Page images




eral Wheeler's cavalry the day after
the battle (June 24), the whole army
(to which was added Garcia's Cu-
bans) being concentrated at this
point by July 1. Here activities were
suspended for a while (from June 24-
29) in order to give the men a breath-
ing spell, and to complete the landing
of supplies and guns. The rest was
purely theoretical, however, for the
men were undergoing experiences
nearly as distressing as that of actual
fighting. Many were toiling to get
the field guns from the landing-places,
and all were subject to the rigors of a
tropical climate in its
its unkindest
moods. The rainy season was begin-
ning to set in with all of its horrors.
To the unacclimated soldiers, the sud-
den changes from icy showers to
periods of prostrating heat were
something almost beyond endurance,
and soon the effects of the tropical
fevers were shown in the decreased
efficiency of the army. The men shiv-
ered from cold during the rains, and
from fever during the heat, in many
cases without the relief of medicines,
as many of the regimental medicine-
chests had been left on the trans-

neous idea of the enemy's fighting abilities. They thought that all they would have to do would be to advance boldly, and the foe would flee before them. The Spanish, however, while displaying a feline tendency to take flight in the open, when cornered and entrenched could fight with a tenacity and ferocity equally cat-like. officers who planned to storm and capture El Caney before breakfast, take San Juan in passing, and eat luncheon in Santiago, were destined to a surprise, and ran upon sheathed claws they little dreamed of. In the first place El Caney, the first position to be attacked was far better fortified and defended than was anticipated, and as orders had been given to envelop the city with the whole army, it was impossible to send reinforcements in sufficient quantity to carry the point quickly. Indeed, the extension of a force of less than 16,000 over a territory of 20 miles or more was a serious error, resulting in the necessity of fighting two battles at the same time (El Caney and San Juan) and in a division of the army that might have been fatal. Had the Spanish been possessed of the daring ports. While their clothes were dry

and the initiative of the American the story of Santiago would have been something quite different.*

The Spanish, after being driven from their position at Guasimas, slowly retreated towards Santiago, leaving the village of Sevilla unguarded. This was occupied by Gen

See Sargent, The Campaign of Santiago de Cuba, vol. ii., pp. 134-166.

"At the disembarkation, I supposed that each regimental surgeon would take his medical chest in the boat with him; a few did, but the majority left them behind, and there was considerable trouble to get them ashore and to their owners. I directed that the first three wagons set up should be devoted to carrying these medicine-chests of the regiments to the front. The chief surgeon reported to me that at no time did he have a full supply of medicines as he required, and on four separate occasions be reported that the medicines were virtually exhausted."-Shafter, The Capture of Santiago de Cuba, in Century Magazine (February, 1899).

ing, they hovered over the halfextinguished camp-fires, begging and borrowing quinine. Mingled with these distresses were the minor discomforts of the tenacious mud, the nauseating odors of decaying vegetation, tormenting insects and land crabs, and, intensifying all the other discomforts, the tedium of an enforced delay. Sickness was prevalent throughout the whole camp. General Wheeler for a while was too ill to perform his duties, and General Shafter's health, throughout the entire campaign, was so precarious that on several occasions it was thought that he would be forced to relinquish the command. But retire he would not, despite his dislike of a land beneath whose noon-day sun he dared not venture. "Taking food for the first time in four days," he cabled at one time to Washington, yet during that time he was giving orders and planning his campaign with characteristic caution. Throughout the correspondence of General Shafter runs the note of humanity.* To spare the over-taxed soldiers, to look to the safety of the aged, the women and children in besieged Santiago, all of this he urged, and more, on the authorities at Washington. To add to To add to the difficulties of his position, Shafter was well aware of the imperative necessity for immediate action. Every

"In the latter days of the siege [Santiago] I was feeding 20,000 of our soldiers, 5,000 Cuban soldiers, and 15,000 to 18,000 refugees, issuing about 40,000 rations daily."- Shafter, The Capture of Santiago de Cuba, in Century Magazine (February, 1899).

hour was precious, for a large reinforcement of Linares' army by General Pando was expected at any time. He counted upon the halting of this force by the Cubans, but as the days passed he grew more and more hopeless regarding the trustworthy nature of the native allies. Indeed, after the battles of El Caney and San Juan, Escario's little body of men found no difficulty in reaching Santiago.

The city of Santiago was guarded by a strong line of outer defenses, which followed a long ridge running from Aguadores, two miles east of the mouth of the harbor, to El Caney, a village four miles to the northeast of the city. Closer in to the city, and between these points was the hill of San Juan, strongly protected by a blockhouse and well-constructed trenches. This fortification was unquestionably the key to Santiago, and its capture forced Cervera's squadron from Santiago harbor. Under General Linares, at Santiago and its environs, were approximately 13,000 men, of which number fully a quarter were incapacitated by wounds or sickness. The situation within the doomed city was daily becoming more and more terrible. "Horses, dogs, and other animals were dying from hunger in the streets and public places, and the worst thing was that their carcasses were not removed. I saw a dog throw himself upon a smaller one and kill and devour him. If there

had been flour and bacon, the soldiers might not have become weakened and sick, and yet they fought as the Span


ish soldier has always fought." (Müller y Tejeiro.) Black bread and rice, and none too much of that, was the fare of the beleaguered city, and that was rapidly dwindling to nothing. Water, too, was becoming scarce, as the American forces after El Caney controlled two of the three sources; the third being the wells within and about the city, which produced a very inadequate supply. To add to the miseries of the half-fed, despairing people, came stories of atrocities committed by American soldiers, invented by the Spanish, which had the effect of throwing the non-combatants into a state of absolute terror. General Linares, nevertheless, proposed to defend the city to the bitter end, and the work of constructing defenses continued day and night. Trenches were everywhere dug, barbed-wire and other obstructions put in place, guns transferred from the ships: in fact everything that could be done under such conditions. In the meanwhile the people trembled and hungered, the soldiers consumed what little food was left, and everybody talked of the coming of General Pando from Manzanillo with 10,000 men. Indeed, Shafter's delay of three days was used to the best advantage by the enemy, and many good men were mowed down in front of trenches dug even after Las Guasimas.

On the afternoon of June 30, the whole American army began to close in on Santiago; General Shafter, in the meanwhile, having left the transports and established his headquar


ters at El Pozo, three miles towards the city of Sevilla. At this point were the commands of Generals Kent and Wheeler, numbering about 7,000 men, who were instructed to attack the fortifications at San Juan. General Lawton's division, which was stationed on the right, was ordered to proceed to El Caney, and after capturing that point to go to the assistance of Wheeler at San Juan. In order to deceive the enemy a feint was planned at Aguadores, in which the ships of war were to join. To Garcia and his followers was assigned the important work of scouting and preventing the arrival of Spanish reinforcements. Despite the tendency on the part of many critics to disparage the work of the Cubans, there is no doubt but that their aid was invaluable. What they did was of a nature impossible to the Americans, owing to their ignorance of roads and trails, and although the Cubans failed on several occasions, especially in not stopping Escario, and now and then showed astonishing abilities at disposing of rations, nevertheless it is only just that they be given credit for the things they did accomplish.*

Contemporaneously with the advance of the army against San Juan, as has been seen, General Shafter proposed to make, with the help of the navy, a feigned attack on the for

"All that Garcia said as to his troops and the disposition of the Spanish proved to be correct, and his promises were kept to the extent of his ability."-Shafter, The Capture of Santiago de Cuba, in Century Magazine (February, 1899).

tifications at Aguadores, with the idea of encouraging a concentration of the enemy at or near that place, or at any rate to prevent the garrison from sending reinforcements to the inland lines of defence.* Accordingly, on the morning of July 1, General Duffield was ordered to proceed to that point, making use of the railway that paralleled the coast in transporting his troops. He had

under his command three battalions of the 33d Michigan Volunteers and a troop of Cubans. The soldiers were carried in freight cars until the Spanish lines were reached, after which they advanced against the enemy on foot. In the meanwhile, the New York, Gloucester and the Suwanee were actively bombarding the fortifications at a range of about 2,000 yards, the action commencing at 8



M. Splendid markmanship was shown by the gunners, the shells from the New York, in particular, doing fearful damage to the fort. bombardment continued with more or less regularity until 2:30 P. M., when it was discontinued, as the fortifications appeared to be completely demolished. The action on the part of the ships was little more than a target

*This does not agree with the inference to be drawn from Shafter's first report: "General Duffield * attacked Aguadores as ordered, but was unable to accomplish more than to detain the Spaniards in that vicinity." All authorities seem to agree, however, that this was nothing more than a feint.

This regiment had just arrived from the United States. Sce Shafter's report, September 13, 1898.

practice, for there was no reply to their firing worthy of the name.

General Duffield had been ordered to worry the enemy, but to avoid endangering his own men. He did not attempt, therefore, to cross the San Juan River, which separated his posi tion from that of the enemy. In the skirmishes between the two forces the volunteers behaved unusually well, driving their opponents from strong situations; suffering, however, a loss of two men, with 15 wounded.

In accordance with his orders, General Lawton moved with his division, which formed the right wing of the army, towards the heights occupied by the village of El Caney, a place made up largely of suburban residences of wealthy citizens of Santiago. These were occupied by the Spanish troops, as was a stone church, which was turned into a fort by being loopholed. In addition, there were four block-houses, a stone fort, well-constructed trenches, well-nigh impassable obstructions of barbed wire; everything, in fact, that would tend to make a place naturally strong almost impregnable. No better proof of this fact is needed than the state

ment that at this place the entire American force of 5,000 men was held at bay for ten hours by a garrison of 520. The importance of this point to the Spaniards was due to the fact that it commanded the aqueduct and the road leading to Guantanamo, hence its loss would mean cutting off the water supply and the closing of


one of the routes by which aid could approach Santiago.

General Lawton's division was made up of three brigades: the First, under General Ludlow, consisting of the 8th Infantry, 22d Infantry, and the 2d Massachusetts Volunteers; the Second, under Colonel Miles, consisting of the 4th Infantry, 1st Infantry, and the 25th Infantry (colored); the Third, under General Chaffee, consisting of the 7th Infantry, 12th Infantry, and the 17th Infantry. In addition there was Capron's* battery (4 pieces), and 50 Cubans. At 1 P. M. Lawton was reinforced by General Bates' Independent Brigade, bringing his command up to 6,653 officers and men. Opposed to him were three companies of the Constitution regiment, and a company of guerillas, in all 520, commanded by General Vara de Rey. The Spanish had no artillery, and fought the whole battle with rifles.

The brigades were stationed as

follows: Chaffee's to the the right;

Ludlow's to the left; and that of

Miles in the center. Capron's battery was stationed on a hill a mile towards Pozo. The attack was commenced at 6:30 by the battery opening fire on the enemy's position. Twentyseven rounds were fired without receiving a reply on the part of the Spanish. Under cover of the firing from the battery, Chaffee's men advanced along the Guantanamo road

Father of Captain Capron, of the Rough Riders, killed at Guasimas.

VOL. X-10


towards the hill, crowned by the entrenchments, and opened fire. The reply that was received was so deadly that their advance was brought to a stop. The other brigades were having the same experience, and it was soon clear that only fighting of the most desperate kind would deliver this "little block-house," as General Shafter called it, into the hands of the attacking forces. Dropping therefore to the ground, and taking advantage of every bush and tree that could conceal them, the American soldiers gradually worked their way towards the crest of the hill. The grass was tall, and afforded an excellent screen, but

the torrent of bullets mowed it as would a scythe, and in many places it fell upon silent forms never to arise. Stopped by barbed-wire fences that had to be cut in the open, and picked off by sharpshooters, who seemed to be in every tree, the boys who thought they would take El Caney before breakfast, and lunch in San Juan, were The men who sadly disillusioned.

wormed their way so heroically up the slope of El Caney had far different conception of the prowess of the Spanish soldier by sundown of July 1.

For three endless hours the rifle

contest continued, with its steady toll of death. The men toiling up towards the stone fort and the block-houses could neither tell whether there were hundreds or thousands against them; all they knew was that now and then came the sickening thud of a Mauser bullet striking human flesh. Moved by a kind of pride that cannot be justi

« PreviousContinue »