I--THE ROUGH RIDERS AT GUASIMAS
On the day the American troops landed on the coast of Cuba, the Cubans informed General Wheeler that the enemy were intrenched at Guasimas, blocking the way to Santiago. Guasimas is not a village, nor even a collection of houses; it is the meeting place of two trails which join at the apex of a V, three miles from the seaport town of Siboney, and continue merged in a single trail to Santiago. General Wheeler, guided by the Cubans, reconnoitred this trail on the 23rd of June, and with the position of the enemy fully explained to him, returned to Siboney and informed General Young and Colonel Wood that on the following morning he would attack the Spanish position at Guasimas. It has been stated that at Guasimas, the Rough Riders were trapped in an ambush, but, as the plan was discussed while I was present, I know that so far from any ones running into an ambush, every one of the officers concerned had a full knowledge of where he would find the enemy, and what he was to do when he found him.
That night no one slept, for until two o'clock in the morning, troops were still being disembarked in the surf, and two ships of war had their searchlights turned on the landing-place, and made Siboney as light as a ball-room. Back of the searchlights was an ocean white with moonlight, and on the shore red camp-fires, at which the half-drowned troops were drying their uniforms, and the Rough Riders, who had just marched in from Baiquiri, were cooking a late supper, or early breakfast of coffee and bacon. Below the former home of the Spanish comandante, which General Wheeler had made his head-quarters, lay the camp of the Rough Riders, and through it Cuban officers were riding their half-starved ponies, and scattering the ashes of the camp-fires. Below them was the beach and the roaring surf, in which a thousand or so naked men were assisting and impeding the progress shoreward of their comrades, in pontoons and shore boats, which were being hurled at the beach like sleds down a water chute.
It was one of the most weird and remarkable scenes of the war, probably of any war. An army was being landed on an enemy's coast at the dead of night, but with the same cheers and shrieks and laughter that rise from the bathers at Coney Island on a hot Sunday. It was a pandemonium of noises. The men still to be landed from the "prison hulks," as they called the transports, were singing in chorus, the men already on shore were dancing naked around the camp-fires on the beach, or shouting with delight as they plunged into the first bath that had offered in seven days, and those in the launches as they were pitched head-first at the soil of Cuba, signalized their arrival by howls of triumph. On either side rose black overhanging ridges, in the lowland between were white tents and burning fires, and from the ocean came the blazing, dazzling eyes of the search-lights shaming the quiet moonlight.
After three hours' troubled sleep in this tumult the Rough Riders left camp at five in the morning. With the exception of half a dozen officers they were dismounted, and carried their blanket rolls, haversacks, ammunition, and carbines. General Young had already started toward Guasimas the First and Tenth dismounted Cavalry, and according to the agreement of the night before had taken the eastern trail to our right, while the Rough Riders climbed the steep ridge above Siboney and started toward the rendezvous along the trail to the west, which was on high ground and a half mile to a mile distant from the trail along which General Young and his regulars were marching. There was a valley between us, and the bushes were so thick on both sides of our trail that it was not possible at any time, until we met at Guasimas, to distinguish the other column.
As soon as the Rough Riders had reached the top of the ridge, not twenty minutes after they had left camp, which was the first opportunity that presented itself, Colonel Wood ordered Captain Capron to proceed with his troop in front of the column as an advance guard, and to choose a "point" of five men skilled as scouts and trailers. Still in advance of these he placed two Cuban scouts. The column then continued along the trail in single file. The Cubans were at a distance of two hundred and fifty yards; the "point" of five picked men under Sergeant Byrne and duty-Sergeant Fish followed them at a distance of a hundred yards, and then came Capron's troop of sixty men strung out in single file. No flankers were placed for the reason that the dense undergrowth and the tangle of vines that stretched from the branches of the trees to the bushes below made it a physical impossibility for man or beast to move forward except along the single trail.
Colonel Wood rode at the head of the column, followed by two regular army officers who were members of General Wheeler's staff, a Cuban officer, and Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt. They rode slowly in consideration of the troopers on foot, who under a cruelly hot sun carried heavy burdens. To those who did not have to walk, it was not unlike a hunting excursion in our West; the scenery was beautiful and the view down the valley one of luxuriant peace. Roosevelt had never been in the tropics and Captain McCormick and I were talking back at him over our shoulders and at each other, pointing out unfamiliar trees and birds. Roosevelt thought it looked like a good deer country, as it once was; it reminded McCormick of Southern California; it looked to me like the trails in Central America. We advanced, talking in that fashion and in high spirits, and congratulating ourselves in being shut of the transport and on breathing fine mountain air again, and on the fact that we were on horseback. We agreed it was impossible to appreciate that we were really at war--that we were in the enemy's country. We had been riding in this pleasant fashion for an hour and a half with brief halts for rest, when Wood stopped the head of the column, and rode down the trail to meet Capron, who was coming back. Wood returned immediately, leading his horse, and said to Roosevelt:
"Pass the word back to keep silence in the ranks."
The place at which we had halted was where the trail narrowed, and proceeded sharply downward. There was on one side of it a stout barbed-wire fence of five strands. By some fortunate accident this fence had been cut just where the head of the column halted. On the left of the trail it shut off fields of high grass blocked at every fifty yards with great barricades of undergrowth and tangled trees and chapparal. On the other side of the trail there was not a foot of free ground; the bushes seemed absolutely impenetrable, as indeed they were later found to be.
When we halted, the men sat down beside the trail and chewed the long blades of grass, or fanned the air with their hats. They had no knowledge of the situation such as their leaders possessed, and their only emotion was one of satisfaction at the chance the halt gave them to rest and to shift their packs. Wood again walked down the trail with Capron and disappeared, and one of the officers informed us that the scouts had seen the outposts of the enemy. It did not seem reasonable that the Spaniards, who had failed to attack us when we landed at Baiquiri, would oppose us until they could do so in force, so, personally, I doubted that there were any Spaniards nearer than Santiago. But we tied our horses to the wire fence, and Capron's troop knelt with carbines at the "Ready," peering into the bushes. We must have waited there, while Wood reconnoitred, for over ten minutes. Then he returned, and began deploying his troops out at either side of the trail. Capron he sent on down the trail itself. G Troop was ordered to beat into the bushes on the right, and K and A were sent over the ridge on which we stood down into the hollow to connect with General Young's column on the opposite side of the valley. F and E Troops were deployed in skirmish-line on the other side of the wire fence. Wood had discovered the enemy a few hundred yards from where he expected to find him, and so far from being "surprised," he had time, as I have just described, to get five of his troops into position before a shot was fired. The firing, when it came, started suddenly on our right. It sounded so close that--still believing we were acting on a false alarm, and that there were no Spaniards ahead of us--I guessed it was Capron's men firing at random to disclose the enemy's position. I ran after G Troop under Captain Llewellyn, and found them breaking their way through the bushes in the direction from which the volleys came. It was like forcing the walls of a maze. If each trooper had not kept in touch with the man on either hand he would have been lost in the thicket. At one moment the underbrush seemed swarming with our men, and the next, except that you heard the twigs breaking, and heavy breathing or a crash as a vine pulled some one down, there was not a sign of a human being anywhere. In a few minutes we broke through into a little open place in front of a dark curtain of vines, and the men fell on one knee and began returning the fire that came from it.
The enemy's fire was exceedingly heavy, and his aim was excellent. We saw nothing of the Spaniards, except a few on the ridge across the valley. I happened to be the only one present with field glasses, and when I discovered this force on the ridge, and had made sure, by the cockades in their sombreros, that they were Spaniards and not Cubans, I showed them to Roosevelt. He calculated they were five hundred yards from us, and ordered the men to fire on them at that range. Through the two hours of fighting that followed, although men were falling all around us, the Spaniards on the ridge were the only ones that many of us saw. But the fire against us was not more than eighty yards away, and so hot that our men could only lie flat in the grass and return it in that position. It was at this moment that our men believed they were being attacked by Capron's troop, which they imagined must have swung to the right, and having lost its bearings and hearing them advancing through the underbrush, had mistaken them for the enemy. They accordingly ceased firing and began shouting in order to warn Capron that he was shooting at his friends. This is the foundation for the statement that the Rough Riders had fired on each other, which they did not do then or at any other time. Later we examined the relative position of the trail which Capron held, and the position of G Troop, and they were at right angles to one another.
Capron could not possibly have fired into us at any time, unless he had turned directly around in his tracks and aimed up the very trail he had just descended. Advancing, he could no more have hit us than he could have seen us out of the back of his head. When we found many hundred spent cartridges of the Spaniards a hundred yards in front of G Troop's position, the question as to who had fired on us was answered.
It was an exceedingly hot corner. The whole troop was gathered in the little open place blocked by the network of grape-vines and tangled bushes before it. They could not see twenty feet on three sides of them, but on the right hand lay the valley, and across it came the sound of Young's brigade, who were apparently heavily engaged. The enemy's fire was so close that the men could not hear the word of command, and Captain Llewellyn and Lieutenant Greenway, unable to get their attention, ran among them, batting them with their sombreros to make them cease firing. Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt ran up just then, bringing with him Lieutenant Woodbury Kane and ten troopers from K Troop. Roosevelt lay down in the grass beside Llewellyn and consulted with him eagerly. Kane was smiling with the charming content of a perfectly happy man. When Captain Llewellyn told him his men were not needed, and to rejoin his troop, he led his detail over the edge of the hill on which we lay. As he disappeared below the crest he did not stoop to avoid the bullets, but walked erect, still smiling. Roosevelt pointed out that it was impossible to advance farther on account of the network of wild grape-vines that masked the Spaniards from us, and that we must cross the trail and make to the left. The shouts the men had raised to warn Capron had established our position to the enemy, and the firing was now fearfully accurate. Sergeant Russell, who in his day had been a colonel on a governor's staff, was killed, and the other sergeant was shot through the wrist. In the space of three minutes nine men were lying on their backs helpless. Before we got away, every third man was killed, or wounded. We drew off slowly to the left, dragging the wounded with us. Owing to the low aim of the enemy, we were forced to move on our knees and crawl. Even then men were hit. One man near me was shot through the head. Returning later to locate the body and identify him, I found that the buzzards had torn off his lips and his eyes. This mutilation by these hideous birds was, without doubt, what Admiral Sampson mistook for the work of the Spaniards, when the bodies of the marines at Guantanamo were found disfigured. K Troop meantime had deployed into the valley under the fire from the enemy on the ridge. It had been ordered to establish communication with General Young's column, and while advancing and firing on the ridge, Captain Jenkins sent the guidon bearer back to climb the hill and wave his red and white banner where Young's men could see it. The guidon bearer had once run for Congress on the gold ticket in Arizona, and, as some one said, was naturally the man who should have been selected for a forlorn hope. His flag brought him instantly under a heavy fire, but he continued waving it until the Tenth Cavalry on the other side of the valley answered, and the two columns were connected by a skirmish-line composed of K Troop and A, under Captain "Bucky" O'Neill.
G Troop meanwhile had hurried over to the left, and passing through the opening in the wire fence had spread out into open order. It followed down after Captain Luna's troop and D and E Troops, which were well already in advance. Roosevelt ran forward and took command of the extreme left of this line. Wood was walking up and down along it, leading his horse, which he thought might be of use in case he had to move quickly to alter his original formation. His plan, at present, was to spread out his men so that they would join Young on the right, and on the left swing around until they flanked the enemy. K and A Troops had already succeeded in joining hands with Young's column across the valley, and as they were capable of taking care of themselves, Wood was bending his efforts to keep his remaining four companies in a straight line and revolving them around the enemy's "end." It was in no way an easy thing to do. The men were at times wholly hidden from each other, and from him; probably at no one time did he see more than two of his troops together. It was only by the firing that he could tell where his men lay, and that they were always advancing.
The advances were made in quick, desperate rushes--sometimes the ground gained was no more than a man covers in sliding for a base. At other times half a troop would rise and race forward and then burrow deep in the hot grass and fire. On this side of the line there was an occasional glimpse of the enemy. But for a great part of the time the men shot at the places from where the enemy's fire seemed to come, aiming low and answering in steady volleys. The fire discipline was excellent. The prophets of evil of the Tampa Bay Hotel had foretold that the cowboys would shoot as they chose, and, in the field, would act independently of their officers. As it turned out, the cowboys were the very men who waited most patiently for the officers to give the word of command. At all times the movement was without rest, breathless and fierce, like a cane-rush, or a street fight. After the first three minutes every man had stripped as though for a wrestling match, throwing off all his impedimenta but his cartridge-belt and canteen. Even then the sun handicapped their strength cruelly. The enemy was hidden in the shade of the jungle, while they, for every thicket they gained, had to fight in the open, crawling through grass which was as hot as a steam bath, and with their flesh and clothing torn by thorns and the sword-like blade of the Spanish "bayonet." The glare of the sun was full in their eyes and as fierce as a lime-light.
When G Troop passed on across the trail to the left I stopped at the place where the column had first halted--it had been converted into a dressing station and the wounded of G Troop were left there in the care of the hospital stewards. A tall, gaunt young man with a cross on his arm was just coming back up the trail. His head was bent, and by some surgeon's trick he was carrying a wounded man much heavier than himself across his shoulders. As I stepped out of the trail he raised his head, and smiled and nodded, and left me wondering where I had seen him before, smiling in the same cheery, confident way and moving in that same position. I knew it could not have been under the same conditions, and yet he was certainly associated with another time of excitement and rush and heat. Then I remembered him. As now he had been covered with blood and dirt and perspiration, but then he wore a canvas jacket and the man he carried on his shoulders was trying to hold him back from a white-washed line. And I recognized the young doctor, with the blood bathing his breeches, as "Bob" Church, of Princeton. That was only one of four badly wounded men he carried that day on his shoulders over a half-mile of trail that stretched from the firing-line back to the dressing station and under an unceasing fire.  As the senior surgeon was absent he had chief responsibility that day for all the wounded, and that so few of them died is greatly due to this young man who went down into the firing-line and pulled them from it, and bore them out of danger. The comic paragraphers who wrote of the members of the Knickerbocker Club and the college swells of the Rough Riders and of their imaginary valets and golf clubs, should, in decency, since the fight at Guasimas apologize. For the same spirit that once sent these men down a white-washed field against their opponents' rush line was the spirit that sent Church, Channing, Devereux, Ronalds, Wrenn, Cash, Bull, Lamed, Goodrich, Greenway, Dudley Dean, and a dozen others through the high hot grass at Guasimas, not shouting, as their friends the cowboys did, but each with his mouth tightly shut, with his eyes on the ball, and moving in obedience to the captain's signals.
Judging from the sound, our firing-line now seemed to be half a mile in advance of the place where the head of the column had first halted. This showed that the Spaniards had been driven back at least three hundred yards from their original position. It was impossible to see any of our men in the field, so I ran down the trail with the idea that it would lead me back to the troop I had left when I had stopped at the dressing station. The walk down that trail presented one of the most grewsome pictures of the war. It narrowed as it descended; it was for that reason the enemy had selected that part of it for the attack, and the vines and bushes interlaced so closely above it that the sun could not come through.
The rocks on either side were spattered with blood and the rank grass was matted with it. Blanket rolls, haversacks, carbines, and canteens had been abandoned all along its length. It looked as though a retreating army had fled along it, rather than that one troop had fought its way through it to the front. Except for the clatter of the land-crabs, those hideous orchid-colored monsters that haunt the places of the dead, and the whistling of the bullets in the trees, the place was as silent as a grave. For the wounded lying along its length were as still as the dead beside them. The noise of the loose stones rolling under my feet brought a hospital steward out of the brush, and he called after me:
"Lieutenant Thomas is badly wounded in here, and we can't move him. We want to carry him out of the sun some place, where there is shade and a breeze." Thomas was the first lieutenant of Capron's troop. He is a young man, large and powerfully built. He was shot through the leg just below the trunk, and I found him lying on a blanket half naked and covered with blood, and with his leg bound in tourniquets made of twigs and pocket-handkerchiefs. It gave one a thrill of awe and wonder to see how these cowboy surgeons, with a stick that one would use to light a pipe and with the gaudy 'kerchiefs they had taken from their necks, were holding death at bay. The young officer was in great pain and tossing and raving wildly. When we gathered up the corners of his blanket and lifted him, he tried to sit upright, and cried out, "You're taking me to the front, aren't you? You said you would. They've killed my captain--do you understand? They've killed Captain Capron. The --- Mexicans! They've killed my captain."
The troopers assured him they were carrying him to the firing-line, but he was not satisfied. We stumbled over the stones and vines, bumping his wounded body against the ground and leaving a black streak in the grass behind us, but it seemed to hurt us more than it did him, for he sat up again clutching at us imploringly with his bloody hands.
"For God's sake, take me to the front," he begged. "Do you hear? I order you; damn you, I order--We must give them hell; do you hear? we must give them hell. They've killed Capron. They've killed my captain."
The loss of blood at last mercifully silenced him, and when we had reached the trail he had fainted and I left them kneeling around him, their grave boyish faces filled with sympathy and concern.
Only fifty feet from him and farther down the trail I passed his captain, with his body propped against Church's knee and with his head fallen on the surgeon's shoulder. Capron was always a handsome, soldierly looking man--some said that he was the most soldierly looking of any of the young officers in the army--and as I saw him then death had given him a great dignity and nobleness. He was only twenty-eight years old, the age when life has just begun, but he rested his head on the surgeon's shoulder like a man who knew he was already through with it and that, though they might peck and mend at the body, he had received his final orders. His breast and shoulders were bare, and as the surgeon cut the tunic from him the sight of his great chest and the skin, as white as a girl's, and the black open wound against it made the yellow stripes and the brass insignia on the tunic, strangely mean and tawdry.
Fifty yards farther on, around a turn in the trail, behind a rock, a boy was lying with a bullet wound between his eyes. His chest was heaving with short, hoarse noises which I guessed were due to some muscular action entirely, and that he was virtually dead. I lifted him and gave him some water, but it would not pass through his fixed teeth. In the pocket of his blouse was a New Testament with the name Fielder Dawson, Mo., scribbled in it in pencil. While I was writing it down for identification, a boy as young as himself came from behind me down the trail.
"It is no use," he said; "the surgeon has seen him; he says he is just the same as dead. He is my bunkie; we only met two weeks ago at San Antonio; but he and me had got to be such good friends--But there's nothing I can do now." He threw himself down on the rock beside his bunkie, who was still breathing with that hoarse inhuman rattle, and I left them, the one who had been spared looking down helplessly with the tears creeping across his cheeks.
The firing was quite close now, and the trail was no longer filled with blanket rolls and haversacks, nor did pitiful, prostrate figures lie in wait behind each rock. I guessed this must mean that I now was well in advance of the farthest point to which Capron's troop had moved, and I was running forward feeling confident that I must be close on our men, when I saw the body of a sergeant blocking the trail and stretched at full length across it. Its position was a hundred yards in advance of that of any of the others--it was apparently the body of the first man killed. After death the bodies of some men seem to shrink almost instantly within themselves; they become limp and shapeless, and their uniforms hang upon them strangely. But this man, who was a giant in life, remained a giant in death--his very attitude was one of attack; his fists were clinched, his jaw set, and his eyes, which were still human, seemed fixed with resolve. He was dead, but he was not defeated. And so Hamilton Fish died as he had lived--defiantly, running into the very face of the enemy, standing squarely upright on his legs instead of crouching, as the others called to him to do, until he fell like a column across the trail. "God gives," was the motto on the watch I took from his blouse, and God could not have given him a nobler end; to die, in the fore-front of the first fight of the war, quickly, painlessly, with a bullet through the heart, with his regiment behind him, and facing the enemies of his country.
The line at this time was divided by the trail into two wings. The right wing, composed of K and A Troops, was advancing through the valley, returning the fire from the ridge as it did so, and the left wing, which was much the longer of the two, was swinging around on the enemy's right flank, with its own right resting on the barbed-wire fence. I borrowed a carbine from a wounded man, and joined the remnant of L Troop which was close to the trail.
This troop was then commanded by Second Lieutenant Day, who on account of his conduct that morning and at the battle of San Juan later, when he was shot through the arm, was promoted to be captain of L Troop, or, as it was later officially designated, Capron's troop. He was walking up and down the line as unconcernedly as though we were at target practice, and an Irish sergeant, Byrne, was assisting him by keeping up a continuous flow of comments and criticisms that showed the keenest enjoyment of the situation. Byrne was the only man I noticed who seemed to regard the fight as in any way humorous. For at Guasimas, no one had time to be flippant, or to exhibit any signs of braggadocio. It was for all of them, from the moment it started, through the hot, exhausting hour and a half that it lasted, a most serious proposition. The conditions were exceptional. The men had made a night march the evening before, had been given but three hours' troubled sleep on the wet sand, and had then been marched in full equipment uphill and under a cruelly hot sun, directly into action. And eighty per cent. of them had never before been under fire. Nor had one man in the regiment ever fired a Krag-Jorgensen carbine until he fired it at a Spaniard, for their arms had been issued to them so soon before sailing that they had only drilled with them without using cartridges. To this handicap was also added the nature of the ground and the fact that our men could not see their opponents. Their own men fell or rolled over on every side, shot down by an invisible enemy, with no one upon whom they could retaliate, with no sign that the attack might not go on indefinitely. Yet they never once took a step backward, but advanced grimly, cleaning a bush or thicket of its occupants before charging it, and securing its cover for themselves, and answering each volley with one that sounded like an echo of the first. The men were panting for breath; the sweat ran so readily into their eyes that they could not see the sights of their guns; their limbs unused to such exertion after seven days of cramped idleness on the troop-ship, trembled with weakness and the sun blinded and dazzled them; but time after time they rose and staggered forward through the high grass, or beat their way with their carbines against the tangle of vines and creepers. A mile and a half of territory was gained foot by foot in this fashion, the three Spanish positions carried in that distance being marked by the thousands of Mauser cartridges that lay shining and glittering in the grass and behind the barricades of bushes. But this distance had not been gained without many losses, for every one in the regiment was engaged. Even those who, on account of the heat, had dropped out along the trail, as soon as the sound of the fight reached them, came limping to the front--and plunged into the firing-line. It was the only place they could go--there was no other line. With the exception of Church's dressing station and its wounded there were no reserves.
Among the first to be wounded was the correspondent, Edward Marshall, of the New York Journal, who was on the firing-line to the left. He was shot through the body near the spine, and when I saw him he was suffering the most terrible agonies, and passing through a succession of convulsions. He nevertheless, in his brief moments of comparative peace, bore himself with the utmost calm, and was so much a soldier to duty that he continued writing his account of the fight until the fight itself was ended. His courage was the admiration of all the troopers, and he was highly commended by Colonel Wood in the official account of the engagement.
Nothing so well illustrated how desperately each man was needed, and how little was his desire to withdraw, as the fact that the wounded lay where they fell until the hospital stewards found them. Their comrades did not use them as an excuse to go to leave the firing-line. I have watched other fights, where the men engaged were quite willing to unselfishly bear the wounded from the zone of danger.
The fight had now lasted an hour, and the line had reached a more open country, with a slight incline upward toward a wood, on the edge of which was a ruined house. This house was a former distillery for aguardiente, and was now occupied in force by the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt on the far left was moving up his men with the intention of taking this house on the flank; Wood, who was all over the line, had the same objective point in his mind. The troop commanders had a general idea that the distillery was the key to the enemy's position, and were all working in that direction. It was extremely difficult for Wood and Roosevelt to communicate with the captains, and after the first general orders had been given them they relied upon the latter's intelligence to pull them through. I do not suppose Wood, out of the five hundred engaged, saw more than thirty of his men at any one time. When he had passed one troop, except for the noise of its volley firing, it was immediately lost to him in the brush, and it was so with the next. Still, so excellent was the intelligence of the officers, and so ready the spirit of the men, that they kept an almost perfect alignment, as was shown when the final order came to charge in the open fields. The advance upon the ruined building was made in stubborn, short rushes, sometimes in silence, and sometimes firing as we ran. The order to fire at will was seldom given, the men waiting patiently for the officers' signal, and then answering in volleys. Some of the men who were twice Day's age begged him to let them take the enemy's impromptu fort on the run, but he answered them tolerantly like spoiled children, and held them down until there was a lull in the enemy's fire, when he would lead them forward, always taking the advance himself. By the way they made these rushes, it was easy to tell which men were used to hunting big game in the West and which were not. The Eastern men broke at the word, and ran for the cover they were directed to take like men trying to get out of the rain, and fell panting on their faces, while the Western trappers and hunters slipped and wriggled through the grass like Indians; dodging from tree trunk to tree trunk, and from one bush to another. They fell into line at the same time with the others, but while doing so they had not once exposed themselves. Some of the escapes were little short of miraculous. The man on my right, Champneys Marshall, of Washington, had one bullet pass through his sleeve, and another pass through his shirt, where it was pulled close to his spine. The holes where the ball entered and went out again were clearly cut. Another man's skin was slightly burned by three bullets in three distinct lines, as though it had been touched for an instant by the lighted end of a cigar. Greenway was shot through this shirt across the breast, and Roosevelt was so close to one bullet, when it struck a tree, that it filled his eyes and ears with tiny splinters. Major Brodie and Lieutenant Thomas were both wounded within a few feet of Colonel Wood, and his color-sergeant, Wright, who followed close at his heels, was clipped three times in the head and neck, and four bullets passed through the folds of the flag he carried. One trooper, Rowland, of Deming, was shot through the lower ribs; he was ordered by Roosevelt to fall back to the dressing station, but there Church told him there was nothing he could do for him then, and directed him to sit down until he could be taken to the hospital at Siboney. Rowland sat still for a short time, and then remarked restlessly, "I don't seem to be doing much good here," and picking up his carbine, returned to the firing-line. There Roosevelt found him.
"I thought I ordered you to the rear," he demanded.
"Yes, sir, you did," Rowland said, "but there didn't seem to be much doing back there."
After the fight he was sent to Siboney with the rest of the wounded, but two days later he appeared in camp. He had marched from Siboney, a distance of six miles, and uphill all the way, carrying his carbine, canteen, and cartridge-belt.
"I thought you were in hospital," Wood said. "I was," Rowland answered sheepishly, "but I didn't seem to be doing any good there."
They gave him up as hopeless, and he continued his duties and went into the fight of the San Juan hills with the hole still through his ribs. Another cowboy named Heffner, when shot through the body, asked to be propped up against a tree with his canteen and cartridge-belt beside him, and the last his troop saw of him he was seated alone grimly firing over their heads in the direction of the enemy.
Early in the fight I came upon Church attending to a young cowboy, who was shot through the chest. The entrance to his wound was so small that Church could not insert enough of the gauze packing to stop the flow of blood.
"I'm afraid I'll have to make this hole larger," he said to the boy, "or you'll bleed to death."
"All right," the trooper answered, "I guess you know your business." The boy stretched out on his back and lay perfectly quiet while Church, with a pair of curved scissors, cut away the edges of the wound. His patient neither whimpered nor swore, but stared up at the sun in silence. The bullets were falling on every side, and the operation was a hasty one, but the trooper made no comment until Church said, "We'd better get out of this; can you stand being carried?"
"Do you think you can carry me?" the trooper asked.
"Well," exclaimed the boy admiringly, "you certainly know your business!"
Another of the Rough Riders was brought to the dressing station with a shattered ankle, and Church, after bandaging it, gave him his choice of riding down to Siboney on a mule, or of being carried, a day later, on a litter.
"If you think you can manage to ride the mule with that broken foot," he said, "you can start at once, but if you wait until to-morrow, when I can spare the men, you can be carried all the way."
The cowboy preferred to start at once, so six hospital stewards lifted him and dropped him on the mule, and into a huge Mexican saddle.
He stuck his wounded ankle into one stirrup, and his untouched one into the other, and gathered up the reins.
"Does it pain you? Can you stand it?" Church asked anxiously. The cowboy turned and smiled down upon him with amused disdain.
"Stand this?" he cried. "Why, this is just like getting money from home."
Toward the last, the firing from the enemy sounded less near, and the bullets passed much higher. Roosevelt, who had picked up a carbine and was firing to give the direction to the others, determined upon a charge. Wood, at the other end of the line, decided at the same time upon the same manoeuvre. It was called "Wood's bluff" afterward, for he had nothing to back it with; while to the enemy it looked as though his whole force was but the skirmish-line in advance of a regiment. The Spaniards naturally could not believe that this thin line which suddenly broke out of the bushes and from behind trees and came cheering out into the hot sunlight was the entire fighting force against it. They supposed the regiment was coming close on its heels, and as Spanish troops hate being rushed as a cat hates water, they fired a few parting volleys and broke and ran. The cheering had the same invigorating effect on our own side as a cold shower; it was what first told half the men where the other half were, and it made every individual man feel better. As we knew it was only a bluff, the first cheer was wavering, but the sound of our own voices was so comforting that the second cheer was a howl of triumph.
As it was, the Spaniards thought the Rough Riders had already disregarded all the rules of war.
"When we fired a volley," one of the prisoners said later, "instead of falling back they came forward. That is not the way to fight, to come closer at every volley." And so, when instead of retreating on each volley, the Rough Riders rushed at them, cheering and filling the hot air with wild cowboy yells, the dismayed enemy retreated upon Santiago, where he announced he had been attacked by the entire American army.
One of the residents of Santiago asked one of the soldiers if those Americans fought well.
"Well!" he replied, "they tried to catch us with their hands!"
I have not attempted to give any account of General Young's fight on our right, which was equally desperate, and, owing to the courage of the colored troops of the Tenth in storming a ridge, equally worthy of praise. But it has seemed better not to try and tell of anything I did not see, but to limit myself to the work of the Rough Riders, to whom, after all, the victory was due, as it was owing to Colonel Wood's charge, which took the Spaniards in flank, that General Wheeler and General Young were able to advance, their own stubborn attack in front having failed to dislodge the enemy from his rifle-pits.
According to the statement of the enemy, who had every reason not to exaggerate the size of his own force, 4,000 Spaniards were engaged in this action. The Rough Riders numbered 534, and General Young's force numbered 464. The American troops accordingly attacked a force over four times their own number intrenched behind rifle-pits and bushes in a mountain pass. In spite of the smokeless powder used by the Spaniards, which hid their position, the Rough Riders routed them out of it, and drove them back from three different barricades until they made their last stand in the ruined distillery, whence they finally drove them by assault. The eager spirit in which this was accomplished is best described in the Spanish soldier's answer to the inquiring civilian, "They tried to catch us with their hands." The Rough Riders should adopt it as their motto.
II--THE BATTLE OF SAN JUAN HILL
After the Guasimas fight on June 24, the army was advanced along the single trail which leads from Siboney on the coast to Santiago. Two streams of excellent water run parallel with this trail for short distances, and some eight miles from the coast crossed it in two places. Our outposts were stationed at the first of these fords, the Cuban outposts a mile and a half farther on at the ford nearer Santiago, where the stream made a sharp turn at a place called El Poso. Another mile and a half of trail extended from El Poso to the trenches of San Juan. The reader should remember El Poso, as it marked an important starting-point against San Juan on the eventful first of July.
For six days the army was encamped on either side of the trail for three miles back from the outposts. The regimental camps touched each other, and all day long the pack-trains carrying the day's rations passed up and down between them. The trail was a sunken wagon road, where it was possible, in a few places, for two wagons to pass at one time, but the greater distances were so narrow that there was but just room for a wagon, or a loaded mule-train, to make its way. The banks of the trail were three or four feet high, and when it rained it was converted into a huge gutter, with sides of mud, and with a liquid mud a foot deep between them. The camps were pitched along the trail as near the parallel stream as possible, and in the occasional places where there was rich, high grass. At night the men slept in dog tents, open at the front and back, and during the day spent their time under the shade of trees along the trail, or on the banks of the stream. Sentries were placed at every few feet along these streams to guard them from any possible pollution. For six days the army rested in this way, for as an army moves and acts only on its belly, and as the belly of this army was three miles long, it could advance but slowly.
This week of rest, after the cramped life of the troop-ship, was not ungrateful, although the rations were scarce and there was no tobacco, which was as necessary to the health of the men as their food.
During this week of waiting, the chief excitement was to walk out a mile and a half beyond the outposts to the hill of El Poso, and look across the basin that lay in the great valley which leads to Santiago. The left of the valley was the hills which hide the sea. The right of the valley was the hills in which nestle the village of El Caney. Below El Poso, in the basin, the dense green forest stretched a mile and a half to the hills of San Juan. These hills looked so quiet and sunny and well kept that they reminded one of a New England orchard. There was a blue bungalow on a hill to the right, a red bungalow higher up on the right, and in the centre the block-house of San Juan, which looked like a Chinese pagoda. Three-quarters of a mile behind them, with a dip between, were the long white walls of the hospital and barracks of Santiago, wearing thirteen Red Cross flags, and, as was pointed out to the foreign attaches later, two six-inch guns a hundred yards in advance of the Red Cross flags.
It was so quiet, so fair, and so prosperous looking that it breathed of peace. It seemed as though one might, without accident, walk in and take dinner at the Venus Restaurant, or loll on the benches in the Plaza, or rock in one of the great bent-wood chairs around the patio of the Don Carlos Club.
But, on the 27th of June, a long, yellow pit opened in the hill-side of San Juan, and in it we could see straw sombreros rising and bobbing up and down, and under the shade of the block-house, blue-coated Spaniards strolling leisurely about or riding forth on little white ponies to scamper over the hills. Officers of every regiment, attaches of foreign countries, correspondents, and staff officers daily reported the fact that the rifle-pits were growing in length and in number, and that in plain sight from the hill of El Poso the enemy was intrenching himself at San Juan, and at the little village of El Caney to the right, where he was marching through the streets. But no artillery was sent to El Poso hill to drop a shell among the busy men at work among the trenches, or to interrupt the street parades in El Caney. For four days before the American soldiers captured the same rifle-pits at El Caney and San Juan, with a loss of two thousand men, they watched these men diligently preparing for their coming, and wondered why there was no order to embarrass or to end these preparations.
On the afternoon of June 30, Captain Mills rode up to the tent of Colonel Wood, and told him that on account of illness, General Wheeler and General Young had relinquished their commands, and that General Sumner would take charge of the Cavalry Division; that he, Colonel Wood, would take command of General Young's brigade, and Colonel Carroll, of General Sumner's brigade.
"You will break camp and move forward at four o'clock," he said. It was then three o'clock, and apparently the order to move forward at four had been given to each regiment at nearly the same time, for they all struck their tents and stepped down into the trail together. It was as though fifteen regiments were encamped along the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue and were all ordered at the same moment to move into it and march downtown. If Fifth Avenue were ten feet wide, one can imagine the confusion.
General Chaffee was at General Lawton's head-quarters, and they stood apart whispering together about the march they were to take to El Caney. Just over their heads the balloon was ascending for the first time and its great glistening bulk hung just above the tree tops, and the men in different regiments, picking their way along the trail, gazed up at it open-mouthed. The head-quarters camp was crowded. After a week of inaction the army, at a moment's notice, was moving forward, and every one had ridden in haste to learn why.
There were attaches, in strange uniforms, self-important Cuban generals, officers from the flagship New York, and an army of photographers. At the side of the camp, double lines of soldiers passed slowly along the two paths of the muddy road, while, between them, aides dashed up and down, splashing them with dirty water, and shouting, "You will come up at once, sir." "You will not attempt to enter the trail yet, sir." "General Sumner's compliments, and why are you not in your place?"
Twelve thousand men, with their eyes fixed on a balloon, and treading on each other's heels in three inches of mud, move slowly, and after three hours, it seemed as though every man in the United States was under arms and stumbling and slipping down that trail. The lines passed until the moon rose. They seemed endless, interminable; there were cavalry mounted and dismounted, artillery with cracking whips and cursing drivers, Rough Riders in brown, and regulars, both black and white, in blue. Midnight came, and they were still stumbling and slipping forward.
General Sumner's head-quarters tent was pitched to the right of El Poso hill. Below us lay the basin a mile and a half in length, and a mile and a half wide, from which a white mist was rising. Near us, drowned under the mist, seven thousand men were sleeping, and, farther to the right, General Chaffee's five thousand were lying under the bushes along the trails to El Caney, waiting to march on it and eat it up before breakfast.
The place hardly needs a map to explain it. The trails were like a pitchfork, with its prongs touching the hills of San Juan. The long handle of the pitchfork was the trail over which we had just come, the joining of the handle and the prongs were El Poso. El Caney lay half-way along the right prong, the left one was the trail down which, in the morning, the troops were to be hurled upon San Juan. It was as yet an utterly undiscovered country. Three miles away, across the basin of mist, we could see the street lamps of Santiago shining over the San Juan hills. Above us, the tropical moon hung white and clear in the dark purple sky, pierced with millions of white stars. As we turned in, there was just a little something in the air which made saying "good-night" a gentle farce, for no one went to sleep immediately, but lay looking up at the stars, and after a long silence, and much restless turning on the blanket which we shared together, the second lieutenant said: "So, if anything happens to me, to-morrow, you'll see she gets them, won't you?" Before the moon rose again, every sixth man who had slept in the mist that night was either killed or wounded; but the second lieutenant was sitting on the edge of a Spanish rifle-pit, dirty, sweaty, and weak for food, but victorious, and the unknown she did not get them.
El Caney had not yet thrown off her blanket of mist before Capron's battery opened on it from a ridge two miles in the rear. The plan for the day was that El Caney should fall in an hour. The plan for the day is interesting chiefly because it is so different from what happened. According to the plan the army was to advance in two divisions along the two trails. Incidentally, General Lawton's division was to pick up El Caney, and when El Caney was eliminated, his division was to continue forward and join hands on the right with the divisions of General Sumner and General Kent. The army was then to rest for that night in the woods, half a mile from San Juan.
On the following morning it was to attack San Juan on the two flanks, under cover of artillery. The objection to this plan, which did not apparently suggest itself to General Shafter, was that an army of twelve thousand men, sleeping within five hundred yards of the enemy's rifle-pits, might not unreasonably be expected to pass a bad night. As we discovered the next day, not only the five hundred yards, but the whole basin was covered by the fire from the rifle-pits. Even by daylight, when it was possible to seek some slight shelter, the army could not remain in the woods, but according to the plan it was expected to bivouac for the night in those woods, and in the morning to manoeuvre and deploy and march through them to the two flanks of San Juan. How the enemy was to be hypnotized while this was going forward it is difficult to understand.
According to this programme, Capron's battery opened on El Caney and Grimes's battery opened on the pagoda-like block-house of San Juan. The range from El Poso was exactly 2,400 yards, and the firing, as was discovered later, was not very effective. The battery used black powder, and, as a result, after each explosion the curtain of smoke hung over the gun for fully a minute before the gunners could see the San Juan trenches, which was chiefly important because for a full minute it gave a mark to the enemy. The hill on which the battery stood was like a sugar-loaf. Behind it was the farm-house of El Poso, the only building in sight within a radius of a mile, and in it were Cuban soldiers and other non-combatants. The Rough Riders had been ordered to halt in the yard of the farm-house and the artillery horses were drawn up in it, under the lee of the hill. The First and Tenth dismounted Cavalry were encamped a hundred yards from the battery along the ridge. They might as sensibly have been ordered to paint the rings in a target while a company was firing at the bull's-eye. To our first twenty shots the enemy made no reply; when they did it was impossible, owing to their using smokeless powder, to locate their guns. Their third shell fell in among the Cubans in the block-house and among the Rough Riders and the men of the First and Tenth Cavalry, killing some and wounding many. These casualties were utterly unnecessary and were due to the stupidity of whoever placed the men within fifty yards of guns in action.
A quarter of an hour after the firing began from El Poso one of General Shafter's aides directed General Sumner to advance with his division down the Santiago trail, and to halt at the edge of the woods.
"What am I to do then?" asked General Sumner.
"You are to await further orders," the aide answered.
As a matter of fact and history this was probably the last order General Sumner received from General Shafter, until the troops of his division had taken the San Juan hills, as it became impossible to get word to General Shafter, the trail leading to his head-quarters tent, three miles in the rear, being blocked by the soldiers of the First and Tenth dismounted Cavalry, and later, by Lawton's division. General Sumner led the Sixth, Third, and Ninth Cavalry and the Rough Riders down the trail, with instructions for the First and Tenth to follow. The trail, virgin as yet from the foot of an American soldier, was as wide as its narrowest part, which was some ten feet across. At places it was as wide as Broadway, but only for such short distances that it was necessary for the men to advance in column, in double file. A maze of underbrush and trees on either side was all but impenetrable, and when the officers and men had once assembled into the basin, they could only guess as to what lay before them, or on either flank. At the end of a mile the country became more open, and General Sumner saw the Spaniards intrenched a half-mile away on the sloping hills. A stream, called the San Juan River, ran across the trail at this point, and another stream crossed it again two hundred yards farther on. The troops were halted at this first stream, some crossing it, and others deploying in single file to the right. Some were on the banks of the stream, others at the edge of the woods in the bushes. Others lay in the high grass which was so high that it stopped the wind, and so hot that it almost choked and suffocated those who lay in it.
The enemy saw the advance and began firing with pitiless accuracy into the jammed and crowded trail and along the whole border of the woods. There was not a single yard of ground for a mile to the rear which was not inside the zone of fire. Our men were ordered not to return the fire but to lie still and wait for further orders. Some of them could see the rifle-pits of the enemy quite clearly and the men in them, but many saw nothing but the bushes under which they lay, and the high grass which seemed to burn when they pressed against it. It was during this period of waiting that the greater number of our men were killed. For one hour they lay on their rifles staring at the waving green stuff around them, while the bullets drove past incessantly, with savage insistence, cutting the grass again and again in hundreds of fresh places. Men in line sprang from the ground and sank back again with a groan, or rolled to one side clinging silently to an arm or shoulder. Behind the lines hospital stewards passed continually, drawing the wounded back to the streams, where they laid them in long rows, their feet touching the water's edge and their bodies supported by the muddy bank. Up and down the lines, and through the fords of the streams, mounted aides drove their horses at a gallop, as conspicuous a target as the steeple on a church, and one after another paid the price of his position and fell from his horse wounded or dead. Captain Mills fell as he was giving an order, shot through the forehead behind both eyes; Captain O'Neill, of the Rough Riders, as he said, "There is no Spanish bullet made that can kill me." Steel, Swift, Henry, each of them was shot out of his saddle.
Hidden in the trees above the streams, and above the trail, sharp-shooters and guerillas added a fresh terror to the wounded. There was no hiding from them. Their bullets came from every side. Their invisible smoke helped to keep their hiding-places secret, and in the incessant shriek of shrapnel and the spit of the Mausers, it was difficult to locate the reports of their rifles. They spared neither the wounded nor recognized the Red Cross; they killed the surgeons and the stewards carrying the litters, and killed the wounded men on the litters. A guerilla in a tree above us shot one of the Rough Riders in the breast while I was helping him carry Captain Morton Henry to the dressing-station, the ball passing down through him, and a second shot, from the same tree, barely missed Henry as he lay on the ground where we had dropped him. He was already twice wounded and so covered with blood that no one could have mistaken his condition. The surgeons at work along the stream dressed the wounds with one eye cast aloft at the trees. It was not the Mauser bullets they feared, though they passed continuously, but too high to do their patients further harm, but the bullets of the sharp-shooters which struck fairly in among them, splashing in the water and scattering the pebbles. The sounds of the two bullets were as different as is the sharp pop of a soda-water bottle from the buzzing of an angry wasp.
For a time it seemed as though every second man was either killed or wounded; one came upon them lying behind the bush, under which they had crawled with some strange idea that it would protect them, or crouched under the bank of the stream, or lying on their stomachs and lapping up the water with the eagerness of thirsty dogs. As to their suffering, the wounded were magnificently silent, they neither complained nor groaned nor cursed.
"I've got a punctured tire," was their grim answer to inquiries. White men and colored men, veterans and recruits and volunteers, each lay waiting for the battle to begin or to end so that he might be carried away to safety, for the wounded were in as great danger after they were hit as though they were in the firing line, but none questioned nor complained.
I came across Lieutenant Roberts, of the Tenth Cavalry, lying under the roots of a tree beside the stream with three of his colored troopers stretched around him. He was shot through the intestines, and each of the three men with him was shot in the arm or leg. They had been overlooked or forgotten, and we stumbled upon them only by the accident of losing our way. They had no knowledge as to how the battle was going or where their comrades were or where the enemy was. At any moment, for all they knew, the Spaniards might break through the bushes about them. It was a most lonely picture, the young lieutenant, half naked, and wet with his own blood, sitting upright beside the empty stream, and his three followers crouching at his feet like three faithful watch-dogs, each wearing his red badge of courage, with his black skin tanned to a haggard gray, and with his eyes fixed patiently on the white lips of his officer. When the white soldiers with me offered to carry him back to the dressing-station, the negroes resented it stiffly. "If the Lieutenant had been able to move, we would have carried him away long ago," said the sergeant, quite overlooking the fact that his arm was shattered.
"Oh, don't bother the surgeons about me," Roberts added, cheerfully. "They must be very busy. I can wait."
As yet, with all these killed and wounded, we had accomplished nothing--except to obey orders--which was to await further orders. The observation balloon hastened the end. It came blundering down the trail, and stopped the advance of the First and Tenth Cavalry, and was sent up directly over the heads of our men to observe what should have been observed a week before by scouts and reconnoitring parties. A balloon, two miles to the rear, and high enough in the air to be out of range of the enemy's fire may some day prove itself to be of use and value. But a balloon on the advance line, and only fifty feet above the tops of the trees, was merely an invitation to the enemy to kill everything beneath it. And the enemy responded to the invitation. A Spaniard might question if he could hit a man, or a number of men, hidden in the bushes, but had no doubt at all as to his ability to hit a mammoth glistening ball only six hundred yards distant, and so all the trenches fired at it at once, and the men of the First and Tenth, packed together directly behind it, received the full force of the bullets. The men lying directly below it received the shrapnel which was timed to hit it, and which at last, fortunately, did hit it. This was endured for an hour, an hour of such hell of fire and heat, that the heat in itself, had there been no bullets, would have been remembered for its cruelty. Men gasped on their backs, like fishes in the bottom of a boat, their heads burning inside and out, their limbs too heavy to move. They had been rushed here and rushed there wet with sweat and wet with fording the streams, under a sun that would have made moving a fan an effort, and they lay prostrate, gasping at the hot air, with faces aflame, and their tongues sticking out, and their eyes rolling. All through this the volleys from the rifle-pits sputtered and rattled, and the bullets sang continuously like the wind through the rigging in a gale, shrapnel whined and broke, and still no order came from General Shafter.
Captain Howse, of General Sumner's staff, rode down the trail to learn what had delayed the First and Tenth, and was hailed by Colonel Derby, who was just descending from the shattered balloon.
"I saw men up there on those hills," Colonel Derby shouted; "they are firing at our troops." That was part of the information contributed by the balloon. Captain Howse's reply is lost to history.
General Kent's division, which, according to the plan, was to have been held in reserve, had been rushed up in the rear of the First and Tenth, and the Tenth had deployed in skirmish order to the right. The trail was now completely blocked by Kent's division. Lawton's division, which was to have re-enforced on the right, had not appeared, but incessant firing from the direction of El Caney showed that he and Chaffee were fighting mightily. The situation was desperate. Our troops could not retreat, as the trail for two miles behind them was wedged with men. They could not remain where they were, for they were being shot to pieces. There was only one thing they could do--go forward and take the San Juan hills by assault. It was as desperate as the situation itself. To charge earthworks held by men with modern rifles, and using modern artillery, until after the earthworks have been shaken by artillery, and to attack them in advance and not in the flanks, are both impossible military propositions. But this campaign had not been conducted according to military rules, and a series of military blunders had brought seven thousand American soldiers into a chute of death from which there was no escape except by taking the enemy who held it by the throat and driving him out and beating him down. So the generals of divisions and brigades stepped back and relinquished their command to the regimental officers and the enlisted men.
"We can do nothing more," they virtually said. "There is the enemy."
Colonel Roosevelt, on horseback, broke from the woods behind the line of the Ninth, and finding its men lying in his way, shouted: "If you don't wish to go forward, let my men pass." The junior officers of the Ninth, with their negroes, instantly sprang into line with the Rough Riders, and charged at the blue block-house on the right.
I speak of Roosevelt first because, with General Hawkins, who led Kent's division, notably the Sixth and Sixteenth Regulars, he was, without doubt, the most conspicuous figure in the charge. General Hawkins, with hair as white as snow, and yet far in advance of men thirty years his junior, was so noble a sight that you felt inclined to pray for his safety; on the other hand, Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback, and charging the rifle-pits at a gallop and quite alone, made you feel that you would like to cheer. He wore on his sombrero a blue polka-dot handkerchief, a la Havelock, which, as he advanced, floated out straight behind his head, like a guidon. Afterward, the men of his regiment who followed this flag, adopted a polka-dot handkerchief as the badge of the Rough Riders. These two officers were notably conspicuous in the charge, but no one can claim that any two men, or any one man, was more brave or more daring, or showed greater courage in that slow, stubborn advance, than did any of the others. Some one asked one of the officers if he had any difficulty in making his men follow him. "No," he answered, "I had some difficulty in keeping up with them." As one of the brigade generals said: "San Juan was won by the regimental officers and men. We had as little to do as the referee at a prize-fight who calls 'time.' We called 'time' and they did the fighting."
I have seen many illustrations and pictures of this charge on the San Juan hills, but none of them seem to show it just as I remember it. In the picture-papers the men are running uphill swiftly and gallantly, in regular formation, rank after rank, with flags flying, their eyes aflame, and their hair streaming, their bayonets fixed, in long, brilliant lines, an invincible, overpowering weight of numbers. Instead of which I think the thing which impressed one the most, when our men started from cover, was that they were so few. It seemed as if some one had made an awful and terrible mistake. One's instinct was to call to them to come back. You felt that some one had blundered and that these few men were blindly following out some madman's mad order. It was not heroic then, it seemed merely absurdly pathetic. The pity of it, the folly of such a sacrifice was what held you.
They had no glittering bayonets, they were not massed in regular array. There were a few men in advance, bunched together, and creeping up a steep, sunny hill, the tops of which roared and flashed with flame. The men held their guns pressed across their chests and stepped heavily as they climbed. Behind these first few, spreading out like a fan, were single lines of men, slipping and scrambling in the smooth grass, moving forward with difficulty, as though they were wading waist high through water, moving slowly, carefully, with strenuous effort. It was much more wonderful than any swinging charge could have been. They walked to greet death at every step, many of them, as they advanced, sinking suddenly or pitching forward and disappearing in the high grass, but the others waded on, stubbornly, forming a thin blue line that kept creeping higher and higher up the hill. It was as inevitable as the rising tide. It was a miracle of self-sacrifice, a triumph of bull-dog courage, which one watched breathless with wonder. The fire of the Spanish riflemen, who still stuck bravely to their posts, doubled and trebled in fierceness, the crests of the hills crackled and burst in amazed roars, and rippled with waves of tiny flame. But the blue line crept steadily up and on, and then, near the top, the broken fragments gathered together with a sudden burst of speed, the Spaniards appeared for a moment outlined against the sky and poised for instant flight, fired a last volley, and fled before the swift-moving wave that leaped and sprang after them.
The men of the Ninth and the Rough Riders rushed to the block-house together, the men of the Sixth, of the Third, of the Tenth Cavalry, of the Sixth and Sixteenth Infantry, fell on their faces along the crest of the hills beyond, and opened upon the vanishing enemy. They drove the yellow silk flags of the cavalry and the flag of their country into the soft earth of the trenches, and then sank down and looked back at the road they had climbed and swung their hats in the air. And from far overhead, from these few figures perched on the Spanish rifle-pits, with their flags planted among the empty cartridges of the enemy, and overlooking the walls of Santiago, came, faintly, the sound of a tired, broken cheer.
III--THE TAKING OF COAMO
This is the inside story of the surrender, during the Spanish War, of the town of Coamo. It is written by the man to whom the town surrendered. Immediately after the surrender this same man became Military Governor of Coamo. He held office for fully twenty minutes.
Before beginning this story the reader must forget all he may happen to know of this particular triumph of the Porto Rican Expedition. He must forget that the taking of Coamo has always been credited to Major-General James H. Wilson, who on that occasion commanded Captain Anderson's Battery, the Sixteenth Pennsylvania, Troop C of Brooklyn, and under General Ernst, the Second and Third Wisconsin Volunteers. He must forget that in the records of the War Department all the praise, and it is of the highest, for this victory is bestowed upon General Wilson and his four thousand soldiers. Even the writer of this, when he cabled an account of the event to his paper, gave, with every one else, the entire credit to General Wilson. And ever since his conscience has upbraided him. His only claim for tolerance as a war correspondent has been that he always has stuck to the facts, and now he feels that in the sacred cause of history his friendship and admiration for General Wilson, that veteran of the Civil, Philippine, and Chinese Wars, must no longer stand in the way of his duty as an accurate reporter. He no longer can tell a lie. He must at last own up that he himself captured Coamo.
On the morning of the 9th of August, 1898, the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived on the outskirts of that town. In order to get there they had spent the night in crawling over mountain trails and scrambling through streams and ravines. It was General Wilson's plan that by this flanking night march the Sixteenth Pennsylvania would reach the road leading from Coamo to San Juan in time to cut off the retreat of the Spanish garrison, when General Wilson, with the main body, attacked it from the opposite side.
At seven o'clock in the morning General Wilson began the frontal attack by turning loose the artillery on a block-house, which threatened his approach, and by advancing the Wisconsin Volunteers. The cavalry he sent to the right to capture Los Banos. At eight o'clock, from where the main body rested, two miles from Coamo, we could hear the Sixteenth Pennsylvania open its attack and instantly become hotly engaged. The enemy returned the fire fiercely, and the firing from both sides at once became so severe that it was evident the Pennsylvania Volunteers either would take the town without the main body, or that they would greatly need its assistance. The artillery was accordingly advanced one thousand yards and the infantry was hurried forward. The Second Wisconsin approached Coamo along the main road from Ponce, the Third Wisconsin through fields of grass to the right of the road, until the two regiments met at the ford by which the Banos road crosses the Coamo River. But before they met, from a position near the artillery, I had watched through my glasses the Second Wisconsin with General Ernst at its head advancing along the main road, and as, when I saw them, they were near the river, I guessed they would continue across the bridge and that they soon would be in the town.
As the firing from the Sixteenth still continued, it seemed obvious that General Ernst would be the first general officer to enter Coamo, and to receive its surrender. I had never seen five thousand people surrender to one man, and it seemed that, if I were to witness that ceremony, my best plan was to abandon the artillery and, as quickly as possible, pursue the Second Wisconsin. I did not want to share the spectacle of the surrender with my brother correspondents, so I tried to steal away from the three who were present. They were Thomas F. Millard, Walstein Root of the Sun, and Horace Thompson. By dodging through a coffee central I came out a half mile from them and in advance of the Third Wisconsin. There I encountered two "boy officers," Captain John C. Breckenridge and Lieutenant Fred. S. Titus, who had temporarily abandoned their thankless duties in the Commissariat Department in order to seek death or glory in the skirmish-line. They wanted to know where I was going, and when I explained, they declared that when Coamo surrendered they also were going to be among those present.
So we slipped away from the main body and rode off as an independent organization. But from the bald ridge, where the artillery was still hammering the town, the three correspondents and Captain Alfred Paget, Her Majesty's naval attache, observed our attempt to steal a march on General Wilson's forces, and pursued us and soon overtook us.
We now were seven, or to be exact, eight, for with Mr. Millard was "Jimmy," who in times of peace sells papers in Herald Square, and in times of war carries Mr. Millard's copy to the press post. We were much nearer the ford than the bridge, so we waded the "drift" and started on a gallop along the mile of military road that lay between us and Coamo. The firing from the Sixteenth Pennsylvania had slackened, but as we advanced it became sharper, more insistent, and seemed to urge us to greater speed. Across the road were dug rough rifle-pits which had the look of having been but that moment abandoned. What had been intended for the breakfast of the enemy was burning in pots over tiny fires, little heaps of cartridges lay in readiness upon the edges of each pit, and an arm-chair, in which a sentry had kept a comfortable lookout, lay sprawling in the middle of the road. The huts that faced it were empty. The only living things we saw were the chickens and pigs in the kitchen-gardens. On either hand was every evidence of hasty and panic-stricken flight. We rejoiced at these evidences of the fact that the Wisconsin Volunteers had swept all before them. Our rejoicings were not entirely unselfish. It was so quiet ahead that some one suggested the town had already surrendered. But that would have been too bitter a disappointment, and as the firing from the further side of Coamo still continued, we refused to believe it, and whipped the ponies into greater haste. We were now only a quarter of a mile distant from the built-up portion of Coamo, where the road turned sharply into the main street of the town.
Captain Paget, who in the absence of the British military attache on account of sickness, accompanied the army as a guest of General Wilson, gave way to thoughts of etiquette.
"Will General Wilson think I should have waited for him?" he shouted. The words were jolted out of him as he rose in the saddle. The noise of the ponies' hoofs made conversation difficult. I shouted back that the presence of General Ernst in the town made it quite proper for a foreign attache to enter it.
"It must have surrendered by now," I shouted. "It's been half an hour since Ernst crossed the bridge."
At these innocent words, all my companions tugged violently at their bridles and shouted "Whoa!"
"Crossed the bridge?" they yelled. "There is no bridge! The bridge is blown up! If he hasn't crossed by the ford, he isn't in the town!"
Then, in my turn, I shouted "Whoa!"
But by now the Porto Rican ponies had decided that this was the race of their lives, and each had made up his mind that, Mexican bit or no Mexican bit, until he had carried his rider first into the town of Coamo, he would not be halted. As I tugged helplessly at my Mexican bit, I saw how I had made my mistake. The volunteers, on finding the bridge destroyed, instead of marching upon Coamo had turned to the ford, the same ford which we had crossed half an hour before they reached it. They now were behind us. Instead of a town which had surrendered to a thousand American soldiers, we, seven unarmed men and Jimmy, were being swept into a hostile city as fast as the enemy's ponies could take us there.
Breckenridge and Titus hastily put the blame upon me.
"If we get into trouble with the General for this," they shouted, "it will be your fault. You told us Ernst was in the town with a thousand men."
I shouted back that no one regretted the fact that he was not more keenly than I did myself.
Titus and Breckenridge each glanced at a new, full-dress sword.
"We might as well go in," they shouted, "and take it anyway!" I decided that Titus and Breckenridge were wasted in the Commissariat Department.
The three correspondents looked more comfortable.
"If you officers go in," they cried, "the General can't blame us," and they dug their spurs into the ponies.
"Wait!" shouted Her Majesty's representative. "That's all very well for you chaps, but what protects me if the Admiralty finds out I have led a charge on a Spanish garrison?"
But Paget's pony refused to consider the feelings of the Lords of the Admiralty. As successfully Paget might have tried to pull back a row-boat from the edge of Niagara. And, moreover, Millard, in order that Jimmy might be the first to reach Ponce with despatches, had mounted him on the fastest pony in the bunch, and he already was far in the lead. His sporting instincts, nursed in the pool-rooms of the Tenderloin and at Guttenburg, had sent him three lengths to the good. It never would do to have a newsboy tell in New York that he had beaten the correspondents of the papers he sold in the streets; nor to permit commissioned officers to take the dust of one who never before had ridden on anything but a cable car. So we all raced forward and, bunched together, swept into the main street of Coamo. It was gratefully empty. There were no American soldiers, but, then, neither were there any Spanish soldiers. Across the street stretched more rifle-pits and barricades of iron pipes, but in sight there was neither friend nor foe. On the stones of the deserted street the galloping hoofs sounded like the advance of a whole regiment of cavalry. Their clatter gave us a most comfortable feeling. We almost could imagine the townspeople believing us to be the Rough Riders themselves and fleeing before us.
And then, the empty street seemed to threaten an ambush. We thought hastily of sunken mines, of soldiers crouching behind the barriers, behind the houses at the next corner, of Mausers covering us from the latticed balconies overhead. Until at last, when the silence had become alert and menacing, a lonely man dashed into the middle of the street, hurled a white flag in front of us, and then dived headlong under the porch of a house. The next instant, as though at a signal, a hundred citizens, each with a white flag in both hands, ran from cover, waving their banners, and gasping in weak and terror-shaken tones, "Vivan los Americanos."
We tried to pull up, but the ponies had not yet settled among themselves which of us had won, and carried us to the extreme edge of the town, where a precipice seemed to invite them to stop, and we fell off into the arms of the Porto Ricans. They brought us wine in tin cans, cigars, borne in the aprons and mantillas of their women-folk, and demijohns of native rum. They were abject, trembling, tearful. They made one instantly forget that the moment before he had been extremely frightened.
One of them spoke to me the few words of Spanish with which I had an acquaintance. He told me he was the Alcalde, and that he begged to surrender into my hands the town of Coamo. I led him instantly to one side. I was afraid that if I did not take him up he would surrender to Paget or to Jimmy. I bade him conduct me to his official residence. He did so, and gave me the key to the cartel, a staff of office of gold and ebony, and the flag of the town, which he had hidden behind his writing-desk. It was a fine Spanish flag with the coat of arms embroidered in gold. I decided that, with whatever else I might part, that flag would always be mine, that the chance of my again receiving the surrender of a town of five thousand people was slender, and that this token would be wrapped around me in my coffin. I accordingly hid it in my poncho and strapped it to my saddle. Then I appointed a hotel-keeper, who spoke a little English, as my official interpreter, and told the Alcalde that I was now Military Governor, Mayor, and Chief of Police, and that I wanted the seals of the town. He gave me a rubber stamp with a coat of arms cut in it, and I wrote myself three letters, which, to insure their safe arrival, I addressed to three different places, and stamped them with the rubber seals. In time all three reached me, and I now have them as documentary proof of the fact that for twenty minutes I was Military Governor and Mayor of Coamo.
During that brief administration I detailed Titus and Breckenridge to wigwag the Sixteenth Pennsylvania that we had taken the town, and that it was now safe for them to enter. In order to compromise Paget they used his red silk handkerchief. Root I detailed to conciliate the inhabitants by drinking with every one of them. He tells me he carried out my instructions to the letter. I also settled one assault and battery case, and put the chief offender under arrest. At least, I told the official interpreter to inform him that he was under arrest, but as I had no one to guard him he grew tired of being under arrest and went off to celebrate his emancipation from the rule of Spain.
My administration came to an end in twenty minutes, when General Wilson rode into Coamo at the head of his staff and three thousand men. He wore a white helmet, and he looked the part of the conquering hero so satisfactorily that I forgot I was Mayor and ran out into the street to snap a picture of him. He looked greatly surprised and asked me what I was doing in his town. The tone in which he spoke caused me to decide that, after all, I would not keep the flag of Coamo. I pulled it off my saddle and said: "General, it's too long a story to tell you now, but here is the flag of the town. It's the first Spanish flag"--and it was--"that has been captured in Porto Rico."
General Wilson smiled again and accepted the flag. He and about four thousand other soldiers think it belongs to them. But the truth will out. Some day the bestowal on the proper persons of a vote of thanks from Congress, a pension, or any other trifle, like prize-money, will show the American people to whom that flag really belongs.
I know that in time the glorious deed of the seven heroes of Coamo, or eight, if you include "Jimmy," will be told in song and story. Some one else will write the song. This is the story.
IV--THE PASSING OF SAN JUAN HILL
When I was a boy I thought battles were fought in waste places selected for the purpose. I argued from the fact that when our school nine wished to play ball it was forced into the suburbs to search for a vacant lot. I thought opposing armies also marched out of town until they reached some desolate spot where there were no window panes, and where their cannon-balls would hurt no one but themselves. Even later, when I saw battles fought among villages, artillery galloping through a cornfield, garden walls breached for rifle fire, and farm-houses in flames, it always seemed as though the generals had elected to fight in such surroundings through an inexcusable striving after theatrical effect--as though they wished to furnish the war correspondents with a chance for descriptive writing. With the horrors of war as horrible as they are without any aid from these contrasts, their presence always seemed not only sinful but bad art; as unnecessary as turning a red light on the dying gladiator.
There are so many places which are scenes set apart for battles--places that look as though Nature had condemned them for just such sacrifices. Colenso, with its bare kopjes and great stretch of veldt, is one of these, and so, also, is Spion Kop, and, in Manchuria, Nan Shan Hill. The photographs have made all of us familiar with the vast, desolate approaches to Port Arthur. These are among the waste places of the earth--barren, deserted, fit meeting grounds only for men whose object in life for the moment is to kill men. Were you shown over one of these places, and told, "A battle was fought here," you would answer, "Why, of course!"
But down in Cuba, outside of Santiago, where the United States army fought its solitary and modest battle with Spain, you might many times pass by San Juan Hill and think of it, if you thought of it at all, as only a pretty site for a bungalow, as a place obviously intended for orchards and gardens.
On July 1st, twelve years ago, when the American army came upon it out of the jungle the place wore a partial disguise. It still was an irregular ridge of smiling, sunny hills with fat, comfortable curves, and in some places a steep, straight front. But above the steepest, highest front frowned an aggressive block-house, and on all the slopes and along the sky-line were rows of yellow trenches, and at the base a cruel cat's cradle of barbed wire. It was like the face of a pretty woman behind the bars of a visor. I find that on the day of the fight twelve years ago I cabled my paper that San Juan Hill reminded the Americans of "a sunny orchard in New England." That was how it may have looked when the regulars were climbing up the steep front to capture the block-house, and when the cavalry and Rough Riders, having taken Kettle Hill, were running down its opposite slope, past the lake, to take that crest of San Juan Hill which lies to the right of the block-house. It may then have looked like a sunny New England orchard, but before night fell the intrenching tools had lent those sunny slopes "a fierce and terrible aspect." And after that, hour after hour, and day after day, we saw the hill eaten up by our trenches, hidden by a vast laundry of shelter tents, and torn apart by bomb-proofs, their jutting roofs of logs and broken branches weighed down by earth and stones and looking like the pit mouths to many mines. That probably is how most of the American army last saw San Juan Hill, and that probably is how it best remembers it--as a fortified camp. That was twelve years ago. When I revisited it, San Juan Hill was again a sunny, smiling farm land, the trenches planted with vegetables, the roofs of the bomb-proofs fallen in and buried beneath creeping vines, and the barbed-wire entanglements holding in check only the browsing cattle.
San Juan Hill is not a solitary hill, but the most prominent of a ridge of hills, with Kettle Hill a quarter of a mile away on the edge of the jungle and separated from the ridge by a tiny lake. In the local nomenclature Kettle Hill, which is the name given to it by the Rough Riders, has always been known as San Juan Hill, with an added name to distinguish it from the other San Juan Hill of greater renown.
The days we spent on those hills were so rich in incident and interest and were filled with moments of such excitement, of such pride in one's fellow-countrymen, of pity for the hurt and dying, of laughter and good-fellowship, that one supposed he might return after even twenty years and recognize every detail of the ground. But a shorter time has made startling and confusing changes. Now a visitor will find that not until after several different visits, and by walking and riding foot by foot over the hills, can he make them fall into line as he thinks he once knew them. Immediately around San Juan Hill itself there has been some attempt made to preserve the ground as a public park. A barbed-wire fence, with a gateway, encircles the block-house, which has been converted into a home for the caretaker of the park, and then, skirting the road to Santiago to include the tree under which the surrender was arranged, stretches to the left of the block-house to protect a monument. This monument was erected by Americans to commemorate the battle. It is now rapidly falling to pieces, but there still is enough of it intact to show the pencilled scribblings and autographs of tourists who did not take part in the battle, but who in this public manner show that they approve of its results. The public park is less than a quarter of a mile square. Except for it no other effort has been made either by Cubans or Americans to designate the lines that once encircled and menaced Santiago, and Nature, always at her best under a tropical sun, has done all in her power to disguise and forever obliterate the scene of the army's one battle. Those features which still remain unchanged are very few. The Treaty Tree, now surrounded by a tall fence, is one, the block-house is another. The little lake in which, even when the bullets were dropping, the men used to bathe and wash their clothes, the big iron sugar kettle that gave a new name to Kettle Hill, and here and there a trench hardly deeper than a ploughed furrow, and nearly hidden by growing plants, are the few landmarks that remain.
Of the camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Bates, Sumner, and Wheeler, of Colonels Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt, there are but the slightest traces. The Bloody Bend, as some call it, in the San Juan River, as some call that stream, seems to have entirely disappeared. At least, it certainly was not where it should have been, and the place the hotel guides point out to unsuspecting tourists bears not the slightest physical resemblance to that ford. In twelve years, during one of which there has been in Santiago the most severe rainfall in sixty years, the San Juan stream has carried away its banks and the trees that lined them, and the trails that should mark where the ford once crossed have so altered and so many new ones have been added, that the exact location of the once famous dressing station is now most difficult, if not impossible, to determine. To establish the sites of the old camping grounds is but little less difficult. The head-quarters of General Wheeler are easy to recognize, for the reason that the place selected was in a hollow, and the most unhealthy spot along the five miles of intrenchments. It is about thirty yards from where the road turns to rise over the ridge to Santiago, and all the water from the hill pours into it as into a rain barrel. It was here that Troop G, Third Cavalry, under Major Hardee, as it was Wheeler's escort, was forced to bivouac, and where one-third of its number came down with fever. The camp of General Sam Sumner was some sixty yards to the right of the head-quarters of General Wheeler, on the high shoulder of the hill just above the camp of the engineers, who were on the side of the road opposite. The camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Hawkins, Ludlow, and the positions and trenches taken and held by the different regiments under them one can place only relatively. One reason for this is that before our army attacked the hills all the underbrush and small trees that might conceal the advance of our men had been cleared away by the Spaniards, leaving the hill, except for the high crest, comparatively bare. To-day the hills are thick with young trees and enormous bushes. The alteration in the landscape is as marked as is the difference between ground cleared for golf and the same spot planted with corn and fruit-trees.
Of all the camps, the one that to-day bears the strongest evidences of its occupation is that of the Rough Riders. A part of the camp of that regiment, which was situated on the ridge some hundred feet from the Santiago road, was pitched under a clump of shade trees, and to-day, even after seven years, the trunks of these trees bear the names and initials of the men who camped beneath them.  These men will remember that when they took this hill they found that the fortifications beneath the trees were partly made from the foundations of an adobe house. The red tiles from its roof still litter the ground. These tiles and the names cut in the bark of the trees determine absolutely the site of one-half of the camp, but the other half, where stood Tiffany's quick-firing gun and Parker's Gatling, has been almost obliterated. The tree under which Colonel pitched his tent I could not discover, and the trenches in which he used to sit with his officers and with the officers from the regiments of the regular army are now levelled to make a kitchen-garden. Sometimes the ex-President is said to have too generously given office and promotion to the friends he made in Cuba. These men he met in the trenches were then not necessarily his friends. To-day they are not necessarily his friends. They are the men the free life of the rifle-pits enabled him to know and to understand as the settled relations of home life and peace would never have permitted. At that time none of them guessed that the "amateur colonel," to whom they talked freely as to a comrade, would be their Commander-in-Chief. They did not suspect that he would become even the next Governor of New York, certainly not that in a few years he would be the President of the United States. So they showed themselves to him frankly, unconsciously. They criticised, argued, disagreed, and he became familiar with the views, character, and worth of each, and remembered. The seeds planted in those half-obliterated trenches have borne greater results than ever will the kitchen-garden.
The kitchen-garden is immediately on the crest of the hill, and near it a Cuban farmer has built a shack of mud and twigs and cultivated several acres of land. On Kettle Hill there are three more such shacks, and over all the hills the new tenants have strung stout barbed-wire fences and made new trails and reared wooden gateways. It was curious to find how greatly these modern improvements confused one's recollection of the landscape, and it was interesting, also, to find how the presence on the hills of 12,000 men and the excitement of the time magnified distances and disarranged the landscape.
During the fight I walked along a portion of the Santiago road, and for many years I always have thought of that walk as extending over immense distances. It started from the top of San Juan Hill beside the block-house, where I had climbed to watch our artillery in action. By a mistake, the artillery had been sent there, and it remained exposed on the crest only about three minutes. During that brief moment the black powder it burned drew upon it the fire of every rifle in the Spanish line. To load his piece, each of our men was forced to crawl to it on his stomach, rise on one elbow in order to shove in the shell and lock the breech, and then, still flat on the ground, wriggle below the crest. In the three minutes three men were wounded and two killed; and the guns were withdrawn. I also withdrew. I withdrew first. Indeed, all that happened after the first three seconds of those three minutes is hearsay, for I was in the Santiago road at the foot of the hill and retreating briskly. This road also was under a cross-fire, which made it stretch in either direction to an interminable distance. I remember a government teamster driving a Studebaker wagon filled with ammunition coming up at a gallop out of this interminable distance and seeking shelter against the base of the hill. Seated beside him was a small boy, freckled and sunburned, a stowaway from one of the transports. He was grandly happy and excited, and his only fear was that he was not "under fire." From our coign of safety, with our backs to the hill, the teamster and I assured him that, on that point, he need feel no morbid doubt. But until a bullet embedded itself in the blue board of the wagon he was not convinced. Then with his jack-knife he dug it out and shouted with pleasure. "I guess the folks will have to believe I was in a battle now," he said. That coign of safety ceasing to be a coign of safety caused us to move on in search of another, and I came upon Sergeant Borrowe blocking the road with his dynamite gun. He and his brother and three regulars were busily correcting a hitch in its mechanism. An officer carrying an order along the line halted his sweating horse and gazed at the strange gun with professional knowledge.
"That must be the dynamite gun I have heard so much about," he shouted. Borrowe saluted and shouted assent. The officer, greatly interested, forgot his errand.
"I'd like to see you fire it once," he said eagerly. Borrowe, delighted at the chance to exhibit his toy to a professional soldier, beamed with equal eagerness.
"In just a moment, sir," he said; "this shell seems to have jammed a bit." The officer, for the first time seeing the shell stuck in the breech, hurriedly gathered up his reins. He seemed to be losing interest. With elaborate carelessness I began to edge off down the road.
"Wait," Borrowe begged; "we'll have it out in a minute."
Suddenly I heard the officer's voice raised wildly.
"What--what," he gasped, "is that man doing with that axe?"
"He's helping me to get out this shell," said Borrowe.
"Good God!" said the officer. Then he remembered his errand.
Until last year, when I again met young Borrowe gayly disporting himself at a lawn-tennis tournament at Mattapoisett, I did not know whether his brother's method of removing dynamite with an axe had been entirely successful. He said it worked all right.
At the turn of the road I found Colonel Leonard Wood and a group of Rough Riders, who were busily intrenching. At the same moment Stephen Crane came up with "Jimmy" Hare, the man who has made the Russian-Japanese War famous. Crane walked to the crest and stood there as sharply outlined as a semaphore, observing the enemy's lines, and instantly bringing upon himself and us the fire of many Mausers. With every one else, Wood was crouched below the crest and shouted to Crane to lie down. Crane, still standing, as though to get out of ear-shot, moved away, and Wood again ordered him to lie down.
"You're drawing the fire on these men," Wood commanded. Although the heat--it was the 1st of July in the tropics--was terrific, Crane wore a long India rubber rain-coat and was smoking a pipe. He appeared as cool as though he were looking down from a box at a theatre. I knew that to Crane, anything that savored of a pose was hateful, so, as I did not want to see him killed, I called, "You're not impressing any one by doing that, Crane." As I hoped he would, he instantly dropped to his knees. When he crawled over to where we lay, I explained, "I knew that would fetch you," and he grinned, and said, "Oh, was that it?"
A captain of the cavalry came up to Wood and asked permission to withdraw his troop from the top of the hill to a trench forty feet below the one they were in. "They can't possibly live where they are now," he explained, "and they're doing no good there, for they can't raise their heads to fire. In that lower trench they would be out of range themselves and would be able to fire back."
"Yes," said Wood, "but all the other men in the first trench would see them withdraw, and the moral effect would be bad. They needn't attempt to return the enemy's fire, but they must not retreat."
The officer looked as though he would like to argue. He was a West Point graduate and a full-fledged captain in the regular army. To him, Wood, in spite of his volunteer rank of colonel, which that day, owing to the illness of General Young, had placed him in command of a brigade, was still a doctor. But discipline was strong in him, and though he looked many things, he rose from his knees and grimly saluted. But at that moment, without waiting for the permission of any one, the men leaped out of the trench and ran. It looked as though they were going to run all the way to the sea, and the sight was sickening. But they had no intention of running to the sea. They ran only to the trench forty feet farther down and jumped into it, and instantly turning, began pumping lead at the enemy. Since five that morning Wood had been running about on his feet, his clothes stuck to him with sweat and the mud and water of forded streams, and as he rose he limped slightly. "My, but I'm tired!" he said, in a tone of the most acute surprise, and as though that fact was the only one that was weighing on his mind. He limped over to the trench in which the men were now busily firing off their rifles and waved a riding-crop he carried at the trench they had abandoned. He was standing as Crane had been standing, in silhouette against the sky-line. "Come back, boys," we heard him shouting. "The other men can't withdraw, and so you mustn't. It looks bad. Come on, get out of that!" What made it more amusing was that, although Wood had, like every one else, discarded his coat and wore a strange uniform of gray shirt, white riding-breeches, and a cowboy Stetson, with no insignia of rank, not even straps pinned to his shirt, still the men instantly accepted his authority. They looked at him on the crest of the hill, waving his stick persuasively at the grave-like trench at his feet, and then with a shout scampered back to it.
After that, as I had a bad attack of sciatica and no place to sleep and nothing to eat, I accepted Crane's offer of a blanket and coffee at his bivouac near El Poso. On account of the sciatica I was not able to walk fast, and, although for over a mile of the way the trail was under fire, Crane and Hare each insisted on giving me an arm, and kept step with my stumblings. Whenever I protested and refused their sacrifice and pointed out the risk they were taking they smiled as at the ravings of a naughty child, and when I lay down in the road and refused to budge unless they left me, Crane called the attention of Hare to the effect of the setting sun behind the palm-trees. To the reader all these little things that one remembers seem very little indeed, but they were vivid at the moment, and I have always thought of them as stretching over a long extent of time and territory. Before I revisited San Juan I would have said that the distance along the road from the point where I left the artillery to where I joined Wood was three-quarters of a mile. When I paced it later I found the distance was about seventy-five yards. I do not urge my stupidity or my extreme terror as a proof that others would be as greatly confused, but, if only for the sake of the stupid ones, it seems a pity that the landmarks of San Juan should not be rescued from the jungle, and a few sign-posts placed upon the hills. It is true that the great battles of the Civil War and those of the one in Manchuria, where the men killed and wounded in a day outnumber all those who fought on both sides at San Juan, make that battle read like a skirmish. But the Spanish War had its results. At least it made Cuba into a republic, and so enriched or burdened us with colonies that our republic changed into something like an empire. But I do not urge that. It will never be because San Juan changed our foreign policy that people will visit the spot, and will send from it picture postal cards. The human interest alone will keep San Juan alive. The men who fought there came from every State in our country and from every class of our social life. We sent there the best of our regular army, and with them, cowboys, clerks, bricklayers, foot-ball players, three future commanders of the greater army that followed that war, the future Governor of Cuba, future commanders of the Philippines, the commander of our forces in China, a future President of the United States. And, whether these men, when they returned to their homes again, became clerks and millionaires and dentists, or rose to be presidents and mounted policemen, they all remember very kindly the days they lay huddled together in the trenches on that hot and glaring sky-line. And there must be many more besides who hold the place in memory. There are few in the United States so poor in relatives and friends who did not in his or her heart send a substitute to Cuba. For these it seems as though San Juan might be better preserved, not as it is, for already its aspect is too far changed to wish for that, but as it was. The efforts already made to keep the place in memory and to honor the Americans who died there are the public park which I have mentioned, the monument on San Juan, and one other monument at Guasimas to the regulars and Rough Riders who were killed there. To these monuments the Society of Santiago will add four more, which will mark the landing place of the army at Daiquairi and the fights at Guasimas, El Caney, and San Juan Hill.
But I believe even more than this might be done to preserve to the place its proper values. These values are sentimental, historical, and possibly to the military student, educational. If to-day there were erected at Daiquairi, Siboney, Guasimas, El Poso, El Caney, and on and about San Juan a dozen iron or bronze tablets that would tell from where certain regiments advanced, what posts they held, how many or how few were the men who held those positions, how near they were to the trenches of the enemy, and by whom these men were commanded, I am sure the place would reconstruct itself and would breathe with interest, not only for the returning volunteer, but for any casual tourist. As it is, the history of the fight and the reputation of the men who fought is now at the mercy of the caretaker of the park and the Cuban "guides" from the hotel. The caretaker speaks only Spanish, and, considering the amount of misinformation the guides disseminate, it is a pity when they are talking to Americans, they are not forced to use the same language. When last I visited it, Carlos Portuondo was the official guardian of San Juan Hill. He is an aged Cuban, and he fought through the Ten Years' War, but during the last insurrection and the Spanish-American War he not only was not near San Juan, but was not even on the Island of Cuba. He is a charming old person, and so is his aged wife. Their chief concern in life, when I saw them, was to sell me a pair of breeches made of palm-fibre which Carlos had worn throughout the entire ten years of battle. The vicissitudes of those trousers he recited to me in great detail, and he very properly regarded them as of historic value. But of what happened at San Juan he knew nothing, and when I asked him why he held his present post and occupied the Block-House, he said, "To keep the cows out of the park." When I asked him where the Americans had camped, he pointed carefully from the back door of the Block-House to the foot of his kitchen-garden. I assured him that under no stress of terror could the entire American army have been driven into his back yard, and pointed out where it had stretched along the ridge of hills for five miles. He politely but unmistakably showed that he thought I was a liar. From the Venus Hotel there were two guides, old Casanova and Jean Casanova, his languid and good-natured son, a youth of sixteen years. Old Casanova, like most Cubans, is not inclined to give much credit for what they did in Cuba to the Americans. After all, he says, they came only just as the Cubans themselves were about to conquer the Spaniards, and by a lucky chance received the surrender and then claimed all the credit. As other Cubans told me, "Had the Americans left us alone a few weeks longer, we would have ended the war." How they were to have taken Havana, and sunk Cervera's fleet, and why they were not among those present when our men charged San Juan, I did not inquire. Old Casanova, again like other Cubans, ranks the fighting qualities of the Spaniard much higher than those of the American. This is only human. It must be annoying to a Cuban to remember that after he had for three years fought the Spaniard, the Yankee in eight weeks received his surrender and began to ship him home. The way Casanova describes the fight at El Caney is as follows:
"The Americans thought they could capture El Caney in one day, but the brave General Toral fought so good that it was six days before the Americans could make the Spaniards surrender." The statement is correct except as regards the length of time during which the fight lasted. The Americans did make the mistake of thinking they could eat up El Caney in an hour and then march through it to San Juan. Owing to the splendid courage of Toral and his few troops our soldiers, under two of our best generals, were held in check from seven in the morning until two in the afternoon. But the difference between seven hours of one day and six days is considerable. Still, at present at San Juan that is the sort of information upon which the patriotic and puzzled American tourist is fed.
Young Casanova, the only other authority in Santiago, is not so sure of his facts as is his father, and is willing to learn. He went with me to hold my pony while I took the photographs that accompany this article, and I listened with great interest to his accounts of the battle. Finally he made a statement that was correct. "How did you happen to get that right?" I asked.
"Yesterday," he said, "I guided Colonel Hayes here, and while I guided him he explained it to me."