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Notes of a War Correspondent by Richard Harding Davis

Part 2 out of 3

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that they soon would be in the town.

As the firing from the Sixteenth still continued, it seemed obvious
that General Ernst would be the first general officer to enter Coamo,
and to receive its surrender. I had never seen five thousand people
surrender to one man, and it seemed that, if I were to witness that
ceremony, my best plan was to abandon the artillery and, as quickly
as possible, pursue the Second Wisconsin. I did not want to share
the spectacle of the surrender with my brother correspondents, so I
tried to steal away from the three who were present. They were
Thomas F. Millard, Walstein Root of the Sun, and Horace Thompson. By
dodging through a coffee central I came out a half mile from them and
in advance of the Third Wisconsin. There I encountered two "boy
officers," Captain John C. Breckenridge and Lieutenant Fred. S.
Titus, who had temporarily abandoned their thankless duties in the
Commissariat Department in order to seek death or glory in the
skirmish-line. They wanted to know where I was going, and when I
explained, they declared that when Coamo surrendered they also were
going to be among those present.

So we slipped away from the main body and rode off as an independent
organization. But from the bald ridge, where the artillery was still
hammering the town, the three correspondents and Captain Alfred
Paget, Her Majesty's naval attache, observed our attempt to steal a
march on General Wilson's forces, and pursued us and soon overtook

We now were seven, or to be exact, eight, for with Mr. Millard was
"Jimmy," who in times of peace sells papers in Herald Square, and in
times of war carries Mr. Millard's copy to the press post. We were
much nearer the ford than the bridge, so we waded the "drift" and
started on a gallop along the mile of military road that lay between
us and Coamo. The firing from the Sixteenth Pennsylvania had
slackened, but as we advanced it became sharper, more insistent, and
seemed to urge us to greater speed. Across the road were dug rough
rifle-pits which had the look of having been but that moment
abandoned. What had been intended for the breakfast of the enemy was
burning in pots over tiny fires, little heaps of cartridges lay in
readiness upon the edges of each pit, and an arm-chair, in which a
sentry had kept a comfortable lookout, lay sprawling in the middle of
the road. The huts that faced it were empty. The only living things
we saw were the chickens and pigs in the kitchen-gardens. On either
hand was every evidence of hasty and panic-stricken flight. We
rejoiced at these evidences of the fact that the Wisconsin Volunteers
had swept all before them. Our rejoicings were not entirely
unselfish. It was so quiet ahead that some one suggested the town
had already surrendered. But that would have been too bitter a
disappointment, and as the firing from the further side of Coamo
still continued, we refused to believe it, and whipped the ponies
into greater haste. We were now only a quarter of a mile distant
from the built-up portion of Coamo, where the road turned sharply
into the main street of the town.

Captain Paget, who in the absence of the British military attache on
account of sickness, accompanied the army as a guest of General
Wilson, gave way to thoughts of etiquette.

"Will General Wilson think I should have waited for him?" he shouted.
The words were jolted out of him as he rose in the saddle. The noise
of the ponies' hoofs made conversation difficult. I shouted back
that the presence of General Ernst in the town made it quite proper
for a foreign attache to enter it.

"It must have surrendered by now," I shouted. "It's been half an
hour since Ernst crossed the bridge."

At these innocent words, all my companions tugged violently at their
bridles and shouted "Whoa!"

"Crossed the bridge?" they yelled. "There is no bridge! The bridge
is blown up! If he hasn't crossed by the ford, he isn't in the

Then, in my turn, I shouted "Whoa!"

But by now the Porto Rican ponies had decided that this was the race
of their lives, and each had made up his mind that, Mexican bit or no
Mexican bit, until he had carried his rider first into the town of
Coamo, he would not be halted. As I tugged helplessly at my Mexican
bit, I saw how I had made my mistake. The volunteers, on finding the
bridge destroyed, instead of marching upon Coamo had turned to the
ford, the same ford which we had crossed half an hour before they
reached it. They now were behind us. Instead of a town which had
surrendered to a thousand American soldiers, we, seven unarmed men
and Jimmy, were being swept into a hostile city as fast as the
enemy's ponies could take us there.

Breckenridge and Titus hastily put the blame upon me.

"If we get into trouble with the General for this," they shouted, "it
will be your fault. You told us Ernst was in the town with a
thousand men."

I shouted back that no one regretted the fact that he was not more
keenly than I did myself.

Titus and Breckenridge each glanced at a new, full-dress sword.

"We might as well go in," they shouted, "and take it anyway!" I
decided that Titus and Breckenridge were wasted in the Commissariat

The three correspondents looked more comfortable.

"If you officers go in," they cried, "the General can't blame us,"
and they dug their spurs into the ponies.

"Wait!" shouted Her Majesty's representative. "That's all very well
for you chaps, but what protects me if the Admiralty finds out I have
led a charge on a Spanish garrison?"

But Paget's pony refused to consider the feelings of the Lords of the
Admiralty. As successfully Paget might have tried to pull back a
row-boat from the edge of Niagara. And, moreover, Millard, in order
that Jimmy might be the first to reach Ponce with despatches, had
mounted him on the fastest pony in the bunch, and he already was far
in the lead. His sporting instincts, nursed in the pool-rooms of the
Tenderloin and at Guttenburg, had sent him three lengths to the good.
It never would do to have a newsboy tell in New York that he had
beaten the correspondents of the papers he sold in the streets; nor
to permit commissioned officers to take the dust of one who never
before had ridden on anything but a cable car. So we all raced
forward and, bunched together, swept into the main street of Coamo.
It was gratefully empty. There were no American soldiers, but, then,
neither were there any Spanish soldiers. Across the street stretched
more rifle-pits and barricades of iron pipes, but in sight there was
neither friend nor foe. On the stones of the deserted street the
galloping hoofs sounded like the advance of a whole regiment of
cavalry. Their clatter gave us a most comfortable feeling. We
almost could imagine the townspeople believing us to be the Rough
Riders themselves and fleeing before us.

And then, the empty street seemed to threaten an ambush. We thought
hastily of sunken mines, of soldiers crouching behind the barriers,
behind the houses at the next corner, of Mausers covering us from the
latticed balconies overhead. Until at last, when the silence had
become alert and menacing, a lonely man dashed into the middle of the
street, hurled a white flag in front of us, and then dived headlong
under the porch of a house. The next instant, as though at a signal,
a hundred citizens, each with a white flag in both hands, ran from
cover, waving their banners, and gasping in weak and terror-shaken
tones, "Vivan los Americanos."

We tried to pull up, but the ponies had not yet settled among
themselves which of us had won, and carried us to the extreme edge of
the town, where a precipice seemed to invite them to stop, and we
fell off into the arms of the Porto Ricans. They brought us wine in
tin cans, cigars, borne in the aprons and mantillas of their women-
folk, and demijohns of native rum. They were abject, trembling,
tearful. They made one instantly forget that the moment before he
had been extremely frightened.

One of them spoke to me the few words of Spanish with which I had an
acquaintance. He told me he was the Alcalde, and that he begged to
surrender into my hands the town of Coamo. I led him instantly to
one side. I was afraid that if I did not take him up he would
surrender to Paget or to Jimmy. I bade him conduct me to his
official residence. He did so, and gave me the key to the cartel, a
staff of office of gold and ebony, and the flag of the town, which he
had hidden behind his writing-desk. It was a fine Spanish flag with
the coat of arms embroidered in gold. I decided that, with whatever
else I might part, that flag would always be mine, that the chance of
my again receiving the surrender of a town of five thousand people
was slender, and that this token would be wrapped around me in my
coffin. I accordingly hid it in my poncho and strapped it to my
saddle. Then I appointed a hotel-keeper, who spoke a little English,
as my official interpreter, and told the Alcalde that I was now
Military Governor, Mayor, and Chief of Police, and that I wanted the
seals of the town. He gave me a rubber stamp with a coat of arms cut
in it, and I wrote myself three letters, which, to insure their safe
arrival, I addressed to three different places, and stamped them with
the rubber seals. In time all three reached me, and I now have them
as documentary proof of the fact that for twenty minutes I was
Military Governor and Mayor of Coamo.

During that brief administration I detailed Titus and Breckenridge to
wigwag the Sixteenth Pennsylvania that we had taken the town, and
that it was now safe for them to enter. In order to compromise Paget
they used his red silk handkerchief. Root I detailed to conciliate
the inhabitants by drinking with every one of them. He tells me he
carried out my instructions to the letter. I also settled one
assault and battery case, and put the chief offender under arrest.
At least, I told the official interpreter to inform him that he was
under arrest, but as I had no one to guard him he grew tired of being
under arrest and went off to celebrate his emancipation from the rule
of Spain.

My administration came to an end in twenty minutes, when General
Wilson rode into Coamo at the head of his staff and three thousand
men. He wore a white helmet, and he looked the part of the
conquering hero so satisfactorily that I forgot I was Mayor and ran
out into the street to snap a picture of him. He looked greatly
surprised and asked me what I was doing in his town. The tone in
which he spoke caused me to decide that, after all, I would not keep
the flag of Coamo. I pulled it off my saddle and said: "General,
it's too long a story to tell you now, but here is the flag of the
town. It's the first Spanish flag"--and it was--"that has been
captured in Porto Rico."

General Wilson smiled again and accepted the flag. He and about four
thousand other soldiers think it belongs to them. But the truth will
out. Some day the bestowal on the proper persons of a vote of thanks
from Congress, a pension, or any other trifle, like prize-money, will
show the American people to whom that flag really belongs.

I know that in time the glorious deed of the seven heroes of Coamo,
or eight, if you include "Jimmy," will be told in song and story.
Some one else will write the song. This is the story.


When I was a boy I thought battles were fought in waste places
selected for the purpose. I argued from the fact that when our
school nine wished to play ball it was forced into the suburbs to
search for a vacant lot. I thought opposing armies also marched out
of town until they reached some desolate spot where there were no
window panes, and where their cannon-balls would hurt no one but
themselves. Even later, when I saw battles fought among villages,
artillery galloping through a cornfield, garden walls breached for
rifle fire, and farm-houses in flames, it always seemed as though the
generals had elected to fight in such surroundings through an
inexcusable striving after theatrical effect--as though they wished
to furnish the war correspondents with a chance for descriptive
writing. With the horrors of war as horrible as they are without any
aid from these contrasts, their presence always seemed not only
sinful but bad art; as unnecessary as turning a red light on the
dying gladiator.

There are so many places which are scenes set apart for battles--
places that look as though Nature had condemned them for just such
sacrifices. Colenso, with its bare kopjes and great stretch of
veldt, is one of these, and so, also, is Spion Kop, and, in
Manchuria, Nan Shan Hill. The photographs have made all of us
familiar with the vast, desolate approaches to Port Arthur. These
are among the waste places of the earth--barren, deserted, fit
meeting grounds only for men whose object in life for the moment is
to kill men. Were you shown over one of these places, and told, "A
battle was fought here," you would answer, "Why, of course!"

But down in Cuba, outside of Santiago, where the United States army
fought its solitary and modest battle with Spain, you might many
times pass by San Juan Hill and think of it, if you thought of it at
all, as only a pretty site for a bungalow, as a place obviously
intended for orchards and gardens.

On July 1st, twelve years ago, when the American army came upon it
out of the jungle the place wore a partial disguise. It still was an
irregular ridge of smiling, sunny hills with fat, comfortable curves,
and in some places a steep, straight front. But above the steepest,
highest front frowned an aggressive block-house, and on all the
slopes and along the sky-line were rows of yellow trenches, and at
the base a cruel cat's cradle of barbed wire. It was like the face
of a pretty woman behind the bars of a visor. I find that on the day
of the fight twelve years ago I cabled my paper that San Juan Hill
reminded the Americans of "a sunny orchard in New England." That was
how it may have looked when the regulars were climbing up the steep
front to capture the block-house, and when the cavalry and Rough
Riders, having taken Kettle Hill, were running down its opposite
slope, past the lake, to take that crest of San Juan Hill which lies
to the right of the block-house. It may then have looked like a
sunny New England orchard, but before night fell the intrenching
tools had lent those sunny slopes "a fierce and terrible aspect."
And after that, hour after hour, and day after day, we saw the hill
eaten up by our trenches, hidden by a vast laundry of shelter tents,
and torn apart by bomb-proofs, their jutting roofs of logs and broken
branches weighed down by earth and stones and looking like the pit
mouths to many mines. That probably is how most of the American army
last saw San Juan Hill, and that probably is how it best remembers
it--as a fortified camp. That was twelve years ago. When I
revisited it, San Juan Hill was again a sunny, smiling farm land, the
trenches planted with vegetables, the roofs of the bomb-proofs fallen
in and buried beneath creeping vines, and the barbed-wire
entanglements holding in check only the browsing cattle.

San Juan Hill is not a solitary hill, but the most prominent of a
ridge of hills, with Kettle Hill a quarter of a mile away on the edge
of the jungle and separated from the ridge by a tiny lake. In the
local nomenclature Kettle Hill, which is the name given to it by the
Rough Riders, has always been known as San Juan Hill, with an added
name to distinguish it from the other San Juan Hill of greater

The days we spent on those hills were so rich in incident and
interest and were filled with moments of such excitement, of such
pride in one's fellow-countrymen, of pity for the hurt and dying, of
laughter and good-fellowship, that one supposed he might return after
even twenty years and recognize every detail of the ground. But a
shorter time has made startling and confusing changes. Now a visitor
will find that not until after several different visits, and by
walking and riding foot by foot over the hills, can he make them fall
into line as he thinks he once knew them. Immediately around San
Juan Hill itself there has been some attempt made to preserve the
ground as a public park. A barbed-wire fence, with a gateway,
encircles the block-house, which has been converted into a home for
the caretaker of the park, and then, skirting the road to Santiago to
include the tree under which the surrender was arranged, stretches to
the left of the block-house to protect a monument. This monument was
erected by Americans to commemorate the battle. It is now rapidly
falling to pieces, but there still is enough of it intact to show the
pencilled scribblings and autographs of tourists who did not take
part in the battle, but who in this public manner show that they
approve of its results. The public park is less than a quarter of a
mile square. Except for it no other effort has been made either by
Cubans or Americans to designate the lines that once encircled and
menaced Santiago, and Nature, always at her best under a tropical
sun, has done all in her power to disguise and forever obliterate the
scene of the army's one battle. Those features which still remain
unchanged are very few. The Treaty Tree, now surrounded by a tall
fence, is one, the block-house is another. The little lake in which,
even when the bullets were dropping, the men used to bathe and wash
their clothes, the big iron sugar kettle that gave a new name to
Kettle Hill, and here and there a trench hardly deeper than a
ploughed furrow, and nearly hidden by growing plants, are the few
landmarks that remain.

Of the camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Bates, Sumner, and Wheeler,
of Colonels Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt, there are but the
slightest traces. The Bloody Bend, as some call it, in the San Juan
River, as some call that stream, seems to have entirely disappeared.
At least, it certainly was not where it should have been, and the
place the hotel guides point out to unsuspecting tourists bears not
the slightest physical resemblance to that ford. In twelve years,
during one of which there has been in Santiago the most severe
rainfall in sixty years, the San Juan stream has carried away its
banks and the trees that lined them, and the trails that should mark
where the ford once crossed have so altered and so many new ones have
been added, that the exact location of the once famous dressing
station is now most difficult, if not impossible, to determine. To
establish the sites of the old camping grounds is but little less
difficult. The head-quarters of General Wheeler are easy to
recognize, for the reason that the place selected was in a hollow,
and the most unhealthy spot along the five miles of intrenchments.
It is about thirty yards from where the road turns to rise over the
ridge to Santiago, and all the water from the hill pours into it as
into a rain barrel. It was here that Troop G, Third Cavalry, under
Major Hardee, as it was Wheeler's escort, was forced to bivouac, and
where one-third of its number came down with fever. The camp of
General Sam Sumner was some sixty yards to the right of the head-
quarters of General Wheeler, on the high shoulder of the hill just
above the camp of the engineers, who were on the side of the road
opposite. The camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Hawkins, Ludlow,
and the positions and trenches taken and held by the different
regiments under them one can place only relatively. One reason for
this is that before our army attacked the hills all the underbrush
and small trees that might conceal the advance of our men had been
cleared away by the Spaniards, leaving the hill, except for the high
crest, comparatively bare. To-day the hills are thick with young
trees and enormous bushes. The alteration in the landscape is as
marked as is the difference between ground cleared for golf and the
same spot planted with corn and fruit-trees.

Of all the camps, the one that to-day bears the strongest evidences
of its occupation is that of the Rough Riders. A part of the camp of
that regiment, which was situated on the ridge some hundred feet from
the Santiago road, was pitched under a clump of shade trees, and to-
day, even after seven years, the trunks of these trees bear the names
and initials of the men who camped beneath them. {4} These men will
remember that when they took this hill they found that the
fortifications beneath the trees were partly made from the
foundations of an adobe house. The red tiles from its roof still
litter the ground. These tiles and the names cut in the bark of the
trees determine absolutely the site of one-half of the camp, but the
other half, where stood Tiffany's quick-firing gun and Parker's
Gatling, has been almost obliterated. The tree under which Colonel
pitched his tent I could not discover, and the trenches in which he
used to sit with his officers and with the officers from the
regiments of the regular army are now levelled to make a kitchen-
garden. Sometimes the ex-President is said to have too generously
given office and promotion to the friends he made in Cuba. These men
he met in the trenches were then not necessarily his friends. To-day
they are not necessarily his friends. They are the men the free life
of the rifle-pits enabled him to know and to understand as the
settled relations of home life and peace would never have permitted.
At that time none of them guessed that the "amateur colonel," to whom
they talked freely as to a comrade, would be their Commander-in-
Chief. They did not suspect that he would become even the next
Governor of New York, certainly not that in a few years he would be
the President of the United States. So they showed themselves to him
frankly, unconsciously. They criticised, argued, disagreed, and he
became familiar with the views, character, and worth of each, and
remembered. The seeds planted in those half-obliterated trenches
have borne greater results than ever will the kitchen-garden.

The kitchen-garden is immediately on the crest of the hill, and near
it a Cuban farmer has built a shack of mud and twigs and cultivated
several acres of land. On Kettle Hill there are three more such
shacks, and over all the hills the new tenants have strung stout
barbed-wire fences and made new trails and reared wooden gateways.
It was curious to find how greatly these modern improvements confused
one's recollection of the landscape, and it was interesting, also, to
find how the presence on the hills of 12,000 men and the excitement
of the time magnified distances and disarranged the landscape.

During the fight I walked along a portion of the Santiago road, and
for many years I always have thought of that walk as extending over
immense distances. It started from the top of San Juan Hill beside
the block-house, where I had climbed to watch our artillery in
action. By a mistake, the artillery had been sent there, and it
remained exposed on the crest only about three minutes. During that
brief moment the black powder it burned drew upon it the fire of
every rifle in the Spanish line. To load his piece, each of our men
was forced to crawl to it on his stomach, rise on one elbow in order
to shove in the shell and lock the breech, and then, still flat on
the ground, wriggle below the crest. In the three minutes three men
were wounded and two killed; and the guns were withdrawn. I also
withdrew. I withdrew first. Indeed, all that happened after the
first three seconds of those three minutes is hearsay, for I was in
the Santiago road at the foot of the hill and retreating briskly.
This road also was under a cross-fire, which made it stretch in
either direction to an interminable distance. I remember a
government teamster driving a Studebaker wagon filled with ammunition
coming up at a gallop out of this interminable distance and seeking
shelter against the base of the hill. Seated beside him was a small
boy, freckled and sunburned, a stowaway from one of the transports.
He was grandly happy and excited, and his only fear was that he was
not "under fire." From our coign of safety, with our backs to the
hill, the teamster and I assured him that, on that point, he need
feel no morbid doubt. But until a bullet embedded itself in the blue
board of the wagon he was not convinced. Then with his jack-knife he
dug it out and shouted with pleasure. "I guess the folks will have
to believe I was in a battle now," he said. That coign of safety
ceasing to be a coign of safety caused us to move on in search of
another, and I came upon Sergeant Borrowe blocking the road with his
dynamite gun. He and his brother and three regulars were busily
correcting a hitch in its mechanism. An officer carrying an order
along the line halted his sweating horse and gazed at the strange gun
with professional knowledge.

"That must be the dynamite gun I have heard so much about," he
shouted. Borrowe saluted and shouted assent. The officer, greatly
interested, forgot his errand.

"I'd like to see you fire it once," he said eagerly. Borrowe,
delighted at the chance to exhibit his toy to a professional soldier,
beamed with equal eagerness.

"In just a moment, sir," he said; "this shell seems to have jammed a
bit." The officer, for the first time seeing the shell stuck in the
breech, hurriedly gathered up his reins. He seemed to be losing
interest. With elaborate carelessness I began to edge off down the

"Wait," Borrowe begged; "we'll have it out in a minute."

Suddenly I heard the officer's voice raised wildly.

"What--what," he gasped, "is that man doing with that axe?"

"He's helping me to get out this shell," said Borrowe.

"Good God!" said the officer. Then he remembered his errand.

Until last year, when I again met young Borrowe gayly disporting
himself at a lawn-tennis tournament at Mattapoisett, I did not know
whether his brother's method of removing dynamite with an axe had
been entirely successful. He said it worked all right.

At the turn of the road I found Colonel Leonard Wood and a group of
Rough Riders, who were busily intrenching. At the same moment
Stephen Crane came up with "Jimmy" Hare, the man who has made the
Russian-Japanese War famous. Crane walked to the crest and stood
there as sharply outlined as a semaphore, observing the enemy's
lines, and instantly bringing upon himself and us the fire of many
Mausers. With every one else, Wood was crouched below the crest and
shouted to Crane to lie down. Crane, still standing, as though to
get out of ear-shot, moved away, and Wood again ordered him to lie

"You're drawing the fire on these men," Wood commanded. Although the
heat--it was the 1st of July in the tropics--was terrific, Crane wore
a long India rubber rain-coat and was smoking a pipe. He appeared as
cool as though he were looking down from a box at a theatre. I knew
that to Crane, anything that savored of a pose was hateful, so, as I
did not want to see him killed, I called, "You're not impressing any
one by doing that, Crane." As I hoped he would, he instantly dropped
to his knees. When he crawled over to where we lay, I explained, "I
knew that would fetch you," and he grinned, and said, "Oh, was that

A captain of the cavalry came up to Wood and asked permission to
withdraw his troop from the top of the hill to a trench forty feet
below the one they were in. "They can't possibly live where they are
now," he explained, "and they're doing no good there, for they can't
raise their heads to fire. In that lower trench they would be out of
range themselves and would be able to fire back."

"Yes," said Wood, "but all the other men in the first trench would
see them withdraw, and the moral effect would be bad. They needn't
attempt to return the enemy's fire, but they must not retreat."

The officer looked as though he would like to argue. He was a West
Point graduate and a full-fledged captain in the regular army. To
him, Wood, in spite of his volunteer rank of colonel, which that day,
owing to the illness of General Young, had placed him in command of a
brigade, was still a doctor. But discipline was strong in him, and
though he looked many things, he rose from his knees and grimly
saluted. But at that moment, without waiting for the permission of
any one, the men leaped out of the trench and ran. It looked as
though they were going to run all the way to the sea, and the sight
was sickening. But they had no intention of running to the sea.
They ran only to the trench forty feet farther down and jumped into
it, and instantly turning, began pumping lead at the enemy. Since
five that morning Wood had been running about on his feet, his
clothes stuck to him with sweat and the mud and water of forded
streams, and as he rose he limped slightly. "My, but I'm tired!" he
said, in a tone of the most acute surprise, and as though that fact
was the only one that was weighing on his mind. He limped over to
the trench in which the men were now busily firing off their rifles
and waved a riding-crop he carried at the trench they had abandoned.
He was standing as Crane had been standing, in silhouette against the
sky-line. "Come back, boys," we heard him shouting. "The other men
can't withdraw, and so you mustn't. It looks bad. Come on, get out
of that!" What made it more amusing was that, although Wood had,
like every one else, discarded his coat and wore a strange uniform of
gray shirt, white riding-breeches, and a cowboy Stetson, with no
insignia of rank, not even straps pinned to his shirt, still the men
instantly accepted his authority. They looked at him on the crest of
the hill, waving his stick persuasively at the grave-like trench at
his feet, and then with a shout scampered back to it.

After that, as I had a bad attack of sciatica and no place to sleep
and nothing to eat, I accepted Crane's offer of a blanket and coffee
at his bivouac near El Poso. On account of the sciatica I was not
able to walk fast, and, although for over a mile of the way the trail
was under fire, Crane and Hare each insisted on giving me an arm, and
kept step with my stumblings. Whenever I protested and refused their
sacrifice and pointed out the risk they were taking they smiled as at
the ravings of a naughty child, and when I lay down in the road and
refused to budge unless they left me, Crane called the attention of
Hare to the effect of the setting sun behind the palm-trees. To the
reader all these little things that one remembers seem very little
indeed, but they were vivid at the moment, and I have always thought
of them as stretching over a long extent of time and territory.
Before I revisited San Juan I would have said that the distance along
the road from the point where I left the artillery to where I joined
Wood was three-quarters of a mile. When I paced it later I found the
distance was about seventy-five yards. I do not urge my stupidity or
my extreme terror as a proof that others would be as greatly
confused, but, if only for the sake of the stupid ones, it seems a
pity that the landmarks of San Juan should not be rescued from the
jungle, and a few sign-posts placed upon the hills. It is true that
the great battles of the Civil War and those of the one in Manchuria,
where the men killed and wounded in a day outnumber all those who
fought on both sides at San Juan, make that battle read like a
skirmish. But the Spanish War had its results. At least it made
Cuba into a republic, and so enriched or burdened us with colonies
that our republic changed into something like an empire. But I do
not urge that. It will never be because San Juan changed our foreign
policy that people will visit the spot, and will send from it picture
postal cards. The human interest alone will keep San Juan alive.
The men who fought there came from every State in our country and
from every class of our social life. We sent there the best of our
regular army, and with them, cowboys, clerks, bricklayers, foot-ball
players, three future commanders of the greater army that followed
that war, the future Governor of Cuba, future commanders of the
Philippines, the commander of our forces in China, a future President
of the United States. And, whether these men, when they returned to
their homes again, became clerks and millionaires and dentists, or
rose to be presidents and mounted policemen, they all remember very
kindly the days they lay huddled together in the trenches on that hot
and glaring sky-line. And there must be many more besides who hold
the place in memory. There are few in the United States so poor in
relatives and friends who did not in his or her heart send a
substitute to Cuba. For these it seems as though San Juan might be
better preserved, not as it is, for already its aspect is too far
changed to wish for that, but as it was. The efforts already made to
keep the place in memory and to honor the Americans who died there
are the public park which I have mentioned, the monument on San Juan,
and one other monument at Guasimas to the regulars and Rough Riders
who were killed there. To these monuments the Society of Santiago
will add four more, which will mark the landing place of the army at
Daiquairi and the fights at Guasimas, El Caney, and San Juan Hill.

But I believe even more than this might be done to preserve to the
place its proper values. These values are sentimental, historical,
and possibly to the military student, educational. If to-day there
were erected at Daiquairi, Siboney, Guasimas, El Poso, El Caney, and
on and about San Juan a dozen iron or bronze tablets that would tell
from where certain regiments advanced, what posts they held, how many
or how few were the men who held those positions, how near they were
to the trenches of the enemy, and by whom these men were commanded, I
am sure the place would reconstruct itself and would breathe with
interest, not only for the returning volunteer, but for any casual
tourist. As it is, the history of the fight and the reputation of
the men who fought is now at the mercy of the caretaker of the park
and the Cuban "guides" from the hotel. The caretaker speaks only
Spanish, and, considering the amount of misinformation the guides
disseminate, it is a pity when they are talking to Americans, they
are not forced to use the same language. When last I visited it,
Carlos Portuondo was the official guardian of San Juan Hill. He is
an aged Cuban, and he fought through the Ten Years' War, but during
the last insurrection and the Spanish-American War he not only was
not near San Juan, but was not even on the Island of Cuba. He is a
charming old person, and so is his aged wife. Their chief concern in
life, when I saw them, was to sell me a pair of breeches made of
palm-fibre which Carlos had worn throughout the entire ten years of
battle. The vicissitudes of those trousers he recited to me in great
detail, and he very properly regarded them as of historic value. But
of what happened at San Juan he knew nothing, and when I asked him
why he held his present post and occupied the Block-House, he said,
"To keep the cows out of the park." When I asked him where the
Americans had camped, he pointed carefully from the back door of the
Block-House to the foot of his kitchen-garden. I assured him that
under no stress of terror could the entire American army have been
driven into his back yard, and pointed out where it had stretched
along the ridge of hills for five miles. He politely but
unmistakably showed that he thought I was a liar. From the Venus
Hotel there were two guides, old Casanova and Jean Casanova, his
languid and good-natured son, a youth of sixteen years. Old
Casanova, like most Cubans, is not inclined to give much credit for
what they did in Cuba to the Americans. After all, he says, they
came only just as the Cubans themselves were about to conquer the
Spaniards, and by a lucky chance received the surrender and then
claimed all the credit. As other Cubans told me, "Had the Americans
left us alone a few weeks longer, we would have ended the war." How
they were to have taken Havana, and sunk Cervera's fleet, and why
they were not among those present when our men charged San Juan, I
did not inquire. Old Casanova, again like other Cubans, ranks the
fighting qualities of the Spaniard much higher than those of the
American. This is only human. It must be annoying to a Cuban to
remember that after he had for three years fought the Spaniard, the
Yankee in eight weeks received his surrender and began to ship him
home. The way Casanova describes the fight at El Caney is as

"The Americans thought they could capture El Caney in one day, but
the brave General Toral fought so good that it was six days before
the Americans could make the Spaniards surrender." The statement is
correct except as regards the length of time during which the fight
lasted. The Americans did make the mistake of thinking they could
eat up El Caney in an hour and then march through it to San Juan.
Owing to the splendid courage of Toral and his few troops our
soldiers, under two of our best generals, were held in check from
seven in the morning until two in the afternoon. But the difference
between seven hours of one day and six days is considerable. Still,
at present at San Juan that is the sort of information upon which the
patriotic and puzzled American tourist is fed.

Young Casanova, the only other authority in Santiago, is not so sure
of his facts as is his father, and is willing to learn. He went with
me to hold my pony while I took the photographs that accompany this
article, and I listened with great interest to his accounts of the
battle. Finally he made a statement that was correct. "How did you
happen to get that right?" I asked.

"Yesterday," he said, "I guided Colonel Hayes here, and while I
guided him he explained it to me."



"Were you the station-master here before this?" I asked the man in
the straw hat, at Colenso. "I mean before this war?"

"No fear!" snorted the station-master, scornfully. "Why, we didn't
know Colenso was on the line until Buller fought a battle here.
That's how it is with all these way-stations now. Everybody's
talking about them. We never took no notice to them."

And yet the arriving stranger might have been forgiven his point of
view and his start of surprise when he found Chieveley a place of
only a half dozen corrugated zinc huts, and Colenso a scattered
gathering of a dozen shattered houses of battered brick.

Chieveley seemed so insignificant in contrast with its fame to those
who had followed the war on maps and in the newspapers, that one was
not sure he was on the right road until he saw from the car-window
the armored train still lying on the embankment, the graves beside
it, and the donga into which Winston Churchill pulled and carried the

And as the train bumped and halted before the blue and white enamel
sign that marks Colenso station, the places which have made that spot
familiar and momentous fell into line like the buoys which mark the
entrance to a harbor.

We knew that the high bare ridge to the right must be Fort Wylie,
that the plain on the left was where Colonel Long had lost his
artillery, and three officers gained the Victoria Cross, and that the
swift, muddy stream, in which the iron railroad bridge lay humped and
sprawling, was the Tugela River.

Six hours before, at Frere Station, the station-master had awakened
us to say that Ladysmith would be relieved at any moment. This had
but just come over the wire. It was "official." Indeed, he added,
with local pride, that the village band was still awake and in
readiness to celebrate the imminent event. He found, I fear, an
unsympathetic audience. The train was carrying philanthropic
gentlemen in charge of stores of champagne and marmalade for the
besieged city. They did not want it to be relieved until they were
there to substitute pate de foie gras for horseflesh. And there were
officers, too, who wanted a "look in," and who had been kept waiting
at Cape Town for commissions, gladdening the guests of the Mount
Nelson Hotel the while with their new khaki and gaiters, and there
were Tommies who wanted "Relief of Ladysmith" on the claps of their
medals, as they had seen "Relief of Lucknow" on the medals of the
Chelsea pensioners. And there was a correspondent who had journeyed
15,000 miles to see Ladysmith relieved, and who was apparently going
to miss that sight, after five weeks of travel, by a margin of five

We all growled "That's good," as we had done for the last two weeks
every time we had heard it was relieved, but our tone was not
enthusiastic. And when the captain of the Natal Carbineers said, "I
am afraid the good news is too premature," we all said, hopefully, we
were afraid it was.

We had seen nothing yet that was like real war. That night at
Pietermaritzburg the officers at the hotel were in mess-jackets, the
officers' wives in dinner-gowns. It was like Shepheard's Hotel, at
the top of the season. But only six hours after that dinner, as we
looked out of the car-windows, we saw galloping across the high
grass, like men who had lost their way, and silhouetted black against
the red sunrise, countless horsemen scouting ahead of our train, and
guarding it against the fate of the armored one lying wrecked at
Chieveley. The darkness was still heavy on the land and the only
lights were the red eyes of the armored train creeping in advance of
ours, and the red sun, which showed our silent escort appearing
suddenly against the sky-line on a ridge, or galloping toward us
through the dew to order us, with a wave of the hand, to greater
speed. One hour after sunrise the train drew up at Colenso, and from
only a mile away we heard the heavy thud of the naval guns, the
hammering of the Boer "pom-poms," and the Maxims and Colt automatics
spanking the air. We smiled at each other guiltily. We were on
time. It was most evident that Ladysmith had not been relieved.

This was the twelfth day of a battle that Buller's column was waging
against the Boers and their mountain ranges, or "disarranges," as
some one described them, without having gained more than three miles
of hostile territory. He had tried to force his way through them six
times, and had been repulsed six times. And now he was to try it

No map, nor photograph, nor written description can give an idea of
the country which lay between Buller and his goal. It was an
eruption of high hills, linked together at every point without order
or sequence. In most countries mountains and hills follow some
natural law. The Cordilleras can be traced from the Amazon River to
Guatemala City; they make the water-shed of two continents; the Great
Divide forms the backbone of the States, but these Natal hills have
no lineal descent. They are illegitimate children of no line,
abandoned broadcast over the country, with no family likeness and no
home. They stand alone, or shoulder to shoulder, or at right angles,
or at a tangent, or join hands across a valley. They never appear
the same; some run to a sharp point, some stretch out, forming a
table-land, others are gigantic ant-hills, others perfect and
accurately modelled ramparts. In a ride of half a mile, every hill
completely loses its original aspect and character.

They hide each other, or disguise each other. Each can be enfiladed
by the other, and not one gives up the secret of its strategic value
until its crest has been carried by the bayonet. To add to this
confusion, the river Tugela has selected the hills around Ladysmith
as occupying the country through which it will endeavor to throw off
its pursuers. It darts through them as though striving to escape, it
doubles on its tracks, it sinks out of sight between them, and in the
open plain rises to the dignity of water-falls. It runs uphill, and
remains motionless on an incline, and on the level ground twists and
turns so frequently that when one says he has crossed the Tugela, he
means he has crossed it once at a drift, once at the wrecked railroad
bridge, and once over a pontoon. And then he is not sure that he is
not still on the same side from which he started.

Some of these hills are green, but the greater part are a yellow or
dark red, against which at two hundred yards a man in khaki is
indistinguishable from the rocks around him. Indeed, the khaki is
the English soldier's sole protection. It saves him in spite of
himself, for he apparently cannot learn to advance under cover, and a
sky-line is the one place where he selects to stand erect and stretch
his weary limbs. I have come to within a hundred yards of a hill
before I saw that scattered among its red and yellow bowlders was the
better part of a regiment as closely packed together as the crowd on
the bleaching boards at a base-ball match.

Into this maze and confusion of nature's fortifications Buller's
column has been twisting and turning, marching and countermarching,
capturing one position after another, to find it was enfiladed from
many hills, and abandoning it, only to retake it a week later. The
greater part of the column has abandoned its tents and is bivouacking
in the open. It is a wonderful and impressive sight. At the first
view, an army in being, when it is spread out as it is in the Tugela
basin back of the hills, seems a hopelessly and irrevocably entangled

An army in the field is not regiments of armed men, marching with a
gun on shoulder, or crouching behind trenches. That is the least,
even if it seems the most, important part of it. Before one reaches
the firing-line he must pass villages of men, camps of men, bivouacs
of men, who are feeding, mending, repairing, and burying the men at
the "front." It is these latter that make the mob of gypsies, which
is apparently without head or order or organization. They stretched
across the great basin of the Tugela, like the children of Israel,
their camp-fires rising to the sky at night like the reflection of
great search-lights; by day they swarmed across the plain, like
hundreds of moving circus-vans in every direction, with as little
obvious intention as herds of buffalo. But each had his appointed
work, and each was utterly indifferent to the battle going forward a
mile away. Hundreds of teams, of sixteen oxen each, crawled like
great black water-snakes across the drifts, the Kaffir drivers, naked
and black, lashing them with whips as long as lariats, shrieking,
beseeching, and howling, and falling upon the oxen's horns to drag
them into place.

Mules from Spain and Texas, loaded with ammunition, kicked and
plunged, more oxen drew more soberly the great naval guns, which
lurched as though in a heavy sea, throwing the blue-jackets who hung
upon the drag-ropes from one high side of the trail to the other.
Across the plain, and making toward the trail, wagons loaded with
fodder, with rations, with camp equipment, with tents and cooking-
stoves, crowded each other as closely as cable-cars on Broadway.
Scattered among them were fixed lines of tethered horses, rows of
dog-tents, camps of Kaffirs, hospital stations with the Red Cross
waving from the nearest and highest tree. Dripping water-carts with
as many spigots as the regiment had companies, howitzer guns guided
by as many ropes as a May-pole, crowded past these to the trail, or
gave way to the ambulances filled with men half dressed and bound in
the zinc-blue bandages that made the color detestable forever after.
Troops of the irregular horse gallop through this multitude, with a
jangling of spurs and sling-belts; and Tommies, in close order, fight
their way among the oxen, or help pull them to one side as the
stretchers pass, each with its burden, each with its blue bandage
stained a dark brownish crimson. It is only when the figure on the
stretcher lies under a blanket that the tumult and push and
sweltering mass comes to a quick pause, while the dead man's comrade
stands at attention, and the officer raises his fingers to his
helmet. Then the mass surges on again, with cracking of whips and
shouts and imprecations, while the yellow dust rises in thick clouds
and buries the picture in a glaring fog. This moving, struggling
mass, that fights for the right of way along the road, is within easy
distance of the shells. Those from their own guns pass over them
with a shrill crescendo, those from the enemy burst among them at
rare intervals, or sink impotently in the soft soil. And a dozen
Tommies rush to dig them out as keepsakes. Up at the front, brown
and yellow regiments are lying crouched behind brown and yellow rocks
and stones. As far as you can see, the hills are sown with them.
With a glass you distinguish them against the sky-line of every hill,
for over three miles away. Sometimes the men rise and fire, and
there is a feverish flutter of musketry; sometimes they lie
motionless for hours while the guns make the ways straight.

Any one who has seen Epsom Downs on a Derby day, with its thousands
of vans and tents and lines of horses and moving mobs, can form some
idea of what it is like. But while at the Derby all is interest and
excitement, and every one is pushing and struggling, and the air
palpitates with the intoxication of a great event, the winning of a
horse-race--here, where men are killed every hour and no one of them
knows when his turn may come, the fact that most impresses you is
their indifference to it all. What strikes you most is the bored air
of the Tommies, the undivided interest of the engineers in the
construction of a pontoon bridge, the solicitude of the medical staff
over the long lines of wounded, the rage of the naked Kaffirs at
their lumbering steers; the fact that every one is intent on
something--anything--but the battle.

They are wearied with battles. The Tommies stretch themselves in the
sun to dry the wet khaki in which they have lain out in the cold
night for weeks, and yawn at battles. Or, if you climb to the hill
where the officers are seated, you will find men steeped even deeper
in boredom. They are burned a dark red; their brown mustaches look
white by contrast, theirs are the same faces you have met with in
Piccadilly, which you see across the tables of the Savoy restaurant,
which gaze depressedly from the windows of White's and the Bachelors'
Club. If they were bored then, they are unbearably bored now. Below
them the men of their regiment lie crouched amid the bowlders, hardly
distinguishable from the brown and yellow rock. They are sleeping,
or dozing, or yawning. A shell passes over them like the shaking of
many telegraph wires, and neither officer nor Tommy raises his head
to watch it strike. They are tired in body and in mind, with cramped
limbs and aching eyes. They have had twelve nights and twelve days
of battle, and it has lost its power to amuse.

When the sergeants call the companies together, they are eager
enough. Anything is better than lying still looking up at the sunny,
inscrutable hills, or down into the plain crawling with black oxen.

Among the group of staff officers some one has lost a cigar-holder.
It has slipped from between his fingers, and, with the vindictiveness
of inanimate things, has slid and jumped under a pile of rocks. The
interest of all around is instantly centred on the lost cigar-holder.
The Tommies begin to roll the rocks away, endangering the limbs of
the men below them, and half the kopje is obliterated. They are as
keen as terriers after a rat. The officers sit above and give advice
and disagree as to where that cigar-holder hid itself. Over their
heads, not twenty feet above, the shells chase each other fiercely.
But the officers have become accustomed to shells; a search for a
lost cigar-holder, which is going on under their very eyes, is of
greater interest. And when at last a Tommy pounces upon it with a
laugh of triumph, the officers look their disappointment, and, with a
sigh of resignation, pick up their field-glasses.

It is all a question of familiarity. On Broadway, if a building is
going up where there is a chance of a loose brick falling on some
one's head, the contractor puts up red signs marked "Danger!" and you
dodge over to the other side. But if you had been in battle for
twelve days, as have the soldiers of Buller's column, passing shells
would interest you no more than do passing cable-cars. After twelve
days you would forget that shells are dangerous even as you forget
when crossing Broadway that cable-cars can kill and mangle.

Up on the highest hill, seated among the highest rocks, are General
Buller and his staff. The hill is all of rocks, sharp, brown rocks,
as clearly cut as foundation-stones. They are thrown about at
irregular angles, and are shaded only by stiff bayonet-like cacti.
Above is a blue glaring sky, into which the top of the kopje seems to
reach, and to draw and concentrate upon itself all of the sun's heat.
This little jagged point of blistering rocks holds the forces that
press the button which sets the struggling mass below, and the
thousands of men upon the surrounding hills, in motion. It is the
conning tower of the relief column, only, unlike a conning tower, it
offers no protection, no seclusion, no peace. To-day, commanding
generals, under the new conditions which this war has developed, do
not charge up hills waving flashing swords. They sit on rocks, and
wink out their orders by a flashing hand-mirror. The swords have
been left at the base, or coated deep with mud, so that they shall
not flash, and with this column every one, under the rank of general,
carries a rifle on purpose to disguise the fact that he is entitled
to carry a sword. The kopje is the central station of the system.
From its uncomfortable eminence the commanding general watches the
developments of his attack, and directs it by heliograph and ragged
bits of bunting. A sweating, dirty Tommy turns his back on a hill a
mile away and slaps the air with his signal flag; another Tommy, with
the front visor of his helmet cocked over the back of his neck,
watches an answering bit of bunting through a glass. The bit of
bunting, a mile away, flashes impatiently, once to the right and once
to the left, and the Tommy with the glass says, "They understand,
sir," and the other Tommy, who has not as yet cast even an interested
glance at the regiment he has ordered into action, folds his flag and
curls up against a hot rock and instantly sleeps.

Stuck on the crest, twenty feet from where General Buller is seated,
are two iron rods, like those in the putting-green of a golf course.
They mark the line of direction which a shell must take, in order to
seek out the enemy. Back of the kopje, where they cannot see the
enemy, where they cannot even see the hill upon which he is
intrenched, are the howitzers. Their duty is to aim at the iron
rods, and vary their aim to either side of them as they are directed
to do by an officer on the crest. Their shells pass a few yards over
the heads of the staff, but the staff has confidence. Those three
yards are as safe a margin as a hundred. Their confidence is that of
the lady in spangles at a music-hall, who permits her husband in
buckskin to shoot apples from the top of her head. From the other
direction come the shells of the Boers, seeking out the hidden
howitzers. They pass somewhat higher, crashing into the base of the
kopje, sometimes killing, sometimes digging their own ignominious
graves. The staff regard them with the same indifference. One of
them tears the overcoat upon which Colonel Stuart-Wortley is seated,
another destroys his diary. His men, lying at his feet among the red
rocks, observe this with wide eyes. But he does not shift his
position. His answer is, that his men cannot shift theirs.

On Friday, February 23d, the Inniskillings, Dublins, and Connaughts
were sent out to take a trench, half-way up Railway Hill. The attack
was one of those frontal attacks, which in this war, against the new
weapons, have added so much to the lists of killed and wounded and to
the prestige of the men, while it has, in an inverse ratio, hurt the
prestige of the men by whom the attack was ordered. The result of
this attack was peculiarly disastrous. It was made at night, and as
soon as it developed, the Boers retreated to the trenches on the
crest of the hill, and threw men around the sides to bring a cross-
fire to bear on the Englishmen. In the morning the Inniskillings
found they had lost four hundred men, and ten out of their fifteen
officers. The other regiments lost as heavily. The following
Tuesday, which was the anniversary of Majuba Hill, three brigades,
instead of a regiment, were told off to take this same Railway Hill,
or Pieter's, as it was later called, on the flank, and with it to
capture two others. On the same day, nineteen years before, the
English had lost Majuba Hill, and their hope was to take these three
from the Boers for the one they had lost, and open the way to Bulwana
Mountain, which was the last bar that held them back from Ladysmith.

The first two of the three hills they wanted were shoulder to
shoulder, the third was separated from them by a deep ravine. This
last was the highest, and in order that the attack should be
successful, it was necessary to seize it first. The hills stretched
for three miles; they were about one thousand two hundred yards high.

For three hours a single line of men slipped and stumbled forward
along the muddy bank of the river, and for three hours the artillery
crashed, spluttered, and stabbed at the three hills above them,
scattering the rocks and bursting over and behind the Boer trenches
on the crest.

As is their custom, the Boers remained invisible and made no reply.
And though we knew they were there, it seemed inconceivable that
anything human could live under such a bombardment of shot, bullets,
and shrapnel. A hundred yards distant, on our right, the navy guns
were firing lyddite that burst with a thick yellow smoke; on the
other side Colt automatics were put-put-put-ing a stream of bullets;
the field-guns and the howitzers were playing from a hill half a mile
behind us, and scattered among the rocks about us, and for two miles
on either hand, the infantry in reserve were firing off ammunition at
any part of the three hills they happened to dislike!

The roar of the navy's Four-Point-Sevens, their crash, their rush as
they passed, the shrill whine of the shrapnel, the barking of the
howitzers, and the mechanical, regular rattle of the quick-firing
Maxims, which sounded like the clicking of many mowing-machines on a
hot summer's day, tore the air with such hideous noises that one's
skull ached from the concussion, and one could only be heard by
shouting. But more impressive by far than this hot chorus of mighty
thunder and petty hammering, was the roar of the wind which was
driven down into the valley beneath, and which swept up again in
enormous waves of sound. It roared like a wild hurricane at sea.
The illusion was so complete, that you expected, by looking down, to
see the Tugela lashing at her banks, tossing the spray hundreds of
feet in air, and battling with her sides of rock. It was like the
roar of Niagara in a gale, and yet when you did look below, not a
leaf was stirring, and the Tugela was slipping forward, flat and
sluggish, and in peace.

The long procession of yellow figures was still advancing along the
bottom of the valley, toward the right, when on the crest of the
farthermost hill fourteen of them appeared suddenly, and ran forward
and sprang into the trenches.

Perched against the blue sky on the highest and most distant of the
three hills, they looked terribly lonely and insufficient, and they
ran about, this way and that, as though they were very much surprised
to find themselves where they were. Then they settled down into the
Boer trench, from our side of it, and began firing, their officer, as
his habit is, standing up behind them. The hill they had taken had
evidently been abandoned to them by the enemy, and the fourteen men
in khaki had taken it by "default." But they disappeared so suddenly
into the trench, that we knew they were not enjoying their new
position in peace, and every one looked below them, to see the
arriving reinforcements. They came at last, to the number of ten,
and scampered about just as the others had done, looking for cover.
It seemed as if we could almost hear the singing of the bullet when
one of them dodged, and it was with a distinct sense of relief, and
of freedom from further responsibility, that we saw the ten disappear
also, and become part of the yellow stones about them. Then a very
wonderful movement began to agitate the men upon the two remaining
hills. They began to creep up them as you have seen seaweed rise
with the tide and envelop a rock. They moved in regiments, but each
man was as distinct as is a letter of the alphabet in each word on
this page, black with letters. We began to follow the fortunes of
individual letters. It was a most selfish and cowardly occupation,
for you knew you were in no greater danger than you would be in
looking through the glasses of a mutoscope. The battle unrolled
before you like a panorama. The guns on our side of the valley had
ceased, the hurricane in the depths below had instantly spent itself,
and the birds and insects had again begun to fill our hill with
drowsy twitter and song. But on the other, half the men were
wrapping the base of the hill in khaki, which rose higher and higher,
growing looser and less tightly wrapt as it spun upward. Halfway to
the crest there was a broad open space of green grass, and above that
a yellow bank of earth, which supported the track of the railroad.
This green space spurted with tiny geysers of yellow dust. Where the
bullets came from or who sent them we could not see. But the loose
ends of the bandage of khaki were stretching across this green space
and the yellow spurts of dust rose all around them. The men crossed
this fire zone warily, looking to one side or the other, as the
bullets struck the earth heavily, like drops of rain before a shower.

The men had their heads and shoulders bent as though they thought a
roof was about to fall on them; some ran from rock to rock, seeking
cover properly; others scampered toward the safe vantage-ground
behind the railroad embankment; others advanced leisurely, like men
playing golf. The silence, after the hurricane of sounds, was
painful; we could not hear even the Boer rifles. The men moved like
figures in a dream, without firing a shot. They seemed each to be
acting on his own account, without unison or organization. As I have
said, you ceased considering the scattered whole, and became intent
on the adventures of individuals. These fell so suddenly, that you
waited with great anxiety to learn whether they had dropped to dodge
a bullet or whether one had found them. The men came at last from
every side, and from out of every ridge and dried-up waterway. Open
spaces which had been green a moment before were suddenly dyed yellow
with them. Where a company had been clinging to the railroad
embankment, there stood one regiment holding it, and another sweeping
over it. Heights that had seemed the goal, became the resting-place
of the stretcher-bearers, until at last no part of the hill remained
unpopulated, save a high bulging rampart of unprotected and open
ground. And then, suddenly, coming from the earth itself,
apparently, one man ran across this open space and leaped on top of
the trench which crowned the hill. He was fully fifteen yards in
advance of all the rest, entirely unsupported, and alone. And he had
evidently planned it so, for he took off his helmet and waved it, and
stuck it on his rifle and waved it again, and then suddenly clapped
it on his head and threw his gun to his shoulder. He stood so,
pointing down into the trench, and it seemed as though we could hear
him calling upon the Boers behind it to surrender.

A few minutes later the last of the three hills was mounted by the
West Yorks, who were mistaken by their own artillery for Boers, and
fired upon both by the Boers and by their own shrapnel and lyddite.
Four men were wounded, and, to save themselves, a line of them stood
up at full length on the trench and cheered and waved at the
artillery until it had ceased to play upon them. The Boers continued
to fire upon them with rifles for over two hours. But it was only a
demonstration to cover the retreat of the greater number, and at
daybreak the hills were in complete and peaceful possession of the

These hills were a part of the same Railway Hill which four nights
before the Inniskillings and a composite regiment had attempted to
take by a frontal attack with the loss of six hundred men, among whom
were three colonels. By this flank attack, and by using nine
regiments instead of one, the same hills and two others were taken
with two hundred casualties. The fact that this battle, which was
called the Battle of Pieter's Hill, and the surrender of General
Cronje and his forces to Lord Roberts, both took place on the
anniversary of the battle of Majuba Hill, made the whole of Buller's
column feel that the ill memory of that disaster had been effaced.


After the defeat of the Boers at the battle of Pieter's Hill there
were two things left for them to do. They could fall back across a
great plain which stretched from Pieter's Hill to Bulwana Mountain,
and there make their last stand against Buller and the Ladysmith
relief column, or they could abandon the siege of Ladysmith and slip
away after having held Buller at bay for three months.

Bulwana Mountain is shaped like a brick and blocks the valley in
which Ladysmith lies. The railroad track slips around one end of the
brick, and the Dundee trail around the other. It was on this
mountain that the Boers had placed their famous gun, Long Tom, with
which they began the bombardment of Ladysmith, and with which up to
the day before Ladysmith was relieved they had thrown three thousand
shells into that miserable town.

If the Boers on retreating from Pieter's Hill had fortified this
mountain with the purpose of holding off Buller for a still longer
time, they would have been under a fire from General White's
artillery in the town behind them and from Buller's naval guns in
front. Their position would not have been unlike that of Humpty
Dumpty on the wall, so they wisely adopted the only alternative and
slipped away. This was on Tuesday night, while the British were
hurrying up artillery to hold the hills they had taken that

By ten o'clock the following morning from the top of Pieter's Hill
you could still see the Boers moving off along the Dundee road. It
was an easy matter to follow them, for the dust hung above the trail
in a yellow cloud, like mist over a swamp. There were two opinions
as to whether they were halting at Bulwana or passing it, on their
way to Laing's Neck. If they were going only to Bulwana there was
the probability of two weeks' more fighting before they could be
dislodged. If they had avoided Bulwana, the way to Ladysmith was

Lord Dundonald, who is in command of a brigade of irregular cavalry,
was scouting to the left of Bulwana, far in advance of our forces.
At sunset he arrived, without having encountered the Boers, at the
base of Bulwana. He could either return and report the disappearance
of the enemy or he could make a dash for it and enter Ladysmith. His
orders were "to go, look, see," and avoid an action, and the fact
that none of his brigade was in the triumphant procession which took
place three days later has led many to think that in entering the
besieged town without orders he offended the commanding general. In
any event, it is a family row and of no interest to the outsider.
The main fact is that he did make a dash for it, and just at sunset
found himself with two hundred men only a mile from the "Doomed
City." His force was composed of Natal Carbiniers and Imperial Light
Horse. He halted them, and in order that honors might be even,
formed them in sections with the half sections made up from each of
the two organizations. All the officers were placed in front, and
with a cheer they started to race across the plain.

The wig-waggers on Convent Hill had already seen them, and the
townspeople and the garrison were rushing through the streets to meet
them, cheering and shouting, and some of them weeping. Others, so
officers tell me, who were in the different camps, looked down upon
the figures galloping across the plain in the twilight, and continued
making tea.

Just as they had reached the centre of the town, General Sir George
White and his staff rode down from head-quarters and met the men
whose coming meant for him life and peace and success. They were
advancing at a walk, with the cheering people hanging to their
stirrups, clutching at their hands and hanging to the bridles of
their horses.

General White's first greeting was characteristically unselfish and
loyal, and typical of the British officer. He gave no sign of his
own in calculable relief, nor did he give to Caesar the things which
were Caesar's. He did not cheer Dundonald, nor Buller, nor the
column which had rescued him and his garrison from present starvation
and probable imprisonment at Pretoria. He raised his helmet and
cried, "We will give three cheers for the Queen!" And then the
general and the healthy, ragged, and sunburned troopers from the
outside world, the starved, fever-ridden garrison, and the starved,
fever-ridden civilians stood with hats off and sang their national

The column outside had been fighting steadily for six weeks to get
Dundonald or any one of its force into Ladysmith; for fourteen days
it had been living in the open, fighting by night as well as by day,
without halt or respite; the garrison inside had been for four months
holding the enemy at bay with the point of the bayonet; it was
famished for food, it was rotten with fever, and yet when the relief
came and all turned out well, the first thought of every one was for
the Queen!

It may be credulous in them or old-fashioned; but it is certainly
very unselfish, and when you take their point of view it is certainly
very fine.

After the Queen every one else had his share of the cheering, and
General White could not complain of the heartiness with which they
greeted him, he tried to make a speech in reply, but it was a brief
one. He spoke of how much they owed to General Buller and his
column, and he congratulated his own soldiers on the defence they had

"I am very sorry, men," he said, "that I had to cut down your
rations. I--I promise you I won't do it again."

Then he stopped very suddenly and whirled his horse's head around and
rode away. Judging from the number of times they told me of this,
the fact that they had all but seen an English general give way to
his feelings seemed to have impressed the civilian mind of Ladysmith
more than the entrance of the relief force. The men having come in
and demonstrated that the way was open, rode forth again, and the
relief of Ladysmith had taken place. But it is not the people
cheering in the dark streets, nor General White breaking down in his
speech of welcome, which gives the note to the way the men of
Ladysmith received their freedom. It is rather the fact that as the
two hundred battle-stained and earth-stained troopers galloped
forward, racing to be the first, and rising in their stirrups to
cheer, the men in the hospital camps said, "Well, they're come at
last, have they?" and continued fussing over their fourth of a ration
of tea. That gives the real picture of how Ladysmith came into her
inheritance, and of how she received her rescuers.

On the morning after Dundonald had ridden in and out of Ladysmith,
two other correspondents and myself started to relieve it on our own
account. We did not know the way to Ladysmith, and we did not then
know whether or not the Boers still occupied Bulwana Mountain. But
we argued that the chances of the Boers having raised the siege were
so good that it was worth risking their not having done so, and being
taken prisoner.

We carried all the tobacco we could pack in our saddle-bags, and
enough food for one day. My chief regret was that my government,
with true republican simplicity, had given me a passport, type-
written on a modest sheet of notepaper and wofully lacking in
impressive seals and coats of arms. I fancied it would look to Boer
eyes like one I might have forged for myself in the writing-room of
the hotel at Cape Town.

We had ridden up Pieter's Hill and scrambled down on its other side
before we learned that the night before Dundonald had raised the
siege. We learned this from long trains of artillery and regiments
of infantry which already were moving forward over the great plain
which lies between Pieter's and Bulwana. We learned it also from the
silence of conscientious, dutiful correspondents, who came galloping
back as we galloped forward, and who made wide detours at sight of
us, or who, when we hailed them, lashed their ponies over the red
rocks and pretended not to hear, each unselfishly turning his back on
Ladysmith in the hope that he might be the first to send word that
the "Doomed City" was relieved. This would enable one paper to say
that it had the news "on the street" five minutes earlier than its
hated rivals. We found that the rivalry of our respective papers
bored us. We condemned it as being childish and weak. London, New
York, Chicago were names, they were spots thousands of leagues away:
Ladysmith was just across that mountain. If our horses held out at
the pace, we would be--after Dundonald--the first men in. We
imagined that we would see hysterical women and starving men. They
would wring our hands, and say, "God bless you," and we would halt
our steaming horses in the market-place, and distribute the news of
the outside world, and tobacco. There would be shattered houses,
roofless homes, deep pits in the roadways where the shells had burst
and buried themselves. We would see the entombed miner at the moment
of his deliverance, we would be among the first from the outer world
to break the spell of his silence; the first to receive the brunt of
the imprisoned people's gratitude and rejoicings.

Indeed, it was clearly our duty to the papers that employed us that
we should not send them news, but that we should be the first to
enter Ladysmith. We were surely the best judges of what was best to
do. How like them to try to dictate to us from London and New York,
when we were on the spot! It was absurd. We shouted this to each
other as we raced in and out of the long confused column, lashing
viciously with our whips. We stumbled around pieces of artillery,
slid in between dripping water-carts, dodged the horns of weary oxen,
scattered companies of straggling Tommies, and ducked under
protruding tent-poles on the baggage-wagons, and at last came out
together again in advance of the dusty column.

"Besides, we don't know where the press-censor is, do we?" No, of
course we had no idea where the press-censor was, and unless he said
that Ladysmith was relieved, the fact that twenty-five thousand other
soldiers said so counted for idle gossip. Our papers could not
expect us to go riding over mountains the day Ladysmith was relieved,
hunting for a press-censor. "That press-censor," gasped Hartland,
"never--is--where he--ought to be." The words were bumped out of him
as he was shot up and down in the saddle. That was it. It was the
press-censor's fault. Our consciences were clear now. If our papers
worried themselves or us because they did not receive the great news
until every one else knew of it, it was all because of that press-
censor. We smiled again and spurred the horses forward. We abused
the press-censor roundly--we were extremely indignant with him. It
was so like him to lose himself the day Ladysmith was relieved.
"Confound him," we muttered, and grinned guiltily. We felt as we
used to feel when we were playing truant from school.

We were nearing Pieter's Station now, and were half-way to Ladysmith.
But the van of the army was still about us. Was it possible that it
stretched already into the beleaguered city? Were we, after all, to
be cheated of the first and freshest impressions? The tall lancers
turned at the sound of the horses' hoofs and stared, infantry
officers on foot smiled up at us sadly, they were dirty and dusty and
sweating, they carried rifles and cross belts like the Tommies; and
they knew that we outsiders who were not under orders would see the
chosen city before them. Some of them shouted to us, but we only
nodded and galloped on. We wanted to get rid of them all, but they
were interminable. When we thought we had shaken them off, and that
we were at last in advance, we would come upon a group of them
resting on the same ground their shells had torn up during the battle
the day before.

We passed Boer laagers marked by empty cans and broken saddles and
black, cold campfires. At Pieter's Station the blood was still fresh
on the grass where two hours before some of the South African Light
Horse had been wounded.

The Boers were still on Bulwana then? Perhaps, after all, we had
better turn back and try to find that press-censor. But we rode on
and saw Pieter's Station, as we passed it, as an absurd relic of by-
gone days when bridges were intact and trains ran on schedule time.
One door seen over the shoulder as we galloped past read, "Station
Master's Office--Private," and in contempt of that stern injunction,
which would make even the first-class passenger hesitate, one of our
shells had knocked away the half of the door and made its privacy a
mockery. We had only to follow the track now and we would arrive in
time--unless the Boers were still on Bulwana. We had shaken off the
army, and we were two miles in front of it, when six men came
galloping toward us in an unfamiliar uniform. They passed us far to
the right, regardless of the trail, and galloping through the high
grass. We pulled up when we saw them, for they had green facings to
their gray uniforms, and no one with Buller's column wore green

We gave a yell in chorus. "Are you from Ladysmith?" we shouted. The
men, before they answered, wheeled and cheered, and came toward us
laughing jubilant. "We're the first men out," cried the officer and
we rode in among them, shaking hands and offering our good wishes.
"We're glad to see you," we said. "We're glad to see YOU," they
said. It was not an original greeting, but it seemed sufficient to
all of us. "Are the Boers on Bulwana?" we asked. "No, they've
trekked up Dundee way. You can go right in."

We parted at the word and started to go right in. We found the
culverts along the railroad cut away and the bridges down, and that
galloping ponies over the roadbed of a railroad is a difficult feat
at the best, even when the road is in working order.

Some men, cleanly dressed and rather pale-looking, met us and said:
"Good-morning." "Are you from Ladysmith?" we called. "No, we're
from the neutral camp," they answered. We were the first men from
outside they had seen in four months, and that was the extent of
their interest or information. They had put on their best clothes,
and were walking along the track to Colenso to catch a train south to
Durban or to Maritzburg, to any place out of the neutral camp. They
might have been somnambulists for all they saw of us, or of the Boer
trenches and the battle-field before them. But we found them of
greatest interest, especially their clean clothes. Our column had
not seen clean linen in six weeks, and the sight of these civilians
in white duck and straw hats, and carrying walking-sticks, coming
toward us over the railroad ties, made one think it was Sunday at
home and these were excursionists to the suburbs.

We had been riding through a roofless tunnel, with the mountain and
the great dam on one side, and the high wall of the railway cutting
on the other, but now just ahead of us lay the open country, and the
exit of the tunnel barricaded by twisted rails and heaped-up ties and
bags of earth. Bulwana was behind us. For eight miles it had shut
out the sight of our goal, but now, directly in front of us, was
spread a great city of dirty tents and grass huts and Red Cross
flags--the neutral camp--and beyond that, four miles away, shimmering
and twinkling sleepily in the sun, the white walls and zinc roofs of

We gave a gasp of recognition and galloped into and through the
neutral camp. Natives of India in great turbans, Indian women in gay
shawls and nose-rings, and black Kaffirs in discarded khaki looked up
at us dully from the earth floors of their huts, and when we shouted
"Which way?" and "Where is the bridge?" only stared, or pointed
vaguely, still staring.

After all, we thought, they are poor creatures, incapable of emotion.
Perhaps they do not know how glad we are that they have been rescued.
They do not understand that we want to shake hands with everybody and
offer our congratulations. Wait until we meet our own people, we
said, they will understand! It was such a pleasant prospect that we
whipped the unhappy ponies into greater bursts of speed, not because
they needed it, but because we were too excited and impatient to sit

In our haste we lost our way among innumerable little trees; we
disagreed as to which one of the many cross-trails led home to the
bridge. We slipped out of our stirrups to drag the ponies over one
steep place, and to haul them up another, and at last the right road
lay before us, and a hundred yards ahead a short iron bridge and a
Gordon Highlander waited to welcome us, to receive our first
greetings and an assorted collection of cigarettes. Hartland was
riding a thoroughbred polo pony and passed the gallant defender of
Ladysmith without a kind look or word, but Blackwood and I galloped
up more decorously, smiling at him with good-will. The soldier, who
had not seen a friend from the outside world in four months, leaped
in front of us and presented a heavy gun and a burnished bayonet.

"Halt, there," he cried. "Where's your pass?" Of course it showed
excellent discipline--we admired it immensely. We even overlooked
the fact that he should think Boer spies would enter the town by way
of the main bridge and at a gallop. We liked his vigilance, we
admired his discipline, but in spite of that his reception chilled
us. We had brought several things with us that we thought they might
possibly want in Ladysmith, but we had entirely forgotten to bring a
pass. Indeed I do not believe one of the twenty-five thousand men
who had been fighting for six weeks to relieve Ladysmith had supplied
himself with one. The night before, when the Ladysmith sentries had
tried to halt Dundonald's troopers in the same way, and demanded a
pass from them, there was not one in the squadron.

We crossed the bridge soberly and entered Ladysmith at a walk. Even
the ponies looked disconcerted and crestfallen. After the high grass
and the mountains of red rock, where there was not even a tent to
remind one of a roof-tree, the stone cottages and shop-windows and
chapels and well-ordered hedges of the main street of Ladysmith made
it seem a wealthy and attractive suburb. When we entered, a Sabbath-
like calm hung upon the town; officers in the smartest khaki and
glistening Stowassers observed us askance, little girls in white
pinafores passed us with eyes cast down, a man on a bicycle looked
up, and then, in terror lest we might speak to him, glued his eyes to
the wheel and "scorched" rapidly. We trotted forward and halted at
each street crossing, looking to the right and left in the hope that
some one might nod to us. From the opposite end of the town General
Buller and his staff came toward us slowly--the house-tops did not
seem to sway--it was not "roses, roses all the way." The German army
marching into Paris received as hearty a welcome. "Why didn't you
people cheer General Buller when he came in?" we asked later. "Oh,
was that General Buller?" they inquired. "We didn't recognize him."
"But you knew he was a general officer, you knew he was the first of
the relieving column?" "Ye-es, but we didn't know who he was."

I decided that the bare fact of the relief of Ladysmith was all I
would be able to wire to my neglected paper, and with remorses
started to find the Ladysmith censor. Two officers, with whom I
ventured to break the hush that hung upon the town by asking my way,
said they were going in the direction of the censor. We rode for
some distance in guarded silence. Finally, one of them, with an
inward struggle, brought himself to ask, "Are you from the outside?"

I was forced to admit that I was. I felt that I had taken an
unwarrantable liberty in intruding on a besieged garrison. I wanted
to say that I had lost my way and had ridden into the town by
mistake, and that I begged to be allowed to withdraw with apologies.
The other officer woke up suddenly and handed me a printed list of
the prices which had been paid during the siege for food and tobacco.
He seemed to offer it as being in some way an official apology for
his starved appearance. The price of cigars struck me as especially
pathetic, and I commented on it. The first officer gazed mournfully
at the blazing sunshine before him. "I have not smoked a cigar in
two months," he said. My surging sympathy, and my terror at again
offending the haughty garrison, combated so fiercely that it was only
with a great effort that I produced a handful. "Will you have
these?" The other officer started in his saddle so violently that I
thought his horse had stumbled, but he also kept his eyes straight in
front. "Thank you, I will take one if I may--just one," said the
first officer. "Are you sure I am not robbing you?" They each took
one, but they refused to put the rest of the cigars in their pockets.
As the printed list stated that a dozen matches sold for $1.75, I
handed them a box of matches. Then a beautiful thing happened. They
lit the cigars and at the first taste of the smoke--and they were not
good cigars--an almost human expression of peace and good-will and
utter abandonment to joy spread over their yellow skins and cracked
lips and fever-lit eyes. The first man dropped his reins and put his
hands on his hips and threw back his head and shoulders and closed
his eyelids. I felt that I had intruded at a moment which should
have been left sacred. {5}

Another boy officer in stainless khaki and beautifully turned out,
polished and burnished and varnished, but with the same yellow skin
and sharpened cheek-bones and protruding teeth, a skeleton on horse-
back, rode slowly toward us down the hill. As he reached us he
glanced up and then swayed in his saddle, gazing at my companions
fearfully. "Good God," he cried. His brother officers seemed to
understand, but made no answer, except to jerk their heads toward me.
They were too occupied to speak. I handed the skeleton a cigar, and
he took it in great embarrassment, laughing and stammering and
blushing. Then I began to understand; I began to appreciate the
heroic self-sacrifice of the first two, who, when they had been given
the chance, had refused to fill their pockets. I knew then that it
was an effort worthy of the V. C.

The censor was at his post, and a few minutes later a signal officer
on Convent Hill heliographed my cable to Bulwana, where, six hours
after the Boers had abandoned it, Buller's own helios had begun to
dance, and they speeded the cable on its long journey to the
newspaper office on the Thames Embankment.

When one descended to the streets again--there are only two streets
which run the full length of the town--and looked for signs of the
siege, one found them not in the shattered houses, of which there
seemed surprisingly few, but in the starved and fever-shaken look of
the people.

The cloak of indifference which every Englishman wears, and his
instinctive dislike to make much of his feelings, and, in this case,
his pluck, at first concealed from us how terribly those who had been
inside of Ladysmith had suffered, and how near to the breaking point
they were. Their faces were the real index to what they had passed

Any one who had seen our men at Montauk Point or in the fever camp at
Siboney needed no hospital list to tell him of the pitiful condition
of the garrison. The skin on their faces was yellow, and drawn
sharply over the brow and cheekbones; their teeth protruded, and they
shambled along like old men, their voices ranging from a feeble pipe
to a deep whisper. In this pitiable condition they had been forced
to keep night-watch on the hill-crests, in the rain, to lie in the
trenches, and to work on fortifications and bomb-proofs. And they
were expected to do all of these things on what strength they could
get from horse-meat, biscuits of the toughness and composition of
those that are fed to dogs, and on "mealies," which is what we call

That first day in Ladysmith gave us a faint experience as to what the
siege meant. The correspondents had disposed of all their tobacco,
and within an hour saw starvation staring them in the face, and raced
through the town to rob fellow-correspondents who had just arrived.
The new-comers in their turn had soon distributed all they owned, and
came tearing back to beg one of their own cigarettes. We tried to
buy grass for our ponies, and were met with pitying contempt; we
tried to buy food for ourselves, and were met with open scorn. I
went to the only hotel which was open in the place, and offered large
sums for a cup of tea.

"Put up your money," said the Scotchman in charge, sharply. "What's
the good of your money? Can your horse eat money? Can you eat
money? Very well, then, put it away."

The great dramatic moment after the raising of the siege was the
entrance into Ladysmith of the relieving column. It was a
magnificent, manly, and moving spectacle. You must imagine the dry,
burning heat, the fine, yellow dust, the white glare of the sunshine,
and in the heat and glare and dust the great interminable column of
men in ragged khaki crowding down the main street, twenty-two
thousand strong, cheering and shouting, with the sweat running off
their red faces and cutting little rivulets in the dust that caked
their cheeks. Some of them were so glad that, though in the heaviest
marching order, they leaped up and down and stepped out of line to
dance to the music of the bagpipes. For hours they crowded past,
laughing, joking, and cheering, or staring ahead of them, with lips
wide apart, panting in the heat and choking with the dust, but always
ready to turn again and wave their helmets at Sir George White.

It was a pitiful contrast which the two forces presented. The men of
the garrison were in clean khaki, pipe-clayed and brushed and
polished, but their tunics hung on them as loosely as the flag around
its pole, the skin on their cheek-bones was as tight and as yellow as
the belly of a drum, their teeth protruded through parched, cracked
lips, and hunger, fever, and suffering stared from out their eyes.
They were so ill and so feeble that the mere exercise of standing was
too severe for their endurance, and many of them collapsed, falling
back to the sidewalk, rising to salute only the first troop of each
succeeding regiment. This done, they would again sink back and each
would sit leaning his head against his musket, or with his forehead
resting heavily on his folded arms. In comparison the relieving
column looked like giants as they came in with a swinging swagger,
their uniforms blackened with mud and sweat and bloodstains, their
faces brilliantly crimsoned and blistered and tanned by the dust and
sun. They made a picture of strength and health and aggressiveness.
Perhaps the contrast was strongest when the battalion of the Devons
that had been on foreign service passed the "reserve" battalion which
had come from England. The men of the two battalions had parted five
years before in India, and they met again in Ladysmith, with the men
of one battalion lining the streets, sick, hungry, and yellow, and
the others, who had been fighting six weeks to reach it, marching
toward them, robust, red-faced, and cheering mightily. As they met
they gave a shout of recognition, and the men broke ranks and ran
forward, calling each other by name, embracing, shaking hands, and
punching each other in the back and shoulders. It was a sight that
very few men watched unmoved. Indeed, the whole three hours was one
of the most brutal assaults upon the feelings that it has been my lot
to endure. One felt he had been entirely lifted out of the politics
of the war, and the question of the wrongs of the Boers disappeared
before a simple propostiton of brave men saluting brave men.

Early in the campaign, when his officers had blundered, General White
had dared to write: "I alone am to blame." But in this triumphal
procession twenty-two thousand gentlemen in khaki wiped that line off
the slate, and wrote, "Well done, sir," in its place, as they passed
before him through the town he had defended and saved.


The Boer "front" was at Brandfort, and, as Lord Roberts was advancing
upon that place, one already saw in the head-lines, "The Battle of
Brandfort." But before our train drew out of Pretoria Station we
learned that the English had just occupied Brandfort, and that the
Boer front had been pushed back to Winburg.

We decided that Brandfort was an impossible position to hold anyway,
and that we had better leave the train at Winburg. We found some
selfish consolation for the Boer repulse, in the fact that it
shortened our railroad journey by one day. The next morning when we
awoke at the Vaal River Station the train despatcher informed us that
during the night the "Rooineks" had taken Winburg, and that the
burghers were gathered at Smaaldel.

We agreed not to go to Winburg, but to stop off at Smaaldel. We also
agreed that Winburg was an impossible position to hold. When at
eleven o'clock the train reached Kroonstad, we learned than Lord
Roberts was in Smaaldel. It was then evident that if our train kept
on and the British army kept on there would be a collision. So we
stopped at Kroonstad. In talking it over we decided that, owing to
its situation, Smaaldel was an impossible position to hold.

The Sand River, which runs about forty miles south of Kroonstad, was
the last place in the Free State at which the burghers could hope to
make a stand, and at the bridge where the railroad spans the river,
and at a drift ten miles lower down, the Boers and Free Staters had
collected to the number of four thousand. Lord Roberts and his
advancing column, which was known to contain thirty-five thousand
men, were a few miles distant from the opposite bank of the Sand
River. There was an equal chance that the English would attempt to
cross at the drift or at the bridge. We thought they would cross at
the drift, and stopped for the night at Ventersburg, a town ten miles
from the river.

Ventersburg, in comparison with Kroonstad, where we had left them
rounding up stray burghers and hurrying them to the firing-line, and
burning official documents in the streets, was calm.

Ventersburg was not destroying incriminating documents nor driving
weary burghers from its solitary street. It was making them welcome
at Jones's Hotel. The sun had sunk an angry crimson, the sure sign
of a bloody battle on the morrow, and a full moon had turned the
dusty street and the veldt into which it disappeared into a field of

The American scouts had halted at Jones's Hotel, and the American
proprietor was giving them drinks free. Their cowboy spurs jingled
on the floor of the bar-room, on the boards of the verandas, on the
stone floor of the kitchen, and in the billiard-room, where they were
playing pool as joyously as though the English were not ten miles
away. Grave, awkward burghers rode up, each in a cloud of dust, and
leaving his pony to wander in the street and his rifle in a corner,
shook hands with every one solemnly, and asked for coffee. Italians
of Garibaldi's red-shirted army, Swedes and Danes in semi-uniform,
Frenchman in high boots and great sombreros, Germans with the sabre
cuts on their cheeks that had been given them at the university, and
Russian officers smoking tiny cigarettes crowded the little dining-
room, and by the light of a smoky lamp talked in many tongues of
Spion Kop, Sannahspost, Fourteen Streams, and the battle on the

They were sun-tanned, dusty, stained, and many of them with wounds in
bandages. They came from every capital of Europe, and as each took
his turn around the crowded table, they drank to the health of every
nation, save one. When they had eaten they picked up the pony's
bridle from the dust and melted into the moonlight with a wave of the
hand and a "good luck to you." There were no bugles to sound "boots
and saddles" for them, no sergeants to keep them in hand, no officers
to pay for their rations and issue orders.

Each was his own officer, his conscience was his bugle-call, he gave
himself orders. They were all equal, all friends; the cowboy and the
Russian Prince, the French socialist from La Villette or Montmartre,
with a red sash around his velveteen breeches, and the little French
nobleman from the Cercle Royal who had never before felt the sun,
except when he had played lawn tennis on the Isle de Puteaux. Each
had his bandolier and rifle; each was minding his own business, which
was the business of all--to try and save the independence of a free

The presence of these foreigners, with rifle in hand, showed the
sentiment and sympathies of the countries from which they came.
These men were Europe's real ambassadors to the Republic of the
Transvaal. The hundreds of thousands of their countrymen who had
remained at home held toward the Boer the same feelings, but they
were not so strongly moved; not so strongly as to feel that they must
go abroad to fight.

These foreigners were not the exception in opinion, they were only
exceptionally adventurous, exceptionally liberty-loving. They were
not soldiers of fortune, for the soldier of fortune fights for gain.
These men receive no pay, no emolument, no reward. They were the few
who dared do what the majority of their countrymen in Europe thought.

At Jones's Hotel that night, at Ventersburg, it was as though a jury
composed of men from all of Europe and the United States had gathered
in judgment on the British nation.

Outside in the moonlight in the dusty road two bearded burghers had
halted me to ask the way to the house of the commandant. Between
them on a Boer pony sat a man, erect, slim-waisted, with well-set
shoulders and chin in air, one hand holding the reins high, the other
with knuckles down resting on his hip. The Boer pony he rode, nor
the moonlight, nor the veldt behind him, could disguise his seat and
pose. It was as though I had been suddenly thrown back into London
and was passing the cuirassed, gauntleted guardsman, motionless on
his black charger in the sentry gate in Whitehall. Only now, instead
of a steel breastplate, he shivered through his thin khaki, and
instead of the high boots, his legs were wrapped in twisted putties.

"When did they take you?" I asked.

"Early this morning. I was out scouting," he said. He spoke in a
voice so well trained and modulated that I tried to see his shoulder-

"Oh, you are an officer?" I said.

"No, sir, a trooper. First Life Guards."

But in the moonlight I could see him smile, whether at my mistake or
because it was not a mistake I could not guess. There are many
gentlemen rankers in this war.

He made a lonely figure in the night, his helmet marking him as
conspicuously as a man wearing a high hat in a church. From the
billiard-room, where the American scouts were playing pool, came the
click of the ivory and loud, light-hearted laughter; from the veranda
the sputtering of many strange tongues and the deep, lazy voices of
the Boers. There were Boers to the left of him, Boers to the right
of him, pulling at their long, drooping pipes and sending up big
rings of white smoke in the white moonlight.

He dismounted, and stood watching the crowd about him under half-
lowered eyelids, but as unmoved as though he saw no one. He threw
his arm over the pony's neck and pulled its head down against his
chest and began talking to it.

It was as though he wished to emphasize his loneliness.

"You are not tired, are you? No, you're not," he said. His voice
was as kindly as though he were speaking to a child.

"Oh, but you can't be tired. What?" he whispered. "A little hungry,
perhaps. Yes?" He seemed to draw much comfort from his friend the
pony, and the pony rubbed his head against the Englishman's shoulder.

"The commandant says he will question you in the morning. You will
come with us to the jail now," his captor directed. "You will find
three of your people there to talk to. I will go bring a blanket for
you, it is getting cold." And they rode off together into the night.

Two days later he would have heard through the windows of Jones's
Hotel the billiard balls still clicking joyously, but the men who
held the cues then would have worn helmets like his own.

The original Jones, the proprietor of Jones's Hotel, had fled. The
man who succeeded him was also a refugee, and the present manager was
an American from Cincinnati. He had never before kept a hotel, but
he confided to me that it was not a bad business, as he found that on
each drink sold he made a profit of a hundred per cent. The
proprietress was a lady from Brooklyn, her husband, another American,
was a prisoner with Cronje at St. Helena. She was in considerable
doubt as to whether she ought to run before the British arrived, or
wait and chance being made a prisoner. She said she would prefer to
escape, but what with standing on her feet all day in the kitchen
preparing meals for hungry burghers and foreign volunteers, she was
too tired to get away.

War close at hand consists so largely of commonplaces and trivial
details that I hope I may be pardoned for recording the anxieties and
cares of this lady from Brooklyn. Her point of view so admirably
illustrates one side of war. It is only when you are ten years away
from it, or ten thousand miles away from it, that you forget the dull
places, and only the moments loom up which are terrible, picturesque,
and momentous. We have read, in "Vanity Fair," of the terror and the
mad haste to escape of the people of Brussels on the eve of Waterloo.
That is the obvious and dramatic side.

That is the picture of war you remember and which appeals. As a
rule, people like to read of the rumble of cannon through the streets
of Ventersburg, the silent, dusty columns of the re-enforcements
passing in the moonlight, the galloping hoofs of the aides suddenly
beating upon the night air and growing fainter and dying away, the
bugle-calls from the camps along the river, the stamp of spurred
boots as the general himself enters the hotel and spreads the blue-
print maps upon the table, the clanking sabres of his staff, standing
behind him in the candle-light, whispering and tugging at their
gauntlets while the great man plans his attack. You must stop with
the British army if you want bugle-calls and clanking sabres and
gauntlets. They are a part of the panoply of war and of warriors.
But we saw no warriors at Ventersburg that night, only a few cattle-
breeders and farmers who were fighting for the land they had won from
the lion and the bushman, and with them a mixed company of gentleman
adventurers--gathered around a table discussing other days in other
lands. The picture of war which is most familiar is the one of the
people of Brussels fleeing from the city with the French guns booming
in the distance, or as one sees it in "Shenandoah," where aides
gallop on and off the stage and the night signals flash from both
sides of the valley. That is the obvious and dramatic side; the
other side of war is the night before the battle, at Jones's Hotel;
the landlady in the dining-room with her elbows on the table,
fretfully deciding that after a day in front of the cooking-stove she
is too tired to escape an invading army, declaring that the one place
at which she would rather be at that moment was Green's restaurant in
Philadelphia, the heated argument that immediately follows between
the foreign legion and the Americans as to whether Rector's is not
better than the Cafe de Paris, and the general agreement that Ritz
cannot hope to run two hotels in London without being robbed. That
is how the men talked and acted on the eve of a battle. We heard no
galloping aides, no clanking spurs, only the click of the clipped
billiard balls as the American scouts (who were killed thirty-six
hours later) knocked them about the torn billiard-cloth, the drip,
drip of the kerosene from a blazing, sweating lamp, which struck the
dirty table-cloth, with the regular ticking of a hall clock, and the
complaint of the piano from the hotel parlor, where the correspondent
of a Boston paper was picking out "Hello, My Baby," laboriously with
one finger. War is not so terribly dramatic or exciting--at the
time; and the real trials of war--at the time, and not as one later
remembers them--consist largely in looting fodder for your ponies and
in bribing the station-master to put on an open truck in which to
carry them.

We were wakened about two o'clock in the morning by a loud knocking
on a door and the distracted voice of the local justice of the peace
calling upon the landlord to rouse himself and fly. The English, so
the voice informed the various guests, as door after door was thrown
open upon the court-yard, were at Ventersburg Station, only two hours
away. The justice of the peace wanted to buy or to borrow a horse,
and wanted it very badly, but a sleepy-eyed and sceptical audience
told him unfeelingly that he was either drunk or dreaming, and only
the landlady, now apparently refreshed after her labors, was keenly,
even hysterically, intent on instant flight. She sat up in her bed
with her hair in curl papers and a revolver beside her, and through
her open door shouted advice to her lodgers. But they were
unsympathetic, and reassured her only by banging their doors and
retiring with profane grumbling, and in a few moments the silence was
broken only by the voice of the justice as he fled down the main
street of Ventersburg offering his kingdom for a horse.

The next morning we rode out to the Sand River to see the Boer
positions near the drift, and met President Steyn in his Cape cart
coming from them on his way to the bridge. Ever since the occupation
of Bloemfontein, the London papers had been speaking of him as "the
Late President," as though he were dead. He impressed me, on the
contrary, as being very much alive and very much the President,
although his executive chamber was the dancing-hall of a hotel and
his roof-tree the hood of a Cape cart. He stood in the middle of the
road, and talked hopefully of the morrow. He had been waiting, he
said, to see the development of the enemy's attack, but the British
had not appeared, and, as he believed they would not advance that
day, he was going on to the bridge to talk to his burghers and to
consult with General Botha. He was much more a man of the world and
more the professional politician than President Kruger. I use the
words "professional politician" in no unpleasant sense, but meaning
rather that he was ready, tactful, and diplomatic. For instance, he
gave to whatever he said the air of a confidence reserved especially
for the ear of the person to whom he spoke. He showed none of the
bitterness which President Kruger exhibits toward the British, but
took the tone toward the English Government of the most critical and
mused tolerance. Had he heard it, it would have been intensely
annoying to any Englishman.

"I see that the London Chronicle," he said, "asks if, since I have
become a rebel, I do not lose my rights as a Barrister of the Temple?
Of course, we are no more rebels than the Spaniards were rebels
against the United States. By a great stretch of the truth, under
the suzerainty clause, the burghers of the Transvaal might be called
rebels, but a Free Stater--never! It is not the animosity of the
English which I mind," he added, thoughtfully, "but their depressing
ignorance of their own history."

His cheerfulness and hopefulness, even though one guessed they were
assumed, commanded one's admiration. He was being hunted out of one
village after another, the miles of territory still free to him were
hourly shrinking--in a few days he would be a refugee in the
Transvaal; but he stood in the open veldt with all his possessions in
the cart behind him, a president without a republic, a man without a
home, but still full of pluck, cheerful and unbeaten.

The farm-house of General Andrew Cronje stood just above the drift
and was the only conspicuous mark for the English guns on our side of
the river, so in order to protect it the general had turned it over
to the ambulance corps to be used as a hospital. They had lashed a
great Red Cross flag to the chimney and filled the clean shelves of
the generously built kitchen with bottles of antiseptics and bitter-
smelling drugs and surgeons' cutlery. President Steyn gave me a
letter to Dr. Rodgers Reid, who was in charge, and he offered us our
choice of the deserted bedrooms. It was a most welcome shelter, and
in comparison to the cold veldt the hospital was a haven of comfort.
Hundreds of cooing doves, stumbling over the roof of the barn, helped
to fill the air with their peaceful murmur. It was a strange
overture to a battle, but in time I learned to not listen for any
more martial prelude. The Boer does not make a business of war, and
when he is not actually fighting he pretends that he is camping out
for pleasure. In his laager there are no warlike sounds, no sentries
challenge, no bugles call. He has no duties to perform, for his
Kaffir boys care for his pony, gather his wood, and build his fire.
He has nothing to do but to wait for the next fight, and to make the
time pass as best he can. In camp the burghers are like a party of
children. They play games with each other, and play tricks upon each
other, and engage in numerous wrestling bouts, a form of contest of
which they seem particularly fond. They are like children also in
that they are direct and simple, and as courteous as the ideal child
should be. Indeed, if I were asked what struck me as the chief
characteristics of the Boer I should say they were the two qualities
which the English have always disallowed him, his simplicity rather
than his "cuteness," and his courtesy rather than his boorishness.

The force that waited at the drift by Cronje's farm as it lay spread
out on both sides of the river looked like a gathering of Wisconsin
lumbermen, of Adirondack guides and hunters halted at Paul Smith's,
like a Methodist camp-meeting limited entirely to men.

The eye sought in vain for rows of tents, for the horses at the
picket line, for the flags that marked the head-quarters, the
commissariat, the field telegraph, the field post-office, the A. S.
C., the R. M. A. C., the C. O., and all the other combinations of
letters of the military alphabet.

I remembered that great army of General Buller's as I saw it
stretching out over the basin of the Tugela, like the children of
Israel in number, like Tammany Hall in organization and discipline,
with not a tent-pin missing; with hospitals as complete as those
established for a hundred years in the heart of London; with search-
lights, heliographs, war balloons, Roentgen rays, pontoon bridges,
telegraph wagons, and trenching tools, farriers with anvils, major-
generals, mapmakers, "gallopers," intelligence departments, even
biographs and press-censors; every kind of thing and every kind of
man that goes to make up a British army corps. I knew that seven
miles from us just such another completely equipped and disciplined
column was advancing to the opposite bank of the Sand River.

And opposed to it was this merry company of Boer farmers lying on the
grass, toasting pieces of freshly killed ox on the end of a stick,
their hobbled ponies foraging for themselves a half-mile away, a
thousand men without a tent among them, without a field-glass.

It was a picnic, a pastoral scene, not a scene of war. On the hills
overlooking the drift were the guns, but down along the banks the
burghers were sitting in circles singing the evening hymns, many of
them sung to the tunes familiar in the service of the Episcopal
Church, so that it sounded like a Sunday evening in the country at
home. At the drift other burghers were watering the oxen, bathing
and washing in the cold river; around the camp-fires others were
smoking luxuriously, with their saddles for pillows. The evening
breeze brought the sweet smell of burning wood, a haze of smoke from
many fires, the lazy hum of hundreds of voices rising in the open
air, the neighing of many horses, and the swift soothing rush of the

When morning came to Cronje's farm it brought with it no warning nor
sign of battle. We began to believe that the British army was an
invention of the enemy's. So we cooked bacon and fed the doves, and
smoked on the veranda, moving our chairs around it with the sun, and
argued as to whether we should stay where we were or go on to the
bridge. At noon it was evident there would be no fight at the drift
that day, so we started along the bank of the river, with the idea of
reaching the bridge before nightfall. The trail lay on the English
side of the river, so that we were in constant concern lest our
white-hooded Cape cart would be seen by some of their scouts and we
would be taken prisoners and forced to travel all the way back to
Cape Town. We saw many herds of deer, but no scouts or lancers, and,
such being the effect of many kopjes, lost all ideas as to where we
were. We knew we were bearing steadily south toward Lord Roberts,
who as we later learned, was then some three miles distant.

About two o'clock his guns opened on our left, so we at least knew
that we were still on the wrong side of the river and that we must be
between the Boer and the English artillery. Except for that, our
knowledge of our geographical position was a blank, and we
accordingly "out-spanned" and cooked more bacon. "Outspanning" is
unharnessing the ponies and mules and turning them out graze, and
takes three minutes--"inspanning" is trying to catch them again, and
takes from three to five hours.

We started back over the trail over which we had come, and just at
sunset saw a man appear from behind a rock and disappear again.
Whether he was Boer or Briton I could not tell, but while I was
examining the rock with my glasses two Boers came galloping forward
and ordered me to "hands up." To sit with both arms in the air is an
extremely ignominious position, and especially annoying if the pony
is restless, so I compromised by waving my whip as high as I could
reach with one hand, and still held in the horse with the other. The
third man from behind the rock rode up at the same time. They said
they had watched us coming from the English lines, and that we were
prisoners. We assured them that for us nothing could be more
satisfactory, because we now knew where we were, and because they had
probably saved us a week's trip to Cape Town. They examined and

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