Below is the official report filed by the 17th U.S. Infantry concerning its actions at the Battle of El Caney.
Concerning some of the men mentioned in the report, we have the
Lt. Col. Joseph T. Haskell, a native of Ohio, joined the army as a volunteer in July of 1963. He was a veteran of the Civil War, and was cited for meritorious and fauithful duty. After his mustered out in 1866, he joined the regular Army. Haskell had been with the 17th U.S. infantry since 1896.
Lieutenant Walter M. Dickinson of Massachusetts was a graduate of West Point, where he had gained an appointment in 1876. as well as a graduate of the School of Infantry and Cavalry. Dickinson had been with the regiment since 1891.
Lyster M. O'Brien, the author of the report, was from Michigan. He served in the 27th Michigan Volunteer Infantry during the Civuil War, and joined the regular army on being mustered out. He had been with the 17th U.S. Infantry since 1870.
Headquarters Seventeenth Infantry
In the Field, before Santiago de Cuba, July 4th, 1898
Third Brigade, Second Division, Fifth Army Corps.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Seventeenth Infantry in the action of July 1 near the town of Caney:
The regiment bivouacked northeast of Caney on the night of June 30 and broke camp at 5 o’clock a.m. July 1. It marched in a westerly direction, following the Seventh Infantry, until it reached a point about 1 mile north and one-half mile east of a blockhouse, when it marched in a southerly direction toward the town of Caney. Upon arriving abreast of the most northerly blockhouse the regiment was exposed to the fire of the enemy, drawn by an attack made by the Cubans and a portion of the Seventh Infantry. Colonel Haskell, commanding, directed the two leading companies to open fire upon the blockhouse, when the adjutant informed him that the Seventh Infantry was directly in front of us, so he countermanded the order. We then continued the march on the main road until we reached a point east and a little north of a stone blockhouse. Colonel Haskell joined the brigade commander here and was directed by him to move his regiment in the direction of Caney and engage the enemy. Colonel Haskell then directed the adjutant, Lieutenant Clay, to bring up the regiment and indicate to it the direction and order it to engage the enemy as soon as possible; that he would go on ahead. The adjutant brought up the Second Battalion, which was in the front, and gave it the necessary order. He then sent an orderly back to bring up the First Battalion, which was a little in the rear. Within fifteen minutes after the first order was given all the regiment except two companies had moved forward. The adjutant then reported to the brigade commander, who directed him to engage the two remaining companies and then report to Colonel Haskell. This last order was obeyed at once.
The regiment moved toward Caney, across the ridge occupied by the Seventh Infantry, a little in rear of their line. At the time we were not aware of the existence of the stone blockhouse, which was screened from view by a hedge of bushes. We moved in single file and as a consequence were exposed to the fire of the enemy in crossing this ridge. As soon as we became aware of ----- [the?] situation we moved down from the ridge and up to a sunken road above and north of the town of Caney. Arriving here Colonel Haskell ordered the wire fence cut, and himself, with Lieutenant Dickinson, stepped into the open and received an entire volley from the enemy concealed behind a stone wall in the town of Caney. Lieutenant-Colonel Haskell fell severely wounded, and Lieutenant Dickinson mortally. The First Battalion arrived immediately after Colonel Haskell fell. The adjutant at once sent an orderly to report the state of affairs to the brigade commander, and himself reported to Major O’Brien that the command of the regiment devolved upon him. Within a few minutes the brigade commander arrived in person and gave orders for the regiment to join its left with the right of the Seventh Infantry, and hold the position, which was done. Orders were given not to open fire unless we could see something to fire at and make the fire effective. We remained in this position, exposed to an enfilading fire from the enemy from the stone blockhouse on our right to the north. We remained in this position until the battle was over. A few volleys were fired by Companies C and G. After the battle we withdrew, by order of the brigade commander, to a position in rear of the Seventh infantry, where we had supper. After dark we moved south on the telegraph road, following the Seventh Infantry, until we arrived at General Lawton’s headquarters. Here we remained until between 2 and 3 o’clock a.m., when we moved in an easterly direction around to our present position.
The following is a list of casualties:
Killed: Privates Walter Brown, William T. Fason, Company A; Christian Hess, Company E; Leonard Webber, Company G.
Wounded: Lieut. Col. J. T. Haskell, in the breast, knee and foot; Lieut. W. M. Dickinson, regimental quartermaster, in the bladder and arm; since died in hospital.
Company B – Sergt. Philip Henderson, severe; Private John Dunn, slight; Private G. W. Dildine, slight; Private John McBride, severe.
Company C – First Sergt. John O’Rourke, slight; Private bay, slight; Private Andrew Byers, slight; Private George Kelly, severe; Private G. W. Burg, slight; Private Fred. Davidson, severe; Private August Lang, slight; Private Oscar Brookins, slight; Private Martin, slight.
Company D – Private Joseph Wehr, unknown.
Company E – Corpl. Charles P. Dovell, slight.
Company H – Was left behind after the battle to guard the field hospital, and no report has been received from it, but it is known that 7 enlisted men were wounded during the day.
The conduct of the officers and men during the engagement under the trying position in which they were placed, being compelled to receive fire without the opportunity to return it, is worthy of the highest praise for soldierly steadiness and courage. While it might seem invidious under the circumstances to mention any special instances of individual zeal in the performance of duty, a special report will be made as soon as the circumstances which call for special commendation can be more carefully inquired into and determined. As to the nature of the wounds no official information has been received from the medical department.
L. M. O’Brien
Captain, Seventeenth Infantry, Commanding
Clerk of Joint Comittee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899). Vol. 3, 322-323.
Official Army Register For 1898. (Washington DC: Adjutant General's Office, December 1, 1897) 152, 301.