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"We had captured in the blockhouse the Spanish officers' mess, and an extremely good officers' mess it was, better than anything we had had; a big kettle of beef, a kettle of rice, and peas, and a big demijohn of rum, and a lot of rice flour loaves, and so I fed those out to my men; and we also got a lot of Spanish intrenching tools, and we threw up some very aboriginal intrenchments. So that night we had a mild feast on the Spaniards' food"
Q. "Was that the 1st or 2nd?"
A. "That is the night of the 1st. We intrenched there. As I have seen talk about a retreat being considered from that hill, it is only justice to say that the officers on the extreme front of that line, at least on my part of the line, never dreamed of the Spaniards driving us; they were all perfectly horrified at the idea of retreating. Captains Morton and Boughton came over to me in the afternoon to say that someone had spoken of retreating, and to beg me to protest. I had not heard of it, and did not believe it was true. I knew we could hold that line against anything that could come up in the front."
There were frequent reports that the Spaniards, on the nights of the 1st and 2nd were "attacking" the Americans. They did, in a kind of way, but it was not an attack pushed home. The skirmishes became active, and the trenches redoubled fire. There was no dream of retreating. The next day and night, the regiment was under fire all day, and about nine o'clock at night there was a tremendous amount of volley firing, and some Spanish skirmishers came out; but though they used smokeless powder, so that in the daytime no smoke was seen, yet at night there were little spurts of flame, and a clearer idea of their whereabouts was obtained during the night than in the day.
At this point Colonel Roosevelt spoke of "the enormous superiority of the smokeless powder over the black powder," adding that it could hardly be realized by those not on the ground, and it was felt that the Spanish artillery was better than our artillery on account of the powder. Colonel Roosevelt says:
"I saw, for instance, the guns on our left open fire, and in a half-minute after the first shot there would be this thick cloud of smoke hanging, and apparently every Spanish gun and every Spanish rifle within a radius of a mile of us would be all turned on that one point, and the gun would be driven out; so that our men-I mean the dismounted cavalry-would say, 'there go the artillery; they will be driven out.' And they were. They were placed back in the rear on the following day, but they were driven off the firing line where the infantry were. On the other hand, the Gatlings, which were managed by Captain Parker, were fought on the extreme front of the skirmish line; he fought his Gatlings right up on the extreme front, just as far as anybody could go. He did magnificently. He was on the right of our regiment. We had our two Colts, and he came and helped us put our two Colts in position. We didn't
think we had put our works out quite far enough, and we zigzagged an approach and made a kind of bastion some 200 yards out on the hill, so that we could fire right into the Spanish works. He helped us dig the approach and helped us get our Colt automatic guns fixed just right. He not only fought his own guns, but he rendered us every assistance."
Q. "Did he have smokeless powder?"
A. "If he had not had, we would not have allowed him in the trenches unless he could have stayed there, in spite of us. I would say that some of the Seventy-First New York came up in the trenches right by some of the cavalry of the First Brigade, and the cavalrymen ordered them out, saying that they would not have them in their trenches; they would rather fight without support than with the black powder, insuring their being the one point at which the enemy were firing."
The command was fully supplied with ammunition all this time, but the rations were insufficient. Something was taken from the Spaniards, but there was not a sufficiency of good food until the 24th of July. There was about enough of bacon and hard-tack, and half rations of coffee and sugar. The men began to sicken. Digging trenches and sleeping on the ground caused it. There was not at any time more than one day's rations at the front for the entire army, and if there had been a three days' rain, it would have been necessary to go down to a diet of new meat and mangoes before food could be got up from the coast. The Colonel was especially energetic. His regiment kept about two days ahead with provision, and one day the First Illinois had no food at all. One of the men offered seven dollars for seven hard-tacks. Colonel Roosevelt rode to the seacoast and got a pack train to bring up something for the Illinois boys to eat. A commissary is mentioned, Colonel Weston, "who would let me get the food without inquiring too closely whether I wanted it for officers or men." The medical supplies were insufficient. There was plenty of quinine and calomel, and very little else. After the truce, they got some tarpaulins and dog tents; finally, two big tarpaulins for the hospital.
Going to look after some of his men, the Colonel saw terrible sights. There were not enough surgeons. They could be seen jerking their heads to keep awake at the operating table. Some of the men after being operated upon were carried out and put down in the jungle and left in the tall grass, because there was no one to look after them, and some of them said afterward it was from twenty-four to twenty-six hours before anyone gave them water. This was at the Red Cross Hospital. Miss Clara Barton was right there; the doctors were all doing their best, working as hard as any soldier in the trenches, but the treatment was so hard upon the men, even sick men could not be got to go to the rear. There were no cots for the wounded; they lay in the mud on their blankets.
"Finally General Wood ordered me not to send any man to the rear who was sick or wounded if he could possibly be attended to at the front, for there was no provision for attending to them at the rear, and even before he had given this order we had ceased sending them. There were no cots for the wounded. They only had blankets, and they lay in the mud on their blankets. If they didn't have blankets they lay in the mud without their blankets, sick and wounded alike. I saw one of my men who was shot through the hips; his blanket had been taken. His name, I think, was Gievers, and he was lying there in the mud without a blanket. I succeeded in getting a man to give him his blanket. I promised him half my blanket if he would give me his, and I would tear his in half and give it to Gievers and keep half myself; but he gave half to Gievers and took the other half himself and wouldn't take mine at all. The wounded behaved in the most uncomplaining way. I can't sufficiently emphasize how they (and of course the bulk of them were soldiers in the Regular Army) behaved; how brave they were. It has left an impression that will never wear out. I can not say too much of the Regulars, of their courage in battle, and their uncomplaining endurance both of hardships and of suffering afterward. I never heard them grumble, I never heard them complain, and they would help one another all they could; but the suffering was great, and that was why I wanted some delicacies for my men at the camp. We would normally have only 15 to 25 per cent on the sick list, but of the remaining 75 per cent 50 were more than half sick. Toward the end, in the whole cavalry division, you could not have gotten more than a fourth of the men who could have carried their packs and walked 5 miles in that hot weather. It was for those half-sick men, and for the sick with temperatures of 102 and 103, that I wanted something besides the bacon and hard tack, and that I wanted condensed milk, oatmeal, and rice; and those things I did at last get in the city and from the Red Cross."
The transports were better going home than coming back.
THE SANTIAGO BATTLES ASHORE.
Col. Roosevelt on the Fire Lines-Led the Way with His Volunteers-Official Reports of Superior Officers and His Own-Going Home with the Sick-Important Military Suggestions-Lessons of Actual Service.
AJOR GENERAL JOSEPH WHEELER'S report, dated "Headquarters, Cavalry Division, camp six and one-half miles east of Santiago de Cuba, June 26, 1898," states, that on the evening of the 23rd General Young reached Siboney, with eight troops of Colonel Wood's regiment (it will be remembered that this was the regiment of which President Roosevelt was Lieutenant Colonel), and troops of other cavalry regiments, making a total force of nine hundred and sixty-four men, who had marched eleven miles; and General Wheeler states, that when the position of the enemy was explained, he determined to make an attack. No one who knew General Wheeler was surprised that he would determine to make an attack at any time. The position of the enemy was examined, and the fighting was very warm, "the enemy being very lavish in the expenditure of ammunition." The enemy gave way finally, and retreated rapidly, "our line keeping well closed upon them," but our men, physically exhausted by their exertions and the great heat, were incapable of maintaining the pursuit.
Colonel Wood's regiment (Roosevelt Lieutenant Colonel), General Wheeler remarked, was too far distant on the extreme left of his line, for him to be a personal witness of the individual conduct of his officers and men; "but the magnificent and brave work done by its regiment under the lead of the Colonel, testifies to his courage and skill;" and General Wheeler says, "I desire personally to add that all I have said about Colonel Wood applies equally to Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt."
General Kent reports, that at Fort San Juan, at 1:30 P. M., the attack was made under the personal leadership of General Hawkins, and the enemy driven to the second line of rifle pickets. At ten minutes past three two requests were received, one from Colonel Wood and one from General Sumner, asking for assistance for the cavalry, "as they were hard pressed." The Thirteenth Infantry was immediately sent. Brigadier General Young, in his report, dated