Read CHAPTER XIII - THE SURRENDER OF SANTIAGO of The Boys of 98, free online book, by James Otis, on

With the victory at El Caney and San Juan Hill fresh in their minds, the American people believed that the war was well-nigh at an end.  Information that Spain had sued for peace was hourly expected.

There was much to be done, however, before the enemy was willing to admit himself beaten.  The city of Santiago yet remained in the hands of the Spaniards, Manila was still defiant; and until those two strongholds had been reduced, the boys of ’98 must continue to struggle in the trenches and on the field.

The end was not far away, however.

July 5. General Shafter telegraphed to the War Department on the fifth of July to the effect that the people of Santiago were not only panic-stricken through fear of bombardment, but were suffering from lack of actual necessaries of life.  There was no food save rice, and the supply of that was exceedingly limited.  The belief of the war officials, however, was that the Spaniards would fight to the last, and capitulate only when it should become absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile the soldiers were waiting eagerly for the close of the truce, and, as the hour set by General Shafter drew near, every nerve was strained to its utmost tension once more.  Then a white flag was carried down the line, and all knew the truce had been prolonged.

General Kent, whose division was facing the hospital and barracks of Santiago, was notified by the enemy that Assistant Naval Constructor Hobson and his companions were confined in the extreme northern building, over which two white flags were flying.

The citizens of Santiago, learning that General Toral refused to consider the question of surrender, began to leave the city, - a mournful procession.

General Shafter cabled to the government at Washington under date of July 5th: 

“I am just in receipt of a letter from General Toral, agreeing to exchange Hobson and men here; to make exchange in the morning.  Yesterday he refused my proposition of exchange.”

July 7. General Miles and staff left Washington en route for Santiago.

Lieutenant Hobson and the other Merrimac heroes were brought into the American lines on the morning of the seventh.  The exchange of prisoners had been arranged to take place under a tree midway between the entrenchments occupied by the Rough Riders and the first lines of the Spanish position.  Col.  John Jacob Astor represented the American commander, and took with him to the rendezvous three Spanish lieutenants and fourteen other prisoners.  Major Irles, a Spanish staff officer, acted for the enemy.  The transfer was quickly effected, and once more the brave fellows who had set their lives as a sacrifice on the altar of their country were free.

July 10. The truce continued, with the exception of a brief time on the tenth, when the bombardment was resumed by the fleet, until the thirteenth, when Generals Miles, Shafter, Wheeler, and Gilmour had an interview with General Toral and his staff at a point about halfway between the lines.

July 13. During this interview the situation was placed frankly before General Toral, and he was offered the alternative of being sent home with his garrison, or leaving Santiago province, the only condition imposed being that he should not destroy the existing fortifications, and should leave his arms behind.

July 15. Not until two days later were the details arranged, and then the Spanish commander sent the following letter: 

“SANTIAGO DE CUBA, July 15, 1898.


Excellent Sir: - I am now authorised by my government to capitulate.  I have the honour to so advise you, requesting you to designate hour and place where my representatives should appear to compare with those of your excellency, to effect that article of capitulation on the basis of what has been agreed upon to this date.

“In due time I wish to manifest to your excellency that I desire to know the resolution of the United States government respecting the return of arms, so as to note on the capitulation, also the great courtesy and gentlemanly deportment of your great grace’s representatives, and return for their generous and noble impulse for the Spanish soldiers, will allow them to return to the peninsula with the arms that the American army do them the honour to acknowledge as dutifully descended.

(Signed) “JOSE TORAL,
Commander-in-Chief Fourth Army Corps.

July 16. Commissioners on behalf of the United States and of Spain were appointed, and after but little discussion an agreement between them was arrived at.

The agreement consists of nine articles.

The first declared that all hostilities cease pending the agreement of final capitulation.

Second:  That the capitulation includes all the Spanish forces and the surrender of all war material within the prescribed limits.

Third:  The transportation of the troops to Spain at the earliest possible moment, each force to be embarked at the nearest port.

Fourth:  That the Spanish officers shall retain their side-arms and the enlisted men their personal property.

Fifth:  That after the final capitulation, the Spanish forces shall assist in the removal of all obstructions to navigation in Santiago Harbour.

Sixth:  That after the final capitulation the commanding officers shall furnish a complete inventory of all arms and munitions of war, and a roster of all the soldiers in the district.

Seventh:  That the Spanish general shall be permitted to take the military archives and records with him.

Eighth:  That all guerrillas and Spanish regulars shall be permitted to remain in Cuba if they so elect, giving a parole that they will not again take up arms against the United States unless properly paroled.

Ninth:  That the Spanish forces shall be permitted to march out with all the honours of war, depositing their arms to be disposed of by the United States in the future.  The American commissioners to recommend to their government that the arms of the soldiers be returned to those “who so bravely defended them.”

General Shafter cabled at once to Washington the cheering news: 


“The surrender has been definitely settled and the arms will be turned over to-morrow morning, and the troops will be marched out as prisoners of war.

“The Spanish colours will be hauled down at nine o’clock, and the American flag hoisted.

“SHAFTER, Major-General.”

July 17. The ceremony of surrendering the city was impressive, and, as can well be imagined, thrilling for those boys of ’98 who had been standing face to face with death in the trenches.

At six o’clock in the morning Lieutenant Cook, of General Shafter’s staff, entered the city, and all the arms in the arsenal were turned over to him.  The work of removing the mines which obstructed navigation at the entrance of the harbour had been progressing all night.  At about seven o’clock General Toral, the Spanish commander, sent his sword to General Shafter, as evidence of his submission, and at 8.45 A. M. all the general officers and their staffs assembled at General Shafter’s headquarters.  Each regiment was drawn up along the crest of the heights.

Shortly after nine o’clock the Ninth Infantry entered the city.  This position of honour was given them as a reward for their heroic assault on San Juan Hill.

The details of the surrender are thus described by a correspondent of the Associated Press, who accompanied General Shafter’s staff: 

“General Shafter and his generals, with mounted escort of one hundred picked men of the Second Cavalry, then rode over our trenches to the open ground at the foot of the hill on the main road to Santiago, midway to the then deserted Spanish works.  There they were met by General Toral and his staff, all in full uniform and mounted, and a select detachment of Spanish troops.

“What followed took place in full view of our troops.

“The scene was picturesque and dramatic.  General Shafter, with his generals and their staffs grouped immediately in their rear, and with the troops of dashing cavalrymen with drawn sabres on the left, advanced to meet the vanquished foe.

“After a few words of courteous greeting, General Shafter’s first act was to return General Toral’s sword.  The Spanish general appeared to be touched by the complimentary words with which General Shafter accompanied this action, and he thanked the American commander feelingly.

“Then followed a short conversation as to the place selected for the Spanish forces to deposit their arms, and a Spanish infantry detachment marched forward to a position facing our cavalry, where the Spaniards were halted.  The latter were without their colours.

“Eight Spanish trumpeters then saluted, and were saluted, in turn, by our trumpeters, both giving flourishes for lieutenant and major-generals.

“General Toral then personally ordered the Spanish company, which in miniature represented the forces under his command, to ground arms.  Next, by his direction, the company wheeled and marched across our lines to the rear, and thence to the place selected for camping them.  The Spaniards moved rapidly, to the quick notes of the Spanish march, played by the companies; but it impressed one like the ‘Dead March’ from Saul.

“Although no attempt was made to humiliate them, the Spanish soldiers seemed to feel their disgrace keenly, and scarcely glanced at their conquerors as they passed by.  But this apparent depth of feeling was not displayed by the other regiments.  Without being sullen, the Spaniards appeared to be utterly indifferent to the reverses suffered by the Spanish arms, and some of them, when not under the eyes of their officers, seemed to secretly rejoice at the prospect of food and an immediate return to Spain.

“General Toral, throughout the ceremony, was sorely dejected.  When General Shafter introduced him by name to each member of his staff, the Spanish general appeared to be a very broken man.  He seems to be about sixty years of age, and of frail constitution, although stern resolution shone in every feature.  The lines are strongly marked, and his face is deep drawn, as if with physical pain.

“General Toral replied with an air of abstraction to the words addressed to him, and when he accompanied General Shafter at the head of the escort into the city, to take formal possession of Santiago, he spoke but few words.  The appealing faces of the starving refugees streaming back into the city did not move him, nor did the groups of Spanish soldiers lining the road and gazing curiously at the fair-skinned, stalwart-framed conquerors.  Only once did a faint shadow of a smile lurk about the corners of his mouth.

“This was when the cavalcade passed through a barbed-wire entanglement.  No body of infantry could ever have got through this defence alive, and General Shafter’s remark about its resisting power found the first gratifying echo in the defeated general’s heart.

“Farther along the desperate character of the Spanish resistance, as planned, amazed our officers.  Although primitive, it was well done.  Each approach to the city was thrice barricaded and wired, and the barricades were high enough and sufficiently strong to withstand shrapnel.  The slaughter among our troops would have been frightful had it ever become necessary to storm the city.

“Around the hospitals and public buildings and along the west side of the line there were additional works and emplacements for guns, though no guns were mounted in them.

“The streets of Santiago are crooked, with narrow lines of one-storied houses, most of which are very dilapidated, but every veranda of every house was thronged by its curious inhabitants, - disarmed soldiers.  These were mostly of the lower classes.

“Few expressions of any kind were heard along the route.  Here and there was a shout for free Cuba from some Cuban sympathiser, but as a rule there were only low mutterings.  The better class of Spaniards remained indoors, or satisfied their curiosity from behind drawn blinds.

“Several Spanish ladies in tumble-down carriages averted their faces as we passed.  The squalor in the streets was frightful.  The bones of dead horses and other animals were bleaching in the streets, and buzzards, as tame as sparrows, hopped aside to let us pass.

“The windows of the hospitals, in which there are over fifteen hundred sick men, were crowded with invalids, who dragged themselves there to witness our incoming.

“The palace was reached soon after ten o’clock.  There General Toral introduced General Shafter and the other American generals to the alcalde, Senor Feror, and to the chief of police, Senor Guiltillerrez, as well as to the other municipal authorities.

“Luncheon was then served at the palace.  The meal consisted mainly of rum, wine, coffee, rice, and toasted cake.  This scant fare occasioned many apologies on the part of the Spaniards, but it spoke eloquently of their heroic resistance.  The fruit supply of the city was absolutely exhausted, and the Spaniards had nothing to live on except rice, on which the soldiers in the trenches of Santiago have subsisted for the last twelve days.”

Ten thousand people witnessed the ceremony of hoisting the stars and stripes over the governor’s palace in Santiago.

A finer stage setting for a dramatic episode it would be difficult to imagine.  The palace, a picturesque old dwelling in the Moorish style of architecture, faces the Plaza de la Reina, the principal public square.  Opposite rises the imposing Catholic cathedral.  On one side is a quaint, brilliantly painted building with broad verandas, the club of San Carlos; on the other a building of much the same description, the Cafe de la Venus.

Across the plaza was drawn up the Ninth Infantry, headed by the Sixth Cavalry band.  In the street facing the palace stood a picked troop of the Second Cavalry, with drawn sabres, under command of Captain Brett.  Massed on the stone flagging between the band and the line of horsemen were the brigade commanders of General Shafter’s division, with their staffs.  On the red-tiled roof of the palace stood Captain McKittrick, Lieutenant Miles, and Lieutenant Wheeler.  Immediately above them, above the flagstaff, was the illuminated Spanish arms, and the legend, “Vive Alphonso XIII.

All about, pressing against the veranda rails, crowding to windows and doors, and lining the roofs, were the people of the town, principally women and non-combatants.

As the chimes of the old cathedral rang out the hour of twelve, the infantry and cavalry presented arms.  Every American uncovered, and Captain McKittrick hoisted the stars and stripes.  As the brilliant folds unfurled in the gentle breeze against the fleckless sky, the cavalry band broke into the strains of “The Star Spangled Banner,” making the American pulse leap and the American heart thrill with joy.

At the same instant the sound of the distant booming of Captain Capron’s battery, firing a salute of twenty-one guns, drifted in.

When the music ceased, from all directions around our lines came flying across the plaza the strains of the regimental bands and the muffled, hoarse cheers of our troops.

The infantry came to “order arms” a moment later, after the flag was up, and the band played “Rally Round the Flag, Boys.”

Instantly General McKibben called for three cheers for General Shafter, which were given with great enthusiasm, the band playing “The Stars and Stripes For Ever.”

The ceremony over, General Shafter and his staff returned to the American lines, leaving the city in the possession of the municipal authorities subject to the control of General McKibben, who had been appointed temporary military governor.