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The Campaign in Cuba as Remembered by

Sergeant John J. Turner,

First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry ("Rough Riders") (Part Four)

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The 9th of July, 1898, was considered a lucky day in Cuabitas on account of a Cuban soldier having brought a cow and a couple of mules heavily loaded with some very large loaves of bread weighing almost seven pounds each, cigars, sweet potatoes, meat and sugar. These articles were not sold or given away but exchanged for wearing apparel. One could easily obtain one pound of bread, two pounds of meat, a few cigars, a large sweet potato and some sugar for two undershirts, one shirt to the people of El Caney. The cow was made into a delicious soup which restored the energy of many weather beaten human frames. This benevolent act on the part of General Lawton won for him the admiration of all. In some of the houses of El Caney it was no strange sight to find sixty persons in a small room only fit for one bed, the streets presented a ghastly spectacle, with the great amount of debris and rotten mangos. Many people died of fever and intestinal complaints. Worthy of great praise was the work of the Red Cross Society of which Miss Clara Barton was the president, and Mr. Elwell her representative in Cuba. The assistance rendered by the great benevolent society is incomparable in the history of charitable acts.

The 11th of July, 1898, was a day of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rain poured as if the firmament was about to leave its center of gravity and fall down upon the poor unfortunates who were compelled to use the muddy ground as the best bed they could obtain. So gloomy did the situation of the Spanish forces appear to General Arsenio Linares that he wrote to the minister of war in Spain reporting the actual state of the Spanish forces in Cuba, they were in a very bad condition, the majority being sick. There was no forage for the stock, nor means for obtaining any. As it had been raining so much, the poor sick soldiers in the trenches were getting the worst of adverse fortune. The only rations they were living on was rice, and that in small quantities. Owing to the great amount of losses they were short of officers to conduct affairs, if the war continued any longer. Surrounded by sea and land by the Americans surrender was therefore necessary, General Linares also requested authority to sign the surrender of Santiago.

On Tuesday, July 12th, 1898, one could practically see the end of Spanish domination in America. There was a great conference held between Generals Miles, Shafter and Calixto Garcia which treated exclusively of the capitulation. Another conference was held on the 13th which lasted one hour, but this time its importance can be imagined when you take into account that it included General Wheeler. Toral was promised to be taken back to Spain with all his forces, on condition that he (Toral) did not have the fortifications destroyed and that all the arms be turned over to the United States Military Authorities. This was a complicated problem for General Toral to solve, and he was compelled to tell the American officials that the terms of surrender were satisfactory to him, but that it was impossible for him, his officers and men to turn over their arms on account of the Spanish Army Regulations having an article which prohibited any officer or enlisted man to surrender their arms. That any such a violation would cause them to be tried by court martial and shot. He also stated that before he assumed such a responsibility he would prefer to die with his men fighting. The commissioners appointed to settle the capitulation of Santiago met three times on July 14th, 1898, under the large silk cotton tree (Ceiba) on the San Juan battlefield, known as the Peace Tree. The first conference was held at 2 p.m., the second at 6 p.m. and the third at 9:30 p.m. On the same day the following document was signed by the American Commissioners and cabled by General Shafter to the United States Secretary of War:

Neutral Camp Near Santiago, Under Flag of Truce, July 14, 1898. Recognizing the gentlemanliness, valor and deportment of Generals Linares, Toral and other members of the Spanish army who took part in the recent engagements around Santiago de Cuba, we the undersigned officers of the United States Army who also had the honor of taking part in said engagements hereby constitute a duly authorized commission for the purpose of discussing the capitulation of Santiago de Cuba with a like number of Spanish officials, unanimously request that these gentlemanly soldiers be granted the privilege of returning to their country with the arms which they so proudly defended. (Signed) Joseph Wheeler, Major General, U.S. Army. W.H. Lawton, Major General, U.S. Army. J.D. Miley, 1st Lieutenant, 2nd U.S. Artillery, Adjutant.

While all these peace negotiations were taking place the people of El Caney and Cuabitas were ignorant of everything concerned. They were anxious for some responsible person to come and inform them of the actual situation. Their anxiety nevertheless ended unexpectedly about 5 p.m. of July 16th when General Calixto Garcia rode into Cuabita with his staff and an escort of Cavalrymen to inform the people that Santiago had surrendered. His general appearance was that of an old warrior of the time of Napoleon. When he arrived the refugees thronged around him and when they heard that everybody could return to their home again, a hearty "Viva Cuba Libre" sounded through the air from the multitudes. Preparations then began to be made for the return to the city of Santiago. The sick felt cured, the old felt young, in fact the general desire of returning to their homes made me think of the immortal John Howard Payne, author of "Home, Sweet Home." The streets were found in darkness. The reader can imagine what an impression the general aspect of the interior of many houses in Santiago made on their old occupants, which was even greater than that of the streets, furniture broken, clothes torn, kitchen utensils destroyed and many things thrown outdoors. This was a sure sign of plunder and pillage. Santiago was nothing more than a large dung yard. The heaps of debris in all the streets, dead animals and broken household articles. Absolutely nothing could be purchased anywhere. Water was so scarce that it was a problem to obtain any. The Plaza de Dolores, which is the second important park in Santiago was the grazing ground of the Spanish pack mules.

Capitulation of Santiago.

At 6 p.m. of July 16th, 1898, the American and Spanish commissioners met for the last time under the large silk cotton tree at the entrance of the San Juan battlefield and signed the surrender of Santiago. The document that was signed reads as follows:

Terms of the Military convention for the capitulation of all the Spanish forces in the Territory of the Division of Santiago de Cuba, which includes a line drawn through Aserradero, Dos Palmas, Lower Canto, Puesto Escondido, Sague de Ganamo and Aguilera to the northeast and south coasts of the Province including the Port of Santiago de Cuba, also all the forces under General Toral who represents the Spanish Kingdom and who is in this case represented by the undersigned commissioners Brigadier General Frederico Scario and Lieutenant Colonel Ventura Fontan "Staff Officer," Robert Mason acted as interpreter, Major Generals J. Wheeler and W. Lawton, and Lieutenant S.D. Miley representing the United States of America and her army. It is hereby agreed by the Commissioners of both Governments: First, That the hostilities between Spanish and American Armies cease definitely. Second, That the capitulation includes all the forces and material of war in said territory. Third, That the United States will convey all Spanish forces from said territory to the Kingdom of Spain with the least delay possible. Said Spanish forces to embark if possible at the port nearest to the places they occupy. Fourth, That all the officers of the Spanish army be allowed to carry their arms, and said officers and enlisted men be not deprived of their personal property. Fifth, That the Spanish Authorities will assist the United States Navy in removing all the sub-marine mines and other obstacles at the entrance of and in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba which may affect navigation. Sixth, The commander of the Spanish forces will turn over to the commander of the American forces without delay a complete inventory of the Spanish arms and ammunition of war, also a detailed list of all the forces in the territory. Seventh, The commanders of the Spanish forces on leaving said territory can take along the military archives and other documents belonging to the Spanish Army. Eighth, That all that part of the Spanish forces considered as volunteers and guerrillas who desire to remain in the Island of Cuba, can do so on condition that they turn over their arms and declare by oath that they will not take up same against the United States during the continuation of the present war between Spain and the United States of America. Ninth, That the Spanish forces will leave Santiago de Cuba with the honors of war, depositing their arms afterwards at a convenient place mutually arranged for until the disposal of same be determined by the United States Government, with the understanding that the American commissioners will recommend that the Spanish soldiers be permitted to return to their country with the arms they so bravely defended Spain with. Tenth, That the articles of this document will be in force immediately after signing them. Approved this sixteenth day of July 1898, by the undersigned commissioners who are conducting matters according to the instructions of their respective commanders-in-chief and with the approval also of their respective Governments. Federico Escario, J. Wheeler, H.W. Lawton, Ventura Fontan, S.D. Miley, Shafter. This capitulation is hereby approved in conformity with my instructions. JOSE TORAL.

The total number of Spanish forces which surrendered, was 17,500 men and were distributed as follows: Santiago de Cuba, 11,000, Guantanamo, 5,000, Baracoa and suburbs, 1,000. The Americans took possession of Santiago de Cuba on Sunday, July 17, 1898. At 9 a.m. of this day the Spanish flag was hoisted for the last time at Port Punta Blanca, a salute of 21 guns was fired and then it was taken down after having floated over Santiago de Cuba from the date on which the city was founded by Diego Velazquez, June 28, 1515. At 9:30 a.m. General Toral at the head of 100 Cavalry men, a company of infantry and four trumpeteers marched to the American line where General Shafter with several U.S. Naval officers was awaiting him with a like number of American forces. The American forces presented arms and marched, thereby attributing honors of war to the capitulated Spanish army. The Spanish forces then took up the march and deposited their arms at the place agreed upon and camped near the heights of San Juan and Las Lagunas. The greater part of the United States' forces camped around the outskirts of the city, and only 1,000 men marched into Santiago to take part in the ceremonies of the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes.

On the morning of this day, Admiral Sampson came steaming up Santiago harbor in one of the navy launches, with the honor that it had been the first boat to come into this port since the blockade. The port was received at 10 a.m. by an officer of the United States army. Later on General Shafter and his staff, accompanied by a number of American naval officers, lined up at the northern part of the Plaza de Armas facing the administration building or Governor's Palace, and as the clock struck 12, First Lieut. J. D. Miley of the U.S. Artillery, standing on the roof of the palace with two subordinates, hoisted the Star Spangled Banner amidst heavy roar of cannon, hurras and the sweet melody of the American national anthem. General Toral then proceeded to deliver his sword to General Shafter inside the palace. General Toral said, "Destiny compels me to turn over the city and forts of Santiago de Cuba to General Shafter of the American army." The sword, however, was not accepted by General Shafter, who replied, "I receive the city in the name of the United States."

All the Spanish forces at Punta Gooda, Mora Castle and Socapa were shipped to the wharf at Las Cruces, where the Juragua Iron company now makes their shipments of iron ore to the United States. These Spanish forces then marched to the city of Santiago de Cuba, headed by their commanders, and deposited their arms and ammunition at the Arsenal. Their broken hearted appearance would have caused their bitterest enemy to shed a tear. Shortly after this surrender, there occurred a misunderstanding between General Shafter and General Calixto Garcia whereby the former General would not authorize the Cuban forces to march into Santiago triumphantly like the Americans did. This incident grieved the Cuban General so much that he at once tendered his resignation.

The losses sustained by Spain at the hands of the Americans was so great that the Spanish Government was compelled to ask for peace through the French Ambassador in Washington. The treaty of Peace was signed in Washington on August 12th, 1898, and contained the following articles: 1 Spain renounces all rights against the Island of Cuba. Spain cedes Porto Rico to the United States. 3 The United States will occupy Manila until a treaty be signed that will determine the disposal of the Philippines. 4 Spain must evacuate the Island of Cuba and Porto Rico and at the same time appoint the Commissioners that are to carry out same. 5 Each Nation will appoint five Commissioners to discuss the Treaty of Peace. 6 Suspension of hostilities. The Commissioners appointed by the United States and Spain met in Paris on the 1st of October, 1898, and having agreed upon the terms of the Treaty of Peace signed the same on the 10th day of December, 1898. The treaty contained seventeen articles by which Spain relinquished all claims against Cuba. From that moment Cuba was supposed to be under Military occupation of the United States.

After the Spanish-American war was ended General Calixto Garcia mustered out the Cuban army of Independence and came to the United States on a special Commission but unfortunately died on December 12, 1898. His body was given great honors in Washington and also in Havana after it was transferred there.

The American intervention commenced on January 1st, 1899, with General John R. Brooks as First Military Governor. After peace was completely secured in Cuba, the first step taken by President William McKinley was to direct General Leonard Wood to have a constitution framed for the future Republic of Cuba in order to give strict compliance to the Joint Resolution already referred to. This great work was started on November 5th, 1900, and approved February 21st, 1901. When the Cuban Constitution was framed it was authorized by Theodore Roosevelt who was then President of the United States. The Cuban Intervention continued until the 20th of May, 1902, when General Leonard Wood by order of the Government of the United States turned over the Island of Cuba to Thomas Estrado Palma, first president of the Republic of Cuba.

In closing I would say for the benefit of my comrades in the Cuban war that the territory known as San Juan de Mayares is now owned by a Theosophical society, presided over by Miss Katherine Tingley of the Raja Yoga Institute at Point Loma, California, which society has constructed a magnificent gateway just opposite the Surrender Tree that is on the San Juan Battlefield.

J. J. TURNER, Sergeant Company D, 1st Volunteer Cavalry

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