[Illustration: Strange course of a Spanish Shell.]
When the news of the glorious victory in Manila Bay reached the United States, the people went wild with joy. Commodore Dewey was thanked by Congress, and afterwards was made a rear-admiral. In December, Congress revived the grade and rank of admiral and conferred it upon Rear-Admiral Dewey, and he and all of his men were presented with medals of honor made expressly for the purpose. The raising of Admiral Dewey’s new flag on the Olympia was an interesting ceremony. As the blue bunting with its four white stars fluttered to the peak of the flagship, the crews of all the vessels in the fleet were at quarters; the officers in full dress for the occasion. The marines paraded; the drums gave four “ruffles” as the Admiral stepped upon the deck; the Olympiads band struck up “Hail to the Chief,” and an admiral’s salute of seventeen guns echoed across Manila Bay from every American ship; followed by salutes of the same number of guns from each foreign war vessel in the harbor.
[Illustration: The Dewey Medal of Honor.]
While Admiral Sampson had been fixing the blockade he had also been forming plans to close the channel, and so keep any large ship from stealing out of the bay. For, although our men watched closely, there was always a chance that in a fog or storm the Spanish ships might slip out without being seen. Admiral Sampson knew that the Spaniards could remove anything that might be sunk to close the channel, but the work would take time, and meanwhile our Army might arrive on the land back of Santiago, and then our Army and Navy could help each other. Time was what was needed in order to have all things ready for forcing the Spaniards out of Santiago and taking possession of the city.
[Illustration: Lieut. Richmond P. Hobson.]
So, plans were made for sinking a coal steamer across the narrowest part of the channel, and thus blocking the way. Now you shall hear of one of the bravest deeds ever done in war.
The work of closing the channel was put into the hands of Lieutenant Hobson. The collier Merrimac was chosen as the vessel to be sunk. You have no idea how much had to be done before the Merrimac was ready. There were hours and hours of work. The crew had to take off all the things that were not to be sunk, the machinery had to be fixed in certain ways, the heavy anchors had to be placed in the right parts, and the torpedoes, which Lieutenant Hobson made for blowing holes in the vessel at the right moment, had to be fitted into their places. More than two thousand tons of coal had to be shoveled away from certain places in the hold to make room for the torpedoes and to leave spaces for the water to rush in and sink the vessel. So, much hard work was done before the good collier was ready to be forced under the waves.