Page images
PDF
EPUB

RESCUE OF THE SPANISH CREWS.

during these events, had been madly racing from Siboney, arrived in the neighborhood of the sinking ships of the enemy in time for Admiral Sampson to give orders regarding the saving of the survivors from the wrecks, and then hurried on in chase of the Colon, arriving just as the ship had surrendered to Captain Cook of the Brooklyn.

The Spanish vessels had hardly struck their colors before the men of the American ships set themselves at work with equal enthusiasm in saving the lives of the officers and sailors of the enemy. Many of these were still on board the wrecks, in imminent danger of death from fire and explosions; others were in the sea, clinging to wreckage; and still others had reached the shore, where they were without food, shelter, or adequate clothing. It was reported after the battle that the survivors from the Spanish ships were fired upon by the Cubans, but this is doubtless a falsehood, for none of the Spanish reports mention the fact, and the report of Lieutenant Hazeltine of the Hist specifically denies the assertion.†

"I cannot express my admiration for my magnificent crew. So long as the enemy showed his flag they fought like American seamen; but when the flag came down they were as gentle and tender as American women."- From the Report of Captain Robley D. Evans.

"The Cubans at Aserraderos did not fire on the Spaniards. In fact, when our boats were taking the Spaniards from the beach the Cubans rendered valuable assistance."- Report of Lieutenant Hazeltine.

"They made a raft [the survivors of the Oqu endo] and lowered two launches, the only serviceable boats they had left, and were finally assisted

151

In some cases the task of getting the Spanish sailors from the burning ships was far more dangerous than the fighting itself, and many heroic rescues were made. The smaller craft, the Gloucester, Ericsson, Hist, Vixen, and auxiliary vessels, the Harvard and the Resolute, approached to dangerous proximity to the burning hulks, their men risking death numbers of times in order to take their unfortunate opponents from the doomed vessels.*

The result of his expedition to the West Indies was clear to Cervera from the beginning, and his correspondence throughout the entire campaign is marked by the greatest pessimism. What the result would have been if the squadron had been commanded by a more hopeful and daring man cannot be known, yet in by the United States boats, and, according to the statement of an insurgent with whom I talked on the beach, also by an insurgent boat."- Report of Admiral Cervera.

"It remains to communicate to you that our enemies behaved toward us with great chivalry, providing us with good clothes, and suppressing almost entirely the usual hurrahs, to prevent hurting our self-respect, and offering to us the most anxious solicitude."-Report of Admiral Cervera.

"In short, it is a disaster already, and it is to be feared that it will be a more frightful one before long. And perhaps everything could be changed yet. But I suppose it is too late now for anything that is not the ruin and desolation of our country."- From a letter to Minister Bermejo, by Admiral Cervera, April 22, 1898.

"To sum up, 3d of July has been an appalling disaster, as I had foreseen. The number of dead, however, is less than I feared. Our country has been defended with honor, and the satisfaction of duty well done leaves our consciences clear, though we bitterly mourn the loss of our beloved companions and the misfortunes of our country."— Report of Admiral Cervera, July 9, 1898.

the long run the result would not have been materially different. Cervera's squadron, in the last analysis, was nothing more than a sacrifice to the pride of Spain.

The

The story of the engagement is best told by its statistics.* The American ships, though hit a number of times, were practically uninjured. Brooklyn received the hardest blows, and, in addition was the only vessel to experience any loss of life, one man being killed and another wounded. The whole battle was fought accord

ships. With respect to Cervera, however, it is evident that the one idea in his mind was to escape with as many ships as possible. On his part the battle was not even a defensive one; it was a flight. Had he been willing to sacrifice one or two of his ships by throwing them boldly into the midst of the American fleet, or had divided his squadron, a few vessels might have escaped, but in permitting all to seek safety in flight, the morale of the entire fleet was de

ing to a prearranged plan; by ships stroyed, and all the ships doomed. It

that were in perfect readiness; maneu-
vered by officers who were skillful and
possessed in the highest degree of the
initiative
necessary for success in
warfare; manned by sailors and gun-
ners who were inspired by patriotic
enthusiasm, and a tireless energy that
was irresistible in its effect.

It is true there was an overwhelming force against the luckless Spanish ships, but it is almost inconceivable that six tremendous machines of war, costing ten million or more dollars, should be unable to do damage costing more than a few thousand dollars to repair. It would appear that both at Santiago and Manila, if the Spanish commanders had formed any very clear plans of attack or defense, they found it impossible to carry them out in the face of the sudden and awful torrent of destroying missiles hurled against their

* Total number on the Spanish fleet, 2,243; killed and wounded, 540; prisoners of war: officers, 86; men, 1,615.

is a significant and curious series of coincidences that the war-ship named after Christopher Columbus should have left the port touched by the great explorer in one of his earliest voyages, and the site, too, of the earliest Spanish settlement of any consequence in the New World, and steaming forth should have met its fate almost at the same place where the men from the Virginius were captured and put to death. The end of the Cristobal Colon marked the end of the majestic empire given to the rulers of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, by the Colon after whom it was named.

Rear-Admiral

Officers of the American fleet:
W. T. Sampson, Commander-in-chief; Capt. F. E.
Chadwick, Chief-of-staff and commander of the
New York; Commodore W. S. Schley, second in
command; Capt. F. A. Cook, of Brooklyn; Capt.
R. D. Evans, of Iowa; Capt. H. C. Taylor, of
Indiana; Capt. C. E. Clark, of Oregon; Capt. J.
W. Philip, of Texas; Lieut-Com. Richard Wain-
wright, of Gloucester; Lieut. Alexander Sharp,
Jr., of Vixen; Lieut. N. R. Usher, of Ericsson;
Lieut. Lucien Young, of Hist.

PRECARIOUS SITUATION OF AMERICAN ARMY.

153

CHAPTER X.

1898.

CAPITULATION OF SANTIAGO DE CUBA.

[ocr errors]

Even

[ocr errors]

Bom

Dangerous situation of the army- Attack on American line, July 1-Shafter plans to withdrawOpposed by generals—“The darkest day of the War"- News of naval victory The sinking of the Reina Mercedes - Exchange of Lieutenant Hobson- - Shafter demands surrender of cityToral's proposal to withdraw Shafter's acceptance of terms refused by administration bardment of July 10-The capitulation-The army and the navy-Garcia and the Cubans. The capture of El Caney and the heights of San Juan, while a victory, nevertheless left the American army in a very dangerous position. With the arrival of Bates and Ludlow, whose men were advanced to the front without delay, practically the whole army was on the firing line. when the enemy had been driven back to Santiago, the soldiers got no rest, but worked throughout the night to strengthen their defenses. Trenches were dug with bayonets, tin cans, in fact, any improvised implement that could be obtained. When the morning came, they were weary, but reasonably sure of holding their own against any force the Spaniards might send against them.

The anticipated attack came almost with dawn. The Spanish army, reinforced by a detachment from the fleet under Captain Bustamente, made a vigorous assault on the American lines, but was repulsed with heavy losses to the Spanish forces. Both General Linares and Captain Bustamente were wounded, the latter mortally. The struggle continued

throughout the day, but at the end
the positions of the two armies were
unchanged. The perilous situation of
the American forces, however, con-
tinued to disturb General Shafter's
peace of mind, and the temptation
persisted to withdraw the men to less
exposed points. He accordingly
called a conference of the generals
(Wheeler, Kent, Lawton, and Bates),
informing them that as large rein-
forcements were approaching San-
tiago, he considered it the wise course
to withdraw, and asked their advice.
General Wheeler earnestly sought to
dissuade him. General Kent sup-
ported Wheeler. The bluff Lawton's
advice was "Hang on."
Hang on." The only
dissenting voice was that of General
Bates, who thought that his men
would be forced to retire. After the
conference General Shafter was still
undecided, but dismissed the con-
ference with the words: "We shall
hold our present position for the next
twenty-four hours, and if our condi-
tion is not improved I shall call upon
you again for an expression of your
views."

This was the condition of affairs on the land, termed by Secretary Alger,* the "darkest day" of the war. Certainly the dispatch forwarded by General Shafter did not tend to relieve the gloom. In it he said:

"We have the town invested on the north and east, but with a very thin line. Upon approaching it we find it of such a character and the defenses so strong it will be impossible to carry it by storm with my present force, and I am seriously considering withdrawing about 5 miles and taking up a new position on the high ground between the San Juan River and Siboney, with our left at Sardinero, so as to get our supplies to a large extent by the means of the railroad which we can use, having engines and cars at Siboney. Our losses up to date will aggregate 1,000, but list has not yet been made. But little sickness outside of exhaustion, intense heat and exertion of the battle of day before yesterday and the almost constant fire which is kept up on the trenches. Wagon road to the rear is kept up with some difficulty on account of rains, but I will be able to use it for the present. General Wheeler is seriously ill and will probably have to go to the rear today. General Young also is very ill; confined to his bed. General Hawkins slightly wounded in foot during sortie enemy made last night, which was handsomely repulsed. The behavior of the regular troops was magnificent. I am urging Admiral Sampson to attempt to force the entrance to the harbor, and will have consultation with him this morning. He is coming to the front to see me. I have been unable to be out during the heat of the day for four days, but am retaining the command. Shafter, Major General."

*R. A. Alger, The Spanish-American War.

*

"I regretted very much to see that General Shafter had telegraphed as he did regarding my health. It is true that I had an attack of fever, but the same is true of every other General in the army in Cuba. After six days of this character of exposure I was taken with the fever; but by placing myself under the charge of a doctor and taking all the prescribed medicine, I was up and ready for duty on the morning of July 1st, the day of the Battle of San Juan. I was engaged during all this day; and even after dark I remained on the advanced line, to get up entrenching-tools and to encourage the construction of breastworks."- Wheeler, The Santiago Campaign.

What Schley's message from Santiago had been to the navy department, this telegram was to the department of war. Upon the great columned building where the department made its home gloom settled so thick that it enveloped everybody from the President and the Secretary down to the most insignificant messenger boy. Imperative orders were sent forth to obtain transports and start reinforcements to Santiago. General Wilson's division was ordered to be ready to move at a moment's notice, and Shafter was notified that he could have any reinforcements he wished. This was the state of affairs until 7 P. M., when the war and navy departments were both appalled by the additional message from Shafter to the effect that it was reported that Cervera's fleet had escaped. For three-quarters of an hour the whole administration was in despair. The American cause had received a blow to its prestige that would have a fatal effect upon the course of the whole war. But the truth regarding Cervera's fleet was soon to follow, for at 7:49 P. M. came the message announcing the glorious victory of the fleet, and with it passed the mood of despondency. The capture of Santiago, at one stroke ceased to be a matter worth endangering the lives of American soldiers. The army, indeed, had fulfilled its function, for it had rendered Cervera's position so desperate that it was a question of scuttling his ships in the harbor or of making a dash for liberty. He chose

THE REINA MERCEDES SUNK.

155

the latter, and the world knew the cruiser Reina Mercedes in the channel result on the night of July 3.

Nevertheless General Shafter and the authorities at Washington felt that Santiago should be taken if possible, hence orders were given to push affairs at that place to a conclusion.* Already, on the morning of the 3d, Shafter had forwarded a message to General Toral, who had superseded Linares, informing him that if Santiago were not surrendered immediately he would shell the city. The Spanish general curtly refused to accede to the demand, adding that there were 20,000 non-combatants who were entitled to protection, should the threat to bombard be carried out. In view of this fact, General Shafter agreed to postpone action until July 5, in order to permit these people to leave the city. When the situation was made clear to the President and Secretary of War, Shafter was advised to strengthen his position, but to avoid operations as far as possible that would endanger the safety of the army.

The foreign residents and non-combatants of Santiago, believing that a general bombardment was imminent, on July 5, began an exodus to El Caney. The immediate cause of this was a fearful attack on the harbor defenses on the night of the 4th, when the Spanish attempted to sink the

"Being on the ground and knowing all the conditions, the Secretary of War directs you will use your own judgment as to how and when you will take the city of Santiago, but for manifest reasons, it should be accomplished as speedily as possible. By command Major-General Miles. H. C. Corbin, Adjutant-General."

VOL. X 11

narrows. It was assumed that Sampson's fleet would follow up its victory by an endeavor to force the harbor, so the sole war-ship left to the defenders was sacrificed in an endeavor to shut out American ships. As soon as the Mercedes was discovered a continuous fire was opened on the ship and batteries. In spite of this the vessel was scuttled, but like the Merrimack, in such a way as to leave the channel still open. This attack, joined with General Shafter's ultimatum, threw the people into a frenzy of fear. At daybreak they commenced to emigrate from the city. Carrying their property on their backs 20,000 women, children, old men, and, as Lieutenant Müller asserts, able-bodied men, began their march toward the American lines, establishing themselves finally at El Caney. Here they remained for eleven days, without adequate food, water or shelter, resulting in an epidemic which hurried a good share of them to their graves. "Those eleven days at El Caney have caused more victims in Santiago than the three years of war." (Müller y Tejeiro.)

There had been more or less friction between the army and the navy ever since the former had established itself in front of Santiago. This, however, assumed an acute stage after the destruction of the Spanish fleet. From the first General Shafter had been pressing Admiral Sampson to make an effort to force the harbor, but the latter had all the while protested that the risk was too great. He

« PreviousContinue »