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The Gatlings at Santiago

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The Gatlings at Santiago
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Author(s): John H. Parker
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 212
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-911-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-912-1

At war against the Spanish in Cuba

This well-known book concerns the United States flexing of its imperial muscle as it expelled the Spanish from Cuba at the close of the nineteenth century. This little campaign, one of the earliest in which American soldiers fought beyond their own frontiers, has entered into American legend particularly as an American President, Theodore Roosevelt won mythic fame as he and his 'Rough Riders' stormed San Juan (Kettle) Hill. Indeed, the Gatlings supported the 'Rough Riders' in their attack and Roosevelt has provided the preface for Parker's book. This book was written by the battery commander and is amply complimented by photographs of the campaign taken by a member of the detachment. Although this book concerns the doings of the US Fifth Army Corps during the Santiago campaign it retains the essential intimacy of a unit history, is filled with immediate detail and as such has become a classic of its period.

On return to the battery, there were no signs of being able to enter the action with the gallant 71st, and, acting under the second clause of the instructions, the Gatling battery was moved forward at a gallop. Major Sharpe, a mounted member of Gen. Shafter’s staff, helped to open a way through this regiment to enable the guns to pass. The reception of the battery by these valiant men was very different from that so recently given by the 13th Regulars. <br>
“Give ‘em hell, boys!”<br>
“Let ‘er go, Gallagher!”<br>
“Goin’ to let the woodpeckers go off?”<br>
And cheer after cheer went up as the battery passed through. Vain efforts were made to check this vociferous clamour, which was plainly audible to the enemy, less than 1500 yards away. The bullets of the enemy began to drop lower. The cheering had furnished them the clew they needed. They had located our position, and the 71st atoned for this thoughtlessness by the loss of nearly eighty men, as it lay cowering in the underbrush near Balloon Fork.<br>
Just before reaching the Aguadores ford, the battery was met by Col. Derby, who had been observing the disposition of the troops, from the balloon, and had afterward ridden to the front on horseback. The colonel was riding along, to push the infantry forward in position from the rear, as coolly as if on the parade-ground. A blade of grass had gotten twisted around a button of his uniform and hung down like a buttonhole bouquet over his breast. There was a genial smile on his handsome face as he inquired, “Where are you going?” and, on being informed of the orders of the detachment and of the intention to put the battery into action, he replied, “The infantry are not deployed enough to take advantage of your fire. I would advise that you wait a short time. I will send you word when the time comes.” The advice was acted upon, the guns were turned out by the side of the road, and the men directed to lie down.<br>
During the gallop to the front they had been compelled to run to keep up, there not being sufficient accommodation for them to all go mounted on the guns. They were panting heavily, and they obeyed the order and crept under the guns, taking advantage of such little shade as was offered. Troops continued to pass to the front. The crackle of musketry gradually extended to the right and to the left, showing that the deployment was being completed. More men were hit, but no complaints or groans were heard. A ball struck a limber-chest; a man lying on his face in the road, during a momentary pause of one of the companies, was perforated from head to foot: he never moved—just continued to lie there; the flies began to buzz around the spot and settle on the clotted blood, that poured out from the fractured skull, in the dust of the road. Down at the ford, some twenty-five or thirty yards in advance, men were being hit continually.<br>
Shots came down from the trees around. The sharpshooters of the Spanish forces, who had been up in the trees during the artillery duel, and beyond whom our advance had swept, fully believing that they would be murdered if captured, expecting no quarter, were recklessly shooting at everything in sight. They made a special target of every man who wore any indication of rank. Some of our heaviest losses during the day, especially among commissioned officers, were caused by these sharpshooters. They shot indiscriminately at wounded, at hospital nurses, at medical officers wearing the red cross, and at fighting men going to the front.<br>
The firing became too warm, and the Gatling battery was moved back about fifty yards, again halted, and faced to the front. It was now nearly one o’clock. The members of the detachment had picked up their haversacks on leaving El Poso, and now began to nibble pieces of hardtack. A bullet broke a piece of hardtack which a man was lifting to his mouth; without even stopping in the act of lifting it to his mouth, he ate the piece, with a jest.<br>
Suddenly the clatter of hoofs was heard from the front. Lieut. Miley dashed up and said, “Gen. Shafter directs that you give one piece to me, and take the other three beyond the ford, where the dynamite gun is, find some position, and go into action.” Sergeant Weigle’s gun was placed at Miley’s disposal, and the other pieces dashed forward at a dead run, led by the musical mule who uttered his characteristic exclamation as he dashed through the ford of the Aguadores.<br>
The place formerly selected for going into action had been again twice reconnoitred during the wait, and a better place had been found about thirty yards beyond the ford of the San Juan River. The dynamite gun had stuck in the ford of the Aguadores; a shell had got jammed in it. The Gatlings were compelled to go around it. They dashed through the intervening space, across the San Juan ford, and up on the opening beyond. The position for the battery, partially hidden from the view of the enemy by a small clump of underbrush, was indicated. The right piece, Serg. Green’s, was compelled to go into action in the middle of the road, and in plain sight of the enemy. While the pieces were being unlimbered, which was only the work of an instant, an inquiry was made of Captain Boughton, of the 3rd Cavalry, whose troop had just reached this point, as to the position of our troops and of the enemy, with the further remark that the battery had been under fire since eight o’clock, and had not seen a Spaniard. “I can show you plenty of Spaniards,” replied Boughton, and, raising his hand, pointed toward the San Juan blockhouse and the ridge in its vicinity, sweeping his hand toward the right. It was enough. Before his hand had fallen to his side, the pieces were musically singing.