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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"
Chapter 15 - Spanish-American War
by Marshall Cousins
Assignment to Battalions
(-as transcribed from pages 226 - 241)
In the State organization the regiment was divided into three battalions, and companies were grouped on geographical lines as far as possible. They took their numerical designations from the rank of their Majors. The same assignments and designations continued in the United States service, as follows:
May 13 formal orders were received for the regiment to move on Saturday, May 14. Their designation was Camp Thomas, Chickamauga Park, Ga. Friday was spent in packing up and saying good-bye to friends. Saturday morning bright and early the camp was astir and baggage hauled to the train. At 3:30 o'clock the first section pulled out. The regiment moved in three sections, Colonel Moore, Major George and Major Kircheis, respectively, in charge of sections. In the second section, under Major George, were about five hundred men, being companies of B, C, E, H, I and M. Chicago was reached after dark and some time passed in switching in and about the stock yards. It was well along in the night before the train pulled away for the Southland.
Sunday morning dawned on the regiment making its way through Indiana. At every station the troops were greeted by large crowds. The ladies were out in summer frocks and bright colors. The grass was green and foliage well out. Leaving Indiana the regiment passed through Kentucky and into Tennessee. At Nashville they found Quartermaster Sergeant Ludington awaiting them. He had left the first section and reported a pleasing compliment paid the regiment by an officer of the regular army, noticing Sergeant Ludington, inquired of him what regiment had just pulled out. The Sergeant reported it was the Third Wisconsin, to which the officer replied, "No, it was some regular army regiment. No volunteer regiment carried itself as the regiment which just left." The Sergeant, however, convinced him it was the Third Wisconsin.
Monday morning, May 16, the regiment found itself in Chattanooga and after several hours on the road reached Lytle, the detraining station for Camp Thomas. Between Chattanooga and Lytle they had their first view of Lookout Mountain. The First Battalion under Major George was quickly under way after detraining and was conducted by a guide to the Kelley Field; where they were instructed to await the arrival of the remainder of the regiment. While the battalion was resting on the field they first met their Brigade Commander, General Andrew S. Burt. The General, alone and dismounted, came out from under the shade and approached Lieutenant Cousins. He wore a plain service uniform, showing considerable wear, and was close up to the Battalion Adjutant before that officer discovered the stars on the shoulder straps. The General hardly waited for the formal salute, but stepped forward and extended his hand, introducing himself, remarked, "Possibly the order has not yet reached you, but I have the honor to be your Brigade Commander. My name is Burt."
General Andrew S. Burt had for many years been Colonel of the 25th Infantry, colored, and had made a soldierly, well-disciplined body of men out of that regiment. He was one of the first officers in the regular service promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers. He had a long and splendid record and the Third Infantry of Wisconsin was pleased to be assigned to his brigade. General Burt also expressed pleasure at having the Wisconsin men assigned to him.
Grounds for the camp were assigned to the regiment just off the Kelley Field. Streets were mapped out, all facing north. Baggage was very late in arriving and many of the companies were unable to put up their tents before night fall. Major George's tent and that of his Adjutant were but a few feet from the monument of the First Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, where they did severe fighting on September 23, 1863. There were other monuments in all directions.
The camp was very well shaded and ground level. The Kelley Field, just to the west of the camp, furnished fine opportunity for drilling and parade. There were also fine grounds to the east of the camp in the woods, and here the battalion drilled during the stay at Camp Thomas in the battle exercises.
On Tuesday evening the 17th, the Third put on evening parade on the historical Kelley Field and the exercises attracted a number of spectators.
The regiment began daily drills, but during the mid-day hours, ten to four o'clock, owing to the heat, to which the men were unaccustomed, Colonel Moore ordered a general rest.
Friday, May 20, unwelcome news reached the regiment that General Burt, to whom they had become much attached, had been transferred and ordered to Tampa. The command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel C. B. Hunt, of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Sunday, May 22, occurred the first death in the regiment, that of Private Charles Neck, of E Company. He had been reported sick on Saturday and died at 4:20 Sunday morning. Captain Ballard was with him at the time of his death. The body was removed during the day and alter interred in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga. Private Neck was one of those who had joined the company at the call for troops and his death was deeply regretted by all his comrades.
Monday, May 23, a division review was held in the morning. Fifty-four hundred men passed the reviewing officer. The Third Wisconsin and the Sixteenth Pennsylvania were pronounced the best appearing regiments.
Wednesday, May 25, a battle exercise was held. The division took part in the exercise. The first battalion of the Third marched to Snodgrass Hill, where they took post, and later under orders fell back towards McFarlane's Gap. This was the ground over which Wisconsin troops fought in September, 1863. Evening parade was before General James H. Wilson, who reviewed the regiment following parade.
May 27 the regiment was vaccinated from the Colonel down and many sore arms were the result for some days. Some of the men, after passing the surgeons themselves, found much amusement in watching the others while the surgeons were performing their task upon them. Some men would walk up without a flinch or change of expression and smile while the virus was being applied. Others showed the greatest concern and several fainted.
May 28, through the Chattanooga papers, the pleasing information reached the regiment that their long-time friend, Captain Charles King, had been named by president McKinley for Brigadier General of Volunteers. Major George's battalion wired him their congratulations. This day was taken up with a tiresome, thorough inspection of equipment. Late in the afternoon General Charles R. Boardman arrived from Jacksonville. He represented Governor Scofield and presented new commissions made out on parchment. The regiment paraded before him. He was much pleased with the inspections reports on the Wisconsin troops.
On Monday, May 30, the regiment assembled about the First Wisconsin monument at 10:30 and held Memorial day services. Addresses were made by Colonel Moore and the Chaplain. Never before did the men of the regiment so fully appreciate the meaning of the day. On this historical spot the first Wisconsin and the Tenth Wisconsin, on September 19 and 20, 1863, rendered valiant service for the Union cause. The Tenth Wisconsin monument shows a full-size figure of a soldier made to represent the brave Lieutenant Colonel John A. Ely, whose regiment was driven back across the ground now occupied by the Third Infantry camp to the LaFayette road beyond the old Kelley Field. Colonel Ely fell at daybreak on September 20. Out of the 240 men of the Tenth Infantry engaged, the total loss was 211 killed and wounded.
June 1 a rumor reached the camp the Third would in all probability be ordered to the Philippines, but nothing further was heard concerning such an order. Several years afterwards it was learned it had been seriously considered by the authorities and it was probably only a rule established many years previously by a division commander that prevented the Third from going to the Philippines in General King's brigade.
Had battalion drill on June 2, Captain Ballard of E Company commanded. He was the senior captain of the battalion as well as of the regiment, and at frequent intervals during the absence or sickness of Major George Captain Ballard was in command. He was fully competent to handle the battalion and reflected credit not only upon himself but his company.
On June 3, Colonel Moore was in command of the brigade owing to the absence of Colonel Culver, of the Fifth Illinois, and Colonel Hunt, of Ohio. The brigade was reviewed by Colonel Moore in the evening.
Large detail from the regiment engaged June 8 and 9 in building bath houses. Captain Hommel, of A Company, took charge of this work and made the plans, and by the use of canvas partitions a very serviceable row of bath houses was erected in the woods east of the camp. The pipes supplying the water to the baths were placed very near the surface of the ground and the hot sun heated the water to a point where it was scalding when the showers were turned on. However the baths were exceedingly popular and served their purpose well.
June 9 orders were received to recruit the companies to 106 men and a Lieutenant from each battalion and a noncomissioned officer from each company were detailed to go to the home stations for this purpose. Lieutenant Hiram Nye, first Lieutenant C Company, Hudson, went from the First Battalion, together with Sergeants Horace L. Whittier, of E Company, Eau Claire; Milton F. Swant, of H Company, Menomonie; Charles W. Newton, of I Company, Superior, and Alfred P. Goss, of C Company, Hudson.
On the 11th a division review was held. The Third Wisconsin was the first regiment to pass and had the opportunity of seeing the other regiments march by.
On June 15 an order came from headquarters directing that a Lieutenant from each company not already represented at home stations be sent on recruiting service at once. Lieutenant Cochrane, of E Company, was sent on this duty to Eau Claire. On this day General O. H. Ernest assumed command of the brigade. The Third is in the First Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps. Colonel Hunt, of the First Ohio, had been in command since the departure of General Burt.
Sunday, June 26, orders were received to prepare to move at once. Twelve regiments, it was announced, would probably go. The First Kentucky was dropped from the First Brigade and the Eighth Massachusetts took its place.
This day arrived the E Company recruits. The names appear elsewhere in this article, following the names of the original muster roll. The rookies were given a hearty welcome by the veterans of the company.
Friday, July 1, was a welcome day, as Major Doyan paid off the regiment in crisp new bills. The Major was a Wisconsin man.
July 3, Sunday, just after parade, received an order to prepare to start at any moment for the front.
Independence Day was a day of rush and uncertainty. It opened with a salute by the Ohio battery in honor of the birth of the nation. The regimental commissary had gone to the depot at five o'clock to draw travel rations in accordance with orders. There the commissary found orders which directed the issue be withheld until three o'clock. In the meantime the regiment was breaking camp and preparing for the march to the trains. Shortly after three came an order directing the remaking of the camp and putting up of tents. It had been expected the regiment would march to Ringgold at eight in the evening. It was a disgusted and tired regiment at sundown.
Early July 5 the commissary again reported for rations and after hours of delay the travel ration was issued. Again came the order to pack up and march to Ringgold. At three o'clock the regiment swung into the road for the twelve-mile march to the waiting trains.
The recruits who joined in June had not been fully equipped or drilled and were left behind. They numbered about twenty in each company, or two hundred and forty in all. Major George, of the First Battalion, was left in command of the recruits and Captain Ballard, of E Company, commanded the battalion. Among other officers left behind was the popular, able and soldierly First Lieutenant of I Company, William H. Smith. Major Jeff and Billy Smith, as they were popularly called by their fellow officers, with tear-dimmed eyes watched the departure of the regiment.
The march led through a beautiful country and the regiment was heartily greeted by the wayside, excepting in one instance. In this case an unreconstructed rebel paraded his premises with an old musket over his shoulder, shouting threats of destruction upon the marching columns. At one point a group of pretty girls came out with buckets of cooling drinks for officers and men. Ringgold was reached about dark and the regiment quickly entrained in three sections and was away for the coast.
Wednesday morning found the trains in Atlanta and all that day they were traveling from Atlanta to the sea. The train service was slow and a number of breakdowns of the engines occurred. It was not until the morning of Friday, July 7, the regiment reached Charleston. After considerable delay the Third was assigned to its barracks, which were the old warehouses on the docks, and into these they quickly moved. From the docks could be seen Fort Sumter, and two torpedo boats were anchored but a few rods from the docks. Down the bay were two recently captured Spanish prizes. On Friday, July 8, the day following arrival, the regiment marched through the city to Marion Square and there held evening parade just back of the heroic statue of John C. Calhoun and between the statue and the South Carolina Military Academy. This academy had been an institution of learning previous to the Civil War and when Charleston fell was taken by the Federal troops, who maintained a large garrison there for several years.
The people and officials of Charleston extended a hearty welcome to the troops. Every courtesy was shown them. Merchants sold the soldiers at cost price. Committees of ladies visited the organization with a view to giving attention to the sick. They advised the city hospitals would care for those men the surgeons thought needed such care. The mayor of Charleston supplied each regiment with one thousand pounds of ice daily. Many invitations from citizens to officers and men for meals were extended. All clubs were thrown open to officers. The people of Charleston did what they could to make the stay of the troops pleasant and comfortable.
Thursday, July 14, came the news of the surrender of Santiago. When the regiment left Camp Thomas it was intended to rush it through to Santiago for the reinforcement of General Shafter, who had called for additional troops. In the meantime, however, General Miles had gone into Santiago and quickly brought the Spaniards to terms. It was now announced the Third would go to Puerto Rico in an expedition under command of General Miles. The work of loading began on the 13th, and officers slept on board that night. Throughout the night a large force was engaged in coaling and loading. Major George and Lieutenant Smith, with the recruits left at Camp Thomas, arrived and were given a hearty welcome. Lieutenant Smith at once took command of the Superior Company, it having been without officers for several days, Captain Newton and Lieutenant Swift both being sick in the hospital.
On the morning of the 14th, orders came to unload. The same condition of indecision appeared to prevail as just before the regiment left Camp Thomas. A fire in the hold of the vessel during the day burned a part of the bedding rolls belonging to the officers, but did no other damage.
July 15 the orders were first to load and then to unload. This was repeated several times.
On Saturday, July 16, the regiment was ordered out for one of the practice marches which occasioned so much comment in the Wisconsin papers. Many men fell out during the march and some were very ill after being taken back to the barracks. The day was particularly hot and very few of the men were properly prepared for a long march. Some had eaten little or no breakfasts and for some distance the line of march lay through the city.
Another such march was taken on Monday, the 18th, over a different route, and while some men fell out the number was not as great as on Saturday. On Monday's march the column crossed a long bridge, which swayed, and the motion caused several men to become sick.
These marches caused much criticism in Wisconsin and the brigade and division commanders were severely censured. Governor Scofield demanded an investigation by the war department.
The marches were severe and uncalled for, but a few weeks later the regiment thought nothing of making considerably longer marches under worse conditions, without a man falling out or grumbling. Had these marches been made to meet an enemy there would have been no falling out. As it was, the men were heartily tired of the indecision and uncertainty as to movements. They were anxious to be in Spanish territory. Time and time again had the boat been loaded and then unloaded. Just before the march began, a rumor came the regiment was to go up the coast several miles and go into a bivouac camp for a couple of weeks. The disappointment, and the failure to properly prepare themselves for the march were largely responsible for the unfortunate results.
On the 19th again they were loading. Men worked all night of the 18th-19th, loading the transportation into Transport No. 21. About five o'clock on the 20th the men were ordered aboard the Obdam. This was a freighter which had been purchased by the government. Its official title was "Transport No. 30, Quartermaster's Department, U. S. A." It was illy fitted for carrying a large body of men. All the afternoon thousands of citizens had been crowding the dock and at six o'clock the Obdam pushed off, the regimental band playing national airs and men and citizens wildly cheering. Just beyond Sumter anchor was dropped for the night.
Eleven companies of the Third traveled on the Obdam, one company being detached and sent on No. 21 with the transportation. The officers' horses were carried on the Obdam. General Wilson and staff traveled with the Third and General Ernst and staff with the Second, which was on the "Grand Duchess." Early on the morning of July 21 the Charleston bar was crossed and the troops were on their way to Puerto Rico.
July 25 land was sighted in the afternoon about four o'clock. It was expected to meet a warship at this point. None, however, was in sight. At dark all lights were ordered out and the Obdam cruised at half speed in a circle throughout the night. During the night, out of the darkness, came "The Wasp." Great consternation and fright was caused by her searchlight being suddenly thrown on the boat. She had come up with all lights out and discovered the Obdam before the lookout on that boat knew another boat was anywhere about. The searchlight came through the blackness like a shaft of fire.
Orders were then received to proceed to Guanico, where General Miles had effected a landing the day before.
The Obdam proceeded under full steam and about daylight was met by a warship, the Columbia. This great fighting machine looked decidedly grim in the morning light. She wore her battle garb of bluish-gray paint and was stripped for action. Guided by the Columbia, the Obdam made its way into the beautiful, tranquil harbor. Here a glorious view unfolded itself to the interested soldiers. They were not allowed to disembark and after an interval again steamed out into deeper water, where they came to anchor. The Massachusetts, in all her grim glory, lay but a few rods away.
At daylight, July 28, Thursday, the naval vessels and transports were on their way to Ponce. Accompanying the Obdam were the Massachusetts and the cruisers Gloucester and Dixie. Orders were given to disembark and the Third Infantry was given the honor of leading the way. The shallow harbor made it necessary to use lighters and the ships were anchored at a considerable distance from the shore. Major George, First Battalion, was given the lead, and Captain Ballard, with E Company, entered the first lighter, which was slowly propelled towards the shore. The men were in readiness to fight for a landing. As the ships came to anchor they were surrounded by small boats containing natives cheering for the "Americanos," but on the dock could be seen many men in uniform. These, from the ships, resembled soldiers. It was found later, however, they were members of the Ponce fire department. Their red shirts made them very conspicuous. They were there to welcome and not repel. Captain Ballard landed without resistance and was directed by General Miles, who had run in ahead of the light in a launch, to take immediate possession of the custom house. The other companies were disembarked as rapidly as possible. Before landing of the troops the civil authorities, through the foreign representatives, had surrendered the city to the naval officers. The garrison had withdrawn and was fleeing down the military road in the direction of Coamo. The story of the surrender and the landing of the troops is told in the La Nueva Era, a newspaper published at Ponce, in the issue of July 30, 1898. The paper was printed principally in the Spanish language, but a few columns gave the account of the landing of the troops in English, and it is quoted herewith:
"On the 27th inst., at 2 p.m., a fleet approaching the port was signalled from the signal hill, and truly from all the roofs and points of vantage of the city could be seen three ships nearing our harbor at great speed, of which two were apparently transports and the other a tug. It did not take them long to come into port and anchor. After a while a boat was seen to leave the side of one of the ships bearing a white flag, reached the shore shortly afterwards with an officer, who on landing bent his steps to the captain of the port's office in search of the military commander of the town, for whom he had a dispatch.
"The captain of the port answered him that he had no military jurisdiction and sent for the military commander, residing up town here, to take delivery of the dispatch brought by said officer. At about this time a small volunteer force got into position near the custom house, and the two companies of the regulars, which on the first alarm of the approach of the American fleet had been ordered to the port, were stationed on the road leading from here to the harbor. With the latter forces came the late military commander of this district, Colonel Sanmartin.
"On the latter being informed that there was an American officer bearing, under flag of truce, a despatch for him, he replied that without direct authority from the governor general he could not receive it. On getting this reply the American officer informed the captain of the port that he would give half an hour's grace for the military commander to come and take delivery of the despatch.
"In the meantime Sanmartin had come up town and had a conference with the governor by wire, laying before him the state of affairs. But as the hour fixed by the American officer was drawing to its close, and he threatened to return on board with the despatch undelivered, two members of the counsular body - Messrs. F. M. Toro, British vice consul, and P. J. Rosaly, vice consul of the Netherlands - went down to the port together with our mayor - Mr. R. U. Colom - and one of our citizens - Mr. P. J. Fournier - with the object of requesting an extension of the time fixed by the officer to await the reply of the governor general.
"It seems that the latter's answer to the military commander was that he should do his duty; by which, we suppose, he implied that resistance should be made, in spite of the immense superiority of the invading forces and of the fleet, which, by this time, had increased by the arrival of several vessels more. As the American commander grew impatient at the non-return of the first boat sent ashore, they sent another, bringing two officers and a squad of soldiers, who bore with them the American flag and two rockets for signalling, we presume, in case of need. Said officers with the squad and flag advanced as far as the very door of captain of the port's office; but the British vice consul requested that the soldiers should withdraw to the seashore, the officer with Old Glory, etc., remaining, however, at the door of the building. The consular and other officers entered the building. They were there received by the captain of the port, who, by the way, was dressed in a soiled white drill suit without any insignia to denote his rank. The German vice consul - Mr. H. C. Fritze - joined his colleagues of England and the Netherlands in their good offices in the matter, together with the American merchant, Mr. Lucas Valliviese.
"Said consuls began to work to bring about the surrender of the town (which had been demanded at discretion), in their desire to avoid bloodshed and damage to the town, as the Spanish forces were insignificant, compared with those of the United States and besides the Spaniard having no defensive works or artillery to answer the fire of the fleet. At about 10 p.m. it was rumored that an armistice had been arranged, in virtue of which the Spanish forces would evacuate the town and that the American troops would not land within a stipulated time to allow the former forces to get well on their way to Aibonito. It was reported that this arrangement was firm and the people began to treat more freely about the peaceful solution of the conflict. But unhappily their joy was of short duration as - about 1 a.m. - it began to be noised about that the governor general had deposed the military commander, Sanmartin, ordering him to give up the command to the lieutenant-colonel of the Civil Guards, instructing the latter to offer resistance to the invading forces.
"On this becoming known the alarm was great among all classes, and the exodus to the neighboring country, which had already begun in the afternoon and evening, was immense, approaching nearly to a panic. But the vice consuls continued their labors to obtain that the armistice arranged with Colonel Sanmartin by them should be respected and kept in good faith, and the representative of England and Germany protested against its being broken and brought to bear on the negotiations all the weight that their nations represent.
"The lieutenant-colonel of the Civil Guard, on his part, seeing the impossibility of resistance to the powerful fleet of the enemy, which had been reinforced by several ships more, with the means he had at his disposal, decided at length to evacuate the town, retiring with all the forces under his command, by the road leading to the interior of the island.
"As soon as this decision was arrived at the retreat began, but not before attempting to set fire to the railroad station, in which they only succeeded in burning a few cars. But even after the retreat there was anxiety among the inhabitants, as it was reported that the powder magazine of the barracks would be blown up before the Spaniards left the town definitely; we are happy to say that this did not happen.
"The town was left in charge of the local first brigade, who undertook the duty of keeping order, but their services were not called upon that night, nor have been since, as not the slightest disturbance has taken place. Ponce gave proofs of its good sense as usual. At daybreak the next morning a half dozen men of the American forces hoisted the Stars and Stripes on the custom house together with the headquarters' flag of the commander in chief. Later the flag was unfurled over the town hall.
"The landing of the troops began and were distributed about in accordance with instructions of the American commanders. The people welcomed the American forces as liberators and friends and with the greatest demonstrations of joy and heartiness.
"The commander of the expeditionary forces decided that the municipal and judicial authorities should remain at their post as well as the local police and the employees of the custom house, which latter is in charge of Colonel Hill, appointed inspector of the port and customs. The American troops have entered this town with the greatest order and are fraternizing with the people. Said troops later relieved the firemen at guard duty at the city prison and other places.
"The political prisoners have been set at liberty and among them our friends, Messrs. Santiago Geraldino, Rudolfo Figueroa, Jose Hilaria Roche and others. We heartily congratulate them all. The inhabitants that had gone into the country have gradually begun to return to town, in which the greatest order prevails.
"At the town hall there took place an incident worthy of mention. Mr. Figueroa, who had been just set free, went up to the Seasions hall and unslinging the portrait of the queen regent with the king and the crown which overtopped them, attempted to throw them over the balcony, saying: 'There go the remnants of Spanish domination.' But an American officer who was present interfered in a friendly way, requesting that said picture and crown should be given him as a historical memento of the occasion, which request was immediately granted."
Notice. "To the office has been brought a hat belonging to one of the guards of the army at present in the city. It is marked R. J. Bilie, Fort Wingate, N. M. We hold same at the disposal of said guard.."
After landing, the troops were surrounded by frantic natives, shouting, laughing, waving flags and crying, "Viva Americanos! Viva Americanos!"
An orderly from General Roy Stone, of the army, reported a short time after Major George had landed, to that officer, with a message from General Stone requesting a detail be sent to him at the railway depot in the city. The orderly reported General Stone, with two or three staff officers and orderlies, had gone into the city and found the Spaniards had evacuated. The General desired the escort for which he sent to accompany a train he was making up to proceed to Yauco. Before leaving, contrary to pledges given the authorities, the Spanish troops had attempted to burn the depot and rolling stock and disable the locomotives. The fire department had saved the depot and most of the cars. Mechanics soon made the locomotives available for use.
Major George directed Captain Ballard to detail a Lieutenant and seventeen men from his company to proceed to the station and report to General Stone. The detail was made up as follows:
Corporal Bartlett, Corporal Bradley, Privates Carroll, Kelley, Harry Fowler, Curry, Eldridge, Watson, Holberg, Nichols, Calvert, Hibbard, Charles Johnson, Rohn, McKinnon, Van Wagenan, Samuels.
The city of Yauco had been in possession of American troops for several days. None of the enemy were encountered on the trip. The train proceeded wight caution, but found efforts to destroy the track had failed.
A sensational and fabulous story was sent back from the island of the capture of Yauco by this detachment of E Company, and many of the men were greatly annoyed that such a story should have been published.
About noon Major George, with companies H, Captain Ohnstad, and I, Captain Newton, marched into the city and took possession of the barracks. This was a very fine building, built of concrete, located in a plaza, and was capable of housing a regiment. It had been occupied up to five o'clock on the morning of the 28th, by the 25th Infantry of the Spanish Army. Everything in the barracks was in confusion. In the officers' quarters clothing and articles of personal property were strewn about everywhere. Evidently they had picked out the valuables but abandoned all else in their haste to get a change of air. The courtyard was surrounded by a high stone wall. A ladder against this wall showed that some had departed by this route rather than to lose the time to go around by the gate. Before leaving they had set fire to the magazine, which stood in one corner of the courtyard, but a detachment of the fire department had extinguished this blaze.
In the office of the Commandant, Adjutant Cousins found, among other papers, a communication written in Spanish, addressed to the commanders of detachments at other points, giving the plan for the defense of the islands. It was intended all troops should, after a resistance, gradually drop back, avoiding decisive engagements, but retard the American advances as much as possible until San Juan was reached. Here they proposed to annihilate Uncle Sam's men. this communication was forwarded by Major George to General Wilson.
A large number of machetes and other weapons were found in the barracks, together with ammunition. Some of this ammunition created comment, as the balls appeared to be brass jacketed. A considerable quantity of rations was also captured. The hard bread was a great contrast to that in use by the Americans. It was made up in round disks about the size of an American pie and five-eighths inch in thickness. To all appearances it made an excellent food and certainly looked appetizing, being nicely browned.
H and I Companies remained at the barracks for several days. C Company, of Major George's battalion, was on outposts to the west of the city. E Company was left at the port. Colonel Moore, with other companies of the regiment, established a camp north of the city on the road leading towards San Juan.
The road from the port to the city is along a beautiful highway. On both sides the luxuriant growth of tropical vegetation appealed to the eye. In all directions could be seen the flags of France, England, Holland and other European countries. A celebration was quickly organized by the citizens.
To show their pleasure many engaged in festooning trees and the streets were strips of paper. These strips were put up in goodly-sized rolls and the rolls could be thrown over tree branches and across streets. In many of the yards foliage was largely concealed by this form of decoration.
Most of the places of business in the city were closed and the windows protected by heavy wooden shutters. Many of the merchants and wealthier class had sent the ladies and children out of the city, expecting bombardment and a battle between the Spanish troops and the Americans for possession. The Spaniards, for a long time, had industriously circulated reports of the villainies committed by the American soldiers and many of the natives stood in fear of the treatment they might receive. This feeling of fear quickly passed.
A brief sketch of the island of Puerto Rico and the landing of General Miles will not come amiss at this point.
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