The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker

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Preparing For the Advance

The orders for June 24th contemplated Gen. Lawton’s Division taking a strong defensive position a short distance from Siboney, on the road to Santiago; Kent’s Division was to be held near Santiago, where he disembarked; Bates’ Brigade was to take position in support of Lawton, while Wheeler’s Division was to be somewhat to the rear on the road from Siboney to Baiquiri. It was intended to maintain this situation until the troops and transportation were disembarked and a reasonable quantity of necessary supplies landed. Gen. Young’s Brigade, however, passed beyond Lawton on the night of the 23d-24th, thus taking the advance, and on the morning of the latter date became engaged with a Spanish force intrenched in a strong position at La Guasima, a point on the Santiago road about three miles from Siboney. Gen. Young’s force consisted of one squadron of the 1st Cavalry, one of the 10th Cavalry, and two of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry; in all, 964 officers and men.

The enemy made an obstinate resistance, but were driven from the field with considerable loss. Our own loss was 1 officer and 15 men killed, 6 officers and 46 men wounded. The reported losses of the Spaniards were 9 killed and 27 wounded. The engagement had an inspiring effect upon our men and doubtless correspondingly depressed the enemy, as it was now plainly demonstrated to them that they had a foe to meet who would advance upon them under a heavy fire delivered from intrenchments. Gen. Wheeler, division commander, was present during the engagement and reports that our troops, officers and men, fought with the greatest gallantry. His report is attached, marked “A.” This engagement gave us a well-watered country farther to the front on which to encamp our troops.

My efforts to unload transportation and subsistence stores, so that we might have several days’ rations on shore, were continued during the remainder of the month. In this work I was ably seconded by Lieut.-Col. Charles F. Humphrey, deputy Q. M. G., U. S. A., chief quartermaster, and Col. John F. Weston, A. O. G. S., chief commissary; hut, notwithstanding the utmost efforts, it was difficult to land supplies in excess of those required daily to feed the men and animals, and the loss of the scow, mentioned as having broken away during the voyage, as well as the loss at sea of lighters sent by Quartermaster’s Department was greatly felt. Indeed, the lack of steam launches, lighters, scows, and wharves can only be appreciated by those who were on the ground directing the disembarkation and landing of supplies. It was not until nearly two weeks after the army landed that it was possible to place on shore three days’ supplies In excess of those required for the daily consumption.

After the engagement at La Guasima, and before the end of the month, the army, including Gen. Garcia’s command, which had been brought on transports to Siboney from Aserraderos, was mostly concentrated at Sevilla, with the exception of the necessary detachments at Baiquiri and Siboney.

On June 30th I reconnoitered the country about Santiago and made my plan of attack. From a high hill, from which the city was in plain view, I could see the San Juan Hill and the country about El Caney. The roads were very poor, and, indeed, little better than bridle-paths until the San Juan River and El Caney were reached.

The position of El Caney, to the northeast of Santiago, was of great importance to the enemy as holding the Guantanamo road, as well as furnishing shelter for a strong outpost that might be used to assail the right flank of any force operating against San Juan Hill.

In view of this, I decided to begin the attack next day at El Caney with one division, while sending two divisions on the direct road to Santiago, passing by the El Pozo house, and as a diversion to direct a small force against Aguadores, from Siboney along the railroad by the sea, with a view of attracting the attention of the Spaniards in the latter direction and of preventing them from attacking our left flank.

During the afternoon I assembled the division commanders and explained to them my general plan of battle. Lawton’s Division, assisted by Capron’s Light Battery, was ordered to move out during the afternoon toward El Caney, to begin the attack there early the next morning. After carrying El Caney, Lawton was to move by the El Caney road toward Santiago, and take position on the right of the line. Wheeler’s Division of dismounted cavalry, and Kent’s Division of infantry, were directed on the Santiago road, the head of the column resting near El Pozo, toward which heights Grimes’ Battery moved on the afternoon of the 30th, with orders to take position thereon early the next morning, and at the proper time prepare the way for the advance of Wheeler and Kent, on San Juan Hill. The attack at this point was to be delayed until Lawton’s guns were heard at El Caney and his infantry fire showed he had become well engaged.

The remainder of the afternoon and night was devoted to cutting out and repairing the roads, and other necessary preparations for battle. These preparations were far from what I desired them to be, but we were in a sickly climate; our supplies had to be brought forward by a narrow wagon road, which the rains might at any time render impassable; fear was entertained that a storm might drive the vessels containing our stores to sea, thus separating us from our base of supplies; and, lastly, it was reported that Gen. Pando, with 8,000 reinforcements for the enemy, was en route from Manzanillo, and might be expected in a few days. Under these conditions, I determined to give battle without delay.


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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