Part 1 out of 3
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[Illustration: WILLIAM McKinley.]
HISTORY OF NEGRO SOLDIERS
OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST.
EDWARD A. JOHNSON, Author of the Famous School History of the Negro
Race in America.
BY EDWARD A. JOHNSON, RALEIGH, N.C.
CONTENTS. (see last page for index to illustrations.)
The Cause of The War With Spain--The Virginius Affair--General
Fitzhugh Lee--Belligerent Rights to Insurgents--Much Money and
Time Spent by United States--Spain Tries to Appease Public
Sentiment--Weyler "The Butcher"--Resolutions by Congress Favoring
Insurgents--Insurgents Gain by--General Antonio Maceo--The Spirit
of Insurgents at Maceo's Death--Jose Maceo--Weyler's Policy--Miss
Cisneros' Rescue--Appeal for her--Spain and Havana Stirred by American
Sentiment--Battle Ship Maine--Official Investigation of Destruction
of--Responsibility for--Congress Appropriates $50,000,000 for National
Defence--President's Message--Congress Declares War--Resolution Signed
by President--Copy of Resolution Sent Minister Woodford--Fatal Step
for Spain--American Navy.
Beginning of Hostilities--Colored Hero in the Navy.
Sergeant Major Pullen of Twenty-fifth Infantry Describes the Conduct
of Negro Soldiers Around El Caney--Its Station Before the Spanish
American War and Trip to Tampa, Florida--The Part it Took in the Fight
at El Caney--Buffalo Troopers, the Name by Which Negro Soldiers are
Known--The Charge of the "Nigger Ninth" on San Juan Hill.
Colonel Theodore B. Roosevelt on the Colored Soldiers--Colonel
Roosevelt's Error--Jacob A. Riis Compliments Negro Soldiers-General
Nelson A. Miles Compliments Negro Soldiers--Cleveland Moffitt
Compliments the Negro Soldiers--President McKinley Promotes Negro
Soldiers--General Thomas J. Morgan on Negro Officers.
Many Testimonials in Behalf of Negro Soldiers--A Southerner's
Statement--Reconciliation--Charleston News and Courier--Good
Marksmanship at El Caney--Their Splendid Courage; Fought Like Tigers--
Never Wavered--What Army Officers say--Acme of Bravery-Around
Santiago--Saved the Life of his Lieutenant, but Lost his own--"Black
Soldier Boys," New York Mail and Express--They Never Faltered--The
Negro Soldier; His Good-heartedness--Mrs. Porter's Ride--Investment of
Santiago and Surrender--Killed and Wounded.
No Color Line in Cuba--A Graphic Description--American Prejudice
Cannot Exist There--A Catholic Priest Vouches for it--Colored
Belles--War Began--Facts About Porto Rico.
List of Colored Regiments that did Active Service in the Spanish
American War--A List of the Volunteer Regiments--Full Account of the
Troubles of the Sixth Virginia--Comments on the Third North Carolina
General Items of Interest to the Race--Miss Alberta Scott--Discovery
of the Games Family--Colored Wonder on the Bicycle--Negro Millionaire
Found at Last--Uncle Sam's Money Sealer--Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the
Negro Poet--Disfranchisement of Colored Voters.
Some Facts About the Filipinos--Who Aguinaldo is--Facts from Felipe
Resume--Why the American Government Does not Protect its Colored
Citizens-States Rights--Mobocracy Supreme--The Solution of the Negro
Problem is Mainly in the Race's Own Hands--The South a Good Place for
the Negro, Provided he can be Protected.
THE CAUSE OF THE WAR WITH SPAIN.
Many causes led up to the Spanish-American war. Cuba had been in
a state of turmoil for a long time, and the continual reports of
outrages on the people of the island by Spain greatly aroused the
Americans. The "ten years war" had terminated, leaving the island much
embarrassed in its material interests, and woefully scandalized by the
methods of procedure adopted by Spain and principally carried out
by Generals Campos and Weyler, the latter of whom was called the
"butcher" on account of his alleged cruelty in attempting to suppress
the former insurrection. There was no doubt much to complain of under
his administration, for which the General himself was not personally
responsible. He boasted that he only had three individuals put to
death, and that in each of these cases he was highly justified by
FINALLY THE ATTENTION OF THE UNITED STATES was forcibly attracted to
Cuba by the Virginius affair, which consisted in the wanton murder of
fifty American sailors--officers and crew of the Virginius, which was
captured by the Spanish off Santiago bay, bearing arms and ammunition
to the insurgents--Captain Fry, a West Point graduate, in command.
Spain would, no doubt, have received a genuine American thrashing on
this occasion had she not been a republic at that time, and President
Grant and others thought it unwise to crush out her republican
principles, which then seemed just budding into existence.
The horrors of this incident, however, were not out of the minds of
the American people when the new insurrection of 1895 broke out. At
once, as if by an electric flash, the sympathy of the American people
was enlisted with the Insurgents who were (as the Americans believed)
fighting Spain for their _liberty_. Public opinion was on the
Insurgents' side and against Spain from the beginning. This feeling of
sympathy for the fighting Cubans knew no North nor South; and strange
as it may seem the Southerner who quails before the mob spirit that
disfranchises, ostracises and lynches an American Negro who seeks his
liberty at home, became a loud champion of the Insurgent cause in
Cuba, which was, in fact, the cause of Cuban Negroes and mulattoes.
GENERAL FITZHUGH LEE, of Virginia, possibly the most noted Southerner
of the day, was sent by President Cleveland to Havana as Consul
General, and seemed proud of the honor of representing his government
there, judging from his reports of the Insurgents, which were
favorable. General Lee was retained at his post by President McKinley
until it became necessary to recall him, thus having the high honor
paid him of not being changed by the new McKinley administration,
which differed from him in politics; and as evidence of General
Fitzhugh Lee's sympathy with the Cubans it may be cited that he sent
word to the Spanish Commander (Blanco) on leaving Havana that he would
return to the island again and when he came he "would bring the stars
and stripes in front of him."
BELLIGERENT RIGHTS TO THE INSURGENTS OR NEUTRALITY became the topic of
discussion during the close of President Cleveland's administration.
The President took the ground that the Insurgents though deserving of
proper sympathy, and such aid for humanity's sake as could be given
them, yet they had not established on any part of the island such a
form of government as could be recognized at Washington, and accorded
belligerent rights or rights of a nation at war with another nation;
that the laws of neutrality should be strictly enforced, and America
should keep "hands off" and let Spain and the Insurgents settle their
[Illustration: GENERAL FITZHUGH LEE.]
MUCH MONEY AND TIME was expended by the United States government in
maintaining this neutral position. Fillibustering expeditions were
constantly being fitted up in America with arms and ammunition for the
Cuban patriots. As a neutral power it became the duty of the American
government to suppress fillibustering, but it was both an unpleasant
and an expensive duty, and one in which the people had little or no
SPAIN TRIES TO APPEASE public sentiment in America by recalling
Marshal Campos, who was considered unequal to the task of defeating
the Insurgents, because of reputed inaction. The flower of the Spanish
army was poured into Cuba by the tens of thousands--estimated, all
told, at three hundred thousand when the crisis between America and
Spain was reached.
WEYLER THE "BUTCHER," was put in command and inaugurated the policy of
establishing military zones inside of the Spanish lines, into which
the unarmed farmers, merchants, women and children were driven,
penniless; and being without any visible means of subsistence were
left to perish from hunger and disease. (The condition of these people
greatly excited American sympathy with the Insurgents.) General Weyler
hoped thus to weaken the Insurgents who received considerable of
supplies from this class of the population, either by consent or
force. Weyler's policy in reference to the reconcentrados (as these
non-combatant people were called) rather increased than lessened
the grievance as was natural to suppose, in view of the misery and
suffering it entailed on a class of people who most of all were not
the appropriate subjects for his persecution, and sentiment became so
strong in the United States against this policy (especially in view of
the fact that General Weyler had promised to end the "Insurrection" in
three months after he took command) that in FEBRUARY, 1896, the United
States Congress took up the discussion of the matter. Several Senators
and Congressmen returned from visits to the island pending this
discussion, in which they took an active and effective part, depicting
a most shocking and revolting situation in Cuba, for which Spain
was considered responsible; and on April 6th following this joint
resolution was adopted by Congress:
"_Be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America_, that in the opinion of Congress a public
war exists between the Government of Spain and the Government
proclaimed and for some time maintained by force of arms by the people
of Cuba; and that the United States of America should maintain a
strict neutrality between the contending powers, according to each all
the rights of belligerents in the ports and territory of the United
"_Resolved further_, that the friendly offices of the United States
should be offered by the President to the Spanish government for the
recognition of the independence of Cuba."
THE INSURGENTS gained by this resolution an important point. It
dignified their so-called insurrection into an organized army, with a
government at its back which was so recognized and treated with. They
could buy and sell in American ports.
[Illustration: GENERAL ANTONIO MACEO.]
GENERAL ANTONIO MACEO about this time was doing great havoc along the
Spanish lines. He darted from place to place, back and forth across
the supposed impassable line of Spanish fortifications stretching
north and south across the island some distance from Havana, and known
as the _trocha_. Thousands of Spaniards fell as the result of his
daring and finesse in military execution. His deeds became known in
America, and though a man of Negro descent, with dark skin and crisp
hair, his fame was heralded far and wide in the American newspapers.
At a public gathering in New York, where his picture was exhibited,
the audience went wild with applause--the waving of handkerchiefs and
the wild hurrahs were long and continued. The career of this hero was
suddenly terminated by death, due to the treachery of his physician
Zertucha, who, under the guise of a proposed treaty of peace, induced
him to meet a company of Spanish officers, at which meeting, according
to a pre-arranged plot, a mob of Spanish infantry rushed in on General
Maceo and shot him down unarmed. It is said that his friends recovered
his body and buried it in a secret place unknown to the Spaniards, who
were anxious to obtain it for exhibition as a trophy of war in Havana.
Maceo was equal to Toussaint L'Overture of San Domingo. His public
life was consecrated to liberty; he knew no vice nor mean action; he
would not permit any around him. When he landed in Cuba from Porto
Rico he was told there were no arms. He replied, "I will get them with
my machete," and he left five thousand to the Cubans, conquered by his
arm. Every time the Spanish attacked him they were beaten and left
thousands of arms and much ammunition in his possession. He was born
in Santiago de Cuba July 14, 1848.
THE SPIRIT OF THE INSURGENTS did not break with General Maceo's death.
Others rose up to fill his place, the women even taking arms in the
defence of home and liberty. "At first no one believed, who had not
seen them, that there were women in the Cuban army; but there is no
doubt about it. They are not all miscalled amazons, for they are
warlike women and do not shun fighting. The difficulty in employing
them being that they are insanely brave. When they ride into battle
they become exalted and are dangerous creatures. Those who first
joined the forces on the field were the wives of men belonging in the
army, and their purpose was rather to be protected than to become
heroines and avengers. It shows the state of the island, that the
women found the army the safest place for them. With the men saved
from the plantations and the murderous bandits infesting the roads and
committing every lamentable outrage upon the helpless, some of the
high spirited Cuban women followed their husbands, and the example has
been followed, and some, instead of consenting to be protected, have
taken up the fashion of fighting."--_Murat Halsted_.
JOSE MACEO, brother of Antonio, was also a troublesome character to
the Spaniards, who were constantly being set upon by him and his men.
WEYLER'S POLICY AND THE BRAVE STRUGGLE of the people both appealed
very strongly for American sympathy with the Insurgent cause. The
American people were indignant at Weyler and were inspired by the
conduct of the Insurgents. Public sentiment grew stronger with every
fresh report of an Insurgent victory, or a Weyler persecution.
MISS EVANGELINA COSIO Y CISNERO'S RESCUE helped to arouse sentiment.
This young and beautiful girl of aristocratic Cuban parentage alleged
that a Spanish officer had, on the occasion of a _raid_ made on her
home, in which her father was captured and imprisoned as a Cuban
sympathizer, proposed her release on certain illicit conditions,
and on her refusal she was incarcerated with her aged father in the
renowned but filthy and dreaded Morro Castle at Havana.
[Illustration: MISS EVANGELINA COSIO Y CISNEROS.]
_Appeal after appeal_ by large numbers of the most prominent women in
America was made to General Weyler, and even to the Queen Regent of
Spain, for her release, but without avail, when finally the news was
flashed to America that she had escaped. This proved to be true--her
release being effected by Carl Decker, a reporter on the New York
Journal--a most daring fete. Miss Cisneros was brought to America and
became the greatest sensation of the day. Her beauty, her affection
for her aged father, her innocence, and the thrilling events of her
rescue, made her the public idol, and gave _Cuba libre_ a new impetus
in American sympathy.
SPAIN AND HAVANA felt the touch of these ever spreading waves
of public sentiment, and began to resent them. At Havana public
demonstrations were made against America. The life of Consul General
Lee was threatened. The Spanish Minister at Washington, Senor de Lome,
was exposed for having written to a friend a most insulting letter,
describing President McKinley as a low politician and a weakling.
For this he was recalled by Spain at the request of the American
Protection to American citizens and property in Havana became
necessary, and accordingly the BATTLE SHIP MAINE was sent there for
this purpose, the United States government disclaiming any other
motives save those of protection to Americans and their interests.
The Maine was, to all outward appearances, friendly received by the
Spaniards at Havana by the usual salutes and courtesies of the
navy, and was anchored at a point in the bay near a certain buoy
_designated_ by the Spanish Commander. This was on January 25, 1898,
and on February 15th this noble vessel was blown to pieces, and 266
of its crew perished--two colored men being in the number. This event
added fuel to the already burning fire of American feeling against
Spain. Public sentiment urged an immediate declaration of war.
President McKinley counseled moderation. Captain Siggsbee, who
survived the wreck of the Maine, published an open address in which
he advised that adverse criticism be delayed until an official
investigation could be made of the affair.
The official investigation was had by a Court of Inquiry, composed of
Captain W.T. Sampson of the Iowa, Captain F.C. Chadwick of the
New York, Lieutenant-Commander W.P. Potter of the New York, and
Lieutenant-Commander Adolph Marix of the Vermont, appointed by the
President. Divers were employed; many witnesses were examined, and the
court, by a unanimous decision, rendered March 21, 1898, after a four
weeks session, reported as follows: "That the loss of the Maine was
not in any respect due to the fault or negligence on the part of any
of the officers or members of her crew; that the ship was destroyed by
the explosion of a submarine mine which caused the partial explosion
of two or more of her forward magazines; and that no evidence has been
obtainable fixing the responsibility for the destruction of the Maine
upon any person or persons."
Responsibility in this report is not fixed on any "person or persons."
It reads something like the usual verdict of a coroner's jury after
investigating the death of some colored man who has been lynched,--"he
came to his death by the hands of parties unknown." This report on
the Maine's destruction, _unlike_ the usual coroner's jury verdict,
however, in one respect, was not accepted by the people who claimed
that Spain was responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the
explosion, and the public still clamored for war to avenge the
[Illustration: U.S.S. MAINE]
CONGRESS ALSO CATCHES the war fever and appropriated $50,000,000 "for
the national defence" by a unanimous vote of both houses. The war and
navy departments became very active; agents were sent abroad to buy
war ships, but the President still hesitated to state his position
until he had succeeded in getting the American Consuls out of Cuba who
were in danger from the Spaniards there. Consul Hyatt embarked from
Santiago April 3, and Consul General Lee, who was delayed in getting
off American refugees, left on April 10, and on that day the PRESIDENT
SENT HIS MESSAGE TO CONGRESS. He pictured the deplorable condition of
the people of Cuba, due to General Weyler's policy; he recommended
that the Insurgent government be not recognized, as such recognition
might involve this government in "embarrassing international
complications," but referred the whole subject to Congress for action.
CONGRESS DECLARES WAR ON APRIL 13 by a joint resolution of the
Foreign Affairs Committee of both houses, which was adopted, after a
conference of the two committees, April 18, in the following form:
Whereas, the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than
three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have
shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been
a disgrace to Christian civilization, culminating as they have in the
destruction of a United States battle ship, with 266 of its officers
and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and
cannot longer be endured, as has been set forth by the President of
the United States in his message to Congress of April 11, 1898, upon
which the action of Congress was invited: therefore,
_Resolved_, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled--
First, that the people of the island of Cuba are, and of right ought
to be, free and independent.
Second, that it is the duty of the United States to demand, and
the government of the United States does hereby demand, that the
government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in
the island of Cuba, and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba
and Cuban waters.
Third, that the President of the United States be, and he hereby is,
directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of
the United States, and to call into the actual service of the United
States the militia of the several states to such extent as may be
necessary to carry these resolutions into effect.
Fourth, that the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or
intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over
said island, except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its
determination when that is completed to leave the government and
control of the island to its people.
THE PRESIDENT SIGNED THIS RESOLUTION at 11:24 A.M. on the 20th of
April, 1898. The Spanish Minister, Senor Luis Polo y Bernarbe, was
served with a copy, upon which he asked for his passports, and
"immediately left Washington."
"This is a picture of Edward Savoy, who accomplished one of the most
signal diplomatic triumphs in connection with recent relations
with Spain. It was he who outwitted the whole Spanish Legation and
delivered the ultimatum to Minister Polo."
"Edward Savoy has been a messenger in the Department of State for
nearly thirty years. He was appointed by Hamilton Fish in 1869, and
held in high esteem by James G. Blaine."
"He was a short, squat, colored man, with a highly intelligent face,
hair slightly tinged with gray and an air of alertness which makes him
stand out in sharp contrast with the other messengers whom one meets
in the halls of the big building."
[Illustration: EDDIE SAVOY.]
"Of all the men under whom 'Eddie,' as he is universally called, has
served he has become most attached to Judge Day, whom he says is the
finest man he ever saw."
"Minister Polo was determined not to receive the ultimatum. He was
confident he would receive a private tip from the White House, which
would enable him to demand his passports before the ultimatum was
served upon him. Then he could refuse to receive it, saying that
he was no longer Minister. It will be remembered that Spain handed
Minister Woodford his passports before the American representative
could present the ultimatum to the Spanish Government."
"Judge Day's training as a country lawyer stood him in good stead. He
had learned the value of being the first to get in an attachment."
"The ultimatum was placed in a large, square envelope, that might have
contained an invitation to dinner. It was natural that it should be
given to 'Eddie' Savoy. He had gained the sobriquet of the nation's
'bouncer,' from the fact that he had handed Lord Sackville-West and
Minister De Lome their passports."
"It was 11:30 o'clock on Wednesday morning when 'Eddie' Savoy pushed
the electric button at the front door of the Spanish Legation, in
Massachusetts avenue. The old Spanish soldier who acted as doorkeeper
"'Have something here for the Minister,' said Eddie."
"The porter looked at him suspiciously, but he permitted the messenger
to pass into the vestibule, which is perhaps six feet square. Beyond
the vestibule is a passage that leads to the large central hall. The
Minister stood in the hall. In one hand he held an envelope. It was
addressed to the Secretary of State. It contained a request for the
passports of the Minister and his suite. Senor Polo had personally
brought the document from the chancellory above."
"When the porter presented the letter just brought by the Department
of State's messenger, Senor Polo grasped it in his quick, nervous
way. He opened the envelope and realized instantly that he had been
outwitted. A cynical smile passed over the Minister's face as he
handed his request for passports to 'Eddie,' who bowed and smiled on
"Senor Polo stepped back into the hall and started to read the
ultimatum carefully. But he stopped and turned his head toward the
"'This is indeed Jeffersonian simplicity,' he said."
"'Eddie' Savoy felt very badly over the incident, because he had
learned to like Minister Polo personally."
"'He was so pleasant that I felt like asking him to stay a little
longer,' said 'Eddie,' 'but I didn't, for that wouldn't have been
diplomatic. When you have been in this department twenty-five or
thirty years you learn never to say what you want to say and never to
speak unless you think twice.'"
"Wherefore it will be seen that 'Eddie' Savoy has mastered the first
principles of diplomacy."--_N.Y. World._
A COPY OF THE RESOLUTION BY CONGRESS was also cabled to Minister
Woodford, at Madrid, to be officially transmitted to the Spanish
Government, fixing the 23d as the limit for its reply, but the Spanish
Minister of Foreign Affairs had already learned of the action of
Congress, and did not permit Minister Woodford to ask for his
passports, but sent them to him on the evening of the 21st, and this
was the formal beginning of the war.
[Illustration: JOSE MACEO.]
A FATAL STEP WAS THIS FOR SPAIN, who evidently, as her newspapers
declared, did not think the "American pigs" would fight. She was
unaware of the temper of the people, who seemed to those who knew the
facts, actually thirsting for Spanish blood--a feeling due more
or less to thirty years of peace, in which the nation had become
restless, and to the fact also that America had some new boats, fine
specimens of workmanship, which had been at target practice for a long
time and now yearned for the reality, like the boy who has a gun and
wants to try it on the real game. The proof of the superiority of
American gunnery was demonstrated in every naval battle. The accurate
aim of Dewey's gunners at Manilla, and Sampson and Schley's at
Santiago, was nothing less than wonderful. No less wonderful,
however, was the accuracy of the Americans than the inaccuracy of the
Spaniards, who seemed almost unable to hit anything.
WHILE ACCREDITING THE AMERICAN NAVY with its full share of praise for
its wonderful accomplishments, let us remember that there is scarcely
a boat in the navy flying the American flag but what has a number of
COLORED SAILORS on it, who, along with others, help to make up its
greatness and superiority.
THE BEGINNING OF HOSTILITIES.
A COLORED HERO IN THE NAVY.
History records the Negro as the first man to fall in three wars of
America--Crispus Attacks in the Boston massacre, March 5, 1770; an
unknown Negro in Baltimore when the Federal troops were mobbed in
that city _en route_ to the front, and Elijah B. Tunnell, of Accomac
county, Virginia, who fell simultaneously with or a second before
Ensign Bagley, of the torpedo boat _Winslow_, in the harbor of
Cardenas May 11, 1898, in the Spanish-American war.
Elijah B. Tunnell was employed as cabin cook on the _Winslow_. The
boat, under a severe fire from masked batteries of the Spanish on
shore, was disabled. The Wilmington came to her rescue, the enemy
meanwhile still pouring on a heavy fire. It was difficult to get the
"line" fastened so that the _Winslow_ could be towed off out of range
of the Spanish guns. Realizing the danger the boat and crew were in,
and anxious to be of service, Tunnell left his regular work and went
on deck to assist in "making fast" the two boats, and while thus
engaged a shell came, which, bursting over the group of workers,
killed him and three others. It has been stated in newspaper reports
of this incident that it was an ill-aimed shell of one of the American
boats that killed Tunnell and Bagley. Tunnell was taken on board the
Wilmington with both legs blown off, and fearfully mutilated. Turning
to those about him he asked, "Did we win in the fight boys?" The reply
He said, "Then I die happy." While others fell at the post of duty it
may be said of this brave Negro that he fell while doing _more_ than
his duty. He might have kept out of harm's way if he had desired, but
seeing the situation he rushed forward to relieve it as best he could,
and died a "volunteer" in service, doing what others ought to have
done. All honor to the memory of Elijah B. Tunnell, who, if not
the first, certainly simultaneous with the first, martyr of the
Spanish-American war. While our white fellow-citizens justly herald
the fame of Ensign Bagley, who was known to the author from his youth,
let our colored patriots proclaim the heroism of Tunnell of Accomac.
While not ranking as an official in the navy, yet he was brave, he was
faithful and we may inscribe over his grave that "he died doing what
he could for his country."
War between the United States and Spain began April 21, 1898. Actual
hostilities ended August 12, 1898, by the signing of the protocol by
the Secretary of State of the United States for the United States and
M. Cambon, the French Ambassador at Washington, acting for Spain.
The war lasted 114 days. The Americans were victorious in every
regular engagement. In the three-days battle around Santiago, the
Americans lost 22 officers and 208 men killed, and 81 officers and
1,203 men wounded, and 79 missing. The Spanish loss as best estimated
was near 1,600 officers and men killed and wounded.
Santiago was surrendered July 17, 1898, with something over 22,000
General Shatter estimates in his report the American forces as
numbering 16,072 with 815 officers.
SERGEANT-MAJOR PULLEN OF THE 25TH INFANTRY DESCRIBES THE CONDUCT OF
THE NEGRO SOLDIERS AROUND EL CANEY.
THE TWENTY-FIFTH U.S. INFANTRY--ITS STATION BEFORE THE SPANISH
AMERICAN WAR AND TRIP TO TAMPA, FLORIDA--THE PART IT TOOK IN THE FIGHT
AT EL CANEY.
When our magnificent battleship Maine was sunk in Havana harbor,
February 15, 1898, the 25th U.S. Infantry was scattered in western
Montana, doing garrison duty, with headquarters at Fort Missoula. This
regiment had been stationed in the West since 1880, when it came up
from Texas where it had been from its consolidation in 1869, fighting
Indians, building roads, etc., for the pioneers of that state and New
Mexico. In consequence of the regiment's constant frontier service,
very little was known of it outside of army circles. As a matter of
course it was known that it was a colored regiment, but its praises
had never been sung.
Strange to say, although the record of this regiment was equal to any
in the service, it had always occupied remote stations, except a
short period, from about May, 1880, to about August, 1885, when
headquarters, band and a few companies were stationed at Fort
Snelling, near St. Paul, Minnesota.
[Illustration: SERGEANT FRANK W. PULLEN, Who was in the Charge on El
Caney, as a member of the Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry.]
Since the days of reconstruction, when a great part of the country
(the South especially) saw the regular soldier in a low state of
discipline, and when the possession of a sound physique was the only
requirement necessary for the recruit to enter the service of the
United States, people in general had formed an opinion that the
regular soldier, generally, and the Negro soldier in particular, was
a most undesirable element to have in a community. Therefore, the
Secretary of War, in ordering changes in stations of troops from time
to time (as is customary to change troops from severe climates to
mild ones and _vice versa_, that equal justice might be done all) had
repeatedly overlooked the 25th Infantry; or had only ordered it from
Minnesota to the Dakotas and Montana, in the same military department,
and in a climate more severe for troops to serve in than any in the
United States. This gallant regiment of colored soldiers served
eighteen years in that climate, where, in winter, which lasts five
months or more, the temperature falls as low as 55 degrees below
zero, and in summer rises to over 100 degrees in the shade and where
mosquitos rival the Jersey breed.
Before Congress had reached a conclusion as to what should be done in
the Maine disaster, an order had been issued at headquarters of the
army directing the removal of the regiment to the department of the
South, one of the then recently organized departments.
At the time when the press of the country was urging a declaration of
war, and when Minister Woodford, at Madrid, was exhausting all the
arts of peace, in order that the United States might get prepared for
war, the men of the 25th Infantry were sitting around red-hot stoves,
in their comfortable quarters in Montana, discussing the doings of
Congress, impatient for a move against Spain. After great excitement
and what we looked upon as a long delay, a telegraphic order came. Not
for us to leave for the Department of the South, but to go to that
lonely sun-parched sandy island Dry Tortugas. In the face of the fact
that the order was for us to go to that isolated spot, where rebel
prisoners were carried and turned lose during the war of the
rebellion, being left there without guard, there being absolutely no
means of escape, and where it would have been necessary for our safety
to have kept Sampson's fleet in sight, the men received the news with
gladness and cheered as the order was read to them. The destination
was changed to Key West, Florida, then to Chickamauga Park, Georgia.
It seemed that the war department did not know what to do with the
soldiers at first.
Early Sunday morning, April 10, 1898, Easter Sunday, amidst tears of
lovers and others endeared by long acquaintance and kindness, and the
enthusiastic cheers of friends and well-wishers, the start was made
It is a fact worthy of note that Easter services in all the churches
in Missoula, Montana, a town of over ten thousand inhabitants, was
postponed the morning of the departure of the 25th Infantry, and the
whole town turned out to bid us farewell. Never before were soldiers
more encouraged to go to war than we. Being the first regiment to
move, from the west, the papers had informed the people of our route.
At every station there was a throng of people who cheered as we
passed. Everywhere the Stars and Stripes could be seen. Everybody had
caught the war fever. We arrived at Chickamauga Park about April 15,
1898, being the first regiment to arrive at that place. We were
a curiosity. Thousands of people, both white and colored, from
Chattanooga, Tenn., visited us daily. Many of them had never seen a
colored soldier. The behavior of the men was such that even the
most prejudiced could find no fault. We underwent a short period of
acclimation at this place, then moved on to Tampa, Fla., where we
spent a month more of acclimation. All along the route from Missoula,
Montana, with the exception of one or two places in Georgia, we had
been received most cordially. But in Georgia, outside of the Park, it
mattered not if we were soldiers of the United States, and going to
fight for the honor of our country and the freedom of an oppressed and
starving people, we were "niggers," as they called us, and treated
us with contempt. There was no enthusiasm nor Stars and Stripes in
Georgia. That is the kind of "united country" we saw in the South. I
must pass over the events and incidents of camp life at Chickamauga
and Tampa. Up to this time our trip had seemed more like a
Sunday-school excursion than anything else. But when, on June 6th, we
were ordered to divest ourselves of all clothing and equipage, except
such as was necessary to campaigning in a tropical climate, for the
first time the ghost of real warfare arose before us.
ON BOARD THE TRANSPORT.
The regiment went aboard the Government transport, No.
14--Concho--June 7, 1898. On the same vessel were the 14th U.S.
Infantry, a battalion of the 2d Massachusetts Volunteers and Brigade
Headquarters, aggregating about 1,300 soldiers, exclusive of the
officers. This was the beginning of real hardship. The transport had
either been a common freighter or a cattle ship. Whatever had been its
employment before being converted into a transport, I am sure of
one thing, it was neither fit for man nor beast when soldiers were
transported in it to Cuba. The actual carrying capacity of the vessel
as a transport was, in my opinion, about 900 soldiers, exclusive of
the officers, who, as a rule, surround themselves with every possible
comfort, even in actual warfare. A good many times, as on this
occasion, the desire and demand of the officers for comfort worked
serious hardships for the enlisted men. The lower decks had been
filled with bunks. Alas! the very thought of those things of torture
makes me shudder even now. They were arranged in rows, lengthwise the
ship, of course, with aisles only two feet wide between each row. The
dimensions of a man's bunk was 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet
high, and they were arranged in tiers of four, with a four inch board
on either side to keep one from rolling out. The Government had
furnished no bedding at all. Our bedding consisted of one blanket as
mattress and haversack for pillow. The 25th Infantry was assigned to
the bottom deck, where there was no light, except the small port holes
when the gang-plank was closed. So dark was it that candles were
burned all day. There was no air except what came down the canvass air
shafts when they were turned to the breeze. The heat of that place was
almost unendurable. Still our Brigade Commander issued orders that no
one would be allowed to sleep on the main deck. That order was the
only one to my knowledge during the whole campaign that was not obeyed
by the colored soldiers. It is an unreported fact that a portion of
the deck upon which the 25th Infantry took passage to Cuba was flooded
with water during the entire journey.
Before leaving Port Tampa the Chief Surgeon of the expedition came
aboard and made an inspection, the result of which was the taking off
of the ship the volunteer battalion, leaving still on board about a
thousand men. Another noteworthy fact is that for seven days the boat
was tied to the wharf at Port Tampa, and we were not allowed to go
ashore, unless an officer would take a whole company off to bathe and
exercise. This was done, too, in plain sight of other vessels, the
commander of which gave their men the privilege of going ashore at
will for any purpose whatever. It is very easy to imagine the hardship
that was imposed upon us by withholding the privilege of going ashore,
when it is understood that there were no seats on the vessel for a
poor soldier. On the main deck there were a large number of seats,
but they were all reserved for the officers. A sentinel was posted on
either side of the ship near the middle hatch-way, and no soldier was
allowed to go abaft for any purpose, except to report to his superior
officer or on some other official duty.
Finally the 14th of June came. While bells were ringing, whistles
blowing and bands playing cheering strains of music the transports
formed "in fleet in column of twos," and under convoy of some of the
best war craft of our navy, and while the thousands on shore waved us
godspeed, moved slowly down the bay on its mission to avenge the death
of the heroes of our gallant Maine and to free suffering Cuba.
The transports were scarcely out of sight of land when an order was
issued by our Brigade Commander directing that the two regiments on
board should not intermingle, and actually drawing the "color line" by
assigning the white regiment to the port and the 25th Infantry to the
starboard side of the vessel. The men of the two regiments were on the
best of terms, both having served together during mining troubles in
Montana. Still greater was the surprise of everyone when another order
was issued from the same source directing that the white regiment
should make coffee first, all the time, and detailing a guard to
see that the order was carried out. All of these things were done
seemingly to humiliate us and without a word of protest from our
officers. We suffered without complaint. God only knows how it was we
lived through those fourteen days on that miserable vessel. We lived
through those days and were fortunate enough not to have a burial at
OPERATIONS AGAINST SANTIAGO.
We landed in Cuba June 22, 1898. Our past hardships were soon
forgotten. It was enough to stir the heart of any lover of liberty to
witness that portion of Gomez's ragged army, under command of General
Castillo, lined up to welcome us to their beautiful island, and to
guide and guard our way to the Spanish strongholds. To call it a
ragged army is by no means a misnomer. The greater portion of those
poor fellows were both coatless and shoeless, many of them being
almost nude. They were by no means careful about their uniform. The
thing every one seemed careful about was his munitions of war, for
each man had his gun, ammunition and machete. Be it remembered that
this portion of the Cuban army was almost entirely composed of black
After landing we halted long enough to ascertain that all the men of
the regiment were "present or accounted for," then marched into the
jungle of Cuba, following an old unused trail. General Shafter's
orders were to push forward without delay. And the 25th Infantry
has the honor of leading the march from the landing at Baiquiri or
Daiquiri (both names being used in official reports) the first day the
army of invasion entered the island. I do not believe any newspaper
has ever published this fact.
There was no time to be lost, and the advance of the American army of
invasion in the direction of Santiago, the objective point, was rapid.
Each day, as one regiment would halt for a rest or reach a suitable
camping ground, another would pass. In this manner several regiments
had succeeded in passing the 25th Infantry by the morning of June
24th. At that time the 1st Volunteer Cavalry (Rough Riders) was
leading the march.
THE FIRST BATTLE.
[Illustration: Charge on El Caney--Twenty-Fifth Infantry.]
On the morning of June 24th the Rough Riders struck camp early, and
was marching along the trail at a rapid gait, at "route step," in any
order suitable to the size of the road. Having marched several miles
through a well-wooded country, they came to an opening near where the
road forked. They turned into the left fork; at that moment, without
the least warning, the Cubans leading the march having passed on
unmolested, a volley from the Spanish behind a stone fort on top of
the hill on both sides of the road was fired into their ranks. They
were at first disconcerted, but rallied at once and began firing in
the direction from whence came the volleys. They could not advance,
and dared not retreat, having been caught in a sunken place in the
road, with a barbed-wire fence on one side and a precipitous hill on
the other. They held their ground, but could do no more. The Spanish
poured volley after volley into their ranks. At the moment when
it looked as if the whole regiment would be swept down by the
steel-jacketed bullets from the Mausers, four troops of the 10th
U.S. Cavalry (colored) came up on "double time." Little thought the
Spaniards that these "smoked yankees" were so formidable. Perhaps they
thought to stop those black boys by their relentless fire, but those
boys knew no stop. They halted for a second, and having with them a
Hotchkiss gun soon knocked down the Spanish improvised fort, cut the
barb-wire, making an opening for the Rough Riders, started the charge,
and, with the Rough Riders, routed the Spaniards, causing them to
retreat in disorder, leaving their dead and some wounded behind. The
Spaniards made a stubborn resistance. So hot was their fire directed
at the men at the Hotchkiss gun that a head could not be raise, and
men crawled on their stomachs like snakes loading and firing. It is
an admitted fact that the Rough Riders could not have dislodged the
Spanish by themselves without great loss, if at all.
The names of Captain A.M. Capron, Jr., and Sergeant Hamilton Fish,
Jr., of the Rough Riders, who were killed in this battle, have been
immortalized, while that of Corporal Brown, 10th Cavalry, who manned
the Hotchkiss gun in this fight, without which the American loss in
killed and wounded would no doubt have been counted by hundreds, and
who was killed by the side of his gun, is unknown by the public.
At the time the battle of the Rough Riders was fought the 25th
Infantry was within hearing distance of the battle and received orders
to reinforce them, which they could have done in less than two hours,
but our Brigade Commander in marching to the scene of battle took the
wrong trail, seemingly on purpose, and when we arrived at the place of
battle twilight was fading into darkness.
The march in the direction of Santiago continued, until the evening of
June 30th found us bivouacked in the road less than two miles from El
Caney. At the first glimpse of day on the first day of July word was
passed along the line for the companies to "fall in." No bugle call
was sounded, no coffee was made, no noise allowed. We were nearing the
enemy, and every effort was made to surprise him. We had been told
that El Caney was well fortified, and so we found it.
The first warning the people had of a foe being near was the roar of
our field artillery and the bursting of a shell in their midst. The
battle was on. In many cases an invading army serves notice of a
bombardment, but in this case it was incompatible with military
strategy. Non-combatants, women and children all suffered, for to have
warned them so they might have escaped would also have given warning
to the Spanish forces of our approach. The battle opened at dawn and
lasted until dark. When our troops reached the point from which they
were to make the attack, the Spanish lines of entrenched soldiers
could not be seen.
[Illustration: CORPORAL BROWN. (Who was killed at a Hotchkiss gun
while shelling the Spanish block-house to save the Rough Riders.)]
The only thing indicating their position was the block-house situated
on the highest point of a very steep hill. The undergrowth was so
dense that one could not see, on a line, more than fifty yards ahead.
The Spaniards, from their advantageous position in the block-house
and trenches on the hill top, had located the American forces in the
bushes and opened a fusillade upon them. The Americans replied with
great vigor, being ordered to fire at the block-house and to the right
and left of it, steadily advancing as they fired. All of the regiments
engaged in the battle of El Caney had not reached their positions
when the battle was precipitated by the artillery firing on the
block-house. The 25th Infantry was among that number. In marching to
its position some companies of the 2d Massachusetts Volunteers were
met retreating; they were completely whipped, and took occasion to
warn us, saying: "Boys, there is no use to go up there, you cannot
see a thing; they are slaughtering our men!" Such news made us feel
"shaky," not having, at the time, been initiated. We marched up,
however, in order and were under fire for nine hours. Many barbed-wire
obstructions were encountered, but the men never faltered. Finally,
late in the afternoon, our brave Lieutenant Kinnison said to another
officer: "We cannot take the trenches without charging them." Just as
he was about to give the order for the bugler to sound "the charge" he
was wounded and carried to the rear. The men were then fighting like
demons. Without a word of command, though led by that gallant and
intrepid Second Lieutenant J.A. Moss, 25th Infantry, some one gave a
yell and the 25th Infantry was off, alone, to the charge. The 4th U.S.
Infantry, fighting on the left, halted when those dusky heroes made
the dash with a yell which would have done credit to a Comanche
Indian. No one knows who started the charge; one thing is certain,
at the time it was made excitement was running high; each man was a
captain for himself and fighting accordingly. Brigadier Generals,
Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels, Majors, etc., were not needed at the
time the 25th Infantry made the charge on El Caney, and those officers
simply watched the battle from convenient points, as Lieutenants and
enlisted men made the charge alone. It has been reported that the 12th
U.S. Infantry made the charge, assisted by the 25th Infantry, but it
is a recorded fact that the 25th Infantry fought the battle alone, the
12th Infantry coming up after the firing had nearly ceased. Private
T.C. Butler, Company H, 25th Infantry, was the first man to enter the
block-house at El Caney, and took possession of the Spanish flag for
his regiment. An officer of the 12th Infantry came up while Butler
was in the house and ordered him to give up the flag, which he was
compelled to do, but not until he had torn a piece off the flag to
substantiate his report to his Colonel of the injustice which had
been done to him. Thus, by using the authority given him by his
shoulder-straps, this officer took for his regiment that which had
been won by the hearts' blood of some of the bravest, though black,
soldiers of Shafter's army.
The charge of El Caney has been little spoken of, but it was quite as
great a show of bravery as the famous taking of San Juan Hill.
A word more in regard to the charge. It was not the glorious run from
the edge of some nearby thicket to the top of a small hill, as many
may imagine. This particular charge was a tough, hard climb, over
sharp, rising ground, which, were a man in perfect physical strength
he would climb slowly. Part of the charge was made over soft,
plowed ground, a part through a lot of prickly pineapple plants and
barbed-wire entanglements. It was slow, hard work, under a blazing
July sun and a perfect hail-storm of bullets, which, thanks to the
poor marksmanship of the Spaniards, "went high."
It has been generally admitted, by all fair-minded writers, that the
colored soldiers saved the day both at El Caney and San Juan Hill.
Notwithstanding their heroic services, they were still to be
subjected, in many cases, to more hardships than their white brother
in arms. When the flag of truce was, in the afternoon of July 3d,
seen, each man breathed a sigh of relief, for the strain had been
very great upon us. During the next eleven days men worked like ants,
digging trenches, for they had learned a lesson of fighting in the
open field. The work went on night and day. The 25th Infantry worked
harder than any other regiment, for as soon as they would finish a
trench they were ordered to move; in this manner they were kept moving
and digging new trenches for eleven days. The trenches left were each
time occupied by a white regiment.
On July 14th it was decided to make a demonstration in front of
Santiago, to draw the fire of the enemy and locate his position. Two
companies of colored soldiers (25th Infantry) were selected for this
purpose, actually deployed as skirmishers and started in advance.
General Shafter, watching the movement from a distant hill, saw that
such a movement meant to sacrifice those men, without any or much
good resulting, therefore had them recalled. Had the movement been
completed it is probable that not a man would have escaped death or
serious wounds. When the news came that General Toral had decided to
surrender, the 25th Infantry was a thousand yards or more nearer the
city of Santiago than any regiment in the army, having entrenched
themselves along the railroad leading into the city.
The following enlisted men of the 25th Infantry were commissioned
for their bravery at El Caney: First Sergeant Andrew J. Smith, First
Sergeant Macon Russell, First Sergeant Wyatt Huffman and Sergeant
Wm. McBryar. Many more were recommended, but failed to receive
commissions. It is a strange incident that all the above-named men
are native North Carolinians, but First Sergeant Huffman, who is from
The Negro played a most important part in the Spanish-American war. He
was the first to move from the west; first at Camp Thomas Chickamauga
Park, Ga.; first in the jungle of Cuba; among the first killed in
battle; first in the block-house at El Caney, and nearest to the enemy
when he surrendered.
Frank W. Pullen, Jr.,
_Ex-Sergeant-Major 25th U.S. Infantry_.
Enfield, N.C., March 23, 1899.
BUFFALO TROOPERS, THE NAME BY WHICH NEGRO SOLDIERS ARE KNOWN.
They Comprise Several of the Crack Regiments in Our Army-The Indians
Stand in Abject Terror of them-Their Awful Yells Won a Battle with the
"It is not necessary to revert to the Civil war to prove that American
Negroes are faithful, devoted wearers of uniforms," says a Washington
man, who has seen service in both the army and the navy. "There are at
the present time four regiments of Negro soldiers in the regular army
of the United States-two outfits of cavalry and two of infantry. All
four of these regiments have been under fire in important Indian
campaigns, and there is yet to be recorded a single instance of a man
in any of the four layouts showing the white feather, and the two
cavalry regiments of Negroes have, on several occasions, found
themselves in very serious situations. While the fact is well known
out on the frontier, I don't remember ever having seen it mentioned
back here that an American Indian has a deadly fear of an American
Negro. The most utterly reckless, dare-devil savage of the copper hue
stands literally in awe of a Negro, and the blacker the Negro the more
the Indian quails. I can't understand why this should be, for the
Indians decline to give their reasons for fearing the black men,
but the fact remains that even a very bad Indian will give the
mildest-mannered Negro imaginable all the room he wants, and to spare,
as any old regular army soldier who has frontiered will tell you.
The Indians, I fancy, attribute uncanny and eerie qualities to the
"The cavalry troop to which I belonged soldiered alongside a couple of
troops of the 9th Cavalry, a black regiment, up in the Sioux country
eight or nine years ago. We were performing chain guard, hemming-in
duty, and it was our chief business to prevent the savages from
straying from the reservation. We weren't under instructions to riddle
them if they attempted to pass our guard posts, but were authorized to
tickle them up to any reasonable extent, short of maiming them, with
our bayonets, if any of them attempted to bluff past us. Well, the men
of my troop had all colors of trouble while on guard in holding the
savages in. The Ogalallas would hardly pay any attention to the white
sentries of the chain guard, and when they wanted to pass beyond the
guard limits they would invariably pick out a spot for passage that
was patrolled by a white 'post-humper.' But the guards of the two
black troops didn't have a single run-in with the savages. The Indians
made it a point to remain strictly away from the Negro soldiers' guard
posts. Moreover, the black soldiers got ten times as much obedience
from the Indians loafing around the tepees and wickleups as did we of
the white outfit. The Indians would fairly jump to obey the uniformed
Negroes. I remember seeing a black sergeant make a minor chief go
down to a creek to get a pail of water--an unheard of thing, for the
chiefs, and even the ordinary bucks among the Sioux, always make their
squaws perform this sort of work. This chief was sunning himself,
reclining, beside his tepee, when his squaw started with the bucket
for the creek some distance away. The Negro sergeant saw the move. He
walked up to the lazy, grunting savage."
"'Look a-yeah, yo' spraddle-nosed, yalluh voodoo nigguh,' said the
black sergeant--he was as black as a stovepipe--to the blinking chief,
'jes' shake yo' no-count bones an' tote dat wattuh yo'se'f. Yo' ain'
no bettuh to pack wattuh dan Ah am, yo' heah me.'"
"The heap-much Indian chief didn't understand a word of what the Negro
sergeant said to him, but he understands pantomime all right, and when
the black man in uniform grabbed the pail out of the squaw's hand and
thrust it into the dirty paw of the chief the chief went after that
bucket of water, and he went a-loping, too."
"The Sioux will hand down to their children's children the story of
a charge that a couple of Negro cavalry troops made during the Pine
Ridge troubles. It was of the height of the fracas, and the bad
Indians were regularly lined up for battle. Those two black troops
were ordered to make the initial swoop upon them. You know the noise
one black man can make when he gets right down to the business of
yelling. Well, these two troops of blacks started their terrific whoop
in unison when they were a mile away from the waiting Sioux, and they
got warmed up and in better practice with every jump their horses
made. I give you my solemn word that in the ears of us of the white
outfit, stationed three miles away, the yelps those two Negro troops
of cavalry gave sounded like the carnival whooping of ten thousand
devils. The Sioux weren't scared a little bit by the approaching
clouds of alkali dust, but, all the same, when the two black troops
were more than a quarter of a mile away the Indians broke and ran as
if the old boy himself were after them, and it was then an easy matter
to round them up and disarm them. The chiefs afterward confessed that
they were scared out by the awful howling of the black soldiers."
"Ever since the war the United States navy has had a fair
representation of Negro bluejackets, and they make first-class naval
tars. There is not a ship in the navy to-day that hasn't from six to
a dozen, anyhow, of Negroes on its muster rolls. The Negro sailors'
names very rarely get enrolled on the bad conduct lists. They are
obedient, sober men and good seamen. There are many petty officers
among them."--_The Planet._
THE CHARGE OF THE "NIGGER NINTH" ON SAN JUAN HILL.
BY GEORGE E. POWELL
Hark! O'er the drowsy trooper's dream,
There comes a martial metal's scream,
That startles one and all!
It is the word, to wake, to die!
To hear the foeman's fierce defy!
To fling the column's battle-cry!
The "boots and saddles" call.
The shimmering steel, the glow or morn,
The rally-call of battle-horn,
Proclaim a day of carnage, born
For better or for ill.
Above the pictured tentage white,
Above the weapons glinting bright,
The day god casts a golden light
Across the San Juan Hill.
"Forward!" "Forward!" comes the cry,
As stalwart columns, ambling by,
Stride over graves that, waiting, lie
Undug in mother earth!
Their goal, the flag of fierce Castile
Above her serried ranks of steel,
Insensate to the cannon's peal
That gives the battle birth!
As brawn as black--a fearless foe;
Grave, grim and grand, they onward go,
To conquer or to die!
The rule of right; the march of might;
A dusky host from darker night,
Responsive to the morning light,
To work the martial will!
And o'er the trench and trembling earth,
The morn that gives the battle birth
Is on the San Juan Hill!
Hark! sounds again the bugle call!
Let ring the rifles over all,
To shriek above the battle-pall
The war-god's jubilee!
Their's, were bondmen, low, and long;
Their's, once weak against the strong;
Their's, to strike and stay the wrong,
That strangers might be free!
And on, and on, for weal or woe,
The tawny faces grimmer go,
That bade no mercy to a foe
That pitties but to kill.
"Close up!" "Close up!" is heard, and said,
And yet the rain of steel and lead
Still leaves a livid trail of red
Upon the San Juan Hill!
"Charge!" "Charge!" The bugle peals again;
'Tis life or death for Roosevelt's men!--
The Mausers make reply!
Aye! speechless are those swarthy sons,
Save for the clamor of the guns--
Their only battle-cry!
The lowly stain upon each face,
The taunt still fresh of prouder race,
But speeds the step that springs a pace,
To succor or to die!
With rifles hot--to waist-band nude;
The brawn beside the pampered dude;
The cowboy king--one grave--and rude--
To shelter him who falls!
One breast--and bare,--howe'er begot,
The low, the high--one common lot:
The world's distinction all forgot
When Freedom's bugle calls!
No faltering step, no fitful start;
None seeking less than all his part;
One watchward springing from each heart,--
Yet on, and onward still!
The sullen sound of tramp and tread;
Abe Lincoln's flag still overhead;
They followed where the angels led
The way, up San Juan Hill!
And where the life stream ebbs and flows,
And stains the track of trenchant blows
That met no meaner steel,
The bated breath--the battle yell--
The turf in slippery crimson, tell
Where Castile's proudest colors fell
With wounds that never heal!
Where every trooper found a wreath
Of glory for his sabre sheath;
And earned the laurels well;
With feet to field and face to foe,
In lines of battle lying low,
The sable soldiers fell!
And where the black and brawny breast
Gave up its all--life's richest, best,
To find the tomb's eternal rest
A dream of freedom still!
A groundless creed was swept away,
With brand of "coward "--a time-worn say--
And he blazed the path a better way
Up the side of San Juan Hill!
For black or white, on the scroll of fame,
The blood of the hero dyes the same;
And ever, ever will!
Sleep, trooper, sleep; thy sable brow,
Amid the living laurel now,
Is wound in wreaths of fame!
Nor need the graven granite stone,
To tell of garlands all thine own--
To hold a soldier's name!
[In the city of New Orleans, in 1866, two thousand two hundred and
sixty-six ex-slaves were recruited for the service. None but the
largest and blackest Negroes were accepted. From these were formed
the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry, and the Ninth and Tenth
Cavalry. All four are famous fighting regiments, yet the two cavalry
commands have earned the proudest distinction. While the record of the
Ninth Cavalry, better known as the "Nigger Ninth," in its thirty-two
years of service in the Indian wars, in the military history of the
border, stands without a peer; and is, without exception, the most
famous fighting regiment in the United States service.]--Author.
[Illustration: COLONEL THEODORE B. ROOSEVELT.]
COLONEL THEODORE B. ROOSEVELT, NOW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK, WHO LED THE
ROUGH RIDERS, TELLS OF THE BRAVERY OF NEGRO SOLDIERS.
When Colonel Theodore Roosevelt returned from the command of the
famous Rough Riders, he delivered a farewell address to his men,
in which he made the following kind reference to the gallant Negro
"Now, I want to say just a word more to some of the men I see standing
around not of your number. I refer to the colored regiments, who
occupied the right and left flanks of us at Guasimas, the Ninth and
Tenth cavalry regiments. The Spaniards called them 'Smoked Yankees,'
but we found them to be an excellent breed of Yankees. I am sure that
I speak the sentiments of officers and men in the assemblage when I
say that between you and the other cavalry regiments there exists a
tie which we trust will never be broken."--_Colored American_.
* * * * *
The foregoing compliments to the Negro soldiers by Colonel Roosevelt
started up an avalanche of additional praise for them, out of which
the fact came, that but for the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry (colored)
coming up at Las Guasimas, destroying the Spanish block house and
driving the Spaniards off, when Roosevelt and his men had been caught
in a trap, with a barbed-wire fence on one side and a precipice on
the other, not only the brave Capron and Fish, but the whole of his
command would have been annihilated by the Spanish sharp-shooters, who
were firing with smokeless powder under cover, and picking off the
Rough Riders one by one, who could not see the Spaniards. To break the
force of this unfavorable comment on the Rough Riders, it is claimed
that Colonel Roosevelt made the following criticism of the colored
soldiers in general and of a few of them in particular, in an article
written by him for the April Scribner; and a letter replying to
the Colonel's strictures, follows by Sergeant Holliday, who was an
"eye-witness" to the incident:
Colonel Roosevelt's criticism was, in substance, that colored
soldiers were of no avail without white officers; that when the white
commissioned officers are killed or disabled, colored non-commissioned
officers could not be depended upon to keep up a charge already begun;
that about a score of colored infantrymen, who had drifted into his
command, weakened on the hill at San Juan under the galling Spanish
fire, and started to the rear, stating that they intended finding
their regiments, or to assist the wounded; whereupon he drew his
revolver and ordered them to return to ranks and there remain, and
that he would shoot the first man who didn't obey him; and that after
that he had no further trouble.
Colonel Roosevelt is sufficiently answered in the following letter of
Sergeant Holliday, and the point especially made by many eye-witnesses
(white) who were engaged in that fight is, as related in Chapter V, of
this book, that the Negro troops made the charges both at San Juan and
El Caney after nearly all their officers had been killed or wounded.
Upon what facts, therefore, does Colonel Roosevelt base his
conclusions that Negro soldiers will not fight without commissioned
officers, when the only real test of this question happened around
Santiago and showed just the contrary of what he states? We prefer
to take the results at El Caney and San Juan as against Colonel
COLONEL ROOSEVELT'S ERROR.
TRUE STORY OF THE INCIDENT HE MAGNIFIED TO OUR HURT--THE WHITE
OFFICERS' HUMBUG SKINNED OF ITS HIDE BY SERGEANT HOLLIDAY--UNWRITTEN
_To the Editor of the New York Age_:
Having read in _The Age_ of April 13 an editorial entitled "Our Troops
in Cuba," which brings to my notice for the first time a statement
made by Colonel Roosevelt, which, though in some parts true, if read
by those who do not know the exact facts and circumstances surrounding
the case, will certainly give rise to the wrong impression of colored
men as soldiers, and hurt them for many a day to come, and as I was
an eye-witness to the most important incidents mentioned in that
statement, I deem it a duty I owe, not only to the fathers, mothers,
sisters and brothers of those soldiers, and to the soldiers
themselves, but to their posterity and the race in general, to be
always ready to make an unprejudiced refutation of such charges, and
to do all in my power to place the colored soldier where he properly
belongs--among the bravest and most trustworthy of this land.
In the beginning, I wish to say that from what I saw of Colonel
Roosevelt in Cuba, and the impression his frank countenance made
upon me, I cannot believe that he made that statement maliciously. I
believe the Colonel thought he spoke the exact truth. But did he know,
that of the four officers connected with two certain troops of the
Tenth Cavalry one was killed and three were so seriously wounded as to
cause them to be carried from the field, and the command of these two
troops fell to the first sergeants, who led them triumphantly to the
front? Does he know that both at Las Guasima and San Juan Hill the
greater part of troop B, of the Tenth Cavalry, was separated from its
commanding officer by accidents of battle and was led to the front by
its first sergeant?
When we reached the enemy's works on San Juan Hill our organizations
were very badly mixed, few company commanders having their whole
companies or none of some body else's company. As it was, Capt.
Watson, my troop commander, reached the crest of the hill with about
eight or ten men of his troop, all the rest having been accidentally
separated from him by the thick underbrush during the advance, and
being at that time, as was subsequently shown to be the firing line
under some one else pushing to the front. We kept up the forward
movement, and finally halted on the heights overlooking Santiago,
where Colonel Roosevelt, with a very thin line had preceded us, and
was holding the hill. Here Captain Watson told us to remain while he
went to another part of the line to look for the rest of his troop. He
did not come to that part of the field again.
The Colonel made a slight error when he said his mixed command
contained some colored infantry. All the colored troops in that
command were cavalry men. His command consisted mostly of Rough
Riders, with an aggregate of about one troop of the Tenth Cavalry, a
few of the Ninth and a few of the First Regular Cavalry, with a half
dozen officers. Every few minutes brought men from the rear, everybody
seeming to be anxious to get to the firing line. For a while we kept
up a desultory fire, but as we could not locate the enemy (he all the
time keeping up a hot fire on our position), we became disgusted, and
lay down and kept silent. Private Marshall was here seriously wounded
while standing in plain view of the enemy, trying to point them out to
There were frequent calls for men to carry the wounded to the rear,
to go for ammunition, and as night came on, to go for rations and
entrenching tools. A few colored soldiers volunteered, as did some
from the Rough Riders. It then happened that two men of the Tenth were
ordered to the rear by Lieutenant Fleming, Tenth Cavalry, who was then
present with part of his troop, for the purpose of bringing either
rations or entrenching tools, and Colonel Roosevelt seeing so many men
going to the rear, shouted to them to come back, jumped up and drew
his revolver, and told the men of the Tenth that he would shoot the
first man who attempted to shirk duty by going to the rear, that he
had orders to hold that line and he would do so if he had to shoot
every man there to do it. His own men immediately informed him that
"you won't have to shoot those men, Colonel. We know those boys." He
was also assured by Lieutenant Fleming, of the Tenth, that he would
have no trouble keeping them there, and some of our men shouted, in
which I joined, that "we will stay with you, Colonel." Everyone who
saw the incident knew the Colonel was mistaken about our men trying to
shirk duty, but well knew that he could not admit of any heavy detail
from his command, so no one thought ill of the matter. Inasmuch as the
Colonel came to the line of the Tenth the next day and told the men of
his threat to shoot some of their members and, as he expressed it, he
had seen his mistake and found them to be far different men from what
he supposed. I thought he was sufficiently conscious of his error not
to make a so ungrateful statement about us at a time when the Nation
is about to forget our past service.
Had the Colonel desired to note the fact, he would have seen that when
orders came the next day to relieve the detachment of the Tenth from
that part of the field, he commanded just as many colored men at that
time as he commanded at any other time during the twenty-four hours
we were under his command, although colored as well as white soldiers
were going and coming all day, and they knew perfectly well where the
Tenth Cavalry was posted, and that it was on a line about four hundred
yards further from the enemy than Colonel Roosevelt's line. Still when
they obtained permission to go to the rear, they almost invariably
came back to the same position. Two men of my troop were wounded while
at the rear for water and taken to the hospital and, of course, could
not come back.
Our men always made it a rule to join the nearest command when
separated from our own, and those who had been so unfortunate as to
lose their way altogether were, both colored and white, straggling
up from the time the line was established until far into the night,
showing their determination to reach the front.
In explaining the desire of our men in going back to look for their
comrades, it should be stated that, from the contour of the ground,
the Rough Riders were so much in advance of the Tenth Cavalry that,
to reach the latter regiment from the former, one had really to go
straight to the rear and then turn sharply to the right; and further,
it is a well known fact, that in this country most persons of color
feel out of place when they are by force compelled to mingle with
white persons, especially strangers, and although we knew we were
doing our duty, and would be treated well as long as we stood to the
front and fought, unfortunately some of our men (and these were all
recruits with less than six months' service) felt so much out of place
that when the firing lulled, often showed their desire to be with
their commands. None of our older men did this. We knew perfectly well
that we could give as much assistance there as anywhere else, and that
it was our duty to remain until relieved. And we did. White soldiers
do not, as a rule, share this feeling with colored soldiers. The fact
that a white man knows how well he can make a place for himself among
colored people need not be discussed here.
I remember an incident of a recruit of my troop, with less than two
months' service, who had come up to our position during the evening of
the 1st, having been separated from the troop during the attack on San
Juan Hill. The next morning, before the firing began, having seen an
officer of the Tenth, who had been sent to Colonel Roosevelt with a
message, returning to the regiment, he signified his intention of
going back with him, saying he could thus find the regiment. I
remonstrated with him without avail and was only able to keep him from
going by informing him of the Colonel's threat of the day before.
There was no desire on the part of this soldier to shirk duty. He
simply didn't know that he should not leave any part of the firing
line without orders. Later, while lying in reserve behind the firing
line, I had to use as much persuasion to keep him from firing over the
heads of his enemies as I had to keep him with us. He remained with us
until he was shot in the shoulder and had to be sent to the rear.
I could give many other incidents of our men's devotion to duty, of
their determination to stay until the death, but what's the use?
Colonel Roosevelt has said they shirked, and the reading public will
take the Colonel at his word and go on thinking they shirked. His
statement was uncalled for and uncharitable, and considering the moral
and physical effect the advance of the Tenth Cavalry had in weakening
the forces opposed to the Colonel's regiment, both at La Guasima and
San Juan Hill, altogether ungrateful, and has done us an immeasurable
lot of harm.
And further, as to lack of qualifications for command, I will say
that when our soldiers, who can and will write history, sever their
connections with the Regular Army, and thus release themselves from
their voluntary status of military lockjaw, and tell what they saw,
those who now preach that the Negro is not fit to exercise command
over troops, and will go no further than he is led by white officers,
will see in print held up for public gaze, much to their chagrin,
tales of those Cuban battles that have never been told outside the
tent and barrack room, tales that it will not be agreeable for some
of them to hear. The public will then learn that not every troop or
company of colored soldiers who took part in the assaults on San Juan
Hill or El Caney was led or urged forward by its white officer.
It is unfortunate that we had no colored officers in that campaign,
and this thing of white officers for colored troops is exasperating,
and I join with _The Age_ in saying our motto for the future must be:
"No officers, no soldiers."
Sergeant Troop B, Tenth Cavalry.
Fort Ringgold, Texas, April 22, 1899.
* * * * *
JACOB A. RIIS in _The Outlook_ gives the following interesting reading
concerning the colored troopers in an article entitled "Roosevelt and
[Illustration: GENERAL NELSON A. MILES.]
"It was one of the unexpected things in this campaign that seems
destined to set so many things right that out of it should come the
appreciation of the colored soldier as man and brother by those even
who so lately fought to keep him a chattel. It fell to the lot of
General 'Joe' Wheeler, the old Confederate warrior, to command the two
regiments of colored troops, the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and no one
will bear readier testimony than he to the splendid record they made.
Of their patience under the manifold hardships of roughing it in the
tropics, their helpfulness in the camp and their prowess in battle,
their uncomplaining suffering when lying wounded and helpless. Stories
enough are told to win for them fairly the real brotherhood with their
white-skinned fellows which they crave. The most touching of the many
I heard was that of a Negro trooper, who, struck by a bullet that cut
an artery in his neck, was lying helpless, in danger of bleeding to
death, when a Rough Rider came to his assistance. There was only
one thing to be done--to stop the bleeding till a surgeon came. A
tourniquet could not be applied where the wound was. The Rough Rider
put his thumb on the artery and held it there while he waited. The
fighting drifted away over the hill. He followed his comrades with
longing eyes till the last was lost to sight. His place was there,
but if he abandoned the wounded cavalryman it was to let him die.
He dropped his gun and stayed. Not until the battle was won did the
surgeon come that way, but the trooper's life was saved. He told of it
in the hospital with tears in his voice: 'He done that to me, he did;
stayed by me an hour and a half, and me only a nigger.'"
* * * * *
GENERAL NELSON A. MILES PAYS A TRIBUTE TO THE NEGRO SOLDIERS.
Major-General Nelson A. Miles, Commander-in-Chief of the army of the
United States spoke at the Peace Jubilee at Chicago, October 11th, and
"While the chivalry of the South and the yeomanry of the North vied
with their devotion to the cause of their country and in their
pride in its flag which floated over all, it's a glorious fact that
patriotism was not confined to any one section or race for the
sacrifice, bravery and fortitude. The white race was accompanied by
the gallantry of the black as they swept over entrenched lines and
later volunteered to succor the sick, nurse the dying and bury the
dead in the hospitals and the Cuban camps."
"This was grandly spoken, and we feel gratified at this recognition of
the valor of one of the best races of people the world has ever seen."
"We are coming, boys; it's a little slow and tiresome, but we are
At a social reunion of the Medal of Honor Legion held a few evenings
since to welcome home two of their members, General Nelson A. Miles,
commanding the army of the United States, and Colonel M. Emmett Urell,
of the First District Columbia Volunteers, in the course of his
remarks, General Miles paid the finest possible tribute to the
splendid heroism and soldierly qualities evidenced by the men of the
9th and 10th Cavalry, and 24th and 25th United States Infantry in the
late Santiago campaign, which he epitomized as "without a parallel in
the history of the world."
At the close of his remarks, Major C.A. Fleetwood, the only
representative of the race present, in behalf of the race extended
their heartfelt and warmest thanks for such a magnificent tribute from
such a magnificent soldier and man.--_Colored American_.
* * * * *
CLEVELAND MOFFITT, IN LESLIE'S WEEKLY, DESCRIBES THE HEROISM OF A
"BLACK COLOR BEARER."
"Having praised our war leaders sufficiently, in some cases more
than sufficiently (witness Hobson), let us give honor to some of the
humbler ones, who fought obscurely, but did fine things nevertheless."
[Illustration: SERGEANT BERRY, The first soldier who reached the Block
House on San Juan Hill and hoisted the American flag in a hail of
"There was Sergeant Berry, for instance, of the Tenth Cavalry, who
might have boasted his meed of kisses, too, had he been a white man.
At any rate, he rescued the colors of a white regiment from unseemly
trampling and bore them safely through the bullets to the top of
San Juan hill. Now, every one knows that the standard of a troop is
guarded like a man's own soul, or should be, and how it came that this
Third Cavalry banner was lying on the ground that day is something
that may never be rightly known. Some white man had left it there,
many white men had let it stay there, but Berry, a black man, saw it
fluttering in shame and paused in his running long enough to catch
it up and lift it high overhead beside his own banner--for he was a
color-bearer of the Tenth."
"Then, with two flags flying above him, and two heavy staves to bear,
this powerful negro (he is literally a giant in strength and stature)
charged the heights, while white men and black men cheered him as they
pressed behind. Who shall say what temporary demoralization there may
have been in this troop of the Third at that critical moment, or what
fresh courage may have been fired in them by that black man's act!
They say Berry yelled like a demon as he rushed against the Spaniards,
and I, for one, am willing to believe that his battle-cry brought
fighting energy to his own side as well as terror to the enemy."
"After the fight one of the officers of the Third Cavalry sought Berry
out and asked him to give back the trophy fairly won by him, and his
to keep, according to the usages of war. And the big Negro handed back
the banner with a smile and light word. He had saved the colors and
rallied the troop, but it didn't matter much. They could have the flag
if they wanted it."
"There are some hundreds of little things like this that we might as
well bear in mind, we white men, the next time we start out to decry
* * * * *
PRESIDENT MCKINLEY RECOGNIZES THE WORTH OF NEGRO SOLDIERS BY
PROMOTIONS FOR COLORED SOLDIERS.
Washington, July 30.--Six colored non-commissioned officers who
rendered particularly gallant service in the actions around Santiago
on July 1st and 2d have been appointed second lieutenants in the two
colored immune regiments recently organized under special act of
Congress. These men are Sergeants William Washington, Troop F, and
John C. Proctor, Troop I, of the 9th Cavalry, and Sergeants William
McBryar, Company H; Wyatt Hoffman, Company G; Macon Russell, Company
H, and Andrew J. Smith, Company B, of the 25th Infantry, commanded by
Colonel Daggett. Jacob C. Smith, Sergeant Pendergrass, Lieutenant Ray,
Sergeant Horace W. Bivins, Lieutenant E.L. Baker, Lieutenant J.H.
Hill, Lieutenant Buck.--_N.Y. World._
These promotions were made into the volunteer regiments, which were
mustered out after the war, thus leaving the men promoted in the same
rank they were before promotion if they chose to re-enlist in the
regular army. They got no permanent advancement by this act of the
President, but the future may develop better things for them.
* * * * *
COMPETENT TO BE OFFICERS--THE VERDICT OF GENERAL THOMAS J. MORGAN,
AFTER A STUDY OF THE NEGRO'S QUALITY AS A SOLDIER.
COLOR LINE IN THE ARMY--DIFFICULTY IN MAKING AFRO-AMERICAN COMMISSIONED
OFFICERS--HEROISM ON THE FIELD SURE TO REAP REWARD--MORGAN PREFERS
NEGRO TROOP TO THE WHITES.
General Thomas J. Morgan belongs to that class of Caucasian observers
who are able to think clearly upon the Negro problem in all of its
phases, and who have not only the breadth of intelligence to form just
and generous opinions, but who possess that rarer quality, the courage
to give them out openly to the country. General Morgan contributes the
following article to the _New York Independent_, analyzing the motives
which underlie the color line in the army.
[Illustration: GENERAL, THOMAS J. MORGAN, LL.D., Who says Negroes are
Competent to be Officers in the Army.]
He has had wide experience in military affairs, and his close contact
with Negro soldiers during the civil war entitles him to speak with
authority. General Morgan says:
"The question of the color line has assumed an acute stage, and has
called forth a good deal of feeling. The various Negro papers in the
country are very generally insisting that if the Negro soldiers are to
be enlisted, Negro officers should be appointed to command them. One
zealous paper is clamoring for the appointment, immediately, by the
President, of a Negro Major-General. The readers of _The Independent_
know very well that during the civil war there were enlisted in the
United States army 200,000 Negro soldiers under white officers, the
highest position assigned to a black man being that of first sergeant,
or of regimental sergeant-major. The Negroes were allowed to wear
chevrons, but not shoulder straps or epaulets. Although four Negro
regiments have been incorporated in the regular army, and have
rendered exceptionally effective service on the plains and elsewhere
for a whole generation, there are to-day no Negro officers in the
service. A number of young men have been appointed as cadets at West
Point, but the life has not been by any means an easy one. The only
caste or class with caste distinctions that exists in the republic is
found in the army; army officers are, par excellence, the aristocrats;
nowhere is class feeling so much cultivated as among them; nowhere
is it so difficult to break down the established lines. Singularly
enough, though entrance to West Point is made very broad, and a large
number of those who go there to be educated at the expense of the
Government have no social position to begin with, and no claims to
special merit, and yet, after having been educated at the public
expense, and appointed to life positions, they seem to cherish the
feeling that they are a select few, entitled to special consideration,
and that they are called upon to guard their class against any
insidious invasions. Of course there are honorable exceptions. There
are many who have been educated at West Point who are broad in their
sympathies, democratic in their ideas, and responsive to every appeal
of philanthropy and humanity; but the spirit of West Point has been
opposed to the admission of Negroes into the ranks of commissioned
officers, and the opposition to the commissioning of black men
emanating from the army will go very far toward the defeat of any
project of that kind."
"To make the question of the admission of Negroes into the higher
ranks of commissioned officers more difficult is the fact that the
organization of Negro troops under the call of the President for
volunteers to carry on the war with Spain, has been left chiefly to
the Governors of states. Very naturally the strong public sentiment
against the Negro, which obtains almost universally in the South,
has thus far prevented the recognition of his right to be treated
precisely as the white man is treated. It would be, indeed, almost
revolutionary for any Southern Governor to commission a Negro as a
colonel of a regiment, or even a captain of a company. (Since this was
written two Negro colonels have been appointed--in the Third North
Carolina and Eighth Illinois.) Even where there are exceptions to this
rule, they are notable exceptions. Everywhere through the South Negro
volunteers are made to feel that they are not upon the same plane as
"In a recent conversation with the Adjutant General of the army, I
was assured by him that in the organization of the ten regiments of
immunes which Congress has authorized, the President had decided that
five of them should be composed of Negroes, and that while the field
and staff officers and captains are to be white, the lieutenants may
be Negroes. If this is done it will mark a distinct step in advance of
any taken hitherto. It will recognize partially, at least, the manhood
of the Negro, and break down that unnatural bar of separation now
existing. If a Negro is a lieutenant, he will command his company in
the absence of the captain. He can wear epaulets, and be entitled to
all the rights and privileges 'of an officer and a gentleman;' he is
no longer doomed to inferiority. In case of battle, where bullets
have no respect of persons, and do not draw the line at color, it may
easily happen that a regiment or battalion will do its best work in
the face of the enemy under the command of a Negro chief. Thus far
the Government has been swift to recognize heroism and efficiency,
whether performed by Commodore Dewey at Manila or Lieutenant Hobson at
Santiago, and it can hardly be otherwise than that it will be ready
to recognize exceptional prowess and skill when performed by a Negro
"All, perhaps, which the Negroes themselves, or their friends, have a
right to ask in their behalf is, that they shall have a chance to show
the stuff they are made of. The immortal Lincoln gave them this chance
when he admitted them to wear the blue and carry a musket; and right
manfully did they justify his confidence. There was not better
fighting done during the civil war than was done by some of the Negro
troops. With my experience, in command of 5,000 Negro soldiers, I
would, on the whole, prefer, I think, the command of a corps of Negro
troops to that of a corps of white troops. With the magnificent
record of their fighting qualities on many a hard-contested field, it
is not unreasonable to ask that a still further opportunity shall
be extended to them in commissioning them as officers, as well as
enlisting them as soldiers."
"Naturally and necessarily the question of fitness for official
responsibility is the prime test and ought to be applied, and if
Negroes cannot be found of sufficient intelligence or preparation for
the duties incumbent on army officers, nobody should object to the
places being given to qualified white men. But so long as we draw no
race line of distinction as against Germans or Irishmen, and institute
no test of religion, politics or culture, we ought not to erect an
artificial barrier of color. If the Negroes are competent they should
be commissioned. If they are incompetent they should not be trusted
with the grave responsibilities attached to official position. I
believe they are competent."
[Illustration: GENERAL MAXIMO GOMEZ, OF THE CUBAN ARMY.]
MANY TESTIMONIALS IN BEHALF OF THE NEGRO SOLDIERS.
A SOUTHERNER'S STATEMENT, THAT THE NEGRO CAVALRY SAVED THE "ROUGH
Some of the officers who accompanied the wounded soldiers on the trip
north give interesting accounts of the fighting around Santiago. "I
was standing near Captain Capron and Hamilton Fish, Jr.," said a
corporal to the Associated Press correspondent to-night, "and saw them
shot down. They were with the Rough Riders and ran into an ambuscade,
though they had been warned of the danger. If it had not been for the
Negro Calvary the Rough Riders would have been exterminated. I am not
a Negro lover. My father fought with Mosby's Rangers, and I was born
in the South, but the Negroes saved that fight, and the day will come
when General Shafter will give them credit for their bravery."--_Asso.
* * * * *
"Members of our regiment kicked somewhat when the colored troops were
sent forward with them, but when they saw how the Negroes fought
they became reconciled to the situation and some of them now say the
colored brother can have half of their blankets whenever they want
The above is an extract from a communication to the Daily Afternoon
Journal, of Beaumont, Tex., written by a Southern white soldier:
"Straws tell the way the wind blows," is a hackneyed expression, but
an apt illustration of the subject in hand. It has been hinted by a
portion of the Negro press that when the war ended, that if there is
to be the millennium of North and South, the Negroes will suffer in the
contraction. There is no reason to encourage this pessimistic view,
since it is so disturbing in its nature, and since it is in the
province of the individuals composing the race to create a future to
more or less extent. The wedge has entered; it remains for the race to
live up to its opportunities. The South already is making concessions.
While concessions are apt to be looked upon as too patronizing, and
not included in the classification of rights in common, yet in time
they amount to the same. The mere statement that "the colored brother
can have half of their blankets whenever they want them," while
doubtless a figure of speech, yet it signifies that under this very
extreme of speech an appreciable advance of the race. It does not mean
that there is to be a storming of the social barriers, for even in the
more favored races definite lines are drawn. Sets and circles adjust
such matters. But what is desired is the toleration of the Negroes in
those pursuits that the people engage in or enjoy in general and in
common. It is all that the American Negro may expect, and it is safe
to say that his ambitions do not run higher, and ought not to run
higher. Money and birth in themselves have created some unwritten
laws that are much stronger than those decreed and promulgated by
governments. It would be the height of presumption to strike at these,
to some extent privileged classes. It is to be hoped that the good
fortunes of war will produce sanity and stability in the race,
contending for abstract justice.--_Freeman._
The testimony continues:
Private Smith of the Seventy-first Volunteers, speaking about the
impression his experience at Santiago had made upon him, said:
"I am a Southerner by birth, and I never thought much of the colored
man. But, somewhat, now I feel very differently toward them, for I
met them in camp, on the battle field and that's where a man gets to
know a man. I never saw such fighting as those Tenth Cavalry men did.
They didn't seem to know what fear was, and their battle hymn was,
'There'll be a hot time in the old town to-night. That's not a
thrilling hymn to hear on the concert stage, but when you are lying in
a trench with the smell of powder in your nose and the crack of rifles
almost deafening you and bullets tearing up the ground around you
like huge hailstones beating down the dirt, and you see before you a
blockhouse from which there belches fourth the machine gun, pouring a
torrent of leaden missiles, while from holes in the ground you see
the leveled rifles of thousands of enemies that crack out death in
ever-increasing succession and then you see a body of men go up that
hill as if it were in drill, so solid do they keep their formation,
and those men are yelling, 'There'll be a hot time in the old town
to-night,' singing as if they liked their work, why, there's an
appropriateness in the tune that kind of makes your blood creep and
your nerves to thrill and you want to get up and go ahead if you lose
a limb in the attempt And that's what those 'niggers' did. You just
heard the Lieutenant say, 'Men, will you follow me?' and you hear a
tremendous shout answer him, 'You bet we will,' and right up through
that death-dealing storm you see men charge, that is, you see them
until the darned Springfield rifle powder blinds you and hides them."
"And there is another thing, too, that teaches a man a lesson. The
action of the officers on the field is what I speak of. Somehow when
you watch these men with their gold braid in armories on a dance night
or dress parade it strikes you that they are a little more handsome
and ornamental than they are practical and useful. To tell the truth,
I didn't think much of those dandy officers on parade or dancing round
a ball room. I did not really think they were worth the money that was
spent upon them. But I just found it was different on the battlefield,
and they just knew their business and bullets were a part of the show
* * * * *
The Charleston News and Courier says:
It is not known what proportion of the insurgent army is colored, but
the indications are that the proportion of the same element in the
volunteer army of occupation will be small.
On the basis of population, of course one-third of the South's quota
should be made up of colored, and it is to be remembered that they
made good soldiers and constitute a large part of the regular army.
There were nearly 250,000 of them in service in the last war.
* * * * *
THE NEGRO AS A SOLDIER--HIS GOOD MARKSMANSHIP--THE FIGHT AT EL
CANEY--"WOE TO SPANISH IN RANGE."
There has been hitherto among the officers of the army a certain
prejudice against serving in the Negro regiments. But the other day a
Lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry said enthusiastically:
"Do you know, I shouldn't want anything better than to have a company
in a Negro regiment? I am from Virginia, and have always had the usual
feeling about commanding colored troops. But after seeing that charge
of the Twenty-fourth up the San Juan Hill, I should like the best in
the world to have a Negro company. They went up that incline yelling
and shouting just as I used to hear when they were hunting rabbits
in Virginia. The Spanish bullets only made them wilder to reach the
[Illustration: FIRST PAY-DAY IN CUBA FOR THE NINTH AND TENTH CAVALRY.]
Officers of other regiments which were near the Twenty-fourth on July
1 are equally strong in their praise of the Negroes. Their yells were
an inspiration to their white comrades and spread dismay among the
Spaniards. A Captain in a volunteer regiment declares that the
Twenty-fourth did more than any other to win the day at San Juan.
As they charged up through the white soldiers their enthusiasm was
spread, and the entire line fought the better for their cheers and
their wild rush.
Spanish evidence to the effectiveness of the colored soldiers is not
lacking. Thus an officer who was with the troops that lay in wait for
the Americans at La Quasina on June 24th, said:
"What especially terrified our men was the huge American Negroes. We
saw their big, black faces through the underbrush, and they looked
like devils. They came forward under our fire as if they didn't the
least care about it."
THE CHARGE AT EL CANEY.
It was the Tenth Cavalry that had this effect on the Spaniards. At
San Juan the Ninth Cavalry distinguished itself, its commander,
Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, being killed. The fourth of the Negro
regiments, the Twenty-fifth Infantry, played an especially brilliant
part in the battle of El Caney on July 1st. It was held in reserve
with the rest of Colonel Miles' brigade, but was ordered to support
General Lawton's brigade toward the middle of the day. At that hour
marching was an ordeal, but the men went on at a fast pace. With
almost no rest they kept it up until they got into action. The other
troops had been fighting hard for hours, and the arrival of the
Twenty-fifth was a blessing. The Negroes went right ahead through the
tired ranks of their comrades. Their charge up the hill, which was
surmounted by Spanish rifle pits and a stone fort, has been told. It
was the work of only a part of the regiment, the men coming chiefly
from three companies. Colonel Milts had intended having his whole
brigade make the final charge, but the Twenty-fifth didn't wait for
orders. It was there to take that hill, and take the hill it did.
One of the Spanish officers captured there seemed to think that the
Americans were taking an unfair advantage of them in having colored
men who fought like that. He had been accustomed to the Negroes in the
insurgent army, and a different lot they are from those in the United
"Why," he said ruefully, "even your Negroes fight better than any
other troops I ever saw."
The way the Negroes charged up the El Caney and San Juan hills
suggested inevitably that their African nature has not been entirely
eliminated by generations of civilization, but was bursting forth in
savage yells and in that wild rush some of them were fairly frantic
with the delight of the battle. And it was no mere craziness. They
are excellent marksmen, and they aim carefully and well. Woe to the
Spaniards who showed themselves above the trenches when a colored
regiment was in good range. MAGNIFICENT SHOWING MADE BY THE
NEGROES--THEIR SPLENDID COURAGE AT SANTIAGO THE ADMIRATION OF ALL
They were led by Southern Men--Black Men from the South Fought Like
Tigers and end a Question often debated--In only One or Two Actions of
the Civil War was there such a loss of Officers as at San Juan.
[TELEGRAM TO COMMERCIAL.]
WASHINGTON, July 6, 1898.
Veterans who are comparing the losses at the battle of San Juan, near
Santiago, last Friday, with those at Big Bethel and the first Bull Run
say that in only one or two actions of the late war was there such a
loss in officers as occurred at San Juan hill.
The companies of the Twenty-fourth Infantry are without officers. The
regiment had four captains knocked down within a minute of each other.
Capt. A.C. Ducat was the first officer hit in the action, and was
killed instantly. His second lieutenant, John A. Gurney, a Michigan
man, was struck dead at the same time as the captain, and Lieutenant
Henry G. Lyon was left in command of Company D, but only for a few
minutes, for he, too, went down. Liscum, commanding the regiment, was
NEGROES FIGHT LIKE TIGERS.
Company F, Twenty-fourth Infantry, lost Lieutenant Augustin, of
Louisiana, killed, and Captain Crane was left without a commissioned
officer. The magnificent courage of the Mississippi, Louisiana,
Arkansas and Texas Negroes, which make up the rank and file of this
regiment, is the admiration of every officer who has written here
since the fight. The regiment has a large proportion of Southern-born
officers, who led their men with more than usual exposure. These men
had always said the Southern Negro would fight as staunchly as any
white man, if he was led by those in whom he had confidence. The
question has often been debated in every mess of the army. San Juan
hill offered the first occasion in which this theory could be tested
practically, and tested it was in a manner and with a result that
makes its believers proud of the men they commanded. It has helped
the morale of the four Negro regiments beyond words. The men of the
Twenty-fourth Infantry, particularly, and their comrades of the Ninth
and Tenth Cavalry as well, are proud of the record they made.
THEY NEVER WAVERED.
The Twenty-fourth took the brunt of the fight, and all through it,
even when whole companies were left without an officer, not for a
moment were these colored soldiers shaken or wavering in the face of
the fierce attack made upon them. Wounded Spanish officers declare
that the attack was thus directed because they did not believe the
Negro would stand up against them and they believed there was the
faulty place in the American line. Never were men more amazed than
were the Spanish officers to see the steadiness and cool courage with
which the Twenty-fourth charged front forward on its tenth company (a
difficult thing to do at any time), under the hottest fire. The value