Read CHAPTER XV - THE PORTO RICAN CAMPAIGN of The Boys of 98, free online book, by James Otis, on ReadCentral.com.

July 20. With bands playing and thirty thousand people cheering, the first expedition to Porto Rico left Charleston, S. C., at seven o’clock in the evening, under command of Maj.-Gen. J. H. Wilson.  The Second and Third Wisconsin and Sixteenth Pennsylvania regiments, and two companies of the Sixth Illinois, made up the list of troops.

July 21. General Miles accompanied the expedition bound for Porto Rico, which left Guantanamo Bay, made up of eight transports convoyed by the New Orleans, Annapolis, Cincinnati, Leyden, and Wasp.

July 22. An expedition under command of Brig.-Gen. Theo.  Schwan left Tampa on five transports, bound for Porto Rico.

July 25. The expedition under the command of Major-General Miles landed at Guanica de Porto Rico, the Gloucester, in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright, steaming into the harbour in order to reconnoitre the place.  With the fleet waiting outside, the gallant little fighting yacht Gloucester braved the mines which were supposed to be in this harbour, and, upon sounding, found that there were five fathoms of water close inshore.

The Spaniards were completely taken by surprise.  Almost the first they knew of the approach of the army of invasion was the firing of a gun from the Gloucester, saucily demanding that the Spaniards haul down the flag of Spain, which was floating from the flagstaff in front of a blockhouse standing to the east of the village.

The first 3-pounders were aimed at the hills right and left of the bay and in order to scare the enemy, the fighting yacht purposely avoiding firing into the town.

The Gloucester then hove to within about six hundred yards of the shore, and lowered a launch, having on board a colt rapid-fire gun and thirty men, under the command of Lieutenant Huse.  She was sent ashore without encountering any opposition.

Quartermaster Beck thereupon told Yeoman Lacey to haul down the Spanish flag, which was done, and then they raised the first United States flag to float over Porto Rican soil.

Suddenly about thirty Spaniards opened fire with Mauser rifles upon the American party.  Lieutenant Huse and his men responded with great gallantry, the Colt gun doing effective work.

Norman, who received Admiral Cervera’s surrender, and Wood, a volunteer lieutenant, shared the honours with Lieutenant Huse.

Almost immediately after the Spaniards fired on the Americans, the Gloucester opened fire on the enemy with all her 3 and 6-pounders which could be brought to bear, shelling the town and also dropping shells into the hills to the west of Guanica, where a number of Spanish cavalry were to be seen hastening toward the spot where the Americans had landed.

Lieutenant Huse then threw up a little fort, which he named Fort Wainwright, and laid barbed wire in the street in front of it in order to repel the expected cavalry attack.  The lieutenant also mounted the Colt gun and signalled for reinforcements, which were sent from the Gloucester.

Presently a few of the Spanish cavalry joined those who were fighting in the streets of Guanica, but the Colt barked to a purpose, killing four of them.

Soon afterward white-coated galloping cavalrymen were seen climbing the hills to the westward, and the foot-soldiers were scurrying along the fences from the town.

By 9.45, with the exception of a few guerrilla shots, the town was won, and the enemy driven out of the neighbourhood.

The troops from the transports were landed before nightfall.

July 26. Near Yauco, while the Americans were pushing toward the mountains, the Spaniards ambushed eight companies of the Sixth Massachusetts and Sixth Illinois regiments, but the enemy was repulsed and driven back a mile to a ridge, where the Spanish cavalry charged and were routed by our infantry.

General Garretson led the fight with the men from Illinois and Massachusetts, and the enemy retreated to Yauco, leaving three dead on the field and thirteen wounded.  None of our men were killed, and only three were slightly wounded.

June 27. The port of Ponce, Porto Rico, surrendered to Commander C. H. Davis of the auxiliary gunboat Dixie.  There was no resistance, and the Americans were welcomed with enthusiasm.  General Miles issued the following proclamation: 

“In the prosecution of the war against the kingdom of Spain by the people of the United States, in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity, its military forces have come to occupy the island of Porto Rico.  They come bearing the banners of freedom, inspired by a noble purpose, to seek the enemies of our government and of yours, and to destroy or capture all in armed resistance.

“They bring you the fostering arms of a free people, whose greatest power is justice and humanity to all living within their fold.  Hence they release you from your former political relations, and it is hoped your cheerful acceptance of the government of the United States will follow.

“The chief object of the military forces will be to overthrow the armed authority of Spain, and give the people of your beautiful island the largest measure of liberty consistent with this military occupation.

“They have not come to make war on the people of the country, who for centuries have been oppressed, but, on the contrary, they bring protection not only to yourselves, but to your property, will promote your prosperity and bestow upon you the immunities and blessings of our enlightened and liberal institutions and government.

“It is not their purpose to interfere with the existing laws and customs which are wholesome and beneficial to the people, so long as they conform to the rules of the military administration, order, and justice.  This is not a war of devastation and desolation, but one to give all within the control of the military and naval forces the advantages and blessings of enlightened civilisation.”

July 28. The expedition destined for Porto Rico, under command of Major-General Brooke, left Newport News.  Four transports and the auxiliary cruisers St. Louis and St. Paul comprises the fleet.

The Navy Department made public the following telegram: 

                                    “U.  S. S. MASSACHUSETTS, PONCE, PORTO
                                                            RICO, July 28.

“Commander Davis with Dixie, Annapolis, Wasp, and Gloucester left Guanica July 27th to blockade Ponce and capture lighters for United States army.  City of Ponce and Playa surrendered to Commander Davis upon demand at 12.30 A. M., July 28th.  American flag hoisted 6 A. M., 28th.

“Spanish garrison evacuated.

“Provisional articles of surrender until occupation by army:  first, garrison to be allowed to retire; second, civil government to remain in force; third, police and fire brigade to be maintained without arms; fourth, captain of port not to be made prisoner.

“Arrived at Ponce from Guanica with Massachusetts and Cincinnati, General Miles and General Wilson and transport, at 6.40 A. M., 28th; commenced landing army in captured sugar lighters.

“No resistance.  Troops welcomed by inhabitants; great enthusiasm.

“Captured sixty lighters, twenty sailing vessels, and 120 tons of coal.

“HIGGINSON.”

July 29. The advance guard of General Henry’s division, which landed at Guanica on Tuesday, arrived at Ponce, taking en route the cities of Yauco, Tallaboa, Sabana, Grande, and Penuelas.

Attempts by the Spaniards to blow up bridges and otherwise destroy the railroad between Yauco and Ponce failed, only a few flat cars being burned.  At Yauco the Americans were welcomed in an address made by the alcalde, and a public proclamation was issued, dated “Yauco, Porto Rico, United States of America, July 27th.”

July 31. In General Miles’s despatches to the War Department, the following statements are made regarding the condition of affairs on the island: 

“Volunteers are surrendering themselves with arms and ammunition.  Four-fifths of the people are overjoyed at the arrival of the army.  Two thousand from one place have volunteered to serve with it.  They are bringing in transportation, beef, and other needed supplies.

“The custom-house has already yielded fourteen thousand dollars.  As soon as all the troops are disembarked they will be in readiness to move.”

Colonel Hulings, with ten companies of the Sixteenth Pennsylvania, occupied Juan Diaz, about eight miles northeast of Ponce, on the road to San Juan.  The American flag was raised, and greeted with great enthusiasm by the populace.

August 1. The American scouts were within six miles of Coamo, and the Spanish rear guard was retiring fast.  The Spanish had fled toward Aibonito, thirty miles from Ponce, and the place was being fortified.  There the road winds around among the mountains, and the artillery commanding it rendered the position impregnable.  Detours were to be made by the Americans from Coamo through Arroyo and Guayamo, thus avoiding the main road, which had been mined for three miles.  Captain Confields of the engineers went ahead to kill these mines.  The Fifth Signal Corps men in advance of the Sixteenth Pennsylvania sent word to General Stone that it had reconnoitred the road to Adjuntas.  A signal-station was established, and the stars and stripes run up at Santa Isabel amid great enthusiasm.  Yabricoa, Patillas, Arroyo, Guayanillo, Penuelas, Adjuntas, Guayamo, and Salinas had all surrendered.

The Spaniards hurried from these towns towards San Juan before an attack was made.  The second fleet of transports arrived safely at Fort Ponce, the Roumanian bringing the cavalry detachment, and the Indiana and Missouri the batteries.  Generals Brooke, Schwan, and Haines, with their staffs, were on board.  The troops carried included the Thirteenth Illinois, Seventh Ohio, Fourth Pennsylvania, Nineteenth Regulars, and Troops A and C of the New York volunteer cavalry.

There were also one thousand animals, thirty days’ rations for thirty thousand men, a signal corps detachment, and an ambulance corps.  The whole force, as well as the ammunition and quartermaster’s stores, was landed, and the men were camping on the outskirts of the town.

August 2. San Juan blockaded by the New Orleans, Puritan, Prairie, Dixie, and Gloucester, which kept out of range of the masked batteries ashore.

The railroad from Ponce to Yauco in possession of U. S. troops.  Spanish volunteers continued to come into the American lines and give themselves up.

August 4. A portion of General Grant’s brigade, on the transport Hudson, sailed from Newport News.

A correspondent for the Associated Press, with the invading army, thus wrote under date of August 4th: 

“The Americans have taken peaceful possession of the eastern portion of the island.

“Small parties of marines have been landed, who have lighted the lamps in the lighthouse at Cape San Juan, and in other lighthouses along the coast.  They met with no resistance.

“Indeed, at Cape San Juan, deputations of citizens came out to meet them.

“The war-ships now in this vicinity are the Montgomery, the Annapolis, the Puritan, and the Amphitrite.  The two former are looking for the transports with troops which left the United States and have scattered all about the island.

“The Annapolis rounded up the Whitney, the Florida, and the Raleigh, yesterday, and they are now at Cape San Juan.  There seems to have been a serious mistake as to the rendezvous, for no two ships go to the same place, and it will take several days to overtake them and get them to Ponce, where General Miles is waiting.

“Off San Juan the cruiser New Orleans alone maintains the blockade.  The city is grim and silent, but back of her yellow walls there will be plenty of determination to fight when the Americans fire.

“Captain-General Macias has issued a proclamation, in the course of which he says: 

“’Spain has not sued for peace, and I can drive off the American boats now as I did Sampson’s attempt before.’

“The daughter of the captain-general is helping to drill the gunners in the fort.  Altogether there are ninety-five hundred Spanish regulars in the city.  The troops of the enemy, who are retreating from Ponce and the other towns on the south coast occupied by the Americans, have not yet arrived.”

August 5. General Haines, with the Fourth Ohio and the Third Illinois, left Arroyo for the Spanish stronghold of Guayama.  The Fourth Ohio was placed in the lead, and when only three miles from Arroyo its skirmish-lines were attacked by the Spaniards from ambush.  There was a hot running fight from this time on until the American troops reached and captured Guayama, which is about six miles from Arroyo.  The Americans lost three wounded, and the enemy, one killed and two wounded.

August 6. The foreign consuls at San Juan de Porto Rico advised the Spanish authorities to surrender the island to the American troops.  The Spaniards, however, in reply, announced that they had resolved to fight; thereupon the consuls notified the Spanish commander, Captain-General Macias, that they would establish a neutral zone between Bayamon and Rio Piedrass, in which to gather the foreign residents and their portable properties in order to ensure their safety in the event of a bombardment of the place by the American forces.  The consul sent a similar notification to General Miles.

August 7. A general advance of the American forces.  The custom-house in the village of Farjardo was seized.

August 8. The town of Coamo was taken by the Sixteenth Pennsylvania and the Second and Third Wisconsin.  Artillery was used on an outlying blockhouse, and under cover of this fire the advance was made.

Two hundred Spaniards were captured and twenty killed, including the commander, Rafael Igleseas, and three other officers.

Five Americans were wounded.

August 9. Gen. Fred Grant, his staff, and six companies of the First Kentucky regiment sailed for Porto Rico from Newport News on the transport Alamo.

“PONCE, August 9.

Secretary of War, Washington: - The following received from General Wilson: 

“’General Ernst’s brigade captured Coamo 8.30 this morning.  Sixteenth Pennsylvania, Colonel Hulings commanding, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Biddle, of my staff, having made a turning movement through the mountains, striking the Aibonito road half a mile beyond town, captured the entire garrison of Coamo, about 150 men.

“’Spanish commander, Igleseas, and Captain Lopez killed.  Our loss reported six wounded, only one severely.  Men and officers behaving excellently.’

“Colonel Hulings and Colonel Biddle are especially to be commended.  This is a very important capture, and well executed.  Names of wounded as soon as received here.

(Signed) “MILES.”

Troop C, of New York, pursued a party of fleeing Spanish engineers, after the capture of Coamo, a distance of four miles along the road to Aibonito.

The Americans were checked at the Cuyon River, where the Spaniards had blown up the bridge, and were shelled from a Spanish battery on the crest of Asoniante Mountain.  The dismounted cavalry returned the fire, receiving no damage, and holding the position.  A battalion of the Third Wisconsin Volunteers went to their support.

August 11.

“PONCE, VIA BERMUDA, August 11.

Secretary of War, Washington: - The following message received from Schwan: 

“’CAMP, NEAR HORMIGUEROS, August 10.

“’Advance guard, including cavalry of this command, while reconnoitring northwest of Rosario River, near Hormigueros, developed strong Spanish force, which lay concealed in hills north of Mayaguez.

“’In general engagement that followed, Lieutenant Byron, Eighth Cavalry, my aid-de-camp, was wounded in foot, and Private Fermberger, Company D, Eleventh Infantry, and one other private were killed, and fourteen enlisted men were wounded.

“’It is reported that the most, if not the entire Spanish garrison of Mayaguez and surrounding country, consisting of one thousand regulars and two hundred volunteers, took part in the engagement.  We drove enemy from his position, and it is believed inflicted heavy loss.

“’A wounded Spanish lieutenant was found in the field and brought into our line.  Conduct of officers and men was beyond all praise.  I propose to continue my march on Mayaguez at early hour to-morrow.

“‘SCHWAN.’

(Signed) “MILES.”

August 12. General Wilson moved one Lancaster battery out to the front for the purpose of shelling the Spanish position on the crest of the mountain at the head of the pass through which the road winds.

The enemy occupied a position of great natural strength, protected by seven lines of entrenchments, and a battery of two howitzers.

The Spaniards were eager for the fray, and early in the day had fired upon Colonel Biddle of the engineer corps, who, with a platoon of Troop C, of New York, was reconnoitring on their right flank.

As the American battery rounded a curve in the road, two thousand yards away, the enemy opened an artillery and infantry fire.  Four companies of the Third Wisconsin, which were posted on the bluff to the right of the road, were not permitted to respond.

The guns advanced at a gallop in the face of a terrific fire, were unlimbered, and were soon hurling common shell and shrapnel at the enemy at a lively rate, striking the emplacements, batteries, and entrenchments with the rhythmic regularity of a triphammer.

The enemy soon abandoned one gun, but continued to serve the other at intervals for over an hour.  They had the range, and their shrapnel burst repeatedly over the Americans.

In about two hours the enemy abandoned the other gun, and the men began to flee from the entrenchments toward a banana growth near the gorge.  Then the guns shelled them as they ran.  One gun was ordered to advance a position a quarter of a mile farther on.  It had just reached the new position when Spanish infantry reinforcements filed into the trenches and began a deadly fire upon the Americans, compelling the battery to retire at a gallop.  Then both the enemy’s howitzers reopened, the shrapnel screamed, and Mausers sang.  Another gun galloped from the rear, but the American ammunition was exhausted.

Colonel Bliss of General Wilson’s staff went forward to the enemy’s lines with a flag of truce, and explained that peace negotiations were almost concluded, that their position was untenable, and demanded their surrender.  The Spanish had had no communication with the outside world, and the commander asked until the next morning in order that he might communicate with General Macias at San Juan.

August 13. Twelve hours later the Spanish commander gave the following command to one of his staff: 

“Tell the American general, if he desires to avoid further shedding of blood, to remain where he is.”

General Miles telegraphed the War Department that he was in receipt of Secretary Alger’s order to suspend hostilities in Porto Rico.  The soldiers of the American army generally received the news of peace with delight, although some were disappointed that there was to be no further fighting, and many officers expressed regrets at the suspension of hostilities in the midst of the campaign.

August 14. General Schwan’s column was attacked between Mayaguez and Lares.  As the Eleventh Infantry under Colonel Burke was descending the valley of the Rio Grande they were fired upon from a hillside by a force of fifteen hundred Spaniards, who were retreating toward the north.  The fire was returned, and the Spaniards were repulsed with, it was believed, considerable loss.

Colonel Soto, the commander of the Mayaguez district, was wounded and afterward captured in a wayside cottage.  He was attended by two sergeants, who surrendered.  The Americans suffered no loss.  The artillery and cavalry were not engaged.

General Schwan had not received news of the signing of the protocol when the action occurred, but obtained it later in the day.