James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 3

Sinking the Merrimac

By Joe Cone

INTO the night she steamed away,

While an awful silence fell;

Straight for the monsters dark and grim,

Glutted with shot and shell.

Sombre and swift and silent,

Scarcely a whispered breath;

On, on towards Santiago,

On to success or—death.

Grim headlands rose in the distance,

Old Morro guarding the bay;

Waiting with limbered Hontorias,

Waiting for a hated prey.

They sleep! Then apast the entrance

Leaving a tell-tale track,

Into the sharp curved channel

Swept the bold Merrimac.

“What’s that? The enemy’s picket?

A launch—they see us—’tis bad!

A shot—three pounder—they’re fighting,

God, is the tiny thing mad?”

Then a light flashed over the darkness,

The enemy sprang to their arms;

The fleet and the forts awakened,

The night was rent with alarms.

They tried to swing her crosswise,

Her helm she would not obey;

For the nosing, pursuing picket

Had shot her rudder away!

Shot and shell from the fleet at anchor,

Shot and shell from shore and shore;

Torpedoes and mines upheaving,

A deafening, hellish roar;

A storm of iron hail shrieking,

Closer the missles fell;

Guns flashed, and the darkness opened

Like gaps in a roaring hell

Till it seemed as if ship and heroes

Must be ground beneath the tide,

But the God of War directed,

And the angry shots flew wide.

Fearlessly they worked and quickly,

Teeth set and brave to a man;

“On deck!” rang the clear, sharp order,

“Cut loose the catamaran!”

And then the gallant commander,

When all was well with his crew,

Accomplished in one hurried moment

What the enemy failed to do.

He touched the explosives, and straightway

With a hot, spasmodic breath,

The Merrimac heaved in the middle

And sank to her glorious death.

A cheer went up from the Spaniards,

And the firing died away;

And they found eight floating heroes

On a raft at break of day.

Not a soul was harmed among them,

For the God of War had planned,

And the Prince of the Spanish navy

Bore them in safety to land.

Great deeds have been done in battle,

Of valor there is no lack;

But none have been greater, braver,

Than the dash of the Merrimac.