Escario's Column

Contributed by Francisco Jose Diaz Diaz 
General:
When the American Army  disembarked near to Santiago, the Commander in Chief of Spanish 4th Corps, General Linares, ordered the Division of Manzanillo to reinforce the garrison at Santiago. Escario's column left Manzanillo on June 22, 1898 and arrived to Santiago in the evening of July 3, 1898, when the battles of El Caney and San Juan Hills had already ended.

The action of Escario's column is an event that is virtually unknown. It was however, a tremendous act of endurance, and should become legendary.

The Account:

Escario's Column was formed by 1st and 2nd battalions of Infantry Regiment Isabel la Católica nr 75, Alcántara Peninsular Battalion nr 3, 1st battalion of Andalucía Infantry regiment nr 52, Light Battalion Puerto Rico nr 19, 1st Battery, 2nd seccion, light Artillery Regiment nr 5, some members of 8th company of Engineering Regiment nr 1, mounted guerrillas of Calicito, Bayamo and Manzanillo, 35 members of Medical Corps and 10th company of transport. All the men were 3,752. The route from Manzanillo to Santiago ( more than 300 Kilometers) was very hard on account of the bad roads. All during the journey through the tropical forest, Cuban rebels harassed the Spanish Column.

On June 22, at 17:00, the column left Manzanillo and, at nightfall, the column encamped in Palmas Altas. At daybreak of June 23, they began to march across the left side of Yara River until they reached the Canabacoa River. The weather was rainy.  They arrived to Canabacoa River at June 24. During this time, the Spanish troops had several skirmishes with Cuban rebels.

On June 26 the column encamped near Bayamo. This important town was in hands of Cuban rebels and Colonel Escario thought that its occupation could reinforce the wish of combat of Spanish Troops. A detachment under the command of Colonel D. José Ruiz (the column's second in command), was formed by 600 infantrymen and all the cavalry to face the fortifications that the rebels had built arround the city. The Spanish detachment was formed in three smaller columns. When Spanish Soldiers arrived to Bayamo River, the Cubans rebels stopped them. Colonel Ruiz ordered his troops to  attack with fixed bayonets. After a hard fight, the Rebel fortifications and Bayamo were occupied by the Spanish  detachment, which remained for several hours in the town to get information about the Cuban rebels.

At June 27, at daybreak, Escario's column advanced to Beire, fighting with Cubans during the march. On June 28, at nightfall, the Spanish column arrived to Beire. The column was exhausted by the hard march (30 kilometers every day, fighting against the rebels) and Colonel Escario ordered it to remain encamped during June 29. Colonel Escario was worried because  a half of his ammunition and food had been expended while the Column was still three days from to Santiago.

On June 30, Spaniards left Beire and went to Palma Soriano. During the advance, on July 1, they occupied the Doncella Pass which was strongly defended by the Cuban rebels. When column arrived at Aguacate Hill, the rebels had built a strong entrenchment to prevent the columns continued advance toward Santiago.  Escario's entire column was involved in the combat. The Cubans fought bravely and Spaniards thought that defenders may be Spanish soldiers. Escario ordered the attack ended and the had the cornets play the appropriate spanish signals. The Cubans answered by was shooting its armament. After a heavy combat, Escario's column occupied the rebel position.

On July 2, at nightfall, Escario's column arrived to Palma Soriano, an external position of Spanish defenses of Santiago. From there, Colonel Escario notified General Linares of his arrival and was ordered to reinforce the inner positions of Santiago. On July 3, at 11 A.M., Escario listened to the gunfire from El Caney and San Juan and was ordered to form a Column with more refreshed units. This detachment, under command od Lieutenant Colonel Baldomero  Barbón, chief of  Alcántara Peninsular Battalion nr 3, arrived to Santiago at 3 P.M.. The main group arrived at 9 P.M to Santiago when the Battles of El Caney and San Juan were over. Colonel Ascario was promoted to General de Brigada (Brigadier General) During the march. Escario's Column had 27 men killed and 68 men wounded. They expended 28,670 Mauser cartridges in 38 actions in a tremendous, but futile effort to aid Santiago.



Bibliography:

"En guerra con los Estados Unidos. Cuba 1898" ( In War Against United States. Cuba 1898) by Antonio Carrasco García, published by Editorial Almena S.L, Madrid 1998.


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