- Historic Sites
Under Fire In Cuba
A Volunteer’s Eyewitness Account of the War With Spain
December 1977 | Volume 29, Issue 1
Now the boys who were wounded at San Juan began to pass us. We were amazed at the cheerful way in which they stood their suffering; laughing and joking with us as they walked on. One of them said “They’ll need you fellows but we’re driving them back.”
For an hour now we were climbing a hill. Its road-bed seemed all mud holes. On the higher land the road turns west towards Santiago. The roads along there were so muddy, we went single file half the time. We passed a pack train on its way to Siboney for supplies.
Some of us left the column and went on ahead until we came to a creek (I have learned since that Shafters army camped here during the interval of rest before the battle of San Juan); here we laid and slept till the company came along.
We filled our canteens and then crossed the creek by stepping stones. It was daybreak now. I suppose we might have enjoyed the first view of the jungles but we were much to tired to enjoy anything. Stumbling along over stones and through mud puddles for a couple of hours-we came to a hault in front of the division hospital, which is two miles east of El Pozo.
A telephone had been strung up from El Pozo to this place and a reporter was receiving news from the front. The Rough Riders came out, one by one, and galloped off to battle. I counted them there were only sixteen they must have been badly scattered the day before.
An hour was given us here for sleep and breakfast. Going into the feild on our left, we threw our packs and went on to a creek that borders the edge of the feild. Having washed and eaten canned beef and hardtack we laid down in the wet grass and slept.
When we woke up the fireing had begun. Crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, crack, went the rifles. Ld-ld-ld-ld-ld-ld-ld went the gattling guns: zr-r, zr-r, zr-r, sang the bullets and for a background we heard the deep bark of the cannon. We will keep step to lively music this morning. The order to “fall in” is heard and now we are marching to battle.
Squads of “regulars” and pack trains loaded with ammunition passed us on their way to the front. Supply wagons drawn by four or six mules were going to and from the front: those going were loaded with supplies, and comming with the wounded.
Throwing our packs we went on with canteens cartridges and guns for a load. Wading a creek we were halted for a rest. The little block house up on the side of the hill locates El Pozo. It is in our possession now and is being used for a prison. We see perhaps twenty Spanish prisoners marched up to their future quarters. Old Sol is blazing away at us as if to assist the Spanish bullets and we seek the shade of a royal palm just back of the road. A hospital corps is stationed here and the fellow they are working over is a case of sun stroke. Two or three other sick and wounded men are lying around.
Again we started on. The air seemed to vibrate with the intense heat. There wasnt a single muscle in the whole column that didn’t ache and not a head that wasn’t dizzy from the heat. We staggered blindly on. Now and then a bullet, poorly aimed, whizzed over your head and struck in the woods near by. One of our best and strongest men was left laying by the road-overcome by the heat and exertion. Regulars warned us to keep shy of the sharp-shooters who were stationed around in the trees. About twenty were wounded and six killed that morning by them. Some of them lay at the side of the road and others were being carried to the rear.
At the command, we opened ranks to let something pass. It was a little procession in itself and after seeing many nerve trying things that morning this was a feast to the eye. First came a regular carrying a creg-jorgeson and a mauser also a smile; next a Spaniard whose natural gait seemed to be altered by some force behind; and third, another regular who was administering the force in the form of good wholesome kicks. Were we to tired to cheer? We waded San Juan River now: some of us again filling our canteens.
The bullets seemed to come in sheets and the crack of rifles was very close indeed. Comming out of the wood we immerged into an open field and were soon at the foot of San Juan Hill. Our lines ran along the top of the hill and all of the bullets not stopped by the trenches, whistled over our heads. Pretty soon a little short man on horse back, came up and ordered us farther on. We marched again—a quarter of a mile-and then lay down in a ravine.