The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker

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The Battle of El Caney

Early on the morning of July 1st, Lawton was in position around El Caney, Chaffee’s Brigade on the right, across the Guantanamo road, Miles’ Brigade in the center, and Ludlow’s on the left. The duty of cutting off the enemy’s retreat along the Santiago road was assigned to the latter brigade. The artillery opened on the town at 6:15 a. m. The battle here soon became general, and was hotly contested. The enemy’s position was naturally strong, and was rendered more so by block-houses, a stone fort, and intrenchments cut in solid rock, and the loop-holing of a solidly built stone church. The opposition offered by the enemy was greater than had been anticipated, and prevented Lawton from joining the right of the main line during the day, as had been intended. After the battle had continued for some time, Bates’ Brigade of two regiments reached my headquarters from Siboney. I directed him to move near El Caney, to give assistance if necessary. He did so, and was put in position between Miles and Chaffee. The battle continued with varying intensity during most of the day and until the place was carried by assault about 4:30 p. m. As the Spaniards endeavored to retreat along the Santiago road, Ludlow’s position enabled him to do very effective work, and to practically cut off all retreat in that direction.

After the battle at El Caney was well opened, and the sound of the small-arm fire caused us to believe that Lawton was driving the enemy before him, I directed Grimes’ Battery to open fire from the heights of El Pozo on the San Juan block-house, which could be seen situated in the enemy’s intrenchments extending along the crest of San Juan Hill. This fire was effective, and the enemy could be seen running away from the vicinity of the block-house. The artillery fire from El Pozo was soon returned by the enemy’s artillery. They evidently had the range of this hill, and their first shells killed and wounded several men. As the Spaniards used smokeless powder, it was very difficult to locate the position of their pieces, while, on the contrary, the smoke caused by our black powder plainly indicated the position of our battery.

At this time the cavalry division, under Gen. Sumner, which was lying concealed in the general vicinity of the El Pozo house, was ordered forward with directions to cross the San Juan River and deploy to the right of the Santiago side, while Kent’s Division was to follow closely in its rear and deploy to the left.

These troops moved forward in compliance with orders, but the road was so narrow as to render it impracticable to retain the column of fours formation at all points, while the undergrowth on either side was so dense as to preclude the possibility of deploying skirmishers. It naturally resulted that the progress made was slow, and the long-range rifles of the enemy’s infantry killed and wounded a number of our men while marching along this road, and before there was any opportunity to return this fire. At this time Generals Kent and Sumner were ordered to push forward with all possible haste and place their troops in position to engage the enemy. Gen. Kent, with this end in view, forced the head of his column alongside of the cavalry column as far as the narrow trail permitted, and thus hurried his arrival at the San Juan and the formation beyond that stream. A few hundred yards before reaching the San Juan the road forks, a fact that was discovered by Lieut.-Col. Derby of my staff, who had approached well to the front in a war balloon. This information he furnished to the troops, resulting in Sumner moving on the right-hand road, while Kent was enabled to utilize the road to the left.

Gen. Wheeler, the permanent commander of the cavalry division, who had been ill, came forward during the morning, and later returned to duty and rendered most gallant and efficient service during the remainder of the day.

After crossing the stream, the cavalry moved to the right with a view of connecting with Lawton’s left, when he could come up, and with their left resting near the Santiago road.

In the meantime Kent’s Division, with the exception of two regiments of Hawkins’ Brigade, being thus uncovered, moved rapidly to the front from the forks previously mentioned in the road, utilizing both trails, but more especially the one to the left, and, crossing the creek, formed for attack in front of San Juan Hill. During the formation the 2d Brigade suffered severely. While personally superintending this movement, its gallant commander, Col. Wikoff, was killed. The command of the brigade then devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Worth, 13th Infantry, who was soon severely wounded, and next upon Lieut.-Col. Liscum, 24th Infantry, who, five minutes later, also fell under the terrible fire of the enemy, and the command of the brigade then devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Ewers, 9th Infantry.

While the formation just described was taking place, Gen. Kent took measures to hurry forward his rear brigade. The 10th and 2d Infantry were ordered to follow. Wikoff’s Brigade, while the 21st was sent on the right-hand road to support the 1st Brigade, under Gen. Hawkins, who had crossed the stream and formed on the right of the division. The 2d and 10th Infantry, Col. E. P. Pearson commanding, moved forward in good order on the left of the division, passed over a green knoll, and drove the enemy back toward his trenches.

After completing their formation under a destructive fire, and advancing a short distance, both divisions found in their front a wide bottom, in which had been placed a barbed-wire entanglement, and beyond which there was a high hill, along the crest of which the enemy was strongly posted. Nothing daunted, these gallant men pushed on to drive the enemy from his chosen position, both divisions losing heavily. In this assault Col. Hamilton, Lieuts. Smith and Shipp were killed, and Col. Carroll, Lieuts. Thayer and Myer, all in the cavalry, were wounded.

Great credit is due to Brig.-Gen. H. S. Hawkins, who, placing himself between his regiments, urged them on by voice and bugle calls to the attack so brilliantly executed.

In this fierce encounter words fail to do justice to the gallant regimental commanders and their heroic men, for, while the generals indicated the formations and the points of attack, it was, after all, the intrepid bravery of the subordinate officers and men that planted our colors on the crest of San Juan Hill and drove the enemy from his trenches and block-houses, thus gaining a position which sealed the fate of Santiago.

In this action on this part of the field most efficient service was rendered by Lieut. John H. Parker, 13th Infantry, and the Gatling Gun Detachment under his command. The fighting continued at intervals until nightfall, but our men held resolutely to the positions gained at the cost of so much blood and toil. I am greatly indebted to Gen. Wheeler, who, as previously stated, returned from the sick-list to duty during the afternoon. His cheerfulness and aggressiveness made itself felt on this part of the battle-field, and the information he furnished to me at various stages of the battle proved to be most useful.


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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By John H. Parker
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