Captain Bowman H. McCalla’s LESSONS OF THE LATE WAR.
* * * * * *
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE,
Newport, R. I.,
Session of 1899,
Captain B. H. McCalla, U.S.N.
The Spanish Defenses in Guantanamo Bay
. . . From the beginning of the War of 1895, a Cuban outpost occupied the Western head of the entrance to Guantanamo Bay and we open communications with them there on 7th June, the day on which this bay was reconnoitered for a naval base. A small Cuban picket was kept at the mouth of the Yatera River, to make salt from seawater for the insurgents. In and about the City and Bay of Guantanamo there were seven thousand Spanish regular troops and guerrillas, with seven pieces of field artillery, under the command of General Pareja.1 There were about eight hundred Spanish troops at Baracoa, on the north side of the island nearly opposite, with field artillery, and as the commandant of this place endeavored unsuccessfully, upon three occasions, to communicate important orders to Pareja at Guantanamo, I consider it necessary to refer to this force and also to mention that, with two hundred Spanish troops in the vicinity of Cape Maysi,2
I have given all the forces we had to consider in connection with our base and our army operating against Santiago.
There had been forty-six contact minds of one pattern planted in the channels leading from the bay to Caimanera. Eighteen of these were placed in two lines between Hicocal Point and the southern extremity of Cayodel Hospital; twelve were anchored in one line across the channel, between the north end of Cayo del Medio and the opposite shore of Cayo del Toro; and the remaining sixteen were laid into lines between the fort on Cayo del Toro and the opposite shore, one line leading to the Cayo del Caoba, the other to the main mainland adjoining. These two lines were from fifty to one hundred yards apart. In my opinion, these submarine defenses were well placed. the only channel leading to the fort which was left open was that between the Cayo del Hospital and the Cayo del Medio. This approach had less water than the other two and the further disadvantage for an enemy that the Medio was high enough to completely protect the battery on the fort from the fire of ships ascending this channel.3 The mines, as the recovered log of the “Sandoval” showed, were all planted by the officers and crew of this gunboat, the last having been put down on the 9th of May, 1898.4
The mine field off Hicocal Point was defended by an infantry force of two hundred and fifty men until after the bombardment of the fort on Cayo del Toro on the 15th of June. Ten days after this action, a combined force of marines and Cubans were landed at night on the north side of the bay, but found Hicocal Point abandoned, the nearest Spanish picket at that time being stationed behind a hill on the road leading to Caimanera, about two miles from the bay.
On the Cayo del Toro, three bronze rifled muzzle-loading 6.4-inch guns had been mounted in a sand battery, less than a hundred yards south of the buildings. These guns had been rifled with three grooves and were supplied with lead-studded shells weighing, perhaps, from seventy to eighty pounds. Their range was limited to the southern extremity of Cayo del Hospital, but they were well placed to command the approaches. On the left and in rear of the buildings on Cayo del Toro, in an excellent position to command the southern channels, the narrow neck of land connecting the Cayo del Toro with the mainland and the channel on the west, between Cayo del Caoba and the mainland, a 3.5-inch modern rifled Krupp gun was mounted in a sand battery. To the right and also in rear there were two old bronze muzzle-loading field pieces to cover the upper mine field. In addition, there were lines of deep trenches covering all the water and land approaches.
On the bluff immediately south of the village of Caimanera, there were also three 6.4-inch muzzle-loading bronze guns in a sand battery, with bomb-proof protection below and lines of trenches, with blockhouses, covering the water front of the village. These batteries and mines, with the small gunboat “Sandoval” having a battery of one 6-pdr. and one automatic 1-pdr. Maxim, constituted the defenses of Guantanamo Bay.
Before the surrender of Santiago and after our occupation of the bay, the number of blockhouses on the railroad between Caimanera and the City Guantanamo had increased from fourteen to thirty-six and numerous strong positions were entrenched to protect the approaches to the city, located sixteen miles from the inner bay. Previous to the occupation of the bay, a few soldiers had been stationed in the village on Fisherman's Point, where there were two small bronze [i.e., bronze], muzzle-loading field pieces and a protecting blockhouse on the hill immediately above, around the ruins of which the marine battalion afterwards entrenched itself, assisted by volunteers from the ships at anchor. After the occupation of the east side of the entrance by the marines, the Spanish engineer officer reported to General Pareja that there were no positions on the bay from which he could successfully harass our ships at anchor. At all events, after the defeat of the Spaniards on 14th of June near the wall of Cuzco,5 no further attempts were made against us, beyond small-arm fire on two occasions directed at the Marblehead’s steam launch, once from the force on Hicocal Point and once from a picket which we were well aware had been advanced to a bluff on the bay at the end of the road from Caimanera. After the action of 14th of June, a Spanish force of two hundred and fifty officers and men entrenched themselves at a place three miles east of the Cayo del Toro, called Dos Caminos, to defend any approach towards Guantanamo by the road, which leads from this point directly to that city. There was also a large picket posted on the hill beyond Cayo del Toro and, of course, there was a small garrison of artillery and infantry in the fort. The main body of the Spanish, their hospitals and stores, were located in and about the City of Guantanamo, with detachments in the adjoining villages or plantations.
The Mines in Guantanamo Bay.
On the arrival of the “Marblehead” and “Yankee” off the entrance to this bay on the morning of June 7th, 1898, I did not consider it necessary to explore the broad and deep entrance for mines and I did not intend to pass through the channels towards Caimanera, unless it should become necessary by reason of some incident which might develop during the examination of the bay, my instructions from the commander-in-chief being limited to a reconnaissance.
In the action with the “Sandoval” and the batteries on Cayo del Toro, on that day, the “Marblehead” and “Yankee” did not pass into either of the three channels leading towards Caimanera, anticipating that they might all be mined and having been advised that nine observation mines had been placed near the fort on Cayo del Toro.6
The “Marblehead” anchored in the bay on the afternoon of the 8th of June, having taken two Cuban officers from the headquarters of General Perez, west of Guantanamo City, to the flagship on the 7th, on the following day.7 The bay was permanently occupied from this date and one or more steam launches were sent into the channels towards the fort on Cayo del Toro on picket duty every night, until after the official notice of surrender had been sent to the Spanish command at Guantanamo and the fort occupied by our forces. The officers in charge of the picket duty were directed not to pass the fort on Cayo del Toro, but in all other respects were not hampered by instructions, beyond the fact that it was pointed out to them that it was unnecessary to endanger their lives of their men unless some circumstance should occur which would make it necessary. The officers understood that their work was picket duty and they performed its details to my entire satisfaction. They examined every part of the coast line of the bay, passing beyond the fort to the extremity of the inlet on the east side of the bay and reconnoitering the fort from the channel opposite the western front. Lieutenant Anderson,8 for three nights between the 9th and 13th of June, dragged the channels on the west and east sides of Cayo del
Toro Hospital, for torpedoes, but found none. My information led me to believe that only observation mines had been laid down, and so this officer was directed to use a grapnel in the search. After three nights’ work, I became satisfied that these two channels, so far as the north end of Cayo del Medio, were free from torpedoes, and so reported to the commander-in-chief. But it was a mistake, as subsequent events proved, and I have often blamed myself for not using a drag for floating mines and for not assuring myself that the search began outside of Hicocal Point. It is certain, however, that had a drag been used, as was the case afterwards, the mines could not have escaped detection.
It has been said that the barnacles on the torpedoes prevented the two which were detached from their anchors on the 16th of June from exploding when the “Texas”, “Marblehead” and “Suwanee”, with two Press boats, passed through this mine field. This is not true, however, for the growth of barnacles between the 1st of May and the 16th of June was not then sufficient to prevent them from exploding, and in my opinion, the failure of the one picked up by the “Marblehead's” starboard propeller was due to a defect in the mechanical design of the mine. Shortly after we passed Hicocal Point, steaming very slowly on account of the fact that the “Texas” had little or no water between her bottom and the ground, it was reported that the starboard propeller was foul of a buoy and that engine was at once stopped until after the guns on the fort had been silenced. Meanwhile, petty officers and men on the poop, under Ensign Pratt's direction,9 had cleared the buoy--or, as it turned out, the mine--from the starboard propeller, hoisted it on deck and made it harmless. As the ships afterwards passed down the channel, the “Marblehead” followed by the “Texas”, and just before the mine field was reached, my attention was called by a “lookout” to “another buoy just like the one on the poop”, floating on the water a little on our starboard bow. We inferred then that the second mine had been dislodged by the propeller of the “Texas”, but I have since believed that its cable was cut by the screws of one of the ships, as they passed in to attack the fort, and that during the action it had drifted somewhat to the northward of the mine field. At all events, as a steam launch of the “Marblehead” had followed us up the channel, with the wherry, I directed Ensign Sullivan10 to take the mine in tow and haul it up on the beach at the marine camp. It was while he was occupied in this work, which he performed coolly and gallantly, that the company of 250 Spanish infantry, at that time posted on Hicocal Point and guarding the mine field, opened fire upon his boats and upon the Press tugs, happily without injury to anyone, though some hammocks on the sides of the steam launch were perforated by bullets. The “Suwanee” at once opened fired on the enemy and Sullivan towed his mine out of fire, landed it on the beach and dismounted it. Upon examining the mine which had been caught by the propeller of the “Marblehead”, it was found that two of the six levers have been struck in some way, driving in the connecting pin to within about a sixteenth of an inch of the glass bulb in the axis of the cylinder containing the acid.
Within a few days after this attack on the fort on Cayo del Toro, the mine field was thoroughly explored and fourteen other torpedoes were found and removed. On one of these, two levers were found to have been partially driven in, presumably by contact with a ship or propeller, and all are covered with growths of acorn barnacles and hydroids. As I have already stated, I do not believe that the marine growth on the torpedoes in the channel off Hicocal Point prevented two of them from exploding. The true cause was, in my opinion, due to the arrangement of levers, the action of which offered too much resistance to the resultant of the blows received, permitting the horizontal pushing component of the force to be transferred to the torpedo itself, which must have been shoved aside, except in the case of the “Marblehead”. In that instance, the mooring cable seemed to have been caught and cut by the propeller and the torpedo was thus towed astern of the ship, showing at times on the surface of the water as the screw revolved. As the ship was steaming very slowly, it is estimated that the propeller must have made five to eight turns from the time the mine was first seen until the engine was stopped. Although the barnacles on the mines recovered from the lower channel about the middle of June were not sufficient then to have prevented them from exploding, those which were taken up from the channels abreast of the fort on the last days of July were so foul that I do not believe they could have been exploded, unless the levers had been struck a very violent and quick blow strong enough to have broken up the barnacles and force the firing pins home before the shock of collision could have been transferred to the mine itself. I satisfied myself of this fact by experiment, after, of course, the fuse had been removed, and it does not seem probable that any of the mines taken up in July could have been exploded by ships steaming slowly through their fields.
The lessons to be learned from this experience, aside from the design of the contact mine, is that all such defenses should be examined once a fortnight and that in searching for them, drags should always be employed as well as grapnels. The fact that the mines in the upper channel were more foul than those first found is, no doubt, due in part to the mixture of fresh with the sea water, all such marine growths increasing more rapidly in brackish water. Two of the eighteen mines said to have been planted off the Hicocal Point were not recovered by us, and as my informant was the officer who placed them, we inferred that the two missing ones had sunk.
The method adopted to drag for the torpedoes was most successful. two steam launches and two whaleboats, a launch and a whaleboat side by side, the pairs connected by a rope with a chain span in the center, swept the channels, and when the drag met an obstruction, the boats came together and crossed the ends of the drag. The boats were then hauled carefully up to the mine, which was brought to the surface, the cylinder containing the dry gun cotton removed, and the mooring cable cut. Twice the drag brought up two mines together.
The adoption of certain strict sanitary rules in the ships of the American squadron at Rio during the revolution of 1893, after having been first put in force on the “Charleston”, gave the United States force immunity from yellow fever; while the navies of other nations represented in Brazil suffered from the disease, our vessels, with one exception, did not leave the harbor during the epidemic which prevailed on shore and decimated a part of the shipping on the bay of Rio. The care exercised by our officers and men was fully repaid by the results, and one very readily recognises that it was most important, at this crisis in Brazil's history, that the naval force of the United States should have remained off the capital of the country, at all hazards.
I had had some experience with yellow fever on shipboard, and remembering the success at Rio above mentioned, as soon as the report came from Siboney that the disease had appeared among our troops, I determined that our marines and fleet should not be infected, if care and precaution could prevent such a disaster. It was, of course, clear that our ships on the blockade should not be infected, most important that the Eastern Squadron, at that time forming for offensive operations against the Spanish fleet in Spanish waters, should be protected, and that the camp of our marines holding the east side of the entrance to Guantanamo Bay should not be contaminated. The rules which were adopted at once were most rigidly enforced, and I have no doubt often seemed harsh, not only to captains of transports but to officers and men of our army, who, for want of experience, did not appreciate the character of the disease and also seemed to be unaware that upon the health of the fleet depended the safety of the army. I am also forced to confess that some of my naval colleagues thought some extreme precautions unnecessary. But as the responsibility for the health of the forces in Guantanamo fell to my lot, those who disagreed with me will understand, I am sure, that there was nothing of a personal nature involved in the enforcement of the non-intercourse system, and that if the methods seem disagreeable, they were applied to all commerce alike and they prevented the appearance of yellow fever in the ships and the camp, although, upon three occasions, army vessels anchored in Guantanamo Bay, once with disease on board and twice with every indication of it.
The rules adopted were of the simplest: all persons, except officers and men from naval ships not in quarantine, were prevented from landing on Fisherman's Point and every vessel, without exception, which had had any communication at all with our army at Siboney, Daiquiri, or Santiago, was strictly quarantined or driven from the bay. In addition, all presentados from the Spanish camp were disinfected, bathed, given fresh clothes, and had their own clothing destroyed.11
As there were many Press boats running between the cable station at Fisherman's Point and Siboney, and as the correspondents could not land, it became necessary to arrange a plan by which their press dispatches could be sent to the cable office on shore without delay. As all messages, in any event caught, required censorship, the Press boats came near the “Marblehead,” which anchored at night in the entrance, outside the other ships, and handed their dispatches over the side to the office of the watch, who brought them to me. They were at once read and immediately sent ashore to the cable house, so that the quarantine did not affect the dispatch of cable business, and as each message was stamped with the hour of its reception before it was filed in the cable house, there could have been no intimation that one correspondent was more favored by the cable operators then another.
And the correspondents, without exception, cheerfully acquiesced in the necessity for the rules, because they had perfect freedom in the collection of information from the army camps and lines; they had every facility in reaching the cable office, without danger of infecting the naval force, and they had no reason to doubt that their messages would not be sent in the order in which they were delivered on the “Marblehead”.
After the commanding general of the army,12 in the “Yale”, anchored in Guantanamo Bay, on the way to Puerto Rico, he seemed to form the opinion that the quarantine was intended to obstruct his movements and to prevent free intercourse with his subordinates on the transports, which had been quarantined in conformity with the established rule. Totally oblivious to the fact that the success of the Puerto Rico campaign might depend upon the health of the fleet, the commanding general succeeded in getting an order from Washington, by which the quarantine on all his transports was raised on the day before his expedition sailed.13 As there had been grave misstatements made in Washington, as to my action in preventing communication between Madrid and Santiago by means of the French cable, it may be that the situation in regard to the quarantine in Guantanamo Bay was also misunderstood by the Navy Department.14 However that may be, instructions came from Washington--twelve hundred miles distant--to take all the Army transports out of quarantine, and, of course, it was done. But the authorities in Washington assumed a grave responsibility, because, had the yellow fever appeared in the fleet, as it did in the army camps in the vicinity of Santiago, our ships would have had to leave Cuba hurriedly,--as Shafter's army was obliged to do before the Spanish had evacuated the island15--and there was, apparently, no necessity for giving the quarantined transports pratique16 in order that general officers might console with their commander-in-chief during one day in Guantanamo Bay, when, on the following morning, they could have embarked with him and, if necessary, have made the first stage of the voyage to Puerto Rico in the same ship. There was nothing which the general officers could do in Guantanamo Bay to hasten the disembarkation of the army on the coast of Puerto Rico--over eight hundred miles away--and as the instructions to be given to the subordinates would depend upon the port selected for the advance and upon the resistance offered by the enemy, it seemed to me that the successful interference with a naval quarantine by the commanding general of the army was one more illustration of the inability on the part of many of our army officers to realise that the naval service is an independent and coordinate branch of the national defense, in all respects on an equality with the army. It also appeared to indicate the unwillingness of army officers to concede that on the sea and along special lines in which the army had had no experience, naval officers were, without doubt, far better qualified than officers of the other branch of the service.
An incident of the utter disregard of necessary precautions to prevent the spread of contagion came to my notice while we were anchored off Caimanera, where the health of the “Marblehead’s” crew continued good during the month of August, though one officer and twelve of the crew were busily engaged, from sunrise until sunset for thirty-three days, in raising this sunken Spanish gunboat “Sandoval.” While engaged in this work, we took unusual precautions in the water of the bay was not used for any but flushing and distilling purposes, for fear of infection from the river flowing into the bay above the village, and along the banks of which seven thousand Spanish troops were encamped. One evening, a retired officer of our army having charge of the transfer of the infected Spanish troops in Guantanamo to the transports in the lower bay, applied to me for sleeping quarters. I pointed out to him that as he must have been in close communication with the Spanish forces, among whom men were daily dying of yellow fever and smallpox, and therefore must be himself infected, he could not remain in the “Marblehead”. He explained the difficulty of finding comfortable quarters in the village and was then given permission to sleep on a small tug which had been captured off Trinidad and taken into our service. Three of her complement of four men were Cubans and therefore immune, and in showing him her anchorage I gave this as the reason why the tug was available. On the following morning at six o'clock, to my surprise, I found this officer had slept on the tug “Potomac”, which had a complement of thirty-six officers and men. He had first gone to the smaller tug, and though the master had offered him the pilot-house, fitted with a rattan bunk for his use, this officer thought the accommodation too uncomfortable, as it was understood afterwards, and so he had himself rowed to the “Potomac”, a mile distant, where he told the commanding officer that he had my permission to stay on board over night. He was at once put ashore, the tug was disinfected, and a report of the matter submitted to the commander-in-chief. This was but another instance of that contempt of precautions against disease, from which so much loss of life has occurred in the past, both in armies and navies.
The Health of the Fleet and of the Marines Ashore.
That the general health of our fleet and that of the marines under Colonel Huntington17 continued excellent through the war is so well known that is not necessary to refer to this good fortune, except in connection with the danger which speedily arose from the appearance of yellow fever in the army camps about Santiago and the constant communication which was necessary to keep up between Siboney and Guantanamo Bay.
It may not be uninteresting to mention the method adopted in the “Marblehead” to preserve the health of the crew.
During hostilities, the men were not allowed their hammocks, for, although the guns were kept loaded and three spare shells were kept on deck for each 5-inch gun and a spare box of shells for each 6-pdr., The presence of the hammocks would have interfered with the quickest manning and service of the battery. The men had their blankets and slept on deck at night and were in the open air during the day. Some slept on the berth deck, but as the engine attached to the after ventilating blower gave out late in May, and as all the airports were closed at night to darken the ship, the berth deck was very far from comfortable. However, the Chief Constructor18 quickly responded to a telegram for a new engine and the ventilating apparatus was again in working order on July 1st.
As the ship had been cleared for action the guns were at all times loaded when on the blockade, we steamed slowly with one screw or both engines were stopped. It was, therefore, easy to arrange the Engineer’s force in six watches and the petty officers and men of this division were encouraged to remain night and day, when not on watch, on the poop and forecastle under extemporised shelter, in the fresh sea breeze, and advised to sleep as much as possible. In addition, the surgeon19 was directed to take possession of all wines and liquors belonging to the commanding and other officers, and so far as I know, not a glass of any kind of stimulants was taken by anyone, unless it was administered by the medical officer. The results were most satisfactory and the health of the crew continued excellent: they lost superfluous fat, became hard, and were always on this account, in my opinion, better prepared to fight in action, or to chase, than the crew of an enemy’s ship lying at anchor for weeks in a harbor, subject to the enervating influences of contact with shore. But this fact that a ship-of-war, which kept the sea in all weather, was far superior in every respect to one blockaded in port had been so clearly demonstrated by the successes of the English during the last two and one-half centuries over the French, Dutch and Spanish fleets, that I should not have referred to the subject, had not a naval officer, several years ago, in a course of lectures at the War College, claimed that the steam fleet which lay at anchor in a harbor would be better fitted for battle than an enemy's fleet cruising outside at sea.
The short pursuit in the fighting on the 3rd of July showed conclusively that this war principle had not changed and that what had always proved true during the sail period had not been at all modified by the introduction of steam.
There was but one death on the “Marblehead” from disease. This was a case of dysentery, late in August. The patient, an excellent lad of good habits, had diarrhea for three days before going to the surgeon.
The marines, on landing, established a camp on the sandy plain which extended from the north side of the bluff into the bay for a quarter of a mile to the eastward, the western extremity of which is known as Fisherman's Point. This site, which was partially covered by trees and bushes, had formally been occupied by a village in which the pilots of the port and a small Spanish military force lived. On recommendation of the surgeon of the “Marblehead” and of Colonel Vieta of the Cuban army,20 who was also an accomplished physician, the houses and outbuildings of this village were all burned by my order on the day the marine battalion landed, as a precaution against yellow fever. I also remembered that while serving in the “Powhatan,” in the summer of 1880, we had entered the Bay at Guantanamo and found a Spanish frigate lying close inside Fisherman’s Point, the officers and crew were dying of this scourge of the tropics, and I concluded that fire would be the most perfect disinfectant.
The Spanish officials did not approve of the sanitary precaution, pointing out to Lieutenant Anderson who went to Caimanera under a flag of truce, that the houses on the point were owned by poor people. But the security of our force from disease outweighed, of course, all feeling of sympathy for the unfortunate owners of the buildings and their contents.
The marines also entrenched the position on the hill above the camp, formally occupied by a Spanish blockhouse, and the commanding officer of the marines did me the honor to call it Camp McCalla. The battalion was divided between a lower and upper camp, the former being used for the supplies. Water for cooking and drinking was supplied from the “Resolute” or from one of the other ships near at hand. The men could wash themselves and clothes in the bay, the depth of water averaging seven and eight fathoms within a few yards of the beach. As there was always abundance of distilled water for legitimate purposes and enough salt-water soap, there would have been no excuses for disease from want of cleanliness. While there were indications that water might be found not far from the surface, there were no wells were running streams near this camp, the only well being located in the abandoned cattle ranch of Cuzco, on the sea front, about two miles in a direct line from the marine battalion, and which furnished water to the Spanish troops and guerrillas for a time in that vicinity. The soil was dry and sandy, but very little rain fell, and as the tents, after few days, were fitted with board floors, the battalion of marines was in excellent health at all times.
It is a fact for congratulation that the sick list of the battalion averaged but 2 1\2%, while there was but about 3% of sickness in the fleet, the confinement below deck, no doubt, accounting for the slight increase among the seamen.
On the arrival of the Cuban troops in Guantanamo Bay, they at once built huts with branches of palms for protection against rain and sun and, sleeping grass hammocks, suffered only from the change in food. But this was a serious matter. At one time, 40% of the Cubans were sick, suffering from diseases of the stomach and intestines, do entirely, the surgeon informed me, to change of food and over-eating. This excess was natural in starved troops and I blame myself for authorising the issue of full naval rations to them. They should have been given for the meat ration, as compensation, an additional quantity of rice and beans, and with bread, butter and coffee, their health would not have suffered. I adopted this course afterwards in sending food to the Cuban troops and families inland, except that among the supplies from the Red Cross a quantity of jerked beef was issued, a commodity largely used in Cuba.
The need of fire discipline in our army and navy is so obvious, not only to prevent waste of ammunition and loss of morale, but to avoid the possibility of endangering friends, that I should hesitate to bring the subject to your attention, had I not passed through disagreeable experiences during the Spanish War. The first time that the want of fire control was brought to my notice was off Santiago, on the second night after the blockade of that port had been established. The “Brooklyn”, “Massachusetts”, “Texas” and “Iowa” were slowly steaming to and fro off the entrance, with the “Marblehead” to the west of the port and perhaps one and one-half miles inside the armored ships, when the “Vixen”, in a corresponding position to the eastward, suddenly displayed a green light, the signal for the approach of an enemy's torpedo-boat. The signal was seen from all the ships, and the “Marblehead”, which was heading to the eastward, at once steamed towards the “Vixen”. The heavier ships turned their searchlights and in sweeping the sea, picked up the “Marblehead”. Although the “Marblehead” did not at all resemble a torpedo-boat or destroyer, no sooner had a searchlight brought her into view than three or four armored ships opened fire with their secondary batteries and six or eight six-pounder shells fell uncomfortably near to us. It turned out that the locomotive of the train coming suddenly out of the canyon at Aguadores and running along the beach to Daiquiri had been mistaken for a torpedo-boat, and the fire from our friends were discontinued so soon as the officers could point out to the gun captains their mistake. Fortunately, no ill effects followed the shooting and as it was good, it was in a certain sense reassuring. In addition, it served the show in a practical way to the gun captains the need of coolness and selfcontrol, without which there can be no fire discipline.
Entire absence of fire control is to be expected in untrained troops, and General Greene,21 in the “Century” article to which I shall again refer, states that much ammunition is wasted at night by the volunteer regiments under his command at Manila. I was unprepared, however, for the one of fire discipline shown by the marines in the trenches on the hill above Guantanamo Bay, on the nights of June 11th and 12th. During the whole of the first night, there was an almost incessant role of rifle fire, mingled with the reports from automatic and 3-inch guns. Often, apparently, some individual would see an imaginary enemy in the report of his rifle would be followed by a roar of musketry which would have indicated that the camp was being attacked by greatly superior forces. On the second night, there was an attempt made by officers to control this wild and indiscriminate shooting, for bullets frequently flew over the ships at anchor off the camp. I was seriously concerned, fearing the supply ammunition brought by the marines would be exhausted too early in the campaign for it was estimated that the 650 men expended 45,000 rounds during the night of the 11th. There can be doubt, in my opinion, that the necessity for this kind of discipline had never been impressed upon the non-commissioned officers and men of either the Navy or Marine Corps, and that the officers generally have not sufficiently appreciated hitherto that success in battle depends largely upon the control the fire from guns or rifles, and that every effort must be made to ensure discipline under fire, the necessity for which I have endeavored to illustrate by relating my experience.
Source Note: D, RNN, Section 2, Envelope 2, No. 71.
Footnote 1: Brig. Gen. Félix Pareja Mesa.
Footnote 2: That is, Cape Maisi, Cuba.
Footnote 3: For the location of the places mentioned this document, see the contemporary map of Port Guantanamo and Anderson’s Minesweeping map, both found in the illustrations section accompanying this topic.
Footnote 4: Spanish gunboat Sandoval, which was stationed in Guantánamo Bay. Sandoval was scuttled by its crew when Guantánamo City surrendered to American forces on 25 July. McCalla oversaw her successful raising soon afterward. Chadwick, The Spanish-American War, 2: 311, 319. The gunboat was then taken into the United States Navy as U.S.S. Sandoval. See, DANFS.
Footnote 5: That is, Cuzco Well. It was the only source of fresh water in the area around Guantánamo Bay.
Footnote 6: Observation or controlled mines (also known as command detonation mines). Frequently used in combination with coastal they could be put into place in peacetime without threatening friendly shipping. They were turned into “normal” mines with an electrical switch. They could be detonated on a signal or be allowed to detonate on their own. Murray F. Sueter, The Evolution of the Submarine Boat Mine and Torpedo from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time, 2nd ed. (Portsmouth, Eng.: Gieve, Matthews & Seagrove, 1907), 274-76.
Footnote 7: Cuban insurgent leader Gen. Pedro Augustín Pérez; the flagship was armored cruiser New York.
Footnote 8: Lt. Edwin A. Anderson who served aboard Marblehead under McCalla.
Footnote 9: En. Alfred A. Pratt.
Footnote 10: En. Franklin B. Sullivan.
Footnote 11: McCalla, and medical science of his day, did not know that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitoes and that the only effective step he took to “quarantine” his ship was to have his men remain on it and not be exposed to mosquitos breeding in shallow pools of water.
Footnote 12: Gen. Nelson A. Miles.
Footnote 13: This was not the only time Miles and McCalla diagreed. When Miles first arrived at Guantánamo in mid-July, McCalla called on him and invited him to inspect the Marine camp on shore. Miles refused and made disparaging remarks about McCalla’s commander, RAdm. William T. Sampson, and about McCalla’s sanitary regulations. McCalla forcibly rebutted Miles’ criticisms and the exchange got so heated that there was talk of a duel. McCalla “Autobiography,” DNA, RG45, Entry 464, 731-32. The orders from Washington have not been found, but officers in Miles’ detachment did complain that the quarantine prevented them from consulting with other officers. Webb C. Hayes to Henry C. Corbin, 18 July 1898, Correspondence-War with Spain, 284.
Footnote 14: On the controversy concerning this cable, see: Naval Telegraphy.
Footnote 15: Immediately after the surrender of Santiago de Cuba, fever cases in V Corps, the army commanded by Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, spiked to the point that the corps faced being decimated by disease. Shafter convened a special meeting of division and brigade commanders. These officers concluded that the War Department’s plans to retain the corps in Cuba until the signing of a peace treaty would be disastrous for the command and they recommended immediate evacuation of the troops. Col. Theodore Roosevelt was chosen to communicate the conclusions of the officers to the press. His letter in abbreviated form was signed by all the officers and became known as the Round-Robin Letter. The letters sparked an immediate outcry. As a result, Shafter’s corps left Cuba for camps on Long Island, N.Y., starting on 7 August. By contrast, the last Spanish soldiers serving at Santiago de Cuba did not leave Cuba for Spain until 17 September 1898. Trask, War with Spain, 324-35.
Footnote 16: Practique was permission granted to a ship to have dealings with a port, given after quarantine or on showing a clean bill of health.
Footnote 17: Marine Lt. Col. Robert W. Huntington.
Footnote 18: Commo. Philip Hichborn.
Footnote 19: Passed Asst. Surgeon Andrew R. Wentworth.
Footnote 20: Col. Dr. G. García Vieta.
Footnote 21: Brig. Gen. of Volunteers Francis Vinton Greene. Greene’s article, “The Capture of Manila,” appeared in The Century Magazine in March and April 1899.