| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
"THE HERO OF MANILA"
 THE splendid battleship Maine rode peacefully at
anchor in Havana Harbor. Over her floated the stars and
stripes. Cuba was in revolt against Spain, and the little
island was suffering tortures from Spanish cruelties; but
the United States battleship was there to take no part in
the war. She was a neutral vessel, merely paying a visit
to the harbor.
HOW BATTLESHIPS HAVE CHANGED IN HALF A CENTURY: THE "MAINE" AND THE OLD "CONSTITUTION".
It was the 15th of February, 1898, and the officers and
sailors aboard the Maine were performing their daily
duties. Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, and
two hundred and sixty-six American seamen were killed.
The Maine had been blown to pieces, and all that was left
of the splendid battleship was a mass of wreckage.
What caused this frightful disaster? Who was
responsible for the dastardly deed? Was the explosion an
accident, or was it a piece of Spanish treachery? Americans
north, south, east, and west clamored for an explanation.
A Court of Inquiry was appointed to sift the matter to the
bottom and find the cause. And after many days came
the report, "The Maine was destroyed by the explosion
of a submarine mine."
It was late in March when the Court of Inquiry made
its report. In April, Congress resolved to recognize the
 independence of Cuba, and demanded that Spain give the
Cubans their liberty.
Spain refused. Then the United States resolved to
take up arms in Cuba's behalf. Troops were called out.
Ships were sent to blockade the Cuban ports. President
McKinley telegraphed Commodore George Dewey, in
command of our Asiatic squadron at Hong Kong, China,
to go at once to Manila and to capture or destroy the
Spanish fleet guarding that port.
With all dispatch Dewey started for the Philippine
Islands, and the last night of April saw his six war vessels
outlined in the moonlight off Manila Bay.
Before them opened the harbor, planted with
submarine mines and protected by Spanish batteries. In
the harbor lay the fleet Dewey had come to "capture or
destroy." And he meant to do it, cost what it might.
Through the darkness of the night, the moonlight having
waned, his flagship, the Olympia, led the way. By
daylight the ships were off Manila and were fired upon by
 five batteries and the Spanish fleet. Two mines exploded
ahead of Dewey's flagship, but failed to harm it.
In line, one behind another, our ships advanced to
battle. Commodore Dewey was on the flagship's bridge.
At last the moment of
attack came, and Captain Gridley heard
him say, "You may fire when ready, Gridley."
DEWEY ON THE BRIDGE OF THE "OLYMPIA".
opened fire at 5:41
that morning. About
7:30 the signal went
up to stop firing and
to withdraw from ac
tion. What had happened? The
Commodore had tried to find
out how many rounds.
of ammunition were
left on his ship, and
by mistake had been
told that only fifteen
remained. That could
not be! But to make
sure, the ships were
ordered to withdraw from the battle. While the crews
had breakfast, the officers consulted and learned that all
was right with the ammunition.
Then back to the battle went the American ships, and
in an hour and a half the Spaniards ceased firing. Their
ships had been sunk, burned, or riddled; and Dewey's
work was done. Throughout May and June the war went
 on. Then in July an American fleet destroyed another
Spanish fleet in the harbor of Santiago. And a few days
later the city of Santiago was surrendered to an American
army. The Spaniards had now had enough and sought
terms of peace. The treaty which closed the war gave
the Cubans their freedom and ceded to the United States
Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands, for which we agreed
to pay $20,000,000.
In the rough and tumble of a village school, the stricter
discipline of a military preparatory school, and the still
more severe training of the united States Naval Academy
at Annapolis, George Dewey received his education.
He was graduated from Annapolis in 1858. Three
years later came the Civil War. And under Farragut,
Lieutenant Dewey was assigned to the warship Mississippi
and had a share in the attack on New Orleans.
One year after the battle of New Orleans, eight
American vessels made their way up the Mississippi River and
tried to weather the deadly fire of nearly four miles of
Southern batteries. It was the attack upon Port Hudson.
The flagship and another passed the batteries safely. At
last the Mississippi was almost by. She put on steam
and shot ahead a little faster. But amidst the smoke of
battle she lost her bearings and ran aground. There was
no chance to set her free. She must be burned and
abandoned, so the torch was applied. Almost the last to
leave the ill-fated ship was Lieutenant Dewey.
In Annapolis Dewey was carefully taught the duties
of a naval officer. In the Civil War he learned to put this
knowledge to the test. And these two schools—the one
of studies, the other of experience—successfully prepared
him to become "The Hero of Manila" and Admiral of the
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics