The Navy Department Library
Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1898
The excellent work done by the Marine Corps during the war with Spain is set forth in the report of the Colonel-Commandant. An allotment of $106,529 was made to this corps from the money appropriated for national defense, and energetic measures were immediately to put it in complete readiness for war. The first marine battalion, composed of six companies, one of which was an artillery company, was organized at New York, under Lieutenant-Colonel Huntington, and equipped for service in Cuba. The command numbered 24 commissioned officers and 623 enlisted men, and under instructions from the Department sailed for Key West on April 22 on board the transport Panther. On June 7 the Panther left Key West for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where she arrived on the 10th, and the battalion landed and went into camp. This was the first permanent landing by our forces on Cuban soil. On the following day the camp was attacked by a force of Spaniards and from that time until the 14th was constantly under fire. Asst. Surg. John Blair Gibbs and five enlisted men were killed.
Too much praise can not be given these officers and men for the gallantry and discipline displayed under the trying conditions which confronted them almost immediately upon landing on Cuban soil. For three days and nights they were compelled to remain constantly under arms, repelling the Spanish attacks, and this, too, in a semitropical country, where the dense undergrowth afforded shelter to the sharpshooters of the enemy.
This command remained in camp at Guantanamo from the lOth of June to the 5th of August and did not lose a man by disease, while the cases of sickness was only 2 per cent. This speaks for the careful preparation of the battalion for the service which devolved upon it, and for the vigilance and care of those intrusted with the health and comfort of the men.
But praise is not alone due to those officers and men of the Marine Corps who served with the First Marine Battalion. The records are full of incidents in which conspicuous and gallant service was rendered.
In view of the prospective increase of the Navy and the necessity of guarding the naval stations which will be needed in the newly acquired territory of the United States, and especially in view of the general efficiency displayed by this Corps, it should be increased to at least 5,000 men and necessary officers, and attention is called to the report on this subject of its Colonel Commandant.