The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter 6, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

With Shafter and the first corps also went another redoubtable New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt. He had no difficulty in raising his regiment

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of Rough Riders, or in finding a capable military man who would take command of it, with himself as second-in-command. So, the First Volunteer Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Leonard Wood, supported by Lieutenant-Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, took its place among the units of Shafter's corps. The Rough Riders were made up mainly of cowboys, scouts, hunters, trappers, backwoodsmen from the West, south and Northwest, though quite a number of wealthy men of New York found their way into the regiment, qualifying by their experience as hunters or sportsmen and by their skill in horsemanship. It was an outstanding organization, typically American, being as reliable as it was new, as effective as it was original.

On June 12, General Shafter's army of 17,000 men sailed from Tampa and landed without opposition at Daiquiri, a little westward of Santiago, on June 21. Next day General Lawton's division marched along the coast to Siboney. On the night of the 23d-24th, General Young's brigade of 964 dismounted troopers, part of the 10th U. S. Cavalry (colored), and two squadrons of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders) passed Lawton's position, and next morning, at Las Guasimas, about three miles from Siboney, were opposed by a Spanish force of 3,000 men. A stubborn engagement ensued. It was remarkable for the accuracy of the shooting. Most of the Roughriders were good shots with the shotgun, but had never before even fired this new carbines. However, in this, the initial skirmish of the Cuban campaign, the cross-fire of the Negro troopers, and the Rough riders, was so deliberate and deadly, that the Spaniards soon withdrew. "In brief, this action, like all other American victories of the war with Spain, was won by straight shooting."

The remainder of the month of June was spent in closing in upon Santiago. Northeast of the city was the village of El Caney, and on the same side, two or three miles from it, were the San Juan hills. These guarded the approach to Santiago. Receiving word that Spanish reinforcements were approaching from the northwest, General Shafter resolved to attach these position at once. And on the 1st of July the only pitched battle of the military campaign in Cuba began. The enemy positions were naturally strong, and were further strengthened by stone blockhouses and forts. The battle opened at six o'clock, with Lawton's division in position. the two other division were partially concealed, but Wheeler soon deployed to the right of Lawton and Kent to the left. The fighting was stubborn, but before the sun had set both El Caney and the an Juan hills were in American possession.

This was the famous San Juan Hill charge. The firing-line was three miles wide, and General Shafter was prostrated by sickness at the time, communicating his orders by telephone; therefore, the conspicuous part take by, and commonly accorded to Roosevelt in this thrilling charge, may have escaped his notice. General Shafter commended Colonel Leonard wood but makes no especial mention of Roosevelt.

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The American lines at San Juan and El Caney were strengthened during the might of the 1st, and the fighting went on for two more days. The Americans thoroughly invested the city of Santiago on all sides except the west, and there the Cubans were supposed to have closed the approach to Santiago. However, the Spanish reinforcements slipped past the Cubans into Santiago on the 2d, so, with greater hope, the Santiago garrison fought on. In the three days of fighting, the American losses were 22 officers and 208 men killed, 81 officers and 1,203 men wounded. The Spanish losses were about as heavy. The battalion that held El Caney fought heroically, being cut down "almost to a man." The charge on El Caney, by the way, was led by a new Yorker, Brigadier-General William Ludlow.

By the morning of the 3d, it seemed that Santiago was doomed. Shafter demanded its surrender, and General Toral indignantly refused. Spanish honor forbade him to. But the immediate development was sensational. Admiral Cervera, knowing that Santiago was doomed, deemed it better "to die fighting than to blow up his ships in the harbor,' and within an hour of the summon to surrender, Cervera grasped his only opportunity to escape.

Naval Fight Off Santiago--the call to Sunday inspection had just sounded over the waters when a moving object was noticed in the mouth of Santiago Harbor. On the yard-arm of the Untied States ships "Texas" and "Oregon" simultaneously rose the signal "Enemy's Ships coming out." Call to quarters was immediately sounded, and within five minutes American guns began to boom. The Spanish ships were rushing full speed to their destruction, and the Brave American sailors could not help admiring the splendid heroism of their adversaries, even though they cursed them for their folly and set about bringing them to their death. "Close in," signalled Commodore Schley, from his flagship, the "Brooklyn."

The Spanish ships came clear of the harbor, and an exciting running fight was developing, with the whole of a clear, calm day before them in which to fight. The "Maria Teresa" lost her lead, and so had to bear the combined fire of the American ships. She was swerved from her course and in a deadly hail at 2,000 yards, she burst into flames. Her commander then headed inshore. That was the last of the gallant Cervera's flagship. An hour later, the "Brooklyn," "Oregon" and "Texas" disposed of the "Viscaya" a careless move of the Spanish ship exposing her to the broadside of the "Oregon" and "Texas." A shell from the latter struck her amidships, "keeling her to the starboard and sending up a volume of steam and smoke." The "Viscaya" was left a burning wreck on the b each at Aserraderos. The "Admirante Oquendo" was the next to succumb. She was the prey of the "Oregon" and "Texas", and fought desperately through the "hottest and most destructive fire of that event-

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ful day." At last, afire from stem to stern, the "Admirante" headed inshore. As she hauled down her colors, a wild hurrah burst from the "Texas.' "Don't cheer, men," said Captain Philip; "the poor devils are dying."

Meanwhile, the "Brooklyn' had been trying to keep the last of the Spanish fleet, the "Cristobal Colon," within range. But she was speedy, and seemed likely to escape, being then six miles away. The "Oregon," however, took up the chase, and gradually overtook her. The "Colon" had struck her colors by one o'clock, unable to hear the fire from the "Oregon" and "Brooklyn." Admiral Sampson, in the "New York," came speeding up just in time to push the sinking "colon" into shallow water at Rio Tarquino, forty-eight miles west of Santiago. It had been an exciting morning, and the "Cristobal Colon" had furnished the last exciting incident, someone opening her sea-valves soon after she had struck her colors. Rather then see a warship of Spain pass to the Americans, the crew of the "Colon" would go to the bottom with her.

So Cervera's whole fleet went to their destruction-- all fighting to the last. Santiago was almost defenseless. Sampson could steam into the harbor whenever he wished, and soon another army corps came into sight. The transports carrying Generals Miles' new army arrived opposite Santiago on July 13, and on that day, General Miles with Generals Shafter, Gilmore, Wheeler and others, conferred between the lines with the Santiago commandant. The latter was told that he must surrender, or take the consequences. Next day, Admiral Sampson's fleet prepared to cover the landing of General Henry's division at Cabanas. This was the deciding factor. The Santiago commandant surrendered. The campaign in Cuba was to all intents over.

General Henry and his command were soon afterwards used in the Porto Rican campaign, an effective force of only 3,314 men sailing from Guantanamo on July 21 to wrest Porto Rico from a Spanish force which numbered only 17,000. Other troops sailed from home ports, and Porto Rico was surrendered, much credit attaching to both General Miles and General Henry in his campaign. General Guy Vernor Henry was born in Albany.

Events in the Philippines--Meanwhile, another new Yorker, General Wesley Merritt, had crossed the pacific to drive Spanish rule out of the Philippines. The Philippine Expeditionary Force of 8,000 men left San Francisco on June 25 and reached Manila bay a month later. On the way, the island of Guam had been annexed, the Spanish governor of that island not being aware, indeed, that war existed between this country and the United States.

At the end of July, Philippine insurgents were attacking Manila, but they gave way to the Americans, and plans were soon made to capture the city. On august 7, Admiral Dewey and General Merritt demanded

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the surrender. It did not come without fighting, but eventually, a day after the peace protocol was signed, but before it was generally known in manila--though confidently expected--the Spanish garrison surrendered.

Spain could not possibly continue the war. The sweeping away of both her fleets, had swept away her colonies. She could not reach them. On the other hand, America, having command of the sea, could reach Spain. Stern facts could no longer be ignored. So as early as July 26, the Spanish Government, acting through the French ambassador in Washington, sought to ascertain America's terms of peace. McKinley demanded that Cuba be freed, Porto Rico be ceded to the United States, and Manila occupied by American troops, pending final disposition in a formal treaty of peace. The preliminary peace protocol was signed on August 12 and in due course a treaty of peace was signed in Paris, to all intents meeting American demands. Cuba went tot he Cubans, and Porto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands became colonial possessions of the untied States.

Military Organization from New York--there were five military organizations fro new York State engaged in the Spanish-American War--the 1st Regiment, the 2d Regiment, the 3d Regiment, the 69th Regiment, and the 71st Regiment, all of New York Volunteers. The 1st Regiment saw service for the most part in the Hawaiian islands, particularly in the neighborhood of Honolulu. The 2d Regiment were stationed at Chickamauga, Georgia, and later at Tampa, Florida. The 3d Regiment was at Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia, Camp Alger, Virginia, and Camp Meade, Pennsylvania. The 69th Regiment went to Tampa, Florida, then to Huntsville, Alabama. The regiment suffered numerous casualties in a train wreck at Newcastle, Alabama, on August 28, 1898. The 71st Regiment was the only one of the new York regiments of volunteers to be in active service at the main front in Cuba, and for that reason we will deal with it first and at greater length than the others.

Seventy-first Regiment, New York Volunteers--President McKinley had called for 125,000 volunteers, following a declaration of war, naming the quota expected fro New York State, and expressing his preference for troops already enlisted in the National Guard. As a result Colonel Francis Vinton Greene, then commanding the 71st Regiment, N. G. N. Y., summoned a meeting of all officers and men, assembled them upon the meeting floor, addressed them briefly, and asked for an expression of opinion in response. By acclamation, with a hearty "Aye," and an accompanying "Hurrah," the 71st Regiment responded to its country's call for service. The 71st was first in point of time in the Untied States to proceed to camp for mobilization and muster. It was the first also to be mustered into the volunteer service of the country, and the first New York body of troops to leave for the seat of war.

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In six days the twelve companies of the regiment were enlisted to full strength, and in readiness to obey the order of the adjutant-general to proceed to Camp Black, near Hempstead. The 71st Regiment was given the place of honor at the extreme right of the State camp, subsequently named in honor of the Governor, Frank S. Black, at which were mobilized at one time some 14,000 troops. Within three days there were encamped the 1st and 2d provisional Regiments, made up of companies of the 3d Brigade, the 69th, the 47th, the 14th, the 13th, and the 65th regiments of the National Guard. A friendly rivalry sprang up between the several regiments.

On M<ay 11 major Avery D. Andrews, commandant of Squadron A, temporarily detailed to General Roe, arrived at headquarters and gave orders to proceed to Tampa, Florida, taking train the next afternoon at four o'clock. Everyone began to make ready to move after mess on the 12th, anticipating the impossibility of doing much work, when relatives and friends would flock in early trains to say final farewells. It was not until 3;30 a. m. on Friday, may 13th, that the regiment was able to secure transportation by ferry boat to the transport ships lying off Bedloe's Island.

Instead of being taken to Tampa by sea, the government decided to transport the troops by rail, word having been received that Spanish ships had been sighted on the Massachusetts coast. Trains pulled out from Jersey City eventually on Saturday night, May 14, the regiment going in three sections, Colonel Greene in charge of the first, Lieutenant-colonel Downs in charge of the second, and Major Clinton H. Smith of the third. On May 17 the journey ended, not at Tampa, but at Lakeland, thirty-five miles this side of Tampa, in the mountainous district of Florida.

On May 30 word was received by colonel downs, who had succeeded as commander Colonel Greene, after the latter had been nominated Brigadier-General in the Philippine Expedition, that the 71st Regiment had been permanently brigaded with the 6th and 16th infantry, Regulars which constituted the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the 5th Army Corps, under General Shafter, and that it would proceed the next day to Tampa and there encamp waiting further orders. The last week of the camp at Lakeland was largely occupied by officers seeking and procuring their respective mounts. For the last few evenings before the breaking up of the Lakeland to avoid the terrific dust of the neighboring fields, the regiment was paraded and reviewed by the short of the lake. The train conveyed the regiment from Lakeland in two sections to Tampa Heights. It was felt that the regiment's stay there would not be long, and in one week's time orders came suddenly to strike camp, proceed to Ybor City, take trains to Port Tampa, and there board transport ships for the Island of Cuba.

The visitation of General Miles and his staff one evening previous to

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Dress parade and the frequent visitation of aides from both Brigade and Division Headquarters kept every one on the que vive, hourly expecting orders to join the first expedition to Cuba. news reached the regiment of Schley's effective blockade of Havana with his fleet of warships, of little guerrilla expeditions communicating with the insurgents, supplying these latter with foods and ammunition, of Sampson's fleet bombarding Santiago, the heroic exploit of Hobson in sinking the "Merrimac" at the mouth of the harbor, and the imperative need of troops to second these brilliant efforts. news came also of the increasing number of ships in Tampa Bay waiting for troops. Then came the orders tot he 6th Infantry, Regulars, and the 16th, brigaded with the 71st, to proceed to the transport at Port Tampa. The New Yorkers knew that the only volunteer troops in the first expedition were to be the 71st New York and the 2d Massachusetts, which had in a few days been turned into a light artillery regiment, and Roosevelt's Rough Riders, under command of Colonel Wood.

Leaving for Cuba--During the afternoon of June 7 the anticipated order was received. Officers' call was sounded and the men assembled in the company streets ready to receive their orders. It was after midnight before the regiment took up its three-mile march to Ybor City. At Port Tampa, Colonel Downs selected the "Vigilancia,' the newest boat at the Ward Line. When the fleet started there were seen in addition twelve United States vessels as convoys. Then the expedition to Cuba was temporarily suspended. Then on Tuesday night the fleet sailed for Cuba, and on June 20 the highlands off the southern coast of Cuba were plainly visible, the fleet having passed through the Windward Passage during the night. It was found that the ships were off the Port of Guantanamo where it was supposed the troops would land, but orders arrived to proceed to Santiago. The fleet came to a halt about twelve miles off the entrance to Santiago.

On Thursday, June 23, the "Seguranca" steamed alongside the "Vigilancia" and General Shafter, commanding the 5th Army corps, summoned Colonel Downs, ordering him to unload his men, each man to take 100 rounds of ammunition, and rations for three days. Siboney is a small village lying directly on the coast back of an abrupt sandy beach, about sixteen miles east of Santiago. It was early dawn of Friday, June 24, when the 71st, entirely landed, bivouacked on the Siboney Beach, and at once breakfasted. The men then wandered into the little Cuban hamlet and witnessed the destitution of the huts. The fathers of these families were Cuban insurgents, soldiers out in the mountains, doing guerrilla work under General Garcia. For miles about the country houses had been burned, and the women and children concentrated in towns, called "Reconcentrados." This was General Wyler's plan to suppress the insurgent spirit in Cuba.

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The 71st pitched camp in the large engine house. From there could be seen at the summit of the hills the strongly fortified block-houses, which had been used effectively in the war with the insurgents. The American naval bombardment caused the houses to be deserted. But many were not misled by the unopposed landing of American troops. These expectations were realized, for in a few hours after landing the Spaniards fired upon the American troops, and the first engagement of the United States Army on Cuban soil took place at Las Guasimas.

Battle of Las Guasimas--there had been a battle a few days previous at Guantanamo when some marines from one of our war vessels landed and had a successful scrimmage with some Spaniards, not escaping without some loss, though slight in killed and wounded. After breakfast the men of the 71st saw ascending the mountain path, to the west of Siboney beach, the First United States Volunteer Cavalry, known as Roosevelt's Rough Riders, though Colonel Wood commanded them, and, like all cavalry troops in the campaign, the men were dismounted, for the terrain was too bad. The Riders walked right into a body of Spanish troops thicketed in the jungle some four miles along the trail toward Sevilla. Orders arrived for the 71st Regiment at once to proceed along the trail where had gone the 1st Untied States Cavalry and reinforce them, the American troops having encountered the enemy, met with heavy losses and been repulsed. This proved to be true, with the exception of the repulse. The 71st got under way in a few moments. Every man in it was ready for any duty he might confront. The men had gone but a little way, when returning wounded men confirmed the fears of a stern battle. General Hawkins ordered the 71st to precede the 1st Regiment of the brigade, and followed himself with the 6th and 16th Infantry, Regulars.

On went the 71st over rocks and through thorns and past cacti and struggling in thick underbrush for some four miles, when just beyond a block-house that had been depopulated, in which Captain Heindsman, of Company C, having been affected by the sun took temporary shelter, word came for the regiment to halt and await further orders. These came in about half an hour, much to the disappointment of the men, directing the brigade to return in route step to Siboney, which it at once proceeded to do.

Up to this time no horses had been put ashore. Had they been landed, indeed, they could not have been used in this march. No horse could have gone along that trail. All officers made the hot and weary march. Along in the afternoon wounded men were brought in, filling several houses along the shore, which were hastily turned into use for hospitals.

Regarding the Las Guasimas engagement it was learned that Brigadier-General Young's 2d Brigade of Cavalry had one up the valley road with instructions to surround the enemy, if possible, and prevent their

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retreat into Santiago. The First United States Cavalry was directed to proceed along the mountain trail to the southward with a similar object in view. As these letter proceeded along the path and through thick bushes, quite unmindful of the nearness of the enemy, they received a volley of shots, which at once proved destructive and demoralizing. The Spanish using smokeless powder, it was not possible to discover their position. Volley after volley came into the ranks of the 1st Cavalry, and simultaneously the Spanish engaged General Young's Cavalry Brigade along the valley road to the northward of Las Guasimas, between Siboney and Sevilla. The new York Volunteers fought bravely alongside their comrades. Hamilton Fish, Jr., of New York, sergeant of Company K, was almost the first killed. Captain Allyn Capron, of New York, was also killed. The adjutant of Roosevelt's Rough Riders ran back to the rear and reported that Colonel Wood was dead, but this proved to be false. There were some twenty killed and seventy wounded in the engagement. All night long the surgeons worked over the wounded.

On Saturday Lieutenant-Colonel smith was detailed to board the "Vigilancia" and get the horses ashore. The next day companies were sent to bring the boat's additional ammunition, commissary stores and other things needed for a new attack. Sergeant Howe, a locomotive engineer, made alive a dead engine, which the Spanish had sought to destroy. The 71st. Regiment had numerous skilled men in its ranks. As a result, details for men for every purpose began to pour in from General Hawkins. General Wheeler, in charge of the Cavalry division, had rallied his troops along the left and taken encampments beyond Sevilla, where from the tops of hills one could plainly see Santiago at the left, nearest the coast, and back of it, abut four miles to the northeast, the little well-fortified town of El Caney.

Early on June 27 the 71st started on its march. No transportation of any kind was provided for our regiment, since we were ordered to take with us 200 rounds of ammunition, and no man could carry more than 100 Springfield cartridges. The officers' horses had to be turned in for pack mules. The 71st marched behind the 16th and 6th, and by General Hawkins' orders turn to the right at Sevilla, about five miles from Siboney, pitched camp where a company of Cubans has been previously. Along the route there were many evidences of the recent Las Guasimas engagement.

Bullets were found everywhere, some of the Spanish ones of brass. Outside the graveyard along the road were newly made graves in which were interred two corporals and several privates of the 10th Cavalry, their names bring neatly cut on boards placed at the head of the mounds.

Advancing on Santiago--Before night came the 1d Battalion was detailed to encamp on the other side of the road at the top of a hill about one miles from the camp, from the summit of which Santiago could be

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seen some ten miles distant. Major Wells reported next morning that they had a stormy might of it on the hill, that bullets were occasionally whizzing about and that men on picket duty found frequent occasion for firing. Near this battalion were found trenches where were busies Spanish wounded who had evidently died returning to Santiago from the field of Las Guasimas. The regimental camp was very quiet until 3:00 a. m., when a shot was heard, immediately followed by No. 16 sentry calling for corporal of the guard. In a moment every man was awake and most of them out of their shelter and on their feet. Investigation proved that no. 17, hearing a noise like footsteps in the bushes, challenged, and receiving no reply, fired his rifle.

At eight o'clock on Thursday morning General Garcia passed along the road at the side of the American camp with his staff, his army having advanced toward Santiago in the night. The Cuban troops were not impressive. Rumor had it that an attack was contemplated on El Caney the next day. the special mission of the Cuban Army was to intercept reinforcements of 5,000 coming from the west to the aid of the Spaniards at Santiago. Word came on the last day of June that reveille would be sounded at 3;30 in the morning and that the regiment would march toward Santiago, engaging the enemy.

Battles of El Caney and San Juan--July 1 proved the most eventful day of the Cuban campaign. Both at El Caney and San Juan there took places battles of an unusual kind, with results remarkably victorious for our forces. Santiago is a city with natural fortifications of hills on every side; such entrenchments as the Spanish had made in the preceding five years, with a similar block-house system for spy and signal services, could not e found in the history of wars.

After the action of Las Guasimas the Spanish Army had retired to their block-houses and entrenchments, making a solid phalanx of troops of every arm of the service, extending from San Juan on the right towards to sea in an unbroken line three miles on the left and at this point occupying the strongly garrisoned town of El Caney. The mountain road from Seville to San Juan Hill, where the principal engagement took place, was in no place wide enough for two wagons comfortably to pass, frequently crossed streams without bridges and for most of the entire distance ran through thickets of underbrush of the rankest growth, which would naturally have been almost impenetrable, but which, strung along with barbed wire, coiled like a spider's web, became absolutely impassable.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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