On the extreme front, I now found myself in command, with fragments of the six cavalry regiments of the two brigades under me.
Continuing The Cuban Campaign,
with a selection from Official Report by Theodore Roosevelt published in 1898. This selection is presented in 1.5 easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Theodore Roosevelt was a Lieutenant-Colonel in command of a unit nick-named “The Rough Riders” which he had recruited and organized. After the war he became Governor of New York, Vice-President and then President of the United States. His likeness is on Mount Rushmore.
Previously in The Cuban Campaign.
Place: Santiago Area
Trenches Outs1de Santiago, July 4, 1898.
Colonel Leonard Wood, Commanding Second Cavalry Brigade:
On July 1st the regiment, with myself in command, was moved out by your orders, directly following the First Brigade. Before leaving the camping-ground several of our men were wounded by shrapnel. After crossing the river at the ford we were moved along and up its right bank, under fire, and were held in reserve at a sunken road. Here we lost a good many men, including Captain O’Neil killed and Lieutenant Haskell wounded.
We then received your order to advance and support the regular cavalry in the attack on the intrenchments and blockhouses on the hills to the left. The regiment was deployed on both sides of the road, and moved forward until we came to the rearmost lines of the regulars. We continued to move forward until I ordered a charge; and the men rushed the blockhouses and rifle- pits on the hill to the right of our advance. They did the work in fine shape, though suffering severely; the guidons of Troops E and G were first planted on the summit, though the first men up were some A and B troopers who were with me. We then opened fire on the intrenchments on a hill to our left, which some of the other regiments were assailing, and which they carried a few minutes later. Meanwhile we were under a heavy rifle-fire from the entrenchments along the hills to our front, from which they also shelled us with a piece of field artillery until some of our marksmen silenced it. When the men got their wind we charged again, and carried the second line of intrenchments with a rush. Swinging to the left, we then drove the Spaniards over the brow of the chain of hills fronting Santiago. By this time the regiments were much mixed, and we were under a very heavy fire, both of shrapnel and fine rifles, from the batteries, intrenchments, and forts immediately in front of the city.
On the extreme front, I now found myself in command, with fragments of the six cavalry regiments of the two brigades under me. The Spaniards made one or two efforts to retake the line, but were promptly driven back. Both General Sumner and you sent me word to hold the line at all hazard, and that night we dug a line of intrenchments across our front, using the captured Spanish entrenching-tools. We had nothing to eat except what we captured from the Spaniards; but their dinner had fortunately been cooked, and we ate it with relish, having been fighting all day. We had no blankets or coats, and lay by the trenches all night.
The Spaniards attacked us once in the night, and at dawn they opened a heavy artillery and rifle fire. Very great assistance was rendered us by Lieutenant Parker’s Gatling Battery at critical moments ; he fought his guns at the extreme front of the firing line in a way that repeatedly called forth the cheers of my men.
One of the Spanish batteries that were used against us was directly in front of the hospital, so that the Red Cross flag flew over the battery, saving it from our fire for a considerable period. The Spanish Mauser bullets made clean wounds; but they also used a copper-jacketed or brass-jacketed bullet which exploded, making very bad wounds indeed.
Since then we have continued to hold the ground. The food has been short, and until to-day we could not get any blankets, coats, or shelter-tents; while the men lay all day under the fire from the Spanish batteries, intrenchments, and guerillas in trees, and worked all night in the trenches, never even taking off their shoes; but they are in excellent spirits, and ready and anxious to carry out any orders they receive.
At the end of the first day the eight troops were commanded, two by captains, three by first lieutenants, two by second lieutenants, and one by the sergeant whom you made acting lieutenant. We went into the fight about four hundred ninety strong; eighty- six men were killed or wounded, and there are still half a dozen missing. The great heat prostrated nearly forty men, some of them among the best in the regiment. Besides Captain O’Neil and Lieutenant Haskell, Lieutenants Leaby, Devereux, and Carr were wounded. All behaved with’ great gallantry.
As for Captain O’Neil, his loss is one of the severest that could have befallen the regiment. He was a man of cool head, great executive ability, and literally dauntless courage.
The guerillas in trees not only fired at our troops, but seemed to devote themselves especially to shooting at the surgeons, the hospital assistants with Red Cross badges on their arms, the wounded who were being carried on litters, and the burying- parties. Many of these guerillas were dressed in green uniforms. We sent out a detail of sharpshooters among those in our rear, along the line where they had been shooting the wounded, and killed thirteen.
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