Classic History Books


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

for unconditional surrender, to transport the Spanish troops, at once and without parole, back to their own
country. Secretary Alger was no unskillful politician, and he was right in believing that this device,

though unconventional, would make a strong appeal to an army three years away from home and with

dwindling hopes of ever seeing Spain again. On the 15th of July a capitulation was agreed upon, and the

terms of surrender included not only the troops in Santiago but all those in that military district - about

twenty-four thousand men, with cannon, rifles, ammunition, rations, and other military supplies. Shafter's

recommendation that the troops be allowed to carry their arms back to Spain with them was properly

refused by the War Department. Arrangements were made for Spanish ships paid by the United States to

take the men immediately to Spain. This extraordinary operation was begun on the 8th of August, while

the war was still in progress, and was accomplished before peace was established.

The Santiago campaign, like the Mexican War, was fought chiefly by regulars. The Rough Riders and
the Seventy-first New York Regiment were the only volunteer units to take a heavy share. Yet the

absence of effective staff management was so marked that, as compared with the professional accuracy

shown by the navy, the whole campaign on land appears as an amateur undertaking. But the individual

character of both volunteers and regulars was high. The American victory was fundamentally due to the

fighting spirit of the men and to the individual initiative of the line and field officers.

In the meantime the health of the American Army was causing grave concern to its more observant
leaders. Six weeks of Cuban climate had taken out of the army all that exuberant energy which it had

brought with it from the north. The army had accomplished its purpose only at the complete sacrifice of

its fighting strength. Had the Spanish commander possessed more nerve and held out a little longer, he

might well have seen his victorious enemies wither before his eyes, as the British had before Cartagena

in 1741. On the 3d of August a large number of the officers of the Santiago army, including Generals

Wheeler, Sumner, and Lawton, and Colonel Roosevelt, addressed a round robin to General Shafter on the

alarming condition of the army. Its substance is indicated in the following sentences: "This army must be

moved at once or it will perish. As an army it can be safely moved now. Persons responsible for

preventing such a move will be responsible for the unnecessary loss of many thousands of lives."

Already on the 1st of August, General Shafter had reported 4255 sick, of whom 3164 were cases of

yellow fever, that deadly curse of Cuba, which the lack of proper quarantine had so often allowed to

invade the shores of the United States. On the 3d of August, even before General Shafter had received

the round robin, the Secretary of War authorized the withdrawal of at least a portion of the army, which

was to be replaced by supposedly immune regiments. By the middle of August, the soldiers began to

arrive at Camp Wikoff at Montauk Point, on the eastern end of Long Island. Through this camp, which

had been hastily put into condition to receive them, there passed about thirty-five thousand soldiers, of

whom twenty thousand were sick. When the public saw those who a few weeks before had been healthy

and rollicking American boys, now mere skeletons, borne helpless in stretchers and looking old and

shriveled, a wave of righteous indignation against Secretary Alger swept over the country, and eventually

accomplished enough to prevent such catastrophes in the future.

The distressing experience of the army was too real not to have its constructive effect. Men like William
Crawford Gorgas were inspired to study the sanitation and the diseases of the tropics and have now made

it possible for white men to live there safely. Men of affairs like Elihu Root were stimulated to give their

talents to army administration. Fortunately the boys were brought north just in time to save their lives,

and the majority, after a recuperation of two or three years, regained their normal health.

The primary responsibility for this gamble with death rested with those who sent an expedition from the

 

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