A Wisconsin Marine fights at Guantanamo

Contributed by Mike Phillips


General:

The U.S. Marines of the First Marine Battalion defined their future by their landing and assault that captured and held Guantanamo during the Spanish American War. They were the first American troops to land in Cuba during the war. The following article describes his experiences.


OSHKOSH BOY IN CUBA
EXCITING EPISTLE RECEIVED FROM OSHKOSH SOLDIER IN BATTLE

From Marine Sergeant Bloomfield W. Riddle of Oshkosh, formerly of Appleton.  Was one of the crew of 700 marines that was first landed on Cuban  shores and planted the stars and stripes.  The letter is dated June 23 [1898] at Guantanamo, Cuba, via Key West, Fla.

“We are out today on the scout on the mountain, about thirty miles from Guantanamo, and probably will not see camp again for about ten days. I have eight men with me, and have made a report of our position and that of the enemy and have sent the same to our captain at Guantanamo.

At present I am under orders of the noted Cuban, General Garcia, and he will give me a guide of ten or twelve Cubans when I return to our camp.

While on the scout we are never closer than two miles to the enemy.  We have very large field glasses and our duty is to ascertain the exact positions of the Spanish and then return to report at camp.

Our first landing in Cuba was an exciting and hazardous undertaking.  The bay of Guantanamo was our first landing place, and here lay in hiding until about 2 o’clock in the night.  Then the boats of Sampson’s fleet, Marblehead, Suwanee, Oregon and torpedo boat Porter began a bombardment of the city of Guantanamo.  They kept up a steady fire until at daybreak, at a given signal, 700 United States Marines charged upon the fort.  For thirteen hours we fought with Yankee pluck and about  7 o’clock the next evening the Spaniards gave way and retreated.  Then our boys gave such a yell of victory that it could be heard a good mile.  That yell I shall never forget as long as I live.
 

The landing of the Marines

This rare image shows the U.S. Marines landing at Guantanamo. The smoke from the naval bombardment is clearly visible.

Within five hours afterwards we had the city under control  with 100 killed and 169 wounded on the Spanish side and but six killed and twelve wounded on our side.  You observe that the Spaniards are remarkably good fighters, but they cannot hit a flock of barns, as they shoot too high.  I could hear the bullets whiz over our heads.

On the following day (Sunday), June 10, about 5 o’clock, the Spaniards made a charge on us 3000 strong.  The fight lasted until Monday morning about 10 o’clock, when the enemy withdrew with many killed and wounded.  Our loss was small, only seven men being wounded.  On Thursday, June 13, in the afternoon, they fired on our pickets, killing two men.  One poor fellow had twenty-one shots in him and the other had fourteen.  This made our blood boil, of course, and we went at them with the spirit of brutes, killing sixty and wounding  ninety-five.  On our side two were killed and eighteen wounded.  On Saturday, the  15, I was sent on the scout to General Garcia, as I told you in  the beginning of my letter.  I will  tell you for what I went when I return home. This letter may never reach home, but if it does, let me know if the United States army has started for Cuba or not, for I can hear nothing here of the movements of the troops.”



Bibliography:

The Weekly Northwestern, Oshkosh, , Saturday, July 9,1898.


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