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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, February 28, 1898, Image 1

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Conclusive Proof That the Dis
aster to the Maine Was
Not Accidental.
Facts That Point Most Ominously to an
Explosive Force Directed Against the
Outside to Destroy the Battleship
and the Lives of Brave
On board Here Id- Call dis
patch-boat Albert F. Dewey,
between Havana and Key
West, Feb. 27. — Eager as is
the waiting public for a defi
nite announcement of the
conclusions reached by the
Naval Court of Inquiry, it
may as well be stated now
that the suspense which per
vades the entire country and,
indeed, the whole civilized
world, must be endured prob
ably several weeks longer. I
have studied the situation
carefully. The President and
Cabinet may, perhaps, be cog
nizant af the court's conclu
sions at a somewhat earlier
date, but I shall be surprised
if its findings are made pub
lic before the latter part of
March, and the announce
ment may be delayed even
later. In the meantime the
only good advice is that
which has already prevailed.
Let the American people
abide in patience and wait
with full confidence that jus
tice will be done in the end
dispassionately and without
To-day marks the end of
the first week's session of
the court Never in the his-
Tory of similar proceedings
have such precautions been
taken to guard the facts from
public scrutiny. Never have
officers in either arm of the
service remained more con
sistently reticent under the
orders of their chiefs. Nev
ertheless I have passed many
hours aboard the Mangrove
during the week, and am'in a
position, if not to publish a
report of the evi
dence, to give at least an ac
curate synopsis of the situa
tion as it is to-day.
The first and most obvious
I .conclusion is that already
The San Francisco Call
stated, viz.: that the court's
report must not be expected
soon. The second and most
i important conclusion — the
|one which even the most
i conservative observers must
I have reached ere now — is
I that at the end of the first
j week's work the probability
i is more remote than ever that
the board can ever attribute
the Maine disaster to acci
dental and interior causes.
| The week's work has hardly
been one that tends for peace.
Just in proportion as that fact
has become plainer in the
light of the testimony taken
the evident purpose of the
court of inquiry to make haste
slowly has forced itself upon
those who watch its course.
Had it been possible early
in the investigation with rea
sonable certainty that the
Maine calamity was a misfor
tune only and not a crime the
continued suppression of that
conclusion would have served
the interests neither of the
United States nor Spain. On
the contrary, had the facts
tended to show an accidental
origin of the explosion all
the peace - loving, sober
minded people would have
rejoiced to see even partially
lifted the dark cloud that now
menaces both nations, and
the conservative newspaper
press of America would have
welcomed the opportunity to
relax the dangerous tension
that now prevails.
It was in the hope of some
such early assurance that the
Herald representative watch
ed the first week's proceed
ings of the court. That hope
has almost vanished. The
testimony thus far adduced
points overwhelmingly in an
I opposite conclusion. That is
i why we are moving so de
jliberately. The Navy Depart
i ment needs time and will
make good use of . it. Un
doubtedly the most import
ant evidence yet taken is that
of Ensign Powelson, the
grave purport of which was
carefully outlined in Friday's
Call and Herald. Mr. Powel
son is one of the most accom
plished of the younger officers
of the navy, especially in the
arts of naval construction, to
which he has given years of
faithful study. His views
even as a theorist would, have
great weight with the naval
board, in the personnel of
which, curiously enough,there
is not a single officer who i s
really eminent in that branch
of naval work; But in Ensign
Powelson's evidence the na
val court is confronted by a
condition and not a theory,
a condition so clearly demon
strated by him as to all but
carry conviction. His exploit
in discovering the green
painted plates from the very
bottom of the ship at a point
in the wreckage which indi
cates they were forced up
ward from their normal posi
tion to a height of some twen
ty feet has been the sensa
tion of the week. Coupled
with the other discovery that
in common with most of the
other wreckage from the
ship's interior these plates
were, not only heaved upward
by some titanic force excited
from some blow, but also .dis
tinctly in the direction from
the port to starboard side.
This fact points most omin
ously, it cannot be denied, to
an explosive force directed
Drimarily, at least, from the
THE UNITED STATES ARMORED CRUISER BROOKLYN in the harbor of San Lucia, principal coaling
station and stronghold of the British West Indies.
outside rather than inside the
vessel. The unparalleled up
heaval of the ship's decks and
superstructure is consistent
enough with the theory of
the magazine's explosion
alone having caused the dis
aster, but such explosion, of
course, would have tended to
force downward plates from
the ship's bottom and keels,
and could hardly have result
ed by any freak of explosive
gases in an upward thrust
capable of lodging them
twenty feet or more above
their normal position in the
FERROL, Spain, Feb. 27.—
Fhe work of naval construc
tion and armament is being
pushed by the government
with the greatest activity at
the arsenal and dockyards.
So grave an impression
was made on the court at this
discovery that the board, not
content with the immediate
personal inspection of the
wreckage, which seemed to
confirm all Ensign Powelson
had said, directed him to pre
pare at once- elaborate draw
ings illustrating the points
made in his evidence. These
drawings ■ Mr. Powelson pro
duced yesterday when re
called for re-examination by
the naval court, and they will
doubtless be filed with the
official report when made to
the department at Washing
Nor is Ensign Powelson's
testimony unsupported by
other evidence similar in im
port. The further the work
of the submarine divers pro
gresses the more they bring
to light which tends toward
the same unwelcome conclu
sion. Both the 6 and 10 inch
magazines have been suc
cessfully entered, and in each
some most significant condi
tions have been found. The
linings of the magazines in
places are entirely free from
evidences of fire or explo
sion. Six-inch shells have
been found in the magazines
intact and unexploded. Every
where is abundant evidence
of a terrific concussion, but
there are equally plain condi
tions which naval officers re
gard as inconsistent with the
theory of a primary explosion
having occurred. In both
the 6-inch and io-inch maga
zines are found many of the
powder cylinders which,
though smashed and dented
by concussion, have obvi
ously riot been exploded, as
the large-grained brown hex
agonal powder contained in
these cylinders is stored in
bags which in turn are packed
within cylinders themselves,
and ordinary excelsior is used
in the spaces between. Some
of these bags and much of
the excelsior have been found
unscathed by fire. The pow
der for the most part has van
ished, 1 am told. This was
explained to me by a naval
officer as follows; Some of
the powder caps were opened
by the concussion which
smashed them. The subse
quent sinking of the ship
flooded the broken powder
cylinders and the action of
the water soon disintegrated
the powder, which, of course,
ran out of the bags in a thick
ink-like solution and soon
disappeared, leaving little
more than a sediment adher
ing to the bags, One of the
6-inch breech- loading rifles
from the port battery has
been located well over on the
starboard side of the wreck.
Its breech blocks have been
All ot these discoveries I
understand have, been de-
tailed at great -length before
the court of inquiry. During
the examination of Powelson
yesterday, and also during the
testimony of Diver Andrew
Olson and others, Captain
Chadwick was particularly
active in the cross-examina
tion, whether from a simple
desire to elicit every available
fact or any feeling of skepti
cism on his part of course it is
impossible to say. It has
been persistently rumored,
however, that the naval court
is not wholly satisfied with
the work done or reports
made by divers up to the
present time. lam inclined
to believe some such feeling
exists and that it is partly re
sponsible for the naval court's
contemplated return to Ha
vana in time to observe the
work of the more efficient
wrecking apparatus now en
route from New York. In
connection with the work of
divers it is painful to have to
record that one of these men,
Martin Riordan, hitherto at
tached to the fleet, was yes
terday returned to Key West
ijn deep disgrace and will
probably .te court-martialed.
The crime of which he stands
accused is no less heinous
than that of pilfering from
the sea chests of dead
sailors and appropriating to
himself various things of
value which it was his duty
to bring to the surface and de
liver to the proper authorities.
One seaman's chest in the
berth deck is said to have
contained savings aggregating
more than $1000. The diver
had been under suspicion.
He was watched by other
divers while at work and the
suspicions verified. Yester
day his quarters were search
ed and many trinkets and
articles of value are said to
have been recovered. On his
arrival at Key West the rep
resentatives of a sensational
New York paper promptly
made overtures to him to sell
what information lie had
gathered under water.
Some effort has been made
and further effort will proba
bly be fnade to give undue
importance to certain testi
many taken by the naval
court Friday from a party of
Cubans resident in Havana
The story of these men was
to the effect that on a ferry
boat crossing the bay one
night some days prior to the
Maine disaster, they over
heard a suspicious conversa
tion between two Spaniards,
whose identity they did not
then and do not now know. Ac
cording to their tale conspirator
No. i was heard to remark to
conspirator No. 2 that a little plan
was all arranged and that the rot
ten Yankee battle-ship would be
soon on the bottom of the harbor.
The naval board summoned these
men and heard their story for what
it is worth. I understand, how-
ever, that slight importance is at
tached to it, especially as the Cu
bans unfortunately neglected to
learn the names and addresses of
the two mysterious. bravos.
While the drift of sentiment
among Americans of Havana is Un°
doubtedly as indicated it is proper
to state that loyal Spaniards to a
man still refuse to entertain for a
moment the suspicion that the
Maine was the victim of foul play
or any other than accidental
causes. Many of them scout as
ridiculous the statement that the
harbor is filled with submarine
mines and point to the freedom
with which their own naval and
merchant vessels come and go as
best evidence of the absurdity of
the rumor. Among the Spanish
army officers, though they are as
courteous personally as ever to
American strangers, there is a
rapidly growing feeling of unrest.
Most of them would now welcome
a war with the United States. As
a Spanish lieutenant-colonel said
to me yesterday: "If we must have
Continued on Second Page.
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