EMERGENCE TO WORLD POWER, 1898-1902
AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY
ARMY HISTORICAL SERIES
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
Emergence to World Power
In the latter part of the nineteenth century the United States, hitherto largely provincial in thought and policies, began to emerge as a new world power. Beginning in the late 1880's more and more Americans displayed a willingness to support involvement of the nation in frankly imperialistic ventures, justifying this break with traditional policy on strategic, economic, religious, and emotional grounds. Much of the energy that had been channeled earlier into internal development of the country, and especially into westward expansion along the frontier (which, according to the Census Bureau, ceased to exist as of 1890), was now diverted to enterprises beyond the continental limits of the United States. It was only a matter of time before both the Army and the Navy were to be called upon to support and protect the new American interests overseas.
A New Manifest Destiny
This new manifest destiny first took the form of vigorous efforts to expand long-established American trade and naval interests overseas, especially in the Pacific and Caribbean. Thus, in the Pacific the United States took steps to acquire control of coaling and maintenance stations for a growing steam-propelled fleet. In 1878 the United States obtained the right to develop a coaling station in Samoa and in 1889, to make this concession more secure, recognized independence of the islands in a tripartite pact with Great Britain and Germany. In 1893, when a new native government in Hawaii threatened to withdraw concessions, including a site for a naval station at Pearl Harbor, American residents tried unsuccessfully to secure annexation of the islands by the United States. Development of a more favorable climate of opinion in the United States in the closing years of the century opened the way for annexation of Hawaii in 1898 and Eastern Samoa (Tutuila) in 1899.
In the same period, the Navy endeavored with little success to secure coaling stations in the Caribbean, and Americans watched with interest abortive
efforts of private firms to build an isthmian canal in Panama. American businessmen promoted establishment of better trade relations with Latin American countries, laying the groundwork for the future Pan American Union. And recurrent diplomatic crises, such as that with Chile in 1891-2, arising from a mob attack on American sailors in Valparaiso, and with Great Britain over the Venezuelan-British Guiana boundary in 1895, drew further attention to the southern continent.
Trouble in Cuba
While economic and strategic motives contributed significantly to the new manifest destiny, it was traditional American humanitarian concern for the oppressed peoples of Cuba that ultimately proved most important in launching the United States on an imperialistic course at the turn of the century. Cuba's geographic proximity to the United States and strategic location had long attracted the interest of American expansionists. Yet they were a small minority, and only when the Cubans rebelled against the repressive colonial policies of Spain did the attention of most Americans turn to the Caribbean island. This was true in 1868, when Cubans revolted against the Spanish regime in a rebellion destined to last for a decade, and again in 1895, when they rose up once more against continuing repression by the mother country. Many Americans soon favored some kind of intervention, but President Grover Cleveland was determined that the United States should adhere to a policy of strict neutrality. Events in Cuba, however, soon were to make this position increasingly difficult to maintain.
When after almost a year of costly fighting the Spanish had failed to suppress the rebellion, they turned to harsher measures. To carry these out the Madrid Government appointed a new Captain-General for Cuba, Valeriano Weyler, an officer with a reputation as an able soldier. Weyler arrived in Havana in early February 1986 with additional troops and immediately instituted new tactics designed to isolate the insurrectionist forces—entrenchments, barbed-wire fences, and, at narrow parts of the island, lines of blockhouses. Simultaneously, he inaugurated a policy of reconcentrado, herding women, children, and old people from the countryside into detention camps and garrisoned towns, where thousands died from disease and starvation. Weyler's methods gave newspapers in the United States, especially those practicing a newly fashionable yellow journalism, opportunity for renewed attacks on Spanish policies in Cuba. They portrayed the Spanish general as an inhuman "butcher" inflicting his cruel tactics on high-minded patriots struggling bravely for freedom from the oppression of an out-dated Old World authoritarianism.
In early 1896 both houses of Congress adopted by overwhelming majorities concurrent resolutions proposing that the United States grant belligerent status to the insurgents and employ its good offices to gain Spain's recognition of Cuban independence. Politicians, both in and out of Congress, saw in the Cuban situation an opportunity to gain popular support in the upcoming election of 1896. And a few expansion-minded American leaders perceived the insurrection as a chance to acquire naval bases in the Caribbean and open the way further for the country to play a more prominent role in world affairs. But neither Cleveland, nor his successor as President in 1897, William McKinley, wanted a war with Spain.
The Republican party platform of 1896, however, committed McKinley to a policy of using the nation's "influences and good offices to restore peace and give independence . . ." to Cuba. Consistent with this pledge, the newly elected President, in the face of a crescendo of demands for immediate American intervention, worked courageously and patiently, seeking to find a diplomatic solution that would satisfy the Cuban insurrectionists yet avoid a conflict between the United States and Spain.
In early February 1898, after serious rioting in Havana, the jingoistic New York Journal published a private letter written by Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, the Spanish Minister in Washington, to a Spanish editor then traveling in the United States. This communication, which a Cuban official in the Havana Post Office had stolen and passed on to the newspaper, expressed de Lôme's adverse personal reaction to McKinley's message to Congress in December 1897. The President was, he thought, "weak and a bidder for admiration of the crowd . . . a would-be politician who tries to leave a door open behind himself while keeping on good terms with the jingoes in his party." For the majority of Americans this unprecedented insult to a President was only further confirmation of the arrogance and insolence with which they felt Spain regularly conducted its Cuban policies. Even de Lôme's prompt resignation did little to calm the storm of indignation that swept the country. Nevertheless when Spain, at American insistence, somewhat reluctantly offered an apology, McKinley was inclined to accept it. Privately he was horrified at the possibility that what he viewed as a strictly personal matter might lead to war.
Despite this development McKinley still might have achieved a diplomatic solution had the American battleship Maine not been sunk on February 15, 1898, in Havana harbor as a result of a mysterious explosion, with a loss of 260 lives. The vessel was in the port ostensibly on a courtesy call—but actually to provide closer protection for American citizens in Cuba—dispatched there rather reluctantly by McKinley upon the advice of the American consul in Havana.
A naval investigating commission appointed by the President announced on March 25 that the Maine had gone down as a result of an external explosion, which to most Americans indicated Spanish treachery. But McKinley, in reporting to Congress on the commission's verdict, once again counseled "deliberate consideration" and, on March 27, sent to Madrid a new plan for peaceful settlement of the Cuban problem. The Spanish reply on March 31 agreed to end the reconcentrado policy and arbitrate the Maine disaster, but procrastinated on granting the insurrectionists an immediate armistice and refused to accept mediation by McKinley or to promise eventual independence for Cuba.
In spite of this discouraging response from Spain, the President continued to move slowly, leaving the door open for last-minute negotiations. Twice he postponed his war message to Congress before finally delivering it on April 11. Eight days later Congress passed a joint resolution proclaiming Cuba independent and authorizing the President to take necessary measures to expel the Spanish from the island. It included a significant amendment by Senator Teller of Colorado forbidding annexation of Cuba. With this authorization McKinley immediately ordered a blockade of Cuba, and an American naval squadron promptly took up a position off Havana. On April 25 Congress declared a state of war had existed since April 21. So began the conflict with Spain which McKinley and Cleveland had tried so hard to avoid—a war for which, despite the months of negotiation preceding its outbreak, the country was militarily most ill prepared.
Mobilizing for War
The extent of unpreparedness for overseas combat varied considerably in the two military services. In the decade preceding the war, the Navy, thanks to the efforts of career officers such as Rear Adm. Stephen B. Luce and Capt. Alfred T. Mahan, and to Benjamin Tracy, Secretary of the Navy in Harrison's administration, and also to the willingness of Congress, in a period of expanding overseas interests and relative prosperity, to appropriate the necessary funds, had carried out an extensive construction and modernization program. During the same period, the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island (established in 1885 through the efforts of Admiral Luce), had provided the Navy with a strong corps of professional officers trained in the higher levels of warfare and strategy, including the far-ranging doctrines of Mahan.
The Army was not so fortunate. With an average size in the quarter of a century preceding 1898 of only about 26,000 officers and men, most of whom
were scattered widely across the country in company- and battalion-size organizations, the Army never had an opportunity for training and experience in the operation of units larger than a regiment. And while the individual soldier was well trained, the Army lacked a mobilization plan, a well-knit higher staff, and experience in carrying on joint operations with the Navy. The National Guard, with somewhat more than 100,000 members, was composed mostly of infantry units. Still lacking a consistent program of supervision by the Regular forces, most Guard units were poorly trained and disciplined, understrength, and inadequately equipped. Thus, typically, although most Regulars by 1898 were armed with Krag-Jorgensen rifles firing smokeless powder cartridges, most Guardsmen were still equipped with Springfield rifles which could fire only black powder ammunition.
Despite obvious deficiencies, the Guard might have supplied many of the units used in the conflict had it not been for other factors that made it difficult to employ Guardsmen on short notice in overseas theaters of war. Under existing law, there was some question as to whether it was legal for Guard units to serve abroad. Furthermore, Guard organization varied greatly from state to state, and most Guardsmen objected to any move that would place them under control of the Regular Army for the sake of achieving greater uniformity in organization. The War Department proposed to form a new federal volunteer force with officers appointed by the President. But again the Guard opposed this, and Congress in the mobilization act of April 22, 1898, settled for a makeshift arrangement providing for a wartime force composed of both Regular and volunteer units organized into brigades, divisions, and army corps. Some Guard units did, in effect, serve under an arrangement whereby if enough members of a state unit volunteered for service, they were kept together to form a comparable federal volunteer unit.
Although the act of April 22 provided for 125,000 volunteers, popular demand soon led Congress to increase this number by 75,000 and authorize additional special volunteer forces, including 10,000 enlisted men "possessing immunity from diseases incident to tropical climates"—the so-called Immunes. Simultaneously it also authorized more than doubling the size of the Regular Army to nearly 65,000. By war's end in August 1898, the Regular forces numbered 59,000 and the volunteers, 216,000, a total of 275,000.
Mobilizing, equipping, and supplying these wartime forces placed a severe burden upon the War Department. With neither a military planning staff nor the funds necessary to plan for war in peacetime, the department inevitably was ill prepared for any kind of major mobilization or military operation.
Further complicating matters was a basic disagreement within the department concerning the strategy to be followed and the way mobilization should be carried out.
To the extent the United States had a strategy for conduct of the war against Spain in the Caribbean, it consisted of maintaining a naval blockade of Cuba while native insurgent forces carried on a harassing campaign against Spanish troops on the island. Supporters of this policy—Captain Mahan was among its more articulate advocates—believed that it would lead eventually to surrender of the Spanish forces and the freeing of Cuba. No direct clash between American and Spanish troops was visualized; American land forces would simply occupy Cuba as soon as the Spanish departed.
More or less in conformity with this strategy, Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army, proposed to assemble, train, and equip a small force of about 80,000, using the Regular Army as a nucleus. There would be ample time for mobilizing this force, since Miles deemed it unwise to land any troops in Cuba before the end of the unhealthy rainy season in October. The first step was to concentrate the entire Regular Army at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, where it could receive much-needed instruction in combined arms operations.
So deliberate and cautious a plan, however, was, by mid-April 1898, not in harmony with the increasing public demand for immediate action against the Spanish. With an ear to this demand, Secretary of War Russell M. Alger, who had been a general officer in the Civil War and subsequently had pursued a political career for thirty years, ignored the advice of General Miles. He ordered the Regular infantry regiments to go to New Orleans, Tampa, and Mobile, where presumably they would be ready for an immediate descent on Cuba. (Map 36) (Later some infantry troops did go to Chickamauga Park, where they trained with the Regular cavalry and artillery concentrated there.)
The decision to mobilize large volunteer forces compounded the problems of equipping, training, and supplying the wartime Army. In the spring and summer of 1898, thousands of enthusiastic volunteers, a few with some militia training but most only raw recruits, poured into newly established camps in the South—located there so as to be near Cuba and, at the same time, help the soldiers to become accustomed to semitropical climatic conditions. But a taste of military life in the training camps soon curbed the enthusiasm of most volunteers, for there they found chronic shortages of the most essential equipment—even of such basic items as underwear, socks, and shoes—a steady diet of badly prepared food, unbelievably poor sanitary conditions inadequate
medical facilities, and a lack of up-to-date weapons. Red tape and poor management in the War Department's supply bureaus (the Ordnance Department possibly excepted) continued to delay correction of some of the worst deficiencies and combined with the shortage of capable volunteer officers to limit the effectiveness and quality of training received in the camps.
A similar general inefficiency characterized the War Department's conduct of actual operations against Spain. Since Congress had provided no machinery in the department for peacetime co-ordination of foreign policy with the country's military posture, the nation went to war without any kind of over-all plan of operations or even adequate intelligence about the enemy or the Cuban insurgents. Suddenly confronted in April 1898 with the necessity for launching overseas amphibious attacks on hostile shores—under the best circumstances always a difficult type of operation, requiring careful planning and close interservice co-operation—the War Department bureaus and the Army high command found themselves almost totally unprepared. Given time, they might have devised at least adequate operational plans; but public opinion, political pressures, and the trend of events demanded the launching of an immediate expedition against the Spanish in Cuba.
Victory at Sea: Naval Operations in the Caribbean and Pacific
Fortunately, it turned out that the really decisive fighting of the war fell to the much better prepared Navy, although last-minute alterations in its strategic plan for dealing with the Spanish Fleet seriously threatened to reduce its effectiveness. Shortly after the war began, rumors circulated that an enemy fleet under Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete was approaching the Atlantic coast of the United States. An alarmed public demanded that measures be taken to defend the Atlantic seaboard. In deference to this demand, the Navy Department in late April 1898 withheld some of its best fighting ships from Rear Adm. William T. Sampson's North Atlantic Squadron, sent to blockade Cuba. These ships, formed into a "flying squadron" under Commodore Winfield S. Schley, set up a watch for Cervera. This move was in conflict with the provisions in the Navy's strategical plan for a war with Spain. Based upon Mahan's doctrines, the plan called for maintaining Sampson's squadron at full strength in the Caribbean, ready to intercept any Spanish fleet sent out to relieve Cuba.
In the western Pacific, meantime, the Navy was able to adhere to its strategical plan—the latest version of which had been completed in June 1897. Worked out after 1895 by officers at the Naval War College in collaboration with the Office of Naval Intelligence, this plan, known to President McKinley and the high officials in the Navy Department, provided for an attack on the Philippines, leading to destruction of Spanish warships there, capture of Manila, and blockade of the principal Philippine ports. The basic objectives of the plan were to weaken Spain by cutting off revenues from the Philippines and to place the United States in the position of having something to offer the Spanish as an inducement to make peace after Cuba had been freed.
Active Navy preparation for war began in January 1898, and in late February Theodore Roosevelt, as Acting Secretary of the Navy (Secretary John D. Long was ailing), cabled orders to American naval commanders, instructing them to get their squadrons in readiness to carry out existing war plans against Spain. Commodore George Dewey of the Asiatic Squadron received instructions to assemble his ships at Hong Kong, where they could take on coal and supplies preparatory to an attack on the Philippines.
Thus, on April 24, when McKinley finally ordered the Asiatic Squadron to execute the war plan against the Philippines Dewey was ready. He sailed into Manila Bay on the night of April 30 and next morning located the Spanish warships at Cavite. In a few hours and without loss of a single
American life, he sank or disabled the entire Spanish Fleet. In the days immediately following, he also silenced the land batteries defending Manila harbor, but the city itself continued to resist. (See Map 44.)
Since Dewey's 1,700 men were barely sufficient to maintain his own naval squadron, he requested dispatch of land forces from the United States to take Manila. In the two months before their arrival, he blockaded the port and gave assistance to Emilio Aguinaldo, Filipino insurgent leader, who, with Dewey's aid, had returned to the Philippines from exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo undertook guerrilla operations to keep the Spanish land forces in the vicinity of Manila. Dewey had to deal as well with the ticklish problem of British, French, and German naval contingents in Manila Bay, which arrived ostensibly to protect their nationals from the insurgents, but actually also to help uphold any claims their governments might advance to Filipino territory should the United States fail to take control over the islands. Most troublesome was the German squadron under Rear Adm. Otto van Diederichs, but Dewey's patience and firmness prevented a serious incident, and Berlin withdrew its fleet when it became apparent that the United States was not going to abandon the Philippines.
Operations in the Caribbean
As in the Pacific so also in the Caribbean the course of naval developments would determine when and where the Army undertook operations against Spanish land forces. During the early part of May 1898, the whereabouts of the Spanish Fleet under Admiral Cervera remained a mystery. Lacking this information, the Army could not fix precisely the point where it would launch an attack. Nevertheless, the War Department pushed preparations at Tampa, Florida, for an expedition under General Miles to be put ashore somewhere near Havana. But persistent rumors of the approach of the Spanish Fleet to Cuban waters delayed this expedition while the Navy searched further for Cervera. News at last reached Washington near the end of May that the Spanish admiral had skillfully evaded the American naval blockade and, on the 19th of the month, had slipped into the bay at Santiago de Cuba. (See Map 36.)
The Navy, at first not at all certain that it was actually Cervera's fleet in Santiago, sent Admiral Sampson to inspect the harbor. As soon as the American naval commander had ascertained that the four cruisers and several smaller war vessels were indeed Spanish, he bombarded the forts at the entrance to Santiago Bay. Unable to silence them, Sampson decided against trying to run the heavily mined harbor entrance. Instead, he sent Lt. (jg) Richmond P. Hobson to bottle up the enemy fleet by sinking the collier Merrimac athwart
the channel. When this bold project failed, Sampson requested land forces to seize the Spanish batteries, at the same time dispatching marines ashore to secure a site for a naval base east of Santiago. In the first land skirmish of the Cuban campaign, the marines quickly overcame enemy resistance and established the base at Guantánamo Bay.
Upon receipt of Sampson's request for land forces, the War Department, already under strong public pressure to get the Army into action, ordered Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter to embark with the V Corps from Tampa as soon as possible to conduct operations against Santiago in co-operation with the Navy. This corps was the only one of the eight that the War Department had organized for the war that was anywhere near ready to fight. Composed chiefly of Regular Army units, it had been assembling at Tampa for weeks when the order came on May 31 for its embarkation; it would require another two weeks to get the corps and its equipment on board and ready to sail for Cuba.
The slow pace of preparation and loading of the expedition was attributable to many factors. There was no over-all plan and no special staff to direct it. Although selected because of its port facilities and proximity to Cuba, Tampa, from the logistical point of view, proved to be a poor choice for marshaling a major military expedition. With only one pier for loading ships and a single-track railroad connecting with mainline routes from the north, the resulting backup of freight cars for miles delayed shipment of much needed supplies and equipment. Incoming soldiers waited interminably in uncomfortable railroad cars. When freight cars finally did reach the port area, there were no wagons to unload them and no bills of lading to indicate what was in them. When it came to loading the ships, of which there were not enough to carry the entire corps, supplies and equipment were put on board with little regard for unloading priorities in the combat zone should there be enemy resistance during the landings.
In spite of the confusion and inefficiency at Tampa, by June 14 nearly 17,000 men were ready to sail. On board were 18 Regular and 2 volunteer infantry regiments; 10 Regular and 2 volunteer cavalry squadrons, serving dismounted; 1 mounted cavalry squadron; 6 artillery batteries; and a machine gun (Galling gun) company. The expedition comprised a major part of the Regular forces, including all of the Regular Negro combat regiments. Moving out from Tampa on the morning of the 14th, the V Corps joined its naval convoy next day off the Florida Keys and by June 20 had reached the vicinity of Santiago.
While the troops on board endured tropical heat, unsanitary conditions, and cold rations—the canned beef was especially unpalatable—Shafter and Sampson conferred on how to proceed against the Spanish in Santiago. Sampson wanted the Army to storm the fort on the east side of the bay entrance, driving the Spanish from their guns. Then his fleet could clear away the mines and enter Santiago Bay to fight Cervera's squadron. Lacking heavy artillery, Shafter was not sure his troops could take the fort, which crowned a steep hill. He decided instead to follow the suggestion of General Calixto Garcia, the local insurgent leader, and land his forces at Daiquiri, east of Santiago Bay. (Map 37)
On June 22, after heavy shelling of the landing areas, the V Corps began disembarking amid circumstances almost as confused and hectic as those at Tampa. Captains of many of the chartered merchant ships resisted bringing their vessels close inshore. Their reluctance slowed the landing of troops and equipment, already handicapped by a shortage of lighters (the Navy could not spare the additional ones needed). Horses, simply dropped overboard to get ashore on their own, swam out to sea in some instances and were lost. An alert enemy defense might well have taken advantage of the chaotic conditions
to oppose the landings effectively. But the Spanish, though they had more than 200,000 troops in Cuba—some 36,000 of them in Santiago Province—did nothing to prevent Shafter's men from getting ashore. Some 6,000 landed on June 22 and most of the remaining 11,000 on the two days following. In addition, some 4,000 to 5,000 insurgents under General Garcia supplemented the American force.
The Battle of Santiago
Once ashore, elements of the V Corps moved westward toward the heights of San Juan, a series of ridge lines immediately east of Santiago, where well-entrenched enemy troops guarded the land approaches to the city. On June 23, Brig. Gen. Henry W. Lawton, commanding the vanguard, advanced along the coast from Daiquirí to occupy Siboney, which then became the main base of operations. The next day, Brig. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, the Confederate Army veteran, pushed inland along the road to Santiago with dismounted cavalry to seize Las Guásimas, after a brief skirmish with rear guard elements of a retiring Spanish force. This move brought American units within five miles of the San Juan Heights, where they paused for a few days while General Shafter assembled the rest of his divisions and brought up supplies. Even in this short time, Shafter could observe the debilitating effects of tropical climate and disease on his men. He was aware, too, that the hurricane season was approaching. Consequently, he decided in favor of an immediate attack on the defenses of Santiago.
Shafter's plan was simple: a frontal attack on the San Juan Heights. For this purpose, he deployed Brig. Gen. Jacob F. Kent's infantry division on the left and Wheeler's dismounted cavalry on the right, the entire force with supporting elements comprising some 8,000 troops. But before he made the main advance on the heights Lawton's infantry division with a supporting battery of artillery—more than 6,500 men—was to move some two miles north to seize the fortified village of El Caney, cutting off Santiago's water supply and, if necessary, intercepting rumored Spanish reinforcements. This action completed—Shafter thought it would take about two hours—Lawton was to turn southwestward and form on the right flank of Wheeler's division for participation in the main assault. A brigade which had just landed at Siboney was to advance meanwhile along the coast in a feint to deceive the enemy.
The attack, which moved out at dawn on July I, soon became badly disorganized because of poor co-ordination, difficult terrain, and tropical heat. The corpulent Shafter, virtually prostrated by the heat, had to leave the direction of the battle to others. At a stream crossing on the crowded main trail to
San Juan Heights enemy gunners scored heavily when a towed Signal Corps balloon pinpointed the front of the advancing line of troops. And Lawton's division, delayed in its seizure of El Caney by a stubborn enemy defense, misplaced artillery, and the necessity of withdrawing a volunteer unit armed only with telltale black powder, did not rejoin the main force until after the assault had ended. Despite these unexpected setbacks, Kent's and Wheeler's divisions at midday launched a strong frontal attack on the Spanish forward defensive positions. Cavalry units of Wheeler's division, including the 9th Cavalry and part of the 10th, both Negro regiments, and the volunteer Rough Riders, who were commanded by Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, seized Kettle Hill, separate from the central heights. Then Kent's infantry regiments, supported by the unorthodox employment of Gatling guns in the attack, stormed up San Juan Hill in the main ridge line, driving the Spanish from blockhouse and trench defenses and compelling them to retire to a strongly fortified inner line. Thus the day ended with the Americans having achieved most of their initial objectives. But the cost was high—nearly 1,700 casualties sustained since the start of operations against Santiago.
Concerned with the increasing sickness that was further thinning the ranks of the V Corps and faced by a well-organized Spanish second line of defense, General Shafter cabled Secretary Alger on July 3 that he was considering withdrawing about five miles to higher ground between the San Juan River and Siboney. The shift would place his troops in a position where they would be less exposed to enemy fire and easier to supply. Alger replied that "the effect upon the country would be much better" if Shafter continued to hold his advanced position.
The V Corps commander then again sought to get the Navy to enter Santiago Bay and attack the city. But neither the Navy Department nor President McKinley was willing to sanction this move. Just when the whole
matter threatened to become an embarrassing public debate between the two services, the Spanish themselves resolved the issue.
Deteriorating conditions within Santiago—lack of food and ammunition were seriously affecting the health and morale of the defending forces—convinced the defenders that the city must soon fall. While Cervera considered flight from the port hopeless, he had no recourse but to attempt it. Officials in both Havana and Madrid had ordered him, for reasons of honor, to escape when Santiago appeared about to surrender. Finally, on the morning of July 3, while Sampson and Shafter conferred ashore, Cervera made his dash for the open sea, hoping to reach the port of Cienfuegos on the south coast of Cuba. As soon as the Spanish Fleet appeared, Sampson's squadron, temporarily under command of Commodore Schley, gave chase and in less than two hours destroyed Cervera's fleet; four cruisers were crippled and run ashore and one destroyer was beached and another sunk.
A few days later, General Shafter persuaded the Spanish leaders in Santiago that they had no choice except to surrender. On July I6 they signed the unconditional terms demanded by the McKinley administration, which provided for surrender of 11,500 troops in the city and some 12,000 others in the vicinity of Santiago. The formal surrender ceremony took place on the following day.
During preparations for the Santiago campaign, General Miles personally had been overseeing organization of a second expedition to seize Puerto Rico. On July 21 he sailed from Guantánimo with more than 3,000 troops. His original strategy was to land first at Cape Fajardo in the northeast part of the island, where he could establish a base of operations for a subsequent advance westward to the capital, San Juan. For reasons not entirely clear, but probably because of a desire not to have to co-operate with the Navy in the attack on San Juan, Miles, while still at sea, changed his plans and on July 25 landed forces first at Guanica on the southeastern coast. Meeting virtually no opposition, the Americans shortly occupied the port of Ponce. In early August, after arrival of more than 10,000 additional troops from ports in the United States, General Miles, using Ponce as a base of operations, launched a four-column drive toward San Juan. There was little bloodshed—casualties for the campaign totaled fewer than fifty—and, in fact, most Puerto Ricans welcomed the American troops. The campaign ended on August 13 when word reached the island that Spain had signed a peace protocol the previous day.
Back in Cuba, meanwhile, conditions for the Army were much less pleasant. Spread of malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever among Shafter's troops at Santiago threatened to have far deadlier consequences than had the actual fighting. Concern over this problem led to the drafting of a joint letter by a
number of Shafter's senior officers, proposing immediate evacuation of the Army from Cuba. Addressed to the commanding general, this round robin letter unfortunately came to the attention of the press before it reached Shafter. Hence, Washington officials read it in the newspapers before learning of its content from the general himself. Naturally the whole episode, coming at the time when peace negotiations were beginning, caused a sensation. Although acutely embarrassing for the Army and General Shafter, the incident did have the salutary effect of hastening measures to evacuate thousands of troops to Montauk Point, Long Island, where the Army Medical Department already had taken steps to establish an isolated detention camp. Here those who had contracted tropical infections received the necessary treatment. And out of the Army's nearly disastrous experience with the debilitating effects of disease and climate in Cuba came the impetus for the Medical Corps' notable project to determine the causes of yellow fever, inaugurating a long-term program of research and study into what henceforth would be a permanent concern of the Army—the maintenance of the health and effectiveness of American troops in a tropical environment.
The Fall of Manila
In another tropical setting halfway around the world from Cuba the final military episode of the war took place. During May and June 1898 Admiral Dewey, while awaiting the arrival in the Philippines of land forces from the United States, kept in contact with the insurgent leader, General Aguinaldo. The Filipino forces occupied lines on the land side of Manila, preventing the Spanish garrison from moving beyond the immediate outskirts of the city.
Although the Americans and the Philippine insurgents shared a common interest in bringing about the defeat of the Spanish, relations between them tended to deteriorate during the period of waiting. The most important reason was a fundamental difference in objectives. The goal of the insurgents, who controlled most areas outside the towns and cities on Luzon and the other important islands, was immediate independence for the Philippines. But after some hesitation the McKinley administration and more and more Americans were coming around to the view that the United States ought to retain the islands. Once Aguinaldo became aware of this he endeavored to counteract it by taking steps to establish a revolutionary government with himself as president. On August 6 he appealed to foreign governments to recognize the independence of the Philippines. Hence by late summer there was serious doubt as to just what might be expected from the increasingly hostile insurgent forces.
In the interim, the long-awaited ground forces needed to complete the campaign in the Philippines began arriving in the Manila area. By the end of July 1898, some 13,000 volunteer and 2,000 Regular troops, constituting the VIII Corps under Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt, had reached the islands. These troops had embarked from west coast ports (chiefly San Francisco) with a minimum of the confusion and difficulty that had characterized the launching of the Cuban expedition. In spite of the long voyage across the Pacific, they were in good condition and ready to start operations against the Spanish as soon as enough troops could be moved into the vicinity of Manila.
By early August General Merritt had 11,000 troops of the VIII Corps in lines immediately to the rear of those occupied by the insurgents, ready to attack the city. Inside the Philippine capital and in fortified lines just beyond the city walls were about 10,000 to 15,000 Spanish troops. Although their leaders were fully aware of the relative hopelessness of the situation, efforts of Dewey and Merritt to secure a peaceful surrender failed because the Spanish Government in Madrid insisted that the garrison should make at least a token show of resistance.
On the morning of August Is the VIII Corps launched an assault on Manila. As the tide receded, American units moved quickly to the beaches on the south side of the city and then, supported by concentrated fire from Dewey's ships, advanced through the insurgent lines. By prior arrangement, somewhat reluctantly agreed to by Aguinaldo, the insurgents were to retire as the Americans moved toward the Spanish entrenchments. But in carrying out this difficult maneuver, Americans and insurgents unintentionally became intermixed and some troops—presumably for the most part insurgents—began firing on the Spanish lines. Momentarily, this flare-up threatened to thwart the enemy's plan to offer only token resistance, but quick action by American officers brought the firing under control and the garrison surrendered. Operations at Manila cost the Americans a total of 17 killed and 105 wounded.
Formal surrender ceremonies came the following day—actually two days after the government in Madrid had signed a peace protocol ending hostilities. News of the protocol had not yet reached Manila because the cable Dewey cut when he first entered Manila Bay still had not been repaired.
After negotiations in Paris in the fall of 1898, the United States and Spain signed a treaty on December 10 ending the war. By its terms Spain gave up sovereignty over Cuba, which became an independent state, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and accepted $20 million in payment for the Philippines. Thus fatefully did Americans commit the nation to a new role as a colonial power in the Far East, with momentous future consequences that few at the turn of the century could anticipate.
The Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1902
Signing of the Treaty of Paris brought only a brief pause in military operations for the Army in the Philippines. With defeat and departure of the Spanish, the Americans inherited the complex problems of governing a populous Far Eastern archipelago about which they still knew relatively little. Even with full co-operation of all the heterogeneous peoples of differing cultures living in the islands, the task would have been formidable. Leaders of the native nationalist movement were no more ready to accept American rule peacefully than Spanish.
In the period following the fall of Manila while peace negotiations were in progress an uneasy truce existed between the insurgents and the American occupation forces. Under leadership of Aguinaldo, the insurgents established a provisional republic with a capital at Malolos, northeast of Manila, and organized a congress which began preparing a constitution. After the United States in January 1899 officially proclaimed possession of the Philippines and its intention to extend political control over all the islands, the insurgent congress ratified the constitution, formally establishing a Filipino republic, and prepared to resist the Americans.
The circumstances surrounding the start of fighting on the night of February 4, 1899, are vague. An insurgent patrol apparently deliberately challenged without provocation an American guard post near Manila. Since the incident occurred on the eve of ratification of the Treaty of Paris by the United States Senate, it is conceivable that the insurgents may have wished by this surprise move to inflict an embarrassing setback on the Americans before reinforcements could arrive in the Philippines, hoping thus to influence the vote on the treaty. Or it may simply have been a spontaneous outburst, stemming from Aguinaldo's known inability-to exercise very tight discipline over his loosely organized army. Whatever the reason, the VIII Corps reacted promptly and decisively. Against an estimated 40,000 insurgents in the Manila area, Maj. Gen. Elwell S. Otis, who had replaced General Merritt, could commit only about 12,000 of his 21,000 troops, since the remainder were volunteers scheduled to go home for early demobilization. Nevertheless, in extensive operations around the Philippine capital in the several days immediately following the attack on the 4th, the VIII Corps drove back the insurgents at all points, inflicting some 3,000 casualties, and then, late in the month, thwarted what appeared to be the beginning of a widespread uprising in the city, potentially fraught with the most serious consequences.
Although the insurgents suffered a severe setback in these first major engagements of the Philippine Insurrection, they continued more or less organized resistance on a smaller scale for more than two years, with spasmodic outbursts in the Visayas, the islands immediately south of Luzon. The Americans also met resistance from the predominantly Moslem Moro peoples residing in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines, areas where even the Spanish during their long period of rule had never exercised effective control.
When news of the insurrection reached Washington it quickly dispelled any doubts the McKinley administration might have had concerning the need for more troops in the Philippines to establish effective American control. The War Department responded promptly, arranging to raise ten additional federal volunteer regiments and, at the same time, ordering immediate dispatch of much needed Regular units to the islands. By late summer of 1899, more than 35,000 additional troops had joined the VIII Corps and more were on the way. Before it ended more than 100,000 American soldiers took part in some phase of the Philippine Insurrection.
Short of firearms and ammunition, the insurgents depended primarily upon unconventional tactics. Avoiding open confrontation with the better armed and organized Americans whenever possible, they relied upon surprise attacks and ambush, where bolo knives and other more primitive weapons could be employed with the most devastating effect. Resort to guerrilla operations enabled the insurgents to exploit their superior knowledge of the jungle and the mountainous country in which much of the fighting took place. To cope with these tactics, the Army found itself drawing upon its long experience in fighting the western Indians. Hampered logistically by the lack of roads and by rough terrain in the interior, the Americans had to depend primarily upon small arms fire and the bayonet in repelling hit-and-run insurgent attacks. Keeping the poorly organized and poorly co-ordinated insurgent bands under constant pursuit and pressure, VIII Corps troops gradually extended their control over most of Luzon and the other important islands.
Beginning in April 1899, the Army carried out a series of carefully co-ordinated offensives, aimed at securing control of the important population centers and lines of communications as a first step in establishing stable government and restoring normal economic activities. Immediately after the outbreak of insurgent hostilities in February, American columns had pushed north, south, and east from Manila, capturing the rebel capital at Malolos, and securing the Pasig River, which cut the main line of communications between insurgent
forces in north and south Luzon. Now in April, General Otis sent General Lawton, veteran of the Santiago campaign, south toward Santa Cruz in the Laguna de Bay area and Maj. Gen. Arthur MacArthur north up the central plain from Malolos toward San Fernando. By mid-May, the success of these drives had seriously undermined insurgent ability to continue organized resistance and forced Aguinaldo to flee to the mountains in northern Luzon. Advent of the rainy season and shortage of manpower halted further operations until fall.
In the autumn of 1899, General Otis launched a three-pronged drive in north central Luzon against Aguinaldo's remaining forces. Moving up on the right, Lawton recaptured San Isidro and approached San Fabian on Lingayen Gulf; MacArthur, in the center, seized Tarlac and reached Dagupan; Brig. Gen. Loyd Wheaton, on the left, went by ship from Manila to San Fabian, moving inland to defeat the insurgents at San Jacinto, and then linked up with MacArthur at Dagupan. Aguinaldo again managed to escape, but eventually was captured in March 1901 through a ruse skillfully carried out by a small party of Filipino scouts and American soldiers led by Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston.
Operations in the winter of I899-I900 cleared insurrectionist remnants from the Manila region and permanently secured important lines of communications in central Luzon. By March 1900 the Army also controlled southern Luzon and the Visayas. In May, Otis, believing the insurrection virtually over, requested his own relief and General MacArthur replaced him. Events proved Otis mistaken, for the Army had to continue in the field for many more months, dealing with sporadic but persistent resistance in numerous small engagements. The guerrilla warfare was bitter and costly, resulting in more casualties for the Army than in the entire preceding fifteen months of extensive military operations. In early 1902, unrest among the Moros in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago intensified, and was by no means really settled when President Theodore Roosevelt announced on July 4 the formal end of the Philippine Insurrection.
The Boxer Uprising
Acquisition of the Philippines tended to stimulate further a growing interest in China among Americans for both commercial and humanitarian reasons. One important argument advanced for retaining the Philippines was that they would serve as a convenient way station in carrying on trade and protecting American interests in the Manchu empire. The dominant problem in China at the end of the nineteenth century was its threatened partition by the Great Powers. Both the Americans and the British opposed this, and in
September 1899 the United States announced it had secured agreement from the interested powers for maintenance of an Open Door policy in their relations with China.
The already extensive exploitation of their country by foreign states, however, had aroused widespread resentment among younger Chinese. They formed the nucleus of a secret group called Boxers by Westerners which, with tacit support of the Dowager Empress, undertook a campaign against foreign influences and foreigners. By early 1900 this movement had brought much of China to the verge of revolution. Boxers in the northern provinces attacked and killed hundreds of Chinese Christians and foreigners, mostly missionaries. The wave of violence was climaxed by murder of the German Minister on June no. In fear for their lives in what appeared to be the beginning of a general uprising, most remaining foreigners as well as many Chinese converts fled to the foreign legations area in Peking, defended by a composite force of some 600 soldiers and civilians. Soon they were besieged there by a much larger force of Boxers assisted by Chinese imperial troops.
Although the McKinley administration disliked the idea of becoming involved in an election year in an international incident with overtones of entangling foreign alliances, it agreed to join with the other powers in taking such steps as seemed necessary to rescue their beleaguered nationals. In establishing the limits of American diplomatic co-operation with the intervening powers, Secretary of State John Hay admonished the United States Minister that ". . . we have no policy in China except to protect with energy American interests and especially American citizens.... There must be no alliances." And on July 3 Hay circulated a second Open Door note among the interested powers, stating that it was the policy of the United States "to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law, and safeguard for the world the principle of equal and impartial trade with all parts of the Chinese Empire."
Already in June the Navy's China squadron, under Rear Adm. Louis Kempff, had joined with other foreign naval units in bombardment of the Taku forts guarding Tientsin, the port city nearest to Peking, and had supplied a contingent for an international landing force composed of marines and other available troops. Formed into a rescue column, including more than a hundred Americans, this force had encountered overwhelming opposition and failed to break through to Peking. The powers then had taken immediate steps to organize a large relief expedition to drive through to the Chinese capital.
Because of the Philippine Insurrection the United States had sizable Army units available fairly near China. It could therefore contribute one of the larger contingents to the international relief force. Although General MacArthur, commanding in the Philippines, was somewhat reluctant to weaken his already overextended forces, he agreed to dispatch to China immediately the 9th Infantry and later the 14th Infantry and some artillery units. Other units, including the 6th Cavalry, came directly from the United States. Using Manila as a base and Nagasaki, Japan, as an advance port, the United States eventually assembled some 2,500 soldiers and marines in China under command of Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee. On July 13, elements of this force, officially designated the China Relief Expedition, participated with troops from several other nations in the attack on Tientsin, which surrendered on the same day.
By early August, an allied force of some 19,000, including British, French, Japanese, Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, and American troops, was ready to move out of Tientsin toward Peking, some seventy miles distant. Fighting a number of sharp skirmishes en route, this force reached the Manchu capital on August I2 and prepared immediately to assault the gates leading into the Outer City. Lacking effective central direction, the relief expedition's attack was poorly executed. The Russian contingent prematurely forced an entrance into the Outer City on August Is, only to be thrown into confusion and require rescue by other allied troops. The next day, in a more carefully co-ordinated assault, elements of the U.S. 14th Infantry scaled the so-called Tartar Wall and provided cover for the British as they entered the Outer City in force, relieving the legations compound. Then on August 15, Capt. Henry J. Reilly's Light Battery F of the U.S. 5th Artillery shattered the gates leading into the Inner City with several well-placed salvos, opening the way for the allied troops to occupy the center of Peking. Although American troops had suffered comparatively light losses—slightly more than 200 killed and wounded—they did not take part in subsequent military operations, which consisted primarily of suppressing scattered Boxer elements and rescuing foreigners in the provinces. The McKinley administration, anxious to avoid further involvement in China, wanted to get Army units back to the Philippines before winter.
In a few months all resistance had ended and the Dowager Empress sued for peace, offering to pay an indemnity and reaffirm previously existing commercial concessions. During prolonged negotiations an international army of occupation to which the United States contributed a small contingent of Regulars remained in north China. It was withdrawn in September I9OI under terms of the Boxer Protocol. This agreement also provided that the powers maintain a fortified legation in Peking, garrison the Tientsin-Peking railway—an American
contingent served as a part of this force until 1938—and receive reparations of $333 million. Of this amount the United States claimed only $25 million. In a few years it became apparent that even this sum was more than was needed to indemnify claims of American nationals and in 1907, and again in 1924, the United States returned portions totaling nearly $17 million to China, which placed the money in a trust fund for education of Chinese youths in both countries.
Participation of the United States in the Boxer Uprising at the beginning of the twentieth century marked the first time since the American Revolution that the country had joined with other powers in an allied military operation. The intervention in China represented one more instance of the gradual change taking place at the turn of the century in the traditional policies and attitudes of the United States in world affairs as a result of the triumph of imperialism. As they entered the new century most Americans still believed that despite the acquisition of overseas colonies the nation could continue to adhere to the historic principles of isolationism. Developments in the early years of the twentieth century would demonstrate, however, that the nation had to make changes and adjustments in many long-established institutions and policies—including those relating to military defense of the country—to meet the requirements of its new status as a world power.
page updated 27 April 2001
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