PALO ALTO, Puerto Principe Province, Cuba, July 8, 1898.
ADJUTANT-GENERAL U. S. ARMY, In the field.
SIR: In compliance with instructions from the commanding general, I proceeded from Port Tampa, Fla., June 21, 1898, with 50 men of M Troop, Tenth Cavalry (mounted), and Daly's pack train of 65 animals aboard the steamship Florida and with the steamship Fanita, both loaded heavily with cargo of ammunition, provisions, and clothing, General Nunez and staff, and 375 armed Cubans to the south coast of Cuba and attempted a landing at San Juan River, June 29, the point first chosen by General Nunez. The point was guarded by Spaniards, who fired upon landing party without effect. I spent the night in small boats in futile attempts to land. the difficulty being due to a coral reef which lined the entire coast and prevented the boats from touching shore. Hence we were unable to engage the land forces and decided to seek another landing place. This would have been an ideal point to land had the coast been of sand and the cargo less bulky.
June 30, sailed down the coast to Tunas, and in afternoon attacked the block house at Tayabacoa, which was defended by about 100 regular soldiers, intrenched. The blockhouse was shelled by my convoy, the gunboat Peoria, under Captain Ryan, while a small force of Cubans and Rough Riders, under Mr. Winthrop Chandler, attacked by land. I can not speak too highly of the gallantry of Mr. Chandler's men, who fought overwhelming numbers until dark, when they with drew under cover of darkness with the loss of 1 killed (General Nunez's, brother) and 7 wounded out of a party of 28 men. The Florida, while moving nearer land with reenforcements, ran aground. and for twenty hours was completely at the mercy of a land battery of even small caliber.
July 1 the situation had not changed for the better. The Spaniards were being rapidly reenforced, a regiment of cavalry and over 500 infantry and several batteries of artillery arrived in plain sight and began to throw up heavy intrenchments on shore. Our gunboat was too small to hope to cope with the land forces, and after making every effort to haul the Florida afloat I was compelled to lighten cargo by transferring to Fanita and throwing overboard some of the heaviest articles. About noon, however, the gunboat Helena came unexpectedly to our assistance, shelled the blockhouse, and hauled the Florida afloat.
Captain Swinburne deserved and received my sincere thanks for his timely assistance. The Spaniards were completely deceived by the formidable display, and a waterman, captured by the Peoria during the night, having informed me that the nature of the expedition was unknown on shore, and that the belief existed that United States troops intended landing in force at Tunas, I decided to adopt a ruse in order to concentrate all the Spaniards in and around Tunas while I effected a landing elsewhere. I therefore called upon Captain Swinburne early on the morning of the 2d, and laid my plans before him. He readily consented to aid me, and at 9 a.m., in company with the Peoria, opened a terrible fire upon the Spanish blockhouse and intrenchments in and around the town of Tunas. The Spanish replied with great spirit and kept up their fire until their guns were all completely silenced by the fire from the gunboats. The fort and adjacent houses and some shipping were destroyed, and report says many men killed and the railroad depot destroyed. The effect of this bombardment was as was calculated. The troops were rapidly concentrated at Tunas, while we steamed 40 miles down the coast to Palo Alto, leaving, the Helena to keep up the deception.
Arriving at Palo Alto, I found a good landing in a swampy and unfrequented district; made connection with General Gomez, and since July 3 have been steadily unloading; within 12 miles of the trocha and of the strongly garrisoned town of Jucaro. The Spaniards are concentrating within a few leagues, and at this writing it is difficult to say whether I shall be able to get the entire cargo off before the attack. I have placed my troop in the camp of Gomez, and will remain in the island, sending the ships back by First Lieut. G. P. Ahearn, Twenty-fifth Infantry, who came with me as a volunteer. and who has been very useful and efficient during the entire trip. In this connection I wish to call attention to a very gallant act of his, displayed the night of the attack upon the blockhouse at Tayabacoa. Several wounded men were left ashore under the guns of the fort, and Lieutenant Ahearn volunteered to go after them. The night was a bright moonlight one, and several boats sent out had returned, not daring to go close to land, when Lieutenant Ahearn took a water-logged boat and crew of regulars, landed, and brought away the wounded men. It was considered, and deservedly so, a very gallant deed. I have placed Lieutenant Ahearn in charge of the next expedition, which I hope will be approved by the commanding general. I can do more good here in securing the landing for him. There are 500 horses yet to come and some ammunition. I have instructed Lieutenant Ahearn to report in person to the commanding general, in order to give him information of importance, which I think can be done better by him than through written report. I shall hang around the coast and await the next expedition.
I would request that the balance of my troop, M, Tenth Cavalry, be sent to me by Lieutenant Ahearn upon his return trip. The Cubans are greatly encouraged by the timely assistance, as they were in a starving condition. The suffering is fearful, they tell me, throughout the land. It is very necessary to have a good naval escort. Captain Ryan, of the Peoria. has done splendid work for the success of the present trip, and, if possible, I should like to see him detailed for the next trip. Very respectfully,
C. P. JOHNSON.
First Lieutenant, Tenth Cavalry, Commanding Cuban Expedition.