As it was Sunday, not much work was going on. By nine o’clock all the men were dressed in their white clothes, ready for the Sunday morning “inspection.” Some of the officers were gloomy, for they had had news about the terrible losses in the Army during the last two days.
Suddenly, about half past nine, shouts are heard on some of the ships, and the signal flies up on the Iowa: “Enemy’s ships are coming out,” and a gun is fired from the Iowa, to attract the notice of all the fleet. Our ships, so still a moment before, are now full of life. Every man shouts to his neighbor, “They’re coming out! they’re coming out!” Men run in all directions to get to their posts; officers buckle on their swords; orders are quickly given. “Sound the general alarm!” “Clear ship for action!” “Bugles call to general quarters!” “Steam and pressure on the turrets!” “Hoist the battle-flags!” “Close the hatches!” “Full steam ahead!” “Turn on the current of the electric hoists!” “Get to your guns, lads!”
Our men are hurrahing and yelling with glad excitement. They throw off their white clothes, and tumble down the ladders, and throw themselves through the hatchways in their haste to obey orders. In less than three minutes every vessel is speeding along, and has obeyed the signal: “Open fire!”
There are the beautiful Spanish ships running at full speed, in a line, one behind the other, all their flags flying as if on a holiday parade. They are coming out of the channel and turning westward, firing fiercely on the Brooklyn, the nearest of our ships, while the forts on the cliffs fire on the rest of our fleet. First of the Spanish ships comes the Maria Teresa, carrying the flag of Admiral Cervera. The last two in the line are the torpedo-boat destroyers.
Our ships send forth a storm of fire; every instant the roar of our guns is heard, and the air is so filled with smoke that our men can hardly see their enemy.
Indeed, it is a wonder that our ships, all rushing toward the Spanish ships, do not crash into one another. And how can they help injuring one another with their guns? Ah, there is good management! Not one of the captains loses his wits—not one of the gunners mistakes a friend for a foe.
Now the Maria Teresa is on fire in different places, and turns in toward the shore. Great columns of flame shoot up as the big ship runs upon the beach and hauls down her flag as a sign of surrender. Now another Spanish ship is on fire from our guns, and runs ashore, hauling down her flag. She is as helpless as the Teresa. Not half an hour has passed since those two ships came out of the harbor, yet now, after running six or seven miles, they are ashore and in flames; most of their men are killed or wounded, the others are clinging to parts of the ships or jumping into the sea, though sharks are plainly seen in the water.
Meanwhile, the Gloucester, one of our smallest vessels, is attacking the two torpedo-boat destroyers, and, with a little help from some of our battleships, soon puts an end to the two little Spanish boats. One of them sinks, the other is compelled to run ashore; both ruined in less than eight minutes after the Gloucester fired the first shot at them.