Private Baxter Kyle Adkisson

of the 2nd U.S. Infantry, Co. G

Writes Home From the Santiago Trenches

Contributed by Madeline Patricia Koontz 

Private Baxter Kyle Adkisson in uniform. In this photo he is wearing his winter "great coat"


General:

The Second U.S. Infantry served in Cuba during the Spanish American War. The events around the storming of the San Juan Heights were described in the diary and letter below by Private Baxter Kyle Adkisson of Company G. The diary covers the period from when the regiment landed in Cuba to just before the attack on Santiago. The letter was written after the Battle of Santiago.

The diary entries were apparently written about the same time as the letter, and not recorded on a daily basis as they unfolded. It appears that Private Adkisson was trying to remember what had transpired on those active days following the landing. He was incorrectly under the impression that the regiment landed on June 20, and states this in his diary. However by June 26, he was back on the correct date. Therefore, it appears that some of the events that are listed in the diary occurred on the same, not consecutive, days. Unfortunately, the diary, as quoted from a newspaper account,  is not complete and ends mid-sentence. Notes have been added in brackets [].
 

Background Data:

 Baxter Kyle Adkisson was born on June 6, 1874 in Union Star, Breckinridge County, Kentucky.  After serving in the U.S. Army, Adkisson worked briefly as a guard at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas before moving to California.

Adkisson was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons, entering the fraternity's South Lodge in National City, California in May 1905 and becoming a Master Mason on October 25, 1905. Adkisson served as Worshipful Master of  the South West Lodge, during the years 1909 - 1910.

He married Elizabeth L. Cota in San Diego County (most likely National City) on April 11, 1908. He built a home at 243 East 16th Street in National City where the couple raised their family of five children. Adkisson built additional homes on his property which eventually were given to some of the children.

He died on February 1, 1924 of cancer of the bladder.
 

The Diary:

"The following extracts were taken from a diary kept by Kyle Adkisson since his landing in Cuba:

 Baiquiri [Daiquiri], Cuba.

Landed June 20 [June 24].

Weather very hot, but was glad to get on land once more. Still feel like I am on the sea. This was a mining town, but is almost deserted. Was bombarded and torn all to pieces. Ate lots of mangrove and cocoanuts and made me sick; haven’t eaten any since.

June 21 [June 24]--Rough Riders had a battle with the enemy [Battle of Las Guasimas]; were surprised but came out very well; only lost eight men, but several were wounded, most all of them being shot in the left arm, which was very odd. Captain Capron killed. They got 37 Spaniards

June 22 [June 25]--Started out to the line of fire. Only got to the top of the hill at the landing and were turned back, as the Spaniards had retreated.

June 23—Were marched out about four miles and back. Could see no good in it except to make the road for the wagons and artillery. Fifteen hundred Cuban soldiers came in from below Santiago. They were half naked. They came into camp and want everything—something to eat first and then pants or shirt. Want to trade one cigar for a blanket or anything they see.

June 25—Another lot of Cubans; about 5,000; camps are alive with them; have to put on guards to keep them out. Their fingers are ‘sticky.” Getting the railroad in operation, so they can run in to Santiago and take supplies.

June 26, Sunday,--Marched about nine miles up the railroad to an old fort. It is made of brick and cement, but is crumbling and deserted. Looked to be 200 years old. These forts are all along the coast. We started at noon and it was simply hot. Several were overheated, and the first sergeant [Chalres Elwell] of company C died. We were marched too fast. It didn’t seem to hurt me. Camped at half-past ten. The men were ‘swearin’ mad”.

June 27—Buried the first sergeant at 8 o’clock and started out again on the march. Three volleys are fired over the grave before it is filled. The sergeant was dressed in his uniform and wrapped in a blanket for burial. Only marched six miles today, and took it slow. Most of us threw our blankets away. They are too heavy and hot to carry. We expect to give the Spaniards a round tomorrow.

June 28—We had a hard rain last night and our company was on picket duty. Imagined we could hear Spaniards all night. There are large sand crabs here that crawl through the grass and leaves and sound exactly like the sneaking Dons. The Spaniards are a..."
 

The Letter:

THE BULLETS WHISTLED!

This Boy found Time to Write to Mother
[Leona W. (Cain) Adkisson]

Was in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, July 3,

He Writes of the Suffering of the Blue-Coats

Abstracts from His Diary Recording Incidents That Transpired in Cuba.

NIGHT IN THE TRENCHES

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, July 5, 1898

Dear Mother---I will write you a letter while there is a rest in the fight. The flag of truce has been out since Monday and we are enjoying ourselves. We’ve had three days of hard fighting…lost a thousand, killed and wounded, on our side. The Spanish loss was very much greater.
I tell you what; it makes a fellow feel alone when the bullets are as thick as___ and shells bursting all around, and ___en being carried off the field. I guess if it wasn’t for our country we would not be here.

We are all wondering what the Spanish are going to do. They say General ___ [Toral?] wants to surrender but must communicate with Spain.
There would be many a happy heart tonight if they would give us a rest and breathing spell. The boys are almost holding their breath in suspense, though they are ready at a moment’s notice.

We have been in the trenches five days now, and are anything but clean. I am sitting in my pit while I write. It is just my length [5’-10&¼”] and wide enough for me to lie down, and a good pile of dirt in front.

I came out this morning and get some sticks and made a shed of green brush to keep off the sun and some of the rain—I am very well protected. We have about an hour’s rain every day. We had forty-eight hours without food, and you know I enjoyed that. Today is the first day since the fighting began that we have had full rations.We are in a half-moon around the city and more back of us. Then Sampson is in the bay back of the city, and they are in a bad box. It was lucky for me, I guess, that our battalion was not in the hottest fight, ____so many were killed. We were held in reserve, while the twenty-fifth infantry and some volunteers charged a fortification and took it just as we started to help them.

We were under pretty heavy fire and ___men in our company were wounded. The Spaniards had sharpshooters in the trees and they killed several of our ____; but that didn’t last long, as we put ___our sharpshooters and soon killed them off.

I tell you we had a hot time Saturday night[?]. They made a charge on us and bullets were thicker than the air, and… was a gone _____ but we were a little too hot for them and they went in their hole.

The sergeant-major has just passed and says the Spanish probably won’t surrender, So he guess we will be fighting them again soon.
Have just got the news that 9,000 of our troops are in sight and more coming. We will settle the Dons now in short order.

I am wishing for some good biscuits and a little something of everything.

It is getting too dark for me to see how to write, and as I only have about three inches of candle I brought from Tampa with me, I must economize.
Remember me to all of my friends

 Your loving son,
  Kyle Adkisson
[Baxter Kyle Adkisson]



Bibliography:
 
 


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