- Chapter 1: To Cuba as a Filibuster
I happened to be in New York City in 1896, and one evening in the spring or early summer when strolling past Madison Square Garden, and impelled by curiosity dropped in to see the Cuban fair than in progress.
This fair, promoted by resident Cubans and American sympathizers with the cause of Cuban independence, was held ostensibly for the purpose of raising funds for the purchase of hospital supplies for the insurgent forces in the field, but a subsequent acquaintance with what was being done on the distracted Island justifies a suspicion that more the money was expended for dynamite and cartridges and for quinine and bandages.
The principal attraction at the fair on the occasion of my visit was a fiery and eloquent speech by General Daniel E. Sickles, well known to be one of the most valued friends of the Cubans in their struggle.
Since the outbreak of the insurrection I had taken considerable interest in its progress, and had indulge myself in a vague sort of idea that I would like to take part in it, I fear as much from the love of adventure and a desire to see some fighting from any more worthy motive. Of course, I shared the prevailing sympathy of my countrymen with the Cubans, and believe their cause a worthy one. Whatever doubts I may previously have had on the expediency of mixing up in the rows of other people vanished after hearing General Sickles speech, and I return to my room that evening with my mind made up and spent a sleepless night, as befits one who has just determined on going to his first war.
The next morning, without credentials of any kind, I presented myself at the office of the Cuban Junta at 56 New Street, and inquired if I could see Mr. Palma, but did not succeed in doing so. Mr. Zayas, one of the attaches of the Junta, took me in hand and was most courteous, but assured me that they were sending no Americans to Cuba, and were confining their efforts in this country to raising funds and doing what they could to direct public sentiment in favor of their compatriots. I have since often wondered how I could have been so guileless as to expect them to receive me, a total stranger, with open arms. I could have been a fugitive from justice seeking a hiding-place, a worthless adventurer, or, worst of all, a spy in Spanish pay. It was evident that different tactics must be tried. Through a mutual friend I obtained a letter of introduction to General Sickles, and the next day called on the old veteran at his residence, and not only had a most pleasant chat with him, but left with a personal note to Mr. Palma in which the General stated that, though he did not know me personally, he felt justified in vouching for me on the strength of the letter I had brought him. Back to the Junta without loss of time, and now it was different. I was admitted without delay to the office of the kindly faced, honest old patriot who afterward became the first president of free Cuba. Mr. Palma ask me if I had had any military experience and was told that I had not, but had read considerably along military lines and felt that I had it in me to make good. A question as to my knowledge of Spanish brought out the fact that I had a fair reading but not a speaking acquaintance with that language. Mr. Palma then stated that in order as much as possible to avoid violating the neutrality laws of the United States the Cubans could not receive applicants into their service in this country, but that I could be sent down on one of the first expeditions, and might, after my arrival, offer my services to whatever insurgent chief in the field I desired. My urbane but noncommittal friend of the day before, Mr. Zayas, was now sent for and I was turned over to him.
This gentleman took my address and told me that as it was impossible to intrust the secrets regarding the sailing of filibustering expeditions to anyone, I must not expect to be informed as to when I could leave, but must possess my soul in patience until sent for. In the meantime I was to call at the Junta once a week. On one of these visits Mr. Zayas told me that the Cubans were having indifferent success with their artillery in the field, largely because their people did not seem to know how to handle the guns, and suggested that if I were to acquire some knowledge on that subject before sailing it might add to my welcome. This struck me favorably, as my father had been an artillery officer in the Civil War, and I had been brought up on stories of fierce struggles in which the old brass Napoleons of that day had done their part. My own artillery experience consisted in once having seen a salute fired to President Hayes at a county fair in Kansas. The result of Mr. Zayas's suggestion was that I take a note from him to the firm of Hartley & Graham, the arms dealers from whom the Cubans purchased their implements of war, and had explained to me by one of their experts the mysteries of the Hotchkiss 12-pounder breach-loading rifle, and was allowed to fondle that ugly looking instrument of death to my heart's content and take it apart and put it together again. A book of instructions as to its use and a lot of formidable tables of velocities of various ranges, etc., I all but committed to memory. My keen interest in this new subject so pleased Mr. Zayas that he suggested that I impart some of my valuable lore to some of his countrymen in New York who were presumably waiting in feverish anxiety for the sailing of the next expedition. This I agreed to do, though it struck me as a somewhat indiscreet performance in a city where Cubans were closely watched by Spanish spies, and where there were in innumerable enterprising reporters looking for "scoops." But I kept my feelings to myself, and a few evenings later was conducted by one of the attaches of the Junta to a small hall over a saloon, well up on Third Avenue. All but a few of the lights were turned off and the window-shades were well drawn. Here we found about 15 Cubans, callow youths in the main, the most of them, I judged, being students. These aspiring patriots chattered like magpies and smoked the most astounding number of cigarettes. In addition to this promising material, there were in the room several large and imposing looking crates labeled "machinery." These were opened and turned out to be the various parts of a Hotchkiss 12-pounder. My recently acquired knowledge, what there was of that, now became of use, and the gun was set up and taken apart a dozen times, and the breach mechanism, sights, and ammunition explained. As this gun is transported in sections on mule back, as well as dragged by a shaft, with various heavy pieces were lifted up to the height of an imaginary or "theoretical mule" and then let down again, a form of calisthenics that soon palled on the embryo artillerymen, the night being hot and the room close. Several times the pieces were allowed to fall to the floor with a noise that should have aroused the block, and I spent a good bit of time figuring out how I will explain to the police, if they came to investigate, what I was doing with such warlike paraphernalia in peaceful New York. But we were not molested, and for a month, once a week, went through this performance. But it was wasted effort. Whether any of these young men ever reached the Island to participate in the war, I do not know, but certainly it is that there was not one of them in the artillery command of the "Departamento del Oriente," the only one that did any serious work with artillery during the struggle. But it was different with the gun that we trundled and knocked about on those hot summer nights above that Third Avenue saloon, for it had a baptism and that hell of Mauser fire at Cascorra, were it was served within 200 yards of a trench full of Spaniards, until human endurance could stand the strain no longer, and the gun was dragged backward into a ravine by the survivors of the detachment. And later, at Guaimaro, Winchester Dana Osgood, Cornells famous football player, fell across its trail, shot through the brain. It helped to battered down the stone fort at Jiguani and took part in the duel with the Krupp battery at Victoria de las Tunas, and I understand now rests in Havana Arsenal and is pointed out to visitors as one of the relics of the War of Independence. Verily, the old gun had a career not to be ashamed of.
An interesting incident of the summer was a trip with several members of the Junta to the coast of Long Island to see a demonstration of the working of the newly invented Sims-Dudley dynamite gun, an instrument that look more like a telescope on wheels then and implement of war. This gun was fired several times out to sea, to the evident consternation of an excursion boat which made the most phenomenal speed in getting out of the way. The explosions of its nitro-gelatine-loaded shells through water and spray a hundred feet in the air. Nearly a year and a half later I saw one of these guns, possibly the same one, at Victoria de las Tunas, reduce blockhouses and stone barracks to heaps of rubbish, wrecked a Krupp 8 cm fieldpiece, and terrify hundreds of Spanish regulars into surrender.
So this summer wore long, but one afternoon in August came the fateful telegram, and after all these years I can quote it's every word: "Be at Cortlandt Street Ferry at 7:00 p.m., ready to leave the city." My trunk was hastily packed and left behind, and with a few belongings in a small valise, and, I must acknowledge, with some sinking of the heart, I made my way to the ferry accompanied by an old friend of college days. Here I met Mr. Zayas and by him was introduced to Mr. Pagluchi, a nervy looking Italian of good address an appearance, who, I afterward learned, was a marine engineer and presided over the engine rooms of the various steamers sent out by the Junta for the purpose of carrying reinforcements and arms to Cuba. Mr. Pagluchi was accompanied by four men, none of them Cubans, and not one of him I'd ever seen before. These were Charles Huntington, a fine-looking Canadian of soldierly bearing, who had served in the Northwest Mounted Police; Walinski, in Englishman of Polish descent; Welsford, a young man from New Jersey, and Arthur Potter, a former English marine soldier who had lived in the United States for several years. Huntington was one of the bravest man I ever knew, being, in fact, absolutely reckless. He served with distinction in the Cascorra and Guaimaro campaigns, and was finally killed in a fight with Spanish guerrillas, his body falling into the hands of the enemy. Potter and Welsford were chums, careless, go-lucky young fellows; the former was terribly wounded at Desmayo, having both legs shattered, and spent nearly a year on his back in a "bush" hospital. He remained in Cuba after the war, and now lives in Camaguey. Of the final fate of Welsford and Walinski I know nothing.
On the ferry boat the five of us tried to appease our boundless curiosity as to where we were bound by attempts to extract information from Pagluchi, but without success, as it was evident that one of the things that individual was paid for was keeping his own counsel, and he fully justified the confidence reposed in him by the Junta. He kept our tickets in his position and said we would know all in due time. At Jersey City we took berths in a sleeper on the Pennsylvania, early the next morning passed through Washington, and in the fullness of time reach Charleston, South Carolina, where we were conducted to hotel, and found among the guests about 30 Cubans, well-dressed, superior-looking men, standing about in little groups, conversing in low tones and worried about something. I recognized, among others, General Emilio Nunez, afterward governor of the province of Havana under the administration of President Palma, whom I had met at the office of the Junta, and by whom I was introduced to General Rafael Cabrera, a kindly and considerate old gentleman who was one of the veterans of the Ten Years' War, and who had lived in exile since its close. He was now returning to renew the struggle of younger days, but to lose his life without seeing the realization of his hopes.
Among other guests of the hotel were some 15 to 20 well-groomed, quiet-appearing men who we were at once warned against having anything to do with, as they were operatives of a well-known detective agency in the employee of the Spanish minister at Washington, with the exception of a few who were said to be United States Secret Service men or United States deputy marshals. It was the duty of these men to learn what they could as to our intentions in order that they might give to the proper authorities the information necessary to enable them to seize the vessel on which we were to sail. They had had no success with the wary Cubans, but their eyes brighten when they saw Pagluchi five wards, and they lost little time in trying to get acquitted. Two of them took me in hand and suggested that there was nothing like a mint julep to make one forget Charlestons August climate. But I told them I was from Kansas, whereupon they suggested an ice-cream soda; there was a place a few blocks distance where were concocted cooling drinks that were the talk of the town. Would I not stroll down there? It was difficult to shake them off without retiring to my room and sweltering in the terrific heat. Finally, Huntington saw my plight and coming over very genially offered to thrash both of them if they did not leave me alone. This had the desired effect.
Our curiosity as to how and when we were to reach Cuba was not yet satisfied. It was known of that the steamer Commodore, famous as a filibuster, was lying in Charleston harbor closely watched by a revenue-cutter. She had been searched for arms, but none were found on board, and, and she carried no persons besides her crew and her papers were correct, there was no justification for her seizure. The vessel was merely under surveillance, and the arrival of the parties of Cubans in Charleston had added much to the importance of watching her. As will be shown later, the Commodore was merely there as a blind, and served her purpose well.
On that afternoon of the day following our arrival the Cubans, carrying their hand baggage, began to leave the hotel in little groups, each followed by one or more "sleuths." About half-past three Pagluchi told his flock to come with him, and we made our way to the station of the Plant Line systems of railways, where we found one of the regular trains about to leave.
We were conducted to the rear car of the train, a day coach, where we found the Cubans who had preceded us from the hotel. Several of the detectives who attempted to secure seats in this car were told that it was a special chartered by a party of excursionist, and that we would be obliged to deny ourselves the pleasure of their company. So they found seats in the car ahead, and in due time to train pulled out of the station. As to the destination of the train to which our car was for the time being attached, I cannot say, but I know that we pounded along over the rails at a fair rate of speed until sometime late at night, when we stopped at an obscure station in the woods; a locomotive backed up to our car from a siding, the car was quickly and quietly uncoupled from the train, which then proceeded on its way, while our car with its engine flew back on the track a few miles, was switched onto another line, and sped along for hours without making more than a the few absolutely necessary stops. From the special car we had grown to be a special train, a small one, it is true, but none the less a special. The whole plan for escaping the men following us and throwing them entirely off the scent had been thought out by Mr. Fritot, the Charleston agent of the Plant Line, and worked to perfection. We have been many a chuckle over the chagrin that must have been felt by our attentive mentor's when they found how neatly they had been "sacked."
Just after sunrise we came to a stop at a little station in a region of pine woods. There was a small station building and possibly one or two other houses, and a good size sluggish river crossed by the railway bridge, under which lay a big tug, the Dauntless, soon to become famous as the most successful filibuster in the Cuban service, now making her first essay in the exciting work of dodging American revenue-cutters and out running Spanish gunboats. On a siding near the river bank were three large freight cars, supposed to contain saw-mill machinery arrived two days before from New York. There was no longer any occasion for secrecy, and we were informed that the station was Woodbine, on the extreme southeastern coast of Georgia, the river was the Satilla, the freight cars were laiden with arms and ammunition, and the panting tug in the river was to carry us to Cuba. We alighted from the cars, stretched our cramped limbs, and looked over our surrounding with no little interest. Our engine and car pulled out, and the engineer, who evidently suspected that he is helping to make history, called out, "Goodbye and good luck, don't let them Spanions git you." We were served with a hasty breakfast of strong coffee and hard bread from the Dauntless, the freight cars were opened, we took off our coats and went to work, and work it was. The forenoon was sultry and the boxes heavy, but fortunately the carry was downhill and we returned up the river bank empty-handed. There were many among the 35 of us who had never done a stroke of manual labor in their lives, but we five were not in that class. Nevertheless, we were heartily glad when the task was over, and all felt that we had qualified for membership in the freighter handlers' union. In five hours there had been transferred to the hold of the Dauntless a Hotchkiss 12-pounder, with its pack saddles and other gear, and 800 shells, 1,300 Mauser and Remington rifles, 100 revolvers, 1000 cavalry machetes, 800 pounds of dynamite, several hundred saddles, half a ton of medical stores, and 460,000 rounds of small arms ammunition. In truth, the Madison Square Garden fair for the raising of funds for the purchase of "hospital supplies" had evidently been a howling success. I can testify that the cargo of the Dauntless was put many a man in the hospital for every one it took out.
It was about noon when we were ready to cast off, and the Dauntless, giving several defiant toots, as if in exultation, slipped down the river towards the sea. On the bridge was her master, Captain John O'Brien, a noted filibuster, usually known by the honorary title of "Dynamite" O'Brien, from some incident connected with one of the Central America or West Indian revolutions that he had been mixed up in. Blockade-running was an old story with him, even before the Cuban insurrection, and during that war he had safely conducted a number of expeditions to the Cuban coast. He was an ideal man for the perilous business, cool and resourceful, and a splendid seaman. And all of these qualifications were needed for filibustering in this particular war, for if there was one thing well understood it was that every member of one of these expeditions, if captured by the Spaniards, would get the shortest shrift possible to give him. The Spaniards did not fight revolutions with rose-water, and maybe they are right. Consequently filibustering in those days was grim and terrible business, fit occupation for lion-hearted men. Insurrections with their attendant a blockade running are not so frequent as in the good times gone by. The industry is in the "dumps," and Captain O'Brien is now chief harbor pilot of Havana, the mild-mannered, thick-set man with iron gray mustache who has conducted many a one of you on a passenger steamer through the narrow entrance past Morro Castle. I saw him ten years later, when he came out to bring in the vessel on which I was a passenger at the time of the second intervention, and we had a good embrace in Cuban style in memory of our hazardous voyage of former years. His present occupation must seem to him as tame as raising chickens.
Pagluchi had long before turned over his five members of the expedition to General Cabrera, doubtless glad to be rid of us, and was now in charge of the engines of the Dauntless. The crew consisted of just crew, and they look alike the world over. It seemed rather a shame to run these men, who probably did not know what they were doing, up against the chance of being blown out of the water by a Spanish gunboat or of being lined up against the famous wall at the Cabanas fortress, the scene of so many pitiful tragedies. In the short time we were out of the river in on the Atlantic. A sharp look out was kept before getting well out to sea, but not a wisp of smoke was in sight. As a part of the game to give us a clear field, the Commodore had left Charleston the evening before and steamed north, followed by the revenue-cutter, finally putting into Hampton Roads. So there was no danger to be apprehended from that that particular vessel. Now followed four days of rolling and pitching on the broad swells of the Atlantic. How small and inconsequential the little Dauntless seemed on that wild waste of waters. She could have made the passage in two days but for the necessity of economizing her supply of coal for the return trip to some United States port, and to have enough fuel to enable her to speed up and make him a run for life if the occasion arose. Always a victim to seasickness, even under the most favorable circumstances, I can never forget those four days of suffering as the little steamer labored through the sea, rolling and pitching, our only home, the deck, swept from time to time by clouds of spray, with an occasional wave for good measure. We lay about day after day in our water-soaked blankets, getting such snatches of sleep as we could, and now and then staggering to the rail to make the required contribution to Neptune. We certainly were as unhappy and as unheroic-looking a lot of adventurers as ever trusted themselves to the sea.
On the afternoon of August 16 we were told that we were approaching the northeast coast of Cuba. The wind and sea now moderated somewhat, and the worm and harassed filibusters began to come to life. All realized that this was the most critical period in our voyage, as the coast was patrolled by gunboats and armed launches, and capture meant death, swift and inevitable. We five had among ourselves talked over such a possibility, and it was pretty well understood that if worst came to worst we were to take Kiplings advice,
"Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier."
But not without making a fight for it, for the Hotchkiss 12-pounder, the same gun at which I had drilled for the perspiring patriots in New York, was now unpacked and mounted on the deck forward and several boxes of ammunition opened. This was a task of great difficulty, a gun on a field-carriage mounted on the deck of a rolling vessel being about as dangerous to those serving it as to any possible target. But the break ropes were adjusted and the piece anchored as securely as possible by means of other ropes, the wheels been also blocked by timbers. The muzzle pointed over the port bow, and if a necessity had arisen to train the gun in any other direction it was intended to accomplish the purpose by turning the vessel accordingly. As I was the only one on board to understood this weapon, General Cabrera placed it in my charge, and I had my four companions to assist in setting it up and in serving get it in case of need. There were known to be two classes of vessels patrolling the Cuban coast--several gunboats of rather low speed and a considerable number of fast, large launches, each carrying a crew of about a dozen men and armed with Nordenfelt rapid-fire gun of a small caliber. It was intended, in case we encountered a gunboat, to depend entirely on the speed of the Dauntless to escape, but if our antagonist was to launch we were to let her get as close as possible and then open on her. We had no doubt that we could drive off any launch, and even hoped that we might frighten the crew into surrender. A tarpaulin had been placed over the gun as soon as mounted, in order that it could not be seen until needed for action. It is interesting to know that some months later, while attempting an expedition on the south coast of Cuba, the Dauntless had a gun mounted in this fashion and was prusued by an armed launch, whereupon she fired one shot, missing the target about half a mile, but the launch could hardly be seen for the spray she tore up in getting out of the way. This incident created much amusement, being spoken of as the first and only "naval battle" of the war.
We made an out in time the low mangrove-covered coast, and could see far away the dim outline of the hills of the interior. We stood on deck with beating hearts and tense faces as the little steamer drew near the inlet known as Las Nuevas Grandes, a short distance east of the entrance to Nuevitas harbor, on the coast of the province of Puerto Principe or Camaguey. No vessel was in sight, but we were troubled by the appearance from time to time of a bit of smoke along the shore line far to the eastward. All who were supplied with glasses kept them trained on that part of the horizon. It was plain to be seen that Captain O'Brien and Generals Nunez and Cabrera were anxious, as they held several whispered consultations on the bridge. The smoke might be from a fire on short or from the vessel bound eastward, the latter supposition being in favor from the fact that it was not seen it for the last half-hour before darkness settled down over land and sea. As night came on we could plainly see the flashes of Maternillos light to the westward. And so, minute by minute, we drew nearer to our goal. A man was now taking soundings, and his voice and the throbbing of the engines were the only sounds that broke an oppressive silence. We five would-be Lafayettes and Von Steubens were grouped about the gun on the bow; the weapon had been loaded and the primer inserted, and the only thing that remained to be done, in case a necessity arose, was to remove the tarpaulin, get her pointed in the general direction, and pull the lanyard. We were taking no chances on nervousness and confusion at a critical moment cheating us out of one shot, at least, in case and inquisitive launch should poke her nose around the point that we had now passed. If I must tell all, our teeth were chattering, and not from cold, but from the terrific strain and from trying to force ourselves to be calm, and cool.
Las Nuevas Grandes is merely an indentation in the coast and in no sense a harbor, and when we were about half a mile from the surf the engines were stopped. The Dauntless carried two regular sea boats, but these were not used in landing our cargo. Instead, she had brought, piled up on her deck, eight broad, flat-bottom skiffs, each with two pairs oars and a steering oar. A seaman would scorn to be seen in such a craft, but they were quite well suited to an aggregation of land crabs like ourselves, and owing to their flat bottoms could easily be hauled through a moderate surf. Each of those five "Americans," as we were called, to distinguish us from the Cubans, was put in charge of a boat, while the others were entrusted to three of our Cuban fellow-voyagers. The boats were lowered by hand over the rail without difficulty, but once in the water pounded about in a way that was most disconcerting. The crew of the steamer went below deck and passed up the cargo, which was tossed into the boats with feverish haste, no attempt being made to stow it properly. As no one was now left on board to serve the gun, it was dismounted and the various parts lowered, after much difficulty, into my boat. I was able to get away first, and with a crew of four at the oars pushed towards the surf, which, owing to the darkness, could not be seen, but was distinctly audible. About half-way to the shore we could dimly make out the line of breakers. Years before, I had had some pretty stiff surf work in Indian canoes on the Alaskan coast and thought I knew something on that subject, but the prospect before us was not alluring. The greatest drawback was the darkness, which made it impossible to see whatever rocks there might be, as well as to estimate the height or violence of the surf. But it was too late to turn back, and in we went. There was a lot of pitching and bucking, and a wave or two broke over us, but as soon as we struck, oars were dropped and overboard we went, up to our waist, caught the boat by its sides, and ran up onto the beach with it on the next wave. Fortunately, it was a perfectly clean, shelving, sandy beach, and we got through with nothing worse than a superb ducking and a boat have full of water. The gun with its wheels and carriage was carried beyond reach of the tide and thrown down in the grass, and the boat overturned to get out the water it had shipped. Just as we were preparing to launch, in order to go for our next load, we heard excited voices near us, and knew that the second boat was coming in. We ran down the beach to assist, but arrived too late to be of service. The boat was caught on one quarter, turned broadside on, and hurled onto the beach. The air was literally full of Jesus Marias, interspersed with the impressive type of English cuss words in the use of which one of my companions was no mean artist. But the boat was dragged out, and the next day at low tide its cargo was recovered. Both boats were now launched and started on their return to the Dauntless. On the way we met several others, and gave them the information that the beach was a good one but the surf troublesome. All lights on the steamer had, of course, been screened or extinguished, but a lighted lantern had been hung over the shore side for the purpose of guiding returning boats.
As it was deemed inadvisable to build a fire on shore, there was no guide in that direction, with the result that our cargo was scattered along about 700 yards of beach. So the work went on far into the night, an occasionally boat upsetting, but without loss of life. Luckily, the excitement kept away all feeling of fatigue or hunger. The wind was rising and the sky had become overcast, and there were occasional squalls of rain. My boat was nearing the Dauntless for its sixth load, when we heard in excited exclamation from the bridge, and sought to the northward, over the mangrove bushes on the point, a peculiar white light sweeping the horizon. The steamer had not anchored, but was keeping her approximately position by means of her screw, and had had on a full head of steam ever since approaching the coast, ready to do her best in case she had to run for it. At this time two boats were loading alongside, but their crews piled into them and pulled clear, under some superfluous orders yelled down from the bridge. There were a few tense moments in which we lay in our boats and awaited developments. Nearer and nearer came that cursed light, but the vessel itself could not yet be located owing to intervening land. But there was no time to lose, as to be caught in this little pocket of a bay meant disaster. The engine bell rang viciously, a black column of smoke poured from the funnel of the Dauntless, and the race for life began. It was known that this could be no launch, as launches--at least those at that time in the Spanish navy--do not carry searchlights, but must be a cruiser or a gunboat of some size.
The Dauntless plunged through the water, and for a couple of miles we could trace her by the smoke and sparks from her funnel. In order to clear the point she had to run straight out to sea, at first in the direction of the enemy. The searchlight wavered here and there on shore line and over the surface of the water, and mainly fell on the Dauntless. There was a pitiful moment for those of us watching, and then came the distant booming of guns; but finally these sounds died away and both pursuer and pursued faded from sight. With heavy hearts we rowed ashore, and the members of the expedition gathered about the piles of cartridge boxes and bundles of rifles on the beach, shivering in the wet clothing, and in subdued tones discussed the situation. All were present, but only about three-fourths of our cargo had been landed. Our position was not an enviable one, as we felt morally certain that the Spaniards would return after daylight and deal with us. We could, of course, escape into the bush, but all our war material would be captured. The hours dragged along, but finally morning came and ushered in a windy and sodden day, the trees and grass dripping moisture, and everything seemingly conspiring to depress our spirits and harass our worm bodies. On the supposition that the boat would honor us with a visit during the day, search was made as soon as it was light for a suitable position for the gun, with the intention of doing our best to beat her off. In almost ideal natural gun pit was found near the beach. In some violent storm a large log had been hurled beyond the ordinary high-tide mark, and had fallen across the mouth of a little gully, where sand to the thickness of several feet had been blown up against it. The gun was set up in the gully, its muzzle pointed over the log which served as a revetment for the sand. The position was most satisfactory, so far as protection was concern, but had the disadvantage that the muzzle could not be depressed sufficiently to use the piece at short range. From fearing that the gunboat would come in, we now began to worry lest it should not. We reasoned that the advantage was all on our side, as we had good protection and a steady platform, which the gunboat could not have, the Dauntless having demonstrated how a small vessel could roll on that shallow and exposed coast. We would have a good, clear target, while to harm us the gunboat must make hit on the muzzle of the gun, the only portion of it exposed. We knew that she must be an unarmored vessel, and that our shells would reach her vitals as if our marksmanship was equal to the occasion. We even chuckled as we thought of the possibility of a lucky shot disabling her machinery, after which we could deliberately bombard her into a surrender and then go out to her in small boats, thus beautifully turning the tables on our pursuer.
In the meantime a fire had been built and coffee made and bacon broiled, and this with some hard bread refreshed all greatly. It was thought best to carry our tons of military stores, piled helter-skelter along the beach, to some place concealed from view, and this slavish task consumed the greater part of a forenoon. Advantage was taken of low tide to recover those articles loss from the boats overturned in the surf on the previous night. Fortunately, boxes of cartridges and bundles of rifles are not easily swept out to sea, so that eventually the only shortage was one bundle of 10 Remington rifles. The small-arms ammunition was not injured by its immersion, the boxes being tin-lined, but several cases of cartridges for the 12-pounder were practically ruined, as we were to learn to our cost at Cascorra a few weeks later.
While carrying out these tasks many anxious glances were cast seaward, and about 11:00 a film of smoke was noticed far to the north. Closer and closer it came, until we could make an out the hull of the vessel, but we were kept in a fever of uncertainty as to its identity. If we could have had a broadside view our doubts would have been dispelled. It was considered unlikely that the Dauntless would return, and if not that vessel it must be gunboat. The Cubans, armed with Mausers, were scattered in groups along the beach to resist a landing party, and the five went to our gun pit, loaded the piece, and made all preparations to open the ball. Considering our excitement when in danger the night before, all were remarkably cool and self possessed, which probably arose from our conviction that if the gunboat came close enough to open fire with effect she was "our meat." I was already sighting the gun and estimating the distance for a trial shot, when the vessel suddenly swung her broadside to, and we recognize the Dauntless. Captain O'Brien, fearing the we might use him as a target, had swung around purposely in order that we might identify the vessel. There was a wild run for the boats by all except a small guard left on shore, and we were soon out to the steamer. No time was lost in landing the remainder of the cargo, a task of a couple hours. As to the adventures of the past night, we were told that the Dauntless had led the gunboat a straight chase to the north for several hours, and, out distancing her pursuer, had finally made a wide circuit and comeback to get rid of the remainder of her cargo, being aided in her escape by the thick and squally weather. Months afterward we were informed, and I presume correctly, that the vessel that had given us such a close call was the torpedo gunboat Galicia. It is almost certain that it was either the Galicia or the Jorge Juan, as they were said to be the only naval vessels, other than launches, on that portion of the coast at the time of our landing.
As the last boat load pulled away, the Dauntless, brave as her name, gave three defiant blasts from her whistle as a parting salute and steamed away, leaving us to our own devices on a strange and inhospitable coast. As we silently watched her fade from sight we realized that we had burned our bridges behind us and were in for the war. We made ourselves as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, keeping a lookout for any gunboats that might drop in on us. It has always been a mystery to me why the Spaniards at Nuevitas were not informed as to our landing by the gunboat that discovered us. An expedition could have been sent against us with success at any time within the next four days. Although we could have kept a vessel off with our gun, 50 men landing out of its reach could have captured all our material, though we could have escaped into the jungle. It was, of course, impossible for 35 men to attempt to move our tons of impedimenta for any distance from the beach, and immediately after the final departure of the Dauntless, four men had been sent into the interior to get in touch with the rebel forces. Four anxious days passed, but finally a man was sighted coming along the beach, and two of our party went out to meet him. We heard them, when within calling distance, give the insurgent challenge, Alto! Quien va?" and the reply, "Cuba," and knew that the new arrival was a friend. The man was one of the scouts of the advance guard of General Capotes portion of Maximo Gomezs command. He was a ragged, unwashed individual, armed with a Remington rifle and machete, and was so glad to see us that he insisted on bestowing on each one of us the abrazo, a form of embrace much in vogue in Cuba. I took my medicine long with the rest, but not with noticeable enthusiasm. Soon came the advance guard, and then the main body, in all 600 men, with a large number of pack animals. It was too late in the day to begin the march into the interior, but the next morning all were on the move, every horse and man loaded to the limit. By nightfall we had covered 30 miles, and we new arrivals, being "soft," or about done for. We went into camp along a beautiful potrero, or pasture, with about a thousand men under General Maximo Gomez, who had marched thither to meet us. Before morning I had found in this force four fellow countrymen, Walter M. Jones, a native of New York State, who had lived in Cuba for 10 years, and who died after the war as chief of the harbor police of Havana, Arthur Royal Joyce, of South Egremont, Mass., who, a few weeks later, was to be terribly wounded in the grim work it Cascorro, William Smith, second in command of Gomezs personal escort, and James Penny, of Washington D.C., who after word had the doubtful pleasure of contributing a leg to the cause of Free Cuba. We sat later around the campfire that night, exchanging experiences with these already seasoned campaigners. The next morning I was presented by General Cabrera to the grizzled and silent old chieftain, Maximo Gomez, veteran of the Ten Years' War, and had a good opportunity to see something of my future comrades in arms. It was a rather impressive-looking force, the men, though very, very ragged, being well armed and well mounted. Much to my surprise, fully nine-tenths of them were white men, which was accounted for by the fact that these troops were raised in Camaguey, which has a smaller percentage of negroes than any other province in Cuba. Later I was to see organizations from the southern part of Santiago province, consisting almost entirely of negroes, but, take it through and through, there were many more whites than blacks in the insurgent forces. The next morning we were on the march, and in due time we new arrivals had our first taste of war, but that is another story.