[Illustration: The “Merrimac.”]
The men, having done their work, lie flat on deck to avoid the shots, and wait anxiously for the moment when the vessel shall go down. In a few minutes the Merrimac tosses low to one side, then to the other, then plunges, bow foremost, into the waves. Now the men are thrown into the whirling water. But see! they manage to swim to the life-raft, which had been fastened by a long rope to the Merrimac and is now floating on the waves. They cling to the raft, only heads and hands above water. They keep quiet, for the Spaniards are out in small boats now, looking to see what damage has been done. The Spaniards do not see our men clinging to the flat raft. So Lieutenant Hobson and his crew stay in the water, which is very chilly in the early morning; their teeth chatter, their limbs ache. Meanwhile day dawns beautifully over the hills of Santiago.
An hour passes in this way. Now a steam-launch is seen coming toward the raft. Lieutenant Hobson hails the launch, asks for the officer in charge, and surrenders himself and his men. They are helped into the launch, prisoners in the hands of the Spaniards. The officer is Admiral Cervera.
Naval Cadet Powell, of the New York, performed a feat in many respects as heroic as that of Hobson and his men. He volunteered to take the launch of the flagship and a small crew, patrol the mouth of the harbor and attempt to rescue Hobson and his plucky crew should any of them survive after the Merrimac had been blown up. This is his story:
“Lieutenant Hobson took a short sleep for a few hours, which was often interrupted. A quarter to two o’clock he came on deck and made a final inspection, giving his last instructions. Then we had a little lunch.
“Hobson was just as cool as a cucumber. About two-twenty I took the men who were not going on the trip into the launch and started for the Texas, which was the nearest ship, but had to go back for one of the assistant engineers, whom Hobson finally compelled to leave. I shook hands with Hobson the last of all. He said: ’Powell, watch the boat’s crew when we pull out of the harbor. We will be cracks, rowing thirty strokes to the minute.’
[Illustration: Naval Cadet Jos. W. Powell.]
“After leaving the Texas, I saw the Merrimac steaming slowly in. It was only fairly dark then, and the shore was quite visible. We followed about three-quarters of a mile astern. The Merrimac stood about a mile to the westward of the harbor, and seemed a bit mixed, turning completely around; finally, heading to the east, she ran down, then turned in. We were then chasing him, because I thought Hobson had lost his bearings. When Hobson was about two hundred yards from the harbor the first gun was fired from the eastern bluffs.