This account is intended to give the reader some idea of what is like to take part in a re-enacted battle. Charles Casada describes what is was like to take part in the recent recreation of the Battle of San Juan Hill. The event was held at Fort St. Clair.
Going into Battle:
Many times at events both open to the public and those not, there
is a battle scenario for participants to get a feel of what "Seeing the
Elephant" [a 19th Century term meaning "to go in to battle"] was all about.
Here then is an account of the battle, which occurred at Fort St. Clair
on Sunday September 24, 1898 (+102 years).
You ponder what lies ahead. All of the activity in camp sure
means something BIG is going to happen. A large meal of Beef stew,
fresh baked bread, and coffee is prepared by the company cook. As
you watch the other members of the company eat and joke of things to come
you wonder if it was like this just before the real battle of San Juan
Hill over 100 years ago. C Company,
Regiment participated in this decisive battle and now you are going
to replicate it as best as you can. Final preparations are being
made, you fall in line for ammunition (blanks) issue, then you fill your
100 round cartridge belt to capacity. You check and re-check your
rifle. The Corporal informs all that once on the line of departure
you keep one in the chamber, and the magazine cut off in the 'off position.'
This means you will have to load and fire singly and the magazine is saved
for the closing assault. Troops from other units march by, then the
word come down to fall in and move out. Soon you pass artillery pieces-
all breeds of large guns. Closest to your position is a Gatling
Gun, and a larger cannon whose caliber you can not distinguish.
Soon as you lay in wait the cannon fires, and the ground around you actually trembles, the smoke you think makes for a good target by Spanish Riflemen. You hear the Gun Captain barking orders for corrections. Then a steady Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam starts up. It is the Gatling Gun laying down suppressive fire on the Spanish positions which you can see very clearly. The enemy wears what appears to be a white or light blue colored uniforms. You see them moving around their rifle-pits and entrenched positions. Soon American Forces begin to move toward the hill. The cannon continues and you see the impacts of the 'shells'. The pre-placed ground charges help give the illusion of actual artillery impacts. The Corporal yells- "Let's Go Men!" And at a steady walk you move toward the enemy positions. An enemy Maxim gun opens fire and you drop down and begin to re-turn 'fire.' Up and down you move behind the sparse cover available. Because of the smoke and noise of the battle you can not even hear the man next to you as he yells- "Barry has taken a hit!" You wonder- could this be like it really was? Am I dreaming or is this really happening? The sweat from your brow drips down into your eyes stinging and blurring your vision. You wipe your eyes clear and see men in white uniforms firing at you. You continue to fire your Krag rifle, and move up on order to a new position. There seems to be utter confusion. Nothing but the constant Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam of the Gatling Gun, and the deeper Boooom, of the artillery. Then a signal, the artillery and Gatling Gun cease-fire. You are within what seems to be only feet to the enemy rifle pits. The order is given to Charge! The Bugler sounds off and you move out firing from the hip at the fleeing white soldiers, you see our color Sargeant with our Flag fluttering in the hot afternoon air as you move toward the trenches and emplacements. Success is yours this day. Among the "prisoners" are 2 German advisors. You look about and take a deep draw from your canteen.
Boy! History class was never like this you think. But
then you are not reading about history, you are LIVING IT!