Part 5 (1/2)

The Charleston News and Courier says:

It is not known what proportion of the insurgent army is colored, but the indications are that the proportion of the same element in the volunteer army of occupation will be small.

On the basis of population, of course one-third of the South's quota should be made up of colored, and it is to be remembered that they made good soldiers and const.i.tute a large part of the regular army.

There were nearly 250,000 of them in service in the last war.


There has been hitherto among the officers of the army a certain prejudice against serving in the Negro regiments. But the other day a Lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry said enthusiastically:

”Do you know, I shouldn't want anything better than to have a company in a Negro regiment? I am from Virginia, and have always had the usual feeling about commanding colored troops. But after seeing that charge of the Twenty-fourth up the San Juan Hill, I should like the best in the world to have a Negro company. They went up that incline yelling and shouting just as I used to hear when they were hunting rabbits in Virginia. The Spanish bullets only made them wilder to reach the trenches.”


Officers of other regiments which were near the Twenty-fourth on July 1 are equally strong in their praise of the Negroes. Their yells were an inspiration to their white comrades and spread dismay among the Spaniards. A Captain in a volunteer regiment declares that the Twenty-fourth did more than any other to win the day at San Juan.

As they charged up through the white soldiers their enthusiasm was spread, and the entire line fought the better for their cheers and their wild rush.

Spanish evidence to the effectiveness of the colored soldiers is not lacking. Thus an officer who was with the troops that lay in wait for the Americans at La Quasina on June 24th, said:

”What especially terrified our men was the huge American Negroes. We saw their big, black faces through the underbrush, and they looked like devils. They came forward under our fire as if they didn't the least care about it.”


It was the Tenth Cavalry that had this effect on the Spaniards. At San Juan the Ninth Cavalry distinguished itself, its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, being killed. The fourth of the Negro regiments, the Twenty-fifth Infantry, played an especially brilliant part in the battle of El Caney on July 1st. It was held in reserve with the rest of Colonel Miles' brigade, but was ordered to support General Lawton's brigade toward the middle of the day. At that hour marching was an ordeal, but the men went on at a fast pace. With almost no rest they kept it up until they got into action. The other troops had been fighting hard for hours, and the arrival of the Twenty-fifth was a blessing. The Negroes went right ahead through the tired ranks of their comrades. Their charge up the hill, which was surmounted by Spanish rifle pits and a stone fort, has been told. It was the work of only a part of the regiment, the men coming chiefly from three companies. Colonel Milts had intended having his whole brigade make the final charge, but the Twenty-fifth didn't wait for orders. It was there to take that hill, and take the hill it did.

One of the Spanish officers captured there seemed to think that the Americans were taking an unfair advantage of them in having colored men who fought like that. He had been accustomed to the Negroes in the insurgent army, and a different lot they are from those in the United States army.

”Why,” he said ruefully, ”even your Negroes fight better than any other troops I ever saw.”

The way the Negroes charged up the El Caney and San Juan hills suggested inevitably that their African nature has not been entirely eliminated by generations of civilization, but was bursting forth in savage yells and in that wild rush some of them were fairly frantic with the delight of the battle. And it was no mere craziness. They are excellent marksmen, and they aim carefully and well. Woe to the Spaniards who showed themselves above the trenches when a colored regiment was in good range. MAGNIFICENT SHOWING MADE BY THE NEGROES--THEIR SPLENDID COURAGE AT SANTIAGO THE ADMIRATION OF ALL OFFICERS.

They were led by Southern Men--Black Men from the South Fought Like Tigers and end a Question often debated--In only One or Two Actions of the Civil War was there such a loss of Officers as at San Juan.


WAs.h.i.+NGTON, July 6, 1898.

Veterans who are comparing the losses at the battle of San Juan, near Santiago, last Friday, with those at Big Bethel and the first Bull Run say that in only one or two actions of the late war was there such a loss in officers as occurred at San Juan hill.

The companies of the Twenty-fourth Infantry are without officers. The regiment had four captains knocked down within a minute of each other.

Capt. A.C. Ducat was the first officer hit in the action, and was killed instantly. His second lieutenant, John A. Gurney, a Michigan man, was struck dead at the same time as the captain, and Lieutenant Henry G. Lyon was left in command of Company D, but only for a few minutes, for he, too, went down. Lisc.u.m, commanding the regiment, was killed.


Company F, Twenty-fourth Infantry, lost Lieutenant Augustin, of Louisiana, killed, and Captain Crane was left without a commissioned officer. The magnificent courage of the Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas Negroes, which make up the rank and file of this regiment, is the admiration of every officer who has written here since the fight. The regiment has a large proportion of Southern-born officers, who led their men with more than usual exposure. These men had always said the Southern Negro would fight as staunchly as any white man, if he was led by those in whom he had confidence. The question has often been debated in every mess of the army. San Juan hill offered the first occasion in which this theory could be tested practically, and tested it was in a manner and with a result that makes its believers proud of the men they commanded. It has helped the morale of the four Negro regiments beyond words. The men of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, particularly, and their comrades of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry as well, are proud of the record they made.