The Gatlings at Santiago
By John H. Parker

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Chapter VI: The Battery in Camp Wheeler

At this point in the history of the detachment, it would be well to give some account of the reasoning which led to its formation and the personnel of the detachment.

Since the days of ’65 the armies of the civilized world have adopted a rifle whose effective range is more than twice as great as that used in the Civil War. Very able discussions have been made upon the theoretical changes of the battle-field thus brought about, but no proper conclusion had been reached. It was acknowledged by all text-book writers that the artillery arm of the service would find much greater difficulty in operating at short ranges, and that assaults upon fortified positions would be much more difficult in the future. But only Gen. Williston, of the United States Artillery, had ever taken the advanced ground that in a machine gun arm would be found a valuable auxiliary as a result of these changed conditions. This theory of Gen. Williston’s was published in the Journal of the Military Service Institute in the spring of ’86, but never went, so far as Gen. Williston was concerned, beyond a mere theory; nor had the detachment commander ever heard of Gen. Williston’s article until after the battle of Santiago.

A study of the science of tactics–not merely drill regulations, but tactics in the broader sense of maneuvering bodies of troops upon the battle-field–had led Lieut. Parker to the conclusion that the artillery arm of the service had been moved back upon the battle-field to ranges not less than 1500 yards. This not because of lack of courage on the part of the Artillery, but as an inherent defect in any arm of the service which depends upon draft to reach an effective position. It was not believed that animals could live at a shorter range in anything like open country. The problem of supporting an infantry charge by some sort of fire immediately became the great tactical problem of the battle-field. Admitting that the assault of a fortified position has become much more difficult than formerly, the necessity of artillery support, or its equivalent in some kind of fire, became correspondingly more important, while under the conditions it became doubly more difficult to bring up this support in the form of artillery fire.

The solution of this problem, then, was the principal difficulty of the modern battle-field; and yet, strange to say, the curtailed usefulness of artillery does not seem to have suggested itself to anybody else in the service previous to the first day of July. This problem had been made the subject of special study by him for several years, and had led to the conclusion that some form of machine gun must be adopted to take the place of artillery from 1500 yards down. This in turn led to the study of machine guns. The different forms in use in the different armies of the world had been considered, and it was found that there was none in any service properly mounted for the particular use desired. All of them required the service of animals as pack-mules, or for draft, while the very conditions of the problem required a gun to be so mounted that the use of animals could be dispensed with.

The Maxim gun has been reduced in weight to about 60 pounds, and is furnished with a tripod weighing about the same; but this is too heavy, and the supply of ammunition at once becomes a critical question. The Colt’s automatic rapid-fire gun has been reduced to 40 pounds, with a tripod of equal weight, but here again the same difficulty presents itself. The soldier is capable of carrying only a limited amount of weight; and with his already too heavy pack, his three days’ rations, together with the heat, fatigue and excitement of battle, it did not appear possible for any tripod-mounted gun to be effectively used.

The problem therefore resolved itself into the question of carriages: A carriage capable of carrying any form of machine gun using small-caliber ammunition, capable of being moved anywhere by draft, capable of being dismantled and carried on a pack-mule, and, above, all, capable of being moved by hand; required also some device for getting the requisite amount of ammunition up to the firing-line. A carriage and ammunition cart was invented fulfilling all these conditions and the invention was presented to the adjutant-general of the army for consideration, accompanied by a discussion of the proper tactical use of the gun so mounted. This discussion, in part, was as follows:

“It is claimed for this carriage that a machine gun mounted on it can be carried with a firing-line of infantry on the offensive, over almost any kind of ground, into the decisive zone of rifle fire and to the lodgment in the enemy’s line, if one is made.

“On broken ground the piece can be moved forward by draft under cover of sheltering features of the terrain to a position so near the enemy that, under cover of its fire, an infantry line can effect a lodgment, after which the piece can be rushed forward by a sudden dash.

“The machine gun, mounted on this carriage, is especially adapted for service with the reserve of a battalion on the offensive, acting either alone or in regiment. Its use will enable the commander to reduce the reserve, thereby increasing the strength of the fighting-line, and yet his flanks will be better protected than formerly, while he will still have a more powerful reserve. If the fighting-line be driven back, the machine guns will establish a point of resistance on which the line can rally, and from which it can not be driven, unless the machine guns be annihilated by artillery fire.

“In case of counter-charge by the enemy, the superior weight and intensity of its fire will shake the enemy and so demoralize him that, in all probability, a return counter-charge will result in his complete discomfiture.

“Retiring troops as rear guards have in this weapon par excellencethe weapon for a swift and sharp return with the power of rapidly withdrawing. If the enemy can by any means be enticed within its range, he will certainly suffer great losses. If he cannot be brought in range, his distance will be rather respectful.”

This discussion as presented was entirely and absolutely original with the author and the result of his own unaided researches on the subject. It will be seen in the account of the battle how accurately the conditions there laid down were fulfilled.

But the carriage in use by the Gatling Gun Detachment was not the one proposed to the War Department. That carriage has not, as yet, been built, nor has the War Department in any way recognized the invention or even acknowledged the receipt of the communication and drawings.

The problem, therefore, confronting the Gatling Gun Detachment was to demonstrate the above uses of the machine gun, taking the obsolete artillery carriage drawn by mules, and endeavor to get the guns into action by draft. The personnel of the detachment alone accounts for their success. They got the guns up on the firing-line, not because of any superiority of the carriage over that in use by the artillery, for there was none; not because of aid rendered by other arms of the service, for they actually went into battle as far as 100 yards in advance of the infantry skirmishers; but because the Gatling Gun Detachment was there for the purpose of getting into the fight and was determined to give the guns a trial.

In the first place, all the members of the Gatling Gun Detachment were members of the Regular Army. All but three of them were natives of the United States, and those three were American citizens. Every man in the detachment had been selected by the detachment commander, or had voluntarily undertaken to perform this duty, realizing and believing that it was an extremely hazardous duty. Every member of the detachment possessed a common-school education, and some of them were well educated. All of them were men of exceptionally good character and sober habits. The drivers were Privs. Shiffer, Correll, Merryman, and Chase. The description formerly given of Shiffer applies, with slight modifications, to all the four. The first sergeant, Weigle, a native of Gettysburg, a soldier of eight years’ experience in the Regular Army, a man of fine natural ability and good educational attainments, was worthy to command any company in the United States Army. Thoroughly well instructed in the mechanism of Gatling guns, of exceptionally cheerful and buoyant disposition, he was an ideal first sergeant for any organization. Steigerwald, acting chief of gun No. 1, was of German birth, well educated. He had chosen the military profession for the love of it; he was a man of wonderfully fine physique, a “dead sure” shot, and one who hardly understood the meaning of the word “fatigue.” He was ambitious, he was an ardent believer in the Gatling gun, and he was determined to win a commission on the battle-field.

Corporal Doyle was a magnificent type of the old-time Regular–one of the kind that composed the army before Proctorism tried to convert it into a Sunday-school. In former days Doyle had been a drinking man; but the common opinion as expressed by his company officers even in those days was, “I would rather have Doyle, drunk, than any other non-commissioned officer, sober; because Doyle never gets too drunk to attend to duty.” Two years before this Doyle had quit drinking, and the only drawback to this most excellent noncommissioned officer had been removed. He was a thorough disciplinarian; one of the kind that takes no back talk; one who is prone to using the butt end of a musket as a persuader, if necessary; and Doyle was thoroughly devoted to the detachment commander. Corp. Smith was another of the same stamp. Corp. Smith loved poker. In fact, his sobriquet was “Poker Smith.” He was one of the kind of poker-players who would “see” a $5 bet on a pair of deuces, raise it to $25, and generally rake in the “pot.” It was Corp. Smith who thought in this Gatling gun deal he was holding a pair of deuces, because he didn’t take much stock in Gatling guns, but he was a firm believer in his commanding officer and was prepared to “bluff” the Dons to the limit of the game.

Sergeants Ryder and Weischaar were splendid types of the American Regular non-commissioned officer, alert, respectful, attentive to duty, resolute, unflinching, determined, magnificent soldiers. Serg. Green was a young man, only twenty-three, the idolized son of his parents, in the army because he loved it; enthusiastic over his gun, and fully determined to “pot” every Spaniard in sight. Corp. Rose was like unto him. They were eager for nothing so much as a chance to get into action, and equally determined to stay there. The privates of the detachment were like unto the noncommissioned officers. They had volunteered for this duty from a love of adventure, a desire to win recognition, or from their personal attachment to the commanding officer; and there was not a man who was not willing to follow him into the “mouth of hell” if necessary. The gunners were expert shots with the rifle. Numbers 1 and 2, who turned the crank and fed the gun, respectively, were selected for their dexterity and coolness; the drivers, for their skill in handling mules; and each of the other members of the detachment was placed on that duty which he seemed best fitted to perform.

The roll of the detachment and its organization as it went into battle on the first day of July are subjoined:

Gatling Gun Detachment, Fifth Army Corps.

Commanding Officer, John H. Parker, first lieutenant, 13th Infantry. Acting First Sergeant, Alois Weischaar, sergeant, Co. A, 13th Infantry. Acting Quartermaster Sergeant, William Eyder, Co. G, 13th Infantry.

Gun No. 1: Acting Chief and Gunner, Charles C. Steigerwald, corporal, Co. A, 13th Infantry. No. 1, Private Voelker, Co. A, 12th Infantry. No. 2, Private Elkins, Co. D, 17th Infantry. No. 3, Private Schmandt, Co. G, 13th Infantry. No. 4, Private Needles, Co. E, 17th Infantry. No. 5, Private Click, Co. E, 17th Infantry. No. 6, Private Jones, Co. D, 13th Infantry. Driver, Private Shiffer, Co. E, 17th Infantry.

Gun No. 2: Chief, Sergeant William Ryder, Co. G, 13th Infantry. Gunner, Corporal Geo. N. Rose, Co. C, 13th Infantry. No. 1, Private Seaman, Co. B, 13th Infantry. No. 2, Private Kastner, Co. A, 13th Infantry. No. 3, Private Pyne, Co. H, 13th Infantry. No. 4, Private Schulze, Co. A, 17th Infantry. No. 5, Private Barts, Co. E, 13th Infantry. Driver, Private Correll, Co. C, 12th Infantry.

Gun No. 3: Chief, Sergeant Newton A. Green, Co. H, 13th Infantry. Gunner, Corporal Matthew Doyle, Co. C, 13th Infantry. No. 1, Private Anderson, Co. C, 12th Infantry. No. 2, Private Sine, Co. E, 17th Infantry. No. 3, Private Lauer, Co. C, 12th Infantry. No. 4, Private Dellett, Co. D, 17th Infantry. No. 5, Private Cory, Co. A, 13th Infantry. No. 6, Private Greenberg, Co. G, 13th Infantry. Driver, Private Merryman, Co. A, 17th Infantry.

Gun No. 4: Chief, Sergeant John N. Weigle, Co. L, 9th Infantry. Gunner, Corporal Robert S. Smith, Co. C, 13th Infantry. No. 1, Private McGoin, Co. D, 17th Infantry. No. 2, Private Misiak, Co. E, 13th Infantry. No. 3, Private Power, Co. A, 13th Infantry. No. 4, Private McDonald, Co. B, 17th Infantry. No. 5, Private Prazak, Co. E, 12th Infantry. Driver, Private Chase, Co. H, 13th Infantry. Cook, Private Hoft, Co. D, 13th Infantry. Assistant cook, Private Bremer, Co. G, 13th Infantry. Absent, sick, Private Murray, Co. F, 13th Infantry, at Tampa.

Sergeant Weigle was subsequently appointed first sergeant of Co. L., 9th Infantry, and of the Gatling Gun Detachment, vice Weischaar, relieved at his own request.

Another element which contributed much to the success of the detachment was the presence with it of Captain Marcotte. This excellent officer had served with great distinction in the Civil War, having been promoted from a private in the ranks through all of the grades up to a captaincy, for meritorious conduct in battle, and having failed of higher grades only because he was too badly shot to pieces to continue with the Army. He joined the detachment on the 25th of June, and his valuable advice was always at the disposal not merely of the commander, but of any member of the detachment who wished to consult him. He had spent seventeen years in the Cuban climate and was thoroughly familiar with all the conditions under which we were laboring. He contributed not a little, by his presence, his example, and his precept, to the final success of the organization. When the battery went under fire, Marcotte was with it. It was the first time most of the members had passed through this ordeal, but who could run, or even feel nervous, with this gray-haired man skipping about from point to point and taking notes of the engagement as coolly as though he were sitting in the shade of a tree sipping lime-juice cocktails, a mile from danger.

Such was the personnel of the detachment. It lay in Camp Wheeler, which was only about a mile and a half from El Poso, where the first engagement occurred on the first of July, until that morning. The mules were daily harnessed up and drilled in maneuvering the pieces, and the members of the detachment experimentally posted in different positions in order to get the most effective service.

On the 27th, Serg. Green was sent back to Siboney with orders to bring Corp. Rose or his body. He brought Corp. Rose, and the corporal was very glad to be brought.

The mules were fed with oats and on the juicy sugar-cane. It is worthy of mention that no other organization at the front had oats. A feed or two of oats was given to Gen. Wheeler and Col. Dorst for their horses; it was the first time their horses had tasted oats since leaving the transports, and was probably the last time until after the surrender. Furthermore, the Gatling Gun Detachment had “grub.” Of course, it was “short” on potatoes, onions, and vegetables generally; these luxuries were not to be well known again until it returned to the United States; but it did have hardtack, bacon, canned roast beef, sugar, and coffee, having drawn all the rations it could carry before leaving Baiquiri, and was the only organization which had as much as twenty-four hours’ rations. Gen. Hawkins and his whole brigade were living from hand to mouth, one meal at a time. The same was true of Gen. Wheeler and the whole cavalry division, and they were depending for that one meal upon the pack-mule train. On the 30th of June a complete set of muster- and pay-rolls, was prepared for the detachment, and it was duly mustered in the usual form and manner. It was the only organization at the front of which a formal muster was made, and was the only one there which had muster- and pay-rolls.

It rained on the 29th and 30th of June. Not such rains as the people of the United States are familiar with, but Cuban rains. It was like standing under a barrel full of water and having the bottom knocked out. These rains caused the rifles and carbines of the army to rust, and some quickwitted captain bethought himself to beg oil from the Gatling Gun Detachment. He got it. Another, and another, and still another begged for oil; then regiments began to beg for oil; and finally application was made for oil for a whole brigade. This led to the following correspondence:

“Camp Six Miles from Santiago, “29th June, 1898.

“The Adjutant-General, Cavalry Division, Present:

“Sir,–I have the honor to inform you that I have learned that some of the rifles in this command are badly in need of oil, and that in some companies there is no oil to use on them. These facts I learned through requests to me for oil.

“I therefore report to you that my men found at Altares (the second landing-place) and reported to me four (4) barrels of lard oil and three (3) barrels of cylinder oil, in an old oil-house near the machine shops.

“If this be procured and issued, it will save the rifles and carbines from rust.

“Very respectfully,

“John H. Parker,
“Lt. Comdg. G. G. Detachment, 5th Corps.”

First Endorsement.

“Headquarters Cavalry Division,
“Camp 6 miles east of Santiago de Cuba,
“June 29, 1898.

“Respectfully referred to the adjutant-general, 6th Army Corps.

“Jos. Wheeler, “Major-General U. S. Vols., Comdg.”

Second Endorsement.

“Headquarters 5th Corps,
“June 29, 1898.

“Return. Lt. Parker will send a man back tomorrow to obtain the necessary oil.

“By command of Gen. Shafter.

“E. J. McClernand,
“A. A. G.”

Third Endorsement.

“Headquarters Cavalry Division, “June 29, 1898.

“Return Lt. Parker. Attention invited to the foregoing endorsement.

“J. H. Dorst, “Lieutenant-Colonel.”

Fourth Endorsement.

“June 30, 1898.

“The Quartermaster, Altares, Cuba:

“Please furnish to Sergeant Green of my detachment transportation for two (2) barrels of oil. He will show you an order from Gen. Shafter, and the matter is urgent. The soldiers must have this oil at once, as their rifles are rusting badly.

“John H. Parker,
“Lt. Comdg. Gatling Gun Detach.”

The quartermaster furnished the transportation and two barrels of oil were duly forwarded to the front and placed in charge of brigade quartermasters at different points, with orders to distribute out one quart to each company. This oil, perhaps, had some bearing upon the condition of the rifles in the fight following.

On the 27th of June, Captain Marcotte and the detachment commander made a reconnaissance of a high hill to the left of Camp Wheeler, and, having gained the top, reconnoitered the city of Santiago and its surrounding defenses with a powerful glass, and as a result reported to Gen. Wheeler that the key of Santiago was the Morro mesa, a promontory or tableland overlooking the city on the east side at a distance of about a mile and a half and not at that time occupied by the enemy, with the proposition that a detail of a half-dozen men from the detachment should make a rush and capture this plateau, and hold it until the guns could be brought up. The general could not authorize the proposed undertaking, as it would have endangered the safety of his army, perhaps by leading to a premature engagement. By the time a sufficient reconnaissance had been made and convinced everybody of the value of this plan, the mesa had been strongly occupied by the enemy. It is still believed that the occupation of this height was practicable on the 27th of June, and thought, if it had been authorized, the Gatlings could have occupied and held this position against all the Spaniards in the city of Santiago. A glance at the map will show the extreme tactical importance of this position.


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