[Illustration: Lieutenant Victor Blue.]
The forts at Santiago received a terrible punishment, if they were not destroyed, and one of Admiral Cervera’s ships, the Maria Teresa, was considerably damaged by shells that went over the forts into the harbor. There were several other warships in the harbor besides those that came with Admiral Cervera. The Reina Mercedes was nearly destroyed by the shells from our ships. Our old friend, the Oregon, sent a big shell over the hills that swept nearly everything off her decks. Other shots riddled her hull and sank her.
The Santiago fortifications were bombarded a number of times and some splendid shots were made. There was a battery to the west of the harbor that fired more accurately than the others, and so the Texas got the range and dropped a shell into the powder magazine one day. Everything about that battery seemed to be in the air at once when that shell exploded. Nothing was left of it but a pile of ruins and a big hole in the ground.
There is a ship in the United States navy that is unlike any other in the world. She has three long guns which are built into the ship and do not turn to one side or the other. The whole ship has to be pointed at the object which the gunners wish to hit. She does not fire shells loaded with powder, as other warships do, but uses a long shell filled with gun-cotton, or dynamite, both of which are deadly explosives. When one of these shells strikes anything the effect is terrible. The Vesuvius, for that is the name of this ship, fired several of these shells over the fortifications at Santiago, in the direction where the Spanish fleet was lying. She did not hit any of them, but she tore great holes in the sand and rocks near by. It is said that the Spaniards called the Vesuvius “The Hurler of Earthquakes” because of the damage her shells did. The guns of the Vesuvius are really firing tubes. No powder is used in them, compressed air being the power that expels the shells. Very little noise is made, and there is no smoke.
[Illustration: Forward Deck and Guns of the Vesuvius.]
If one small shell should strike the Vesuvius it would send men and boat to the bottom at once, because she has so much deadly gun-cotton on board. Her crew is almost afraid to move.
“Why, I’m afraid to even snore in my sleep,” said one of them, “for fear I’ll discharge the gun-cotton; and as for kicking in my sleep—why, I’m as quiet as a drugged snake.”
[Illustration: A Jacky.]
“We slide along,” said another; “we’re afraid to walk at first. I went on tiptoe for the first three days.”
“Well, I went on my hands and knees the day it was so rough,” said a third. “A fellow has to learn to walk on any part of his anatomy in this ship when the sea is rough.”
The Vesuvius has been described as a ship which fights and then runs away. That is, she fires three shells and then takes herself out of the range of an enemy’s fire.