The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Appendix III

Bivouac, near Santiago, Cuba,
July 23, 1898.
The Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.

Sir,–In compliance with orders I have the honor to submit the following report of my command, the Gatling Gun Detachment, 5th Army Corps, covering its operations down to the present date:

1. Organization.–Pursuant to instructions from Gen. Shafter I was given a detail of two sergeants and ten men on the 26th of May, 1898, from the 13th Infantry, then in camp near Tampa, Fla., and directed to report to 1st Lieut. John T. Thompson, O. D., ordinance officer, Tampa, “for duty with Gatling guns.” I was placed in charge of four guns, model 1895, cal. 30, and at once began the instruction of the detachment. On June 1st I received verbal instruction to assist Lieut. Thompson in his work at the ordinance depot, and performed this duty in addition to my duties with the guns until June 6, 1898, superintending issues to the expedition (5th Corps) then fitting out for Cuba.

On June 6th I took my men and guns aboard the transport Cherokee, and on June 11th, per special orders No. 16 of that date, my detail was increased to thirty-seven men, all told, of whom one was left sick in hospital at Tampa. About twelve of these did not join me, however, until after debarkation at Baiquiri, Cuba. On June 25th I received verbal instructions from Gen. Shafter to disembark at once, select the necessary number of mules (two per gun), and get to the front as soon as possible, reporting on my arrival there to Gen. Wheeler, then in command of all the troops at the front. I was unable to obtain any tentage for myself, and had only shelter-tents for my men.

I was joined on June 25th by Capt. Henry Marcotte, 17th Infantry, retired, regularly authorized correspondent of the Army and Navy Journal, who has been with me ever since, enduring all the vicissitudes of the season with Spartan fortitude, although equally destitute of cover as myself and 60 years of age. I desire to express here officially and fully, my sincere gratitude for the kindness which permitted him to accompany my command, and the great appreciation of the valuable advice and assistance which he has given continually. His large experience of war, his clear head and good judgment have always been at hand to aid, and his cool example to myself and my men under fire did much to steady us and keep us up to our work when we were first called on to face that ordeal.

All of the detachments, who had not previously joined me, did so on June 26th, on which day I reached the extreme front and reported to Gen. Wheeler. The guns were posted in a position to sweep the neighboring hills toward the enemy, and I went into camp, remaining there until the morning of July 1st.

Summing up the organization, it should be stated here that the detachment was organized at the first, and has ever since remained an independent command, receiving its orders directly from the corps commander. It has had its own records, returns, rolls, etc., and has been rationed separately all the time, and is composed of men selected by myself from various regiments.

2. The Battery in Action.–On the morning of July 1st, I broke camp at 4:30 a.m., and pursuant to instructions from Gen. Shafter, proceeded to El Poso, placing my battery, as I shall henceforth call it, in support behind the position taken by a battery of artillery. I took this position about 6 a.m., and soon after the artillery arrived, went on to battery and opened fire at Santiago, the range being 2,600 yards. After some time the enemy replied with a well-directed fire, the second shell bursting directly over my battery in rear of artillery. Neither my men nor mules showed any signs of disturbance, and we remained in our perilous position nearly twenty minutes, the enemy’s shells bursting all around us, until ordered to the rear by the chief-of-staff. The battery went to the rear under fire quietly until out of range, and remained there until the artillery fire ceased, at about 9 a.m. Private Hoft, Company D, 13th Infantry, a member of the detachment who had been detailed to guard the camp equipage at El Poso, remained at his post during the whole of the artillery fight, and deserves great credit therefor, his battery having been ordered to the rear. At 9 a.m. I returned to El Poso, and there received the following instructions from Col. McClernand, A. A. G., 5th Corps: “Find the 71st N. Y. V. and go on with them, if you can. If this is not practical, find the best position you can, and use your guns to the best advantage.” Pursuant to these instructions, I went forward about a half-mile and found the 71st N. Y. V. halting to learn what their instructions were. I could get no clear idea of what they were going to do, but waited about fifteen minutes in their rear to find out. Meantime troops continually passed us toward the front. Then, about 10:15, firing began in front. I rode forward alone along the rode, which was a narrow defile through the jungle, and found that about a half-mile in front was a creek, upon the crossing of which the enemy’s fire seemed concentrated. In front of this crossing seemed to be a level plain of about 400 to 800 yards, beyond which was a semi-circular ridge crowned with Spanish trenches from which the Spanish fire seemed to come. Men were being hit continually at this place (the ford), but it seemed to me to be a good place to work my battery effectively.

I rode back, finding the Seventy-first still lying beside the road without any apparent intention of moving. I determined to leave them and go into action. Taking a gallop I moved the battery forward nearly to the ford (about 150 yards), where I met Col. Derby of Gen. Shafter’s staff, who informed me that the troops were not yet sufficiently deployed to take advantage of my fire, and advised me to wait. The bullets were cutting through all around, and, as we learned afterward, the enemy’s sharpshooters were actually in the woods near us, up in tall trees, picking off officers and men. It should be stated here that the sudden increase of the enemy’s fire at this time was caused by a wild cheering set up by the 71st N. Y. V., as the battery passed them on its way to the front. The cheering located our position for the enemy and drew his fire. Many a brave soldier who had gone to the front was put forever beyond the possibility of cheering by this outburst of ignorant enthusiasm.

I acted on Col. Derby’s advice, and he promised to send me word when the moment for proper action came. This was necessary, as I knew only part of the plan of battle and might have jeopardized other parts of prematurely exposing our strength at this point. The gun crews lay down under their guns and steadily remained at this posts. The fire finally grew so hot that I moved about 100 yards back. This was about 12, noon. At 1 p. m., or about that time, I received a message sent by Col. Derby, I think, as follows: “Gen. Shafter directs that you give one of your guns to Lieut. Miley, take the others forward beyond the ford where the dynamite gun is, and go into action at the best point you can find.” I obeyed the order, giving Lieut. Miley Sergeant Weigle’s gun and crew and moving the rest forward at a gallop to the point beyond the ford, which I had already selected as a good place. The battery opened with three guns simultaneously at ranges of 600 to 800 yards at 1:15 p. m. The enemy at first concentrated his fire upon us, but soon weakened and in five minutes was clambering from his trenches and running to the rear. We fired as rapidly as possible upon the groups thus presented until I saw a white handkerchief waved by some one of my own regiment, the 13th Infantry, and at the same moment Capt. Landis, 1st Cavalry, who had voluntarily assisted me throughout, said: “Better stop; our own men are climbing up the ridge.” I ordered the fire to cease at 1:23 1/2 p.m., and a moment later saw our own troops occupy the crest of the hill. The firing had been, continued by the battery until our own troops were within 150 yards of the enemy’s trench, a fact made possible by the steep slope of the hill upon which the enemy had been.

At the time when my battery went into action I had no support, and the position I took was at least 100 yards in front of any of our troops along this part of the line. About the time I ceased firing Lieut.-Col. Baldwin, 10th Cavalry, put two troops in support of my battery.

I have advanced in a letter to the Adjutant General from Fort Leavenworth, dated January 1st, 1898, the theory that such guns as these can be used offensively. The conditions of this assault were favorable, the morale of my men superb, and the use made of the guns followed the theory therein set forth with the exactness of a mathematical demonstration. The infantry and cavalry had been pounding away for two hours on these positions; in eight and one-half minutes after the Gatlings opened the works were ours. Inspired by the friendly rattle of the machine guns, our own troops rose to the charge; while the enemy amazed by our sudden and tremendous increase of fire, first diverted his fire to my battery, and then, unable to withstand the hail of bullets, augmented by the moral effect of our battery fire and the charging line, broke madly from his safe trenches and was mercilessly cut by fire from these guns during his flight.

I at once limbered up and took stock of my losses. One man was killed, one badly wounded, one mule hit twice, but not much injured, and several men were missing.

Suddenly the fire was resumed at the front. I moved my three pieces forward again at a gallop, and went into action on the skirmish line on top of the captured position, with two pieces to the right and one to the left of the main road from El Poso to Santiago. I was compelled to make the skirmishers give way to the right and left in order to get room for my guns on the firing-line, and to impress stragglers to carry ammunition. Capt. Ayres, 10th Cavalry, gave me a detail of one sergeant and two privates, all of whom did fine service. It seemed to me that the enemy was trying to retake the position. About 4 to 4:14 p. m. I saw a body, apparently about 400, of the enemy to the right front of my position, apparently in front of the position occupied by Lieut.-Col. Roosevelt with the 1st Volunteer Cavalry. I turned a Gatling gun on them, using 600-yard range, and they disappeared. Soon after the firing sensibly slackened.

In the rapid fire on this last body of the enemy I had overheated one piece, and it went temporarily out of action. I went over to Col. Roosevelt’s position, about a quarter of a mile to the right of a salient, and reconnoitered. While there Sergeant Weigle reported to me with his piece, informing me that Lieut. Miley had not put it into action, and asked for instructions. This was about the hour of 5 p. m., and the fire became warmer at that moment. I directed Sergeant Weigle to run his piece up on the firing-line and to report to the officer in charge thereof. He did so and went into action at once. Col. Roosevelt, who was and remained present, informs me that the gun was very effectively used. I rejoined my other two guns and put both of them on the line at the left of the El Poso road. At sundown the enemy made a sharp attack, and all three of my guns were effectively used. During the fight a battery in the city opened on my two guns, firing 16 cm. shells. I at once turned my guns on it and kept up so warm a fire that the cannoneers left their battery and did not return. In all they had fired three shells at us, all of which broke just over or beyond the battery. I secured the fuse of one, still warm, and after the surrender visited the battery which had fired at us and examined the gun. It is a 16 cm. (6.2992 inches) bronze rifle gun in barbette on a pintle. This is probably the first time in land fighting that such a piece was ever silenced by machine-gun fire. The range I used was 2,000 yards (estimated).

The guns were used during the remainder of the fighting in the trenches. I took off the wheels and put the guns on the carriages in emplacements, erecting a sandbag parapet in front as cover during the night of July 4th. The disabled gun was brought up and repaired, subsequently participating in the fighting. The dynamite gun, under Sergeant Borrowe, 1st Volunteer Cavalry, cooperated with the battery thus formed, and the whole battery, including the two Colt automatic rapid-fire guns under Lieut. Tiffany, 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, did good work in all the subsequent fighting. I supplied about eight thousand rounds of captured Mauser cartridges to Tiffany, which had been captured by my battery, and which he used effectively in his Colt’s guns. I had a strong fire directed upon a battery of seven pieces of the enemy’s artillery at a distance of 1,500 yards in front every time any attempt was made to use this battery. The result was that only three shots were fired from these guns after July 4th. I visited this battery after the surrender and found every gun in working order, the 16 cm. gun being actually loaded. As no organization, except my battery, of which I had general direction, had such orders, so far as I can learn, the conclusion is that this battery of machine guns kept out of action seven pieces of the enemy’s artillery by making it too warm for his gunners to stay in their batteries.

I have made certain recommendations in hasty reports for gallantry, which I personally witnessed. They were as follows:

Capt. J. R. F. Landis, 1st Cavalry, medal of honor. Volunteered to assist observation of fire July 1st, and rendered great service at imminent peril of his life made necessary in order to render such service.

Sergeant John N. Weigle, 9th Infantry, 2d Lieutenant U. S. Army (regulars). For conspicuous daring, intelligence, and coolness in action, July 1st.

Corporal Charles C. Steigenwald, 13th Infantry, 2d Lieutenant U. S. Army (regulars). For coolness and judgment in keeping his gun in action with only one man to help on July 1st.

Private Fred C. Elkins, 17th Infantry, 2d Lieutenant United States Volunteers. For conspicuous daring and courage in action. Although wounded, he remained at his post until he fell from exhaustion, July 1st.

Corporal Matthew Doyle, 13th Infantry, medal of honor. Conspicuous gallantry and coolness in action. When, two men had been shot down by his side he continued to work his gun effectively alone until assistance arrived, July 1st.

Sergt. Green, Company H, 13th Infantry, medal of honor. Conspicuous coolness and steadiness in handling his piece under hot fire, July 1st.

Sergt. John Graham, 10th Cavalry, medal of honor. Conspicuous coolness and steadiness under fire, July 1st.

Sergt. Weischaar, Company A, 13th Infantry, certificate of merit. Particularly meritorious steadiness, night of July 6th. Being put on outpost duty with a Gatling gun in time of truce, and having been alarmed by a sentinel, whose duty it was to warn him of the enemy’s approach, he coolly reserved his fire for personal investigation and prevented a violation of the truce.

Sergt. Ryder, Company G, 13th Infantry, certificate of merit. Particularly meritorious steadiness, night of July 6th. Being on outpost duty with a Gatling gun in time of truce, and having been alarmed by a sentinel, whose duty it was to warn him of the enemy’s approach, he coolly held his fire for personal investigation and prevented a violation of the truce.

In making these recommendations, I have limited myself to those which I personally observed. If I recommended for every deserving act, there is not a man in my whole detachment who has not deserved a certificate of merit. They were selected in the beginning from an army corps for what I knew of them, and they have abundantly justified my confidence in them. With a less efficient personnel it would have been absolutely impossible to organize, equip and instruct the first battery of Gatling guns ever used in the history of war, in the short space of time allotted me, and put it in efficient fighting shape. They fought their guns on the skirmish line and in advance of it, standing boldly up to do it when the skirmishers themselves lay down close for cover. My loss, as footed up on the night of July 1st, was 33 1-3 per cent, killed, wounded, and missing. The efficiency of the work of my guns was attested to me by numerous Spanish officers and prisoners. Their favorite expression was: “It was terrible when your guns opened, always. They went b-r-r-r-r, like a lawn mower cutting the grass over our trenches. We could not stick a finger up when you fired without getting it cut off–so!”

The work of this experimental battery proves that in this weapon we have a new arm supplementary to infantry and cavalry, independent of both as one arm is of another, and more nearly capable of independent action than any other arm of the service. It is equally demonstrated that this new arm is entirely different from artillery in its functions, and can live where the latter is compelled to retire.

It should, therefore, be organized as a separate arm. I have, at the request of General Wheeler, drawn up a scheme of such an organization and submitted it to him.

Experience shows me that the carriage is too heavy. I can only renew the representations contained in my letter of January 1, 1898, to the Adjutant General, accompanying drawing, etc., of my proposed carriage for machine guns. I would now, based on experience, modify my theory of organization as then proposed, and would make several changes in the model of carriage then proposed without departing from the general principles.

If any expression of such views is desired, I shall be very glad to submit them when called upon by the War Department to do so.

Very respectfully,

John H. Parker,
2d Lieut., 13th Infantry,
Commanding Gatling Gun Detachment, 5th Corps.


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  • 

[Buy at Amazon]
The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker
At Amazon