Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

feels some annoyance at such a controversy over naval red tape, he may have the consolation of knowing
that all concerned, admirals and captains, did the right and sensible thing at the time. If there be an

exception, it was the curious maneuver of Schley, the commander of the Brooklyn, who turned a

complete circle away from the enemy after the battle had begun. This action of his was certainly not due

to a desire to escape, for the Brooklyn quickly turned again into the fight. A controversy, too, has raged

over this maneuver. Was it undertaken because the Brooklyn was about to be rammed by the Vizcaya, or

because Schley thought that his position blocked the fire of the other American vessels? It is not unlikely

that the commander of the Spanish ship hoped to ram the Brooklyn, which was, because of her speed, a

most redoubtable foe. But unless this maneuver saved the Brooklyn, it had little result except to scare the

Texas, upon whom she suddenly bore down out of a dense cloud of smoke.

Steering westward, the Spanish ships attempted to pass the battle line, but the American vessels kept
pace with them. For a short time the engagement was very severe, for practically all vessels of both fleets

took part, and the Spanish harbor batteries added their fire. At 10:15 A.M. the Maria Teresa, Admiral

Cervera's flagship, on fire and badly shattered by heavy shells, turned toward the beach. Five minutes

later the Oquendo, after something of a duel with the Texas, also turned inshore. The Brooklyn was in

the lead of the Americans, closely followed by the Oregon, which developed a wonderful burst of speed

in excess of that called for in her contract. These two ships kept up the chase of the Vizcaya and the

Cristobal Colon, while the slower vessels of the fleet attended to the two Spanish destroyers, Furor and

Pluton. At 11:15 A.M. the Vizcaya, riddled by fire from the Brooklyn and Oregon, gave up the fight.

By this time, Sampson in the New York was rapidly approaching the fight, and now ordered the majority
of the vessels back to their stations. The Colon, fleeing westward and far ahead of the American ships,

was pursued by the Brooklyn, the Oregon, the Texas, the New York, and the armed yacht Vixen. It was a

stern chase, although the American vessels had some advantage by cutting across a slight concave

indentation of the coast, while the Colon steamed close inshore. At 1:15 P.M. a shot from the Oregon

struck ahead of the Colon, and it was evident that she was covered by the American guns. At 1:30 P.M.

she gave over her flight and made for shore some forty-five miles west of Santiago. The victory was

won. It has often been the good fortune of Americans to secure their greatest victories on patriotic

anniversaries and thereby to enhance the psychological effect. Admiral Sampson was able to announce to

the American people, as a Fourth of July present, the destruction of the Spanish fleet with the loss of but

one of his men and but slight damage to his ships.

On the hills above Santiago the American Army had now only the land forces of the Spaniards to
contend with. Shafter's demand for unconditional surrender met with a refusal, and there ensued a week

of military quiet. During this time General Shafter conducted a correspondence with the War

Department, in judging which it is charitable to remember that the American commander weighed three

hundred pounds, that he was sweltering under a hot sun, and that he was sixty-three years old, and sick.

Too humane to bombard Santiago while Hobson and his men were still in Spanish hands, he could not

forgive Sampson for not having forced the narrow and well-mined channel at the risk of his fleet. The

War Department, sharing Shafter's indignation, prepared to attempt the entrance with one of its own

transports protected by baled hay, as had been done on the Mississippi during the Civil War. Shafter

continued to be alarmed at the situation. Without reenforcements he could not attack, and he proposed to

allow the Spaniards to evacuate. The War Department forbade this alternative and, on the 10th of July, he

began the bombardment of Santiago.

The Secretary of War then hit upon the really happy though quite unmilitary device of offering, in return

 

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