Lt. Eli Al. Helmick of the 10th U. S. Infantry

Writes Home Just Before the Battle of San Juan Hill

Contributed by Florence West
Click here to read a letter to Lt. Helmick's wife, written by Capt. Robert Van Vliet, also of the 10th U. S. Infantry

General:

The following notes were written by Eli Helmick just before the 10th U.S. Infantry took part in the action at San Juan Hill, on the far west end of the line. Helmick eventually became a major general in the U. S. Army, and Inspector General of the U. S, Army from 1921 to 1927. The text is interesting in that it shows the feeling and attitude just before the battle.

The Letter:

"June 30th

“It is the night before the battle, and I am writing hurriedly for it is late, and we are to get out early tomorrow morning.  No one knows what will take place tomorrow, but that we will do something seems certain.  The men are singing and raising a great racket; you would not think to hear them that we are on the eve of a possible battle.  Curiously, I do not feel at all nervous or excited.”

July 1st

“The regiment broke camp at 6:45 o’clock, A.M., and advanced slowly along the road to the front.  We could hear firing to our right.  It was Lawton at El Caney.  About 11 o’clock A.M. we halted opposite one of our batteries which was firing on a Spanish position to our right and front.  Shells from the Spanish field guns came close over our heads, or certainly seemed to do so.  I was mounted on Sport, my big bay horse, and for once I would like to have been on a pony.  I hoped the colonel would dismount, but he did not, and I could not.  The Spanish shells were falling to the rear of our battery position where an old gray mule was quietly browsing about, not the least disturbed by the shells.  How I envied his quiet unconcern.  It was my first experience under hostile fire, and I must confess I was nervous.”



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