The End of New
York by Park
THE WAR CLOUD.
Towards dusk on the afternoon of Monday, December 5th, 1881, the French
steamer "Canada," from Havre, arrived at her pier in New York City.
Among the passengers was a tall, dark, rather fine-looking man, of about
middle-age. After the usual examination of his baggage by the Custom
House officials had been made, this person, accompanied by a lady, took
a hack at the entrance of the pier, and was driven to the Fifth Avenue
Hotel. The initials on the luggage strapped on the rear of the vehicle
In conversing with the driver the gentleman—for his appearance and
bearing fully indicated his right to the title—spoke English, though
somewhat imperfectly; with the lady he talked in sonorous Castilian.
Apparently, no one bestowed any particular notice upon the pair. They
were two foreigners out of the great throng of foreigners which lands
daily in the metropolis; they were Spaniards and reasonably well-to-do,
seeing that they came over in the saloon, and not in the steerage.
The names registered at the hotel were Manuel Blanco and wife.
Late during the following evening the lady personally came to the office
seemingly in great distress. An interpreter being procured, it was
learned that Señor Blanco, in response to a visiting-card sent to his
room, had left the apartment shortly after breakfast that morning, and
had not since returned.
The lady explained that he had no business affairs in New York, and that
they were merely resting in the city for a few days to recover from the
effects of the ocean voyage, before going to Charleston, S.C., their
The clerk in the office simply knew that a stranger had called and sent
a card to Señor Blanco, and that the two, after meeting, had left the
The anxiety of Señora Blanco was evidently excessive. She rejected such
commonplace reasons as that her husband might have lost his way, or that
some unlooked-for business matters had claimed his attention.
"No, no!" she repeated, almost hysterically; "no beezness. Ah, Dios! El
A physician was sent for, and the lady, who was fast reaching a stage of
nervous prostration, placed in his care. The hotel detective proceeded
at once to Police Headquarters, whence telegrams were despatched to the
various precincts, giving a description of the missing man, and making
inquiries concerning him. The replies were all in the negative: no such
person had come under the notice of the police.
From what has thus far been narrated, it might be inferred that Blanco's
absence was due to one of those strange disappearances which happen in
great cities. The inference, however, would be wrong. Blanco had not
True, his agonized wife and the police of New York City had no trace of
his whereabouts; but Mr. Michael Chalmette, an officer detailed by the
U.S. Marshal in New Orleans to arrest Leon Sangrado, at the request of
the Republic of Chili, on the charge of repeatedly committing murder and
highway robbery in that country, was entirely sure that the missing
person was sitting beside him, handcuffed to his left wrist, and that
both were speeding toward New Orleans as fast as a railway-car could
When the French steamer "Canada" arrived, Mr. Michael Chalmette, wearing
the uniform and badge of a Custom House officer, stationed himself by
the gang-plank and narrowly scrutinized each passenger that came
ashore. While Blanco's trunks were being examined, he stood near that
gentleman, and furtively compared his features with those on a
photograph. It was Chalmette who sent the card to Blanco's room, in the
hotel, next day, and who induced Blanco to accompany him in a carriage,
as he said, to the Custom House, to arrange some irregularity in the
passing of Blanco's luggage. The driver of that carriage, however, was
told to go to the Pennsylvania Railroad Dépôt, in Jersey City.
Blanco evinced some surprise on being taken across the ferry, but was
easily satisfied by his companion's explanation that the branch of the
Custom House to be visited was on the Jersey side.
When the station was reached Chalmette led the way to the waiting-room,
and quietly observed, before the unsuspecting Blanco could finish a
"Ees it posseeble zat zees is ze Custom—"
"You are my prisoner. You had better come without making trouble."
Blanco looked at him aghast—not half comprehending the words.
"A prisoner—I—for what?"
Chalmette returned no answer, but produced his warrant.
"But I no understand—I—"
Just then the warning bell rung. Chalmette seized his prisoner by the
arm and pushed him through the gateway.
On the platform Blanco made some slight resistance. The policeman,
whose attention was attracted thereby, after a few words with Chalmette,
assisted the latter in forcing him upon the train, which was already
slowly moving out of the dépôt.
* * * * *
It is necessary to break the thread of the story here to note an odd
coincidence. While there is a French steamer "Canada" belonging to the
Compagnie Générale Trans Atlantique, and plying between New York and
Havre, there is also an English steamer "Canada" belonging to the
National Line, which travels between New York and London. It so happened
that on the same afternoon that the French vessel came in, as before
narrated, the English steamer of like name also arrived.
Among the passengers who landed from the English "Canada" there was also
a couple, man and woman, apparently Spaniards, and there was an
undeniable resemblance between the man and Blanco. The former, however,
had features cast in a much rougher mould, and his general bearing
indicated that he was not a gentleman, as plainly as Blanco's did the
The luggage of the pair consisted of a single valise, which was carried
by the woman, the man striding on ahead, leisurely puffing a cigarette.
They hired no carriage, but walked from the pier, across and up West
Street, and took a street-car going to the east side of the city.
As soon as they left the conveyance the man spread out his arms and
expanded his chest with a long breath. The woman half smiled, and said
something to him in Spanish. Then they mingled with the crowd around
Tompkins Square and disappeared.
* * * * *
Two days after Blanco's arrest the physician, now in constant attendance
upon his wife, filed the death certificate of a stillborn child.
Puerperal fever set in, and the life of the unhappy woman for more than
two weeks trembled in the balance. During the first week a telegram from
New Orleans, which Blanco's captor had permitted him to send, came,
addressed to her.
The physician opened it; but as she was almost constantly unconscious,
it was impossible to inform her of its contents for some days. Then she
was simply told that her husband had been heard from, and was safe. The
doctor peremptorily forbade any information being given her of Blanco's
true situation; and as she could not understand the language, and so
glean intelligence from the newspapers, which contained reports of the
inquiry conducted by the Commissioner, and the complete identification
of the prisoner as Leon Sangrado, she, of course, remained in ignorance
of what had happened.
Some five weeks elapsed before she was judged sufficiently strong to
bear the shock which such news would inevitably produce. Then she was
told as gently as possible, all mention of the nature of the charges
against Blanco being avoided.
She listened in silent surprise.
"But he has never been in Chili in his life," she insisted.
The old doctor, himself a Spaniard, looked at her pityingly, but said
"He has been Consul before nowhere but at Trieste; how could he have
been in South America?" she continued.
"Consul? Is your husband, then, in the Consular service of Spain?"
queried the doctor, somewhat surprised.
"He is here as Consul to Charleston—in—ah, what is the
"Can you prove that?" demanded the physician, somewhat excitedly.
"I can—that is, I think there are official papers in the trunks. Is it
"Here are the keys, then."
The doctor in her presence opened the luggage, and in a curiously
arranged secret compartment in one of the trunks found the documents.
After a few moments spent in looking them over, he said:
"Do you feel strong to-day?"
"I think you could travel, however. I will see that your baggage is
properly packed, if you will be prepared to accompany me to-morrow
"To Washington; to the Spanish Minister. This is a serious business."
Under the supervision of the doctor the journey was safely accomplished.
After proper repose Señora Blanco and the physician proceeded to the
Spanish Legation, and within a very short time Señor Antonio Mantilla,
Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary of His Catholic
Majesty, was in possession of Blanco's papers, and of the facts, so far
as known to his visitors, attending that gentleman's arrest.
Señor Mantilla looked grave and said little. He thanked the physician,
however, warmly for the part he had taken in the matter, and calling a
secretary placed Señora Blanco in his charge, with instructions that she
should receive the greatest care and attention.
He then desired the attendance of his Secretary of Legation, and the two
officials remained in earnest consultation for more than two hours.
During this period several telegrams were sent to the Spanish Consul at
New Orleans, and a long cipher-message to the Minister of Foreign
Affairs in Madrid.
A few days later a lengthy report was received from the Consul at New
Orleans, accompanied by three letters from Blanco to his wife, not one
of which had been forwarded from the jail in which he was confined.
Another consultation was held at the Spanish Legation, during which
this report and an answering message from Madrid were frequently
The report set forth the facts of the identification of Blanco as
Sangrado by the Chilian representatives, with sufficient certainty to
convince the U.S. Commissioner. Until a late period in the inquiry
Blanco had had no counsel. He had, however, asseverated from the
beginning that he was the Consul of Spain at Charleston—a fact not
believed, because there was already a Consul resident at that place.
Communication with that official simply showed that he expected to be
transferred to another post, but had not been informed of the name of
his successor. The Commissioner, seeing that Blanco was doing nothing to
obtain testimony in his own favor, quietly arranged that counsel should
be provided for him; and the lawyers, as a matter of course, at once
sent to New York for Blanco's papers.
Señora Blanco, being then in a dangerous condition, was helpless. Search
was made through the trunks, without finding any trace of the documents
hidden in the secret compartment.
The Legation of Spain in Washington had information that Manuel Blanco
had been sent to assume the Consulship at Charleston, but no one could
personally identify the prisoner to be the Manuel Blanco appointed.
The Chilian witnesses had sworn that the prisoner was Leon Sangrado in
the most unequivocal manner—and Chalmette deposed that he saw him land
from the "Canada," in which vessel he had been instructed to look for
The facts, as thus gathered by the Spanish diplomatists from the Consul
at New Orleans, from Señora Blanco, and from her physician, were
complete. The outcome of their deliberations upon them was twofold.
First.—The departure of Señora Blanco, under care of an attaché of
the Spanish Legation, to join her husband at New Orleans.
Second.—The following diplomatic communication from the Minister of
Spain to the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
Legation of Spain at Washington,
January 16th, 1882.
The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
of His Catholic Majesty, has the honor to address the Honorable
Secretary of State, with a view to obtaining from the Federal
Government reparation for the arrest of Señor Don Manuel Blanco,
His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, S.C., at the demand of
the Republic of Chili, on a charge of crime preferred by the
Government of that country. The undersigned is instructed to
protest, in the most distinct terms, against this grave breach of
international obligations, to insist upon the immediate release of
the said Blanco, and to require from the Federal Government an
apology suited to the circumstances. The undersigned avails
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
WASHINGTON, January 20th, 1882.
SIR: Referring to your communication of the 16th inst., in which
you protest against the arrest of the person alleged to be Señor
Don Manuel Blanco, His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, at
the instance of the Republic of Chili, and demand the release of
the said person, with a suitable apology from this Government in
the premises, I have the honor to inform you that the
representatives of the Chilian Government allege the person in
question to be one Leon Sangrado, a fugitive from justice, charged
with the crimes of murder and robbery; that, before the United
States Commissioner at New Orleans, the Chilian representatives
have produced evidence identifying the prisoner as Leon Sangrado,
which evidence has warranted the said Commissioner in rendering
judgment accordingly; and that the proceedings and judgment, on
review by the President of the United States, have been confirmed,
and the warrant of extradition ordered. I have the honor to
transmit herewith a copy of the record of the evidence in the case
for your Excellency's information. I have also to state that, in
the circumstances, this Government conceives itself to be acting
in a spirit of strict international comity with the Republic of
Chili, and, upon the representations made by your Excellency,
cannot admit that any reparation or apology is due to the
Government of His Catholic Majesty.
I have the honor, etc.,
JAS. G. BLAINE,
Secretary of State.
Some days later the Spanish Minister forwarded a note to the State
Department, wherein, after the usual formal recitals, he stated as
The undersigned has the honor to inform the Honorable Secretary of
State that, having transmitted his communication by cable to the
Government of His Catholic Majesty, he is now instructed to make
the following demands:
1st. That the Federal Government shall deliver Señor Don Manuel
Blanco, His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, S.C., alleged
to be Leon Sangrado, a fugitive from justice from the Republic of
Chili, to the undersigned, at the Legation of Spain at Washington,
by or before the first day of February, proximo.
2. That the Federal Government shall address to the Government of
His Catholic Majesty a formal and solemn apology for the insult
offered by the arrest of said Blanco. And, in further proof
thereof, shall, on said first day of February, at noon, cause the
Spanish flag to be hoisted over Fort Columbus, in New York Harbor;
Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor; the Navy Yard, in Washington; and at
the mast-head of the flag-ship of the North Atlantic squadron—then
and there to be saluted with twenty-one guns.
I have the honor, etc.,
The reply sent by Secretary Blaine to this peremptory demand was, as
might be expected, an equally peremptory refusal.
Thereupon the Spanish Minister demanded his passports, and with his
Legation left the country.
The passports of the American Minister at Madrid were at the same time
forwarded to him, and he returned to the United States.
Blanco was delivered to the Chilian representatives, and duly
extradited, his wife accompanying him.
The anti-administration newspapers commented with great severity upon
the case, alleging that undue haste was manifested in forwarding the
proceedings; that proper opportunity was not afforded the accused to
establish his true identity; that the warrant of extradition was
illegal, inasmuch as it had been issued by an Assistant Secretary of
State during the absence of both the President and Secretary from
Washington, and that, consequently, there had been in fact no real
review of the proceedings by the Executive.
The administration journals, on the contrary, found the extradition of
the prisoner to be perfectly within the letter of the law; but were not
inclined to say much on this point, preferring rather to applaud Mr.
Blaine's new proof of a "vigorous foreign policy," as exemplified in the
previously quoted correspondence with the Spanish Minister.
* * * * *
THE GATHERING OF THE STORM.
That the friendly relations of two great nations should be ruptured by a
difficulty which, to all appearances, might easily have been adjusted,
seems incredible; but it should be remembered that at this period Spain
and the United States were by no means on the best of terms. Spanish
war-vessels in the West Indies had been overhauling American merchantmen
in a high-handed way, which had already called forth the remonstrances
of our Government; and the complaints from Cuba of the insecurity of
property and life of American citizens had become more numerous than
ever. Still, the result of the dispute was a surprise to the world;
especially as the overt act of rupture had come from Spain, and not
from the United States, as had so frequently hitherto seemed probable.
The popular excitement throughout the country was intense. There was a
universal demand for war. It was pointed out that the country was never
so prosperous, or better able to bear the burden of a conflict; that,
with our immense resources, an army could be raised and a navy equipped
inside of sixty days; that such a war would be of short duration, and
that the result could be none other than the humiliation of Spain, and
the ceding to us of the Spanish West Indies as a war indemnity.
The House of Representatives fairly rung with bellicose speeches, and
the press, with a few exceptions, reflected the popular feeling.
On the other hand, however, there was a powerful party attempting to
stem the precipitancy of the nation. The great moneyed corporations
viewed the matter with alarm, and advocated peaceful settlement, or, at
most, inaction. This, however, was attributed to their fears of
unsettlement of values, and consequent depreciation of their property.
The Senate, refusing to be influenced by popular clamor, steadily
opposed all hasty legislation originating in the lower House. The
President and Cabinet brought down upon themselves the bitter
denunciation of the opposition press for "cowardly truckling to Spain,"
because no immediate steps were taken to place army and navy on a war
footing, and no volunteers were called for.
A month went by. The popular excitement in this period perceptibly
decreased; and, as it did so, the New York World and Tribune, which,
from the first, had given but weak support to the cry for war, became
more outspoken against hostilities. The bill agreed to by both Houses of
Congress, providing for the immediate construction of ten swift armored
cruisers, was strongly attacked in both journals, and the arming of the
harbor forts, and the elaborate preparations which began to be visible
for protecting the harbor by torpedoes, were sneered at as "useless
precautions, dictated by an unworthy fear of a nation which would never
venture to attack us."
The stocks of the New York Central, Western Union Telegraph, Lake Shore,
and other corporations controlled by Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, which had
fallen during the excitement of the previous month, rose slowly, but
On the afternoon of March 6th, the Evening Telegram issued an extra,
reporting the sailing from Coruna of four Spanish ironclads. The
announcement on the London Stock Exchange was that they were going to
On the following day there was a decided fall in American Securities in
London, and a weak market in Wall Street; which degenerated into a
rapidly declining one when it became rumored that Gould was selling
Western Union short in large blocks, and that Vanderbilt's brokers were
similarly disposing of N.Y. Central and other stocks.
At 10 o'clock that night the news came that Spain had formally declared
war upon the United States. It was posted in all the hotels, and read
from the stages of all the theatres. The people flocked into the streets
en masse. Speeches were made, breathing defiance and demands for an
immediate attack upon Spain, before tremendous crowds, in Madison and
Union Squares. No one slept that night.
Next morning there was a panic in Wall Street, which was arrested,
however, by the intelligence from London that, although Government
four-per-cents had fallen to 86, they were steady at that figure, and
that the Rothschilds and Baring Brothers were buying them in largely.
Before night Congress had voted a special appropriation of a hundred
million dollars for purposes of defense, authorized the immediate
construction of twenty armored ships, and the President issued his
proclamation, calling for the raising of four hundred thousand men "to
repel an invasion of the Union."
Within twenty-four hours the regiments of the National Guard in New York
and vicinity were mustered into the service of the United States and
ordered into camp, under command of General Hancock. That officer at
once began the construction of sea-coast batteries on Coney Island,
Rockaway Beach, and the New Jersey coast. A crack city regiment was
detailed to complete the partially finished fort on Sandy Hook and throw
up earthworks along the Peninsula; but, as the hands of most of the men
became quite sore through wielding shovels and picks, they were relieved
and sent to garrison Governor's Island, where they gave exhibition
drills daily, and, on Friday evenings, invited their female friends to
hops of the most enjoyable description. The Hook fort was subsequently
completed by a volunteer regiment of Cuban cigar-makers, from the
As a matter of course, notice was immediately given to all foreign
vessels in port of the proposed blocking of the Narrows and the Main,
Swash and East Channels with torpedoes, and forty-eight hours' time was
accorded them wherein to take their departure. The European steamers
were the first to leave, each one towing from two to five
sailing-vessels. Later on, General Hancock impressed all the harbor tugs
into service; and, by their aid, before the specified period had
elapsed, not a single ship floating a foreign flag remained in New York
Harbor. A battalion of army engineers, under command of General Abbot,
and another of sailors, under Captain Selfridge, at once began
In the Narrows, torpedoes were moored at distances of one hundred feet
apart, and were connected with the shore by electric wires. At various
points along the beach shell-proof huts were constructed, to which these
wires led. In each hut was arranged a camera lucida, so that a picture
of the harbor, over a limited area, was thrown upon a whitened table. In
this way an observer could recognize the instant an enemy's vessel
arrived over a sunken mine, and could explode the latter by simply
touching a button which allowed the electric current to pass to the
torpedo. In the Harbor channels the torpedoes were so arranged as to be
exploded on contact of an enemy's vessel with a partially submerged
The torpedo-stations on Staten and Coney Islands and the Jersey coast
were provided with movable fish-torpedoes of the Ericsson and Lay types,
intended to be sent out against a hostile vessel, and manoeuvred from
the shore. All the steam-tugs in the Harbor were moored in Gowanus bay,
and each tug was rigged with a long boom projecting from her bow, on
which a torpedo, containing some fifty pounds of dynamite, was carried.
With the tugs, and serving as flag-ship for the squadron, was the U.S.
torpedo-boat "Alarm," Lieutenant-Commander H.H. Gorringe.
The armament of the sea-coast batteries was not calculated to strike
terror into the soul of any nation owning a modern ironclad vessel. It
consisted mainly of old-fashioned smooth-bore guns, a system of
artillery which has been rejected by every European power as the weakest
and most inefficient. The greatest range attainable with the best of
these cannon was 8000 yards, or some four and one half miles. At one
quarter this range their shot would be utterly unable to penetrate even
moderately thin armor. Besides these guns there were a few ten and
twelve-inch rifles of cast-iron, and hence of unreliable and inferior
material; some old smooth-bore cannon, converted into rifles by
wrought-iron linings; and a number of mortars and pieces of small
calibre, altogether contemptible in the light of the advances made in
the art of war during the last quarter of a century.
Meanwhile the inventors were not idle, and the press fairly teemed with
novel suggestions for the defense of the city. It was proposed to run
all the oil stored in the Williamsburgh refineries into the lower bay,
and set it on fire when the enemy's fleet appeared.
The Herald suggested the raising of a regiment of divers to live in a
submarine fort, the guns of which should be arranged to fire upwards
into a vessel floating above, and immediately offered to contribute
$250,000 to begin the construction of such defenses.
General Newton proposed the building of continuous earthworks on both
shores of the bay and Narrows, behind which a broad-gauge railroad
should be constructed. On the track he placed heavy platform-cars, each
car carrying one heavy gun. Embrasures were made at regular intervals
along the embankment. His idea was, that if a hostile vessel made her
way into the Harbor, the gun-cars should move along behind the
earthworks, keeping abreast of the ship, and thus pour into her a
continuous fire. Measures were promptly taken to follow this plan.
Mr. T.A. Edison announced that he had invented everything which, up to
that time, any one else had suggested. He invited all the reporters to
Menlo Park, and, after elaborately explaining the merits of a new
catarrh remedy, showed some lines on a piece of paper, which, he said,
represented huge electro-magnets, which he proposed to set up along the
coast, say, near Barnegat. When the enemy's iron ships appeared, he
proposed to excite these magnets, and draw the vessels on the rocks.
Somebody said that this notion had been anticipated by one Sindbad the
Sailor, whereupon Mr. Edison denounced that person as a "patent pirate."
He also said that these magnets would be exhibited in working order next
Professor Bell proposed the "induction balance," as a way of recognizing
the approach of the enemy's iron vessels. He went down the Bay with his
instrument, and sent back some telegrams which were alarming, until it
was discovered that the professor had made a slight error in the
direction from which he asserted the ships were coming, it being
manifestly impossible for them to sail overland from the Pacific, as his
The condition of affairs in the city reminded one of the early days of
the Rebellion. Wall Street was panicky—chiefly because of the immense
depreciation in railway securities. Government four-per-cent bonds,
however, had gone up to ninety-eight. Provisions were high, and, through
the stoppage of European commerce, the cost of imported articles, such
as dress-goods, tea, etc., became excessive. Recruiting was going on
everywhere; the regiments, as fast as organized, being dispatched to
different points along the sea-board, or to swell the numbers of an army
under command of General Sheridan, which was preparing to sail to Key
West, to invade Cuba.
During the month of March New York remained in a state of suspense. Army
contractors did a brisk business; but otherwise there was little doing.
News was eagerly sought. It was known that Spain was mobilizing her army
and fitting out transports; but beyond this, and the dispatching of the
four ironclads, which had duly reached Havana, she had taken no steps
pointing toward an invasion of the United States. All the European
nations had issued proclamations of neutrality, except Russia and
France. England had ordered the great Spanish ironclad, "El Cid," in
which Sir William Armstrong had just placed two 100-ton guns, out of her
waters inside of twenty-four hours after Spain had declared war; and
this, although the vessel was in many respects unfinished. The Queen's
proclamation was most stringent against the fitting out or coaling of
the vessels of either belligerent, and a special Act of Parliament was
passed, inflicting penalties of the greatest severity for any violation
of it. John Bull evidently proposed to pay for no more "Alabamas."
The first great news of the war came during the first week in June. The
Spanish screw corvette "Tornado," six guns, had sailed from Cartagena
for Havana. Off Cape Trafalgar she encountered the "Lancaster,"
flag-ship of the United States European squadron, bearing the flag of
Rear-Admiral Nicholson. The "Lancaster" carried two-eleven-inch and
twenty nine-inch old-fashioned smooth-bore Dahlgren guns. The action was
short, sharp, and decisive.
It terminated in the surrender of the "Tornado," after the loss of her
captain, five officers, and forty of her crew. The "Lancaster" was badly
cut up about the rigging, but otherwise uninjured. Her loss was but five
men. The first tidings of this was the arrival of the "Tornado" in
Hampton Roads, with a prize crew on board, and the royal ensign of Spain
floating beneath the stars and stripes.
When the extras announcing the news were shouted in the streets, the
enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. From every building, from every
window, the flag was displayed. Throngs of excited men marched through
the avenues, cheering and shouting, and the recruiting was renewed so
vigorously, that New York's quota of the four hundred thousand men
called for by the President was filled within the next twenty-four
hours after the news came.
In the midst of this furore, the bulletins announced that the Spanish
ironclads "Zaragoza" and "Numancia" had sailed from Havana, with no
destination announced; that their consorts, the "Arapiles" and
"Vittoria," together with three transports, "San Quentin," "Patino," and
"Ferrol," the latter well laden with coal and provisions, were preparing
to follow; also, that the huge "El Cid" had been fitted for sea, and was
about to sail from Vigo, Spain.
Just before this intelligence arrived, the United States steam frigate
"Franklin," forty-three guns, carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Stephen
C. Rowan, left Hampton Roads on a cruise, northwardly.
Where were the Spanish ironclads going?
On Sunday morning, April 9th, Trinity Church was crowded with
worshipers. The venerable Bishop of New York was present, and was to
deliver the sermon. His erect, stately form, clad in the flowing robes
of his office, had just appeared in the pulpit, and he had spoken the
words of his text, when a commotion in the rear of the church caused him
to stop and look up, wondering at the unseemly interruption.
A soldier emerged from the crowd, and, making his way to the Astor pew,
handed a letter to Mr. John Jacob Astor. The ruddy face of that
gentleman blanched as he read its contents. Then he rose, walked to the
pulpit, and handed the missive to the bishop.
A dead silence prevailed—at last broken by these simple words:
"Brethren, the war-vessels of the public enemy have appeared off our
Harbor. Let us pray."
A deep, heart-felt Amen responded to the appeal made in eloquent, though
faltering, tones; and then, quiet and orderly, the congregation left the
temple. It was fitting that such a prayer should be the last ever
offered in a sanctuary of which, but a few days later, only a heap of
smoking ruins remained.
The same news had been forwarded to the other churches, and the
congregations, dismissed, had gathered in front of the great
bulletin-boards which had been erected in the various parts of the city.
In huge letters were the words:
"A large steamer, showing Spanish flag, sighted off Barnegat."
Shortly afterwards came another dispatch:
"The United States frigate 'Franklin' has been signaled off Fire
Then another dispatch:
"The Spanish steamer has gone to the eastward."
And then, three hours later:
"Heavy firing has been heard from the south and east."
THE BATTLE OF FIRE ISLAND.
The "Franklin," on leaving Fire Island, where she had communication with
the shore, stood to the westward. At 3 p.m. the mast-head look-out
reported a large steamer on the port bow. As is customary on vessels at
sea, the "Franklin" showed no colors; the stranger displayed a flag
which could not be made out.
On the poop-deck of the "Franklin" were Admiral Rowan, Captain Greer,
commanding the ship, and the executive officer, Lieutenant-Commander
"Mast-head, there! can you make out her colors yet?" hailed the latter.
"Take your glass and go aloft, Mr. Rodgers," said Admiral Rowan to his
aid; "perhaps you can see better."
The officer rapidly ascended the rigging to the foretopmast cross-trees.
"It is the English flag, sir!" he shouted.
"Hoist English colors, Captain," said the admiral, quietly; "and bend on
our own, ready to go up."
The red cross of St. George, the British man-of-war flag, rose slowly to
The stranger was seen to alter her course, and head for the "Franklin."
The admiral turned to Captain Greer and nodded. The latter gave an order
to a midshipman standing near.
The quick drum-beat to quarters for action rang sharply through the
ship. The executive officer took his speaking-trumpet and stationed
himself on the quarter-deck. The men sprang to their guns.
"Silence! man the port-guns. Cast loose and provide!"
A momentary confusion, as the thirty-eight nine-inch smooth-bore guns on
the main-deck, the four hundred-pound rifles on the spar-deck, and the
eleven-inch pivot on the forecastle were cleared of their tackle, and
got ready for training. The guns' crews then stood erect and silent in
their places beside the guns, on the side of the ship turned toward the
Meanwhile the magazine had been opened, and the powder-boys flocked to
the scuttles, receiving cartridges in the leather boxes slung to their
shoulders. Shell were hoisted from below. The surgeon and his
assistants, including the chaplain, laid out instruments, and converted
the cock-pit into an operating-room. The fires in the galley were put
out, and those under the boilers urged to their fiercest heat. The decks
were sanded, in grim anticipation of their becoming slippery with
blood. Tackles and slings were prepared to lower the wounded below. The
Gatling guns aloft were made ready to fire upon the enemy's decks, in
case the two vessels came near enough together.
"Prime!" shouted the officer on the quarter-deck. Primers were placed in
the vents of the already loaded guns, and the gun-captains stepped back,
tautening the lock-strings, and bending down to glance along the sights.
"Point! Tell the division officers to train on the craft that's coming,
and wait orders." This last command to a midshipman aid.
The silence throughout the great ship was profound. The gun-captains
eyed the approaching vessels over the sights of their guns. Only the
quick throb of the engines and the sough of the waves were audible.
The two vessels were now within some four miles of each other. There was
no question but that the stranger was a man-of-war—and an ironclad, at
that—provided with a formidable ram.
"I thought so," suddenly ejaculated the admiral: "Now show him who we
The English flag had been replaced by the red-yellow-and-red bars of
Spain. Down came the red cross from the peak of the "Franklin;" and
then, not only there, but from every mast-head, floated the stars and
A puff of smoke from the Spaniard—a whirr, a shriek, and a solid shot
struck the water, having passed entirely over the American frigate.
"He fires at long range!" remarked the admiral, calmly.
"It would be useless for us to reply," answered the captain.
"Shall we stop and wait for him, sir?"
"Wait for him? No! Go for him! Four bells, sir! Ring four bells and go
The clang of the engine-bell resounded through the ship; the thump of
the machinery grew more rapid; the whole vessel thrilled and shook, as
if eager for the attack.
The distance between the two ships was reduced to about two miles.
Again the Spaniard fired. The shot struck the "Franklin" broad on her
port-bow, knocked over a gun, killed six men, and passed through the
other side of the ship.
Still the "Franklin" pressed on.
Crash! a huge shell from an Armstrong eighteen-ton gun burst between the
fore and mainmasts; the bow pivot-gun was dismounted; ten men of her
crew down; the maintopmast stays cut, and the maintopmast tottering.
Crash! Another shell, and the jib-boom hangs dragging under the bows;
the fore topgallantmast is carried away. Men hacked at the rigging to
clear away the wreck which now impeded the ship's advance.
"Now let him have it," said the admiral, quietly.
The captain speaks to the executive officer, who shouts through his
trumpet: "Port guns! Ready! Fire!!"
The concussion of the explosion made the ship stagger for a moment.
When the smoke cleared away, the Spaniard's mizzenmast was seen dragging
overboard; but otherwise no damage had been inflicted.
"His armor is too thick for us," gravely remarked the admiral; "get boom
torpedoes over the bows!"
"All ready, now, sir," reported the captain.
"Continue firing, and keep right for him."
"Shall we ram him, sir?"
"Yes, sir; as straight amidships as you can."
The "Franklin" now poured in her fire with all possible rapidity; but it
was evident that her shot made little or no impression on the massive
iron shield of her antagonist, although it played havoc amid his
rigging. Another fact now became apparent—that the Spaniard was much
the faster vessel of the two; for he was evidently nearing the
"Franklin" more quickly than the "Franklin" was approaching him.
"Do you know who that ship is?" asked the admiral.
"The 'Numancia,' sir," replied the captain; "her armament is immensely
better than ours. She has twenty-five Armstrong guns."
Crash! crash! Two more shells struck the wooden hull of the "Franklin"
between the fore and mainmasts, tearing a great rent in her side and
literally annihilating the crews of four guns.
"There is three feet of water in the hold, sir and it is gaining!"
shouted the carpenter at the pump-well.
Men were sent at once to the pumps.
Crash! This time a double explosion, followed by dense clouds of steam.
Men, scalded and horribly burned, climbed up the ladders from below.
"Our boilers are gone," reported the captain.
"Keep her broadside toward the enemy, sir," returned the admiral.
The guns of the "Franklin" were now firing slowly. Their smoke overhung
the vessel so that the Spaniard could not be seen, but the reports of
his cannon sounded closer and closer.
Suddenly the huge prow of the "Numancia" loomed up close aboard the
"Starboard! Hard a starboard!" shouted the admiral.
It was too late. There was no one at the helm. A shell, bursting close
to the wheel, had killed the helmsman, and a fragment had buried itself
in the captain's breast.
The admiral himself turned to go toward the wheel, but suddenly
staggered and pitched forward, dead.
Then came the frightful explosion of the "Numancia's" bow-torpedo,
striking the ill-fated frigate; and then the crushing and splintering of
timbers under the fearful stroke of the ram.
Five minutes afterwards the Spanish war-ship was alone. Slowly the
"Franklin" sank—her lofty mast-heads going under with the stars and
stripes still proudly floating from them. The "Numancia" lowered her
boats to pick up survivors. They returned with one officer and two
seamen—all that remained of the crew of nearly one thousand souls.
The American flag ship had been sunk by a fourth-rate European
ironclad—the first practical proof of the miserably short-sighted
policy of a nation of fifty millions of inhabitants, with an enormous
coast line and innumerable ports to be protected, relying for its safety
upon a navy the fifty-five available vessels of which are too slow to
run away, and too lightly armed and too weakly built to defend
The "Numancia" hoisted her boats and stood to the westward. Shortly
afterward she exchanged signals with the "Zaragoza," "Arapiles" and
"Vittoria." The war-vessels drew together, the transports came alongside
of them, and fresh supplies of coal and provisions were delivered. Then
the transports headed to the south, and the men-of-war laid their course
for New York.
THE METROPOLIS BELEAGUERED.
Three ships of the Spanish squadron named were armed with Armstrong
guns. Their combined batteries aggregated eight cannon of eighteen tons
four of twelve tons, eleven of nine tons, and twenty-eight of seven
tons. The "Zaragoza" carried twenty guns of another pattern, ranging in
calibre from eleven to seven and three-fourths inches. The total number
of cannon which would thus be brought to bear upon New York and its
suburbs was seventy-one.
The shot of the Armstrong guns above named vary in weight from four
hundred to one hundred and fifteen pounds. If the entire number of guns
should each deliver one shot, the total amount of iron projected would
exceed six tons in weight.
The arrival of the Spanish vessels was not known until dawn of the
morning of April 11th. Then they were descried on the horizon by the
watchers at Sandy Hook. At first sight it was supposed that they had
encountered heavy weather and lost their light spars; but, as they
approached nearer, it was seen that each ship had sent down all her
upper rigging, and had housed topmasts.
There was no mistaking what this meant. It was the stripping for battle.
It was also noticed that the ships steamed very slowly in single file;
that from the bows of each projected a fork-like contrivance, and that
in advance of the leader were several steam-launches, between which, and
crossing the path of the large vessel, extended hawsers which dipped
into the water. Evidently the new-comers had a wholesome dread of
torpedoes, and hence the use of bow torpedo-catchers and the
No flag of any sort was exhibited.
Meanwhile the guns of all the sea-coast batteries along the shores had
been manned, ready to fire upon the huge black monsters as soon as they
should come within range. The order had been given to commence firing on
the hoisting of a flag and on the discharge of a heavy gun from the
signal station on Sandy Hook, where General Hancock had posted himself
with his staff.
In the city the time for excitement had passed. The business section was
deserted, most of the men being either in the fortifications or under
arms in the camps, ready to move as directed to repel any attempt on the
part of the enemy to effect a landing.
There had been no general exodus from New York, as it was not believed
possible that the enemy's missiles could reach the city proper. In
Brooklyn, however, but few people remained. All the churches in the city
were open, and with singular unanimity the people flocked into them. No
public conveyances were running; few vehicles moved through the
streets. The silence was like that of a summer holiday, when the people
are in the suburbs, pleasure-seeking.
"They seem to have stopped, general," said an aid who was attentively
watching the advance of the Spanish vessels through his glass.
"They are a long way out of our range," remarked General Hancock. "We
have nothing that carries far enough to injure them. They are fully five
"Now they go ahead again. No, they are turning," said the aid.
The leading ship had ported her helm, and, followed by the others, filed
to the eastward, bringing the port broadsides to bear upon the Long
"They certainly are not going into action there," said the general.
A cloud of white smoke arose from the bow of the leading vessel, and
then across the water came the deep "boom" of a heavy gun.
"Why, that fellow has fired out to sea," exclaimed one of the general's
"No, it was a blank cartridge. He fired to attract attention. See! there
goes a white flag up to his mast-head!" said the officer at the
telescope: "A boat with a flag-of-truce is putting off, general."
"Send a launch out to meet it," said Hancock, shortly: "and see that it
does not come nearer than a mile or so from the shore."
A few minutes after, the steam-yacht "Ideal," which had been offered by
its owner as a dispatch boat to the general, was swiftly running towards
the Spanish messenger.
The aid at the telescope saw an officer step from the Spanish boat into
the yacht, and then the latter put back to the Hook, the enemy's launch
remaining where she was.
The Spanish officer was conducted to the presence of the general. In
excellent English, he announced himself as the Fleet Captain and
Chief-of-Staff of the admiral commanding the Spanish squadron present,
and with much ceremony presented the communication with which he was
The general received the missive courteously and opened it. The
expression of astonishment which came over his face as he read it for a
moment gave place to one of anger. His eyes flashed, his face reddened,
and his fingers nervously played with the end of his moustache. Then, as
he read it over the second time, a rather contemptuous smile seemed to
lurk about the corners of his mouth.
The staff stood by in silent but eager anticipation. The general held
the letter in his hands behind his back and walked up and down the small
apartment, as if in deep thought, raising his eyes occasionally to
glance at the Spanish vessels, which lay almost motionless, blowing off
Finally, he turned to the Spanish officer, who stood erect, with his
hand resting upon the hilt of his sword, and said, in a quiet, though
"You will make my compliments to the admiral commanding, and deliver, in
reply to his communication, that which I will now dictate."
An aid at once seated himself at the table, and, at the general's
dictation, wrote as follows:
SENOR DON ALMIRANTE VIZCARRO, Commanding Squadron off New York.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge your communication of this
date, sent per flag-of-truce, in which you demand—
1st.—That immediate surrender to the force under your command be
made of the fortifications of this harbor, together with the Navy
Yard at Brooklyn, and all munitions of war here existing.
2nd.—That the cities of New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City do
cause to be paid, on board of your flag-ship, within three days
after the said surrender, the sum of fifty millions of dollars in
gold, or in the paper currency of England or France.
And in which you announce that non-acquiescence in the foregoing
will be followed by the bombardment of the said fortifications, the
Navy Yard and the arsenals in New York City, by your squadron,
after the lapse of twenty-four hours from noon this day.
In reply, I have to state that these demands are peremptorily
refused and I have most solemnly to protest against so gross a
violation of the laws of civilized warfare, as is indicated in your
intention to attack a city within a period too short to enable the
non-combatants to be safely removed.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
WINFIELD S. HANCOCK,
This reply was telegraphed to New York, and Mr. Pierrepont Edwards, Her
Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, was one of the first to receive it.
He acted with the usual force and promptness with which British
interests and the lives of British subjects are protected by British
officials abroad. That is to say, he first telegraphed to the British
Minister at Washington, Mr. West, requesting, that the three great
ironclads, "Devastation," "Orion" and "Agamemnon," all of which were
then in Hampton Roads, be at once sent to New York. Then he prepared a
formal protest against the proposed action of the Spanish Admiral, which
all the other foreign consuls at once signed, and which was delivered
aboard the Spanish flag-ship by a boat bearing the British flag before
three o'clock that afternoon.
The Spanish admiral took the protest into consideration to the extent of
granting forty-eight hours' time. The consuls protested again at this as
not being sufficient, and demanded five clear days. The admiral refused
to grant more than three; but when, before the three days had expired,
the trio of English war-ships made their appearance, and calmly moved
between his fleet and the shore, he changed his mind and granted the
desired time—which was wise, seeing that the English vessels could blow
his squadron out of water with little trouble and not much injury to
The railroads which go out of New York, while perhaps adequate for all
purposes of traffic in time of peace, are scarcely equal to the removal
from the city of several hundred thousand women, children, sick and aged
persons within a period of even five days. People of this description
cannot be moved as easily as armies; and hence, when the morning of the
fifth day dawned, fully one-half of the non-combatant population was
still in the city.
This, however, was attributable not only to the inadequacy of the means
of transportation, but to the singular apathy—it was not
fearlessness—of the people themselves. In the great tenement districts,
it became necessary to send soldiers into the houses to drive people out
Among the Irish and Germans there was actual rioting, when force was
thus used. The impression was general that the missiles of the enemy
could not reach the populated parts of New York.
The crowds, however, at the Grand Central Dépôt, trying to leave the
city, were enormous. People were placed in cattle-cars, on wood cars—in
fact, every sort of conveyance adapted to the tracks was pressed into
The Thirtieth Street Dépôt, on the west side, also was crowded, and
trains were leaving thence every few minutes.
Just before noon, the city was horror-stricken by the news of a
frightful accident at Spuyten Duyvil. An overloaded train from the
Thirtieth Street Dépôt there, through a broken switch, came into
collision with another overloaded train from the Grand Central Dépôt.
The slaughter was horrible. Twelve cars were derailed, and more than a
hundred and twenty people, mostly women and children, killed.
While people were repeating this news to one another with white faces
and trembling lips, the Spanish squadron was taking position and
preparing to attack.
The English squadron moved outside the Spanish ships, and stood off and
on under easy steam.
At precisely noon the white flag was lowered from the mast-head of the
Spanish flag-ship and the Spanish flags were hoisted by all of the
vessels. Immediately afterwards the "Numancia" delivered her broadside
full upon the Coney Island battery.
Instantly the flag from the general's station was flung out, the
signal-gun was discharged, and from all the sea-coast batteries the
The position chosen by the attacking vessels was about one and a half
miles to the south of Plumb Inlet. This point is distant from Fort
Hamilton six miles, from Sandy Hook light seven miles, from Brooklyn
Navy Yard nine and a half miles, and from the City Hall, New York City,
about eleven miles, in a straight line. An ample depth of water to float
ships drawing twenty-four feet here exists. The situation was
sufficiently distant from the shore batteries to render the effect of
their projectiles on the armor of the vessels quite inconsiderable.
The ships, however, did not remain motionless, but steamed slowly around
in a circle of some two miles in diameter, each vessel delivering her
fire as she reached the point above specified. In this way, the chances
of being struck by projectiles from shore were not only lessened, but
the injury which they could do was decreased by the greater distance
which they would be compelled to traverse to strike the ships during the
progress of the latter around the further side of the circle.
It was evident that the Spanish commander had no idea of attempting to
land his forces, but simply proposed to keep up a slow, persistent
bombardment. It was further apparent that only his lighter artillery
was directed upon the shore batteries, and that he was practising with
his heavy metal at high elevations, to find out how much range he could
When the second day of the bombardment opened, there were about a
hundred thousand people still in New York, including two of the city
regiments doing police duty. A strong force for this purpose was
necessary, as a large number of roughs and criminals, who had hurried
away during the first panic, now returned, and signalized their advent
by the attempted pillage of the Vanderbilt residences.
About a hundred and fifty of this mob remained on the pavement of Fifth
Avenue, after a well-directed mitrailleuse fire had been kept up for
some fifteen minutes by the troops. The rest took to their heels, and
lurked about the lower part of the city, waiting for a better
opportunity, and thinking hungrily of the contents of the magnificent
dwellings in the up-town districts.
The sea-coast batteries nearest to the attacking ships were soon
rendered untenable by their fire. The large hotels on Coney Island were
all struck by shells and burned, and the villages of Flatlands,
Gravesend, and New Utrecht were quickly destroyed.
Shell after shell then fell in Flatbush, and occasionally a terrific
explosion in Prospect Park, in Greenwood Cemetery, and in the outlying
avenues of Brooklyn, showed that the enemy was throwing his missiles
over distances constantly augmenting.
On the morning of the third day a futile attempt was made to blow up the
"Numancia," first by the Lay and then by the Ericsson submarine
torpedo-boats. The Lay boat, however, ran up on the east bank and could
not be got off, and the Ericsson started finely from the shore, but,
apparently, sank before she had gone a mile.
The attack by the "Alarm" and her attendant fleet of torpedo-tugs had
the effect of stopping the bombardment and of concentrating the enemy's
attention upon his own safety. The tugs advanced gallantly to the onset,
six of them rushing almost simultaneously upon the "Vittoria." That
vessel met them with a broadside which sank four at once, and the other
two were riddled by shell from Hotchkiss revolving cannon from the decks
of the Spaniard; their machinery was crippled, and they drifted
helplessly out to sea. Of the others, some ran aground on the bank, some
were sunk, and not one succeeded in exploding her torpedo near a Spanish
vessel. The "Alarm" planted a shell from her bow-rifle, at close range,
squarely into the stern of the "Zaragoza," piercing the armor and
killing a dozen men, besides disabling two guns. She was rammed,
however, by the "Arapiles," and so badly injured as to compel her to
make her escape into shoal water to prevent sinking. There she grounded,
and the Spaniards leisurely made a target of her, although they
considerately permitted her crew to go ashore in their boats without
firing a shot at them.
Meanwhile the remaining citizens of New York had held a mass meeting,
and appointed a committee of Public Safety, with General Grant at its
head. There had been a great popular movement to have that gentleman put
in supreme command of the army, but the authorities at Washington, for
some occult reason, known only to themselves, had offered him a
major-general's commission, which he promptly declined. Then he
deliberately went to the nearest recruiting-station and tried to enlist
as a private; but the recruiting-officer, after recovering his senses,
with which he parted in dumb astonishment for some seconds, refused him
on the ground that he was over forty-five years of age.
The general contented himself with remarking: "Guess they'll want me
yet," and thereupon lighting a huge cigar, calmly marched out of the
office and went over to Flatbush, to "see where the shells are hitting;"
serenely oblivious of the possibility of personal danger involved in
As chief of the Safety Committee, however, Grant became the real ruler
of New York. Martial law existed, and the senior colonel of the
regiments quartered in the city was in nominal charge; but, as this
individual was not blessed with especial force of character, he never
asserted his authority, and, in fact, seemed rather pleased to
gravitate to the position of Grant's immediate subordinate.
On the evening of April 18th the watchers on Sandy Hook saw a fifth
vessel join the Spanish fleet; a long, low craft, having, apparently,
two turrets and very light spars. They also saw the admiral's flag on
the "Numancia" lowered, only to be hoisted again on the foremast of the
At daybreak on the following morning a shell crashed through the roof of
the Fifth Avenue Hotel, descended to the cellar, burst there and wrecked
a quarter of the building. What new fury had thus been let loose?
It has already been stated that the great ironclad "El Cid" had sailed
from Vigo—she had arrived.
She carried four guns. Two one-hundred-ton Armstrongs, each having an
effectual range of 12 miles, and two Krupp 15.7-inch guns, which throw
shot weighing nearly 2000 pounds over ten miles. Krupp claims a range of
15 miles; but this is doubtful. She also was encased in 21-1/2 inches of
compound steel and iron armor, capable of resisting the projectiles of
any cannon known—except, perhaps, those of her own Armstrongs.
The most powerfully armed and most impregnable ironclad in the world now
lay before New York.
It was an Armstrong shell which struck the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was a
Krupp shell which shortly after knocked down the steeple of Trinity
Church as if it were a turret of cards.
In view of this new attack General Grant was requested to call a
meeting of the Committee of Safety, to consider the question of
capitulation, as it was evident that the continuation of such a
bombardment would speedily destroy property in value far beyond the
immense sum asked by the besiegers.
He notified the members to meet in the City Hall. When he arrived, he
found nobody but a messenger-boy, who tremblingly emerged from the
The General quietly removed his cigar and asked:
"Where's the Committee?"
"They—they—is—up ter Inwood, sir."
The boy's teeth chattered so that he could hardly speak.
"What the deuce are they doing there?"
"Dunno, sir. They told me as to tell you, sir, that they wuz a Committee
of Safety, and that's wot they wanted, sir."
"And they deputized you to tell me that, eh?"
"And you looked for me down in the cellar?"
"N-no, sir. I wanted safety, too, sir. Oh, Lordy!"
This last interjection was elicited by seeing the upper part of the
Tribune tall tower suddenly fly off, and land on the roof of the Sun
A sort of a sphinx-like smile overspread the general's features.
He looked around for the messenger-boy, but that youth was making
extraordinary speed up Broadway.
The general leisurely proceeded up that thoroughfare—occasionally
stopping, as a shot went crashing into some near building, to note the
On arriving at Union Square, he met a cavalry squad looking for him, and
mounting the horse of one of the men, he proceeded with this escort to
the upper end of the island, which was now densely packed with people.
The projectiles from the heavy guns of the great ironclad were now
falling in the lower part of the city with terrible effect. The Western
Union building was shattered from cellar to roof; the City Hall was on
fire; so also was St. Paul's Church and the Herald building. The
last-mentioned conflagration was put out by the editors and compositors
of that journal—the entire Herald staff being then in the underground
press-rooms, busily preparing and working off extras giving the latest
details of the bombardment.
The Morse Building was completely demolished by two Krupp shells, and
not an edifice in Wall Street, except the sub-Treasury, had escaped
The result of the conference of the Safety Committee was the dispatching
of a messenger to Sandy Hook, informing General Hancock of the
condition of affairs, and asking him to request an armistice for
The "Ideal," bearing a white flag, was at once dispatched to the Spanish
flag-ship, and shortly after the firing ceased.
The Spanish admiral refused to alter the terms already proposed, except
that, in view of the injury already inflicted on the city and the
probable increased difficulty of collecting the sum demanded, he would
agree to allow five days' time in which to pay the latter, on board his
General Hancock declined to consider this proposal.
"El Cid" now began a new manoeuvre. All the steam-launches of the fleet,
provided with long, forked spars extending from their bows, formed in
front of her, and, thus preceded, she deliberately steamed up to the
The fort on the Hook at once opened upon her, but the shot glanced like
dry peas from her armor. She, in return, shelled the fort, the masonry
of which literally crumbled before the enormous projectiles hurled
against it. Meanwhile, the launches had entered the channel and were
picking up such torpedoes as could be detected. Other launches, having
no crews on board, but being governed entirely by electric wires, were
sent into the channel and caused to drop counter mines, which, on being
fired, caused the explosion of such torpedoes as remained: thus making a
broad and safe channel for the ironclad to enter.
Finally the remaining launches returned to the "Cid" and evidently
reported the channel clear for she boldly steamed into it, stopping only
for an instant, when off the end of the peninsula, to send a double
charge of grape and canister from her huge guns into the ranks of the
fugitives, who were precipitately rushing from the fort.
It was then that General Hancock was killed although the fact has since
often been disputed. His body, wounded in a dozen places, was found on
the sand near the highest wall of the fort, from the top of which, it is
conjectured, he was swept by the fearful hail of the Spanish ironclad.
"El Cid" continued on into the bay, occasionally stopping as signaled by
the launches preceding her, when a torpedo was encountered, and finally
took up her position within about a mile of Fort Hamilton, and hence
about seven miles from the Battery.
As the projectiles from the fort glanced harmlessly from her armor, she
paid no attention to that attack, but resumed her fire upon the city.
Shells now began to fall as far up-town as Forty-second Street.
AT THE MERCY OF THE FOE.
Meanwhile, the other four vessels had ceased their bombardment of the
batteries, as the latter no longer answered them.
They appeared to have new work in hand.
During the following afternoon a fresh sea-breeze set in. Then a large,
swaying globe made its appearance on the deck of each of the vessels.
Examination with the telescope showed to the signal men, who had
established a new station on the Jersey highlands, that these mysterious
spheres were balloons; and that the ships were about to dispatch them,
was evident from the fact that small pilot-balloons were soon sent up.
These last were wafted directly toward the city.
What possible object could the Spanish war-vessels have in this, was a
question asked by every one, as soon as the intelligence became known.
The balloon which rose from the "Numancia" had a car attached, but there
was clearly no one in it. Therefore the balloons were not to be used for
purposes of observation.
The people in New York saw the balloons as they successively rose from
the four vessels, and wonderingly watched their progress.
They saw the first of them gently sail toward the city until about over
the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Then a dark object seemed
to fall from the car, the lightened balloon shot upward, the object
struck the roof of the cathedral there was a fearful explosion, a
trembling of the earth as if an angry volcano were beneath, and the
crash of falling buildings followed.
Through the great clouds of dust and smoke it could be seen that not
only was the cathedral shattered, but that the walls of every building
adjacent to the square on which it stood were down.
The Spaniards were dropping nitro-glycerine bombs into the city from
the balloons. They knew how long it would take the breeze to waft the
air-ships over the built-up portion, and it was an easy matter to adjust
clock-work in the car to cause the dropping of the torpedo at about the
Accuracy was not needed. A shell, filled with fifty or a hundred pounds
of dynamite or nitro-glycerine, would be sure to do terrible damage
anywhere within a radius of three miles around Madison Square.
A second balloon dropped its charge into the receiving reservoir in
Central Park, luckily doing no damage, but throwing up a tremendous jet
of water. The third and fourth balloons let fall their dejectiles, the
one among the tenements near Tompkins Square destroying an entire block
of houses simultaneously; the other on High Bridge, completely
shattering that structure, and so breaking the aqueduct through which
the city obtains its water supply.
The Spanish admiral now ceased firing voluntarily and sent a message by
flag-of-truce announcing his intention to continue the throwing of
balloon torpedoes into the city until it capitulated, and, in order to
avoid further destruction of property, he renewed the proposal already
General Grant, on receiving this message—for the citizens had literally
forced him to take active command of the troops—simply remarked:
"Let him fire away!"
But the Safety Committee vehemently protested; and finally, after much
discussion, induced Grant to send back word that the terms were
The situation was, in truth, one of sadness—of bitter humiliation. The
Empire City had fallen, and lay at the mercy of a foreign foe. The
immense ransom demanded must be raised and paid, or the work of
destruction would be resumed until the defenders of the bay removed
their torpedoes from the Narrows and permitted the Spanish forces to
enter and occupy the metropolis.
THE FLAG WITH THE LONE STAR.
As it was manifestly impossible to obtain fifty millions of dollars in
specie and foreign notes within New York—for all the money in the
vaults of the banks and the treasury had long since been sent to other
cities—the general government assumed payment of the amount demanded by
the Spaniards, which, however, it was decided not to make until just
before the expiration of the last of the five days of grace.
As will now be seen, this was a fortunate decision. The unremitting
bombardment which had been maintained by the four vessels off the Long
Island shore had so greatly reduced their supply of ammunition that it
became necessary to send for more: and for this purpose the "Vittoria"
was dispatched to meet a transport which had been ordered to sail from
Cuba at about this time.
On the evening of the third day the weather assumed a threatening
appearance, and the "El Cid" left her position near Fort Hamilton for a
more secure anchorage near Sandy Hook. The other ships stood out to sea.
It stormed heavily during that night, and before evening on the morrow
one of the strongest gales ever known in this vicinity had set in.
The situation in which the Spanish flag-ship now found herself was
critical. She had put down her two bower anchors, but they were clearly
insufficient to hold her. To veer out cable was dangerous, for it was
not known how near the ship was to sunken torpedoes; to allow her to
drag was to run the double chance of striking a torpedo or going ashore.
During the night she parted both cables, and the morning found her
firmly imbedded in the beach off the Hook. Of the other vessels, the
"Numancia" only was in sight.
The signal men, however, could see black smoke on the horizon; and this
they anxiously watched, expecting momentarily to make out the "Arapiles"
and "Zaragoza." Shortly after daybreak, a thick fog settled down,
completely cutting off the seaward view.
In the signal station were General Grant and several members of the
Safety Commission. The ransom money was in readiness, and the intention
was to pay it over during the morning.
At about eight o'clock, heavy firing was heard from the sea.
It was too far distant to be accounted for by a supposed renewal of the
bombardment by the Spanish ships, even under the assumption that they
had thus broken the truce.
The watchers at the signal station looked at each other in astonishment,
and eagerly waited for the fog to lift.
An hour later, the mist began to clear away. The sight that met the
eyes of the spectators was one never to be forgotten.
The "Numancia" was evidently ashore on the East bank. Her fore and
mainmasts were gone, and clouds of dark smoke were lazily ascending from
her forecastle. Suddenly, the whole ship seemed to burst into a sheet of
flame, there was a deep explosion, the air was filled with flying
fragments, and a blackened hull was all that was left of the proud
The "Arapiles," about two miles further out to sea, was making a gallant
defense against three strange vessels. Two, lying at short range on her
quarters, were pouring in a fearful fire; the third, which had evidently
been engaged with the "Numancia," was rapidly bearing down upon her,
apparently intending to ram.
Who could the strangers be?
The flags which floated from their mast-heads bore a strong resemblance
to our own, yet they were not the stars and stripes; for the stripes
were replaced by but two broad bands of red and white, and in the blue
field there was but a single star.
"Chili, by Jove!" ejaculated some one in the signal station.
He was right.
The new-comers were the "Huascar," the "Almirante Cochrane" and the
"Blanco Encelada," the three armored vessels of the South American
It was the "Huascar" which was now bearing down upon the "Arapiles."
Suddenly, the Chilian monitor was seen to slacken her speed and change
She no longer meant to ram; the necessity had ceased. At the same time,
the other Chilian vessels ceased firing.
The Spanish ensign on the "Arapiles" had been lowered. In a few minutes
after it rose again, but this time surmounted by the Chilian flag.
Then the four vessels stood in toward the Hook.
The watchers on the signal station now waited in breathless suspense.
The "Arapiles," with a prize crew from the other vessels to work her
guns, was to be made to attack her former consort, the stranded "El
Cid;" and that vessel, aware of her danger, was now firing rapidly at
her approaching enemies.
It was not reserved, however, for the Chilians to complete their victory
by the capture of the great ironclad.
The giant was to be killed by a pigmy scarce larger than one of his own
huge weapons. A smaller steam-launch slowly crept out from the Staten
Island shore. But two men could be seen on board of her—one in the bow,
the other at the helm.
"They don't see us yet, Ned," said the man in the bow.
"No; they have all they can do to take care of the other fellows. Look
out! Are you hurt?"
A shell from the Chilians just then came over the Hook, and, bursting
under the water near the launch, deluged the boat with spray.
"Not a bit," said the other.
"Is your boom clear?"
Bang! A shot, this time from the Spaniard came skipping along the water
in the direction of the launch, and flew over the heads of the daring
"Hang them! They've seen us."
"Rig out your boom. We're in for it now!"
The man in the stern pushed shut the door of the boiler furnace, and
turned on full steam.
The little craft fairly leaped ahead.
The two men set their teeth. He of the stern lashed the tiller
amidships, and crept forward, aiding the other to push out the long boom
which projected from the bow.
Ten seconds passed. Then the torpedo on the end of the boom struck the
"El Cid" under the stern. There was a crash—a vast upheaval of water
The great ironclad rolled over on her side and lay half submerged.
Of the two men who had done this, one swam ashore bearing the other,
wounded to the death.
A mighty cheer arose from the Chilian fleet, repeated from the shore
with redoubled volume.
"El Cid" lay sullen and silent; two of her guns were pointing under
water, two up to the clouds.
The "Arapiles" fired the last shell at her own admiral—now a corpse,
torn to pieces by the torpedo.
Then some one scrambled along the deck of the wrecked monster and
lowered the Spanish flag.
"I think we'll keep that money," remarked Grant, as he lit another
* * * * *
The Chilian fleet had relieved New York. Elated by her victory over
Peru, and thirsting for revenge against Spain for the latter's merciless
bombardment of Valparaiso in 1866, the Chilians, as soon as they had
learned of the declaration of war against the United States, tore up the
treaty of truce and armistice made with Spain in 1871, and announced
themselves an ally of this country. Realizing the weakness of our navy,
and the unprotected position of our seaports, Chili instantly dispatched
her three ironclads to New York. They made the voyage with remarkable
celerity, stopping only for coal and provisions, and reached the
beleaguered city just in the nick of time, as has already been detailed.
It was fortunate that the "Zaragoza" had been obliged to put so far out
to sea that she could not return in season to take part in the conflict,
otherwise the result might have been different.
As it was, when she came back a day later, and discovered the position
of affairs, she took to her heels without delay.
It is not necessary here to speak of the greeting which the Chilians
received, or the thanks which were lavished upon them by the people of
the United States. Neither need we picture the dismay of the citizens of
New York when they came to realize the fearful damage which had been
inflicted upon their city. Fully one-half of the town lay in ruins. The
metropolis was the metropolis no longer. The proudest city of the Great
Republic had been at the mercy of a conqueror, and, as if this
humiliation were not deep enough, she owed her preservation from utter
destruction to the guns of an insignificant Republic of South America.
* * * * *
Six months after the relief of the city, a Chilian sailor belonging to
the "Huascar," which was lying off the Battery, stopped to watch a crowd
of workmen who were busily engaged in clearing away the ruins of some
tenement buildings near Tompkins Square.
The face of one of the workmen had evidently attracted the foreigner's
attention, as he gazed at him intently and curiously.
Suddenly there was a sharp detonation. The crowd scattered in all
directions. An unexploded shell which had lodged in the building had
been struck by a pick in the hands of one of the laborers, and had been
The sailor helped carry out the dead.
Among the victims was the man at whom he had been so intently looking a
moment before. This one he took in his arms and bore him apart from the
Nervously he tore open the dead man's shirt. On the bared breast was a
curiously shaped mole.
The sailor sank on his knees in prayer beside the body for a moment.
Then he turned, and addressing an officer who, with a file of soldiers,
had come upon the scene, and was directing the removal of the dead, he
asked in broken English, pointing to the corpse:
"Will you give me this?"
"He was my brother—Leon Sangrado."
The war had found a victim in him who had caused it.