By José MullerTejeira
The attack of the Americans was made by 12,000 men, according to their own statements, and was directed by General Wheeler, second in Command of the army.
One Brigade, composed of 3,500 men directed by Wheeler himself and supported byanother one, directed its effort to El Caney, and later, Coronel Chaffec [Gen. Chaffee], with 2,000, headed in force to the hill and the fort of San Juan.
The Americans, to tell the truth, fought that day showing a determination and courage that was really magnificent.
The houses of El Caney, transformed by General Vara and his 520 men into fortresses, vomited out a rain of bullets over the enemy, who, in order of companies, with their chests as their only protection, tried fiercely to run over the village.
With the first line decimated, another one came to its replacement, and one after another; and those soldiers, seemed more like animated statues than human beings, if it is allowed to me to say; but they met heroes, and even with the houses riddled with bullet holes by artillery and rifle fire, and its streets obstructed by the wounded anddead bodies, El Caney became a true volcanoe vomitting lava, and a place impossible to reach.
Losing their strength, breathless and almost motionless, both sides ceased fighting for a while; taking advantage of that, General Vara de Rey had his soldiers recover and prepare for the next combat.
Being told about the result of these attacks, General Linares, who was occupied rejecting the attacks to the San Juan position, sincerely complimented this handful of lions: 'The american Army, never expected to find in its attack such a courageous General Vara de Rey, nor such brave troops as the ones you have under your orders'.
The fighting was renewed, and the enemy attacked once and again, always being repulsed. But as we didn't have reserves, and the Americans having a great amount of them, it was not possible to continue the combat under those circumstances. The General was wounded almost at the same time by two bullets that pierced his legs, and when he was being evacuated in a stretcher, under a virtual rain of bullets, he was killed along with his two stretcherbearers. Most of the Officers (two close relatives of the General among them) lay wounded or killed, same as the soldiers. About seven o'clock in theafternoon, at last, their chief being killed, the 520 men decimated to less than 100, and some of them lightly injured, this handful of heroes retired from the place, with no leader or strength left, after a defense of ten hours without possibility of beingreinforced, and the enemy occupied the position so resolutely attacked.
Only 80 defenders could retire from El Caney,
most of them wounded or injured. The
americans stated 900 casualties. "
Tejeira, José Muller, Combates y Capitulacion de Santiago. Madrid: 1898, p. 150. (Tejeira was a Spanish Navy Officer and personal witness of the campaign). Translation by J.M. Guerrero.
Freidel, Frank, The Splendid Little War. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958) 129 (stone fort image).