THE TAKING OF SANTIAGO DE CUBA.* THESE three volumes will
give the general reader perhaps the first opportunity he has had of learning the fall truth about
• The -Campaign of Santiago de Cabs. By Henry H. Sargent. With Maps, 3 vols. Leaden-1 Kogan Paul, Trench, and Co. [2ile. net.]
the Spanish-American War in Cuba. By the terms of the capitulation, when Santiago was banded over to the Americans, the Spanish commander was allowed to carry away all the records of military affairs in Eastern Cuba. This has made it very difficult to obtain accurate information as to the numbers of the Spanish forces which operated against the Americans. But Colonel Sargent has been informed by a statement from the Spanish Government as to the total of the Spanish army in the whole of Cuba, and its general dis- position. It is unfortunate, of course, that he has not been able to discover the precise composition of the Spanish corps in the only part of Cuba where the Americans were seriously engaged, or the text of most of the Spanish military orders ; but enough is set forth here to enable one to form a final judgment on the sharp and decisive campaign of 1898. No subsequent details can alter our opinion .on the main fact that Spain had almost two hundred thousand men in Cuba, and that after putting less than two thousand men in the firing-line against the Americans, and sustaining only one serious day's fight- ing, the Spanish General at Santiago, with the sanction of his Government, surrendered Eastern Cuba and some twenty-two thousand troops. The Spaniards who were allowed to fight fought well enough, as they nearly always do in defensive positions—at the village of El Caney they behaved magnificently—but the greater the tribute we pay to the soldier-like qualities of these troops, the more sweeping must be the condemnation of the gross incompetence of the strategy which, out of the immense army in the island, brought only a handful to oppose the Americans. General Shafter's army, which procured the downfall of Santiago and Eastern Cuba, numbered only some eighteen thousand men. Colonel Sargent's commentary is the most favourable to General Shaffer that we have read. It gives him the credit of com- prehending exactly what was needed, and acting swiftly and resolutely. Yet one may admit almost as much as this and still believe that General Sheller made mistakes which the stupidity and slowness of the Spaniards alone prevented from being turned into disasters. We cannot put too much emphasis on the extraordinary fact we have already stated that an army of nearly two hundred thousand men, after long warning that an invading force was on its way from the United States, behaved with a lethargy which was positively generous.
The world heard so little of the gradual but unremitting transference of soldiers from Spain to Cuba that even the Americans, who had watched ,Cuba closely for three years before the Spanish-American War, had no notion that so large an army was in the island :—
"At the time the American authorities did not know, even approximately, how many troops were in Cuba and Porto Rico. The number in Cuba was variously estimated by the commanding general, Major-General Nelson A. Miles, and others; but none of these estimates, it is believed, was equal to the actual number. On April 12 the Consul-General of Cuba, Fitzhugh Leo, testified before the Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs, that there were probably ninety-seven or ninety-eight thousand Spanish soldiers then in the island, of whom only about fifty-five thousand were capable of bearing arms. General Miles estimated the number at one hundred and fifty thousand, whioh, though much nearer the truth, was still about forty-six thousand less than the actual number."
It is worth while to remark that the difficulties of oversea transportation, for invasion or any other purpose, have been
commonly represented as more difficult than they are if a Country like Spain, without attracting any attention, .could ship so great an army from Europe to the West.
Colonel Sargent discusses the naval as well as the military strategy of the war, and thinks, in accordance, we believe, with the opinion ef, Captain Mahan, that Cervera, the Spanish Admiral, should have been allowed to keep his fleet at the Canaries or some spot near home. In that case Cervera would have been ready to defend the Spanish coast towns in case of need, and if the Americans had sailed to search him out, they could have done Bo only with part of their Navy. So long as his fleet was in existence, it would have hampered all the American movements. He was not really strong enough to make it worth while to go to Cuba, and by so doing he allowed the American squadrons to join forces. As an
example of the effect on the movements of armies of the existence of hostile ships, we might mention the delay in the sailing of Shafter's expeditionary force from Tampa, in Florida, because three Spanish ships were vaguely reported in the Gulf of Mexico. These ships existed only in rumour, yet, intimidated by ghosts, Shafter's army, which was already embarked, was kept in harbour for some days, and to a certain extent disembarked. When Cervera received definite orders to sail for Cuba, he wrote to his Government :—
" I will try to sail to-morrow. As the act has been con- summated I will not insist upon my opinion concerning it. May God grant that I be mistaken ! . . . With a clear conscience I go to the sacrifice."
We cannot follow the movements of this brave and unhappy man. Enough to say that when he reached Martinique he was ordered back to Spain ; but it was too late, as he was without coal and without any certain hope of getting any.
After being "bottled up" in Santiago Harbour, he never ceased to protest against the wish of Captain-General Blanco, gradually forced upon him, and eventually translated into a peremptory command, that he should make a sortie from the harbour. When the sortie was made in full daylight, Cervera led the way in his flagship, and the sacrifice which he had foreseen from the beginning was duly performed. The Spanish Government and the Spanish military commanders were alike blind to the fighting weakness of their ships, and it is difficult to know what to say of the amazing despatch of Blanco, in which he writes as though the behaviour of the !arge Spanish army under him in Cuba depended upon the whereabouts of half-a-dozen inefficient Spanish ships :—
"Have asked Commandant of Navy whether he has received news of our squadron. He tells me [that he] received from San Juan confidential cipher message saying that telegram has been sent to commander-in-chief of squadron at Fort de France that his instructions are amplified, and if he cannot operate there successfully may return to Peninsula. If this should happen, situation here would be wholly untenable, and I could not prevent bloody revolution in this capital and whole island, feeling being already overmuch excited by delay in arrival of our squadron. Therefore, beg your excellency to tell me whether it is true that order has been issued to squadron to return to Peninsula, and if so does government realise significance of such a decision, which might be the cause of a bloody page staining our history, and of final loss of this island and the honour of Spain. If our squadron is defeated, it would increase here determination to vanquish or die; but if it flees, panic and revolution are certain."
The American Admiral, Sampson, was anxious that Shatter should attack the mouth of Santiago Harbour as well as advancing on the city from another direction, but Shatter refused to divide his army. No doubt he was right, though be might, as things turned out, have safely taken almost any liberties with the Spanish commanders. And yet when the grand assault was made on the San Juan bills outside the city Shatter did in effect divide his army, because a large part of it was detached to capture the village of El Caney on the American right. Shatter, of course, thought that his line could swing round and, so to speak, take El Caney in its stride, and all unite without delay for the chief attack. He might easily have been justified, but surely he ought to have observed accurately bow matters were going at El Caney before allow- ing his main force to become so hotly engaged in front of Santiago. As it was, the scaling of the San Juan bills carried out by less than all the forces available, was thoroughly artless and splendidly brave. It was just a soldiers' battle. When the hills were won the army was suspended, as it were, in mid- air without reserves and without any sure supply of food from behind. If a few of the twenty-two thousand Spaniards in the neighbourhood of the city of Santiago had threatened the rear of the Americans, the army would certainly have been compelled to fall back, • and the access of confidence which this would have brought to the Spaniards would have enabled them to hold their strong positions long enough for the Americans to be exhausted and demoralised by yellow and malarial fevers. Of course, a country with a population of nearly eighty million people would have eventually conquered Cuba, and, if necessary, Spain herself; but the army of Shatter would never have reached Santiago, and but a small part of it would have returned to the United States.
In our opinion, Colonel Sargent is hardly fair to the Cuban insurgents. It is no criticism to judge them by the standards of Regular Armies. They bad a supreme knowledge of their country, and if what may be called their busheraft had been used more wisely for pilotage, we question whether Shatter would have sent his army through the two jungle lanes to San Juan simply because those lanes happened to be the obvious tracks. They were equally obvious to the Spaniards, who directed their fire on them where they debouched on the open country. Colonel Sargent says little of the signifi- cance of the brief but effectual training of such a remarkable body as the "Rough Riders." His account, in fact, is very painstaking, but without great penetration, and it is marred by some inflated writing—continual talk of a "hail of bullets," for example, which, after all, is only a metaphor—such as is best left to non-military writers.