Notes of a War Correspondent
by Richard Harding Davis
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The enemy saw the advance and began firing with pitiless accuracy into the jammed and crowded trail and along the whole border of the woods. There was not a single yard of ground for a mile to the rear which was not inside the zone of fire. Our men were ordered not to return the fire but to lie still and wait for further orders. Some of them could see the rifle-pits of the enemy quite clearly and the men in them, but many saw nothing but the bushes under which they lay, and the high grass which seemed to burn when they pressed against it. It was during this period of waiting that the greater number of our men were killed. For one hour they lay on their rifles staring at the waving green stuff around them, while the bullets drove past incessantly, with savage insistence, cutting the grass again and again in hundreds of fresh places. Men in line sprang from the ground and sank back again with a groan, or rolled to one side clinging silently to an arm or shoulder. Behind the lines hospital stewards passed continually, drawing the wounded back to the streams, where they laid them in long rows, their feet touching the water's edge and their bodies supported by the muddy bank. Up and down the lines, and through the fords of the streams, mounted aides drove their horses at a gallop, as conspicuous a target as the steeple on a church, and one after another paid the price of his position and fell from his horse wounded or dead. Captain Mills fell as he was giving an order, shot through the forehead behind both eyes; Captain O'Neill, of the Rough Riders, as he said, "There is no Spanish bullet made that can kill me." Steel, Swift, Henry, each of them was shot out of his saddle.

Hidden in the trees above the streams, and above the trail, sharp-shooters and guerillas added a fresh terror to the wounded. There was no hiding from them. Their bullets came from every side. Their invisible smoke helped to keep their hiding-places secret, and in the incessant shriek of shrapnel and the spit of the Mausers, it was difficult to locate the reports of their rifles. They spared neither the wounded nor recognized the Red Cross; they killed the surgeons and the stewards carrying the litters, and killed the wounded men on the litters. A guerilla in a tree above us shot one of the Rough Riders in the breast while I was helping him carry Captain Morton Henry to the dressing-station, the ball passing down through him, and a second shot, from the same tree, barely missed Henry as he lay on the ground where we had dropped him. He was already twice wounded and so covered with blood that no one could have mistaken his condition. The surgeons at work along the stream dressed the wounds with one eye cast aloft at the trees. It was not the Mauser bullets they feared, though they passed continuously, but too high to do their patients further harm, but the bullets of the sharp-shooters which struck fairly in among them, splashing in the water and scattering the pebbles. The sounds of the two bullets were as different as is the sharp pop of a soda-water bottle from the buzzing of an angry wasp.

For a time it seemed as though every second man was either killed or wounded; one came upon them lying behind the bush, under which they had crawled with some strange idea that it would protect them, or crouched under the bank of the stream, or lying on their stomachs and lapping up the water with the eagerness of thirsty dogs. As to their suffering, the wounded were magnificently silent, they neither complained nor groaned nor cursed.

"I've got a punctured tire," was their grim answer to inquiries. White men and colored men, veterans and recruits and volunteers, each lay waiting for the battle to begin or to end so that he might be carried away to safety, for the wounded were in as great danger after they were hit as though they were in the firing line, but none questioned nor complained.

I came across Lieutenant Roberts, of the Tenth Cavalry, lying under the roots of a tree beside the stream with three of his colored troopers stretched around him. He was shot through the intestines, and each of the three men with him was shot in the arm or leg. They had been overlooked or forgotten, and we stumbled upon them only by the accident of losing our way. They had no knowledge as to how the battle was going or where their comrades were or where the enemy was. At any moment, for all they knew, the Spaniards might break through the bushes about them. It was a most lonely picture, the young lieutenant, half naked, and wet with his own blood, sitting upright beside the empty stream, and his three followers crouching at his feet like three faithful watch-dogs, each wearing his red badge of courage, with his black skin tanned to a haggard gray, and with his eyes fixed patiently on the white lips of his officer. When the white soldiers with me offered to carry him back to the dressing-station, the negroes resented it stiffly. "If the Lieutenant had been able to move, we would have carried him away long ago," said the sergeant, quite overlooking the fact that his arm was shattered.

"Oh, don't bother the surgeons about me," Roberts added, cheerfully. "They must be very busy. I can wait."

As yet, with all these killed and wounded, we had accomplished nothing—except to obey orders—which was to await further orders. The observation balloon hastened the end. It came blundering down the trail, and stopped the advance of the First and Tenth Cavalry, and was sent up directly over the heads of our men to observe what should have been observed a week before by scouts and reconnoitring parties. A balloon, two miles to the rear, and high enough in the air to be out of range of the enemy's fire may some day prove itself to be of use and value. But a balloon on the advance line, and only fifty feet above the tops of the trees, was merely an invitation to the enemy to kill everything beneath it. And the enemy responded to the invitation. A Spaniard might question if he could hit a man, or a number of men, hidden in the bushes, but had no doubt at all as to his ability to hit a mammoth glistening ball only six hundred yards distant, and so all the trenches fired at it at once, and the men of the First and Tenth, packed together directly behind it, received the full force of the bullets. The men lying directly below it received the shrapnel which was timed to hit it, and which at last, fortunately, did hit it. This was endured for an hour, an hour of such hell of fire and heat, that the heat in itself, had there been no bullets, would have been remembered for its cruelty. Men gasped on their backs, like fishes in the bottom of a boat, their heads burning inside and out, their limbs too heavy to move. They had been rushed here and rushed there wet with sweat and wet with fording the streams, under a sun that would have made moving a fan an effort, and they lay prostrate, gasping at the hot air, with faces aflame, and their tongues sticking out, and their eyes rolling. All through this the volleys from the rifle-pits sputtered and rattled, and the bullets sang continuously like the wind through the rigging in a gale, shrapnel whined and broke, and still no order came from General Shafter.

Captain Howse, of General Sumner's staff, rode down the trail to learn what had delayed the First and Tenth, and was hailed by Colonel Derby, who was just descending from the shattered balloon.

"I saw men up there on those hills," Colonel Derby shouted; "they are firing at our troops." That was part of the information contributed by the balloon. Captain Howse's reply is lost to history.

General Kent's division, which, according to the plan, was to have been held in reserve, had been rushed up in the rear of the First and Tenth, and the Tenth had deployed in skirmish order to the right. The trail was now completely blocked by Kent's division. Lawton's division, which was to have re-enforced on the right, had not appeared, but incessant firing from the direction of El Caney showed that he and Chaffee were fighting mightily. The situation was desperate. Our troops could not retreat, as the trail for two miles behind them was wedged with men. They could not remain where they were, for they were being shot to pieces. There was only one thing they could do—go forward and take the San Juan hills by assault. It was as desperate as the situation itself. To charge earthworks held by men with modern rifles, and using modern artillery, until after the earthworks have been shaken by artillery, and to attack them in advance and not in the flanks, are both impossible military propositions. But this campaign had not been conducted according to military rules, and a series of military blunders had brought seven thousand American soldiers into a chute of death from which there was no escape except by taking the enemy who held it by the throat and driving him out and beating him down. So the generals of divisions and brigades stepped back and relinquished their command to the regimental officers and the enlisted men.

"We can do nothing more," they virtually said. "There is the enemy."

Colonel Roosevelt, on horseback, broke from the woods behind the line of the Ninth, and finding its men lying in his way, shouted: "If you don't wish to go forward, let my men pass." The junior officers of the Ninth, with their negroes, instantly sprang into line with the Rough Riders, and charged at the blue block-house on the right.

I speak of Roosevelt first because, with General Hawkins, who led Kent's division, notably the Sixth and Sixteenth Regulars, he was, without doubt, the most conspicuous figure in the charge. General Hawkins, with hair as white as snow, and yet far in advance of men thirty years his junior, was so noble a sight that you felt inclined to pray for his safety; on the other hand, Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback, and charging the rifle-pits at a gallop and quite alone, made you feel that you would like to cheer. He wore on his sombrero a blue polka-dot handkerchief, a la Havelock, which, as he advanced, floated out straight behind his head, like a guidon. Afterward, the men of his regiment who followed this flag, adopted a polka-dot handkerchief as the badge of the Rough Riders. These two officers were notably conspicuous in the charge, but no one can claim that any two men, or any one man, was more brave or more daring, or showed greater courage in that slow, stubborn advance, than did any of the others. Some one asked one of the officers if he had any difficulty in making his men follow him. "No," he answered, "I had some difficulty in keeping up with them." As one of the brigade generals said: "San Juan was won by the regimental officers and men. We had as little to do as the referee at a prize-fight who calls 'time.' We called 'time' and they did the fighting."

I have seen many illustrations and pictures of this charge on the San Juan hills, but none of them seem to show it just as I remember it. In the picture-papers the men are running uphill swiftly and gallantly, in regular formation, rank after rank, with flags flying, their eyes aflame, and their hair streaming, their bayonets fixed, in long, brilliant lines, an invincible, overpowering weight of numbers. Instead of which I think the thing which impressed one the most, when our men started from cover, was that they were so few. It seemed as if some one had made an awful and terrible mistake. One's instinct was to call to them to come back. You felt that some one had blundered and that these few men were blindly following out some madman's mad order. It was not heroic then, it seemed merely absurdly pathetic. The pity of it, the folly of such a sacrifice was what held you.

They had no glittering bayonets, they were not massed in regular array. There were a few men in advance, bunched together, and creeping up a steep, sunny hill, the tops of which roared and flashed with flame. The men held their guns pressed across their chests and stepped heavily as they climbed. Behind these first few, spreading out like a fan, were single lines of men, slipping and scrambling in the smooth grass, moving forward with difficulty, as though they were wading waist high through water, moving slowly, carefully, with strenuous effort. It was much more wonderful than any swinging charge could have been. They walked to greet death at every step, many of them, as they advanced, sinking suddenly or pitching forward and disappearing in the high grass, but the others waded on, stubbornly, forming a thin blue line that kept creeping higher and higher up the hill. It was as inevitable as the rising tide. It was a miracle of self-sacrifice, a triumph of bull-dog courage, which one watched breathless with wonder. The fire of the Spanish riflemen, who still stuck bravely to their posts, doubled and trebled in fierceness, the crests of the hills crackled and burst in amazed roars, and rippled with waves of tiny flame. But the blue line crept steadily up and on, and then, near the top, the broken fragments gathered together with a sudden burst of speed, the Spaniards appeared for a moment outlined against the sky and poised for instant flight, fired a last volley, and fled before the swift-moving wave that leaped and sprang after them.

The men of the Ninth and the Rough Riders rushed to the block-house together, the men of the Sixth, of the Third, of the Tenth Cavalry, of the Sixth and Sixteenth Infantry, fell on their faces along the crest of the hills beyond, and opened upon the vanishing enemy. They drove the yellow silk flags of the cavalry and the flag of their country into the soft earth of the trenches, and then sank down and looked back at the road they had climbed and swung their hats in the air. And from far overhead, from these few figures perched on the Spanish rifle-pits, with their flags planted among the empty cartridges of the enemy, and overlooking the walls of Santiago, came, faintly, the sound of a tired, broken cheer.


This is the inside story of the surrender, during the Spanish War, of the town of Coamo. It is written by the man to whom the town surrendered. Immediately after the surrender this same man became Military Governor of Coamo. He held office for fully twenty minutes.

Before beginning this story the reader must forget all he may happen to know of this particular triumph of the Porto Rican Expedition. He must forget that the taking of Coamo has always been credited to Major-General James H. Wilson, who on that occasion commanded Captain Anderson's Battery, the Sixteenth Pennsylvania, Troop C of Brooklyn, and under General Ernst, the Second and Third Wisconsin Volunteers. He must forget that in the records of the War Department all the praise, and it is of the highest, for this victory is bestowed upon General Wilson and his four thousand soldiers. Even the writer of this, when he cabled an account of the event to his paper, gave, with every one else, the entire credit to General Wilson. And ever since his conscience has upbraided him. His only claim for tolerance as a war correspondent has been that he always has stuck to the facts, and now he feels that in the sacred cause of history his friendship and admiration for General Wilson, that veteran of the Civil, Philippine, and Chinese Wars, must no longer stand in the way of his duty as an accurate reporter. He no longer can tell a lie. He must at last own up that he himself captured Coamo.

[Picture: Officers watching the artillery play on Coamo. Drawn by F. C. Yohn from a photograph by the Author]

On the morning of the 9th of August, 1898, the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived on the outskirts of that town. In order to get there they had spent the night in crawling over mountain trails and scrambling through streams and ravines. It was General Wilson's plan that by this flanking night march the Sixteenth Pennsylvania would reach the road leading from Coamo to San Juan in time to cut off the retreat of the Spanish garrison, when General Wilson, with the main body, attacked it from the opposite side.

At seven o'clock in the morning General Wilson began the frontal attack by turning loose the artillery on a block-house, which threatened his approach, and by advancing the Wisconsin Volunteers. The cavalry he sent to the right to capture Los Banos. At eight o'clock, from where the main body rested, two miles from Coamo, we could hear the Sixteenth Pennsylvania open its attack and instantly become hotly engaged. The enemy returned the fire fiercely, and the firing from both sides at once became so severe that it was evident the Pennsylvania Volunteers either would take the town without the main body, or that they would greatly need its assistance. The artillery was accordingly advanced one thousand yards and the infantry was hurried forward. The Second Wisconsin approached Coamo along the main road from Ponce, the Third Wisconsin through fields of grass to the right of the road, until the two regiments met at the ford by which the Banos road crosses the Coamo River. But before they met, from a position near the artillery, I had watched through my glasses the Second Wisconsin with General Ernst at its head advancing along the main road, and as, when I saw them, they were near the river, I guessed they would continue across the bridge and that they soon would be in the town.

As the firing from the Sixteenth still continued, it seemed obvious that General Ernst would be the first general officer to enter Coamo, and to receive its surrender. I had never seen five thousand people surrender to one man, and it seemed that, if I were to witness that ceremony, my best plan was to abandon the artillery and, as quickly as possible, pursue the Second Wisconsin. I did not want to share the spectacle of the surrender with my brother correspondents, so I tried to steal away from the three who were present. They were Thomas F. Millard, Walstein Root of the Sun, and Horace Thompson. By dodging through a coffee central I came out a half mile from them and in advance of the Third Wisconsin. There I encountered two "boy officers," Captain John C. Breckenridge and Lieutenant Fred. S. Titus, who had temporarily abandoned their thankless duties in the Commissariat Department in order to seek death or glory in the skirmish-line. They wanted to know where I was going, and when I explained, they declared that when Coamo surrendered they also were going to be among those present.

So we slipped away from the main body and rode off as an independent organization. But from the bald ridge, where the artillery was still hammering the town, the three correspondents and Captain Alfred Paget, Her Majesty's naval attache, observed our attempt to steal a march on General Wilson's forces, and pursued us and soon overtook us.

We now were seven, or to be exact, eight, for with Mr. Millard was "Jimmy," who in times of peace sells papers in Herald Square, and in times of war carries Mr. Millard's copy to the press post. We were much nearer the ford than the bridge, so we waded the "drift" and started on a gallop along the mile of military road that lay between us and Coamo. The firing from the Sixteenth Pennsylvania had slackened, but as we advanced it became sharper, more insistent, and seemed to urge us to greater speed. Across the road were dug rough rifle-pits which had the look of having been but that moment abandoned. What had been intended for the breakfast of the enemy was burning in pots over tiny fires, little heaps of cartridges lay in readiness upon the edges of each pit, and an arm-chair, in which a sentry had kept a comfortable lookout, lay sprawling in the middle of the road. The huts that faced it were empty. The only living things we saw were the chickens and pigs in the kitchen-gardens. On either hand was every evidence of hasty and panic-stricken flight. We rejoiced at these evidences of the fact that the Wisconsin Volunteers had swept all before them. Our rejoicings were not entirely unselfish. It was so quiet ahead that some one suggested the town had already surrendered. But that would have been too bitter a disappointment, and as the firing from the further side of Coamo still continued, we refused to believe it, and whipped the ponies into greater haste. We were now only a quarter of a mile distant from the built-up portion of Coamo, where the road turned sharply into the main street of the town.

Captain Paget, who in the absence of the British military attache on account of sickness, accompanied the army as a guest of General Wilson, gave way to thoughts of etiquette.

"Will General Wilson think I should have waited for him?" he shouted. The words were jolted out of him as he rose in the saddle. The noise of the ponies' hoofs made conversation difficult. I shouted back that the presence of General Ernst in the town made it quite proper for a foreign attache to enter it.

"It must have surrendered by now," I shouted. "It's been half an hour since Ernst crossed the bridge."

At these innocent words, all my companions tugged violently at their bridles and shouted "Whoa!"

"Crossed the bridge?" they yelled. "There is no bridge! The bridge is blown up! If he hasn't crossed by the ford, he isn't in the town!"

Then, in my turn, I shouted "Whoa!"

But by now the Porto Rican ponies had decided that this was the race of their lives, and each had made up his mind that, Mexican bit or no Mexican bit, until he had carried his rider first into the town of Coamo, he would not be halted. As I tugged helplessly at my Mexican bit, I saw how I had made my mistake. The volunteers, on finding the bridge destroyed, instead of marching upon Coamo had turned to the ford, the same ford which we had crossed half an hour before they reached it. They now were behind us. Instead of a town which had surrendered to a thousand American soldiers, we, seven unarmed men and Jimmy, were being swept into a hostile city as fast as the enemy's ponies could take us there.

Breckenridge and Titus hastily put the blame upon me.

"If we get into trouble with the General for this," they shouted, "it will be your fault. You told us Ernst was in the town with a thousand men."

I shouted back that no one regretted the fact that he was not more keenly than I did myself.

Titus and Breckenridge each glanced at a new, full-dress sword.

"We might as well go in," they shouted, "and take it anyway!" I decided that Titus and Breckenridge were wasted in the Commissariat Department.

The three correspondents looked more comfortable.

"If you officers go in," they cried, "the General can't blame us," and they dug their spurs into the ponies.

"Wait!" shouted Her Majesty's representative. "That's all very well for you chaps, but what protects me if the Admiralty finds out I have led a charge on a Spanish garrison?"

But Paget's pony refused to consider the feelings of the Lords of the Admiralty. As successfully Paget might have tried to pull back a row-boat from the edge of Niagara. And, moreover, Millard, in order that Jimmy might be the first to reach Ponce with despatches, had mounted him on the fastest pony in the bunch, and he already was far in the lead. His sporting instincts, nursed in the pool-rooms of the Tenderloin and at Guttenburg, had sent him three lengths to the good. It never would do to have a newsboy tell in New York that he had beaten the correspondents of the papers he sold in the streets; nor to permit commissioned officers to take the dust of one who never before had ridden on anything but a cable car. So we all raced forward and, bunched together, swept into the main street of Coamo. It was gratefully empty. There were no American soldiers, but, then, neither were there any Spanish soldiers. Across the street stretched more rifle-pits and barricades of iron pipes, but in sight there was neither friend nor foe. On the stones of the deserted street the galloping hoofs sounded like the advance of a whole regiment of cavalry. Their clatter gave us a most comfortable feeling. We almost could imagine the townspeople believing us to be the Rough Riders themselves and fleeing before us.

And then, the empty street seemed to threaten an ambush. We thought hastily of sunken mines, of soldiers crouching behind the barriers, behind the houses at the next corner, of Mausers covering us from the latticed balconies overhead. Until at last, when the silence had become alert and menacing, a lonely man dashed into the middle of the street, hurled a white flag in front of us, and then dived headlong under the porch of a house. The next instant, as though at a signal, a hundred citizens, each with a white flag in both hands, ran from cover, waving their banners, and gasping in weak and terror-shaken tones, "Vivan los Americanos."

We tried to pull up, but the ponies had not yet settled among themselves which of us had won, and carried us to the extreme edge of the town, where a precipice seemed to invite them to stop, and we fell off into the arms of the Porto Ricans. They brought us wine in tin cans, cigars, borne in the aprons and mantillas of their women-folk, and demijohns of native rum. They were abject, trembling, tearful. They made one instantly forget that the moment before he had been extremely frightened.

One of them spoke to me the few words of Spanish with which I had an acquaintance. He told me he was the Alcalde, and that he begged to surrender into my hands the town of Coamo. I led him instantly to one side. I was afraid that if I did not take him up he would surrender to Paget or to Jimmy. I bade him conduct me to his official residence. He did so, and gave me the key to the cartel, a staff of office of gold and ebony, and the flag of the town, which he had hidden behind his writing-desk. It was a fine Spanish flag with the coat of arms embroidered in gold. I decided that, with whatever else I might part, that flag would always be mine, that the chance of my again receiving the surrender of a town of five thousand people was slender, and that this token would be wrapped around me in my coffin. I accordingly hid it in my poncho and strapped it to my saddle. Then I appointed a hotel-keeper, who spoke a little English, as my official interpreter, and told the Alcalde that I was now Military Governor, Mayor, and Chief of Police, and that I wanted the seals of the town. He gave me a rubber stamp with a coat of arms cut in it, and I wrote myself three letters, which, to insure their safe arrival, I addressed to three different places, and stamped them with the rubber seals. In time all three reached me, and I now have them as documentary proof of the fact that for twenty minutes I was Military Governor and Mayor of Coamo.

During that brief administration I detailed Titus and Breckenridge to wigwag the Sixteenth Pennsylvania that we had taken the town, and that it was now safe for them to enter. In order to compromise Paget they used his red silk handkerchief. Root I detailed to conciliate the inhabitants by drinking with every one of them. He tells me he carried out my instructions to the letter. I also settled one assault and battery case, and put the chief offender under arrest. At least, I told the official interpreter to inform him that he was under arrest, but as I had no one to guard him he grew tired of being under arrest and went off to celebrate his emancipation from the rule of Spain.

My administration came to an end in twenty minutes, when General Wilson rode into Coamo at the head of his staff and three thousand men. He wore a white helmet, and he looked the part of the conquering hero so satisfactorily that I forgot I was Mayor and ran out into the street to snap a picture of him. He looked greatly surprised and asked me what I was doing in his town. The tone in which he spoke caused me to decide that, after all, I would not keep the flag of Coamo. I pulled it off my saddle and said: "General, it's too long a story to tell you now, but here is the flag of the town. It's the first Spanish flag"—and it was—"that has been captured in Porto Rico."

General Wilson smiled again and accepted the flag. He and about four thousand other soldiers think it belongs to them. But the truth will out. Some day the bestowal on the proper persons of a vote of thanks from Congress, a pension, or any other trifle, like prize-money, will show the American people to whom that flag really belongs.

I know that in time the glorious deed of the seven heroes of Coamo, or eight, if you include "Jimmy," will be told in song and story. Some one else will write the song. This is the story.


When I was a boy I thought battles were fought in waste places selected for the purpose. I argued from the fact that when our school nine wished to play ball it was forced into the suburbs to search for a vacant lot. I thought opposing armies also marched out of town until they reached some desolate spot where there were no window panes, and where their cannon-balls would hurt no one but themselves. Even later, when I saw battles fought among villages, artillery galloping through a cornfield, garden walls breached for rifle fire, and farm-houses in flames, it always seemed as though the generals had elected to fight in such surroundings through an inexcusable striving after theatrical effect—as though they wished to furnish the war correspondents with a chance for descriptive writing. With the horrors of war as horrible as they are without any aid from these contrasts, their presence always seemed not only sinful but bad art; as unnecessary as turning a red light on the dying gladiator.

There are so many places which are scenes set apart for battles—places that look as though Nature had condemned them for just such sacrifices. Colenso, with its bare kopjes and great stretch of veldt, is one of these, and so, also, is Spion Kop, and, in Manchuria, Nan Shan Hill. The photographs have made all of us familiar with the vast, desolate approaches to Port Arthur. These are among the waste places of the earth—barren, deserted, fit meeting grounds only for men whose object in life for the moment is to kill men. Were you shown over one of these places, and told, "A battle was fought here," you would answer, "Why, of course!"

But down in Cuba, outside of Santiago, where the United States army fought its solitary and modest battle with Spain, you might many times pass by San Juan Hill and think of it, if you thought of it at all, as only a pretty site for a bungalow, as a place obviously intended for orchards and gardens.

On July 1st, twelve years ago, when the American army came upon it out of the jungle the place wore a partial disguise. It still was an irregular ridge of smiling, sunny hills with fat, comfortable curves, and in some places a steep, straight front. But above the steepest, highest front frowned an aggressive block-house, and on all the slopes and along the sky-line were rows of yellow trenches, and at the base a cruel cat's cradle of barbed wire. It was like the face of a pretty woman behind the bars of a visor. I find that on the day of the fight twelve years ago I cabled my paper that San Juan Hill reminded the Americans of "a sunny orchard in New England." That was how it may have looked when the regulars were climbing up the steep front to capture the block-house, and when the cavalry and Rough Riders, having taken Kettle Hill, were running down its opposite slope, past the lake, to take that crest of San Juan Hill which lies to the right of the block-house. It may then have looked like a sunny New England orchard, but before night fell the intrenching tools had lent those sunny slopes "a fierce and terrible aspect." And after that, hour after hour, and day after day, we saw the hill eaten up by our trenches, hidden by a vast laundry of shelter tents, and torn apart by bomb-proofs, their jutting roofs of logs and broken branches weighed down by earth and stones and looking like the pit mouths to many mines. That probably is how most of the American army last saw San Juan Hill, and that probably is how it best remembers it—as a fortified camp. That was twelve years ago. When I revisited it, San Juan Hill was again a sunny, smiling farm land, the trenches planted with vegetables, the roofs of the bomb-proofs fallen in and buried beneath creeping vines, and the barbed-wire entanglements holding in check only the browsing cattle.

San Juan Hill is not a solitary hill, but the most prominent of a ridge of hills, with Kettle Hill a quarter of a mile away on the edge of the jungle and separated from the ridge by a tiny lake. In the local nomenclature Kettle Hill, which is the name given to it by the Rough Riders, has always been known as San Juan Hill, with an added name to distinguish it from the other San Juan Hill of greater renown.

The days we spent on those hills were so rich in incident and interest and were filled with moments of such excitement, of such pride in one's fellow-countrymen, of pity for the hurt and dying, of laughter and good-fellowship, that one supposed he might return after even twenty years and recognize every detail of the ground. But a shorter time has made startling and confusing changes. Now a visitor will find that not until after several different visits, and by walking and riding foot by foot over the hills, can he make them fall into line as he thinks he once knew them. Immediately around San Juan Hill itself there has been some attempt made to preserve the ground as a public park. A barbed-wire fence, with a gateway, encircles the block-house, which has been converted into a home for the caretaker of the park, and then, skirting the road to Santiago to include the tree under which the surrender was arranged, stretches to the left of the block-house to protect a monument. This monument was erected by Americans to commemorate the battle. It is now rapidly falling to pieces, but there still is enough of it intact to show the pencilled scribblings and autographs of tourists who did not take part in the battle, but who in this public manner show that they approve of its results. The public park is less than a quarter of a mile square. Except for it no other effort has been made either by Cubans or Americans to designate the lines that once encircled and menaced Santiago, and Nature, always at her best under a tropical sun, has done all in her power to disguise and forever obliterate the scene of the army's one battle. Those features which still remain unchanged are very few. The Treaty Tree, now surrounded by a tall fence, is one, the block-house is another. The little lake in which, even when the bullets were dropping, the men used to bathe and wash their clothes, the big iron sugar kettle that gave a new name to Kettle Hill, and here and there a trench hardly deeper than a ploughed furrow, and nearly hidden by growing plants, are the few landmarks that remain.

Of the camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Bates, Sumner, and Wheeler, of Colonels Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt, there are but the slightest traces. The Bloody Bend, as some call it, in the San Juan River, as some call that stream, seems to have entirely disappeared. At least, it certainly was not where it should have been, and the place the hotel guides point out to unsuspecting tourists bears not the slightest physical resemblance to that ford. In twelve years, during one of which there has been in Santiago the most severe rainfall in sixty years, the San Juan stream has carried away its banks and the trees that lined them, and the trails that should mark where the ford once crossed have so altered and so many new ones have been added, that the exact location of the once famous dressing station is now most difficult, if not impossible, to determine. To establish the sites of the old camping grounds is but little less difficult. The head-quarters of General Wheeler are easy to recognize, for the reason that the place selected was in a hollow, and the most unhealthy spot along the five miles of intrenchments. It is about thirty yards from where the road turns to rise over the ridge to Santiago, and all the water from the hill pours into it as into a rain barrel. It was here that Troop G, Third Cavalry, under Major Hardee, as it was Wheeler's escort, was forced to bivouac, and where one-third of its number came down with fever. The camp of General Sam Sumner was some sixty yards to the right of the head-quarters of General Wheeler, on the high shoulder of the hill just above the camp of the engineers, who were on the side of the road opposite. The camps of Generals Chaffee, Lawton, Hawkins, Ludlow, and the positions and trenches taken and held by the different regiments under them one can place only relatively. One reason for this is that before our army attacked the hills all the underbrush and small trees that might conceal the advance of our men had been cleared away by the Spaniards, leaving the hill, except for the high crest, comparatively bare. To-day the hills are thick with young trees and enormous bushes. The alteration in the landscape is as marked as is the difference between ground cleared for golf and the same spot planted with corn and fruit-trees.

Of all the camps, the one that to-day bears the strongest evidences of its occupation is that of the Rough Riders. A part of the camp of that regiment, which was situated on the ridge some hundred feet from the Santiago road, was pitched under a clump of shade trees, and to-day, even after seven years, the trunks of these trees bear the names and initials of the men who camped beneath them. {4} These men will remember that when they took this hill they found that the fortifications beneath the trees were partly made from the foundations of an adobe house. The red tiles from its roof still litter the ground. These tiles and the names cut in the bark of the trees determine absolutely the site of one-half of the camp, but the other half, where stood Tiffany's quick-firing gun and Parker's Gatling, has been almost obliterated. The tree under which Colonel pitched his tent I could not discover, and the trenches in which he used to sit with his officers and with the officers from the regiments of the regular army are now levelled to make a kitchen-garden. Sometimes the ex-President is said to have too generously given office and promotion to the friends he made in Cuba. These men he met in the trenches were then not necessarily his friends. To-day they are not necessarily his friends. They are the men the free life of the rifle-pits enabled him to know and to understand as the settled relations of home life and peace would never have permitted. At that time none of them guessed that the "amateur colonel," to whom they talked freely as to a comrade, would be their Commander-in-Chief. They did not suspect that he would become even the next Governor of New York, certainly not that in a few years he would be the President of the United States. So they showed themselves to him frankly, unconsciously. They criticised, argued, disagreed, and he became familiar with the views, character, and worth of each, and remembered. The seeds planted in those half-obliterated trenches have borne greater results than ever will the kitchen-garden.

The kitchen-garden is immediately on the crest of the hill, and near it a Cuban farmer has built a shack of mud and twigs and cultivated several acres of land. On Kettle Hill there are three more such shacks, and over all the hills the new tenants have strung stout barbed-wire fences and made new trails and reared wooden gateways. It was curious to find how greatly these modern improvements confused one's recollection of the landscape, and it was interesting, also, to find how the presence on the hills of 12,000 men and the excitement of the time magnified distances and disarranged the landscape.

During the fight I walked along a portion of the Santiago road, and for many years I always have thought of that walk as extending over immense distances. It started from the top of San Juan Hill beside the block-house, where I had climbed to watch our artillery in action. By a mistake, the artillery had been sent there, and it remained exposed on the crest only about three minutes. During that brief moment the black powder it burned drew upon it the fire of every rifle in the Spanish line. To load his piece, each of our men was forced to crawl to it on his stomach, rise on one elbow in order to shove in the shell and lock the breech, and then, still flat on the ground, wriggle below the crest. In the three minutes three men were wounded and two killed; and the guns were withdrawn. I also withdrew. I withdrew first. Indeed, all that happened after the first three seconds of those three minutes is hearsay, for I was in the Santiago road at the foot of the hill and retreating briskly. This road also was under a cross-fire, which made it stretch in either direction to an interminable distance. I remember a government teamster driving a Studebaker wagon filled with ammunition coming up at a gallop out of this interminable distance and seeking shelter against the base of the hill. Seated beside him was a small boy, freckled and sunburned, a stowaway from one of the transports. He was grandly happy and excited, and his only fear was that he was not "under fire." From our coign of safety, with our backs to the hill, the teamster and I assured him that, on that point, he need feel no morbid doubt. But until a bullet embedded itself in the blue board of the wagon he was not convinced. Then with his jack-knife he dug it out and shouted with pleasure. "I guess the folks will have to believe I was in a battle now," he said. That coign of safety ceasing to be a coign of safety caused us to move on in search of another, and I came upon Sergeant Borrowe blocking the road with his dynamite gun. He and his brother and three regulars were busily correcting a hitch in its mechanism. An officer carrying an order along the line halted his sweating horse and gazed at the strange gun with professional knowledge.

"That must be the dynamite gun I have heard so much about," he shouted. Borrowe saluted and shouted assent. The officer, greatly interested, forgot his errand.

"I'd like to see you fire it once," he said eagerly. Borrowe, delighted at the chance to exhibit his toy to a professional soldier, beamed with equal eagerness.

"In just a moment, sir," he said; "this shell seems to have jammed a bit." The officer, for the first time seeing the shell stuck in the breech, hurriedly gathered up his reins. He seemed to be losing interest. With elaborate carelessness I began to edge off down the road.

"Wait," Borrowe begged; "we'll have it out in a minute."

Suddenly I heard the officer's voice raised wildly.

"What—what," he gasped, "is that man doing with that axe?"

"He's helping me to get out this shell," said Borrowe.

"Good God!" said the officer. Then he remembered his errand.

Until last year, when I again met young Borrowe gayly disporting himself at a lawn-tennis tournament at Mattapoisett, I did not know whether his brother's method of removing dynamite with an axe had been entirely successful. He said it worked all right.

At the turn of the road I found Colonel Leonard Wood and a group of Rough Riders, who were busily intrenching. At the same moment Stephen Crane came up with "Jimmy" Hare, the man who has made the Russian-Japanese War famous. Crane walked to the crest and stood there as sharply outlined as a semaphore, observing the enemy's lines, and instantly bringing upon himself and us the fire of many Mausers. With every one else, Wood was crouched below the crest and shouted to Crane to lie down. Crane, still standing, as though to get out of ear-shot, moved away, and Wood again ordered him to lie down.

"You're drawing the fire on these men," Wood commanded. Although the heat—it was the 1st of July in the tropics—was terrific, Crane wore a long India rubber rain-coat and was smoking a pipe. He appeared as cool as though he were looking down from a box at a theatre. I knew that to Crane, anything that savored of a pose was hateful, so, as I did not want to see him killed, I called, "You're not impressing any one by doing that, Crane." As I hoped he would, he instantly dropped to his knees. When he crawled over to where we lay, I explained, "I knew that would fetch you," and he grinned, and said, "Oh, was that it?"

A captain of the cavalry came up to Wood and asked permission to withdraw his troop from the top of the hill to a trench forty feet below the one they were in. "They can't possibly live where they are now," he explained, "and they're doing no good there, for they can't raise their heads to fire. In that lower trench they would be out of range themselves and would be able to fire back."

"Yes," said Wood, "but all the other men in the first trench would see them withdraw, and the moral effect would be bad. They needn't attempt to return the enemy's fire, but they must not retreat."

The officer looked as though he would like to argue. He was a West Point graduate and a full-fledged captain in the regular army. To him, Wood, in spite of his volunteer rank of colonel, which that day, owing to the illness of General Young, had placed him in command of a brigade, was still a doctor. But discipline was strong in him, and though he looked many things, he rose from his knees and grimly saluted. But at that moment, without waiting for the permission of any one, the men leaped out of the trench and ran. It looked as though they were going to run all the way to the sea, and the sight was sickening. But they had no intention of running to the sea. They ran only to the trench forty feet farther down and jumped into it, and instantly turning, began pumping lead at the enemy. Since five that morning Wood had been running about on his feet, his clothes stuck to him with sweat and the mud and water of forded streams, and as he rose he limped slightly. "My, but I'm tired!" he said, in a tone of the most acute surprise, and as though that fact was the only one that was weighing on his mind. He limped over to the trench in which the men were now busily firing off their rifles and waved a riding-crop he carried at the trench they had abandoned. He was standing as Crane had been standing, in silhouette against the sky-line. "Come back, boys," we heard him shouting. "The other men can't withdraw, and so you mustn't. It looks bad. Come on, get out of that!" What made it more amusing was that, although Wood had, like every one else, discarded his coat and wore a strange uniform of gray shirt, white riding-breeches, and a cowboy Stetson, with no insignia of rank, not even straps pinned to his shirt, still the men instantly accepted his authority. They looked at him on the crest of the hill, waving his stick persuasively at the grave-like trench at his feet, and then with a shout scampered back to it.

[Picture: Rough Riders in the trenches]

[Picture: The same spot as it appears to-day. The figure in the picture is standing in what remains of the trench]

After that, as I had a bad attack of sciatica and no place to sleep and nothing to eat, I accepted Crane's offer of a blanket and coffee at his bivouac near El Poso. On account of the sciatica I was not able to walk fast, and, although for over a mile of the way the trail was under fire, Crane and Hare each insisted on giving me an arm, and kept step with my stumblings. Whenever I protested and refused their sacrifice and pointed out the risk they were taking they smiled as at the ravings of a naughty child, and when I lay down in the road and refused to budge unless they left me, Crane called the attention of Hare to the effect of the setting sun behind the palm-trees. To the reader all these little things that one remembers seem very little indeed, but they were vivid at the moment, and I have always thought of them as stretching over a long extent of time and territory. Before I revisited San Juan I would have said that the distance along the road from the point where I left the artillery to where I joined Wood was three-quarters of a mile. When I paced it later I found the distance was about seventy-five yards. I do not urge my stupidity or my extreme terror as a proof that others would be as greatly confused, but, if only for the sake of the stupid ones, it seems a pity that the landmarks of San Juan should not be rescued from the jungle, and a few sign-posts placed upon the hills. It is true that the great battles of the Civil War and those of the one in Manchuria, where the men killed and wounded in a day outnumber all those who fought on both sides at San Juan, make that battle read like a skirmish. But the Spanish War had its results. At least it made Cuba into a republic, and so enriched or burdened us with colonies that our republic changed into something like an empire. But I do not urge that. It will never be because San Juan changed our foreign policy that people will visit the spot, and will send from it picture postal cards. The human interest alone will keep San Juan alive. The men who fought there came from every State in our country and from every class of our social life. We sent there the best of our regular army, and with them, cowboys, clerks, bricklayers, foot-ball players, three future commanders of the greater army that followed that war, the future Governor of Cuba, future commanders of the Philippines, the commander of our forces in China, a future President of the United States. And, whether these men, when they returned to their homes again, became clerks and millionaires and dentists, or rose to be presidents and mounted policemen, they all remember very kindly the days they lay huddled together in the trenches on that hot and glaring sky-line. And there must be many more besides who hold the place in memory. There are few in the United States so poor in relatives and friends who did not in his or her heart send a substitute to Cuba. For these it seems as though San Juan might be better preserved, not as it is, for already its aspect is too far changed to wish for that, but as it was. The efforts already made to keep the place in memory and to honor the Americans who died there are the public park which I have mentioned, the monument on San Juan, and one other monument at Guasimas to the regulars and Rough Riders who were killed there. To these monuments the Society of Santiago will add four more, which will mark the landing place of the army at Daiquairi and the fights at Guasimas, El Caney, and San Juan Hill.

But I believe even more than this might be done to preserve to the place its proper values. These values are sentimental, historical, and possibly to the military student, educational. If to-day there were erected at Daiquairi, Siboney, Guasimas, El Poso, El Caney, and on and about San Juan a dozen iron or bronze tablets that would tell from where certain regiments advanced, what posts they held, how many or how few were the men who held those positions, how near they were to the trenches of the enemy, and by whom these men were commanded, I am sure the place would reconstruct itself and would breathe with interest, not only for the returning volunteer, but for any casual tourist. As it is, the history of the fight and the reputation of the men who fought is now at the mercy of the caretaker of the park and the Cuban "guides" from the hotel. The caretaker speaks only Spanish, and, considering the amount of misinformation the guides disseminate, it is a pity when they are talking to Americans, they are not forced to use the same language. When last I visited it, Carlos Portuondo was the official guardian of San Juan Hill. He is an aged Cuban, and he fought through the Ten Years' War, but during the last insurrection and the Spanish-American War he not only was not near San Juan, but was not even on the Island of Cuba. He is a charming old person, and so is his aged wife. Their chief concern in life, when I saw them, was to sell me a pair of breeches made of palm-fibre which Carlos had worn throughout the entire ten years of battle. The vicissitudes of those trousers he recited to me in great detail, and he very properly regarded them as of historic value. But of what happened at San Juan he knew nothing, and when I asked him why he held his present post and occupied the Block-House, he said, "To keep the cows out of the park." When I asked him where the Americans had camped, he pointed carefully from the back door of the Block-House to the foot of his kitchen-garden. I assured him that under no stress of terror could the entire American army have been driven into his back yard, and pointed out where it had stretched along the ridge of hills for five miles. He politely but unmistakably showed that he thought I was a liar. From the Venus Hotel there were two guides, old Casanova and Jean Casanova, his languid and good-natured son, a youth of sixteen years. Old Casanova, like most Cubans, is not inclined to give much credit for what they did in Cuba to the Americans. After all, he says, they came only just as the Cubans themselves were about to conquer the Spaniards, and by a lucky chance received the surrender and then claimed all the credit. As other Cubans told me, "Had the Americans left us alone a few weeks longer, we would have ended the war." How they were to have taken Havana, and sunk Cervera's fleet, and why they were not among those present when our men charged San Juan, I did not inquire. Old Casanova, again like other Cubans, ranks the fighting qualities of the Spaniard much higher than those of the American. This is only human. It must be annoying to a Cuban to remember that after he had for three years fought the Spaniard, the Yankee in eight weeks received his surrender and began to ship him home. The way Casanova describes the fight at El Caney is as follows:

"The Americans thought they could capture El Caney in one day, but the brave General Toral fought so good that it was six days before the Americans could make the Spaniards surrender." The statement is correct except as regards the length of time during which the fight lasted. The Americans did make the mistake of thinking they could eat up El Caney in an hour and then march through it to San Juan. Owing to the splendid courage of Toral and his few troops our soldiers, under two of our best generals, were held in check from seven in the morning until two in the afternoon. But the difference between seven hours of one day and six days is considerable. Still, at present at San Juan that is the sort of information upon which the patriotic and puzzled American tourist is fed.

Young Casanova, the only other authority in Santiago, is not so sure of his facts as is his father, and is willing to learn. He went with me to hold my pony while I took the photographs that accompany this article, and I listened with great interest to his accounts of the battle. Finally he made a statement that was correct. "How did you happen to get that right?" I asked.

"Yesterday," he said, "I guided Colonel Hayes here, and while I guided him he explained it to me."



"Were you the station-master here before this?" I asked the man in the straw hat, at Colenso. "I mean before this war?"

"No fear!" snorted the station-master, scornfully. "Why, we didn't know Colenso was on the line until Buller fought a battle here. That's how it is with all these way-stations now. Everybody's talking about them. We never took no notice to them."

And yet the arriving stranger might have been forgiven his point of view and his start of surprise when he found Chieveley a place of only a half dozen corrugated zinc huts, and Colenso a scattered gathering of a dozen shattered houses of battered brick.

Chieveley seemed so insignificant in contrast with its fame to those who had followed the war on maps and in the newspapers, that one was not sure he was on the right road until he saw from the car-window the armored train still lying on the embankment, the graves beside it, and the donga into which Winston Churchill pulled and carried the wounded.

And as the train bumped and halted before the blue and white enamel sign that marks Colenso station, the places which have made that spot familiar and momentous fell into line like the buoys which mark the entrance to a harbor.

We knew that the high bare ridge to the right must be Fort Wylie, that the plain on the left was where Colonel Long had lost his artillery, and three officers gained the Victoria Cross, and that the swift, muddy stream, in which the iron railroad bridge lay humped and sprawling, was the Tugela River.

Six hours before, at Frere Station, the station-master had awakened us to say that Ladysmith would be relieved at any moment. This had but just come over the wire. It was "official." Indeed, he added, with local pride, that the village band was still awake and in readiness to celebrate the imminent event. He found, I fear, an unsympathetic audience. The train was carrying philanthropic gentlemen in charge of stores of champagne and marmalade for the besieged city. They did not want it to be relieved until they were there to substitute pate de foie gras for horseflesh. And there were officers, too, who wanted a "look in," and who had been kept waiting at Cape Town for commissions, gladdening the guests of the Mount Nelson Hotel the while with their new khaki and gaiters, and there were Tommies who wanted "Relief of Ladysmith" on the claps of their medals, as they had seen "Relief of Lucknow" on the medals of the Chelsea pensioners. And there was a correspondent who had journeyed 15,000 miles to see Ladysmith relieved, and who was apparently going to miss that sight, after five weeks of travel, by a margin of five hours.

We all growled "That's good," as we had done for the last two weeks every time we had heard it was relieved, but our tone was not enthusiastic. And when the captain of the Natal Carbineers said, "I am afraid the good news is too premature," we all said, hopefully, we were afraid it was.

We had seen nothing yet that was like real war. That night at Pietermaritzburg the officers at the hotel were in mess-jackets, the officers' wives in dinner-gowns. It was like Shepheard's Hotel, at the top of the season. But only six hours after that dinner, as we looked out of the car-windows, we saw galloping across the high grass, like men who had lost their way, and silhouetted black against the red sunrise, countless horsemen scouting ahead of our train, and guarding it against the fate of the armored one lying wrecked at Chieveley. The darkness was still heavy on the land and the only lights were the red eyes of the armored train creeping in advance of ours, and the red sun, which showed our silent escort appearing suddenly against the sky-line on a ridge, or galloping toward us through the dew to order us, with a wave of the hand, to greater speed. One hour after sunrise the train drew up at Colenso, and from only a mile away we heard the heavy thud of the naval guns, the hammering of the Boer "pom-poms," and the Maxims and Colt automatics spanking the air. We smiled at each other guiltily. We were on time. It was most evident that Ladysmith had not been relieved.

This was the twelfth day of a battle that Buller's column was waging against the Boers and their mountain ranges, or "disarranges," as some one described them, without having gained more than three miles of hostile territory. He had tried to force his way through them six times, and had been repulsed six times. And now he was to try it again.

No map, nor photograph, nor written description can give an idea of the country which lay between Buller and his goal. It was an eruption of high hills, linked together at every point without order or sequence. In most countries mountains and hills follow some natural law. The Cordilleras can be traced from the Amazon River to Guatemala City; they make the water-shed of two continents; the Great Divide forms the backbone of the States, but these Natal hills have no lineal descent. They are illegitimate children of no line, abandoned broadcast over the country, with no family likeness and no home. They stand alone, or shoulder to shoulder, or at right angles, or at a tangent, or join hands across a valley. They never appear the same; some run to a sharp point, some stretch out, forming a table-land, others are gigantic ant-hills, others perfect and accurately modelled ramparts. In a ride of half a mile, every hill completely loses its original aspect and character.

They hide each other, or disguise each other. Each can be enfiladed by the other, and not one gives up the secret of its strategic value until its crest has been carried by the bayonet. To add to this confusion, the river Tugela has selected the hills around Ladysmith as occupying the country through which it will endeavor to throw off its pursuers. It darts through them as though striving to escape, it doubles on its tracks, it sinks out of sight between them, and in the open plain rises to the dignity of water-falls. It runs uphill, and remains motionless on an incline, and on the level ground twists and turns so frequently that when one says he has crossed the Tugela, he means he has crossed it once at a drift, once at the wrecked railroad bridge, and once over a pontoon. And then he is not sure that he is not still on the same side from which he started.

Some of these hills are green, but the greater part are a yellow or dark red, against which at two hundred yards a man in khaki is indistinguishable from the rocks around him. Indeed, the khaki is the English soldier's sole protection. It saves him in spite of himself, for he apparently cannot learn to advance under cover, and a sky-line is the one place where he selects to stand erect and stretch his weary limbs. I have come to within a hundred yards of a hill before I saw that scattered among its red and yellow bowlders was the better part of a regiment as closely packed together as the crowd on the bleaching boards at a base-ball match.

Into this maze and confusion of nature's fortifications Buller's column has been twisting and turning, marching and countermarching, capturing one position after another, to find it was enfiladed from many hills, and abandoning it, only to retake it a week later. The greater part of the column has abandoned its tents and is bivouacking in the open. It is a wonderful and impressive sight. At the first view, an army in being, when it is spread out as it is in the Tugela basin back of the hills, seems a hopelessly and irrevocably entangled mob.

An army in the field is not regiments of armed men, marching with a gun on shoulder, or crouching behind trenches. That is the least, even if it seems the most, important part of it. Before one reaches the firing-line he must pass villages of men, camps of men, bivouacs of men, who are feeding, mending, repairing, and burying the men at the "front." It is these latter that make the mob of gypsies, which is apparently without head or order or organization. They stretched across the great basin of the Tugela, like the children of Israel, their camp-fires rising to the sky at night like the reflection of great search-lights; by day they swarmed across the plain, like hundreds of moving circus-vans in every direction, with as little obvious intention as herds of buffalo. But each had his appointed work, and each was utterly indifferent to the battle going forward a mile away. Hundreds of teams, of sixteen oxen each, crawled like great black water-snakes across the drifts, the Kaffir drivers, naked and black, lashing them with whips as long as lariats, shrieking, beseeching, and howling, and falling upon the oxen's horns to drag them into place.

Mules from Spain and Texas, loaded with ammunition, kicked and plunged, more oxen drew more soberly the great naval guns, which lurched as though in a heavy sea, throwing the blue-jackets who hung upon the drag-ropes from one high side of the trail to the other. Across the plain, and making toward the trail, wagons loaded with fodder, with rations, with camp equipment, with tents and cooking-stoves, crowded each other as closely as cable-cars on Broadway. Scattered among them were fixed lines of tethered horses, rows of dog-tents, camps of Kaffirs, hospital stations with the Red Cross waving from the nearest and highest tree. Dripping water-carts with as many spigots as the regiment had companies, howitzer guns guided by as many ropes as a May-pole, crowded past these to the trail, or gave way to the ambulances filled with men half dressed and bound in the zinc-blue bandages that made the color detestable forever after. Troops of the irregular horse gallop through this multitude, with a jangling of spurs and sling-belts; and Tommies, in close order, fight their way among the oxen, or help pull them to one side as the stretchers pass, each with its burden, each with its blue bandage stained a dark brownish crimson. It is only when the figure on the stretcher lies under a blanket that the tumult and push and sweltering mass comes to a quick pause, while the dead man's comrade stands at attention, and the officer raises his fingers to his helmet. Then the mass surges on again, with cracking of whips and shouts and imprecations, while the yellow dust rises in thick clouds and buries the picture in a glaring fog. This moving, struggling mass, that fights for the right of way along the road, is within easy distance of the shells. Those from their own guns pass over them with a shrill crescendo, those from the enemy burst among them at rare intervals, or sink impotently in the soft soil. And a dozen Tommies rush to dig them out as keepsakes. Up at the front, brown and yellow regiments are lying crouched behind brown and yellow rocks and stones. As far as you can see, the hills are sown with them. With a glass you distinguish them against the sky-line of every hill, for over three miles away. Sometimes the men rise and fire, and there is a feverish flutter of musketry; sometimes they lie motionless for hours while the guns make the ways straight.

Any one who has seen Epsom Downs on a Derby day, with its thousands of vans and tents and lines of horses and moving mobs, can form some idea of what it is like. But while at the Derby all is interest and excitement, and every one is pushing and struggling, and the air palpitates with the intoxication of a great event, the winning of a horse-race—here, where men are killed every hour and no one of them knows when his turn may come, the fact that most impresses you is their indifference to it all. What strikes you most is the bored air of the Tommies, the undivided interest of the engineers in the construction of a pontoon bridge, the solicitude of the medical staff over the long lines of wounded, the rage of the naked Kaffirs at their lumbering steers; the fact that every one is intent on something—anything—but the battle.

They are wearied with battles. The Tommies stretch themselves in the sun to dry the wet khaki in which they have lain out in the cold night for weeks, and yawn at battles. Or, if you climb to the hill where the officers are seated, you will find men steeped even deeper in boredom. They are burned a dark red; their brown mustaches look white by contrast, theirs are the same faces you have met with in Piccadilly, which you see across the tables of the Savoy restaurant, which gaze depressedly from the windows of White's and the Bachelors' Club. If they were bored then, they are unbearably bored now. Below them the men of their regiment lie crouched amid the bowlders, hardly distinguishable from the brown and yellow rock. They are sleeping, or dozing, or yawning. A shell passes over them like the shaking of many telegraph wires, and neither officer nor Tommy raises his head to watch it strike. They are tired in body and in mind, with cramped limbs and aching eyes. They have had twelve nights and twelve days of battle, and it has lost its power to amuse.

When the sergeants call the companies together, they are eager enough. Anything is better than lying still looking up at the sunny, inscrutable hills, or down into the plain crawling with black oxen.

Among the group of staff officers some one has lost a cigar-holder. It has slipped from between his fingers, and, with the vindictiveness of inanimate things, has slid and jumped under a pile of rocks. The interest of all around is instantly centred on the lost cigar-holder. The Tommies begin to roll the rocks away, endangering the limbs of the men below them, and half the kopje is obliterated. They are as keen as terriers after a rat. The officers sit above and give advice and disagree as to where that cigar-holder hid itself. Over their heads, not twenty feet above, the shells chase each other fiercely. But the officers have become accustomed to shells; a search for a lost cigar-holder, which is going on under their very eyes, is of greater interest. And when at last a Tommy pounces upon it with a laugh of triumph, the officers look their disappointment, and, with a sigh of resignation, pick up their field-glasses.

It is all a question of familiarity. On Broadway, if a building is going up where there is a chance of a loose brick falling on some one's head, the contractor puts up red signs marked "Danger!" and you dodge over to the other side. But if you had been in battle for twelve days, as have the soldiers of Buller's column, passing shells would interest you no more than do passing cable-cars. After twelve days you would forget that shells are dangerous even as you forget when crossing Broadway that cable-cars can kill and mangle.

Up on the highest hill, seated among the highest rocks, are General Buller and his staff. The hill is all of rocks, sharp, brown rocks, as clearly cut as foundation-stones. They are thrown about at irregular angles, and are shaded only by stiff bayonet-like cacti. Above is a blue glaring sky, into which the top of the kopje seems to reach, and to draw and concentrate upon itself all of the sun's heat. This little jagged point of blistering rocks holds the forces that press the button which sets the struggling mass below, and the thousands of men upon the surrounding hills, in motion. It is the conning tower of the relief column, only, unlike a conning tower, it offers no protection, no seclusion, no peace. To-day, commanding generals, under the new conditions which this war has developed, do not charge up hills waving flashing swords. They sit on rocks, and wink out their orders by a flashing hand-mirror. The swords have been left at the base, or coated deep with mud, so that they shall not flash, and with this column every one, under the rank of general, carries a rifle on purpose to disguise the fact that he is entitled to carry a sword. The kopje is the central station of the system. From its uncomfortable eminence the commanding general watches the developments of his attack, and directs it by heliograph and ragged bits of bunting. A sweating, dirty Tommy turns his back on a hill a mile away and slaps the air with his signal flag; another Tommy, with the front visor of his helmet cocked over the back of his neck, watches an answering bit of bunting through a glass. The bit of bunting, a mile away, flashes impatiently, once to the right and once to the left, and the Tommy with the glass says, "They understand, sir," and the other Tommy, who has not as yet cast even an interested glance at the regiment he has ordered into action, folds his flag and curls up against a hot rock and instantly sleeps.

Stuck on the crest, twenty feet from where General Buller is seated, are two iron rods, like those in the putting-green of a golf course. They mark the line of direction which a shell must take, in order to seek out the enemy. Back of the kopje, where they cannot see the enemy, where they cannot even see the hill upon which he is intrenched, are the howitzers. Their duty is to aim at the iron rods, and vary their aim to either side of them as they are directed to do by an officer on the crest. Their shells pass a few yards over the heads of the staff, but the staff has confidence. Those three yards are as safe a margin as a hundred. Their confidence is that of the lady in spangles at a music-hall, who permits her husband in buckskin to shoot apples from the top of her head. From the other direction come the shells of the Boers, seeking out the hidden howitzers. They pass somewhat higher, crashing into the base of the kopje, sometimes killing, sometimes digging their own ignominious graves. The staff regard them with the same indifference. One of them tears the overcoat upon which Colonel Stuart-Wortley is seated, another destroys his diary. His men, lying at his feet among the red rocks, observe this with wide eyes. But he does not shift his position. His answer is, that his men cannot shift theirs.

On Friday, February 23d, the Inniskillings, Dublins, and Connaughts were sent out to take a trench, half-way up Railway Hill. The attack was one of those frontal attacks, which in this war, against the new weapons, have added so much to the lists of killed and wounded and to the prestige of the men, while it has, in an inverse ratio, hurt the prestige of the men by whom the attack was ordered. The result of this attack was peculiarly disastrous. It was made at night, and as soon as it developed, the Boers retreated to the trenches on the crest of the hill, and threw men around the sides to bring a cross-fire to bear on the Englishmen. In the morning the Inniskillings found they had lost four hundred men, and ten out of their fifteen officers. The other regiments lost as heavily. The following Tuesday, which was the anniversary of Majuba Hill, three brigades, instead of a regiment, were told off to take this same Railway Hill, or Pieter's, as it was later called, on the flank, and with it to capture two others. On the same day, nineteen years before, the English had lost Majuba Hill, and their hope was to take these three from the Boers for the one they had lost, and open the way to Bulwana Mountain, which was the last bar that held them back from Ladysmith.

The first two of the three hills they wanted were shoulder to shoulder, the third was separated from them by a deep ravine. This last was the highest, and in order that the attack should be successful, it was necessary to seize it first. The hills stretched for three miles; they were about one thousand two hundred yards high.

For three hours a single line of men slipped and stumbled forward along the muddy bank of the river, and for three hours the artillery crashed, spluttered, and stabbed at the three hills above them, scattering the rocks and bursting over and behind the Boer trenches on the crest.

As is their custom, the Boers remained invisible and made no reply. And though we knew they were there, it seemed inconceivable that anything human could live under such a bombardment of shot, bullets, and shrapnel. A hundred yards distant, on our right, the navy guns were firing lyddite that burst with a thick yellow smoke; on the other side Colt automatics were put-put-put-ing a stream of bullets; the field-guns and the howitzers were playing from a hill half a mile behind us, and scattered among the rocks about us, and for two miles on either hand, the infantry in reserve were firing off ammunition at any part of the three hills they happened to dislike!

The roar of the navy's Four-Point-Sevens, their crash, their rush as they passed, the shrill whine of the shrapnel, the barking of the howitzers, and the mechanical, regular rattle of the quick-firing Maxims, which sounded like the clicking of many mowing-machines on a hot summer's day, tore the air with such hideous noises that one's skull ached from the concussion, and one could only be heard by shouting. But more impressive by far than this hot chorus of mighty thunder and petty hammering, was the roar of the wind which was driven down into the valley beneath, and which swept up again in enormous waves of sound. It roared like a wild hurricane at sea. The illusion was so complete, that you expected, by looking down, to see the Tugela lashing at her banks, tossing the spray hundreds of feet in air, and battling with her sides of rock. It was like the roar of Niagara in a gale, and yet when you did look below, not a leaf was stirring, and the Tugela was slipping forward, flat and sluggish, and in peace.

The long procession of yellow figures was still advancing along the bottom of the valley, toward the right, when on the crest of the farthermost hill fourteen of them appeared suddenly, and ran forward and sprang into the trenches.

Perched against the blue sky on the highest and most distant of the three hills, they looked terribly lonely and insufficient, and they ran about, this way and that, as though they were very much surprised to find themselves where they were. Then they settled down into the Boer trench, from our side of it, and began firing, their officer, as his habit is, standing up behind them. The hill they had taken had evidently been abandoned to them by the enemy, and the fourteen men in khaki had taken it by "default." But they disappeared so suddenly into the trench, that we knew they were not enjoying their new position in peace, and every one looked below them, to see the arriving reinforcements. They came at last, to the number of ten, and scampered about just as the others had done, looking for cover. It seemed as if we could almost hear the singing of the bullet when one of them dodged, and it was with a distinct sense of relief, and of freedom from further responsibility, that we saw the ten disappear also, and become part of the yellow stones about them. Then a very wonderful movement began to agitate the men upon the two remaining hills. They began to creep up them as you have seen seaweed rise with the tide and envelop a rock. They moved in regiments, but each man was as distinct as is a letter of the alphabet in each word on this page, black with letters. We began to follow the fortunes of individual letters. It was a most selfish and cowardly occupation, for you knew you were in no greater danger than you would be in looking through the glasses of a mutoscope. The battle unrolled before you like a panorama. The guns on our side of the valley had ceased, the hurricane in the depths below had instantly spent itself, and the birds and insects had again begun to fill our hill with drowsy twitter and song. But on the other, half the men were wrapping the base of the hill in khaki, which rose higher and higher, growing looser and less tightly wrapt as it spun upward. Halfway to the crest there was a broad open space of green grass, and above that a yellow bank of earth, which supported the track of the railroad. This green space spurted with tiny geysers of yellow dust. Where the bullets came from or who sent them we could not see. But the loose ends of the bandage of khaki were stretching across this green space and the yellow spurts of dust rose all around them. The men crossed this fire zone warily, looking to one side or the other, as the bullets struck the earth heavily, like drops of rain before a shower.

The men had their heads and shoulders bent as though they thought a roof was about to fall on them; some ran from rock to rock, seeking cover properly; others scampered toward the safe vantage-ground behind the railroad embankment; others advanced leisurely, like men playing golf. The silence, after the hurricane of sounds, was painful; we could not hear even the Boer rifles. The men moved like figures in a dream, without firing a shot. They seemed each to be acting on his own account, without unison or organization. As I have said, you ceased considering the scattered whole, and became intent on the adventures of individuals. These fell so suddenly, that you waited with great anxiety to learn whether they had dropped to dodge a bullet or whether one had found them. The men came at last from every side, and from out of every ridge and dried-up waterway. Open spaces which had been green a moment before were suddenly dyed yellow with them. Where a company had been clinging to the railroad embankment, there stood one regiment holding it, and another sweeping over it. Heights that had seemed the goal, became the resting-place of the stretcher-bearers, until at last no part of the hill remained unpopulated, save a high bulging rampart of unprotected and open ground. And then, suddenly, coming from the earth itself, apparently, one man ran across this open space and leaped on top of the trench which crowned the hill. He was fully fifteen yards in advance of all the rest, entirely unsupported, and alone. And he had evidently planned it so, for he took off his helmet and waved it, and stuck it on his rifle and waved it again, and then suddenly clapped it on his head and threw his gun to his shoulder. He stood so, pointing down into the trench, and it seemed as though we could hear him calling upon the Boers behind it to surrender.

A few minutes later the last of the three hills was mounted by the West Yorks, who were mistaken by their own artillery for Boers, and fired upon both by the Boers and by their own shrapnel and lyddite. Four men were wounded, and, to save themselves, a line of them stood up at full length on the trench and cheered and waved at the artillery until it had ceased to play upon them. The Boers continued to fire upon them with rifles for over two hours. But it was only a demonstration to cover the retreat of the greater number, and at daybreak the hills were in complete and peaceful possession of the English.

These hills were a part of the same Railway Hill which four nights before the Inniskillings and a composite regiment had attempted to take by a frontal attack with the loss of six hundred men, among whom were three colonels. By this flank attack, and by using nine regiments instead of one, the same hills and two others were taken with two hundred casualties. The fact that this battle, which was called the Battle of Pieter's Hill, and the surrender of General Cronje and his forces to Lord Roberts, both took place on the anniversary of the battle of Majuba Hill, made the whole of Buller's column feel that the ill memory of that disaster had been effaced.


After the defeat of the Boers at the battle of Pieter's Hill there were two things left for them to do. They could fall back across a great plain which stretched from Pieter's Hill to Bulwana Mountain, and there make their last stand against Buller and the Ladysmith relief column, or they could abandon the siege of Ladysmith and slip away after having held Buller at bay for three months.

Bulwana Mountain is shaped like a brick and blocks the valley in which Ladysmith lies. The railroad track slips around one end of the brick, and the Dundee trail around the other. It was on this mountain that the Boers had placed their famous gun, Long Tom, with which they began the bombardment of Ladysmith, and with which up to the day before Ladysmith was relieved they had thrown three thousand shells into that miserable town.

If the Boers on retreating from Pieter's Hill had fortified this mountain with the purpose of holding off Buller for a still longer time, they would have been under a fire from General White's artillery in the town behind them and from Buller's naval guns in front. Their position would not have been unlike that of Humpty Dumpty on the wall, so they wisely adopted the only alternative and slipped away. This was on Tuesday night, while the British were hurrying up artillery to hold the hills they had taken that afternoon.

By ten o'clock the following morning from the top of Pieter's Hill you could still see the Boers moving off along the Dundee road. It was an easy matter to follow them, for the dust hung above the trail in a yellow cloud, like mist over a swamp. There were two opinions as to whether they were halting at Bulwana or passing it, on their way to Laing's Neck. If they were going only to Bulwana there was the probability of two weeks' more fighting before they could be dislodged. If they had avoided Bulwana, the way to Ladysmith was open.

Lord Dundonald, who is in command of a brigade of irregular cavalry, was scouting to the left of Bulwana, far in advance of our forces. At sunset he arrived, without having encountered the Boers, at the base of Bulwana. He could either return and report the disappearance of the enemy or he could make a dash for it and enter Ladysmith. His orders were "to go, look, see," and avoid an action, and the fact that none of his brigade was in the triumphant procession which took place three days later has led many to think that in entering the besieged town without orders he offended the commanding general. In any event, it is a family row and of no interest to the outsider. The main fact is that he did make a dash for it, and just at sunset found himself with two hundred men only a mile from the "Doomed City." His force was composed of Natal Carbiniers and Imperial Light Horse. He halted them, and in order that honors might be even, formed them in sections with the half sections made up from each of the two organizations. All the officers were placed in front, and with a cheer they started to race across the plain.

The wig-waggers on Convent Hill had already seen them, and the townspeople and the garrison were rushing through the streets to meet them, cheering and shouting, and some of them weeping. Others, so officers tell me, who were in the different camps, looked down upon the figures galloping across the plain in the twilight, and continued making tea.

Just as they had reached the centre of the town, General Sir George White and his staff rode down from head-quarters and met the men whose coming meant for him life and peace and success. They were advancing at a walk, with the cheering people hanging to their stirrups, clutching at their hands and hanging to the bridles of their horses.

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