[Illustration: Wreck of the “Maine.”]
After three volleys had been fired over the dead, and the bugles had rung out the soldiers’ and sailors’ last good night, Captain Sigsbee introduced Shea to President McKinley. Being asked for an explanation of his escape, he responded, as he had done to Father Chidwick when he visited him in the hospital in Havana, where he lay covered with wounds and bruises, and with nearly every bone in his body broken:
“I don’t know how I got through. I was blown out. I guess I must have been an armor-piercing projectile!”
The work of saving the guns and other valuable things on the Maine was carried on for some time. Among other things that the divers recovered was a splendid silver service that had been presented to the ship by the state of Maine. The keys to the magazines were found in their proper places in the captain’s cabin, and his money and papers were also recovered. Finally, it was found that the hull of the great ship could not be raised, and in April the United States flag, that had been kept flying above the wreck since the night of the fatal explosion, was hauled down and the ship formally declared out of commission.
Of course, the awful disaster caused deep sorrow in the United States. There was great excitement also, for many persons thought that some of the Spaniards had wrecked the Maine on purpose. The harbor was full of “mines” or immense iron shells filled with stuff that will explode. All countries at war protect their harbors in this way.
President McKinley appointed men to examine the wreck and find out all they could about the explosion. They found that the ship was destroyed by a “mine,” but could not prove that the Spaniards had purposely caused the “mine” to explode.
[Illustration: Captain-General’s Palace, Havana.]
So there will always be a mystery connected with the horrible destruction of the Maine.
On April 10th, Consul-General Lee and such Americans as wished to do so, left Havana and returned to the United States. From that time on, it seemed to the people of the United States that war with Spain was inevitable, and preparations for it were carried on rapidly. On April 19th—which, by the way, was the anniversary of the first battle of the war of the Revolution and also of the Civil War—Congress declared that the United States must interfere in the affairs of Cuba and help the Cubans to become a free and prosperous people. This declaration was signed by President McKinley on the following day, and then our minister to Spain, Mr. Woodford, was instructed to tell the Spanish government what had been done, and also what would be done, if Spain did not promise before the 23d to withdraw her soldiers from Cuba and give up the island to the Cubans.