Part 6 (1/2)

The description which follows is interesting: ”It was simply grand to see how those young fellows, and old fellows, too, men who were rich and had been the petted of society in the city, walk up and down the lines while their clothes were powdered by the dust from exploding and torn by broken fragments cool as could be and yelling to the men to lay low and take good aim, or directing some squad to take care of a poor devil who was wounded. Why, at times there when the bullets were so thick they mowed the gra.s.s down like gra.s.s cutters in places, the officers stood looking at the enemy through as if they were enjoying the scene, and now and then you'd see a Captain or a Lieutenant pick up a gun from a wounded or dead man and blaze away himself at some good shot that he had caught sight of from his advantage point. Those sights kind of bring men together and make them think more of each other. And when a white man strayed from his regiment and falls wounded it rather affects him to have a Negro, shot himself a couple of times, take his carbine and make a splint of it to keep a torn limb together for the white soldier, and then, after lifting him to one side, pick up the wounded man's rifle and go back to the fight with as much vigor as ever. Yes, sir, we boys have learned something down there, even if some of us were pretty badly torn for it.”

Another witness testifies: ”Trooper Lewis Bowman, another of the brave Tenth Cavalry, had two ribs broken by a Spanish sh.e.l.l while before San Juan. He told of the battle as follows:”

”'The Rough Riders had gone off in great glee, bantering up and good-naturedly boasting that they were going ahead to lick the Spaniards without any trouble, and advising us to remain where we were until they returned, and they would bring back some Spanish heads as trophies. When we heard firing in the distance, our Captain remarked that some one ahead was doing good work. The firing became so heavy and regular that our officers, without orders, decided to move forward and reconnoitre When we got where we could see what was going on we found that the Rough Riders had marched down a sort of canon between the mountains. The Spaniards had men posted at the entrance, and as soon as the Rough Riders had gone in had about closed up the rear and were firing upon the Rough Riders from both the front and rear.

Immediately the Spaniards in the rear received a volley from our men of the Tenth Cavalry (colored) without command. The Spaniards were afraid we were going to flank them, and rushed out of ambush, in front of the Rough Riders, throwing up their hands and shouting, 'Don't shoot; we are Cubans.'”

”The Rough Riders thus let them escape, and gave them a chance to take a better position ahead. During all this time the men were in all the tall gra.s.s and could not see even each other and I feared the Rough Riders in the rear shot many of their men in the front, mistaking them for Spanish soldiers. By this time the Tenth Cavalry had fully taken in the situation, and, adopting the method employed in fighting the Indians, were able to turn the tide of battle and repulse the Spaniards.”

He speaks plainly when he says:

”I don't think it an exaggeration to say that if it had not been for the timely aid of the Tenth Cavalry (colored) the Rough Riders would have been exterminated. This is the unanimous opinion, at least, of the men of the Tenth Cavalry. I was in the fight of July 1, and it was in that fight that I received my wound. We were under fire in that fight about forty-eight hours, and were without food and with but little water. We had been cut off from our pack train, as the Spanish sharpshooters shot our mules as soon as they came anywhere near the lines, and it was impossible to move supplies. Very soon after the firing began our Colonel was killed, and the most of our other officers were killed or wounded, so that the greater part of that desperate battle was fought by some of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry without officers; or, at least, if there were any officers around, we neither saw them nor heard their commands. The last command I heard our Captain give was:”

”'Boys, when you hear my whistle, lie flat down on the ground.'”

”Whether he ever whistled or not I do not know. The next move we made was when, with a terrific yell, we charged up to the Spanish trenches and bayoneted and clubbed them out of their places in a jiffy. Some of the men of our regiment say that the last command they heard was: 'To the rear!' But this command they utterly disregarded and charged to the front until the day was won, and the Spaniards, those not dead in the trenches, fled back to the city.”


But a colored man, Wm. H. Brown, a member of the Tenth Cavalry, said:

”A foreign officer, standing near our position when we started out to make that charge, was heard to say; 'Men, for heaven's sake, don't go up that hill! It will be impossible for human beings to take that position! You can't stand the fire!' Notwithstanding this, with a terrific yell we rushed up the enemy's works, and you know the result.

Men who saw him say that when this officer saw us make the charge he turned his back upon us and wept.”

”And the odd thing about it all is that these wounded heroes never will admit that they did anything out of the common. They will talk all right about those 'other fellows,' but they don't about themselves, and were immensely surprised when such a fuss was made over them on their arrival and since. They simply believed they had a duty to perform and performed it.”--Planet.



”The Ninth and Tenth Cavalry are composed of the bravest lot of soldiers I ever saw. They held the ground that Roosevelt retreated from and saved them from annihilation.”

To a Ma.s.sachusetts soldier in another group of interviewers, the same question was put: ”How about the colored soldiers?”

”They fought like demons,” came the answer.

”Before El Caney was taken the Spaniards were on the heights of San Juan with heavy guns. All along our line an a.s.sault was made and the enemy was holding us off with terrible effect. From their blockhouse on the hill came a magazine of shot. Shrapnell fell in our ranks, doing great damage. Something had to be done or the day would have been lost. The Ninth and part of the Tenth Cavalry moved across into a thicket near by. The Spaniards rained shot upon them. They collected and like a flash swept across the plains and charged up the hill. The enemy's guns were used with deadly effect. On and on they went, charging with the fury of madness. The blockhouse was captured, the enemy fled and we went into El Caney.”

In another group a trooper from an Illinois regiment was explaining the character of the country and the effect of the daily rains upon the troops. Said he:

”Very few colored troops are sick. They stood the climate better and even thrived on the severity of army life.”

Said he: ”I never had much use for a 'n.i.g.g.e.r' and didn't want him in the fight. He is all right, though. He makes a good soldier and deserves great credit.”

Another comrade near by related the story as told by a cavalry lieutenant, who with a party reconnoitered a distance from camp. The thick growth of gra.s.s and vines made ambuscading a favorite pastime with the Spaniards. With smokeless powder they lay concealed in the gra.s.s. As the party rode along the sharp eye of a colored cavalryman noticed the movement of gra.s.s ahead. Leaning over his horse with sword in hand he plucked up an enemy whose gun was levelled at the officer.

The Spaniard was killed by the Negro who himself fell dead, shot by another. He had saved the life of his lieutenant and lost his own.

A comrade of the Seventeenth Infantry gave his testimony. Said he: