The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker

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Chapter IX: The Volunteers

The white flag went up at one o’clock on the 11th, and this was the end of the fighting at Santiago. The Rough Riders had been moved from the hill at Fort Roosevelt to a position west of the El Caney road, and one of the Gatling guns had been sent with them. This gun was brought back on the 17th after the surrender. Various other movements of troops occurred before the 17th, which had been decided upon by the generals as the last day of grace. Gen. Toral had been notified that one o’clock on the 17th was the time for either the surrender or the signal for the assault. The hour approached, and still the Spaniard attempted to delay. The orders for the assault were issued. The troops lay in the trenches with their fingers on the triggers. Gen. Randolph had come and pushed the artillery into better positions. The pieces were loaded and the gunners stood with their lanyards in their hands. The ammunition-boxes were opened. The nervous tension of the line was terrific. The troops on the extreme right and left, designated for the assault, were only waiting the word to dash forward upon the intrenchments of the enemy. Then suddenly from Gen. Wheeler’s headquarters a mounted officer was seen spurring eastward along the crest. He was waving his hat over his head. His horse gathered speed, and the foam began to fly from his flanks and nostrils, and as Capt. McKittrick passed he called, “No cheering, please; the city and province of Santiago have surrendered.”

The members of the Gatling Gun Detachment walked to the top of the hill, and, facing toward the gallant enemy who had so valiantly defended the foredoomed city, silently took off their hats.

All along the line the reception of the glorious news was marked by comments upon the gallant defense which had been made. There was no demonstration which could have hurt the feelings of so magnificent a foe. Five minutes after the surrender the American trench was lined by American troops on our side and Spanish troops on the other. The Spanish troops brought bottles of mescal, aguardiente, and wine. Our troops carried hardtack and canned roast beef. These recent foes began at once to exchange the necessaries of life and souvenirs of the siege of Santiago. They fraternized as all brave men do after the battle. A few Cubans skulked around the rear of our line, despised by both sides.

The next day witnessed the formal surrender of the city. At twelve o’clock, the preliminary formalities having been complied with, the 9th Infantry and a battalion of the 13th Infantry, the two regiments which had been adjudged first honors in the assault, were ready as an escort to raise the flag in the heart of the city. All of the other regiments were formed upon the ground which they occupied during the siege. As the second-hands of our watches showed the minute of twelve, noon, a field-piece burst upon the stillness of the sultry day, and the band began the strains of “The Star-spangled Banner.” Every hat was taken off, and an instant later, efforts to restrain it being ineffectual, six miles of solid cheering encompassed the latest American city.

Grizzled old soldiers, scarred with wounds from Indian wars, and gay recruits who had arrived too late to join in the fighting, gray-haired generals and athletic young subalterns, all forgot propriety and the silence usually enjoined in ranks and joined in that tremendous yell. From over on the right of the El Caney road we could hear the “Rah! rah! rah!” of Harvard and the “Rah! rah! rah!” of Yale, mingled with the cowboy yell of the Indian Territory. From the ranks of the Regulars came the old Southern yell, mingled with the Northern cheer. The most thrilling and dramatic moment of the Spanish-American War had passed into history.

The troops settled themselves down to wait for developments, and while they waited, opportunities were presented for the first time to make observations of the personnel of this heterogeneous army.

The American Regular is a type of his own, and no description of him is necessary. He was the fighting strength of the 5th Corps. Only three Volunteer regiments participated in the charges of July 1st-the 71st New York, the 2d Massachusetts, and the 1st Volunteer Cavalry.

The Volunteers presented many different types: some good, some otherwise. There should be no sympathy with that servile truckling to popular sentiment which speaks of our brave Volunteers indiscriminately, as if they were all good and all equally well instructed. There were Volunteers who were the equals of the Regulars in fighting and in leadership. And there were some who should have been at home pulling on a nursing-bottle or attending a kindergarten. To praise them indiscriminately creates a false impression on the public, and works a rank injustice toward those who were really good and efficient in the service. It does even worse than that: it fosters the popular idea that all there is to do to make soldiers is to take so many laborers, clerks, hod-carriers, or farmers, and put on them uniforms, arm them with rifles, and call them “gallant Volunteers”! Out upon such an insane delusion!

Fighting is a scientific trade. It would be no more absurd to give an idiot a tambourine and call him a musician–he would be an idiot all the same. So with the clerk, the laborer, the hod-carrier, the teacher; he remains the same in spite of all the polished arms, resplendent uniforms, and pompous titles bestowed upon him. He remains just what he was before, until he learns his new trade and becomes a soldier by the acquisition of the necessary knowledge and experience to practice his new calling.

It is one of the duties of trained officers to tell these homely truths to the people who have not made a study of the matter, in order that they who foot the bills may understand what they pay for and why they do it. And it is equally the duty of the citizen who has no knowledge of the subject to give a fair hearing to such statements, and, if he finds them correct after due investigation, to translate the information thus imparted into such laws as will in future supply an army composed of soldiers who can fight, instead of a herd of ignorant incompetents who die like rotten sheep within half an hour’s ride by rail of their own homes.

These remarks can be illustrated by observations in Cuba.

For example, the 34th Michigan pitched its camp on the hill at Fort Roosevelt on the 2d of August. They were in an awful condition. A man had died in one company the day before, and there had not been enough able-bodied men in the company to bury him. A detail had to be made from another company to dig the grave. More than fifty per cent of the regiment were sick, and the remainder were far from well. At this time, more than two weeks after the surrender, they were still cooking individually. Within fifteen minutes after their arrival they were overrunning the Gatling gun camp, picking up the firewood which had been gathered by the detachment for cooking purposes. An attempt to stop this marauding was received with jeers. A green-looking Wolverine at once began to make catcalls, and was ably seconded by his comrades. Sentinels were then posted over the Gatling gun camp, with orders to keep the Michiganders out; they abused the sentinels in the same manner, and their officers made no effort to restrain them. It became necessary to make a personal matter of it, which was promptly done, and one Wolverine was thereafter respectful–so respectful, in fact, that he jumped to attention and took off his hat to even the privates of the detachment.

The regiment took a delicate revenge. They had dug neither latrines nor sinks. Up to this time they used the surface of the camp-ground over their own camp for this purpose. They now took possession of a trench within twenty yards of the battery’s tents. The nuisance was intolerable, and was reported to their brigade headquarters. No attention was paid to the report. Twelve hours later it was again reported, with the same result. Twelve hours after this it was a third time reported, with the same result. In the meantime not a single shovelful of dirt had been thrown on the trench and an odor arose from it which was not exactly like the perfume of “Araby the blest.”

Forty-five hours after the arrival of the regiment notice was served upon the brigade commander thereof that, unless the nuisance was abated immediately, a sentinel would be placed over the offending ditch and notice would be given to General Bates, the division commander, requesting the action of an inspector; notice was further served that if any resistance were made, four Gatling guns would be turned loose upon the 34th Michigan and the regiment swept off the face of the hill and into Santiago Bay for a much-needed bath. It was enough. Officers and men ran instantly for spades and proceeded to fill up the trench. Report was then made to Gen. Bates, the division commander, of the offense and action had thereon, with the information that the Gatling gun commander awaited to answer any complaints. An investigation was immediately made, with the result that such action was sustained.

There were some ignorant Volunteers at Santiago, but of all the willful violation of all the laws of sanitation, camp hygiene, and health ever seen, these particular Volunteers did the most outrageous things. They threw their kitchen refuse out on the ground anywhere; half of the time they did not visit the sink at all, but used the surface of the ground anywhere instead; and they continued these offenses at Montauk Point. They raked over an abandoned camp of the Spanish prisoners on their arrival at Fort Roosevelt, and appropriated all the cast-off articles they could find, using the debris for bedding. This surgeon, a “family doctor” from the pine woods in northern Michigan, did not seem to regard these matters as of any importance. His attention was called to them, but he took no action. In short, there was no law of health which these people did not utterly ignore, no excess dangerous to health which they did not commit. Three-fourths of them were too sick for duty, and the rest looked like living skeletons. They fairly wallowed in their own filth –and cursed the climate of Cuba on account of their sickness.

In sharp contrast to the 34th Michigan was the 1st U. S. Volunteer Cavalry, the Rough Riders. This was an organization the peer of any in the Regular Army in morale, in fighting, and in every quality that goes to make up a fine body of soldiers. They were picked men; all classes were shown in that organization. The tennis champion was a private, the champion oarsman of Harvard a corporal. On the 2d of July a stock-broker of Wall Street who can sign his check for $3,000,000 was seen haggling with a cow-puncher from the Indian Territory over a piece of hardtack. Both were privates and both were fine soldiers. The whole regiment was just such a medley, but fought like Regulars, and endured like Spartans. They hung on like bull-dogs, and charged like demons. They were as strict about the camp police as Regular Army surgeons, and as punctilious about saluting as a K. O. on “official relations.” Withal, they were a clean-mouthed, clean-clad, clean-camped lot of gentlemen, each in his way, from the “Hello, pard!” of the cowboy to the frozen stare of the monocled dude from Broadway. And they fought–like Regulars; there is no other just comparison. Roosevelt said: “They are the 11th Cavalry.” He found enthusiastic endorsers of this remark in every Regular who saw them fight. They were the finest body of Volunteers who ever wore uniform, and they were stamped indelibly with the personality of Theodore Roosevelt. Pushing, aggressive, resolute, tenacious, but self-contained, cool, and restrained, they represented the very best type of what the Volunteer ought to be–but often was not.

Above them all, however, shone out three types.

Theodore Roosevelt. He needs no eulogy from my pen. He has done everything, and in each occupation has been conspicuously successful. He is, however, a born soldier. His virile frame contains the vigorous mind, the keen intellect, the cool judgment, and the unswerving, never-hesitating courage of the natural soldier. He is affable and courteous, or stern and scathing, as circumstances demand. One instant genial smiles overspread his expressive countenance, whereon the faintest emotion writes its legend with instantaneous and responsive touch; the next, on occasion, a Jove-like sternness settles on his face, and, with a facility of expression bewildering to less gifted tongues, scathing invective, cutting sarcasm, or bitter irony impress upon an offender the gravity of a breach of discipline. Withal, he is modest. He appreciates his own power, but there is no undue display of that appreciation, no vainglorious boasting over achievements which read like a fairy-tale. Fittest to lead or follow, idol of every true soldier. Who, that knows him as those who fought beside him, does not wish to see him at the head of that army and that nation of which he is the brightest ornament in every position, civil, military, or political?

Woodbury Kane–social leader, Fortune’s favorite, aristocratic, refined, cultured, wealthy, haut ton de haut ton, and sabreur sans peur et sans reproche–how shall I paint him to you as I learned to know him in those dreadful, delightful seventeen days in which we lived only from instant to instant, and every man unconsciously bared his soul to his comrades because he could not help it?

A gentleman–he always looked that in the fullest sense of the word. Well groomed; in those days when our bed was a mud-puddle and our canopy the stars, when the music which lulled us to sleep was the hum of the Mauser bullets and the vicious popping of the Remingtons, when water to drink had to be brought at the peril of life for every mouthful, Kane turned up every morning clean-shaved and neatly groomed, shoes duly polished, neat khaki, fitting like a glove and brushed to perfection, nails polished, and hair parted as nicely as if he were dressed by his valet in his New York apartments. How did he do it? We never knew. He kept no servant; he took his regular turn in the ditches, in the mud, or torrid sun, or smothering rain. No night alarm came that did not find Kane first to spring to the trench–and yet he did it, somehow. The courteous phrases of politest speech fell ever from his ready lips, as easily as they would have done in the boudoir of any belle in the metropolis. The shrieking of a shell or tingling hiss of a sharpshooter’s close-aimed bullet never came so near as to interrupt whatever polished expression of thanks, regret, or comment he might be uttering. And it was the real thing, too. The gentle heart was there. No man was readier to bind a wound or aid a sun-struck soldier in the ranks; none more ready to deny himself a comfort or a luxury to help a more needy comrade. A braver man, a surer or more reliable officer, never trod in shoe-leather. A grand example to our pessimistic, socialistic friends and cheap demagogues of the sterling worth and noble, chivalric character of a “society man of wealth.” He is a living type of “Bel a faire peur,” without the idiotic sentimentality of that maudlin hero, and with all his other characteristics.

Greenway and Tiffany. The one a Harvard football-player, just out, plunging into the great game of war with all the zest he formerly found in the great college game. The other the petted son of wealthy parents, also a college graduate, and the idolized fiance of his childhood’s sweetheart. Equally ready for fight or fun, they were the finest type of youthful manhood to be found. Endowed by Nature with every gift, educated at the best of colleges, bred in the best of society, ready to enter upon the most desirable of careers, they threw all upon the altar of country’s love. They entered battle as one might go to a game or begin a play. All of unbounded zeal, youthful enthusiasm, restless energy, keen enjoyment–everything seemed to be equally acceptable to them, and no discomfort ever assumed any guise other than that of a novel and untried sensation.

They are the type of our young manhood–our representative American youth–as Roosevelt is of its vigorous manhood. They are the salt of the earth, and Kane–is both salt and spice. All were comrades in arms, types of American manhood unspoiled by Fortune’s favors, capable of anything and everything. Such men mould the destiny of this great nation, and in their hands it is safe.

But neither of these two regiments is a fair type of the Volunteers; they are the two extremes. For a type, take the 1st Illinois. They were a Chicago regiment with fifteen years’ service, and they enlisted in a body to a man. They reached the firing line on the 10th and participated in the fight with two battalions, with distinguished gallantry. The third battalion was detailed on the necessary but unpleasant duty of caring for the yellow fever hospital at Siboney. These city-bred Volunteers peeled off their coats, buried yellow fever corpses, policed the hospital and hospital grounds, and nursed the victims of the scourge. They did not utter a complaint nor ask for a “soft” detail; they did their duty as they found it. Another battalion was detailed immediately after the surrender to guard the Spanish prisoners. This most thankless duty was performed by them with fidelity and care. The commander of the battalion and half his officers were proficient in the Spanish language as a part of their preparation for the campaign, and they soon established cordial relations with the prisoners they were set to guard. It was a trying duty, but they performed it faithfully. Sickness visited this battalion, and sometimes guard duty had to be performed with only one day off, but they never whimpered. The other battalion was detailed after the surrender to do stevedore work at the commissary depot. The slender clerks and soft-handed city men slung boxes of hardtack and sacks of bacon and barrels of coffee, and performed manual labor with all the faithfulness that would be expected of men accustomed to such work, and with never a complaint. The sanitary measures of this regiment were perfect, and they bore themselves like Regulars. It is now recognized that this is a compliment to any Volunteer organization.


Preface  •  Chapter I: L’Envoi  •  Chapter II: Inception  •  Chapter III: Inception  •  Chapter IV: The Voyage and Disembarkation  •  Chapter V: The March  •  Chapter VI: The Battery in Camp Wheeler  •  Chapter VII: The Battle  •  Chapter VIII: Tactical Analysis of the Battles At Santiago  •  Chapter IX: The Volunteers  •  Chapter X: The Sufferings of the Fifth Army Corps  •  Chapter XI: The Cause  •  Chapter XII: The Voyage Home and the End of the Gatling Gun Detachment  •  Appendix I  •  Appendix II  •  “G. O. 5  •  Disembarkation in Cuba  •  “G. O. 18  •  Preparing For the Advance  •  The Battle of El Caney  •  The Battle of Santiago  •  Summoning the Enemy to Surrender  •  Operations After Santiago–our Losses  •  Negotiations With General Toral  •  Difficulties Encountered in the Campaign  •  Appendix III

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The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker
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