In so general an uprising of relief no great sum in contributions could be expected from any one source. The Red Cross felt that, if no more, it was glad to be able to pay, by the generous help of the city of Washington, the charter of a ship that conveyed its corn—$12,500—besides several thousands distributed in Russia through Tolstoi and American agents there.
We paid the cost of loading, superintended by Mr. Tillinghast in person, whose financial record shows the exact cost of transportation. All this was done in connection with the State of Iowa. Our home record showed, when all was finished, a field closed with a small balance in our favor, which we had no active call for. By the advice of one of the best personal advisers, bankers, and friends that the Red Cross has ever had, this small sum was placed in bank, in readiness for the next call.
THE SEA ISLAND RELIEF
This little timely provision, advisedly made, was none too much or none too soon.
On the 28th of August, 1893, a hurricane and tidal wave from the direction of the West Indies swept the coast of South Carolina, covering its entire range of Port Royal Islands, sixteen feet below the sea. These islands had thirty-five thousand inhabitants, mainly negroes. At first, it was thought that all must have perished. Later, it was found that only some four or five thousand had been drowned, and that thirty thousand remained with no earthly possession of home, clothing, or food. The few boats not swept away took them over to the mainland in thousands, and calls went out for help. In this emergency Governor Tillman called for the services of the Red Cross, and my note-book has this passage:
"The next night, in a dark, cheerless September mist, I closed my door behind me for ten months, and with three assistants went to the station to meet Senator Butler."
At Columbia we were joined by Governor Tillman, and thus reinforced proceeded to Beaufort. After due examination the work which had been officially placed with us by the Governor was accepted October 1st, and carried on until the following July.
The submerged lands were drained, three hundred miles of ditches made, a million feet of lumber purchased and houses built, fields and gardens planted with the best seed in the United States, and the work all done by the people themselves. The thousands of boxes of clothing received were distributed among them, and we left them in July, 1894, supplies of vegetables for the city of Beaufort.
Free transportation for supplies continued till about March. No provisions in kind were sent from any source after the first four weeks of public excitement. After this all foodstuffs were purchased in Charleston and distributed as rations. Men were compelled to work on the building of their own homes in order to receive rations.
We found them an industrious, grateful class of people, far above the ordinary grade usually met. They largely owned their little homes, and appreciated instruction in the way of improving them. The tender memory of the childlike confidence and obedience of this ebony-faced population is something that time cannot efface from either us or them.
On the third day after our arrival at Beaufort four middle-aged colored men came to the door of the room we had appropriated as an office, and respectfully asked to see "Miss Clare." They were admitted, and I waited to learn what request they would probably make of me. At length the tallest and evidently the leader, said:
"Miss Clare, we knows you doesn't remember us. But we never fo'gits you. We has all of us got somethin' to show you."
Slipping up a soiled, ragged shirtsleeve, he showed me an ugly scar above the elbow, reaching to the shoulder. "Wagner?" I asked.
"Yes, Miss Clare, and you drissed it for me that night, when I crawled down the beach—'cause my leg was broke too," he replied. "And we was all of us there, and you took care of us all and drissed our wounz. I was with Colonel Shaw, and crawled out of the fote. The oth's nevah got in. But we all got to you, Miss Clare. And now you's got to us. We's talked about you a heap o' times, but we nevah 'spected to see you. We's nevah fo'git it, Miss Clare."
One by one they showed their scars. There was very little clothing to hide them—bullet wound and sabre stroke. The memory, dark and sad, stood out before us all. It was a moment not to be forgotten.
Our purchases consisted of meat, mainly dry sides of pork, and grits, or hominy, for eating. For planting, beside the seed contributed and the nine hundred bushels of Irish potatoes, were eighteen hundred bushels of Northern Flint seed corn.
The contributions of food and clothing had been sent to Beaufort, and were in the warehouses of the perplexed committee of its leading citizens. This had naturally drawn all the inhabitants of the scores of desolated islands for fifty miles to Beaufort, until, it is safe to say, that fifteen to twenty thousand refugees had gathered there, living in its streets and waiting to be fed from day to day.
As the food was there they could not be induced to return to the islands. Indeed, there was more often nothing on the islands to return to. The description given by the heads of families and owners, for they had largely owned their homes, gotten on the old-time plantations "'fo de wah," was this: If all had been swept out to sea and nothing remained, it was described as, "done gone." But if thrown down and parts of the wreck still remained, it was described as "ractified."
A few of the churches, being larger and more strongly built, still remained standing. During the first ten days of our stay it would have been impossible to drive through the principal streets of Beaufort. They were a solid moving mass, crowding as near to the storehouses as possible to get, in spite of the policeman, who kindly held them back.
We sat daily in counsel with the local committee, until seeing that only systematic measures and a decided change could relieve the conditions and render the city safe. We then, on the first of October, decided to accede to the request of the Governor made at first, and take sole charge of the relief.
Our first order was to close every storehouse, both of food and clothing, and inform the people that all distributions would hereafter be made from the islands. It is impossible to convey to the mind of the reader the difficulty of getting into a few intelligent sentences the idea of the means adopted to produce these changes and inaugurate a system that was to restore to active habits of life a body of utterly homeless, demoralized, and ignorant people, equal in numbers to a small new State.
If these little covers would admit the scores of pages of admirably written reports of the officers and helpers on that field, every line replete with interest, that lie here at my hand, it would be an easy and a welcome task to reproduce them entire, and no more than deserved for their faithful and gratuitous labor.
Dr. Egan's report has this passage:
"October 2d came my marching orders. Take charge of the warehouse and stores, make an inventory of them, disperse these men, and rid the city of the demoralizing influence of idle people. The doors are closed and the inventory begun."
The local committee had kindly pointed out the most suitable man to take charge of each community, and to him would be consigned the rations to be distributed to each family and person within his charge, for which receipt and distribution he became as responsible as a merchant.
The goods and rations were at once shipped across the bay to them, or taken on their own boats, if so fortunate as to have one left from the storm. It is needless to say that the multitude followed the food.
In three days there were not people enough left in Beaufort, besides its own, to be hired for a "job of work." Then followed the necessity for material to rebuild the "done gone," and to repair the "ractified" homes.
A million feet of pine lumber was purchased of a leading lumber dealer, shipped down the Combahee River, and delivered at the landings on the islands most convenient of access to the points needed. Each man received his lumber by order and receipt, and was under obligation to build his own house. The work was all performed by themselves. A garden was insisted upon. At first this proposition was resisted as impracticable.
"No use, Mistah—no use—'cause de pig eat it all up."
It was suggested that a fence might be made enclosing at least a quarter of an acre about the house to keep "de pig" out, as we should later send, for planting, the best seed to be obtained in the country.
To this moment our thanks go out to the Agricultural Department at Washington, and the great seed houses of all the North, for the generous donations that served to bring once more into self-sustaining relations this destitute and well-disposed people.
The fact that the building of the fence, and its subsequent keeping in strict repair, had some bearing on the weekly issuance of rations, was evidently not without its influence. There were no poor fences and "de pig" did no damage. But there were such gardens, and of such varieties, as those islands had never before seen.
The earliest crop to strive for, beside the gardens, was the Irish potato, which they had never raised. Nine hundred bushels were purchased from Savannah for planting in February. The difficulty of distributing the potatoes lay in the fact that they would be more likely to find their way into the dinner pot than into the ground. To avoid this the court-yard inside our headquarters was appropriated for the purpose of preparing the potatoes for planting.
Some forty women were hired to come over from the islands and cut potatoes for seed—every "eye" of the potato making a sprout—these distributed to them by the peck, like other seed.
I recall a fine, bright morning in May, when I was told that a woman who had come over from St. Helena in the night, waited at the door to see me. I went to the door to find a tall, bright-looking woman in a clean dress, with a basket on her head, which, after salutation, she lowered and held out to me. There was something over a peck of Early Rose potatoes in the basket—in size from a pigeon's to a pullet's egg. The grateful woman could wait no longer for the potatoes to grow larger, but had dug these, and had come ten miles over the sea, in the night, to bring them to me as a first offering of food of her own raising.
If the tears fell on the little gift as I looked and remembered, no one will wonder or criticise. The potatoes were cooked for breakfast, and "Susie Jane" was invited to partake.
The shores of the mainland had not been exempt from the ravages of the storm and in many instances had suffered like the islands. Some thirty miles above Beaufort was a kind of plantation, with a community of sixty or seventy families of colored people. The property was owned by two elderly white ladies who had not returned since driven away by the storm.
This village was reported to us as in need and demoralized, with no head, scant of food, and its "ractified" houses scarcely affording a shelter.
A representative mulatto man came to tell us. An inspection was made and resulted in this man being put in charge to build up the community. Lumber and food were provided and the people set to work under his charge. From time to time word came to us, and after some months the tall representative came again. He had been asked by the people to come and bring their thanks to the Red Cross for "de home, de gard'n, de pig, and de chick'n dey all has now."
The thanks they had emphasized and proved by the heavy basket that Jackson had carefully brought all the forty miles. It contained seventy-one fresh eggs—the gift of seventy-one families—being a contribution of one egg from each family, from the day or two previous to his leaving on his mission.
Domestic gardens were a new feature among these islanders, whose whole attention had been always given to the raising of the renowned "Sea Island Cotton," the pride of the market, and a just distinction to themselves and the worthy planter. The result of this innovation was that, when we left in July, it was nearly as difficult for a pedestrian to make his way on the narrow sidewalks of Beaufort because of piled-up vegetables for sale from the islands, as it had been in October to pass through the streets because of hungry, idle men and women.
Nothing better illustrates the native good heart of these people than their kindly interest in and for each other. Often the young men, without families, would club together and put up a house for some lone old "auntie," who had neither family nor home, and occasionally there seemed to develop among them an active philanthropist. Of this type was Jack Owens, who rebuilt his own "done gone" premises. One day as the field agent was driving out on some inspection he met Jack walking into town.
His decrepit neighbor's house had burned a few weeks before, and Jack had gotten lumber and rebuilt the house himself. In describing the utter devastation, Jack explained that "all de house and de well was burned"—and he had built another house and was coming in on foot "for funituh to funish it." Jack had lost his ox, "a big ox," he said, in the storm, and now he "hadn't any nuther" to plow his ground. He pleaded for another—if it was only "a lil' critter it would grow big"—and it would help him so much.
The appeal was not to be resisted. Dr. Hubbell treasures to this day the satisfaction he felt in procuring something better than the "lil' critter" as reward and encouragement for Jack's active philanthropy.
If any practical woman reading this should try to comprehend what it would be to undertake to clothe and keep clothed thirty thousand human beings for a year, and to do this from the charitable gifts of the people, which gifts had all done more or less service before—often pretty thoroughly "ractified"—this woman will not wonder that sewing societies suggested themselves to us at headquarters.
The women were called together and this suggestion made to them, with the result that an old time "sewing circle" was instituted in every community. Its membership, officers, dues, and regulations were properly established—one-half day in each week devoted by each member to the work in its sewing-rooms, with a woman in charge to prepare it. The clothing was given out to them as received by us. Many a basket came proudly back to show us the difference between "den an' now"—good, strong, firmly mended garments. Ragged coats and pants disappeared from among the men, as no longer "'spectable fo' de fambly."
Provision was also made that the little girls from ten years old should attend and be taught to sew. Many a little dress was selected at headquarters for them to make over or repair.
I wish I could do fitting justice to the band of women volunteers who stood by me through those long months. Some had commenced with me when society belles, years before, now mistresses of their own palatial homes; some had come from under the old historic elms of Boston, and some from the hard-fought fields of Britain's Africa, and wearing the Victoria Cross. To them, white and black were the same, and no toil too hard or too menial.
The money contributed and received for the entire relief of ten months was thirty thousand five hundred, and a few additional dollars and cents which I do not at this moment recall. It aggregated one dollar apiece for the entire maintenance of thirty thousand persons for ten months.
It is the general custom in this part of the country for the merchants to furnish supplies to their patrons, and wait until the gathering of the crops for their pay. But when we left these people at the beginning of their harvest, not one family in twenty-five had contracted a debt for supplies: an experience before unknown in their history.
A report was made and passed into the hands of our legal counsellor, who, on seeing that no change could be truthfully made in it, advised that it be not published, as no one would believe it possible to be done, and we would get only distrust and discredit. Having now come to a pass where distrust and discredit are no longer to be feared by the Red Cross, we ourselves are free to make the statement. But back of the hard facts there is compensation.
A half dozen years later, when our negro proteges of the Sea Islands heard of the disaster that had fallen upon Galveston, they at once gathered for aid and sent in their contributions.
"'Cause dey suffers like we did, and de Red Cross is dar," they said.
Of course I would not permit one dollar of this holy gift to Galveston to go to other than the hands, hard, bony, and black—such as had raised it in their penury. I also wanted it to do more. Searching for the most reliable colored people in the city I found in the superintendent of the colored schools a man who had occupied that place for many years, and who had the respect and confidence of the people of Galveston. I asked him to consult his foremost women teachers, and if it pleased them, to form a society and fit themselves to receive a little money.
In about a week he appeared with his deputation. I informed them that I had a little money from their own people of the Sea Islands for them; that they had been chosen to receive it, because as teachers of the children they would have access to the needs and conditions of the families. I told them that I had desired to do more than merely make a gift for distribution. I wished to plant a tree. I could have given them their peach, which they would eat, enjoy, and throw the pit away. But I wished them to plant the pit, and let it raise other fruit for them, and for that reason I had asked the formation of this society.
They all sat quiet a few moments, the tears were on their faces. At length their president, the school superintendent, spoke for them:
"Miss Barton," he said, "we all appreciate this, and in the name of all I promise you that the pit shall be reverently planted, and I trust the time will come when I can tell you that our tree is not only bearing fruit for ourselves, but for all suffering brethren, as theirs have done for us."
I then handed them the check for $397. The moment seemed sacred when these poor dark figures, struggling toward the light, walked out of my presence. The pit has been successfully planted in Galveston, and we are from time to time informed of its bearing.
Leaving the Port Royal field past midsummer of 1894, after an absence of nearly a year—at a day's notice—the remainder of the autumn and winter was scarcely less occupied in the details which had been unavoidably overlooked. Before spring our correspondence commenced to enlarge with rumors of Armenian massacres, and so excited and rapid was the increase that, so far as actual labor, consultation, and thought were concerned, we might as well have been on a field of relief.
Unfortunately, the suspicions of the Turkish Government had fallen upon the resident missionaries, both English and American, as favoring the views and efforts of its anarchistic population, or the "young Turks," as they were designated. This had the effect of placing the missionaries in danger, confining them strictly to their own quarters, preventing all communication and the receiving of any funds sent them from abroad.
England had a large waiting fund which it could not distribute, and appealed to the American Missionary Boards of Boston and New York, to find them equally powerless. The need of funds among the missionaries throughout Turkey was getting painfully urgent, and as a last resort it was suggested from Constantinople that the Red Cross be asked to open the way.
A written request from the Rev. Judson Smith, D.D., of Boston, was nearly identical with one received by us from Mr. Spencer Trask, of New York, who with others was about to form a national Armenian relief committee, to be established in that city.
Following these communications, both of these eminent gentlemen, Mr. Smith and Mr. Trask, came in person to urge our compliance with their request that the Red Cross accept the charge and personally undertake the doubtful and dangerous task of distributing the waiting funds among the missionaries in Turkey.
As Mr. Trask was to take the lead in the formation of a committee for the raising of funds, his interest was naturally paramount, and his arguments in favor of our acceptance were wellnigh irresistible. Immediate action on the part of some one was imperative. Human beings were starving, and could not be reached. Thousands of towns and villages had not been heard from since the massacres, and only the Red Cross could have any hope of reaching them. No one else was prepared for field work; it had its force of trained field workers. Turkey was one of the signatory powers to the Red Cross Treaty. Thus it was hoped and believed that she would the more readily accept its presence.
These are mere examples of the reasons urged by the ardent advocates of the proposed committee, until at length we came to consider its acceptance, on conditions which must be clearly understood. First, we must not be expected to take any part in, or to be made use of, in the raising of funds—one of our fundamental rules being never to ask for funds—we did not do it for ourselves.
Second, there must be perfect unanimity between themselves. We must be assured that every one wanted us to go. Our part would be hard enough then; and finally we must be sure they had some funds to distribute.
Of the amount of these funds no mention was made by us, and I remember a feeling of good-natured amusement as I heard the officers of this untried effort at raising funds speak of "millions." It was easy to discern that they were more accustomed to the figures of a banking establishment than a charity organization dependent on the raising of funds. They were likely to be disappointed. In reality, the amount, so there were something to go with, made very little difference to us, as we were merely to place what was entrusted to us where most needed, and when that was done we had but to return. We never named any amount as preferable to us.
The means resorted to in raising the funds were unfortunate. In the great public meetings called for that purpose the utmost indiscretion prevailed in regard to language applied to Turkey and the Turkish Government. This aroused the indignation of the Turkish officials, who very reasonably took measures to have our entrance into Turkey forbidden.
A date of sailing, however, had been given Mr. Trask, and his committee, feeling that any change would be detrimental to their efforts, no change was made, and we sailed on time, to find in England no permission, and further efforts necessary. With time and patience the troublesome effects of these mistakes were overcome, and Constantinople was reached, and a heavenly welcome by the harassed missionaries awaited us.
The first step was to procure an introduction to the Turkish Government, which had in one sense refused to see me. Accompanied by the American Minister, Hon. A. W. Terrell, and his premier interpreter, Gargiulo, one of the most experienced diplomatic officers in Constantinople, I called by appointment upon Tewfik Pasha, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, or Minister of State. To those conversant with the personages connected with Turkish affairs, I need not say that Tewfik Pasha is probably the foremost man of the government—a manly man, with a kind, fine face, and genial, polished manners. Educated abroad, with advanced views on general subjects, he impresses one as a man who would sanction no wrong it was in his power to avert.
Mr. Terrell's introduction was most appropriate and well expressed, bearing with strong emphasis upon the suffering condition of the people of the interior, in consequence of the massacres, the great sympathy of the people of America, and giving assurance that our objects were purely humanitarian, having neither political, racial, nor religious significance.
The Pasha listened most attentively to Mr. Terrell, thanked him, and said that this was well understood, that they knew the Red Cross and its president. Turning to me he repeated: "We know you, Miss Barton; have long known you and your work. We would like to hear your plans for relief and what you desire."
I proceeded to state our plans for relief, which, if not carried out at this time, the suffering in Armenia, unless we had been misinformed, would shock the entire civilized world. None of us knew from personal observation, as yet, the full need of assistance, but had reason to believe it very great. If my agents were permitted to go, such need as they found they would be prompt to relieve. On the other hand, if they did not find the need existing there, none would leave the field so gladly as they. There would be no respecting of persons—humanity alone would be their guide. "We have," I added, "brought only ourselves; no correspondent has accompanied us, and we shall have none, and shall not go home to write a book on Turkey. We are not here for that. Nothing shall be done in any concealed manner. All dispatches which we send will go openly through your own telegraph, and I should be glad if all that we shall write could be seen by your government. I can not, of course, say what its character will be, but can vouch for its truth, fairness, and integrity, and for the conduct of every leading man who shall be sent. I shall never counsel or permit a sly or underhand action with your government, and you will pardon me, Pasha, if I say I shall expect the same treatment in return—such as I give I shall expect to receive."
Almost without a breath he replied: "And you shall have it. We honor your position and your wishes shall be respected. Such aid and protection as we are able, we shall render."
I then asked if it were necessary for me to see other officials. "No," he replied, "I speak for my government," and with cordial good wishes our interview closed.
I never spoke personally with this gentleman again, all further business being officially transacted through the officers of our legation. Yet I can truly say, as I have said of my first meeting with our matchless band of missionary workers, that here commenced an acquaintance which proved invaluable, and here were given pledges of mutual faith, of which not a word was ever broken on either side.
The Turkish Government, when once it came to understand American methods and enthusiasm was forgiving and kind to us. No obstruction was ever placed in our way. Our five expeditions passed through Armenian Turkey from sea to sea, distributing whatever was needed, repairing the destroyed machines, enabling the people to make tools to harvest their grain, thus averting a famine; providing medical help and food as well for thousands of sick; setting free the frightened inhabitants, and returning them to the villages from which they had fled for their lives; restoring all missionary freedom that had been interrupted; establishing a more kindly feeling toward them on the part of the government; and through all this, we had never one unpleasant transaction with any person of whatever name or race.
While our expeditions were getting ready to go out by the Black Sea, a request was brought to me by Dr. Washburn, of Robert College, from Sir Philip Currie, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, asking if I could not be "persuaded" to turn my expedition through the Mediterranean, rather than the Black Sea, in order to reach Mirash and Zeitoun, where the foreign consuls were at the moment convened. They had gotten word to him that ten thousand people in those two cities were down with four distinct epidemics—typhoid and typhus fevers, dysentery and smallpox—that the victims were dying in overwhelming numbers, and that there was not a physician among them, all being either sick or dead, with no medicine and little food.
This was not a case for "persuasion," but of heartfelt thanks from us all, that Sir Philip had remembered to call us, whom he had never met. But here was a hindrance. The only means of conveyance from Constantinople to Alexandretta were coasting boats, belonging to different nationalities, which left only once in two weeks, and irregularly at that. Transport for our goods was secured on the first boat to leave, the goods taken to the wharf at Galata, and at the latest moment, in order to give time, a request was made to the government for teskeres, or traveling permits, for Dr. J. B. Hubbell and assistants. To our surprise they were granted instantly, but by some delay on the part of the messenger sent for them they reached a moment too late. The boat left a little more promptly, taking with it our relief goods, and leaving the men on the dock to receive their permits only when the boat was beyond recall. It was really the fault of no one.
With the least possible delay Dr. Hubbell secured passage by the first boat at Smyrna, and a fortunate chance boat from there took him to Alexandretta, via Beyrout and Tripoli, Syria. The goods arrived in safety, and two other of our assistants, whom we had called by cable from America—Edward M. Wistar and Charles King Wood—were also passed over to the same point with more goods. There, caravans were fitted out to leave over the—to them—unknown track to Aintab, as a first base. From this point the reports of these three gentlemen made to me will be living witnesses. They tell their own modest tales of exposure, severe travel, hard work, and hardship, of which no word of complaint has ever passed their lips. There have been only gratitude and joy, that they could do something in a cause at once so great and so terrible.
While this was in progress, a dispatch came to me at Constantinople from Dr. Shepard of Aintab, whose tireless hands had done the work of a score of men, saying that fevers, both typhoid and typhus, of the most virulent nature, had broken out in Arabkir, two or three days north of Harpoot; could I send doctors and help? Passing the word on to Dr. Hubbell at Harpoot, prompt and courageous action was taken by him. It is something to say that from a rising pestilence with a score of deaths daily, in five weeks, himself and his assistants left the city in a normally healthful condition, the mortality ceasing at once under their care and treatment.
During this time the medical relief for the cities of Zeitoun and Marash was in charge of Dr. Ira Harris, of Tripoli, who reached there March 18th. The report of the consuls had placed the number of deaths from the four contagious diseases at one hundred a day. This would be quite probable when it is considered that ten thousand were smitten with the prevailing diseases, and that added to this were the crowded condition of the patients, the thousands of homeless refugees who had flocked from their forsaken villages, the lack of all comforts, of air, cleanliness, and a state of prolonged starvation.
Dr. Harris's first report to me was that he was obliged to set the soup kettles boiling and feed his patients before medicine could be retained. My reply was a draft for two hundred liras (something over eight hundred dollars) with the added dispatch: "Keep the pot boiling; let us know your wants." The further reports show from this time an astonishingly small number of deaths. The utmost care was taken by all our expeditions to prevent the spread of the contagion and there is no record of its ever having been carried out of the cities, where it was found, either at Zeitoun, Marash, or Arabkir. Lacking this precaution, it might well have spread throughout all Asia Minor, as was greatly feared by the anxious people.
On the twenty-fourth of May, Dr. Harris reported the disease as overcome. His stay being no longer needed, he returned to his great charge in Tripoli, with the record of a medical work and success behind him never surpassed if ever equaled. The lives he had saved were enough to gain Heaven's choicest diadem. Never has America cause to be more justly proud and grateful than when its sons and daughters in foreign lands perform deeds of worth like that.
The closing of the medical fields threw our entire force into the general relief of the vilayet of Harpoot, which the relieving missionaries had well named their "bottomless pit."
The apathy to which the state of utter nothingness, together with their grief and fear, had reduced the inhabitants, was by no means the smallest difficulty to be overcome. Here was realized the great danger felt by all—that of continued alms-giving, lest they settle down into a condition of pauperism, and thus finally starve, from the inability of the world at large to feed them. The presence of a strange body of friendly working people, coming thousands of miles to help them, awakened a hope and stimulated the desire to help themselves.
It was a new experience that these strangers dared to come to them. Although the aforetime home lay a heap of stone and sand, and nothing belonging to it remained, still the land was there, and when seed to plant the ground and the farming utensils and cattle were brought to work it with, the faint spirit revived, the weak, hopeless hands unclasped, and the farmer stood on his feet again.
When the cities could no longer provide the spades, hoes, plows, picks and shovels, and the crude iron and steel to make these was purchased and taken to them, the blacksmith found again his fire and forge and traveled weary miles with his bellows on his back. The carpenter again swung his hammer and drew his saw. The broken and scattered spinning-wheels and looms from under the storms and debris of winter again took form and motion, and the fresh bundles of wool, cotton, flax, and hemp in the waiting widow's hand brought hopeful visions of the revival of industries which should not only clothe but feed.
At length, in early June, the great grain-fields of Diarbekir, Farkin, and Harpoot valleys, planted the year before, grew golden and bowed their heavy spear-crowned heads in waiting for the sickle. But no sickles were there, no scythes, not even knives. It was a new and sorry sight for our full-handed American farming men to see those poor, hard Asiatic hands trying, by main strength, to break the tough straw or pull it by the roots. This state of things could not continue, and their sorrow and pity gave place to joy when they were able to drain the cities of Harpoot and Diarbekir of harvest tools, and turned the work of all the village blacksmiths on to the manufacture of sickles and scythes, and of flint workers upon the rude threshing machines.
They have told me since their return that the pleasantest memories left to them were of those great valleys of golden grain, bending and falling before the harvesters, men and women, each with the new, sharp sickle or scythe, the crude threshing planks, the cattle trampling out the grain, and the gleaners in the rear as in the days of Abraham and Moab. God grant that somewhere among them was a kind-hearted king of the harvest who gave orders to let some sheaves fall.
Even while this saving process was going on another condition no less imperative arose. These fields must be replanted or starvation must be simply delayed. Only the strength of their old-time teams of oxen could break up the hard sod and prepare for the fall sowing. Not an animal—ox, cow, horse, goat, or sheep—had been left. All had been driven to the Kourdish Mountains. When Mr. Wood's telegram came, calling for a thousand oxen for the hundreds of villages, I thought of our not rapidly swelling bank account, and all that was needed everywhere else, and replied accordingly.
When in return came the telegram from the Rev. Dr. Gates, president of Harpoot College, the live, active, practical man of affairs, whose judgment no one could question, saying that the need of oxen was imperative, that unless the ground could be plowed before it dried and hardened it could not be done at all, and the next harvest would be lost, also that "Mr. Wood's estimate was moderate," the financial secretary was directed to send a draft for five thousand liras (twenty-two thousand dollars) to the care of the Rev. Dr. Gates, to be divided among the three expeditions for the purchase of cattle and the progress of the harvest of 1897.
As the sum sent would be immediately applied, the active services of the men would be no longer required, and directions went with the remittance to report in person at Constantinople.
Unheard-of toil, care, hard riding day and night, with risk of life, were all involved in the carrying out of that order. Among the uncivilized and robber bands of Kourds, the cattle that had been stolen and driven off must be picked up, purchased, and brought back to the waiting farmer's field. There were routes so dangerous that a brigand chief was selected by those understanding the situation as the safest escort for our men. Perhaps the greatest danger encountered was in the region of Farkin, beyond Diarbekir, where the official escort had not been waited for, and the leveled musket of the faithless guide told the difference.
At length the task was accomplished. One by one the expeditions closed and withdrew, returning by Sivas and Samsoun, and coming out by the Black Sea. With the return of the expeditions we closed the field. But contributors would be glad to know that subsequent to this, before leaving Constantinople, funds from both the New York and Boston committees came to us amounting to about fifteen thousand dollars. This was happily placed with Mr. W. W. Pect, treasurer of the Board of Foreign Missions at Stamboul, to be used subject to our order; and with our concurrence it was employed in the building of little houses in the interior, as a winter shelter and protection, where all had been destroyed.
The appearance of our men on their arrival at Constantinople confirmed the impression that they had not been recalled too soon. They had gone out through the snows and ice of winter, and without change or rest had come back through the scorching suns of midsummer—five months of rough, uncivilized life, faring and sharing with their beasts of burden, well-nigh out of communication with the civilized world, but never out of danger. It seemed but just to themselves and to others who might need them, that change and rest be given them.
It would scarcely be permissible to express in words the obligation to our American Minister, Hon. A. W. Terrell, at Constantinople, without whose unremitting care and generous aid our work could not have been accomplished. And, indeed, so many were the duties of that difficult and delicate field that it seemed the help of no one hand or heart could be spared. We felt that we had them all; from the palace of the Sultan to beloved Robert College, from the American Legation to the busy rooms of the American Board, with its masterly treasurer, Peet, were the same outstretched hands of protection and care for our little band.
They knew we had taken our lives in our hands to come to them, and with no thought of ourselves. We had done the best we knew to accomplish the mission so persistently sought of us in our own country.
That our work had been acceptable to those who received its results, we knew. They had never failed to make us know. If also acceptable to Him who gave us the courage, protection, and strength to perform it, we need care for little more.
Funds to the total amount of $116,326.01 were cabled us by Mr. Spencer Trask's committee, all of which were placed in the hands of Mr. W. W. Peet, treasurer of the missionary board at Constantinople. All proper receipts were given and taken, and feeling that we had faithfully and successfully accomplished the work we had been asked to perform, we closed the field, and prepared to return to America.
Some days of physical rest were needful for the men of the expeditions after reaching Constantinople before commencing their journey of thousands of miles for home, worn as they were by exposure and incessant labor—physical and mental. I need not attempt to say with what gratitude I welcomed back these weary, brown-faced men and officers from a field so difficult and so perilous; none the less did the gratitude go out to my faithful and capable secretary, who had toiled early and late, never leaving for a day, striving with tender heart that all should go well.
And when the first greetings were over, the full chorus of manly voices—"Home Again," "Sweet Land of Liberty," "Nearer My God to Thee"—that rolled out through the open windows of the Red Cross headquarters in Constantinople fell on the listening ears of Christian and Moslem alike, and though the tones were new and strange, all felt that to some one, somewhere, they meant more than the mere notes of music.
On our return to "civilization" we were rejoiced to find that as a result of our three months' labors, the former tumult of Armenia had died away into a peaceful echo, but a new murmur fast growing to clamor had taken its place. Cuba had entered the ceaseless arena of American, gladiatorial, humanitarian contest. The cruelties of the reconcentrado system of warfare had become apparent, and methods of relief were uppermost in the minds of all persons.
These methods were twofold and might well be classed under two distinct heads: those who for mere pity's sake sought simple relief; those who with a further forecast sought the removal of a cause as well as its effect, and "Cuba Libre" was its muffled cry. They asked money for arms as well as bread, and the struggle between the two held the country in a state of perplexed contradiction for months running into years.
Our great-hearted President asked simple aid and was distressed at the doubtful response. At length he suggested and we proffered the aid of the Red Cross on a call to the country, and the establishment of the "Central Cuban Relief Committee" in New York, within three days, was the result.
The activity and success of that committee are too fresh in the minds of all our people to require the smallest description from me. Too much praise can not be given to our Auxiliary Societies from the Atlantic to the Pacific for the splendid work in the camps at home, in Cuba, Porto Rico, and in the care of our soldiers in transit to the Philippines. Their full and complete reports show the great work accomplished. The memory of the work of the busy men and tireless women who joined heart and hand in this Heaven-sent task still brings tears to the eyes of a nation at its recall.
The service assigned me by our anxious President, and gladly accepted, was the distribution on the pitiful fields of Cuba. These scenes I would not recall. The starving mothers and motherless babes, the homelessness and squalor, the hopelessness and despair, are beyond all words and all conception, save to those who saw and lived among them. It is past and let it rest.
Then followed the declaration of hostilities, the blockade, the fleets of war, and the stately, glistening white ships of relief that dotted the sea—our navy after forty years of peace again doing service in its own waters—and among them one inconspicuous, black-hulled sea-going craft, laden with food for the still famishing reconcentrados, when they could be reached.
Day after day, in its weary, waiting cruise, it watched out for an opening to that closed-in suffering island, till at length the thunder of the guns, Siboney, San Juan, opened the track, and the wounded troops of our own army, hungering on their own fields, were the reconcentrados of the hour.
Tampa became the gathering-point of the army. Its camps filled like magic, first with regulars, then volunteers, as if the fiery torch of Duncraigen had spread over the hills and prairies of America. The great ships gathered in the waters, the transports, with decks dark with human life, passed in and out, and the battleships of the sea held ever their commanding sway. It seemed a strange thing, this gathering for war. Thirty years of peace had made it strange to all save the veterans of the days of the old war, long passed into history. Could it be possible that we were to learn this anew? Were men again to fall, and women weep? Were the youth of this generation to gain that experience their fathers had gained, to live the war-lives they had lived, and die the deaths they had died?
At length the fleet moved on, and we prepared to move with, or rather after it. The quest on which it had gone, and the route it had taken, bordered something on the mystery shrouding the days when Sherman marched to the sea. Where were the Spanish ships? What would be the result when found and met? Where were we to break that Cuban wall and let us in?
Always present in our minds were the food we carried, the willing hands that waited, and the perishing thousands that needed. We knew the great hospital ships were fitting for the care of the men of both Army and Navy. Surely they could have no need of us.
We had taken possession of our ship at Key West on the 29th of April. It was now the 20th of June and the national records of two countries at least will always give the history of those days. It is our part to keep as clearly, truthfully, and kindly as possible, the record of the little that fell to us to perform in this great drama.
Weighing anchor at Key West the State of Texas steamed for the open Caribbean, we having first taken the official advice of Commodore Remy to find Admiral Sampson and report to him.
Sunrise of the twenty-fifth gave us our first view of the water at Santiago. Our transports and battle-ships were gathered there. The advice of Admiral Sampson was that we proceed to Guantanamo, where the marines had made a landing and were camped on the shore. There had been some fighting at Guantanamo. The naval hospital ship Solace was there.
Whoever has enjoyed this quiet, sheltered harbor, protected on three sides by beautiful wooded hills, will not require to be reminded of it. At six o'clock our anchor sunk in the deep, still waters and we had time to look about and see the beginning of the war. The marines were camped along the brow of a hill. On our right a camp of Cubans, and all about us the great war-ships with their guns, which told of forthcoming trouble. Captain McCalla, who was in command of Guantanamo, had sent his compliments and a launch, leading us in to our place of anchorage. The courtesies of the navy so early commenced at Key West were continued throughout the war.
By invitation of Commander Dunlap our entire company visited the Solace the following day. If that beautiful ship or its management had left room on the records of our country's meed of gratitude, for more words of appreciative praise, I should be glad to speak them. Only those familiar with the earliest history of the Red Cross in our country, and the methods by which our navy alone—of all the Red Cross nations—had gained even an approximately legal place, can judge what the sight of that first naval relief ship in American waters was to me. It brought back so vividly the memory of the day in 1881 when President Arthur called me to him to carefully explain the conditions of the treaty which he had just signed, and that, Congress having generously included the navy in its treaty for war, he would provide to hold it carefully until the probable widening of the original treaty would include the navies of the world, as well as the armies.
Before the day closed news came to us of a serious character. The daring Rough Riders had been hardly dealt by. Hamilton Fish and Allyn Capron had been killed, and the wounded needed help. Wherever they might be, it must be possible to reach them, and it was decided that no time be lost. Our men commenced work in the hold of the ship to get at medical supplies and dressings, and the captain took his orders. I find in my diary at the close of that day the following paragraph: "It is the Rough Riders we go to, and the relief may be also rough, but it will be ready. A better body of helpers could scarcely be gotten together."
Nine o'clock of the same night found us at Siboney, which can scarcely be called a harbor, for it has no anchorage. The next morning at daybreak we stood on deck to see the soldiers filing up over the hill, in heavy marching order, forming in lines by ones and twos, winding up, in and out among the hills, higher and higher. As we watched them they were a moving line trailing on toward the clouds, till lost in the mist, and we could only think, as we looked at them, on how many and on which, is set the mark of death? He knew no more than we—poor fellow—and with his swinging, steady gait, toils up and up and waits for—he knows not what.
The hospitals, both American and Cuban, located on the shore just to the right of us, were visited by our men that same evening. Some of their surgeons called on us. All seemed interested in the Red Cross, but none thought that a woman nurse would be in place in a soldiers' hospital—indeed, very much out of place. I suggested that that decision was hard for me, for I had spent a great deal of time in soldiers' hospitals myself. They appeared to understand that perfectly, but there seemed to be a later line which could not be crossed.
The Cubans who had just come into camp expressed a desire for any assistance we could give them. They would be glad to have the Red Cross Sisters in their little hospital, but begged us to wait just a day until it could be put in better order. The Sisters were not the persons to grant that day of preparation.
On the contrary they at once went to work, thoroughly cleaned the little three-room building—Garcia's abandoned headquarters, to be used as a hospital—and when the day closed the transformation showed clean rooms, clean cots, and the grateful occupants wondering whether Heaven itself could be more comfortable, or anything more desirable than the palatable food prepared for them by the Sisters.
Three days later the following letter was received:
"To MISS CLARA BARTON, President,
"American National Red Cross:
"I have the honor to request your assistance in caring for the patients in a so-called hospital near the landing at this point.
"The orders are to the effect that all patients now under treatment on the shore shall be transferred to the Iroquois and Olivette, but the facilities for carrying out this order are apparently inadequate. In order that the division hospital may remain unhampered for the care of the wounded in the engagement about to take place, it is necessary for me to request this favor of you, and I trust that you may find it possible to comply with said request.
"Your obedient servant,
"LOUIS A. LE GARDE,
"Major and Surgeon, U. S. A., Commanding Hospital."
To this the following reply was immediately returned:
"Steamship State of Texas,
"SIBONEY, SANTIAGO DE CUBA, June 30, 1898.
"DR. LOUIS A. LE GARDE,
"Major and Surgeon, U. S. A., Commanding Hospital.
"Major: Permit me to express the pleasure given me by your letter inviting the assistance of the persons here under my direction in the care of the sick and wounded of the engagement about to take place. Although not here as a hospital ship by any means—not legitimately fitted for the work—still we have some hospital supplies, a few intelligent workers, skill, experience, the willingness to serve, the readiness to obey, and I believe the true spirit of the Red Cross, that seeks to help humanity wherever its needs exist. I send them to you in the hope that they may be of service.
"President, American National Red Cross."
Our surgeons and assistants went on shore, where Dr. Le Garde and Dr. Lesser secured a small house, and in a few hours this had undergone the same transformation and by the same hands as the Cuban hospital. The Red Cross flag was hoisted, Dr. Lesser placed in charge, and scores of our soldiers who had been lying on the filthy floors of an adjacent building, with no food but army rations, were carried over, placed in clean cots, and given proper food. From that on, no distinction was made, the Red Cross flag floating over both the American and Cuban hospitals.
A few feet away, all the available army tents were put up as additional accommodation for the "wounded in the engagement about to take place." It did take place the following day, and, as will be well remembered, in those two days, Friday and Saturday, the first and second of July, the tents were more than filled with wounded in the battle of San Juan Hill. Three of the five Sisters went into the operating tent, and with the surgeons worked for thirty hours with only a few moments' rest now and then for a cup of coffee and a cracker or piece of bread. We heard nothing more about a woman nurse being out of place in a soldiers' hospital.
On Saturday evening, the second day of the San Juan battle, a slip of paper with these penciled words was brought to the door of the hospital:
"Send food, medicines, anything. Seize wagons from the front for transportation.
The call for help was at once sent over to the State of Texas, and we worked all night getting out supplies and sending them ashore with a force of Cubans, only too glad to work for food.
I wish I could make apparent how difficult a thing it was to get supplies from our ship to the shore in a surf which, after ten o'clock in the morning, allowed no small boats to touch even the bit of a pier that was run out without breaking either the one or the other, and nothing in the form of a lighter save two dilapidated flat-boat pontoons. These had been broken and cast away by the engineer corps, picked up by ourselves, mended by the Cubans, and put in condition to float alongside of our ship, and receive perhaps three or four tons of material. This must then be rowed or floated out to the shore, run onto the sand as far as possible, the men jumping into the water from knee to waist deep, pulling the boat up from the surf, and getting the material on land. And this was what was meant by loading the "seized wagons from the front" and getting food to the wounded. After ten o'clock in the day even this was impossible, and we must wait until the calm of three o'clock next morning to commence work again and go through the same struggle to get something to load the wagons for that day. Our supplies had been gotten ashore, and among the last, rocking and tossing in our little boat, went ourselves, landing on the pier, which by that time was breaking in two, escaping a surf which every other moment threatened to envelop one from feet to head, we reached the land.
Our "seized" wagons had already gone on, loaded with our best hospital supplies—meal, flour, condensed milk, malted milk, tea, coffee, sugar, dried fruits, canned fruits, canned meats, and such other things as we had been able to get out in the haste of packing—entirely filling the two wagons already in advance.
An ambulance had been spoken of. We waited a little while by the roadside, but the ambulance did not appear. Then, halting a wagon loaded with bales of hay, we begged a ride of the driver, and our little party, Dr. and Mrs. Gardner, James McDowell, and myself, took our seats on the hay and made our way to the front, Dr. Hubbell following afoot. Four hours' ride brought us to the First Division Hospital of the Fifth Army Corps—General Shafter's headquarters.
The sight that met us on going into the so-called hospital grounds was something indescribable. The land was perfectly level; no drainage whatever; covered with long, tangled grass; skirted by trees, brush, and shrubbery; a few little dog-tents not much larger than could have been made of an ordinary table-cloth thrown over a short rail, and under these lay huddled together the men fresh from the field or from the operating-tables, with no covering over them save such as had clung to them through their troubles, and in the majority of cases no blanket under them.
Those who had come from the tables, having been compelled to leave all the clothing they had, as too wet, muddy, and bloody to be retained, were entirely nude, lying on the stubble grass, the sun fitfully dealing with them, sometimes clouding over and again streaming out in a blaze above them. Fortunately, among our supplies were some bolts of unbleached cotton, and this we cut in sheet lengths, and the men of our party went about and covered the poor fellows, who lay there with no shelter either from the elements or the eyes of the passers-by.
A half dozen bricks laid about a yard apart, a couple of pieces of wagon-tire laid across these, so low and so near the ground that no fire of any strength or benefit could be made—the bits of wet wood put under crosswise, with the smoke streaming a foot out on either side, two kettles of coffee or soup, and a small frying-pan with some meat in it—appeared to be the cook-house for these men. They told us there were about eight hundred men under the tents and lying in the grass, and more constantly coming in.
After a few moments' consultation as to the best methods to be pursued, we too gathered stones and bricks and constructed a longer, higher fireplace, got more wagon-tires, found the water, and soon our great agate kettles of seven and ten gallons were filled.
The rain, that had been drizzling more or less all day, increased. Our supplies were taken from the wagons, a piece of tarpaulin found to protect them, and as the fire began to blaze and the water to heat, Mrs. Gardner and I found the way into the bags and boxes of flour, salt, milk, and meal, and got material for the first gallons of gruel. I had not thought to ever make gruel again over a camp-fire. I can not say how far it carried me back in the lapse of time, or really where, or who I felt that I was.
It did not seem to be me, and still I seemed to know how to do it.
When the bubbling contents of our kettle thickened and grew white with the condensed milk, and we began to give it out—putting it into the hands of men detailed as nurses, and our own men, to take around to the poor sufferers, shivering and naked in the rain—I felt that perhaps it was not in vain that history had repeated itself. When the nurses came back and told us of the surprise with which it was received, and the tears that rolled down the sun-burned, often bloody face, into the cup as the poor fellow drank his hot gruel, and asked where it came from, who sent it, and said it was the first food he had tasted in three days (for they had gone into the fight hungry), I felt that it was again the same old story and wondered what gain there had been in the last thirty years.
The fires burned, the gruel steamed and boiled—bucket after bucket went out—until those eight hundred men had each a cup of gruel and knew that he could have another and as many as he wanted. The day waned, the darkness came, and still the men were unsheltered, uncovered, naked, and wet—scarcely a groan, no word of complaint—no man said he was not well treated.
The operating-tables were full of the wounded. Man after man was taken off, brought on his litter and laid beside other men, and something given him to keep the little life in his body that seemed fast oozing out. All night it went on. It grew cold—for naked men bitter cold—before morning. We had no blankets, nothing to cover them, only the strips of cotton cloth.
Early in the morning ambulances started, and such of the wounded as could be loaded in were taken to be carried back over that rough, pitiless road, down to Siboney, to the hospitals there—that we had done the best we could toward fitting up—where our hundred cots, hundred and fifty blankets had gone, cups, spoons, and delicacies, that would help to strengthen these poor, fainting men, if they could get there, and where also the Sisters would care for them.
They brought man after man, stretcher after stretcher, to the waiting ambulances, and they took out seventeen who had died in the night, unattended, save by the nurse.
More supplies arrived, and this time came large tarpaulins, more utensils, more food, and more things to make it a little comfortable. We removed our first kitchens across the road, up alongside the headquarter tent of Major Wood, in charge of the camp. Words can not do justice to his kind-hearted generosity. He strove in every way to do all that could be done, and the night before had given us a small tent in which we had huddled from the pouring rain, for a couple of hours, in the middle of the night, the water rushing through like a rivulet.
The tarpaulins were put over supplies, a new fireplace made near us—magnificent in its dimensions—shelter given for boxes and barrels that by this time had accumulated about us, and there was even something that looked like a table, on which Mrs. Gardner prepared her delicacies.
Early in the day there came to our improvised headquarters an officer in khaki uniform showing hard service, and a bandanna handkerchief hanging from his hat, to protect the back of his head and neck from the fierce rays of the sun.
It was Colonel Roosevelt, and we were very glad to meet the gallant leader of the "Rough Riders." After a few moments conversation he said:
"I have some sick men with the regiment who refuse to leave it. They need such delicacies as you have here, which I am ready to pay for out of my own pocket. Can I buy them from the Red Cross?"
"Not for a million dollars," Dr. Gardner replied.
"But my men need these things," he said, his tone and face expressing anxiety. "I think a great deal of my men. I am proud of them."
"And we know they are proud of you, Colonel. But we can't sell Red Cross supplies," answered Dr. Gardner.
"Then, how can I get them? I must have proper food for my sick men," he said.
"Just ask for them, Colonel," replied Dr. Gardner.
"Oh," he said, his face suddenly lighting up with a bright smile; "then I do ask for them."
"All right, Colonel; what is your list?"
The list included malted milk, condensed milk, oatmeal, cornmeal, canned fruits, dried fruits, rice, tea, chocolate, and even prepared beefsteak and vegetables, and other things good for men who could not eat army rations.
"Now, Colonel, when will you send for these supplies?" asked Dr. Gardner. "They will be ready any time."
"Lend me a sack and I'll take them right along," he answered with characteristic decision.
Mrs. Gardner at once looked up a sack, and when filled it must have held a good many pounds of supplies. Before we had recovered from our surprise, the incident was closed by the future President of the United States slinging the big sack over his shoulders, striding off, and out of sight through the jungle.
The gruel still remained the staple, but malted milk, chocolate, rice, and tea had come in, and little by little various things were added by which our menage quite resembled a hotel. The wounded were still being taken away by ambulance and wagon, assorted and picked over like fruit. Those who would bear transportation were taken away, the others left where they were. By the third day our patients seemed strong enough that we might risk giving them food as solid as rice, and the great kettles were filled with that, cooked soft, mixed with condensed and malted milk. The number of wounded grew less day by day, and better care could be taken of them.
At Siboney, the great needs of the hour were met by the little band of surgeons and nurses, working night and day. The following is from a letter in the Times-Herald, now Record-Herald, of Chicago, by Miss Janet Jennings, who volunteered her service in the hospital. One gets from this simple, direct picture, a better appreciation of that heroism which lives after excitement, which survives the rush and shouting of assault, which is sustained without comradeship:
"SIBONEY, July 8, 1898.
"Above hospital tents Red Cross flags are flying, and here is the real life—the suffering and heroism. Everybody who can do even so little as carry a cup of water lends willing hands to help the wounded. Most of the wounded are from the first day's engagement, when the infantry was ordered to lead the attack on Santiago, instead of using the artillery.
"And it all came at once—a quick blow—with little or no preparation to meet it. I mentioned in a former letter the lack of preparation on the part of the army to care for the sick. There was then almost nothing—no cots, bedding or proper food, for less than one hundred sick men.
"Two days later, when the wounded came in, the needs of the hour were overwhelming. The situation can not be described. Thousands of our men had been hurried to the front to fight. It was well understood that it would be a hard fight. The dead would need only burial, but the wounded would need care. And yet, with the exception of a limited number of stretchers, a medicine-chest and a few bandages, no preparation had been made—neither cots nor food—practically no hospital supplies.
"It is not strange that surgeons were desperate and nurses distressed. The force of each was wholly inadequate. The exact number of wounded may never be known. But the estimate at this time is about 1,000 wounded—some 1,500 killed and wounded.
"Wounded men who made their way down on foot eight miles over the rough, hilly road will never know just how their strength held out. Others were brought down in army wagons by the load, as few ambulances were at hand. Fortunately, there were some tents here that had been used by troops before going to the front. Under these hay was spread and covered with blankets, and the improvised hospital was ready. One tent was taken for operating-tables, and the work of surgeons and nurses began. They worked night and day for forty-eight hours, with only brief intervals for coffee and hard-tack.
"Wounded men had to wait for hours before bullets could be extracted and wounds dressed. But there was no word of complaint—only silent, patient suffering, borne with a courage that was sublime. As the wounded continued to come in, tent-room gave out, and hay with blankets were placed outside, and to these 'beds' the less severely wounded were assigned. It was evident that the medical department of the army had failed absolutely to send hospital supplies, or by this time they would have been landed. As it was, the surgeons turned to the Red Cross ship 'State of Texas' for help, and the supplies originally intended for the starving Cubans were sent ashore for our wounded.
"Miss Barton had been urged and advised to wait until the army opened and made the way safe to land supplies for reconcentrados and refugees. But she had foreseen the situation to a certain degree and followed the army as quickly as possible—to wait for the emergency, rather than have the emergency wait for her. The 'State of Texas' was here a week before the attack on Santiago.
"While surgeons and nurses were probing for bullets and dressing wounds, a force of men on the Red Cross ship worked half the night getting out cots and blankets, food and bandages, and at daylight next morning the supplies were landed, taking advantage of the smooth sea between four and nine o'clock, as later in the day the high surf makes it extremely difficult for landings. There were six tables in the operating-tent and eight surgeons. In twenty-four hours the surgeons had operated upon and dressed the wounds of 475 men. Four Red Cross sisters, trained nurses, assisted the surgeons. They were Sister Bettina, wife of Dr. Lesser, surgeon-in-chief of the Red Cross; Sister Minna, Sister Isabel, and Sister Blanche. Their knowledge of surgery, skill, and nerve were a revelation to the army surgeons. These young women, all under thirty, went from one operating-table to another, and, whatever was the nature of the wound or complication, proved equal to the emergency.
"In the Red Cross Hospital, across the way, Sister Anna was in charge of the sick men, turned over to the Red Cross two days before, when army surgeons with troops were all ordered to the front. With 475 wounded men to feed there was not a camp-kettle to be found in which gruel could be prepared, coffee made or anything cooked, not a kettle of any sort to be furnished by the army. The whole camp outfit at Tampa in the way of cooking utensils must have been left behind.
"But there was an overruling Providence when the 'State of Texas' was loaded for Cuba. So far everything needed has been found in the hold of this old ship, which deserves to have and will have a credit page in the history of the war in Cuba. There were kettles, charcoal braziers, and cooking utensils carried over to the Red Cross Hospital. To prepare gruel, rice, coffee, and various other proper and palatable dishes for forty or fifty sick men by the slow process of a charcoal brazier, tea-kettle, and boiler is by no means easy cooking. But to prepare food for 475 wounded men, some of whom had had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours, cooking over a little charcoal pot is something that one must take a 'hand in' to fully appreciate.
"There was the feeling as if one were dazed and unnatural to hear American soldiers, men from comfortable homes, literally begging for 'just a spoonful of gruel.' The charcoal pot burned night and day, gallons of gruel were made and quantities of rice cooked until the greatest stress had passed. It was no time to stand on trained service, and everybody, man or woman, was ready to lend a hand.
"A striking feature of the first day's engagement was the number of men wounded in the head, arm, and upper part of the body. Some of these cases, the most serious, were taken into the Red Cross Hospital, where they received the most skilful and gentle nursing.
"Two days' steady strain began to show on the Sisters.
"The strain had been the greater because there were no facilities for anything like a regular meal short of the ship, reached by a long, hard tramp in the sand, then a row over the tossing waves. But nobody thought of meals. The one thing was to feed and nurse the 500 wounded and sick men. Human endurance, however, has its limit, and unless the Sisters could get a little rest they would give out. I went on duty for twenty-four hours, at night, with the assistance of one man, taking care of forty patients, fever, measles, and dysentery cases, and half a dozen badly wounded men. Among the latter was Captain Mills, of the First Cavalry, and William Clark, a colored private in the Twenty-fifth Infantry, regulars. They were brought over from the hospital tents and placed on cots out on the little porch, where there was just room to pass between the cots.
"Their wounds were very similar—in the head—and of such a character as to require cool applications to the eyes constantly. Ice was scarce and worth its weight in gold, for the lives of these men as well as others depended chiefly on cool applications to the eyes, with as uniform temperature as possible. We had one small piece of ice, carefully wrapped in a blanket. There never was a small piece of ice that went so far. If I were to tell the truth about it nobody would believe me.
"Never in my whole life, I think, have I wished for anything so much as I wished for plenty of ice that night. It was applied by chipping in small bits, laid in thin, dry cotton cloth, folded over in just the right size and flat, to place across the eyes and forehead, enough of it to be cold, but not heavy, on the wounds.
"The ears of the sick are strangely acute. Whenever the sick men heard the sound of chipping ice they begged for ice-water; even the smallest bit of ice in a cup of water was begged with an eagerness that was pitiful. I felt conscience-smitten. But it was a question of saving the eyes of the wounded men, and there was no other way. To make the ice last till morning I stealthily chipped it off so the sick men would not hear the sound.
"At midnight a surgeon came over from his tent ward with a little piece of ice not larger than his hand. I do not know his name, but it does not matter, it is inscribed above. 'This is all we can spare,' he said. 'Take it. You must keep those wounds cool at all hazards. I have another case very like these—a man wounded in the head. I want to bring him over here, where he will be sure of exactly the same nursing. His life depends on the care he gets in the next twenty-four hours. Have you a vacant cot?'
"There was not a vacant cot, but we could make room for one on the porch if he could find the cot. He thought he could, and went back, taking the precious piece of ice that he really needed more than we did. In the course of a half hour the surgeon returned to say it was impossible to get a cot anywhere, and the wounded man must be left where he was in the tent, at least until morning.
"And so it went on through the long night—the patient suffering of the sick men, the heroism of the wounded, all fearing to give any trouble, desiring not to do so, find grateful for the smallest attention.
"The courage that faces death on the battlefield or calmly awaits it in the hospital is not a courage of race or color. Two of the bravest men I ever saw were here, almost side by side on the little porch—Captain Mills and Private Clark—one white, the other black. They were wounded almost at the same time, and in the same way. The patient suffering and heroism of the black soldier was fully equal to that of the Anglo-Saxon. It was quite the same, the gentleness and appreciation. They were a study, these men so widely apart in life, but here strangely close and alike on the common ground of duty and sacrifice. They received precisely the same care; each fed like a child, for with their bandaged eyes they were as helpless as blind men. When the ice pads were renewed on Captain Mills's eyes the same change was made on Private Clark's eyes. There was no difference in their beds or food. Neither uttered a word of complaint. The nearest to a regret expressed by Captain Mills was a heavy sigh, followed by the words: 'Oh, we were not ready. Our army was not prepared.'
"Of himself he talked cheerfully, strong, and hopeful. 'I think I shall go home with the sight of one eye,' he said. That was all.
"In the early part of the night he was restless, his brain was active, cool, and brave as he might be. The moonlight was very bright, a flood of silver, seen only in the tropics. Hoping to divert him I said: 'The moonlight is too bright, captain. I will put up a paper screen so you can get to sleep.'
"He realized at once the absurdity and the ludicrous side, and with an amused smile replied: 'But you know I can't see the moonlight.'
"I said it was time to get more ice for his head and half stumbled across the porch, blinded by tears. When told who his nearest neighbor was, Captain Mills expressed great sympathy for Private Clark and paid a high tribute to the bravery of the colored troops and their faithful performance of duty.
"Private Clark talked but little. He would lie apparently asleep until the pain in his head became unbearable. Then he would try to sit up, always careful to keep the ice-pad on his eyes over the bandage.
"'What can I do for you, Clark?' I would ask, anxious to relieve his pain.
"'Nothing, thank you,' he would answer. 'It's very nice and comfortable here. But it's only the misery in my head—the misery is awful.'
"Poor fellow! there was never a moan, merely a little sigh now and then, but always that wonderful patience that seemed to me not without a touch of divine philosophy, complete acceptance.
"I have mentioned these two men, not as exceptional in bravery, but to illustrate the rule of heroism, and because they were among the patients under my immediate care that night. It was a strange night picture—a picture that could never be dimmed by time but live through all the years of one's life.
"After midnight a restful atmosphere pervaded the hospital and the blessing of sleep fell upon the suffering men, one by one. In the little interval of repose I dropped into an old chair on the porch, looked away to the beautiful mountains sharply outlined in the moonlight, and the sea like waves of silver, the camp on the shore; near by thirty or forty horses standing motionless. Then the hospital tents, with now and then the flickering light of a candle; in the background the cliffs, with here and there a Spanish blockhouse. Over all the tragedy of life and death, the pain and sorrow, there was the stillness of a peaceful night—a stillness broken only by the sound of the surf brought back on the cool breeze, the cool, refreshing breeze, for which we all thanked God."
Later on, as will be remembered, Miss Jennings went North—a volunteer nurse on the transport Seneca. The brave men whose lives hung in the balance that night—with little hope that, if life were spared, they would ever see again—recovered, but each with the loss of an eye. After a long furlough Private Clark returned to his regiment. Captain Mills, now General Mills, is the Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy.
Three times in the first week I went over those terrible roads from the front to Siboney and return. Arriving at Siboney late one night, there was no way I could get on board the State of Texas and I was obliged to remain on shore. The Postmaster insisted that I occupy a room in the building used for a post-office. Such a courtesy could not be refused, and against all feeling of acquiescence, and with a dread as if there were something wrong about it, I allowed myself to be helped out of the wagon and entered the house. The Postmaster sat down and talked with me a little while. I thought he seemed ill. I had never met him before, but my heart went out in sympathy for him. I feared I was taking his room, although he did not admit it.
I was shown into a room where there was a cot, a table, and a candle without a stick, burning upon the table. The men went outside and laid down upon the steps for the night. I laid down upon the cot, but it was impossible for me to remain there. Something constantly warned me to leave it. I got up, went to the door, looked out upon the night and darkness, and waited for the gray of the morning. I went out and stood upon the beach beside the sea and waited more and more, until finally some of the men appeared, and I went with them down to the water.
Six days later they told me that the rightful occupant of the cot—the Postmaster, who had seemed so ill—had died of a fever raging here that they called "yellow fever." I had occupied his cot. I wonder who it was that so continually warned me that night to keep away from that room, away from the cot, away from all connected with it? "Yellow fever" was not then talked of. Did some one tell me? I do not know—but something told me.
The negotiations between General Shafter and the Spanish army at Santiago were going on. The flag of truce, that threatened every day to come down, still floated. The Spanish soldiers had been led by their officers to believe that every man who surrendered—and the people as well—would be butchered whenever the city should fall and the American troops should come in. But when General Shafter commenced to send back convoys of captured Spanish officers, their wounds dressed, and carefully placed on stretchers, borne under flags of truce to the Spanish lines at Santiago, and set down at the feet of General Toral, and when in astonishment that officer learned the object of the flag of truce and sent companies of his soldiers to form in line and present arms, while the cortege of wounded were borne through by American troops, a lesson was learned that went far toward the surrender of that city.
I happen to know that it was not without some very natural home criticism that General Shafter persisted in his course in the face of the time-honored custom of "hostages." One can readily understand that the voluntary giving up of prisoners—officers at that—in view of an impending battle, might seem in the light of old-time army usages a waste, to characterize it by no harder term. It is possible that none of the officers in that field had ever read the Articles of the Treaty of Geneva, or fully recalled that the treaty had become a law, or that their commander was acting in full accord with its wise and humane principles.
By this time the main talk of the camp was "yellow fever." It was soon discovered by the medical authorities that, from there having been at first one case of fever, there were now one hundred and sixteen, and that a fever camp would probably be made there, and the wounded gotten away. It was advisable then that we return to our ship and attempt, as far as possible, to hold that free from contagion. I was earnestly solicited to do this, in view of what was expected of our ship, and of what was expected of us, that we not only protect ourselves but our cargo and ship from all contamination and even suspicion.
I faithfully promised to do so, and again called for an army wagon, leaving all supplies that were useful for the men in camp—sending to El Caney what was most needed there—and taking only our personal effects, started for Siboney. In less than twenty minutes the rain was pouring on us and for two hours it fell as if from buckets. The water was from a foot and a half to two feet deep in the road as we passed along. At one time our wagon careened, the mules were held up, and we waited to see whether it should go over or could be brought out, the water a few inches only from the top of the lower side. It was scarcely possible for us to stir, hemmed in as we were, but the men from the other wagons sprang to our wheels, hanging in the air on the upper side, and we were simply saved by an inch.
But like other things, this cleared away. We came into Siboney about three o'clock, in a bright glare of sunshine, to find the town entirely burned—all buildings gone or smoking—and a "yellow fever" hospital established a mile and a half out from Siboney.
All effort was made to hold our ship free from suspicion. The process of reasoning leading to the conclusion that a solid cargo, packed in tight boxes in the hold of a ship, anchored at sea, could become infected in a day from the land or a passing individual, is indeed an intricate process. But we had some experience in this direction. Captain McCalla, in his repeated humane attempts to feed the refugees around Guantanamo, had called again for a hundred thousand rations, saying that if we could bring them to him soon he could get them to the starving people in the woods. We lost no time, but got the food out and started with it in the night. On reaching Guantanamo we were met some distance out, called to, and asked if any one on our ship had been on shore at Siboney within four days; if so, our supplies could not be received. We took them away, leaving the starving to perish.
The constantly recurring news of the surrender of Santiago was so well established that we drew anchor, came up to the flag-ship, and sent the following letter to Admiral Sampson:
"State of Texas,
"July 16, 1898.
"ADMIRAL SAMPSON, Commanding U. S. Fleet off Santiago, Flag-Ship New York.
"Admiral: It is not necessary for me to explain to you my errand, nor its necessity; both your good head and heart divine it more clearly than any words of mine can represent.
"I send this to you by one of our men who can tell all you wish to know. Mr. John Elwell has resided and done mercantile and shipping business in Santiago for the last seven years; is favorably known to all its people; has in his possession the keys of the best warehouses and residences in the city, to which he is given welcome by the owners. He is the person appointed four months ago to help distribute this food, and did so with me until the blockade. There seems to be nothing in the way of getting our twelve hundred tons of food into a Santiago warehouse and giving it intelligently to the thousands who need and own it. I have twenty good helpers with me. The New York committee is urging the discharge of the State of Texas, which has been raised in price to four hundred dollars a day.
"If there is still more explanation needed, I pray you, Admiral, let me see you.
"Respectfuly and cordially,
These were anxious days. While the world outside was making up war history, we thought of little beyond the terrible needs about us; if Santiago had any people left, they must be in sore distress; and El Caney, with its thirty thousand homeless, perishing sufferers, how could they be reached?
On that Sunday morning, never to be forgotten, the Spanish fleet came out of Santiago Harbor, to meet death and capture. That afternoon Lieutenant Capehart, of the flag-ship, came on board with the courteous reply of Admiral Sampson, that if we would come alongside the New York he would put a pilot on board. This was done, and we moved on through waters we had never traversed; past Morro Castle, long, low, silent, and grim; past the wrecks of the Spanish ships on the right; past the Merrimac in the channel. We began to realize that we were alone, of all the ships about the harbor there were none with us. The stillness of the Sabbath was over all. The gulls sailed and flapped and dipped about us. The lowering summer sun shot long golden rays athwart the green hills on either side and tinged the water calm and still. The silence grew oppressive as we glided along with scarce a ripple. We saw on the right as the only moving thing, a long, slim yacht dart out from among the bushes and steal its way up half-hidden in the shadows. Suddenly it was overtaken by either message or messenger, and like a collared hound glided back as if it had never been.
Leaning on the rail, half lost in reverie over the strange, quiet beauty of the scene, the thought suddenly burst upon me—are we really going into Santiago, and alone? Are we not to be run out, and wait aside, and salute with dipping colors, while the great battle-ships come up with music and banners and lead the way?
As far as the eye could reach no ship was in sight. Was this to remain so? Could it be possible that the commander who had captured a city declined to be the first to enter, that he would hold back his flag-ship and himself, and send forward and first a cargo of food on a plain ship, under direction of a woman? Did our commands, military or naval, hold men great enough of soul for such action? It must be true, for the spires of Santiago rise before us, and turning to the score of companions beside me I ask: "Is there any one here who will lead the Doxology?" In an instant the full rich voice of Enola Gardner rang out: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." By that time the chorus was full, and the tears on many a face told more plainly than words how genuine was that praise, and when in response to a second suggestion "My Country 'Tis of Thee" swelled out on the evening air in the farewell rays of the setting sun, the State of Texas was nearing the dock, and quietly dropping her anchor she lay there through the silence of the night in undisputed possession, facing a bare wind-swept wharf and the deserted city of Santiago.
Daybreak brought quiet to an end. The silence was no longer oppressive. A hundred and twenty stevedores lined up on the wharf for work and breakfast. The dock had tracks, and trucks running to its open warehouses. Boxes, barrels, and bales, pitched out of that ship, thrown onto the trucks and wheeled away, told the story of better days to come. It was something to see the lank, brawny little army of stevedores take their first breakfast in line, alongside of the ship.
Later in the day the flag-ship brought Admiral Sampson and Admiral Schley, who spent several hours with us. They had every opportunity to see how our work was done, and if we were equal to unloading our ship. When they were about to leave Admiral Sampson was asked what orders or directions he had for us. He replied: "You need no directions from me, but if any one troubles you let me know."
The amiable pleasantries of these two gallant officers during that visit are a pleasure to recall. As I was, at an opportune moment, attempting to express my appreciation and thanks to Admiral Sampson for the courtesy of allowing us to precede him into Santiago, Admiral Schley, with that naivete and apt turn of expression so characteristic of him, in a half undertone side-remark, cautioned me with "Don't give him too much credit, Miss Barton; he was not quite sure how clear the channel might be. Remember that was a trial trip."
How sadly the recollection of that pleasant, memorable day has since recurred to me; brave, gallant brothers in arms, and in heart; knowing only a soldier's duty; each holding his country's honor first, his own last; its glory his glory, and for himself seeking nothing more. Ah, people, press, and politics! How deal ye with your servants?
A message was received from General Shafter, who telegraphed from his headquarters; "The death rate at El Caney is terrible; can you send food?" The answer was to send the thirty thousand refugees of El Caney at once back to Santiago; we were there and could feed them; that the State of Texas had still twelve hundred tons of supplies.
The thirty thousand inhabitants of Santiago had been driven to El Caney, a village designed for five hundred. In two days all were called back and fed, ten thousand the first day, twenty thousand the second. Then came our troops, and Santiago was lived and is remembered. Its hospitals, the ante-chamber to Montauk, are never to be forgotten.
A general committee was formed, the city districted into sections, with a commissioner for each district, selected by the people themselves living there. Every family or person residing within the city was supplied by the commissioner of that district, and all transient persons were fed at the kitchens, the food being provided by the Red Cross.
The discharge of the cargo of the State of Texas commenced at six o'clock Monday morning, July 18th. One hundred and twenty-five stevedores were employed and paid in food issued as rations. Four days later the discharge was completed.
Although the army had entered the city during the latter part of that time, there had been no confusion, no groups of disorderly persons seen, no hunger in the city more than in ordinary times. We had done all that could be done to advantage at that time in Santiago. The United States troops had mainly left. The Spanish soldiers were coming in to their waiting ships, bringing with them all the diseases that unprovided and uncleanly camps would be expected to hold in store. Five weeks before we had brought into Santiago all the cargo of the State of Texas excepting the hospital supplies, which had been used the month previous among our own troops at Siboney, General Shafter's front, and El Caney during the days of fighting.
These were the last days of General Shafter in Santiago, who was, as he had at all times been, the kind and courteous officer and gentleman. General Wood, who was made Governor of the Province of Santiago upon the day of surrender—alert, wise, and untiring, with an eye single to the good of all—toiled day and night.
The State of Texas steamed away to its northern home. Peace and plenty came. The reconcentrados we went in search of were never reached. To those who could not withstand, Heaven came. To those who could, Cuba Libre.
Later on, general efforts were made for the protection of the thousands of orphans over the island, in which efforts the Red Cross joined. But the people of Cuba solved the question themselves—by a general adoption in their own homes—and orphanages in Cuba became a thing of the past.
Thus our work on that distressful field closed, after nearly two years of such effort as one would never desire to repeat. The financial management of that field, so far as the Red Cross was concerned, was done under the attorneyship of the Central Cuban Relief Committee of New York, whose reports are models of accuracy and accountability, and to which any person desiring information may be referred.
Cuba was a hard field, full of heart-breaking memories. It gave the first opportunity to test the cooperation between the government and its supplemental handmaiden, the Red Cross. That these relations might not have been clearly understood at this initial date may well be appreciated, but that time and experience will remedy this may be confidently hoped.
Through all our discouragements the steady hand and calm approval of our great head of the army and navy was our solace and our strength. And when at length it was all over, his hand could trace for his message to his people the following testimonial, what need had one even to remember past discouragements, however great? It was as if the hand of the martyr had set its undying seal upon the brow of the American Red Cross. What greater justification could it have? What greater riches could it crave?
"In this connection it is a pleasure for me to mention in terms of cordial appreciation the timely and useful work of the American Red Cross, both in relief measures preparatory to the campaigns, in sanitary assistance at several of the camps of assemblage, and, later, under the able and experienced leadership of the president of the society, Miss Clara Barton, on the fields of battle and in the hospitals at the front in Cuba. Working in conjunction with the governmental authorities and under their sanction and approval, and with the enthusiastic cooperation of many patriotic women and societies in the various States, the Red Cross has fully maintained its already high reputation for intense earnestness and ability to exercise the noble purposes of its international organization, thus justifying the confidence and support which it has received at the hands of the American people. To the members and officers and all who aided them in their philanthropic work, the sincere and lasting gratitude of the soldiers and the public is due and freely accorded.