Page images
PDF
EPUB

summit, they broke into new cheers, for there below them, within easy sight, were the white walls and red-tiled roofs of Santiago de Cuba. That was the fight of the first of July. An interesting feature of the battle was the conduct of Major-General Joseph Wheeler. He had been so ill the day before that he had transferred the command of the cavalry to General Sumner. But when the fighting began he had four stout men carry him to the field in a litter, and there resumed the direction of the forces. And he remained at the front till the day was WOI). In the late afternoon, when absolute quiet had reigned for an hour, an attempt at advance was made by the Spaniards. From their trenches half way down the slopes they marched out as if to attack the positions held by the Americans; and the latter greeted the demonstration with a soldier's joy. They had been at a disadvantage all morning and had carried breastworks, against rifles, and in spite of artillery support. Now they thought they were to meet the enemy on equal terms, and they started to the conflict as to a festival. But the movement of the enemy was short-lived. If they ever had entertained

[graphic][merged small]

the purpose of attack, they reconsidered it, for they did not get two hundred yards from their trenches until the fire of the Americans met them, and they turned and incontinently fled back to their cover. Curiously enough, as a result of this action, General Shafter is said to have decided upon a withdrawal of the American troops to a position less exposed. Against his judgment was opposed that of General Wheeler, who regarded the retrograde movement as in every way ill-advised. He urged that the army be held in its advanced position, and all the officers in command, and certainly all the men in arms, seconded his contention. And the retreat was not ordered. In a paragraph from Colonel Roosevelt’s own book is found a tribute to General Wheeler’s judgment at this juncture: “Soon after dark General Wheeler came to the front. A very few words with him reassured us about retiring. He told us not to be under any apprehension, as he had sent word to General Shafter there was no need of it whatever; and he was sure we would stay where we were until the chance came for advance. He was second in command, and to him more than to any other man was due the abandonment of the proposal to fall back—a proposal which, if adopted, would have meant shame and disaster.” There was desultory fighting thereafter for two days, and then a demand for the city's surrender, and a one-sided truce, by virtue of which the Americans were not allowed to attack, though the Spaniards might if they saw fit, and were prepared to take punishment for it. They did not take advantage of their privilege to any great extent, and so there was comparative quiet until noon of July 10, when the firing was resumed all along the entire Spanish line. It continued for an hour, and the Americans leaped to return it. No harm was done to the Rough Riders or their companions in arms, but a good deal of damage was inflicted on the enemy. The situation was practically a siege, and until the truce was really established, every moment was one of watchful guarding, and of danger. But after that first day's fight Colonel Roosevelt and his men thoroughly understood each other. They knew he would share every hardship and danger with them, and that he would do everything in his power for their maintenance and for their shelter and their rest. And he knew they would go

« PreviousContinue »