The message was sent by one of the submarine cables which connects America with Europe, and the operator who received it told the Spanish officials about it before sending it to its destination. So, before Mr. Woodford could deliver his message, the Spanish government sent him his passports, which was a polite hint to leave the country, and he did so, at once. This action on the part of Spain was virtually a declaration of war, and was so regarded by the President and the people of this country. On the 22d, a blockade of Cuban ports was established by the navy, and a Spanish ship was captured.
I have already told you that the Cubans, in their rebellion, had driven the Spaniards out of many places in Cuba, but had not been able to get possession of the chief harbors. So now it was thought best that our ships should blockade the large harbors of Cuba. Do you know what blockade means? It means to surround a place held by the enemy, and stay there, doing any damage that can be done, cutting the enemy off from outside help, and so, in time, if he is not strong enough to break the blockade, he must surrender, as his supply of food will give out.
[Illustration: Rear-Admiral Sampson.]
On the morning of April 22d, a squadron under the command of Acting Rear-Admiral Sampson sailed from Key West to establish a blockade of the most important Cuban ports. The ships which were to be stationed off Havana reached that port on the same day; others were sent to different ports along the coast, and so the blockade was begun.
All kinds of vessels were employed in this blockading service. There were huge battleships, splendid cruisers, and gunboats that could go into shallower waters than the large ships. There were also monitors—immense fighting machines with decks but a little height above the water and big guns in circular turrets. Then there were torpedo boats—very swift vessels armed with deadly torpedoes, any one of which could sink the largest ship afloat.
Some of our large passenger steamships had been appropriated by the Government for war service, and did good work for the blockade, as they can move very fast. They flew about from place to place as “scouts” or “spies”; they carried messages; they cut the Spanish cables under water, and were useful in other ways.
The gunboat Nashville sailed from Key West with the squadron, and before the sun had fairly risen she saw the smoke of a steamer away off to the westward. She gave chase at once, and, as the vessels drew near, the stranger was flying the flag of Spain. The Nashville fired a shot across her bows, and this was the first shot in the war between the United States and Spain. The Spaniard was not inclined to stop, and it required another shot before she would stop her engines. The Nashville sent an officer in