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column on the way during several critical days. The only help the Spanish Navy was enabled to give in the defense of Santiago, was by landing men and guns from the feet, and bettering the equipment of the garrison with arms and ammunition. If Cervera had been able to reach Cienfuegos with his squadron, there could have been direct co-operation with the great body. of Spanish troops concentrated in the West end of Cuba for the defense of Havana; and the Captain General enabled to pour by rail into the town so considerable a force, that, acting behind intrenchments, they would, in all probability, if they fought with the gallantry displayed at Santiago, have made good their defense until divisions of our volunteers could take part; and this itself would have been sufficient for the introduction of the dreaded pestilence into our camps.
The rail connection of Cienfuegos with the railway system of Cuba would have enabled the Spaniards to concentrate for the defense of the feet in that harbor, and, at least, the protraction of the siege for an indefinite time, and undoutedly a very costly campaign. Owing to our superior resources, such a struggle would have terminated in the defeat and surrender of the Spaniards, but for us an enormous expenditure of life.
Many of our officers of distinction made the mistake of under-valuation of the import of the first blow, and a speedy victory.
When the defenders of Santiago, with the fleet, were destroyed, the Spaniards beaten back into their defenses, and the city surrendered, the capitulation carried with it the whole department, with all its garrisons; and then the end of the war was in sight. The Spanish fleets annihilated at Manila and Santiago, Spain was helpless, both in the Philippines and the Indies, and had nothing afloat to defend the Spanish peninsula from the attacks of the American fleet. We had Spain's army in Cuba in a great trap. We did not in August need to undertake the campaign in detail. It was not necessary for us to pour our masses of volunteers into the islands, or to hold the troops that we had there in the fever season, on lines and in villages where the yellow pestilence had appeared. There was no secret about the fever, burning like a monster furnace to consume our young men. Under Spanish conditions the fever was always in Cuba. The idea that it was, in a military and moral sense, necessary to keep our troops at Santiago, or to transport our men from the great camps in our own country to the West end of Cuba to make a display of activity, was wholly inconsiderate. The Spaniards were incapable of aggression, and we had only to wait that their resources of ammunition and provision might be exhausted, while if we insisted upon besieging Havana when it would have to fall with its own weight, and inherent horrors and weaknesses, we would have simply been contributing a multitude of our men to the graveyards of the island. The
policy of holding the troops in Cuba, and adding to them, was simply that of
ding fuel for an awful conflagration that would have effected no military object, and was not warranted by anything in human affairs.
It was as rough and ready, hot and swift, in Roosevelt's mind, to evacuate the island, and get out of it, with the men who had done the necessary work already, as it had been in the first place to get there with the utmost dispatch and force the fighting without the delay of a day, pressing it to immediate conclusion. There was the same demand to get away from the plague spot that there had been to get to the fighting line. When the line vanished, there was no reason why American soldiers should be detained in that climate, unless to guard the captive Spaniards from being massacred by the Cubans before they could be sent home, according to the terms of the protocol and capitulation, as immediately proposed and approved. If there had been a danger of the slaughter, in sheer revenge of our captives, there would have been a sufficient reason to have given them their captured guns, that they might take care of themselves.
Colonel Roosevelt promoted the policy of the evacuation of the yellow fever district. It was the policy of peace and humanity that was already triumphant in the war, to save not only our own soldiers, who were the most exposed of any to the ravages of the pestilence, but to save the Spaniards also from semi-starvation, and an unparalleled death rate; and to prevent the ill-clad, poorly armed and weary Cubans from further struggles and suffering and losses in protracting a struggle which had already been substantially closed to their enduring advantage.
There was no chance for any more war with Spain unless we crossed the ocean to find it. The fact was plain at Paris that if there could not be a treaty made by the Commissioners there assembled, and if we had to go on with the war, we would be obliged to find the fighting on the soil of Europe, or in the Spanish islands in the Mediterranean and on the coast of
In the comprehensive and exceedingly valuable testimony before the Commission, to investigate the conduct of the war with Spain, Colonel Roosevelt said that when on the way to the wholesome shores of Long Island, sailing away from the Cuban malarial climate and fever breeding soil, while there were still hardships to encounter, though the transports were crowded, and there were many discomforts because we had not been accustomed to sea-faring armies, there was joyous animation and helpful hope, as the days passed, that gave relief to the sick and preserved the health of those who had maintained it. The American boys are apt to be homesick when far away in the tropical gardens, and talk about the land of the corn stalk and the apple tree and the wheat fields, and all that they remember that they had fondness for and treasure recollections of in the States—they sum it all up and speak with unspeakable longing for “God's country.” No wonder, when the sick boys, saved from the fevers of Cuba, found themselves on Long Island, with the ocean breezes from one quarter, and those of the Sound and New England from the other, and began to receive such attentions as they were accustomed to at home, to have such delicacies as the sick are served with in the home hospitals, where the water was pure and the ice was plenty, and they saw only pleasant faces about them, that they expressed their emotions in the words, “This is Heaven.”