- Historic Sites
Under Fire In Cuba
A Volunteer’s Eyewitness Account of the War With Spain
December 1977 | Volume 29, Issue 1
When we got to camp some of the fellows, who were on gaurd last night and had slept in the gaurd house, were telling of the peculiar sensations one is liable to have when a spider as large as a fist crawls over his arm or leg. Here comes the sergeant with a slip of paper in one hand and a pencil in the other: this means work and two of us who have just been in swimming are ordered to patrol the creek for a mile and arrest any one caught bathing or washing their clothes there. What we did was to allow them all to go in with the injunction that if an officer appear, to say that they were just ordered out and were getting there as fast as circumstances of the case would premit. I came upon a man bathing a wounded f orhead. He said he received it just as his regiment immerged from the woods and were about to charge the hill. The bullet had just grazed his temple. “Oh you belong to the nigger regiment.” (I had not noticed his features and he was nearly white) “Yes” said he “I belong to the colored troops.” Seeing he was somewhat chagrined over being called a nigger I told him of a letter I had found near a dead mans coat. It ran thus. “Dear Boy:-although us colored people is looked down upon by the whites, we owe them a great deal for giving us our liberty. I hope you will do your duty and show them we merit their respect. Hoping you are well etc. Your Uncle.” He had given his life for a country whose people did not respect the manhood under his black skin. Niggers I called colored people after this. We got back about seven o’clock and eat supper in the dark.
Orders are to roll up and prepare to move. With rolls on our back we stand around for an hour then swing into line and march toward El Pozo. When we get there companies B. and M. move around the block house and go into camp while the rest of the regiment move toward the division hospital. About twelve of company M. are immediately sent farther down the road to do out post duty. There is no water near their post and all they have is two canteens a piece to last twenty four hours. There is not a breath of air stirring and everything-grass, trees, shrubs, stones-fairly sparkle from the sun’s rays. Some of the boys nearly faint but a breeze soon rises and we all feel better.
Enormous crabs and turantulas have been seen in the bushes so tonight a number of us sleep in the road. For a wonder it did not rain today and the road is dry and hard: but the hardness feels good to our lame backs. After eating a few mangoes, we fall asleep.
The company has received no mail since leaving Camp Alger—June 23d. We seem to be in another world. This morning I sent a letter by team to Siboney. I wonder when it will reach home. There is no regular duty for us to do to-day; so we lay around telling stories and mending our clothes or wander in the woods looking for relics. Some of us find cast off overhall suits—thrown away by regulars during the fight—and these we keep and wear while we stay on the island. Twelve more men were sent to relieve the out post. Those comming back said it was a snap.
The boys who were left at Siboney came back this afternoon. They had seen Alexander who they said was very sick but thought he would pull through all right. One of the Co. B. fellows had been stationed on the Harvard to gaurd prisoners and he told of their effort to over-power the gaurds and escape. Pat had bored a hole through one of these fellows with a springfield rifle ball. A few of them jumped overboard and swam for shore but were shot on their way.
We received rations today; consisting of soap, one-quarter of a candle for two men, a handf ull of beans apiece, hardtack, coffee and sow-belly besides a can of beef for three men.
This morning a crowd gathered at the creek to wash their clothes and bath-the result of soap being issued yesterday.
There is a species of poison oak here that effects the skin as our ivy at home does. It looks much like a small oak tree except that the limbs branch out from the top like a palm and on the edge of the leaves are little thorns. Two of us fellows were victims of this poison from the start and just returned from the hospital yesterday. An old fellow who had it all over his hands and arms, was down to the creek this morning and he said this army soap was the best thing in the world to dry it up.
On our way to camp we were met by the 2nd sargeant who advised us to hurry to camp as we were about to move. That was the way. Whenever we were settled nicely so at to enjoy our camp we had to move.
We were now packed up. The out posts had come in and the main body of the regiment now appeared; having evidently marched a good ways. They marched on up the road and companies B. and M. fell in behind. It was up hill all the way and hot again too. How to describe that intense heat “staggers” me. To realize the hotness of that heat you must experience it. You must be there in that column of men who seemingly exert all their strength every step they take, to take that step and yet the column keeps in motion