The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 19

Author: Andrew S. Draper  | Date: A.D. 1898

The Battles of Santiago

A.D. 1898


The discoverer of America, though Italian by birth, was in the employ of Spain, and all his discoveries became the immediate possessions of that Power. In those days the idea of the right of discovery was boundless. When Balboa, crossing the isthmus, found the Pacific Ocean, he waded into the surf up to his waist and, stretching out his arms, declared that that sea and all lands bordering upon it, wheresoever they might be, were henceforth the property of his royal highness the King of Spain. The ruling idea of the Spaniard was plunder, with whatever of accompanying cruelty might be necessary; the stories of Peru and Mexico are fearful illustrations of this. But murder and robbery never were secure foundations for an empire, and Spain’s possessions in the New world slipped from her one after another, until at the close of the nineteenth century nothing was left to her in the Western Hemisphere but Cuba and Porto Rico. These fair islands had long suffered from Spanish misgovernment, and had been the scenes of successive insurrections, which had been suppressed with untold barbarity. When at last the Spanish commander Weyler, unable with all his army to suppress the Cuban people in their desire for liberty, resorted to the tyrannical and deathly scheme of "Reconcentration," the whole people of the United States were aroused to an indignant sense of the outrage. When some one asked Solon, the ancient law-giver, how wrongdoing could be prevented in the state, he answered, "By those that are not wronged feeling the same indignation as those that are." The American people in this instance presented a remarkable example of that noble rule, in sharp contrast to the apathy of Europe concerning the Armenian massacres, which were in progress at the same time. It has been said truly that it was not the Government, but the people, of the United States that declared war upon Spain for the liberty of Cuba. President McKinley did his utmost to delay the opening of hostilities, for the double reason that he clung to the hope of bringing the Spanish Government to its senses, and wished, if war must come, that the United States might not be altogether unprepared. At the same time he pushed forward military preparations as if he knew’ what the result must be. After the ultimatum to Spain, demanding the evacuation of Cuba-which was haughtily refused-the United States declared war on April 19, 1898, and there was not a dissenting voice in Congress, for some of the most eminent members of that body had visited Cuba and come back to testify what they had seen.


AT the time of the declaration of war, April 19, 1898, the regular army of the United States numbered 27,532 men. The army of Great Britain in time of peace consists of 220,000 men, of France 2,043,000, of Germany 1,969,000, of Russia 1,145,000, of Spain 352,000.

The regulars were reasonably well ready for service when war was declared. They were well drilled and somewhat inured to camp life and field service. They had a fair field equipment. They were armed with a modern weapon called the Krag-Jorgensen rifle, and they were supplied, while in the midst of the Cuban campaign, with cartridges of smokeless powder.

But the regular troops were only a handful of men, and the points in which they excelled were only those which were within the power of the professional officers of the army to develop and direct. Congress had for years refused not only to grant any enlargement of the army, but also to authorize such reorganization as military experience had shown to be necessary and as had been adopted in all modern European armies. Such matters relating to the army as depended either upon legislation by Congress or upon administration by civilian officers were either seriously lacking or deplorably confused. In the Santiago campaign the transportation and supply departments almost broke down under their responsibilities.

One reason why the regular army had been kept small was that there seemed to be so little for it to do. Its only active service was in suppressing Indian outbreaks, which have been growing more infrequent. It also served the purpose of enabling the officers to maintain the standard of military efficiency. In case of war it was intended to serve as a nucleus for the volunteer army, upon which it has hitherto been the custom of our Government to depend. What we should do in case of sudden war with a formidable foreign Power, Congress had not thought.

Consequently, when war was declared, the Government was obliged to depend on volunteers to fill up the army. The President called for 200,000 volunteer soldiers. Five men stood ready for every place that was to be filled. Many of the best young men in the land struggled with one another for opportunity to go. In many States entire regiments of the National Guard volunteered. In some States whole regiments were enlisted, organized, and drilled, without any authority whatever, in the hope that further calls would be made, and, being organized, they would have the next chance.

In addition to the 200,000 volunteers called for by the President, Congress authorized an enlargement of the regular army from 27,000 to 62,000 men, and also the enlistment as "United States Volunteers" of 10,000 "immunes"(men who were proof against yellow fever), 3500 engineers, and 3000 cavalrymen.

The volunteer troops could not in the nature of things be prepared for service in a brief time as completely as the regulars. Congress had made no provision for equipping a volunteer army, and the equipment furnished by the States was very inadequate. Much of the equipment that the States provided was either out of date or made for show rather than service. With all the riches of the country at the time of the declaration of war, there was almost an entire absence of clothing, shoes, tents, camp utensils, horses and wagons, arms and ammunition available for the active service of an army of 250,000 men anywhere, least of all in a campaign in a foreign and tropical country, mountainous and without roads, and in midsummer.

The American volunteer soldier is of course not inured to field service. He is a man of wits and resources, capable of adapting himself to new conditions and rising to occasions; but he can hardly be expected, in three months, to carry himself like a professional, or to fight as effectually with antiquated arms as the veteran with rifles of the highest power. But notwithstanding the disadvantages under which most of the volunteer troops worked, they pressed forward with alacrity, supported the regulars with unfailing courage, fought bravely when opportunity offered, and if the war had lasted would soon have been professional soldiers themselves.

The modern Krag-Jorgensen gun has far greater velocity, carries much farther, and is more accurate than the old Springfield rifle. Not a regiment of the State troops, which formed the bulk of the army, was equipped with this new gun, however, and the factory which made them could not turn out more than one hundred fifty a day; at this rate it took nearly a week to fit out a single regiment. Many States sent arms of different types and calibres, which obviously could not be served with the same ammunition.

There was also a scarcity of ammunition at the time of the declaration of war. This lack was so great that target practice had to be limited. But under the emergency appropriation of fifty million dollars, contracts were let for large quantities of ammunition, and the factories were worked night and day, making one kind for the regulars and other kinds for the volunteers, until they were fairly supplied.

The sequel proved that smokeless powder played a new and a large part in the efficiency and comparative safety of the troops. If the volunteer soldiers that fought at Santiago had been supplied with the Krag-Jorgensen rifle and smokeless powder, they would have been more destructive to the enemy; offering a less conspicuous target by their clouds of smoke, they would have suffered less slaughter themselves.

Guantanamo, Daiquiri, Guasimas, El Caney, San Juan, and Santiago-these names mark the landing of the American army in Cuba, and the route of progress to a splendid triumph of American arms on that island. But they stand for much more-for heroism and aggressiveness, for patience, endurance, and persistence, for hardship and death, for the expulsion of the Spaniard, and the final termination of Spanish rule in America.

The first armed movement toward the expulsion from Cuba of the Spanish army of nearly 200,000 men was to establish a blockade of naval vessels along the coast in order to cut off from that army all information and supplies.

War actually began on April 21st, when the telegraph operator at the White House sent out the President’s order to the waiting fleet at Key West to sail instantly to Cuba. For days these warships under Rear-Admiral Sampson had been awaiting that order, ready, like racers, to spring at the signal. The captains were in the Admiral’s cabin on board the New York late in the evening of the 21st when the despatch arrived. Within an hour the searchlights had begun feeling their way out of the harbor, and before daylight of the 22d the whole fleet was in the open sea sweeping toward Havana.

There was, as yet, however, no army for invasion. The President had not even called for volunteers when our sailors arrived before Morro Castle. Until an adequate invading force could be gathered and equipped it would have been useless to attempt to batter down the powerful fortifications of Havana. While the new troops were assembling in their various camps, it was the navy’s business only to look out for the enemy’s fleet, and to isolate the enemy’s army from supplies and communication.

Reinforced from day to day with the newly obtained vessels of all sorts, the American Admiral stretched a cordon of blockaders well around the island. The first action of the war was the bombardment of the fortifications of Matanzas, not far eastward from Havana, on April 28th. At Cardenas Bay, on May 11th, there was a sharp engagement with Spanish batteries and gun-boats, in which Ensign Bagley and four men on the torpedo-boat Winslow were killed. On the same day several men from the Marblehead were killed while cutting a cable at Cienfuegos. The Spanish Admiral, Cervera, with a formidable fleet, had sailed from Spain, and Sampson cruised eastward to San Juan, Porto Rico, in the hope of meeting him. Failing to find the Spanish fleet, he bombarded the forts of San Juan for a few hours on May 12th, and then returned to Cuba.

But meanwhile our new army of more than 250,000 men was being mobolized as rapidly as possible. To the impatient people, the mustering in, the equipping, and the drilling of these troops seemed very slow, and we were aware for the first time how impossible it would have been to meet on even terms an invading army of a high European Power, like Great Britain, if promptly thrown upon our territory.

From State camps the regiments were transferred to national rendezvous, the most famous of which were Camp Thomas at Chattanooga and Camp Alger near Washington. Thence, as the troops became ready for service, they could be transported to the ports most convenient for embarkation. Tampa, on the west coast of Florida-the same Tampa where, nearly four centuries before, the Spanish cavalier, De Soto, began his adventurous march through the unknown lands that now are part of the United States-was selected as the best point of departure for the expedition to Cuba.

The Fifth Army Corps was encamped here under Major-General William R. Shafter. This body of troops, most of whom were regulars, had the honor of constituting the first expedition of land forces for the rescue of Cuba.

There were several reasons, however, why it seemed wise to delay the expedition. A fleet of transport-ships conveying an army over hostile waters is at the mercy of even a very inferior enemy. A single well-directed shell or torpedo could sink a ship carrying a thousand defenceless soldiers. Although the war-ships which would convoy a fleet of transports might quickly annihilate the enemy’s squadron, nevertheless the chance of sinking a number of our crowded transports would warrant any Spanish commander in making the desperate attack. Consequently it would seem like a tempting of fate for a vast expedition of soldiers to venture out until the sea was reasonably safe from the enemy’s cruisers and torpedo-boats.

Spain proved formidable in her power of sending out misleading rumors. Such contradictory reports were received from various quarters of Europe, as well as from many ports in the neighborhood of the West Indies, that it became impossible to tell where the powerful fleets of Admiral Cervera and Admiral Camara were to be found. They might be in the ports of Spain; they might be at the Canary or Cape Verd Islands; they might be hovering near the New England coast; they might be dodging among the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Certainly, until they were either located or destroyed, the open sea was no place for 16,000 soldiers gathered on the frail transports.

Consequently, from week to week the impetuous army waited on the burning sand at Tampa while the navy seemed to have all the opportunities for service.

The first attempt of the American army to land on the shore of Cuba was made on May 12th by the officers and men of the First United States Infantry, who had been sent on the steamer Gussie to carry supplies to the Cubans. The Spaniards, however, had intercepted the Cuban party, and appeared in such force and resisted the attempts to land with such spirit that the Americans withdrew without making connection with their Cuban allies. Though our troops suffered no loss, but inflicted considerable damage upon the Spanish, we were obliged to admit that the first advantage rested with the enemy.

During the next fortnight the fleet of Admiral Cervera arrived on this side of the ocean and was finally discovered in Santiago harbor. The voyage of this hostile force from Cadiz to Santiago was romantic with interest to the world.

When the war broke out, this fleet was at the Cape Verd Islands. These islands belong to Portugal. Our Government protested against the fleet being harbored in a neutral port, in violation of international law. After much delay Portugal informed the Government at Washington, April 26th, that forty-eight hours would be given to the Spanish ships in which to leave the Cape Verd Islands. On April 28th, however, they were still there. But Portugal now definitely declared her neutrality, and Cervera, having had ample time to lay in provision and coal his fleet, steamed leisurely away. Where he had gone was a mystery. He was reported to be at the Canary Islands. He was reported to have arrived in Spain. He was said to have been seen crossing the Atlantic. His fleet, though not large, was powerful because of its homogeneity. It had no slow transports to retard its progress. It consisted of the five armored cruisers-the Cristobal Colon, the Infanta Maria Teresa, the Almirante Oquendo, the Vizcaya, the Reina Mercedes-and three swift torpedo-boat destroyers.

Finally the uncertainty uplifted. About May 11th the Spanish flotilla was definitely reported at the French island of Martinique, and shortly afterward at the island of Curacao, just north of Venezuela.

While Sampson was returning from his hunt for Cervera at Porto Rico, the Spaniard was sailing due northwest for Santiago de Cuba, which he reached on May 19th. His arrival at Santiago was not known by the Americans with certainty for several days. While Sampson kept guard near Key West, Commodore Schley with the "flying squadron" was watching the harbor of Cienfuegos on the southern coast of Cuba, where Cervera was reported to be hidden. At last his hiding-place at Santiago was discovered, and on May 28th, Schley, with his flagship the Brooklyn, accompanied by the Massachusetts, the Texas, the Iowa, the Marble-head, the Minneapolis, the Castine, the torpedo-boat Dupont, and the auxiliary cruiser St. Paul, the coaling ship Merrimac, and others, arrived off Santiago; and the next day they were able to look through the narrow neck of the bottle-shaped harbor and to see the enemy’s ships lying safely at anchor behind the frowning fortifications and the network of submarine torpedoes.

To verify fully the assurance that all the Spanish vessels were there, Lieutenant Victor Blue, of the navy, made a daring and famous reconnaissance. He landed and, at the greatest risk, climbed the hills, counted the enemy’s ships, and returned with the report that the five cruisers and two torpedo-boats were actually imprisoned in the bay.

In a few days Rear-Admiral Sampson, with the flagship New York and the battleship Oregon, the cruiser New Orleans, and several auxiliary vessels and torpedo-boats, reenforced Commodore Schley and took command of the fleet that was keeping Cervera "bottled" in Santiago.

Lieutenant Hobson took the coaling-ship Merrimac by night beneath the guns of the forts, and while under the most terrible fire from both shores, endeavored to anchor his ship in the narrow channel, to sink her by his own hand, in order to leave her wreck to block the Spanish ships if they should attempt to escape. That the Merrimac was not sunk at the precise spot intended was due to the rudder being shot away. When morning came he and his six companions who had volunteered for the enterprise were, as by a miracle, alive and unhurt, clinging to a raft. The fact that the attempt to close the harbor was not fully successful does not detract from the sublime heroism of the men.

The situation now was this: The Spanish fleet was indeed besieged; it might dash for liberty, but, in the face of such a superior and vigilant force, it would have but little chance. On the other hand, the besiegers were unable to reach it so long as it chose to remain in its haven; the narrow channel was a network of submarine mines which would sink the first vessel that entered; and the lofty forts on the cliffs above could at such close range pour down an annihilating torrent of shells upon the thin decks of the attacking ships, which, at that nearness, could not lift their guns sufficiently to silence the batteries. Their elevation was 50 great that successive bombardments, though they damaged, did not destroy, the batteries.

Nevertheless, until they were destroyed or captured it was evident that the ships could not advance into the channel to clear it of its sunken torpedoes. The aid of the army was therefore necessary. A force by land was required to capture the harbor forts, so that the battleships might steam in and engage the Spanish fleet. Accordingly, General Shafter was ordered to take his troops, land near Santiago, and capture the forts.

Before he started, however, the navy, on June 10th, made a landing. It was the first permanent foothold gained by Americans on Cuba. Under the protection of the guns of the Oregon, the Marblehead, and the Yosemite, six hundred marines landed at Guantanamo Bay, in command of Lieutenant-Colonel R. W. Huntington. Their landing was stoutly resisted by the Spaniards. All day and all night the fighting continued, as the little band desperately defended their camp from the continuous and encircling volleys. Here were the first American lives lost on Cuban soil. But, in spite of their severe losses, the marines held the flag where they had planted it.

General Shafter’s expedition started on June 14th. Thirty-five transports carried sixteen thousand men. They went under the protection of fourteen armed vessels of the navy. The battle-ship Indiana led the way. Six days later they came in sight of Morro Castle at the entrance to the bay of Santiago, and soon they heard the cheers from the battleships on duty there.

On the second morning thereafter, the battleships shelled the shore at four different points along the forty miles of coast in order to mislead the Spaniards; and then at nine o’clock the signal was given for all the troops to go ashore as quickly as possible at Daiquiri, sixteen miles east of the entrance to Santiago harbor and twenty-four miles west of Guantanamo, where the marines were still maintaining the flag they had planted.

In a moment the water was covered with small boats. Men jumped overboard and swam to shore in their eagerness to be first upon the land. Soon the beach was black with American soldiers. The Spaniards had fled in haste, leaving their camp equipment, and in some cases their breakfasts, behind them. Then the unloading of the transports began. Men with little or no clothing upon them went to and fro, between the ships and the shore, carrying arms and supplies. The artillery was landed at the one little wharf of an iron-company. The horses and mules were pushed overboard and left to swim ashore; though some of them swam out to the open ocean and could not get back.

In a short time four men were seen climbing the mountain-side hundreds of feet above the level of the sea. Soon the tiny figures were attracting the attention of the crowd. They were making for the blockhouse at the highest peak. They could be seen to stop and look into the fort for a moment; then to reach the house. Directly "Old Glory" appeared waving against the sky. In an instant every steam-whistle in the great fleet, for miles around, was shrieking, and every man on the decks and in the rigging of the ships, in the water and on the shore, was shouting for the flag of freedom and for what it represented and proclaimed.

The little army was stretched out upon the shore, and that night its campfires sparkled for miles against the black background of the hills.

The advance upon Santiago was begun immediately. General Shafter understood clearly that he had more to fear from climatic sickness than from the enemy’s bullets, and determined to finish the fight with the greatest rapidity possible. Consequently he did not wait for the unloading of all his supplies, but pushed his men forward over the mountain-paths with only such outfit as they could carry on their backs, intending to follow them closely with the heavy artillery and the baggage-trams.

But he was not aware of the true condition of the roads. There were no roads. What were called such on the maps were at best only bridle-paths, and more often mere mountain trails. These trails passed over rocks, fallen timber, through swamps, and over bridgeless streams. The soldiers, as soon as they began to march, found themselves an army of mountain-climbers. The sun burned in the breathless glades like a furnace. It was the rainy season, and each day showers of icy coldness would pour down for hours; and when the rain ceased the sun would beat down more fiercely than before, while the humidity was almost insupportable. Sun-baked paths suddenly became mountian torrents; at one hour the men were suffocated with the fine dust, the next hour they were wading in mud above their gaiters. Strange insects buzzed about them, and they were followed by an army of disagreeable attendants with which they soon became familiar-clattering land-crabs, the scavengers of the country. The progress of the troops was a crawling rather than a march.

The Spaniards withdrew as our soldiers advanced. Most of our men never had heard a gun fired in battle, but now they expected the conflict to begin at any time. There was no trepidation; they made little noise lest they might not get near the enemy. But if the army moved slowly, events moved rapidly. On the second day, even before the whole army was ashore, the first battle with loss of life occurred. The troops were advancing by different paths to take position on the line of battle that was to surround the city. Near the centre was the First Regiment of United States Volunteer Cavalry, popularly called the "Rough Riders."

This regiment of cowboys and ranchmen, with a sprinkling of college youths and young men of wealth and social distinction, was commanded by Colonel Leonard Wood and Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. The former had been a surgeon in the regular army with military training in western campaigns on the plains. The latter was one of the best-known young men in the Republic; famous for his courageous honesty in politics and for his patriotic energy in civil administration. He had resigned the office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy to organize this unique and picturesque regiment under the command of his friend Colonel Wood. The Rough Riders had left their horses in Florida because of the difficulty of transportation and the lack of open ground in Cuba. As they were threading their way on foot over the hilis, their trail joined that of the regulars at the place called Guasimas. There they received a sudden volley from the enemy concealed in the thick glades, but they held their ground and returned the fire. They were unable to see their foes, whose smokeless powder gave no trace of their location; but through the tall grass and brush they steadily pushed on in the face of the dropping death, firing with calm precision. One after another of the Riders dropped dead or grievously wounded, but these young men, who never had been under fire, no more thought of turning back than a college team at a football game. Their colonels handled carbines like the men and were at every point in the line they had deployed through the brush.

Soon they were joined by the colored regulars, and then they fought together. Among the Rough Riders and the regulars engaged there were about one thousand men, and they were fighting four thousand Spaniards.

The wounded that could walk were urged to go to the rear, but most of them refused; and, sitting at the foot of the trees, continued their deadly marksmanship at any sign of the Spanish. When there was an opening in the glades the men crouched and crawled toward the enemy; when there was a little protection of trees, they dashed forward, firing as they went. The Spaniards did not understand this kind of fighting. According to their rules, after such murderous volleys as they had poured into the Americans, their enemy should have fallen back. Instead of this, as one of the Spanish prisoners said, "They kept pushing forward as if they were going to take us with their hands."

After two hours of this fighting, under the unfaltering advance and accurate fire of the Americans, the Spanish volleys became fewer and less effective. Then the Spaniards broke and ran. When the battle was over, the American soldiers had lost sixteen killed and fifty-two wounded, but they were two miles nearer Santiago than when they met their first fire.

It had been a strange battle, appealing peculiarly to the patriotic pride of the American people. On that day, college men and the bronzed cowboys of the plains, millionaires and negroes, all were standing upon the common level of American citizenship, true brothers in devotion to duty; and there were no differences in courage or manliness.

The Spaniards appeared to have a curious notion of the Americans as fighters; they thought that after a sharp resistance they would draw back, and that on the next morning they would be gone. Instead, the Americans were nearer to Santiago on each succeeding day of their exhausting climbing. Slowly and surely the lines drew up around the city. The Spanish garrison numbered thirteen thousand men, amply supplied with ammunition, behind trenches and barbed-wire fences which were so well arranged as to excite the admiration of our engineers.

The country was filled with Spanish soldiers. Everyone knew that the heaviest work was yet to be done. Around and above Santiago was an open plateau. Here the dense and tangled thickets and the mountain trails ended. The problem before General Shafter was to close around Santiago and capture it before General Linares with his thirteen thousand soldiers could escape, and before General Pando, marching from the north, could throw in his reenforcement of eight thousand men.

The city of Santiago is so located, at the head of its long harbor, that a complete line of investiture would stretch from the sea-coast on the east to a point near the head of the harbor on the west of the city-a line resembling a huge fishhook. At the northern end of this line, where the shank of the hook begins to turn into the curve, and about four miles northeast from Santiago is the suburb of El Caney; one mile east of El Caney is San Juan.

The hills of El Caney and San Juan each slope rather sharply to the eastward, the direction from which our troops were coming. Between the foot of these ridges and the woods is open country. To march across this open is difficult because of gulleys, winding streams, thick grass, and low bushes.

The suburb of El Caney nestles on the hillsides, and here the rich Santiagoans had built country residences. On the top of San Juan were farmhouses. The Spanish engineers had perceived how formidable these bluffs might be made to an invading army, and had transformed the farmhouses and country-seats into forts, with ramparts of broken stone and bags of sand, and with loopholes. Each hill was crowned also by a blockhouse fort. Indeed, a score of these little forts, which had previously proved so effectual against the Indian-like attacks of the Cubans, stretched along the commanding ridges outside of Santiago. In addition, on the face of the eastern ridge were admirably constructed lines of rifle-pits, and below these were interminable barbed-wire fences. In the lines on lines of trenches and inside the little forts were desperate defenders, with terrible rapid-firing Mauser rifles, which, if used scientifically, might sweep from the earth any body of troops advancing across the mile of clear country. In view of this kind of advantage, common military prudence seemed to dictate that no charge should be made against these defences until they had been destroyed by artillery.

But, on the other hand, because of the impossible roads General Shafter could not bring up his siege-guns; indeed, these powerful pieces never were landed from the transports. It had taken days to get even the light batteries of Captains Capron and Grimes over the few miles from the landing-place to a position in front of the bluffs of El Caney and San Juan.

A general advance along the whole length of the American line was begun in the afternoon of June 30th. General Lawton’s division was to attack El Caney. General Kent’s division, with General Wheeler’s division of dismounted cavalry, was to move against San Juan. General Duffield’s brigade was to proceed against Aguadores, which was on the seacoast south of San Juan and a little east of Morro Castle.

With General Lawton, for the attack on El Caney, was Captain Capron’s battery; and for the attack on San Juan, Captain Grimes’s battery had been assigned. On the morning of July 1st General Lawton’s division was in the shape of a half-circle around El Caney. At five o’clock in the morning the advance on the town was begun.

At sunrise the Spanish flag was run up its staff, and immediately the American guns opened fire. At first the shells brought no answer, but soon the enemy’s artillery began to drop shells into the American lines with unexpected accuracy, while from the trenches and the loopholes of the stone fort and of the fortified houses the infantry poured at the American position a sweeping and effective fire.

But from the American lines the incessant stream of Krag-Jorgensen bullets, as well as the artillery, was working terrible destruction. The Spaniards had the better position and stronger defences; but the Americans had coolness and a vastly superior accuracy of aim. Their soldiers fired as deliberately as at a marksmanship contest; wherever a Spanish straw hat was seen above the trenches, or an officer exposed himself, there was a target for a dozen rifles; before that scientific aiming each loophole in the blockhouse became a point of fatal exposure.

The battle lasted all day. Men were dying on every side. One journalist who was with the command counted twenty-five dead in an hour. The officers advised and steadied the men, who were no less heroic than themselves; yet many officers disdained to crouch as they compelled their men to do, and, as conspicuous targets, they were dropping in large numbers.

For most of these soldiers it was their first battle; yet there was no evidence of panic, nor was a single act of cowardice observed. The foreign military attaches who were present were astounded at the steadiness of these soldiers, who were receiving their first baptism of fire.

All the morning and long into the afternoon the creeping advance continued. The smokeless powder of the Spaniards often made their fire bewildering. The storm of bullets came from new directions, and when it was discovered that the bodies of the men were being hit on a different side, the masked batteries and trenches had to be first located and then silenced.

The Spanish sharpshooters penetrated between the American regiments, hid themselves among the trees, and fired upon the wounded as they were staggering to the rear. When this was discovered the comrades of the wounded were beside themselves with rage. But the regulars only moved forward a few feet and aimed their Krag-Jorgensens with more dogged determination.

Thus, until the middle of the afternoon, the slow advance went on; the dark blue shirts writhed forward from bush to bush, and yard by yard shortened the distance; sometimes little dashes were made from one poor protection to another, but every one of these short rushes was a deadly adventure. It was a battle under new conditions.

At half-past three the broken and bushy ground had been crossed and the Americans were facing the trenches. The order was passed down the line for a general rush. With a roaring cheer the regiments leaped to their feet and dashed at the hill. They did not go in

ranks-scarcely in companies. It was a race to reach the trenches and to swarm around the fort.

Captain Haskell, of the Twelfth Infantry, was conspicuous in the rush, his long white beard streaming back like the plume of Henry of Navarre. Officers and men dropped in appalling numbers in the gusts of death. But no force was able to check that charge. Prying down the barbed-wire fences, cheering with that thunderous yell which only Americans can give, they closed over the trenches, which were found filled with dead men. In a moment more the blue uniforms were seen around the fortifications on the hilltop; the barricaded doors were broken in and holes were made in the roofs.

But the Spaniards had finished their fight. The barricaded streets of El Caney offered little resistance. A few shots more, and the town was in the hands of the exhausted but jubilant Americans.

Superb in this charge were the colored soldiers of the Twenty- fourth Regiment. At Guasimas colored troops had saved the Rough Riders; at El Caney they fought with no less heroism. The officers of the regular army say that no better soldiers ever wore a uniform, and prisoners taken from the fort at El Caney insisted that the colored troops were nine feet tall and could strangle them with their fists.

At half-past four the American troops had possession of the town. They found the Spanish dead lying in lines in the block-house behind the loopholes from which they had fired. The dead were in the streets and in the houses. The trenches were open graves. When the little fort was broken into, only one Spanish officer and four men were alive out of the entire garrison. The forces on the opposing sides had been about equal.

One of the surviving Spanish officers has told the story of the battle, and in it he said: "The enemy’s fire was incessant, and we answered with equal rapidity. I never have seen anything to equal the courage and dash of those Americans, who, stripped to the waist, offering their naked breasts to our murderous fire, literally threw themselves on our trenches, on the very muzzles of our guns. Our execution must have been terrible. We had the advantage of our position and mowed them down by hundreds, but they never retreated or fell back an inch. As one man fell, shot through the heart, another would take his place with grim determination and unflinching devotion to duty in every line of his face."

The number of Spanish dead is unknown. But three hundred seventy-seven American soldiers were killed or wounded.

After taking El Caney the American outposts were at once pushed forward beyond the town and also within rifle-shot of the intrenchments of San Juan.

While the Battle of El Caney was going on, the troops there engaged could hear the roar of the guns of El Poso, which had opened on San Juan on their left, about three miles south. El Poso is a hill about a mile and a half from the hill of San Juan.

General Lawton did not finish capturing El Caney until the end of the afternoon. But meantime the American forces in front of San Juan could not endure being shot to pieces by the Spaniards, and so went forward to capture the hill alone.

This hill is just outside of the city of Santiago, directly to the east. Looked at on its eastern side it appears like a sharp bluff. On top was a low farmhouse with broad eaves. This had been turned into a fortification by the Spanish, as had also a long shed near by. East of this farmhouse, near the edge of the hill, were long rows of Spanish trenches; back of the farmhouse, toward Santiago, was a dip in the ground, and on the rise toward the city were more trenches. Barbed-wire fences were everywhere.

Looking eastward from the bluff of San Juan Hill is a meadow one-third of a mile in width, before one reaches the brush and trees of the forest. This meadow, in the main, is a tangle of high grass, broken by scattered trees and barbed-wire fences. A little to the northeast from San Juan is a shallow duck-pond, and just beyond this water is a low hill which, from its great sugar-kettles on top, the Americans called Kettle Hill. Beyond the rolling meadow are the woods, broken by swift winding streams; through this timber come the irregular, mountainous trails from Siboney, along which the troops had toiled, and on either side of which they had bivouacked for several days.

General Shafter had ordered the troops of the First Division, under General Kent, which was to attack San Juan, to march forward all at once through this narrow trail and form in line of battle as they emerged at the edge of the woods. The road in some places was a hundred feet broad, in others it was not more than ten; practically it was no wider anywhere than at its narrowest part, and as the troops entered the road from their bivouacs there was an almost instant jam. While thus crowded they found themselves under fire without knowing whence the bullets came. It was discovered that the tree-tops concealed large numbers of Spanish sharpshooters, many of whom had been tied in the trees by their officers. Several companies of colored troops were at once ordered into the thicket to bring down these sharpshooters without quarter. After a time the marching crowd was thus partially relieved of its hidden enemies; but the troops, as they neared the edge of the woods, came within the fire of both the Spanish artillery and rifles, and men began to fall rapidly. The confusion of the narrow road was bewildering; two brigades were marching side by side and became hopelessly intermingled. Orders were issued and countermanded; and sometimes the reversal of an order reached an officer before the order itself.

The war-balloon, which had been at the head of the troops, had served the Spanish as a fatal index of our location, and was the cause of much of the early slaughter of the day. Before it came down, however, it had discovered a fork in the road to the left, which led to the open meadow. Through this fork a portion of the troops was at once hurried. But the Spaniards well knew the points where the two roads emerged into the open meadow, and those spots were pens of death.

From the high hill of El Poso, Captain Grimes’s battery began firing early in the morning at the trenches and the fortified farmhouse. But its old-fashioned powder enveloped it in smoke after each discharge, and it was at least a minute before a second aim could be taken, while its cloud of smoke made it a conspicuous target for the Spaniards; therefore it soon ceased firing and took a new position nearer the enemy.

There was a steady march of wounded men toward the rear; motionless dead were everywhere. Fainting under the heat of the sun and in the suffocation of the tall grass on the sides of the road, men were at the extremity of their endurance, with lolling tongues and staring eyes. At last endurance was no longer possible. There were no general orders to advance, for the brigade commanders knew that they had been ordered into this position, and they had received no orders from headquarters to leave it.

Then the colonels and captains took the matter into their own hands. Somehow, about noon a forward movement began. Conspicuous among the leaders were General Hawkins and Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt. Soldiers fell in behind any officers who would lead. Lieutenant Ord, who fell dead at the top of the hill, shouted as he started, "All who are brave, follow me." Each officer rallied all the men he could reach.

There was little regard for regimental formation. They did not run fast, for the grass was too thick and the obstacles were too sharp; yet they panted forward through tee tall grass, through the morass, and up the steep hill, aiding one another and pulling themselves up by the bushes. They reserved their own fire until they were so close to the trenches that they could see the whites of their enemies’ eyes, and then they aimed with such accuracy that in a few moments not a living Spaniard was left in the intrenchments.

Then they rushed against the blockhouse; presently that fortification ceased to spit its fire, its garrison was dead, and the Stars and Stripes were waving over its spreading roof.

The Spanish Commander-in-Chief, General Linares, had fallen wounded, and the few surviving defenders of San Juan were running toward Santiago. It was estimated that seventy per cent. of the Spanish in the trenches and the blockhouse had fallen.

This was not a battle where strategy had won; generalship had seemed to fall to pieces; it was the unconquerable nerve of the individual soldier that had triumphed.

While the battles of El Caney and San Juan were being fought, on that first day of July, the Third Division of General Shafter’s army was attacking the base of Morro Castle near Aguadores. The fleet was expected to cooperate in this attack. The Spaniards, however, dynamited the long trestle-bridge across which General Duffield’s troops were expected to march; and under the sweeping fire of the enemy it proved impossible to make the attack.

When night fell on July 1st the American army had won two victories. But the cost had been terrible. Two hundred thirty men had been killed and twelve hundred eighty-four were wounded. Many were missing. In other words, out of the attacking forces at El Caney and San Juan, every sixth man had fallen.

All night long, after the battles, the tired men worked industriously in building intrenchments on the other side of San Juan, anticipating that the Spaniards would attempt to retake it.

The next morning the Spaniards began firing at daylight and the battle raged all day. The losses were considerable, and the suffering of the troops was great, but the advantage gained was firmly held. The day was occupied by our artillery in securing good positions to shell the city. At ten o’clock the next night a serious attack was made upon the American line with the purpose of breaking through, but it was effectually repulsed. The third day (Sunday) there was some firing, but not with much spirit. On the morning of that day General Shafter demanded the surrender of Santiago. The demand was not complied with, but the American army was content to rest a little, to recover from the shock of battle and gather up its strength.

That Sunday afternoon General Chaffee, riding along the front of his brigade, said to Colonel O’Brien and Major Brush of the Seventeenth Infantry: "Gentlemen, we have lost all we came for; the game has flown; the Spanish fleet is forty miles away on the high seas." Indeed, that Sunday morning was a fateful hour in the history of the world’s contest for freedom. While the army behind the city of Santiago held the ground they had gained at such cost, and waited for the next onset, knowing how serious it must be, the battleships and cruisers in Admiral Sampson’s squadron were riding at the mouth of Santiago Bay-waiting and hoping for the moment when the trying routine of watching would be dropped for the roar and dash of a great naval engagement.

There was the armored cruiser Brooklyn, capable of twenty-one knots an hour, with Commodore Schley, the second officer in the squadron, on board-the same Schley who years before took out of the arctic snows the dying survivors of the Greely expedition and brought them home. There was the fine battleship Oregon, fresh from her long journey of fifteen thousand miles from Puget Sound, around Cape Horn, and her sister-ship the Indiana, both with their eighteen-inch walls of steel, and thirteen-inch guns which throw a projectile five miles. Every charge in these guns requires more than five hundred pounds of powder; every shell weighs more than hali a ton; and every discharge, at the pressure of an electric button, costs five hundred sixty dollars. There was the battleship Texas, called a "hoodoo" because of her many misfortunes, but afterward famous for her brilliant work. There was also the battleship Iowa with "Fighting Bob" Evans in command. In the neighborhood was the battleship Massachusetts, as well as other cruisers, torpedo-boats, and ocean liners and pleasure-yachts converted into ships-of-war.

The commander of the fleet, Rear-Admiral Sampson, was absent for the first time in many weeks. Under the orders of President McKinley, and knowing the extremity in which the army was placed, he had steamed a few miles east with the flag-ship New York to confer with General Shafter and if possible afford relief. He had repeatedly said, "If I go away, something will happen."

At about half-past nine, just as the bugle sounded for service upon the Texas, the navigator on the forward bridge of the Brooklyn called out through his megaphone: "After bridge there! Report to the Commodore and the captain that the enemy’s ships are coming out." At the same instant the boom of a gun on the Iowa attracted attention and a string of little flags up her rigging signalled: "The enemy’s ships are escaping to the westward."

In an instant, on every vessel, all was commotion where a moment before had been perfect order. But even the excitement showed absolute system, for with a rush every man in all the crews was in his place for battle, every vessel was moving up, and every gun was ready for action. From the warning of the lookout to the boom of the guns the time was less than three minutes.

The New York was just ready to land Rear-Admiral Sampson at a point seven miles east of Morro Castle. In twenty minutes he would have been riding over the hills to the head-quarters of the army. But the leap of the ships was seen and the flagship was put about and started under highest steam for the fray.

The Spanish flagship, the Maria Teresa, thrust her nose out of the opening and was followed by the other armored cruisers, the Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, and Almirante Oquendo, and the torpedo-boat destroyers, Pluton and Furor. The vessels were from eight hundred to twelve hundred yards apart and occupied from twelve to fifteen minutes in passing the cape at the mouth of the harbor. As they did so they turned to the west, most of the American ships being just then a little to the east of the entrance.

As the Spanish cruisers came in range they opened their batteries upon the Americans, but continued to fly westward with all the speed they could make. The two torpedo craft made directly for the Brooklyn. As the American ships closed up, the shore batteries on both sides of the opening began a heavy fire.

The guns of the American fleet opened with terrific effect at the first moment of opportunity. The Brooklyn realized in an instant that it was to be a chase, and that she was to lead it. She steamed at the Spanish flagship and at the Vizcaya at full speed. She had been a rival of the Vizcaya at Queen Victoria’s Jubilee the year before. The Iowa and the Texas rained their great shells upon the enemy with fearful effect.

The little converted yacht Gloucester, under Lieutenant-Commander Richard Wainwright, comprehended that it was her business to take care of the torpedo-boats, and appeared to imagine that she was a battleship instead of an unprotected pleasure-yacht. She ran in at close range, sometimes being completely hidden by smoke, and worked her small rapid-firing guns accurately and with deadly results. The Gloucester received orders by signal to get out of danger, but Wainwright said the signal seemed to him to order him to close in. This commander had a terrible score to settle because of the ill-fated Maine. From the night of her destruction he had been grimly awaiting his opportunity. Now that his chance had come, he fought his little yacht with a fury that bewildered the Spaniards and amazed the American fleet. He explained that he was afraid he might strain his guns if he used them at long range! so he got as close to the enemy as he could, firing at the big ships as well as at the torpedo craft. His fire was so rapid and exact that the enemy were not able even to launch their torpedoes; one torpedo squad after another being swept away before they could load their tubes.

Hardly had the battle opened when one of the largest guns sent a shell through the Pluton which practically broke her in two. The Furor tried to seek refuge behind the cruisers, but the Gloucester ran in and out and riddled her with an unerring fire which reached her vitals and sent her plunging toward the shore, to break upon a reef and go down under the rolling surf. Some of her crew were helped upon the gallant little vessel that had destroyed her. Out of one hundred forty men on the two vessels but twenty-four survived.The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol.19, Pg.256 - Pg.257
In fifteen minutes the Maria Teresa and the Oquendo were on fire. At a quarter-past ten the former of these was completely disabled, gave up the fight, and ran on the shore at a point about six and a half miles from the harbor, and in another quarter of an hour the other did the same thing a half-mile farther on. One had been hit thirty-three times and the other sixty-six.

The Vizcaya, in three-quarters of an hour more, struck her colors and turned to the shore fifteen miles from the harbor.

These vessels were pierced by shells in many places; they were burning and their guns and ammunition bursting, with the likelihood that their magazines would explode at any moment. As the only resort in the last extremity, they were run on the beach, where they sank and careened over on their sides. Hundreds of their crews were dead or wounded and many more jumped into the heavy sea to save themselves.

The American boats went quickly to their rescue. As the Texas passed one of the stranded vessels her men started a cheer, but Captain John W. Philip, with fine chivalry, told them not to cheer when other brave men were dying. The Iowa and the Ericsson took off the crew of the Vizcaya, and the Gloucester and the Harvard those of the Maria Teresa and the Oquendo. Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright received Admiral Cervera at his gangway and made the defeated Spanish officer as comfortable as possible. The men helped the Spaniards from the water and at great risk went aboard their vessels to carry off the wounded.

In the mean time, while her sister-ships were being destroyed, the Cristobal Colon had pushed on out of the thickest of the fire, and was hoping to escape. She was their best and fastest vessel. When the Vizcaya went ashore, fifteen miles from the start, the fleetness of the Colon had put her ahead of the rest about six miles. As soon as the fate of the Vizcaya was assured, the Iowa and the Indiana were directed to return to the blockading station, and the Brooklyn, the Oregon, the Texas, and the Vixen started on the great race for the Colon.

The high speed of the Brooklyn enabled her to lead the way. But the Oregon showed that she had speed as well as great guns. Her chief engineer had for weeks saved some choice Cardiff coal for just such an emergency, and now it was piled upon the fires with signal effect. The grimy heroes under the decks won the race that day. In the boiler-rooms the heat was almost insufferable, ranging from one hundred twenty to one hundred fifty degrees, Fahrenheit. The men fainted often and had to be lifted to the deck where the fresh air could revive them. But there was no flinching or complaint. Frequently the stokers insisted upon working overtime. No one of them in the pit was less intense or less a hero than the captain on the bridge. Once, when some of the firemen had fainted, the engineer called to the captain, "If my men can hear a few guns, they will revive."

The Colon hugged the coast for the purpose of landing if she could not escape. The pursuers struck a line for a projecting headland. There was no firing for a long distance and the crews watched the great race from the decks. The Brooklyn and the Oregon gradually drew away from the others and gained upon the Spaniard.

The Colon fired a shot at her pursuers now and then, but each fell wide of the mark. When Commodore Schley was told by the navigator that the distance between the Colon and the Oregon was but eight thousand five hundred yards, or five miles, he signalled to the battleship to try a thirteen-inch shell upon her. Instantly it whistled over the head of the Brooklyn and fell but little short of the Colon. A second one struck beyond her. A few shots were then fired by both of the American vessels. At twenty minutes after one o’clock the Colon struck her colors and ran ashore forty-two miles from the entrance to Santiago harbor. The Spanish crew scuttled and left her sinking. The Brookiyn and the Oregon soon came up, and Captain Cook of the former went aboard and received her surrender. Soon the noble vessel sank in deep water, but was pushed upon the beach by the New York, which had arrived. The next day only a small part of the stern of the ship remained above the water.

All the living men upon the stranded fleet, about sixteen hundred of them, were taken prisoners. The Spanish Admiral and most of the prominent officers were among the number. All were treated with the utmost kindness, and the wounded received every possible aid, far more than they would have had if they had not been captured.

The Spaniards had four hundred killed. The charred remains found upon their burning ships told too plainly how dreadfully they had suffered. The Americans lost but one man. George H. Ellis, a yeoman, assisting on the bridge of the Brooklyn, was asked by Captain Cook to give him the distance to the Vizcaya. He stepped into the open, took the observation, answered, "Twenty-two hundred yards, sir," and fell at the captain’s feet, for a shell had taken off his head.



COLONEL LEONARD WOOD, Commanding Second Cavalry Brigade:

SIR: On July 1st the regiment, with myself in command, was moved out by your orders, directly following the First Brigade. Before leaving the camping-ground several of our men were wounded by shrapnei. After crossing the river at the ford we were moved along and ap its right bank, under fire, and were held in reserve at a sunken road. Here we lost a good many men, including Captain O’Neil killed and Lieutenant Haskell wounded.

We then received your order to advance and support the regular cavalry in the attack on the intrenchments and blockhouses on the hills to the left. The regiment was deployed on both sides of the road, and moved forward until we came to the rearmost lines of the regulars. We continued to move forward until I ordered a charge; and the men rushed the blockhouses and rifle-pits on the hill to the right of our advance. They did the work in fine shape, though suffering severely; the guidons of Troops E and G were first planted on the summit, though the first men up were some A and B troopers who were with me. We then opened fire on the intrenchments on a hill to our left, which some of the other regiments were assailing, and which they carried a few minutes later. Meanwhile we were under a heavy rifle-fire from the intrenchments along the hills to our front, from which they also shelled us with a piece of field artillery until some of our marksmen silenced it. When the men got their wind we charged again, and carried the second line of intrenchments with a rush. Swinging to the left, we then drove the Spaniards over the brow of the chain of hills fronting Santiago. By this time the regiments were much mixed, and we were under a very heavy fire, both of shrapnel and fine rifles, from the batteries, intrenchments, and forts immediately in front of the city.

On the extreme front I now found myself in command, with fragments of the six cavalry regiments of the two brigades under me. The Spaniards made one or two efforts to retake the line, but were promptly driven back. Both General Sumner and you sent me word to hold the line at all hazard, and that night we dug a line of intrenchments across our front, using the captured Spanish intrenching-tools. We had nothing to eat except what we captured from the Spaniards; but their dinner had fortunately been cooked, and we ate it with relish, having been fighting all day. We had no blankets or coats, and lay by the trenches all night.

The Spaniards attacked us once in the night, and at dawn they opened a heavy artillery and rifle fire. Very great assistance was rendered us by Lieutenant Parker’s Gatling Battery at critical moments; he fought his guns at the extreme front of the firing line in a way that repeatedly called forth the cheers of my men.

One of the Spanish batteries that were used against us was directly in front of the hospital, so that the Red Cross flag flew over the battery, saving it from our fire for a considerable period. The Spanish Mauser bullets made clean wounds; but they also used a copper-jacketed or brass-jacketed bullet which exploded, making very bad wounds indeed.

Since then we have continued to hold the ground. The food has been short, and until to-day we could not get any blankets, coats, or shelter-tents; while the men lay all day under the fire from the Spanish batteries, intrenchments, and guerillas in trees, and worked all night in the trenches, never even taking off their shoes; but they are in excellent spirits, and ready and anxious to carry out any orders they receive.

At the end of the first day the eight troops were commanded, two by captains, three by first lieutenants, two by second lieutenants, and one by the sergeant whom you made acting lieutenant. We went into the fight about four hundred ninety strong; eighty-six men were killed or wounded, and there are still half a dozen missing. The great heat prostrated nearly forty men, some of them among the best in the regiment. Besides Captain O’Neil and Lieutenant Haskell, Lieutenants Leaby, Devereux, and Carr were wounded. All behaved with great gallantry.

As for Captain O’Neil, his loss is one of the severest that could have befallen the regiment. He was a man of cool head, great executive ability, and literally dauntless courage.

The guerillas in trees not only fired at our troops, but seemed to devote themselves especially to shooting at the surgeons, the hospital assistants with Red Cross badges on their arms, the wounded who were being carried on litters, and the burying-parties. Many of these guerillas were dressed in green uniforms. We sent out a detail of sharpshooters among those in our rear, along the line where they had been shooting the wounded, and killed thirteen.

To attempt to give a list of the men who showed signal valor would necessitate sending in an almost complete roster of the regiment. Many of the cases which I mention stand merely as examples: Captain Jenkins acted as major, and showed such conspicuous gallantry and efficiency th# I earnestly hope he may be promoted to major as soon as a vacancy occurs. Of the rest, not as exceptions, Captains Lewellen, Muller, and Luna led their troops throughout the charges, handling them admirably. At the end of the battle Lieutenants Kane, Greenwood, and Goodrich were in charge of their troops, immediately under my eye, and I wish particularly to commend their conduct throughout. Lieutenant Franz, who commanded his troop, also did well. Corporals Waller and Fortescue, and Trooper McKinley of Troop E, Corporal Rhoads of Troop D, Troopers Albertson, Winter, McGregor, and Ray Clark of Troop F, Troopers Rugbee, Jackson, and Waller of Troop A, Trumpeter McDonald of Troop L, Sergeant Hughes of Troop B, and Trooper Gerien, G Troop, all continued to fight after being wounded, some very severely; most of them fought until the end of the day. Trooper Oliver B. Norton of B, who with his brother was by my side throughout the charging, was killed while fighting with marked gallantry. Sergeant Ferguson, Corporal Lee, and Troopers Bell and Carroll of Troop K, Sergeant Dame of Troop E, Troopers Goodwin, Campbell, and Dudley Dean and Trumpeter Foster of B, and Troopers Greenwald and Bardshas of A are all worthy of special mention for coolness and gallantry; they merit promotion when the opportunity comes.

But the most conspicuous gallantry was shown by Trooper Rouland. He was wounded in the side in our first fight, but kept in the firing-line; he was sent to the hospital next day, but left it and marched out to us, overtaking us, and fought all through this battle with such indifference to danger that I was forced again and again to rate and threaten him for running needless risk.

Great gallantry was also shown by four troopers whom I cannot identify, and by Trooper Winston Clark of G. It was after we had taken our first hill. 1 had called out to rush the second, and, having by that time lost my horse, I climbed a wire fence and started toward it. After going two hundred yards under a heavy fire, I found that no one else had come; as I discovered later, it was simply because in the confusion, with men shooting and being shot, they had not noticed me start. I told the five men to wait a moment-as it might be misunderstood if we all ran back-until I ran back and started the regiment; and as soon as I did so the regiment came with a rush. But meanwhile the five men coolly lay down in the open, returning the fire from the trenches. It is to be wondered at that only Clark was seriously wounded; and he called out as we passed again to lay his canteen where he could get it, but to continue the charge and leave him where he was. All the wounded had to be left until after the fight, for we could spare no men from the firing-line.

Very respectfully,


Lieutenant-Colonel U. S. Volunteer Cavalry.



ON BOARD THE ST. LOUIS, July 9, 1898.

HONORED SIR: In compliance with your Excellency’s orders, aware of what had to happen, as I had so many times told you, I went out from Santiago harbor with the whole squadron under my command on the morning of the 3d day of July.

The instructions given for the sortie were as follows: The Infanta Maria Teresa, my flagship, was to go out first, followed by the Vizcaya, Colon, Oquendo, and destroyers, in the order named. The ships had all their fires spread and steam up. Upon going out the Teresa was to engage the nearest hostile ship, and the vessels following were to take a westerly course at full speed, with the Vizcaya at their head. The torpedo-boat destroyers were to keep out of the fire as much as possible, watching for a favorable opportunity, acting if it presented itself, and try to escape at their highest speed if the battle was against us. The ships left the harbor in such perfect order as to surprise our enemy, from whom we have since received many enthusiastic compliments on this point.

As soon as the Teresa went out, at 9.35 A.M., she opened fire on the nearest hostile ship, but shaping her course straight for the Brooklyn, which was to the southwest, for it was of the utmost importance to us to place this ship in a condition where she would not be able to make use of her superior speed. The rest of our ships engaged in battle with the other hostile ships, which at once came from the different points where they were stationed. The hostile squadron that day was composed of the following ships off Santiago harbor: The New York, Admiral Sampson’s flag-ship; the Brooklyn, Commodore Schley’s flagship; the Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, Texas, and other smaller ships, or rather trans-atlantic steamers and converted yachts.

Immediately after leaving the harbor entrance the squadron took the course prescribed and a general battle ensued, in which we were at a great disadvantage, not only owing to our inferior number, but to the condition of our armament and 5.5-inch ammunition, of which I notified your Excellency in the telegram I sent you when placing myself under your orders. There was no doubt in my mind as to the outcome, although I did not think that our destruction would be so sudden.

One of the first projectiles burst an auxiliary steam-pipe on board the Maria Teresa. A great deal of steam escaped, which made us lose the speed on which we had counted. About the same time another shell burst one of the fire-mains. The ship made a valiant defence against the galling hostile fire. Among the first wounded was our gallant commander, Captain Victor M. Concas, who had to withdraw, and as we could not afford to lose a single moment, I myself took direct command of the ship, waiting for an opportunity when the executive officer could be called. But this opportunity never arrived, as the battle became more and more fierce and the dead and wounded fell all around us, and all we could think of was to fire as much as possible.

In this critical situation fire broke out in my cabin, where some of the 2.24-inch projectiles stored there must have exploded. At the same time I was informed that the after-deck and chart-house were burning, while the fire that had begun in my cabin was spreading with great rapidity to the centre of the ship, and, as we had no water, it made rapid headway, and we were powerless to fight it. I realized that the ship was doomed, and cast about for a place where I could run her aground without losing many lives and continue the battle as long as possible.

Unfortunately the fire was gaining ground with great rapidity and voracity. I therefore sent one of my aides with instructions to flood the after-magazines, but it was found impossible to penetrate into the passages, owing to the dense clouds of smoke and on account of the steam escaping from the engine hatch, and it was impossible to breathe in that suffocating atmosphere. I therefore steered for a small beach west of Punta Cabrera, where we ran aground just as the engines stopped. It was impossible to get down the ammunition and other things below the armored deck, especially aft of the boilers, and under these circumstances all we could do was to save as many as possible of the crew. This was also the opinion of the officers whom I was able to convene, and who, when I asked them whether they thought the battle could be continued, answered, "No."

In this painful situation, when explosions were heard in the ammunition-rooms, I gave orders to lower the flag and flood all the magazines. The first order could not be carried out, on account of the terrible conflagration on the poop, which was soon completely burned. The fire was gaining rapidly. When it had reached the forward deck we hardly had time to leave the burning ship, assisted by two United States boats, which arrived about three-quarters of an hour after we had run ashore.

The rescue had been effected by those who could swim jumping into the water and trying three times to carry a line ashore, succeeding only at the last moment, assisted by the two United States boats.

We had lowered a boat that was apparently in good condition, but it sank at once. A steam launch was then lowered, but it was able to make only one trip; when it attempted to return to the ship a second time it sank, as the result of injuries received. Of the three or four men on board, one saved his life by swimming, and the others were picked up by a United States boat.

The captain of the Vizcaya, assisted by two good swimmers, had gone ashore. The executive and third officers were directing the rescue from the ship, and as it was also necessary to direct it from the shore after the United States boats had arrived, I swam ashore with the assistance of two seamen, Juan Llorca and Andre Sequeiro, and my son and aide, Lieutenant Angel Cervera.

When all the men had been landed I was notified by the United States officer in command of the boats to follow him to his ship, which was the converted yacht Gloucester. I was accompanied by my flag captain, who was wounded, my son and aide, and the executive officer of the ship, who had been the last one to leave her.

During this time the burning ship offered an awe-inspiring spectacle. The explosions following each other in rapid succession were enough to appall even the calmest soul. I do not believe it will be possible to save a single thing from the ship. We have lost everything, the majority of us reaching the shore absolutely naked. A few minutes after the Teresa, the Oquendo ran aground on a beach about half a league farther west, with fire on board similar to that of the Teresa, and the Vizcaya and Colon disappeared from sight to the westward, pursued by the hostile fleet. From the paymaster of the Oquendo, the only one of her officers on board the same ship with me, I have since learned the history of that ill-fated ship and her heroic crew. This history is as follows:

The unequal and deadly battle sustained by the Oquendo became even more unequal when shortly after it had begun a projectile entered the forward turret, killing the whole personnel with the exception of one gunner, who was badly wounded. The 5.5-inch battery, which had been swept by the hostile fire from the beginning, had only two serviceable guns left, with which the defence was continued with incomparable energy. The after-turret also lost its captain, who was killed by a shell that struck him as he opened the door of the turret, almost asphyxiated by the stifling air within. The paymaster does not know the history of the rapid-fire battery; he only knows that it kept firing the same as the rest of the valiant crew. There were two Conflagrations-the first, which was controlled, occurred in the forward hold; the other, which originated aft, could not be controlled, as the pumps were unable to furnish water, probably for the same reasons as on board the Teresa.

The 5.5-inch ammunition-hoists refused to work from the very beginning, but there was no lack of ammunition in the battery while the fight could be continued, as extra stores had been put on board all the ships as a precautionary measure. When the valiant captain of the Oquendo saw that he could not control the fire, and when he found that he had not a single serviceable gun left, he decided to run aground, after first issuing orders to discharge all the torpedoes, except the two after ones, in case any hostile ship should approach before the last moment arrived. He also ordered the flag to be lowered a few minutes after that of the Teresa, and after consultation with the officers who were present. The executive and third officers and three lieutenants had been killed.

The rescue of the survivors was organized by her captain, who lost his life in saving those of his subordinates. They made a raft and lowered two launches, the only serviceable boats they had left, and were finally assisted by United States boats, and, according to the statement of an insurgent with whom I talked on the beach, also by an insurgent boat. These two ships presented a sublime spectacle. The explosions that followed one another incessantly did not frighten those valiant sailors, who defended their ship to such an extent that not even a single enemy has been able to set his foot on her.

When the converted yacht Gloucester arrived I found on board about twenty wounded men belonging mostly to the destroyers, the captains of the latter, three officers of the Teresa, and the paymaster of the Oquendo. There were in all ninety-three men belonging to the crews of the squadron.

The captain and officers of the yacht received us with great courtesy, vying with one another in supplying our wants, which were many, for we arrived absolutely naked and half starved. The captain said to me that as his ship was so small he could not receive so many and that he should look for a larger ship to take us. The insurgents with whom I had talked had told me that they had two hundred men, among whom there were five or six wounded, and added, on the part of their captain, that if we wished to go with them we should follow them and they would help us as best they could. I told them to thank their captain for us, and tell him that we had surrendered to the Americans; but if they had a surgeon I should be grateful to them if they would look after our wounded on the beach, some of whom were very seriously injured.

I told the captain of the yacht of this conversation with the insurgents, and begged him to reclaim our men, which he promised to do; and he at once sent out a detachment with a flag. He also sent some provisions, of which those on the beach were in great need.

We then steamed easterly and met the nucleus of the squadron, from which the auxiliary cruiser Paris was detached, and our yacht proceeded until we were off Santiago, where we received instructions, according to which some were transshipped to the Iowa and the rest to other vessels, while the wounded were taken to the hospital ship.

During my stay on board the yacht I inquired of the captains of the destroyers as to the fate of their ships, as I was anxious to hear of their sad end. The history of the Furor your Excellency will learn in detail from the enclosed copy of her captain’s report. Captain Fernando Villaamil met a glorious death, and the number of casualties on board bear testimony to the valiant conduct of this little ship, whose captain also was slightly wounded.

I likewise enclose to your Excellency a copy of the report from the captain of the Pluton, who was also slightly wounded, and whose ship has as glorious a history as her companion’s.

When I reached the Iowa, where I was received with all manner of honors and marks of respect, I had the pleasure of seeing on the gangway the gallant captain of the Vizcaya, who came out and greeted me, wearing his sword, which the captain of the Iowa did not wish him to give up, in testimony of his brilliant defence. A copy of his report is also enclosed, from which your Excellency will see that the history of the Vizcaya is very similar to that of her sister-ships, the Teresa and the Oquendo, which proves that the same defects had produced the same unfortunate results, and that it was all but a question of time.

I remained on board the Iowa until 4 P.M., when I was transferred to the St. Louis, where I met the second in command of the squadron and the captain of the Colon. While I was still on board the Iowa, Admiral Sampson came up, and I asked permission to telegraph to your Excellency, which I did, as follows:

"In compliance with your Excellency’s orders, I went out from Santiago yesterday morning with the whole squadron, and, after an unequal battle against forces more than three times as large as mine, my whole squadron was destroyed. Teresa, Oquendo, and Vizcaya, all with fire on board, ran ashore; Colon, according to information from Americans, ran ashore and surrendered; the destroyers were sunk. Do not know as yet loss of men, but surely six hundred killed and many wounded (proportion of latter not so large). The survivors are United States prisoners. Gallantry of all the crews has earned most enthusiastic congratulations of enemy. Captain of Vizcaya was allowed to retain his sword. I feel very grateful for generosity and courtesy with which they treat us. We have lost everything, and I shall need funds. Cervera. July 4, 1898."

I wish to make a correction as to the fate of the Pluton, which was not sunk, but which, unable to maintain herself afloat, succeeded in running ashore, as your Excellency will see from the report of her gallant captain.

On board the St. Louis the second in command of the squadron and the captain of the Colon told me of that ship’s sad fate, the former handing me a report, a copy of which is enclosed.

In order to complete the outline of the history of this mournful day, it only remains for me to tell your Excellency that our enemies have treated us and are treating us with the utmost chivalry and kindness. They have clothed us as best they could, giving us not only articles furnished by the Government, but their own personal property. They have even suppressed almost entirely the usual hurrahs, out of respect for our bitter grief. We have been and are still receiving enthusiastic congratulations upon our action, and all are vying in making our captivity as light as possible.

To sum up, the 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.


The Admiral (CERVERA) to the Captain-General (BLANCO).

1From Andrew S. Draper’s The Rescue of Cuba (New York: Silver, Burdett and Company, 1899), by permission.


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Chicago: Theodore Roosevelt et al., "The Battles of Santiago," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 19 in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Draper, Andrew S., et al. "The Battles of Santiago." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 19, in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Draper, AS et al., 'The Battles of Santiago' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 19. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from