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PROGRESS OF THE WAR
BETWEEN SPAIN AND THE UNITED STATES OF
The "bottling" of Cervera's fleet in Santiago harbor made clear the way for military operations in Cuba. The necessity for the disposal of the Spanish fleet before the invasion of the island could be safely undertaken had been plainly evident to the Washington authorities all along, but this obstacle overcome they were free to inaugurate an active campaign on land. Of course, under existing circumstances, the objective point for the army of invasion was Santiago de Cuba. In order to capture or destroy the Spanish vessels and deliver a crushing blow to Spain it was necessary to take that city. Accordingly orders were issued for the dispatch of an army to Santiago.
In the meantime on June 7th, Admiral Sampson bombarded the defences at the entrance of the harbor; and on the same day the Marblehead and Yankee took possession of the bay of Guantanamo about thirty-five or forty miles east of Santiago, a place admirably adapted for a rendezvous for the transports which it was expected were on their way with the soldiers.
On June roth six hundred marines were landed at Guantanamo to hold it as a landing place for the troops now hourly expected. On the evening of the following day the Spaniards attacked the camp of the marines and kept up a guerilla fight for thirteen hours in the darkness. Four Ameri
cans were killed, and one wounded. At daylight the ships shelled the thickets in which the Spaniards had sheltered themselves during the night and drove them out. On the 12th and 14th the gallant marines were again attacked, some killed and others wounded, but they succeeded in repelling the enemy and continued to hold their position.
On June 21st the troops under command of MajorGeneral William R. Shafter, arrived off Santiago. This expedition consisted of about sixteen thousand troops, and arrived on thirty-two troop ships, convoyed by fourteen war ships. It was the largest expedition since the Crimean War, over forty years ago. The transports moved in three lines, one thousand feet apart, with an interval of six hundred feet between the ships of each line. War vessels were stationed on each flank of the transports and the whole fleet covered the sea for eight miles in length and one in breadth. On the day following their arrival the disembarkation of the troops was commenced at Baiquiri and on the 23rd the landing was completed. A strong body of insurgents assisted the Americans in the vicinity of the landing place and rendered valuable aid.
The march toward Santiago commenced, the Spaniards offering spirited resistance at every step. The expedition started from Juragua, the first place occupied after the landing at Baiquiri on June 22nd. Word was brought to the American army that Spanish forces had assembled about five miles outside of Santiago to oppose the progress of the troops. On June 24th four troops of the first, and four troops of the tenth cavalry under General Young, and eight troops of Roosevelt's Rough Riders, under Colonel Wood, about one thousand men in all, dismounted and started to dislodge them. Practically two battles were fought, one by the regulars under General Young on the hillside, and one by the Rough Riders on the top of the plateau.
The road followed by Wood's men was over steep hills and through thick underbrush, which afforded every opportunity for an ambuscade. The men toiled on in the sweltering heat of the tropical sun, throwing away their blankets and tent rolls as they proceeded. Presently the low calls of the
Spaniards could be heard in the thickets and the men were ordered to load their guns. The sound of firing came from a mile or two to the right where the Spaniards had opened on the regulars, and in a few moments the rifles began to crack from the brush around them, and bullets flew in all directions, volley following volley in quick succession. Officers and men displayed the utmost coolness, although it was the first experience under fire for most of them. Captain Capron who stood behind his men using his revolver with deadly effect whenever a Spaniard showed himself, finally fell fatally wounded. His troop was disconcerted for a moment, but mustering all his strength he cried out, "Don't mind me, boys; go ahead and fight.”
After a little while the firing fell off some and it was evident that the enemy was falling back, and the troops rushed to the front and into more open country. In the meantime just as hot work was being encountered by General Young's troops. They however had two Hotchkiss guns, and constantly raked the thickets with them. The Spaniards were gradually forced back until they, with those attacking the Rough Riders, ran for the block house, from which they were finally dislodged, by Colonel Wood's men. The engagement lasted an hour and the American loss was twelve dead and fifty wounded.
During the fight Mr. Edward Marshall, correspondent of the “New York Journal and Advertiser," was wounded. His spirit was as admirable as that of any soldier on the field. The correspondent of another of the great New York dailies, who was present, sent the following account of his courage to
"He was shot in the first firing line, and though the bullet passed within an inch of his spine and threw him into frequent and terrible convulsions, he continued in his intervals of consciousness to write his account of the fight and gave it to a wounded soldier to be forwarded to his paper. This devotion to duty by a man who knew he was dying was as fine as any of the many courageous and inspiring deeds that occurred during the two hours of breathless desperate fighting."
This was the first experience of our volunteers in actual war and they acquitted themselves like veterans. A Spanish
prisoner, captured in the battle, said of them: “They did not fight like other soldiers. When we fired a volley they advanced instead of going back. The more we fired the nearer they came to us. We are not used to fighting with men who act so."
The day following this battle the American troops occupied the town of Sevilla, abandoned by the Spaniards.
Preparations were now crowded for the attack on Santiago de Cuba.
The troops were pushed forward as fast as possible, but considerable delay was unavoidably occasioned by the bad roads. General Shafter posted the various divisions of his army in a manner to entirely surround the city and cut off all possibility of escape for the Spanish forces. All through the night of June 30th the troops were marched to their positions ready for the attack in the morning.
To the east and a little northward of Santiago lay the village of El Caney, a suburb of Santiago and about two miles from it, on a road leading directly into the city. Here was a regiment of Spaniards sheltered by a strong blockhouse. the southeast of Santiago lay the fortified village of San Juan and still further south Aquadores. Between these places and Santiago lay the Spanish army in deep intrenchments protected by several lines of barbed wire fences. On the morning of July ist hundreds of bugles rang out the reveille, and before the sun had risen the great American line was complete. Soon the whole line was engaged in fierce battle, but the hardest fighting was done at the hill town of San Juan and at El Caney. After a severe struggle El Caney was taken by General Lawton's forces, but the loss on both sides was very heavy.
Every effort was made by General Linares, the Spanish commander, to prevent our forces from taking San Juan, and he had strongly fortified it. In the hands of a more determined force than the Spaniards it would have been impregnable.
The battle of San Juan was opened by Grimes' battery and the enemy replied with shrapnel. The troops advanced up the valley, losing heavily at every open space and in fording the streams. They deployed at the foot of the San Juan
hills under a galling fire from the enemy, made doubly irksome from the fact that on account of the long range and smokeless powder, the enemy could not be located.
For two hours they were under this fierce fire before the charge could be made.
The following is from the official report of General J. Ford Kent, who marched from Utah to the front in command of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, but now in command of the division upon which devolved the duty of capturing San Juan:
"The head of Wickoff's brigade reached the forks at 12:20 p. m. and hurried on to the left, stepping over prostrated forms of men of the Seventyfirst. This heroic brigade, consisting of the Thirteenth, Ninth and Twentyfourth United States infantry, speedily crossed the stream and were quickly deployed to the left of the lower ford
"While personally superintending this movement Col. Wickoff was killed, the command of the brigade then devolving upon Lieut.-Col. Worth, Thirteenth infantry, who immediately fell severely wounded, and then upon Lieut.-Col. Liscum, Twenty-fourth infantry, who, five minutes later, also fell under the withering fire of the enemy. The command of the brigade then devolved upon Lieut.-Col, T. P. Weeks, Ninth infantry.
"Meanwhile I had again sent a staff officer to hurry forward the Second brigade, which was bringing up the rear. The Tenth and Second infantry soon arrived at the forks, were deflected to the left to follow the Third brigade, while the Twenty-first was directed along the main road to support Hawkins.
“Crossing the lower fork a few minutes later, the Tenth and Second moved forward in colump in good order toward the green knoll already referred to as my objective point on the left. Approaching the knoll the regiments deployed, passed over the knoll and ascended the high ridge beyond, driving back the enemy in the direction of his trenches. I observed this movement from the forts on San Juan hill. "Prior to this advance of the Second brigade, the Third, con
onnecting with Hawkins' gallant troops on the right, had moved toward Fort San Juan, sweeping through a zone of most destructive fire, scaling the steep and difficult hill, and assisting in capturing the enemy's strong position, Fort San Juan, at 1:30 p. m. This crest was about 125 feet above the general level and was defended by deep trenches and loop-holed brick forts, surrounded by barbed wire.
"The greatest credit is due to the officers of my command, whether company, battalion, regiment or brigade commanders, who so admirably directed the formation of their troops, unavoidably intermixed in the dense thicket and made the desperate rush of the distant and strongly defended crest."