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LIFE ON THE TRANSPORT - THE LANDING AT DAI
QUIRI — THE MARCH TO SIBONEY — THE TRAIL THROUGH THE JUNGLE THE SKIRMISH AT LA GUASIMA
WHILE the army was preparing to invade Cuba, matters so far as they concerned the navy had been moving along rapidly. Commodore Dewey had sunk the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay; Havana and the adjacent coasts were being blockaded, so no ships could pass in or out without running the risk of capture; and a large fleet of war-ships under Admiral Cervera, of the enemy's navy, had been “bottled up” in Santiago Harbor.
It had been decided that the United States troops should be landed on the southeast coast of Cuba, not far from the entrance to Santiago Bay, and from that point should make an advance on Santiago, which is the second city of importance in the island.
Day after day the flotilla of transports kept on its way, spread out in a broad
column during the time it was light, and coming in close together during the night. The war-ships hovered near, and at night swept the ocean with their powerful searchlights, rendering a surprise by the enemy impossible.
The trip to the southeast coast of Cuba lasted seven days. It was very hot, even for this time of the year, and those who could, slept on deck during the voyage. There was but little to do, and when not drilling, the men took it easy in the shade,sleeping, chatting, or playing games. Sometimes they would talk of the future and wonder how much of real fighting lay before them.
“ We didn't know even then where we were going,” said one, in speaking of the trip. “I don't believe Wood or Roosevelt knew either. First we thought it might be Havana, then we imagined it might be Porto Rico, but when we turned southward and ran around the eastern end of the island, we all knew we were bound for Santiago."
As the transports swept up toward the mouth of Santiago Bay, they came within sight of the American war-ships that were
keeping Admiral Cervera's fleet “bottled up” in the harbor. A shout of recognition went up, and one of the bands struck up a patriotic air that was truly inspiring.
The landing of the Rough Riders and many other commands was made at Daiquiri, a small settlement on the coast east of Santiago Harbor. The Yucatan got closer to the shore than most of the other transports, and the men lost no time in disembarking, taking with them two Colt’s automatic guns and a dynamite gun of which they had be come possessed. As there had not been transports enough, only the officers' horses had been brought along. These were thrown into the water and made to swim ashore. Theodore Roosevelt had two horses, but one was drowned.
It was important that the landing should be guarded, and the war-ships sent in some shot and shell to dislodge any Spaniards who might be in the vicinity. But none showed themselves, and soon nearly all of the soldiers were ashore, either at Daiquiri or at a landing a short distance farther westward. No enemy was in sight, and the only persons who appeared were some
Cubans, soldiers and civilians, who wanted but one thing, food.
The Rough Riders had been put into a brigade commanded by General S. B. M. Young. There were two of these brigades, and it is worth noting that they formed a division under the command of Major-General Joseph Wheeler, who had in years gone by fought so gallantly on the side of the Confederacy. Now, as brave as of old, he was fighting for Old Glory, the one banner of the North and the South alike.
As the Rough Riders landed, they were marched up the beach, and here they went into temporary camp,- an easy matter, since each soldier carried his outfit with him, or, at least, as much as he could get of what belonged to him. Theodore Roosevelt had his weapons and ammunition, a mackintosh and a toothbrush, certainly much less than he had carried even when roughing it in the Bad Lands of the West.
As soon as the larger portion of the army was landed, General Lawton — he who was afterward to give his life for his flag in the Philippines — threw out a strong detachment on the Santiago road to the westward,
and also detachments on the roads to the north and east.
“On to Santiago !” was the cry. And many were for pushing forward without delay. But the transports had still to unload their baggage, and word did not reach the Rough Riders to move on until the afternoon of the day after landing.
It was a rocky, uneven country, with much brushwood and jungles of trees and vines. It had rained, but now the sun came out fiercely, and the Rough Riders (riders in name only, for only the officers were on horseback) suffered greatly through being clad in winter uniform.
“ It was a tough and tiresome march,' said one who was there.
“ The air just quivered with heat, and many of the boys felt like throwing half of their clothing away. Whenever we reached a drinking place, the crowd would swarm around for water like a lot of bees.
“General Lawton had his outposts pretty well advanced. Our commander, old General Wheeler, was just as anxious to make a showing, and he ordered General Young to push on with the Rough Riders and some