Page images
PDF
EPUB

bad, just as it was found to be very bad in many other quarters, and it made a great number sick. Added to this, somebody had forgotten to issue salt to the soldiers; so much had to be eaten without this very necessary seasoning. “But we took matters good-naturedly,” said one of the number, in speaking of the trip that followed. “Many of the boys were out for a lark, and when they growled, they did it good-naturedly. We had all sorts of men, and all sorts of nicknames. An Irishman was called Solomon Levi, and a nice young Jew Old Pork Chop. One fellow who was particularly slow was called Speedy William, and another who always spoke in a quick, jerky voice answered to the hail of “Slow-up Peter.' One cowboy who was as rough as anybody in the command was christened The Parson, and a fine, high-toned, well-educated college boy had to answer to the name of Jimmy the Tramp. Some of the boys could sing, and they organized the Rough Rider Quartette; and others could play, and they gave us music on the mouth harmonicas and other instruments they had managed to smuggle along.” The War Department had expected to send the troops to Cuba without delay, but now came in a report that some Spanish war-ships were hovering around, ready to sink the transports as soon as they should show themselves, and for five days the vessels remained in Port Tampa Harbor, until it was ascertained that the report was untrue. Those five days were important to Theodore Roosevelt and to the men under him. Every day the young officer spent a certain portion of his time in studying military tactics and in drilling his soldiers. Much had still to be learned, and the officers had their school of instructions as well as did those under them. The weather was broiling hot, and some were already suffering from fever or its symptoms. Fortunately bathing was good, and many went in once or twice a day. Bathing in the ocean was great sport to some of the plainsmen who had never seen anything larger than a river or creek, and they frolicked around like children, and got up races, with prizes for the best swimmers. At last came the orders for the transports to set sail for Cuba. They numbered thirty-two in all, including a schooner which was towed along filled with drinking water, for water must be had, and that was the only place where it could be stowed. To protect the transports from a possible attack by the enemy, they were accompanied by five war-ships at first, and later on by fourteen. All told, there were on the transports eight hundred officers and sixteen thousand enlisted men. Of the commands, the most were from the regular army, the volunteers numbering but three —the Rough Riders, the Seventy-first New York Infantry, and the Second Massachusetts Infantry.

CHAPTER XIV

LIFE ON THE TRANSPORT — THE LANDING AT DAIQUIRI — 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

« PreviousContinue »