Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

after all, the qualities for which builders of armies look.

The battle of El Caney was perhaps unnecessary, for the position lay outside the main Spanish line anal
would probably have been abandoned when San Juan fell. For that more critical movement General

Shafter kept about eight thousand troops and the personal command. Both he and General Wheeler,

however, were suffering from the climate and were unable to be with the troops. The problem of making

a concerted advance through the thick underbrush was a difficult one, and the disposition of the

American troops was at once revealed by a battery of artillery which used black powder, and by a captive

balloon which was injudiciously towed about.

The right wing here, after assuming an exposed position, was unable to act, as Lawton, by whom it was
expecting to be reinforced, was delayed at El Caney. The advance regiments were under the fire of the

artillery, the infantry, and the skillful sharpshooters of an invisible enemy and were also exposed to the

fierce heat of the sun, to which they were unaccustomed. The wounded were carried back on litters,

turned over to the surgeons, who worked manfully with the scantiest of equipment, and were then laid,

often naked except for their bandages, upon the damp ground. Regiment blocked regiment in the narrow

road, and officers carrying orders were again and again struck, as they emerged from cover, by the

sharpshooters' fire. The want of means of communication paralyzed the command, for all the equipment

of a modern army was lacking: there were no aeroplanes, no wireless stations, no telephones.

Throughout the morning the situation grew worse, but the nerve of the men did not give way, and
American individual initiative rose to the boiling point. Realizing that safety lay only in advance, the

officers on the spot began to take control. General Hawkins, with the Sixth and Sixteenth Regulars,

advanced against the main blockhouse, which crested a slope of two hundred feet, and the men of the

Seventy-first New York Volunteers joined promiscuously in the charge.

To the right rose Kettle Hill, jutting out and Banking the approach to the main position. Facing it and
dismounted were the First and Ninth Regular Cavalry, the latter a negro regiment, and the Rough Riders

under Colonel Roosevelt. The Tenth Infantry was between the two wings, and divided in the support of

both. A battery of Gatling guns was placed in position. The Americans steadily advanced in an irregular

line, though kept in some sort of formation by their officers. Breaking down brush and barbed wire and

sheltering themselves in the high grass, the men on the right wing worked their way up Kettle Hill, but

before they reached the rifle pits of the enemy, they saw the Spaniards retreating on the run. The audacity

of the Americans at the critical moment had insured the ultimate success of their attack and they found

the final capture of the hill easy.

The longer charge against the center of the enemy was in the meantime being pressed home, under the
gallant leadership of General Hawkins, who at times was far in advance of his line. The men of the right

wing who looked down from their new position on Kettle Hill, a quarter of a mile distant, saw the

Spaniards give way and the American center dash forward. In order to support this advance movement,

the Gatlings were brought to Kettle Hill, and General S.S. Sumner and Colonel Roosevelt led their men

down Kettle and up San Juan Hill, where they swept over the northern jut only a moment after Hawkins

had carried the main blockhouse.

The San Juan position now in the hands of the Americans was the key of Santiago, but that entrenched
city lay a mile and a quarter distant and had still to be unlocked - a task which presented no little

difficulty. The Americans, it is true, had an advantageous position on a hilltop, but the enemy had retired

only a quarter of a mile and were supported by the complete system of fortifications which protected

 

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