Under Dewey at Manila/Chapter 27

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As he made his awful discovery, Larry dropped the hose pipe and fell back a few steps. To get out of danger is, instinctively, the first thought of every one, and in a vague way it flashed over his mind that he must flee or be annihilated.

Then another thought came, swift on the track of the first. If the gun was discharged with the breech unlocked, all his companions, and perhaps many others, would be killed, while there was no telling how much the Olympia would suffer.

All this passed through his mind with the rapidity of a lightning flash. As he thought, he tried to yell to Barrow, but the words would not come. His very jaws were set in horror, while his eyes bulged from their sockets. His hands went up, and he shook them appealingly at the head gunner.

But Barrow was looking another way, as was natural when the piece was to be discharged. Larry
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Don't fire! Don't fire! Page 263

felt it was all over. In that moment he virtually suffered the pang of being killed.

But now came a chance to stop the impending catastrophe. Prompted by curiosity, Barrow turned, to take another squint at the enemy before letting drive. But his hand still retained its hold on the connection used for firing purposes.

"Oh, God, help me!" was the thought which forced its way to Larry's lips, and he made one wild, agonizing leap to the head gunner's side. "Don't fire! don't fire!"

"What's that?" asked Barrow, coolly, as he turned. Then as he caught sight of the boy's set face and staring eyes, he added, "Why, lad, what ails you? Got a fit?"

"Don't fire! don't fire! " repeated Larry, and with rigid finger pointed to the unlocked breech.

It was now Barrow's turn to be struck dumb. He still held the connection, and threatened in his consternation to set off the gun anyway. But suddenly he realized the situation more fully, and dropped the connection as though it were a coal of fire.

"Where is Castleton?" he thundered. "Does he want to blow us all to kingdom come?"

For answer, Larry pointed to the prostrate man. "He's knocked out by the heat," he answered, in a voice that did not sound in the least like his own.

"Humph! he ought to have given us some warning!" grumbled Barrow, doing what he could to steady his own tones. "Why, if the gun had gone off standing like that, the whole gun-room would have been knocked out of sight, to say nothing of the rest of the ship."

He began to lock up the breech, and Larry turned again to poor Castleton. The fellow soon regained his consciousness, but could not continue his work, and was sent to the hospital quarters, while an extra man from another gun came to take his place.

"I must give you credit for what you did, Larry," said Barrow, when the excitement was over. "Many a boy, and man, too, for that matter, would have thought of nothing but getting away. You saved us all, and I, for one, sha'n't forget it," and he cracked the youth good-naturedly upon the shoulder.

Striker now came back, but the work was getting so vigorous that he was not told of the incident until some time after. From the bridge, the commodore had discovered a torpedo boat sneaking out from below the fort, with the evident intention of making a circuit and coming up back of the American ships. Captain Gridley was ordered to train the guns of the Olympia upon this craft, and the gunners went at it with a will, each vying with the others in making the best shot. The gun our friends were at hit the torpedo boat on the stern, disabling her steering gear, and two other shots sent her scurrying for land. When close to shore a final shot fairly lifted her out of the water and cast her on the sands, a total wreck.

By the time the Olympia was coming along on her third course before the line of the enemy, it was found that the new flagship, the Reina Cristina, was again in flames, while the other ships were suffering more or less in the same way. The new flagship fought desperately, and two shots whizzed through the Olympia's upper rigging again, while a third fairly clipped the American flagship's stern. But the Reina Cristina could not hold out, and retired in a thick cloud of smoke, burning fiercely.

In the mean time, however, the Don Antonio de Ulloa came to the front with a heavy fire, directed principally at the Olympia and the Baltimore. Her captain, E. Robino, was known to be one of the greatest fighters in the Spanish navy, and he kept his guns at it so long as it was possible for him to do so.

"He is hot as pepper," said Striker, as they drew closer to the Ulloa. "But we'll down him, see if we don't." And Striker was right, for it was not long after this that the Ulloa went down, many of her men with her, but with her colors nailed to her mast. It was now seen that nearly all the other ships were burning. A few more shots from the Olympia were delivered, and the flagship drew off, signalling the others to follow. To go close in shore after the enemy was an impossibility for the large members of the squadron, the water being too shallow.

The terrific heat of the day, and the forced fighting, had almost exhausted every man on the ships, and seeing the fight was his own. Commodore Dewey wisely decided to give his men a breathing spell and something to eat. Accordingly, as soon as they were out of range, orders came to quit the guns and get breakfast. The battle had now raged for about three hours.

"We've got 'em on the run!" shouted Striker, enthusiastically. "I hope the commodore sends us back to finish 'em up."

"He'll do that all right enough," replied a brawny marine standing by. "You never saw Commodore Dewey doing things by halves."

"Three cheers for our commodore!" suddenly shouted somebody, and the cheers were given with a will.

"Three cheers for Captain Gridley and our other officers!" was added.

"What's the matter with three cheers for the Olympia and the other ships of this squadron?" asked Larry, half laughing, and up went the cheers as loudly as the rest. No one on board had been injured, the enemy was all but defeated, and it was a joyous if a tired time all around.

"We've got five shots in the upper works, that's all," was the report which went around. "The only man injured is Casey. Hautermann stepped on his toe-corn, and they had a set-to." And a roar went up; for Casey was known as a pugnacious Irishman, and Hautermann as an equally belligerent German, and the two were continually at swords' points.

Breakfast and a well-earned rest put every man again on his feet, and Castleton came back to his gun. "I remember the breech," he said. "I was just starting to lock it when I went down as if a weight had hit me on the head. I couldn't have helped it if I was to hang for it."

"I believe you," growled Barrow. "But after this I reckon I'll take a squint at the breech myself before I touch her off."

During the time that the men were having breakfast a council of war was held by the commodore and his captains, and it was decided to run in as close as possible to Fort Cavite and silence it, as well as to go at what was left of the Spanish fleet. The order to return to battle sounded at a little before eleven, and this time the Baltimore was allowed to lead, the Olympia and others following.

Again the storm of shot and shell broke forth, fiercely upon the American side, and but feebly upon the part of their enemy. All the big ships of the Spaniards were now either burnt or sunk, and the little craft were fast getting into the same condition.

"The Raleigh, Concord, and Petrel will go inside and destroy shipping," was the next order signalled from the flagship, and those warships hastened to obey. But the Raleigh drew too much water, and after getting aground twice was forced to give up the task assigned to her. The Concord and Petrel, however, crossed the shoals in safety, and began a fierce bombardment from the rear, while the big ships shelled the Arsenal from the front. In the mean time, the batteries near Manila had been silenced by Commodore Dewey, who sent word that the city's guns must cease firing or he would shell the town.

The tide of battle had swept along into the afternoon when suddenly a loud hurrahing was heard, coming from where the Concord and Petrel lay. A minute later, as the smoke lifted, a flag of truce could be seen flying from the Arsenal. Then the Petrel signalled:—

"The enemy has surrendered!"

What a storm of cheers went up. It was as if pandemonium had suddenly broken loose upon all sides. Officers joined the men in shouting, and the deck and rigging swarmed with jackies waving their caps and handkerchiefs. Larry shouted as loudly as the rest, and it must be acknowledged that the plucky boy thought it the proudest moment of his life.

It was a victory without a parallel in history. Six American fighting ships had attacked eight large Spanish vessels, besides a number of small craft, a shore battery, and a fairly-well equipped fort. The Spanish had had all their ships either sunk, blown up, or burnt, the battery had been shattered to pieces and the fort silenced. The Spanish had lost in killed and wounded over five hundred men, and those that were able, were fleeing to Manila by the inland roads, and with them Admiral Montojo, who was slightly wounded.

And the loss to the Americans? Strange, nay, astonishing as it may appear, there was none worth mentioning, if we except the death of the engineer overcome by the heat. On the Baltimore six men had been wounded by the bursting of a shell, but the surgeons said all would speedily recover. The Olympia had received five shots in her upper works, of no consequence, as viewed from the standpoint of war, and the Raleigh's whaleboat would need the services of the ship's carpenter. Three shots in her upper works was the damage on the Baltimore, and the Boston, Concord, and Petrel had escaped with practically no injury at all.

Small wonder, then, that the officers and men of the squadron were the happiest set on the face of the earth, and small wonder that they thought their gallant commodore the greatest naval hero living. As for Commodore Dewey, he was equally happy. That day's work had placed his name high up on the brightest page in American history.