FORT SAN JUAN,
Province Santiago de Cuba, July 13, 1898.
The ADJUTANT TWENTY-FOURTH INFANTRY.
SIR: With reference to the fighting of July 1 and 2 I have the honor to make the following report relative to my company:
At about 12 o'clock noon on the 1st instant my company, with the entire regiment, was halted in the road on the near side of the San Juan River and lay there for some fifteen or twenty minutes under the galling fire of a lot of expert sharpshooters. Our orders forbade any reply, although the sharpshooters were in the trees near us across the river. Under this fire Corpl. Aaron Black was mortally wounded-shot in the head--and Privates Samuel Bridgewater and Pearl Bonnselor were shot in the foot and leg, respectively. There is a bend in the road to the front of where my company lay. No orders reached me here except that to not reply to any of the enemy's fire.
Lieutenant Keene, commanding Company E, came back and reported to me for orders as the senior officer with the battalion. The fire had affected him as it had me, and he wanted to put his men where they could either get cover or reply to the fire. I thus discovered that part of the regiment was gone, and went to the ford and called across to the brigade adjutant-general, asking for orders to advance. He directed me to move forward across the stream.
I gave this instruction to Lieutenant Keene, who, under my advice and instruction, took a left-hand trail under cover. Seeing that this trail would likely become congested if I tried to follow, I decided to push directly across at the ford, which I did.
I was here instructed that my company was to take its place on the left of Company E, so I moved down the creek under cover of the bank toward my place in line. I was moved back and forth in the stream several times, and finally was ordered to move on to the left and try to get the enemy in flank.
In the movements across the stream and back and forth in its bed most of my company became separated from me. I went through two wire fences (across the stream) and went up on the bank, to the left of the company commanded by Lieutenant Noyes, Ninth Infantry, through a wire fence diagonally across the field, through two more wire fences (all this under heavy fire), then through two more fences (at the foot of the hill), and up to the crest of the hill on the extreme left.
I did not discover the smallness of my command until after I debouched into the first field. When I went up the hill my idea was to get a flanking fire on the enemy. When I reached the top he had retired. My command (of 14 men) was under fire from two houses to our right and front and from small parties of the enemy across on the hill beyond our line. My men reported seeing Spaniards in these two houses, so I fired three volleys at them, which caused a decided commotion among them. Firing was then begun upon them from the blockhouse, now in our possession.
Major Boyle, Ninth Infantry, here came up and I reported to him for orders. He directed me to have my men, in connection with his own, throw up temporary fortifications (hasty intrenchments), which I did. During all this time every time one of our men showed himself he was greeted by shots from the enemy.
The Ninth Infantry having taken position, I went to get permission from the brigade commander to return to my regiment and report for duty.
The following named men were killed: Corpl. Aaron Black, Private Richard Bissell. Wounded-Corpl. William Tate, Privates George Baylor, Charles Pope, Frank Hill, Samuel Bridgewater, Harry Moore, Henry Miller, and Pearl Bonnselor.
On the night of the 1st the company worked under my supervision, throwing up intrenchments, until 3 a.m. Much of the work was done with bayonets, the company tools having been taken away from us. The company lay in the trenches all day and was relieved by the Seventy-first New York. At 10.30 the alarm was given and we moved into the trenches among the Seventy-first New York, under heavy fire from the enemy. Sergt. Frank Banks was shot at my side (and has since died) as we were moving to the trenches. We poured a heavy fire upon the enemy until the "cease firing" was sounded, and then lay in the trenches until (half an hour later) the enemy's fire stopped, when we returned to our places.
During the whole of the two days my only officer, Lieutenant Kerwin, behaved himself with coolness, courage, and energy which entitle him to the greatest credit.
It would be hard to particularize in reporting upon the men of the company. All--noncommissioned officers, privates, even newly joined recruits-showed a desire to do their duty, yea, more than their duty, which would have done credit to seasoned veterans. Too much can not be said of their courage, willingness and endurance.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BEN. W. LEAVELL,
Captain, Twenty-fourth Infantry, Commanding Company A.