I think this is a good place to tell you about a few more of the odd ships that belong to Uncle Sam’s navy, for no nation beside ours has anything like them.
The Katahdin is an armored ram which relies upon her sharp prow to disable an adversary. Her armament is only four six-pounder rapid-fire guns.
Then there is a fleet of vessels whose duty it is to repair the damages that ships receive in battle, supply fuel and water to fighting ships, and to care for the wounded. All of these are novel additions to the navy, but are practical auxiliaries in modern naval operations.
The Vulcan is one of the repair ships. It is, in fact, a navigable machine shop, fitted with steam tools for executing any work in metal. It carries duplicates of nearly every article belonging to a modern warship; and when you understand that some of these contain nearly seventy sets of engines, you can easily see the advantage of having a repair ship attached to a fleet.
Then there are the refrigerating ships, or “pantries,” as the sailors call them. Their mission is to assist in feeding the navy. They are most valuable additions to a fleet, for they supply fresh meat and vegetables to improve “Jack’s” diet of “salt horse.”
Next come the ships that supply fresh water to the crews of our warships. These are fitted up with distilling apparatus, which converts salt water into fresh. The Iris, as one of these is named, belongs to the “sweet water squadron.” The water consumption of a vessel is enormous. A battleship will use seven thousand gallons every day, which gives you an idea of the work such vessels as the Iris have to perform.
Now we come to such ships as the Solace and the Relief. These are hospital ships, and are provided with every appliance and convenience to be found in a modern hospital, including X-ray outfits to aid in locating bullets, a microscopic department, and a carbonator for supplying mineral waters. The hull of the Solace is painted white, with a wide stripe of green along the sides, and, as befits her mission, carries no guns or weapons of any kind. Hospital ships fly the “Red Cross” flag from their mastheads.
[Illustration: (Ships at sea)]
Our ships could guard Santiago and fire at the forts, but our naval officers had good reasons for thinking that they could not take the city unless our soldiers were on shore to help in different ways. Our ships could not go safely into the harbor till the “mines” under the water had been removed; the “mines” could not be removed till the forts on the cliffs had been taken. So now the time had come for our soldiers to go to Cuba.
Our army goes to Cuba.
Our soldiers—thousands of “Regulars” and thousands and thousands of “Volunteers”—were waiting in camps in the eastern and southern parts of the United States, in order to be ready to start for Cuba at short notice. Thousands of them were never ordered to go, but stayed in camp during all the war. Still, they were ready to go if needed.