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