantly it exploded with tremendous effect.  Flame and smoke belched from the hole the shell had made, and puffed from port and hatch.  And then in the wake of the driven blast rolled up a volume of flame-streaked smoke that showed the woodwork had taken fire and was burning fiercely all over the after part of the stricken ship.

“The yell that rose from the Yankee throats at that sight swelled to a roar of triumph a moment later, for as he saw that smoke, the captain of the Teresa threw her helm over to port, and headed her for the rocky beach.  The one shell had given a mortal wound.

“And then came Wainwright of the Maine, - Lieut.-Commander Richard Wainwright, who for weeks conducted the weary search for the dead bodies of shipmates on the wreck in the harbour of Havana.  He was captain of the Gloucester, that was once known as the yacht Corsair.  A swift and beautiful craft she, but only armed with lean 6-pounders.

“‘Ahead, full speed,’ said Wainwright.

“And fortune once more favoured the brave, for in the wake of the mighty Maria Teresa came Spain’s two big torpedo-boats, called destroyers, because of their size, - the Pluton and the Furor.  Either was more than a match for the Gloucester, for one carried two 12-pounders, and the other two 14-pounders, besides the 6-pounders that both carried.

“Moreover, both overmatched the speed of the Gloucester by at least ten knots per hour.  But both had thin-plated sides.  The shells of the Gloucester could pierce them, and at them went Wainwright, with the memory of that night in Havana uppermost in his mind.

“The two boats - even the whole Spanish fleet - were still within easy range of the Spanish forts, and to reach his choice of enemies the Gloucester was obliged to risk not only the land fire, but that of the Vizcaya and the Teresa.  Nevertheless, as the torpedo-boats steered toward the Brooklyn, evidently bound to torpedo her, Wainwright headed them off, and they never got beyond range of the forts.

“The shots they threw at him outweighed his three to one, but theirs flew wild, and his struck home.

“The day of the destroyers was done.  As the big Maria Teresa turned toward the shore, these two destroyers, like stricken wild fowl, fled fluttering and splashing in the same direction, and they floundered as they fled.

“While the Infanta Maria Teresa was on fire, and running for the beach, her crew was still working their guns, and the big Vizcaya was handily by to double the storm of projectiles she was hurling at the Iowa and Texas.

“It was not that the Vizcaya’s crew were manfully striving to protect the Teresa; they were making the snarling, clawing fight of a lifetime to escape the relentless Yankees that were closing upon them.  For both the Texas and the Iowa had the range, and it was only when the smoke of their own guns blinded them that their fire was withheld, or a shot went astray.

“The Iowa and the Texas had headed off both the Vizcaya and the Infanta Maria Teresa, while the Indiana was coming with tremendous speed to join them.

“And then came the finishing stroke.  A 12-inch shell from the Texas went crashing into the stoke-hole, and the Vizcaya, - the ship whose beauty and power once thrilled the hearts of New Yorkers with mingled pleasure and fear - was mortally wounded.  Hope was gone, and with helm aport she headed away for the beach, as her consort had done.

“The battle had opened on our side at 9.33 o’clock, and at 9.58 two of the magnificent armoured cruisers of the Spanish navy were quivering, flaming wrecks on the Cuban beach, with the Texas rounding to less than a thousand yards away off the stern of the Vizcaya.

“For a moment the Texas tarried there to let the smoke clear, and to see accurately the condition of the enemy, but while her gunners were taking aim for a final broadside a half-naked quartermaster on the Vizcaya, with clawing hands on the halliards, hauled down the fever-hued ensign from her peak and hoisted the white flag instead.

“‘Cease firing!’ commanded Captain Jack Philip of the Texas.

“So far as the Vizcaya and the Infanta Maria Teresa were concerned, the battle - and for that matter the war - was ended.

“Huge volumes of black smoke, edged with red flame, rolled from every port and shot hole of the Vizcaya, as from the Teresa.  They were both furnaces of glowing fire.  Though they had come from the harbour to certain battle, not a wooden bulkhead, nor a partition in the quarters either of officers or men had been taken out, nor had trunks and chests been sent ashore.  Neither had the wooden decks nor any other wooden fixtures been prepared to resist fire.  Apparently the crew had not even wet down the decks.

“But the Texas tarried at this gruesome scene only for a moment.  They wished only to make sure that the two Spaniards were really out of the fight, and when they saw the Iowa was going to stand by both, away they went to join the race between the Brooklyn and the Oregon on our side, and the Cristobal Colon and Almirante Oquendo on the other.

“In spite of the original superior speed on the part of the Spaniards, and in spite of the delay on the part of the Texas, the Spaniards were not yet wholly out of range, though the Cristobal Colon was reaching away at a speed that gave the Spanish shore forces hope.

“Under battened hatches the Yankee firemen, stripped to their trousers, plied their shovels and raised the steam-gauges higher.  The Yankee ships were grass-grown and barnacled, but now they were driven as never before since their trial trips.  The Spaniards had called us pigs, but Nemesis had turned us into spear-armed huntsmen in chase of game that neither tusks nor legs could save.

“For while the Colon was showing a speed that was the equal at least of our own Brooklyn, long-headed Commodore Schley saw that she was hugging the coast, although a point of land loomed in the distance to cut her off or drive her out to sea.

“Instead of striving to close in on the Spaniards, Schley headed straight for that point, - took the shortest cut for it, so to speak, - and in that way drew steadily ahead of the Colon, leaving to the Oregon and Texas the task of holding the Spaniards from turning out across the Brooklyn’s stern.

“It was a splendid piece of strategy, well worthy of the gallant officer, and it won.

“The task of the battle-ships was well within their powers.  It is not without reason that both the Oregon and the Texas are the pride of the nation as well as of their crews.

“The Oregon and the Brooklyn had hurled a relentless fire at the flying Spaniards, and it had told on the Almirante Oquendo with increasing effect.

“For the Oregon was fair on the Oquendo’s beam, and there was not enough armour on any Spanish ship to stop the massive 13-inch projectiles the ship from the Pacific was driving into her with unerring aim.

“At ten o’clock sharp the Oquendo was apparently still fore and aft, but within five minutes she wavered and lagged, and a little later, flag-ship though she was, she put her helm to port, as her consorts had done, and fled for life to the beach.

“The Texas was coming with unflagging speed astern, and off to the east could be seen the flag-ship of Admiral Sampson racing as never before to get a shot in at the finish.  An auxiliary had been sent by Commodore Schley to call her, and it had met her coming at the call of the guns of the Spanish fleet.  She had overhauled and passed the Indiana long since, and was well-nigh abreast of the Texas.  So the Oregon, in order to vie with the New York in the last of the mighty race, abandoned the Oquendo to her fate and stretched away after the Cristobal Colon.

“Some of the crew who looked back saw the Texas bring to near the Oquendo, and then the sea trembled under the impulse of a tremendous explosion on board the doomed Spaniard, while a vast volume of smoke filled with splintered wreck rose in the air.  Had they been near enough they would have heard the crew of the Texas start in to cheer, and have heard as well the voice of Captain Philip say, as he raised his hand to check it: 

“‘Don’t cheer; the poor devils are dying.’

“Only a man fit to command could have had that thought.

“The battle was well-nigh over.  But one ship of the Spanish squadron remained, and she was now in the last desperate struggle, the flurry of a monster of the deep.  Her officers peered with frowning brows through gilded glasses at the Brooklyn forging ahead far off their port bow; at the Oregon within range off the port quarter; at the New York just getting the range with her beautiful 8-inch rifles astern.  They shivered in unison with the quivering hulk as shot after shot struck home.  They screamed at their crews and stamped and fumed.  At the guns their crews worked with drunken desperation, but down in the stoke-hole the firemen plied their shovels with a will and a skill that formed the most surprising feature of the Spanish side of the battle.  Because of them this was a race worthy of the American mettle, for it put to the full test the powers of the men of the three ships in chase.

“In the open sea they might have led the Yankees for an hour or more beyond, but the strategy of Schley had cut them off, and yet it was not until 1.15 o’clock - three hours and three-quarters after the first gun of the Oquendo - that the Colon’s gallant captain lost all hope, and, from a race to save the ship, turned to the work of destroying her, so that we should not be able to float the stars and stripes above her.

“The Oregon had drawn up abeam of her, and was about a mile away.  The shots from the New York astern were beginning to tell, and those from the Brooklyn had all along been smiting her in the face.

“Baffled and beaten she turned to the shore, ran hard aground near Tarquino Point, fifty miles from Santiago, and then hauled down her flag.

“The most powerful sea force that ever fought under the American flag had triumphed; the most remarkable race in the history of the world was ended.”

On board the flag-ship New York is published a tiny daily newspaper, 4 x 7 inches in size, with the name “Squadron Bulletin” on the title-page.  Following is the account of the destruction of the Spanish fleet as given in that publication: 

“This is a red-letter day for the American navy, as dating the entire destruction of Admiral Cervera’s formidable fleet; the Infanta Maria Teresa, Vizcaya, Oquendo, Cristobal Colon, and the deep-sea torpedo-boats Furor and Pluton.

“The flag-ship had started from her station about nine to go to Siboney, whence the admiral had proposed going for a consultation with General Shafter; the other ships, with the exception of the Massachusetts and Suwanee, which had, unfortunately, gone this morning to Guantanamo for coal, were in their usual positions, viz., beginning at the east, the Gloucester, Indiana, Oregon, Iowa, Texas, Brooklyn, and Vixen.

“When about two miles off from Altares Bay, and about four miles east of her usual position, the Spanish fleet was observed coming out and making westward in the following order:  Infanta Maria Teresa (flag), Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, Almirante Oquendo, Furor, and Pluton.

“They were at once engaged by the ships nearest, and the result was practically established in a very short time.  The heavy and rapid shell fire was very destructive to both ships and men.  The cruisers Infanta Maria Teresa, Almirante Oquendo, and Vizcaya were run ashore in the order named, afire and burning fiercely.  The first ship was beached at Nima, nine and one-half miles west of the port; the second at Juan Gonzalez, six miles west; the third at Acerraderos, fifteen miles.  The torpedo-boat destroyers were both sunk, one near the beach, the other in deep water about three miles west of the harbour entrance.

“The remaining ship, the Cristobal Colon, stood on and gave a long chase of forty-eight miles, in which the Brooklyn, Oregon, Texas, Vixen, and New York took part.  The Colon is reputed by her captain to have been going at times as much as seventeen and a half knots, but they could not keep this up, chiefly on account of the fatigue of her men, who, many of them, had been ashore at Santiago the day before, and had been, while there, long without food; her average speed was actually thirteen and seven-tenths knots, the ship leaving the harbour at 9.43 A. M., and reaching Rio Tarquino (forty-eight miles from Santiago entrance) at 1.15.

“She was gradually forced in toward the shore, and, seeing no chance of an escape from so overwhelming a force, the heavy shells of the Oregon already dropping around and beyond her, she ran ashore at Rio Tarquino and hauled down her flag.

“She was practically uninjured, but her sea-valves were treacherously opened, and in spite of all efforts she gradually sank, and now lies near the beach in water of moderate depth.  It is to be hoped that she may be floated, as she was far the finest ship of the squadron.  All her breech plugs were thrown overboard after the surrender, and the breech-blocks of her Mauser rifles thrown away.

“The flag-ship remained at Rio Tarquino until eleven P. M., and then returned to Santiago.  The Texas, Oregon, and Vixen remained by the prize.  Commodore second in command of fleet, Captain de Navío of the first class, Don Jose de Paredes y Chacon, Captain de Navío Don Emilio Moreu, commanding the Colon, and Teniente de Navío Don Pablo Marina y Briengas, aid and secretary to the commodore, were taken on board the New York.  The 525 men of the crew of the Colon were placed aboard the Resolute, which came from Santiago to report sighting a Spanish armoured cruiser, which turned out to be the Austrian Maria Teresa.  The other officers were placed aboard the Resolute and Vixen.

“Admiral Cervera and many of his officers were taken off the shore by the Gloucester, and transferred to the Iowa, which ship had already taken off many from the Vizcaya; thirty-eight officers and 238 men were on board the Iowa, and seven officers and 203 men were aboard the Indiana.

“All these were in a perfectly destitute condition, having been saved by swimming, or having been taken from the water by our boats.  Admiral Cervera was in a like plight.  He was received with the usual honours when he came aboard, and was heartily cheered by the Iowa’s crew.”

The Independence Day number is very brief.  It announces that the prisoners are to be sent north on the Harvard and St. Louis; that they number 1,750; that the dead among the Spanish ships were over six hundred; that General Pando had reached Santiago with five thousand men; that the Brooklyn and Marblehead had gone to Guantanamo to overhaul and coal, and then tells of the Reina Mercedes’s skirmish on that day, saying: 

“Just before midnight of this date the Massachusetts, which was in front of the port with her search-light up to the entrance, reported an enemy’s vessel coming out, and she and the Texas fired a number of shots in the direction of the harbour mouth.  The batteries also opened, and a number of shell fell at various points, the attention paid by the batteries to the ships being general.  The Indiana was struck on the starboard side of the quarter-deck by a mortar shell, which exploded on reaching the second deck near the ward-room ladder; it caused a fire which was quickly extinguished.  This was the first accident of the kind to the fleet.  The vessel inside turned out to be the Reina Mercedes, which was sunk on the east edge of the channel just by the Estrella battery.  She heads north, and is canted over to port with her port rail under water.  She does not appear to obstruct the channel.”

The issue of July 5th is of greater interest: 

“Mention of the presence of the torpedo-boat Ericsson, on the third instant, was unfortunately omitted.  She was in company with a flag-ship, and turned at once upon sighting the enemy.  As she was drawing away from the New York she signalled, asking permission to continue in chase, but she was directed to pick up two men in the water, which she did, and on reaching the Vizcaya she was directed by the Iowa, the flag-ship having gone ahead, to assist in the rescue of the Vizcaya’s crew.  She took off eleven officers and ninety men.  The guns of the Vizcaya during the operation were going off from the heat, and explosions were frequent, so that the work was trying and perilous for the boats of the two vessels (Iowa and Ericsson) engaged.

“The former report from the army, which was official, regarding General Pando’s entry into Santiago, was an error.  General Shafter thought that he had been enabled to form a junction, but some few of his men only had been able to do so; the general himself and his remaining force, it is thought, will not be able.

“The day was an uneventful one from a naval standpoint.  The flag-ship went to the wrecks of the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Almirante.  The former lies in an easy position on sand, and with almost her normal draught of water.  She is, of course, completely burned out inside above her protective deck, but the shell of her hull seems very good, and her machinery is probably not seriously injured.

“It looks very much as if she were salvable.  The Almirante was much worse off.  She had been subjected to a much heavier gun fire, being racked and torn in every part; she is much more out of water, and the forward part is much distorted and torn by the explosion of her magazine and torpedoes.  The loss of life was very great.  Charred bodies are strewn everywhere, the vicinity of the port forward torpedo-room, particularly, was almost covered.  The torpedo exploded in the tube; it may be by a shot.  This is a question which it is hoped may be conclusively decided.  The fact of so many bodies being about would seem to bear this out, but two of her crew, taken off the beach this afternoon, were questioned, and both stated that it was the result of fire, and that the number of bodies is to be accounted for by the fact that the operating-room is just below, and that many wounded came up that far and were suffocated.  The two men were intelligent young fellows, and talked freely.  They said that the gun fire was such that it was impossible to keep the men at the guns.  One was a powder passer, the other at a 57-mm gun.  In the forward turret were two officers and five men, evidently killed by the entry of a 6-pounder shell between the top of the turret and the gun shield.  Altogether the ship was a most striking instance of what rapid and well-directed gun fire may accomplish.  She was terribly battered about.

“While the flag-ship was lying near the Almirante, and her steam cutter was alongside, and a small boat from the press tug Hercules lying on the starboard quarter, a shell exploded in a 15-centimetre gun, and a piece went through the tug’s boat, cutting it in two; the man in the boat was not hurt.  It is somewhat extraordinary that this shell should have waited so long to act, as the after part of the ship was generally well cooled off.  There was still much heat and some flames about the bow.  One extraordinary fact is the survival, in proper shape, of many powder grains, baked hard; several of these were picked up about the deck.

“A board has been ordered by the commander-in-chief to report in detail upon the stranded ships.”

On the fifteenth of July Admiral Sampson made his official report, which is given in full: 

“U.  S. FLAGSHIP NEW YORK, FIRST RATE, OFF
SANTIAGO DE CUBA, CUBA, July 15, 1898.

Sir: - I have the honour to make the following report upon the battle with and the destruction of the Spanish squadron, commanded by Admiral Cervera, off Santiago de Cuba, on Sunday, July 3, 1898: 

“2.  The enemy’s vessels came out of the harbour between 9.35 and 10 A. M., the head of the column appearing around Cay Smith at 9.31, and emerging from the channel five or six minutes later.

“3.  The positions of the vessels of my command off Santiago at that moment were as follows:  The flag-ship New York was four miles east of her blockading station and about seven miles from the harbour entrance.  She had started for Siboney, where I had intended to land, accompanied by several of my staff, and go to the front to consult with General Shafter.  A discussion of the situation, and a more definite understanding between us of the operations proposed, had been rendered necessary by the unexpectedly strong resistance of the Spanish garrison at Santiago.

“I had sent my chief of staff on shore the day before to arrange an interview with General Shafter, who had been suffering from heat prostration.  I made arrangements to go to his headquarters, and my flag-ship was in the position mentioned above when the Spanish squadron appeared in the channel.

“The remaining vessels were in or near their usual blockading positions, distributed in a semicircle about the harbour entrance, counting from the eastward to the westward in the following order:  The Indiana, about a mile and a half from shore, the Oregon, - the New York’s place between these two, - the Iowa, Texas, and Brooklyn, the latter two miles from the shore west of Santiago.

“The distance of the vessels from the harbour entrance was two and a half to four miles, - the latter being the limit of day blockading distance.  The length of the arc formed by the ships was about eight miles.

“The Massachusetts had left at four A. M. for Guantanamo for coal.  Her station was between the Iowa and Texas.  The auxiliaries, Gloucester and Vixen, lay close to the land and nearer the harbour entrance than the large vessels, the Gloucester to the eastward and the Vixen to the westward.

“The torpedo-boat Ericsson was in company with the flag-ship, and remained with her during the chase until ordered to discontinue, when she rendered very efficient service in rescuing prisoners from the burning Vizcaya.  I enclose a diagram showing approximately the positions of the vessels as described above.

“4.  The Spanish vessels came rapidly out of the harbour, at a speed estimated at from eight to ten knots, and in the following order:  Infanta Maria Teresa (flag-ship), Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, and the Almirante Oquendo.

“The distance between these ships was about eight hundred yards, which means that, from the time the first one became visible in the upper reach of the channel until the last one was out of the harbour, an interval of only about twelve minutes elapsed.

“Following the Oquendo, at a distance of about twelve hundred yards, came the torpedo-boat destroyer Pluton, and after her came the Furor.  The armoured cruisers, as rapidly as they could bring their guns to bear, opened a vigorous fire upon the blockading vessels, and emerged from the channel shrouded in the smoke from their guns.

“5.  The men of our ships in front of the port were at Sunday ’quarters for inspection.’  The signal was given simultaneously from several vessels, ‘Enemy’s ships escaping,’ and general quarters were sounded.  The men cheered as they sprang to their guns, and fire was opened, probably within eight minutes, by the vessels whose guns commanded the entrance.

“The New York turned about and steamed for the escaping fleet, flying the signal, ‘Close in toward harbour entrance and attack vessels,’ and gradually increasing speed until toward the end of the chase she was making sixteen and one-half knots, and was rapidly closing on the Cristobal Colon.

“She was not, at any time, within the range of the heavy Spanish ships, and her only part in the firing was to receive the undivided fire from the forts in passing the harbour entrance, and to fire a few shots at one of the destroyers, thought at the moment to be attempting to escape from the Gloucester.

“6.  The Spanish vessels, upon clearing the harbour, turned to the westward in column, increasing their speed to the full power of their engines.  The heavy blockading vessels, which had closed in toward the Morro, at the instant of the enemy’s appearance, and at their best speed, delivered a rapid fire, well sustained and destructive, which speedily overwhelmed and silenced the Spanish fire.

“The initial speed of the Spaniards carried them rapidly past the blockading vessels, and the battle developed into a chase in which the Brooklyn and Texas had at the start the advantage of position.  The Brooklyn maintained this lead.

“The Oregon, steaming with amazing speed from the commencement of the action, took first place.  The Iowa and the Indiana having done good work, and not having the speed of the other ships, were directed by me, in succession, at about the time the Vizcaya was beached, to drop out of the chase and resume blockading stations.  These vessels rescued many prisoners.  The Vixen, finding that the rush of the Spanish ships would put her between two fires, ran outside of our own column and remained there during the battle and chase.

“7.  The skilful handling and gallant firing of the Gloucester excited the admiration of every one who witnessed it, and merits the commendation of the Navy Department.  She is a fast and entirely unprotected auxiliary vessel, - the yacht Corsair, - and has a good battery of light rapid-fire guns.

“She was lying about two miles from the harbour entrance to the southward and eastward, and immediately steamed in, opening fire upon the large ships.

“Anticipating the appearance of the Pluton and Furor, the Gloucester was slowed, thereby gaining more rapidly a high pressure of steam, and when the destroyers came out she steamed for them at full speed and was able to close at short range, where her fire was accurate, deadly, and of great volume.

“During this fight the Gloucester was under the fire of the Socapa battery.  Within twenty minutes from the time they emerged from Santiago Harbour the careers of the Furor and the Pluton were ended, and two-thirds of their people killed.  The Furor was beached and sunk in the surf; the Pluton sank in deep water a few minutes later.  The destroyer probably suffered much injury from the fire of the secondary batteries of the battle-ships Iowa, Indiana, and the Texas, yet I think a very considerable factor in their speedy destruction was the fire, at close range, of the Gloucester’s battery.

“After rescuing the survivors of the destroyers, the Gloucester did excellent service in landing and securing the crew of the Infanta Maria Teresa.

“8.  The method of escape attempted by the Spaniards - all steering in the same direction, and in formation - removed all practical doubts or difficulties, and made plain the duty of every United States vessel to close in, immediately engage and pursue.  This was promptly and effectively done.

“As already stated, the first rush of the Spanish squadron carried it past a number of the blockading ships, which could not immediately work up to their best speed, but they suffered heavily in passing, and the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Oquendo were probably set on fire by the shells fired during the first fifteen minutes of the engagement.  It was afterward learned that the Infanta Maria Teresa’s fire main had been cut by one of our first shots, and that she was unable to extinguish the fire.

“With large volumes of smoke rising from their lower deck aft these vessels gave up both fight and flight, and ran in on the beach, the Infanta Maria Teresa at about 10.15 A. M., at Nima, nine and one-half miles from Santiago Harbour entrance, and the Almirante Oquendo at about 10.30 A. M., at Juan Gonzales, seven miles from the port.

“9.  The Vizcaya was still under the fire of the leading vessels.  The Cristobal Colon had drawn ahead, leading the chase, and soon passed beyond the range of the guns of the leading American ships.  The Viz_caya_ was soon set on fire, and at 11.15 she turned inshore and was beached at Acerraderos, fifteen miles from Santiago, burning fiercely, and with her reserves of ammunition on deck already beginning to explode.

“When about ten miles west of Santiago the Indiana had been signalled to go back to the harbour entrance, and at Acerraderos the Iowa was signalled to ‘resume blockading station.’  The Iowa, assisted by the Ericsson and the Hist, took off the crew of the Vizcaya, while the Harvard and the Gloucester rescued those of the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Almirante Oquendo.

“This rescue of prisoners, including the wounded from the burning Spanish vessels, was the occasion of some of the most daring and gallant conduct of the day.  The ships were burning fore and aft, their guns and reserve ammunition were exploding, and it was not known at what moment the fire would reach the main magazine.

“In addition to this a heavy surf was running just inside of the Spanish ships.  But no risk deterred our officers and men until their work of humanity was complete.

“10.  There remained now of the Spanish ships only the Cristobal Colon, but she was their best and fastest vessel.  Forced by the situation to hug the Cuban coast, her only chance of escape was by superior and sustained speed.

“When the Vizcaya went ashore the Colon was about six miles ahead of the Brooklyn and the Oregon, but her spurt was finished, and the American ships were now gaining upon her.  Behind the Brooklyn and the Oregon came the Texas, Vixen, and New York.

“It was evident from the bridge of the New York that all the American ships were gradually overhauling the chase, and that she had no chance of escape.  At 12.50 the Brooklyn and the Oregon opened fire and got her range, - the Oregon’s heavy shells striking beyond her, - and at 1.20 she gave up without firing another shot, hauled down her colours and ran ashore at Rio Tarquino, forty-eight miles from Santiago.

“Captain Cook of the Brooklyn went on board to receive the surrender.  While his boat was alongside I came up in the New York, receiving his report, and placed the Oregon in charge of the wreck to save her, if possible, and directed the prisoners to be transferred to the Resolute, which had followed the chase.  Commodore Schley, whose chief of staff had gone on board to receive the surrender, had directed that all their personal effects should be retained by the officers.  This order I did not modify.

“The Cristobal Colon was not injured by our firing, and probably is not injured by beaching, though she ran ashore at high speed.  The beach was so steep that she came off by the working of the sea.  But her sea valves were opened or broken, treacherously, I am sure, after her surrender, and despite all efforts she sank.  When it became evident that she could not be kept afloat she was pushed by the New York bodily upon the beach, the New York’s stem being placed against her for this purpose, the ship being handled by Captain Chadwick with admirable judgment, and sank in shoal water, and may be saved.  Had this not been done she would have gone down in deep water, and would have been to a certainty a complete loss.

“11.  I regard this complete and important victory over the Spanish forces as the successful finish of several weeks of arduous and close blockade, so stringent and effective during the night that the enemy was deterred from making the attempt to escape at night, and deliberately elected to make the attempt in daylight.  That this was the case I was informed by the commanding officer of the Cristobal Colon.

“12.  It seems proper to briefly describe here the manner in which this was accomplished.  The harbour of Santiago is naturally easy to blockade, there being but one entrance and that a narrow one, and the deep water extending close up to the shore line, presenting no difficulties of navigation outside of the entrance.  At the time of my arrival before the port, June 1st, the moon was at its full, and there was sufficient light during the night to enable any movement outside of the entrance to be detected; but with the waning of the moon and the coming of dark nights there was opportunity for the enemy to escape, or for his torpedo-boats to make an attack upon the blockading vessels.

“It was ascertained with fair conclusiveness that the Merrimac, so gallantly taken into the channel on June 3d, did not obstruct it.  I therefore maintained the blockade as follows:  To the battle-ships was assigned the duty, in turn, of lighting the channel.  Moving up to the port, at a distance of from one to two miles from the Morro, - dependent upon the condition of the atmosphere, - they threw a search-light beam directly up the channel and held it steadily there.

“This lighted up the entire breadth of the channel for half a mile inside of the entrance so brilliantly that the movement of small boats could be detected.

“Why the batteries never opened fire upon the search-light-ship was always a matter of surprise to me; but they never did.  Stationed close to the entrance of the port were three picket-launches, and, at a little distance further out, three small picket-vessels - usually converted yachts - and, when they were available, one or two of our torpedo-boats.

“With this arrangement there was at least a certainty that nothing could get out of the harbour undetected.

“After the arrival of the army, when the situation forced upon the Spanish admiral a decision, our vigilance increased.  The night blockading distance was reduced to two miles for all vessels, and a battle-ship was placed alongside the search-light-ship, with her broadside trained upon the channel in readiness to fire the instant a Spanish ship should appear.  The commanding officers merit great praise for the perfect manner in which they entered into this plan, and put it into execution.  The Massachusetts, which, according to routine, was sent that morning to coal at Guantanamo, like the others, had spent weary nights upon this work, and deserved a better fate than to be absent that morning.

“I enclose, for the information of the department, copies of orders and memorandums issued from time to time, relating to the manner of maintaining the blockade.  When all the work was done so well, it is difficult to discriminate in praise.

“The object of the blockade of Cervera’s squadron was fully accomplished, and each individual bore well his part in it, the commodore in command of the second division, the captains of ships, their officers, and men.

“13.  The fire of the battle-ships was powerful and destructive, and the resistance of the Spanish squadron was, in great part, broken almost before they had got beyond the range of their own force.

“The fine speed of the Oregon enabled her to take a front position in the chase, and the Cristobal Colon did not give up until the Oregon had thrown a 13-inch shell beyond her.  This performance adds to the already brilliant record of this fine battle-ship, and speaks highly of the skill and care with which her admirable efficiency has been maintained during a service unprecedented in the history of vessels of her class.

“The Brooklyn’s westerly blockading position gave her an advantage in the chase which she maintained to the end, and she employed her fine battery with telling effect.

“The Texas and the New York were gaining on the chase during the last hour, and, had any accident befallen the Brooklyn or the Oregon, would have speedily overhauled the Cristobal Colon.

“From the moment the Spanish vessel exhausted her first burst of speed, the result was never in doubt.  She fell, in fact, far below what might reasonably have been expected of her.

“Careful measurements of time and distance give her an average speed, from the time she cleared the harbour mouth until the time she was run on shore at Rio Tarquino, of 13.7 knots.

“Neither the New York nor the Brooklyn stopped to couple up their forward engines, but ran out of the chase with one pair, getting steam, of course, as rapidly as possible on all boilers.  To stop to couple up the forward engines would have meant a delay of fifteen minutes, or four miles in the chase.

“14.  Several of the ships were struck, the Brooklyn more often than the others, but very light material injury was done, the greatest being aboard the Iowa.

“Our loss was one man killed and one wounded, both on the Brooklyn.  It is difficult to explain the immunity from loss of life or injury to ships in a combat with modern vessels of the best type, but Spanish gunnery is poor at the best, and the superior weight and accuracy of our fire speedily drove the men from their guns and silenced their fire.

“This is borne out by the statements of prisoners and by observation.  The Spanish vessels, as they dashed out of the harbour, were covered with the smoke from their own guns, but this speedily diminished in volume, and soon almost disappeared.

“The fire from the rapid-fire batteries of the battle-ships appears to have been remarkably destructive.  An examination of the stranded vessels shows that the Almirante Oquendo especially had suffered terribly from this fire.  Her sides are everywhere pierced, and her decks were strewn with the charred remains of those who had fallen.

“15.  The reports of Commodore W. S. Schley and the commanding officers are enclosed.

“16.  A board, appointed by me several days ago, has made a critical examination of the stranded vessels, both with a view of reporting upon the result of our fire and the military features involved, and of reporting upon the chance of saving any of them, and of wrecking the remainder.  The report of the board will be speedily forwarded.  Very respectfully,

“W.  T. SAMPSON,
Rear-Admiral U. S. Navy, Commander-in-Chief
U.  S. Naval Force, North Atlantic Station.

The Secretary of the Navy, Navy Department, Washington, D. C.

A letter from Captain Chadwick of the flag-ship New York, to his wife, is an entertaining addition to the story of this most marvellous sea fight: 

“FLAGSHIP NEW YORK, July 4, 1898.

“Yesterday was a wonderful day, as you will know in a few hours after my writing this.

“We were in a rather disgruntled frame of mind on account of a little note from Shafter.  He wanted to know why the navy could not go under a destructive fire as well as the army.  It was decided to go and have a consultation with him, explain the situation, and lay our plans before him, which were to countermine the harbour, going in at the same time, and also trying to carry the Morro by assault with one thousand marines landed in Estrella cove.

“It was arranged we were to go to Siboney about 9.30, so Sampson, Staunton, and I put on our leggings, got some sandwiches, filled a flask, and the ship started to go the seven miles to Siboney, where we were to find horses and a cavalry escort.

“We were within a mile or so of the place when a message came to me that a ship was coming out, and by the time I was on deck I found the New York turned around, and headed back, and there they were, coming out one after the other, and putting west as hard as they could go.

“The situation was one which rather left us out of it.  We were too far off to shoot, but could see the rest banging away.  The last to come were the two torpedo-boat destroyers, so we headed in to cut off any attempt on their part to return to port, and we saw Wainwright in the Gloucester firing at them for all he was worth, and soon one evidently had a hole through her boiler, as there was a great white cloud of steam which shot into the air.  We fired two or three 4-inch shots at the other, which was moving back toward the entrance, and then left him to Wainwright’s mercy, as it was a clear case, and stood on; in a few moments we came, first to one and then the other, but a little way apart, the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Oquendo afire and ashore.

“As we were going past the torpedo-boats, I ought to have mentioned two men in the water, stripped, to whom we threw life-buoys, with which they expressed themselves satisfied.  It is impossible in such a case, with two of the enemy’s ships going ahead of us, to stop.

“We had not passed the two ships I mentioned far, until we saw the Vizcaya head in, and soon she was on the beach and aflame, at Ascerraderos, right under the old Cuban camp.

“There was still the Cristobal Colon, a good way ahead, the newest and fastest and much more powerful.  We had passed the Iowa (which we left with the burning Vizcaya) and the Indiana, which we ordered to return off the harbour, and tailed on to the procession after the Cristobal Colon, which consisted of the Oregon, the Brooklyn, and Texas, and the Vixen.  We got each of our extra boilers into operation until we were going a good fifteen knots, and we were overhauling the advance somewhat.

“The Oregon and Brooklyn kept well up, and soon the Oregon began to fire, and we could see the Cristobal Colon gradually edge inshore, so that we knew the game was up and the victory complete; soon she headed in, and went under one of the points which come down from the mountains, which here (some sixty miles west of Santiago) are close at the water’s edge, and are the highest (seventy-eight hundred feet) in Cuba.  We hurried forward and soon saw she had hauled her flag down, and was ashore.

“The Brooklyn had sent a boat, and Cook, who had gone in it, came alongside on his return, and stated he had received their surrender, stating he was not empowered to make any condition as to personal effects, etc., as to which they seemed anxious.

“I then went on board and arranged things, the admiral allowing them, of course, to take with them all their personal belongings, so while we were dividing them up among the ships (525 men) along came the Resolute, reporting having been chased by a Spanish armoured ship, so we put all the prisoners in her.  This was a long job.

“The thing was to save the Cristobal Colon, as she is one of the finest modern ships of her class.  We hurried a prize-crew aboard from the Oregon, closed all water-tight doors, as she was evidently leaking somewhere, but for all we could do she settled down on the beach after floating with the rising tide.  It was a great pity, but the rascally engineers’ force had opened all the valves connecting with the sea, and we could not get at them.

“We finally, after eight hours of hard work, left her in charge of the Texas and Oregon, and are now steaming back to our post off Santiago.  The failure to save the Colon was too bad.  It is possible to do so, of course, with the assistance of a wrecking company, but she was practically in an undamaged condition.  She had one man killed and twenty-five wounded.

“I am only too thankful we did not get ashore this morning.  Poor Higginson, who was down at Guantanamo coaling, will be full of grief, as also Watson, in the Newark.

“I had forgotten to mention that day before yesterday we bombarded the forts very heavily, knocking off a good deal of the poor old Morro, and bringing down the flagstaff and the flag which was so proudly flaunted in our eyes for more than a month.

“We did this at the request of the army, as a demonstration while they attacked.  They did not, however, make the attack, as it turned out.

“These bombardments are very unsatisfactory; one reads lurid accounts of them in the papers, but nothing really is gained unless we strike the guns themselves, and this we have not done.

“As we steamed by to-day in close range, our friends of the western battery, who paid a great deal of attention to us yesterday, banged away at us in fine style, and a number of shells burst around us.  Finally, when I had them entirely off my mind and was paying attention only to the torpedo-boat destroyers, came a tremendous screech, and everybody on the forecastle dodged.  It was their last; it fell about two hundred yards to our right.  We did not reply as we came along.  I thought it a waste of material, and thought they might have their amusement so long as they did no damage.

“There - the engines have stopped and we are back at Santiago; it is 4.30, and I shall turn in again for a final nap.  The captain of the Colon is occupying my room; very nice fellow, about fifty-six, indeed, as are most Spanish naval officers, who, as a Cuban officer said to me, are the flower of the Spanish blood.

“We also have a general and his aid-de-camp, whom we took in the Colon, a nice old boy and very chirpy.  The captain, of course, takes the loss of his ship to heart very much, but the general and his aid seem as cheerful as possible.  I suppose they think ‘it’s none of their funeral.’

“I stored the general in Staunton’s room, Staunton going to Santiago in a torpedo-boat to send the news.

“We have got off our Spanish friends, and are now loafing.  It is a great relief to feel that there is nothing to look after to-night.

“This goes in the St. Louis, so I hope you will have it before many days, and I hope, too, it won’t be long before I get to see you.  I think this terrific defeat must go far toward ending things.”