In the meantime, while her sister-ships were being destroyed, the Cristobal Colon had pushed on out of the thickest of the fire, and was hoping to escape. She was their best and fastest vessel.
Continuing The Cuban Campaign,
with a selection from The Rescue of Cuba by Andrew S. Draper published in 1899. This selection is presented in nine easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Cuban Campaign.
Place: Santiago Area
Hardly had the battle opened when one of the largest guns sent a shell through the Pluton which practically broke her in two. The Furor tried to seek refuge behind the cruisers, but the Gloucester ran in and out and riddled her with an unerring fire which reached her vitals and sent her plunging toward the shore, to break upon a reef and go down under the rolling surf. Some of her crew were helped upon the gallant little vessel that had destroyed her. Out of one hundred forty men on the two vessels but twenty-four survived.
In fifteen minutes the Maria Teresa and the Oquendo were on fire. At a quarter-past ten the former of these was completely disabled, gave up the fight, and ran on the shore at a point about six and a half miles from the harbor, and in another quarter of an hour the other did the same thing a half-mile farther on. One had been hit thirty- three times and the other sixty- six.
The Vizcaya, in three-quarters of an hour more, struck her colors and turned to the shore fifteen miles from the harbor.
These vessels were pierced by shells in many places; they were burning and their guns and ammunition bursting, with the likelihood that their magazines would explode at any moment. As the only resort in the last extremity, they were run on the beach, where they sank and careened over on their sides. Hundreds of their crews were dead or wounded and many more jumped into the heavy sea to save themselves.
The American boats went quickly to their rescue. As the Texas passed one of the stranded vessels her men started a cheer, but Captain John W. Philip, with fine chivalry, told them not to cheer when other brave men were dying. The Iowa and the Ericsson took off the crew of the Vizcaya, and the Gloucester and the Harvard those of the Maria Teresa and the Oquendo. Lieu tenant-Commander Wainwright received Admiral Cervera at his gangway and made the defeated Spanish officer as comfortable as possible. The men helped the Spaniards from the water and at great risk went aboard their vessels to carry off the wounded.
In the meantime, while her sister-ships were being destroyed, the Cristobal Colon had pushed on out of the thickest of the fire, and was hoping to escape. She was their best and fastest vessel. When the Vizcaya went ashore, fifteen miles from the start, the fleetness of the Colon had put her ahead of the rest about six miles. As soon as the fate of the Vizcaya was assured, the Iowa and the Indiana were directed to return to the blockading station, and the Brooklyn, the Oregon, the Texas, and the Vixen started on the great race for the Colon.
The high speed of the Brooklyn enabled her to lead the way. But the Oregon showed that she had speed as well as great guns. Her chief engineer had for weeks saved some choice Cardiff coal1 for just such an emergency, and now it was piled upon the fires with signal effect. The grimy heroes under the decks won the race that day. In the boiler-rooms the heat was almost insufferable, ranging from one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty degrees, Fahrenheit. The men fainted often and had to be lifted to the deck where the fresh air could revive them. But there was no flinching or complaint. Frequently the stokers insisted upon working overtime. No one of them in the pit was less intense or less a hero than the captain on the bridge. Once, when some of the firemen had fainted, the engineer called to the captain, ” If my men can hear a few guns, they will revive.”
The Colon hugged the coast for the purpose of landing if she could not escape. The pursuers struck a line for a projecting headland. There was no firing for a long distance and the crews watched the great race from the decks. The Brooklyn and the Oregon gradually drew away from the others and gained upon the Spaniard.
The Colon fired a shot at her pursuers now and then, but each fell wide of the mark. When Commodore Schley was told by the navigator that the distance between the Colon and the Oregon was but eight thousand five hundred yards, or five miles, he signaled to the battleship to try a thirteen- inch shell upon her. Instantly it whistled over the head of the Brooklyn and fell but little short of the Colon. A second one struck beyond her. A few shots were then fired by both of the American vessels. At twenty minutes after one o’clock the Colon struck her colors and ran ashore forty-two miles from the entrance to Santiago harbor. The Spanish crew scuttled and left her sinking. The Brooklyn and the Oregon soon came up, and Captain Cook of the former went aboard and received her surrender. Soon the noble vessel sank in deep water, but was pushed upon the beach by the New York, which had arrived. The next day only a small part of the stern of the ship remained above the water.
All the living men upon the stranded fleet, about sixteen hundred of them, were taken prisoners. The Spanish Admiral and most of the prominent officers were among the number. All were treated with the utmost kindness, and the wounded received every possible aid, far more than they would have had if they had not been captured.
The Spaniards had four hundred killed. The charred remains found upon their burning ships told too plainly how dread fully they had suffered. The Americans lost but one man. George H. Ellis, a yeoman, assisting on the bridge of the Brooklyn, was asked by Captain Cook to give him the distance to the Vizcaya. He stepped into the open, took the observation, answered, “Twenty-two hundred yards, sir,” and fell at the captain’s feet, for a shell had taken off his head.
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