This series has thirteen easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Organizing the U.S. Army Invasion.
The Spanish-American War was called (in the United States) “the splendid little war”. It did have less than a year of major combat. The major campaign was in Cuba with two smaller operations in the Philippines and Puerto Rico. This is the story of the land and naval campaigns in Cuba as told by the most famous army commander of the war and the Spanish Admiral. A more comprehensive account is given by Mr. Draper.
The selections are from:
- The Rescue of Cuba by Andrew S. Draper published in 1899.
- Official Report by Theodore Roosevelt published in 1898.
- Official Report by Pascual Cervera published in 1898.
For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Summary of daily installments:
|Andrew S. Draper’s installments:||9|
|Theodore Roosevelt’s installments:||1.5|
|Pascual Cervera’s installments:||2.5|
We begin with Andrew S. Draper. He was New York State’s Education Commissioner and a writer.
Place: Santiago Area
At the time of the declaration of war, April 19, 1898, the regular army of the United States numbered 27,532 men. The army of Great Britain in time of peace consists of 220,000 men, of France 2,043,000, of Germany 1,969,000, of Russia 1,145,000, of Spain 352,000.
The regulars were reasonably well ready for service when war was declared. They were well drilled and somewhat inured to camp life and field service. They had a fair field equipment. They were armed with a modern weapon called the Krag-Jorgensen rifle, and they were supplied, while in the midst of the Cuban campaign, with cartridges of smokeless powder.
But the regular troops were only a handful of men, and the points in which they excelled were only those which were within the power of the professional officers of the army to develop and direct. Congress had for years refused not only to grant any enlargement of the army, but also to authorize such reorganization as military experience had shown to be necessary and as had been adopted in all modern European armies. Such matters relating to the army as depended either upon legislation by Congress or upon administration by civilian officers were either seriously lacking or deplorably confused. In the Santiago campaign the transportation and supply departments almost broke down under their responsibilities.
One reason why the regular army had been kept small was that there seemed to be so little for it to do. Its only active service was in suppressing Indian outbreaks, which have been growing more infrequent. It also served the purpose of enabling the officers to maintain the standard of military efficiency. In case of war it was intended to serve as a nucleus for the volunteer army, upon which it has hitherto been the custom of our Government to depend. What we should do in case of sudden war with a formidable foreign Power, Congress had not thought.
Consequently, when war was declared, the Government was obliged to depend on volunteers to fill up the army. The President called for 200,000 volunteer soldiers. Five men stood ready for every place that was to be filled. Many of the best young men in the land struggled with one another for opportunity to go. In many States, entire regiments of the National Guard volunteered. In some States whole regiments were enlisted, organized, and drilled, without any authority whatever, in the hope that further calls would be made, and, being organized, they would have the next chance.
In addition to the 200,000 volunteers called for by the President, Congress authorized an enlargement of the regular army from 27,000 to 62,000 men, and also the enlistment as “United States Volunteers” of 10,000 “immunes” (men who were proof against yellow fever), 3500 engineers, and 3000 cavalrymen.
The volunteer troops could not in the nature of things be prepared for service in a brief time as completely as the regulars. Congress had made no provision for equipping a volunteer army, and the equipment furnished by the States was very inadequate. Much of the equipment that the States provided was either out of date or made for show rather than service. With all the riches of the country at the time of the declaration of war, there was almost an entire absence of clothing, shoes, tents, camp utensils, horses and wagons, arms and ammunition available for the active service of an army of 250,000 men anywhere, least of all in a campaign in a foreign and tropical country, mountainous and without roads, and in midsummer.
The American volunteer soldier is of course not inured to field service. He is a man of wits and resources, capable of adapting himself to new conditions and rising to occasions; but he can hardly be expected, in three months, to carry himself like a professional, or to fight as effectually with antiquated arms as the veteran with rifles of the highest power. But notwithstanding the disadvantages under which most of the volunteer troops worked, they pressed forward with alacrity, supported the regulars with unfailing courage, fought bravely when opportunity offered, and if the war had lasted would soon have been professional soldiers themselves.
The modern Krag-Jorgensen gun has far greater velocity, carries much farther, and is more accurate than the old Springfield rifle. Not a regiment of the State troops, which formed the bulk of the army, was equipped with this new gun, however, and the factory which made them could not turn out more than one hundred fifty a day; at this rate it took nearly a week to fit out a single regiment. Many States sent arms of different types and calibers, which obviously could not be served with the same ammunition.
There was also a scarcity of ammunition at the time of the declaration of war. This lack was so great that target practice had to be limited. But under the emergency appropriation of fifty million dollars, contracts were let for large quantities of am munition, and the factories were worked night and day, making one kind for the regulars and other kinds for the volunteers, until they were fairly supplied.
The sequel proved that smokeless powder played a new and a large part in the efficiency and comparative safety of the troops. If the volunteer soldiers that fought at Santiago had been sup plied with the Krag-Jorgensen rifle and smokeless powder, they would have been more destructive to the enemy; offering a less conspicuous target by their clouds of smoke, they would have suffered less slaughter themselves.
Guantanamo, Daiquiri, Guasimas, El Caney, San Juan, and Santiago — these names mark the landing of the American army in Cuba, and the route of progress to a splendid triumph of American arms on that island. But they stand for much more — for heroism and aggressiveness, for patience, endurance, and persistence, for hardship and death, for the expulsion of the Spaniard, and the final termination of Spanish rule in America.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history