Campaigning in Cuba
by George Kennan
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War broke out between the United States and Spain on April 21, 1898. A week or ten days later I was asked by the editors of the "Outlook" of New York to go to Cuba with Miss Clara Barton, on the Red Cross steamer State of Texas, and report the war and the work of the Red Cross for that periodical. After a hasty conference with the editorial and business staffs of the paper I was to represent, I accepted the proposition, and on May 5 left Washington for Key West, where the State of Texas was awaiting orders from the Navy Department. The army of invasion, under command of General Shafter, was then assembling at Tampa, and it was expected that a hostile movement to some point on the Cuban coast would be made before the end of the month.

I reached Tampa on the evening of Friday, May 6. The Pullman cars of the Florida express, at that time, ran through the city of Tampa and across the river into the spacious grounds of the beautiful Tampa Bay Hotel, which, after closing for the regular winter season, had been compelled to reopen its doors—partly to accommodate the large number of officers and war correspondents who had assembled there with their wives and friends, and partly to serve as headquarters for the army of Cuban invasion.

It was a warm, clear Southern night when we arrived, and the scene presented by the hotel and its environment, as we stepped out of the train, was one of unexpected brilliancy and beauty. A nearly full moon was just rising over the trees on the eastern side of the hotel park, touching with silver the drifts of white blossoms on dark masses of oleander-trees in the foreground, and flooding with soft yellow light the domes, Moorish arches, and long facade of the whole immense building. Two regimental bands were playing waltzes and patriotic airs under a long row of incandescent lights on the broad veranda; fine-looking, sunbrowned men, in all the varied uniforms of army and navy, were gathered in groups here and there, smoking, talking, or listening to the music; the rotunda was crowded with officers, war correspondents, and gaily attired ladies, and the impression made upon a newcomer, as he alighted from the train, was that of a brilliant military ball at a fashionable seaside summer resort. Of the serious and tragic side of war there was hardly a suggestion.

On the morning after our arrival I took a carriage and drove around the city and out to the camp, which was situated about a mile and a half from the hotel on the other side of the river. In the city itself I was unpleasantly disappointed. The showy architecture, beautiful grounds, semi-tropical foliage, and brilliant flowers of the Tampa Bay Hotel raise expectations which the town across the river does not fulfil. It is a huddled collection of generally insignificant buildings standing in an arid desert of sand, and to me it suggested the city of Semipalatinsk—a wretched, verdure-less town in southern Siberia, colloquially known to Russian army officers as "the Devil's Sand-box." Thriving and prosperous Tampa may be, but attractive or pleasing it certainly is not.

As soon as I got away, however, from the hotel and into the streets of the town, I saw at almost every step suggestions of the serious and practical side, if not the tragic side, of war. Long trains of four-mule wagons loaded with provisions, camp equipage, and lumber moved slowly through the soft, deep sand of the unpaved streets in the direction of the encampment; the sidewalks were thronged with picturesquely dressed Cuban volunteers from the town, sailors from the troop-ships, soldiers from the camp, and war correspondents from everywhere; mounted orderlies went tearing back and forth with despatches to or from the army headquarters in the Tampa Bay Hotel; Cuban and American flags were displayed in front of every restaurant, hotel, and Cuban cigar-shop, and floated from the roofs or windows of many private houses; and now and then I met, coming out of a drug-store, an army surgeon or hospital steward whose left arm bore the red cross of the Geneva Convention.

The army that was destined to begin the invasion of Cuba consisted, at that time, of ten or twelve thousand men, all regulars, and included an adequate force of cavalry and ten fine batteries of field-artillery. It was encamped in an extensive forest of large but scattered pine-trees, about a mile from the town, and seemed already to have made itself very much at home in its new environment.

The first thing that struck me in going through the camp was its businesslike aspect. It did not suggest a big picnic, nor an encampment of militia for annual summer drill. It was manifestly a camp of veterans; and although its dirty, weather-beaten tents were pitched here and there without any attempt at regularity of arrangement, and its camp equipage, cooking-utensils, and weapons were piled or stacked between the tents in a somewhat disorderly fashion, as if thrown about at random, I could see that the irregularity and disorder were only apparent, and were really the irregularity and disorder of knowledge and experience gained by long and varied service in the field. I did not need the inscriptions—"Fort Reno" and "Fort Sill"—on the army wagons to assure me that these were veteran troops from the Plains, to whom campaigning was not a new thing.

As we drove up to the camp, smoke was rising lazily into the warm summer air from a dozen fires in different parts of the grounds; company cooks were putting the knives, forks, and dishes that they had just washed into improvised cup-boards made by nailing boxes and tomato-crates against the trees; officers in fatigue-uniform were sitting in camp-chairs, here and there, reading the latest New York papers; and thousands of soldiers, both inside and outside the sentry-lines, were standing in groups discussing the naval fight off Manila, lounging and smoking on the ground in the shade of the army wagons, playing hand-ball to pass away the time, or swarming around a big board shanty, just outside the lines, which called itself "NOAH'S ARK" and announced in big letters its readiness to dispense cooling drinks to all comers at a reasonable price.

The troops in all branches of the army at Tampa impressed me very favorably. The soldiers were generally stalwart, sunburnt, resolute-looking men, twenty-five to thirty-five years of age, who seemed to be in perfect physical condition, and who looked as if they had already seen hard service and were ready and anxious for more. In field-artillery the force was particularly strong, and our officers in Tampa based their confident expectation of victory largely upon the anticipated work of the ten batteries of fine, modern field-guns which General Shafter then intended to take with him. Owing to lack of transportation facilities, however, or for some other reason to me unknown, six of these batteries were left in Tampa when the army sailed for Santiago, and the need of them was severely felt, a few weeks later, at Caney and San Juan.

Upon my return from the camp I called upon General Shafter, presented my letter of introduction from the President, and said I wished to consult him briefly with regard to the future work of the American National Red Cross. He received me cordially, said that our organization would soon have a great and important work to do in Cuba in caring for the destitute and starving reconcentrados, and that he would gladly afford us all possible facilities and protection. The Red Cross corps of the army medical department, he said, would be fully competent to take care of all the sick and wounded soldiers in the field; but there would be ample room for our supplementary work in relieving the distress of the starving Cuban peasants, who would undoubtedly seek refuge within our lines as soon as we should establish ourselves on the island. He deprecated and disapproved of any attempt on the part of the Red Cross to land supplies for the reconcentrados under a flag of truce in advance of the army of invasion and without its protection. "The Spanish authorities," he said, "under stress of starvation, would simply seize your stores and use them for the maintenance of their own army. The best thing for you to do is to go in with us and under our protection, and relieve the distress of the reconcentrados as fast as we uncover it." I said that I thought this was Miss Barton's intention, and that we had fourteen hundred tons of food-stuffs and medical supplies on the steamer State of Texas at Key West, and were ready to move at an hour's notice. With an understanding that Miss Barton should be notified as soon as the army of invasion embarked, I bade the general good-by and returned to the hotel.

In an interview that I had on the following day with Colonel Babcock, General Shafter's adjutant-general, I was informed, confidentially, that the army was destined for "eastern Cuba." Small parties, Colonel Babcock said, would be landed at various points on the coast east and west of Havana, for the purpose of communicating with the insurgents and supplying them with arms and ammunition; but the main attack would be made at the eastern end of the island. He did not specifically mention Santiago by name, because Cervera's fleet, at that time, had not taken refuge there; but inasmuch as Santiago was the most important place in eastern Cuba, and had a deep and sheltered harbor, I inferred that it would be made the objective point of the contemplated attack. The Secretary of War, in his reply to the questions of the Investigating Commission, says that the movement against Santiago, as then planned, was to be a mere "reconnaissance in force, to ascertain the strength of the enemy in different locations in eastern Cuba"; but Colonel Babcock certainly gave me to understand that the attack was to be a serious one, and that it would be made with the whole strength of General Shafter's command. The matter is of no particular importance now, except in so far as the information given me by Colonel Babcock indicates the views and intentions of the War Department two weeks before Admiral Cervera's fleet took refuge in Santiago harbor.

I left Port Tampa for Key West on the Plant-line steamer Mascotte at half-past ten o'clock Saturday evening, May 7. The long, narrow, and rather sinuous channel out of Tampa Bay was marked by a line of buoys and skeleton wooden frames resting on driven spiles; but there were no lights for the guidance of the mariner, except one at the outer entrance, ten or twelve miles from the port; and if the Mascotte had not been provided with a powerful search-light of her own she would hardly have been able to find her way to sea, as the night was cloudy and the buoys were invisible. With the long, slender shaft of her search-light, however, she probed the darkness ahead, as with a radiant exploring finger, and picked up the buoys, one after another, with unfailing certainty and precision. Every two or three minutes a floating iron balloon, or a skeleton frame covered with sleeping aquatic birds, would flash into the field of vision ahead, like one of Professor Pepper's patent ghosts, stand out for a moment in brilliant white relief against a background of impenetrable darkness, and then vanish with the swiftness of summer lightning, as the electric beam left it to search for another buoy farther away.

When I awoke the next morning we were out on the blue, tumbling, foam-crested water of the Gulf, forty or fifty miles from the Florida coast. All day Sunday we steamed slowly southward, seeing no vessels except a Jamaica "fruiter," whose captain shouted to us, as he crossed our bow, that he had been blown off his course in a recent gale, and would like to know his position and distance. We should have reached Key West at half-past two Sunday afternoon; but an accident which disabled one of the Mascotte's boilers greatly reduced her normal speed, so that when I went to my state-room at eleven o'clock Sunday evening we were still twenty or thirty miles from our destination.

Three hours later I was awakened by shouted orders, the tramping of feet, and the rattling of heavy chain-cable on the forward deck, and, dressing myself hastily, I went out to ascertain our situation. The moon was hidden behind a dense bank of clouds, the breeze had fallen to a nearly perfect calm, and the steamer was rolling and pitching gently on a sea that appeared to have the color and consistency of greenish-gray oil. Two hundred yards away, on the port bow, floated a white pyramidal frame in the fierce glare of the ship's search-light, and from it, at irregular intervals, came the warning toll of a heavy bell. It was the bell-buoy at the entrance to Key West harbor, and far away on the southeastern horizon appeared a faintly luminous nebula which marked the position of Key West city. Under the war regulations then in force, no vessels other than those belonging to the United States navy were permitted to enter or leave the port of Key West between late evening twilight and early dawn, and we were, therefore, forced to anchor off the bell-buoy until 5 A. M. Just as day was breaking we got our anchor on board and steamed in toward the town. The comparatively shallow water of the bay, in the first gray light of dawn, had the peculiar opaque, bluish-green color of a stream fed by an Alpine glacier; but as the light increased it assumed a brilliant but delicate translucent green of purer quality, contrasting finely with the scarlet flush in the east which heralded the rising, but still hidden, sun. On our right, as we entered the wide, spacious harbor, were two or three flat-topped, table-like islands, or "keys," which, in general outline and appearance, suggested dark mesas of foliage floating in a tropical ocean of pale chrysolite-green. Directly ahead was the city of Key West—a long, low, curving silhouette of roofs, spires, masts, lighthouses, cocoanut-palms, and Australian pines, delicately outlined in black against the scarlet arch of the dawn, "like a ragged line of Arabic etched on the blade of a Turkish simitar." At the extreme western end of this long, ragged silhouette rose the massive walls of Fort Taylor, with its double tier of antiquated embrasures; and on the left of it, as the distance lessened and the light increased, I could distinguish the cream-colored front of the Marine Hospital, the slender white shaft of the lighthouse, the red pyramidal roof of the Government Building, and the pale-yellow walls and cupola of the Key West Hotel—all interspersed with graceful leaning palms, or thrown into effective relief against dark masses of feathery Australian pine.

Along the water-front, for a distance of half a mile, extended an almost unbroken line of steamers, barks, schooners, and brigantines, discharging or receiving cargo, while out on the pale-green, translucent surface of the harbor were scattered a dozen or more war-ships of the North Atlantic Squadron, ranging in size from the huge, double-turreted monitor Puritan to the diminutive but dangerous-looking torpedo-boat Dupont. All were in their war-paint of dirty leaden gray, which, although it might add to their effectiveness, certainly did not seem to me to improve their appearance as component parts of an otherwise beautiful marine picture. Beyond the war-ships and nearer to the eastern end of the island lay the captured Spanish prizes, including the big black liners Pedro and Miguel Jover, the snow-white Argonauta, the brigantine Frascito, and a dozen or more fishing-schooners intercepted by the blockading fleet while on their way back to Havana from the Yucatan banks.

But none of these war-ships or prizes had, for me, the interest that attached to a large black two-masted steamer of eighteen hundred tons, which was lying at anchor off the government wharf, flying from her mainmast-head a white flag emblazoned with the red Greek cross of the Geneva Convention. It was the steamship State of Texas, of the Mallory line, chartered by the American National Red Cross to carry to Cuba supplies for the starving reconcentrados, and to serve as headquarters for its president, Miss Clara Barton, and her staff of trained surgeons, nurses, and field-officers.



When Miss Barton joined the State of Texas at Key West on April 29 there seemed to be no immediate prospect of an invasion of Cuba by the United States army, and, consequently, no prospect of an opportunity to relieve the distress of the starving Cuban people. Knowing that such distress must necessarily have been greatly intensified by the blockade, and anxious to do something to mitigate it,—or, at least, to show the readiness of the Red Cross to undertake its mitigation,—Miss Barton wrote and sent to Admiral Sampson, commander of the naval forces on the North Atlantic Station, the following letter:

S. S. "STATE OF TEXAS," May 2, 1898.

Admiral W. T. Sampson, U. S. N., Commanding Fleet before Havana.

ADMIRAL: But for the introduction kindly proffered by our mutual acquaintance Captain Harrington, I should scarcely presume to address you. He will have made known to you the subject which I desire to bring to your gracious consideration.

Papers forwarded by direction of our government will have shown the charge intrusted to me, viz., to get food to the starving people of Cuba. I have with me a cargo of fourteen hundred tons, under the flag of the Red Cross, the one international emblem of neutrality and humanity known to civilization. Spain knows and regards it.

Fourteen months ago the entire Spanish government at Madrid cabled me permission to take and distribute food to the suffering people in Cuba. This official permission was broadly published. If read by our people, no response was made and no action taken until two months ago, when, under the humane and gracious call of our honored President, I did go and distribute food, unmolested anywhere on the island, until arrangements were made by our government for all American citizens to leave Cuba. Persons must now be dying there by hundreds, if not thousands, daily, for want of the food we are shutting out. Will not the world hold us accountable? Will history write us blameless? Will it not be said of us that we completed the scheme of extermination commenced by Weyler?

Fortunately, I know the Spanish authorities in Cuba, Captain-General Blanco and his assistants. We parted with perfect friendliness. They do not regard me as an American merely, but as the national representative of an international treaty to which they themselves are signatory and under which they act. I believe they would receive and confer with me if such a thing were made possible.

I should like to ask Spanish permission and protection to land and distribute food now on the State of Texas. Could I be permitted to ask to see them under flag of truce? If we make the effort and are refused, the blame rests with them; if we fail to make it, it rests with us. I hold it good statesmanship at least to divide the responsibility. I am told that some days must elapse before our troops can be in position to reach and feed these starving people. Our food and our forces are here, ready to commence at once.

With assurances of highest regard,

I am, Admiral, very respectfully yours,


At the time when the above letter was written, the American National Red Cross was acting under the advice and direction of the State and Navy departments, the War Department having no force in the field.

Admiral Sampson replied as follows:


Miss Clara Barton, President American National Red Cross:

1. I have received through the senior naval officer present a copy of a letter from the State Department to the Secretary of the Navy; a copy of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to the commander-in-chief of the naval force on this station; and also a copy of a letter from the Secretary of the Navy to the commandant of the naval station at Key West.

2. From these communications it appears that the destination of the steamship State of Texas, loaded with supplies for the starving reconcentrados in Cuba, is left, in a measure, to my judgment.

3. At present I am acting under instructions from the Navy Department to blockade the coast of Cuba for the purpose of preventing, among other things, any food-supply from reaching the Spanish forces in Cuba. Under these circumstances it seems to me unwise to let a ship-load of such supplies be sent to the reconcentrados, for, in my opinion, they would be distributed to the Spanish army. Until some point be occupied in Cuba by our forces, from which such distribution can be made to those for whom the supplies are intended, I am unwilling that they should be landed on Cuban soil.

Yours very respectfully,

[Signed] W. T. SAMPSON, Rear-Admiral U. S. N.,

Commander-in-Chief U. S. Naval Force, North Atlantic Station.

After this exchange of letters Miss Barton had a conference with Admiral Sampson, in the course of which the latter explained more fully his reasons for declining to allow the State of Texas to enter any Cuban port until such port had been occupied by American troops.

On May 3 Miss Barton sent the following telegram to Stephen E. Barton, chairman of the Central Cuban Relief Committee in New York:

KEY WEST, May 3, 1898. Stephen E. Barton, Chairman, etc.:

Herewith I transmit copies of letters passed between Admiral Sampson and myself. I think it important that you should present immediately this correspondence personally to the government, as it will place before them the exact situation here. The utmost cordiality exists between Admiral Sampson and myself. The admiral feels it his duty, as chief of the blockading squadron, to keep food out of Cuba, but recognizes that, from my standpoint, my duty is to try to get food into Cuba. If I insist, Admiral Sampson will try to open communication under a flag of truce; but his letter expresses his opinion regarding the best method. Advices from the government would enable us to reach a decision. Unless there is objection at Washington, you are at liberty to publish this correspondence if you wish.


On May 6 the chairman of the Central Cuban Relief Committee replied as follows:

WASHINGTON, D. C., May 6, 1898.

Clara Barton, Key West, Florida:

Submitted your message to President and cabinet, and it was read with moistened eyes. Considered serious and pathetic. Admiral Sampson's views regarded as wisest at present. Hope to land you soon. President, Long, and Moore send highest regards.

[Signed] BARTON.

Under these circumstances, of course, there was nothing for the Red Cross steamer to do but wait patiently in Key West until the army of invasion should leave Tampa for the Cuban coast.

Meanwhile, however, Miss Barton had discovered a field of beneficent activity for the Red Cross nearer home. In Tampa, on her way south, she learned that in that city, and at various other points on the coast of southern Florida, there were large numbers of destitute Cuban refugees and escaped reconcentrados, who were in urgent need of help. A local committee in Tampa, composed of representatives from the various churches, had been doing everything in its power to relieve the distress of these unfortunate people, but the burden was getting to be beyond its strength, and it asked the Red Cross for assistance. The desired aid was promptly given, and the committee was supplied with provisions enough to support the Cuban refugees in Tampa until the middle of June.

Upon her arrival at Key West Miss Barton found a similar, but even worse, state of affairs, inasmuch as the number of destitute refugees and reconcentrados there exceeded fifteen hundred. A local Cuban relief society had established a soup-kitchen in which they were feeding about three hundred, and Mr. G. W. Hyatt, chairman of the Key West Red Cross Committee, was trying to take care of the rest; but both organizations were nearly at the end of their resources, and the local committee had nothing left in the shape of food-stuffs except corn-meal. Miss Barton at once telegraphed the Central Red Cross Committee in New York to forward thirty tons of assorted stores by first steamer, and pending the arrival of these stores she fed the Key West refugees from the State of Texas and from such local sources of food-supply as were available.

But Cuban refugees and reconcentrados were not the only hungry and destitute victims of the war to be found in Key West. On May 9 Miss Barton received the following letter from the United States marshal for the southern district of Florida:


Miss Clara Barton, President American National Red Cross.

DEAR MISS BARTON: On board the captured vessels we find quite a number of aliens among the crews, mostly Cubans, and some American citizens, and their detention here and inability to get away for want of funds has exhausted their supply of food, and some of them will soon be entirely out. As there is no appropriation available from which food could be purchased, would you kindly provide for them until I can get definite instructions from the department at Washington?

Very respectfully yours, [Signed] JOHN F. HORR, U. S. Marshal.

Appended to the above letter was a list of fifteen Spanish vessels whose crews were believed by the marshal to be in need of food.

In less than three hours after the receipt of this communication two large ships' boats, loaded with provisions for the sailors on the Spanish prizes, left the State of Texas in tow of the steam-launch of the troop-ship Panther. Before dark that night, Mr. Cobb and Dr. Egan, of Miss Barton's staff, who were in charge of the relief-boats, had visited every captured Spanish vessel in the harbor. Two or three of them, including the great liners Miguel Jover and Argonauta, had provisions enough, and were not in need of relief, but most of the others—particularly the fishing-smacks—were in even worse straits than the marshal supposed. The large transatlantic steamer Pedro, of Bilbao, had no flour, bread, coffee, tea, sugar, beans, rice, vegetables, or lard for cooking, and her crew had lived for fifteen days exclusively upon fish. The schooner Severito had wholly exhausted her supplies, and had on board nothing to eat of any kind. Of the others, some had no matches or oil for lights, some were nearly out of water, and all were reduced to an unrelieved fish diet, of which the men were beginning to sicken. The Red Cross relief-boats made a complete and accurate list of the Spanish prizes in the harbor,—twenty-two in all,—with the numerical strength of every crew, the amount of provisions, if any, on every vessel, and the quantity and kind of food that each would require.

Finding that one of the prizes had a cargo of plantains and bananas, and that most of the fishing-smacks were provided with salt-water tanks in which they had thousands of pounds of living fish, Miss Barton and her staff determined to purchase from them such quantities of these perishable commodities as they were willing to sell at a low nominal price, and use such food to increase and diversify the rations furnished to the fifteen hundred Cuban refugees and reconcentrados on shore. This would give the latter a change of diet, and at the same time lessen the amount of more expensive food-stuffs to be taken from the cargo of the Red Cross steamer or brought from New York. With the approval of the United States marshal, this plan was immediately carried into effect, and it worked admirably. The captains of the Spanish prizes were glad to give to the Red Cross perishable commodities for which they had no accessible market, and ten thousand pounds of fish and large quantities of plantains and bananas were soon obtained for distribution among the Cuban refugees and reconcentrados in Key West. I refer to this incident of the relief-work, not because it has, intrinsically, any particular importance, but because it shows that the means adopted by the Red Cross to relieve distress in Key West were intelligent and businesslike.

On the day after our arrival Mr. Cobb, of Miss Barton's staff, called at the hotel to tell us that the Red Cross relief-boats were about to make another visit to the Spanish prizes in the harbor, and to ask us if we would like to go with them and see the work.

In half an hour Miss Barton and her staff, Mrs. Kennan and I, started in the steam-launch of the monitor Puritan to make the round of the captured Spanish ships, towing behind us two large boats loaded with assorted stores for the destitute crews. The first vessel we visited was a small black brigantine from Barcelona, named Frascito, which had been captured eight miles off Havana by the United States cruiser Montgomery. The swarthy, scantily clad Spanish sailors crowded to the bulwarks with beaming faces as we approached, and the hurried, almost frenzied eagerness with which they threw us a line, hung a ladder over the side, and helped us on board, showed that although we were incidentally Americans, and therefore enemies, we were primarily Red Cross people, and consequently friends to be greeted and welcomed with every possible manifestation of respect, gratitude, and affection.

The interior of the little brigantine presented an appearance of slovenly but picturesque dirt, confusion, and disorder, as if the crew, overwhelmed by the misfortune that had come upon them, had abandoned the routine of daily duty and given themselves up to apathy and despair. The main-deck, between the low after-cabin and the high forecastle, had not been washed down, apparently, in a week; piles of dirty dishes and cooking-utensils of strange, unfamiliar shapes lay here and there around the little galley forward; coils of running rigging were kicking about under-foot instead of hanging on the belaying-pins; a pig-pen, which had apparently gone adrift in a gale, blocked up the gangway to the forecastle on the port side between the high bulwark and a big boat which had been lashed in V-shaped supports amidships; and a large part of the space between the cabin and the forecastle on the starboard side was a chaos of chain-cable, lumber, spare spars, pots, pans, earthen water-jars, and chicken-coops.

The captain of the little vessel was a round-faced, boyish-looking man, of an English rather than a Spanish type, with clear gray honest eyes and a winning expression of friendliness and rustic bonhomie, like that of an amiable, intelligent young peasant. He greeted us cordially, but with a slight trace of shy awkwardness, and invited us into the small, dark cabin, where we drank one another's health in a bottle of sweet, strong liqueur, and he told us the rather pathetic story of his misfortune. The brigantine Frascito ("Little Flask"), he said, belonged in part to him and in part to a company in Barcelona. The cargo, consisting chiefly of South American jerked beef, was owned by his father and himself, and ship and cargo represented all that he and his family had in the world. He left Montevideo for Havana about the middle of March, and had no intimation whatever that Spain and the United States were at war, until a round shot was fired across his bow by the cruiser Montgomery, about eight miles off Morro Castle. The officers of the cruiser treated him very kindly—"I couldn't; and below] have done it better," he said, with simple sincerity, "if I had done it myself; but it was very hard to lose everything just because I didn't know. Of course I shouldn't have tried to get into Havana if I had known there was war; but I left Montevideo in March, and had no thought of such a thing." We tried to cheer him up by telling him that the prize-court would hardly condemn and confiscate his vessel under such circumstances, but he was still sad and troubled. He thanked us with simple, unaffected earnestness for the provisions we had put on board his ship, and said that the unexpected kindness of the Red Cross to him and his crew had cheered and encouraged them all. He seemed anxious to do something to show us his gratitude and appreciation, and when a member of our party manifested interest in a large cage of red-crested tropical birds which hung beside the cabin door, he promptly took it down and presented it "to the senorita for the Red Cross steamer, with the compliments and thanks of the Frascito."

After putting on board the little brigantine such supplies, in the shape of bread, beans, rice, canned meats, etc., as the crew required, we bade the captain and mate good-by, and left them apparently somewhat cheered up by our visit.

From the Frascito we went successively to the Oriente, the Espana, the Santiago Apostol, the Poder de Dios, and fifteen or sixteen other vessels of the prize-fleet, ascertaining their wants, furnishing them with such food-supplies as they needed, and listening to the stories of their captains.

Among the sailors on the fishing-smacks were many unfamiliar and wild-looking Cuban and Spanish types—men with hard, dark faces, lighted up by fierce, brilliant black eyes, who looked as if they would have been in their proper sphere fighting under a black flag, on the Spanish Main, in the good old days of the bucaneers. But hard and fierce as many of them looked, they were not wholly insensible to kindness. On the schooner Power of God, where there seemed to be more wild, cruel, piratical types than on any other vessel except, perhaps, St. James the Apostle, I noticed a sailor with a stern, hard, almost black face and fierce, dark eyes, who—had such a thing been possible—might have stepped, just as he stood, out of the pages of "Amyas Leigh." He was regarding me with an expression in which, if there was no actual malevolence, there was at least not the slightest indication of friendliness or good will. Taking from my haversack a box of the cigarettes with which I had provided myself in anticipation of a tobacco famine among the Spanish sailors, I sprang over the bulwark, and, with as cordial a smile of comradeship as I could give him, I placed it in his hand. For an instant he stared at it as if stupefied with amazement. Then his hard, set face relaxed a little, and, throwing his head forward and raising his fierce black eyes to mine, he gave me a long look of surprise and intense, passionate gratitude, which seemed to say, "I don't know your language, and I can't tell you how grateful I am, but I can look it"—and he did. He had evidently been out of tobacco many days, and in a moment he went below where he could light a match out of the wind, and presently reappeared, breathing smoke and exhaling it through his nostrils with infinite satisfaction and pleasure.

Nearly all the sailors on the fishing-smacks were barefooted, many were bareheaded, and all had been tanned a dark mahogany color by weeks of exposure to the rays of a tropical sun. Their dress consisted, generally, of a shirt and a pair of loose trousers of coarse gray cotton, like the dress worn in summer by Siberian convicts. Dr. Egan prescribed and furnished medicines for the sick wherever they were found, and on one vessel performed a rather difficult and delicate surgical operation for the relief of a man who was suffering from a badly swollen neck, with necrosis of the lower jawbone.

At half-past six o'clock we returned to the State of Texas, having attended to all the sick that were found, relieved all the distress that was brought to our attention, and furnished food enough for a week's consumption to the crews of nineteen vessels.

Two days later, at the suggestion of Miss Barton, Mr. Cobb purchased a quantity of smoking-and chewing-tobacco for the Spanish sailors, and we made another double round of the prize-ships, in the steam-launch of the New York "Sun," which was courteously placed at the disposal of the Red Cross for the whole afternoon. On our outward trip we left on every vessel tobacco and matches enough to last the crew for a week, and Mr. Cobb notified all the captains that if they or their crews wished to write open letters to their relatives and friends in Cuba or Spain, the Red Cross would collect them, submit them to the United States prize-court for approval, and undertake to forward them.

The tobacco and the offer to forward letters seemed to excite more enthusiastic gratitude in the hearts of the Spanish prisoners than even the distribution of food. On one schooner my attention was attracted to a ragged sailor who was saying something very earnestly in Spanish, and pointing, in a rather dramatic manner, to the sky. "What is he saying?" I inquired of Mr. Cobb. "He says," replied the latter, with a smile, "that if they were prisoners up in heaven, they couldn't be better treated than they have been here."

I was touched and gratified to see the interest and sympathy excited by the work of the Red Cross in all who came in contact with it, from the commodore of the fleet to the poorest fisherman. The captains of the monitor Puritan and the auxiliary cruiser Panther offered us the use of their swift steam-launches in the work of distributing food; the representative of the New York "Sun" followed their example; the marines on the Panther doffed their caps to our boats as we passed, and even a poor Key West fisherman pulled over to us in his skiff, as we lay alongside a Spanish vessel, and gave us two large, lobster-like crawfish, merely to show us, in the only way he could, his affectionate sympathy and good will. Mr. Cobb offered him some of the tobacco that we were distributing among the Spanish sailors, but he refused to take it, saying: "I didn't bring the fish to you to beg tobacco, or for money, but just because I wanted to help a little. I hoped to get more, but these were all I could catch."

One touch of kindness makes all the world kin. Even the engineer of the New York "Sun's" naphtha-launch gave his cherished pipe to a sailor on a Spanish vessel who had none, and when one of his mates remonstrated with him, saying, "You're not going to give him your own brier-wood pipe!" he replied, with a shamefaced smile: "Yes, poor devil! he can't get one away out here. I can buy another ashore."

Late in the afternoon we made a second round of all the Spanish ships to collect their letters, and then returned to the State of Texas. Mr. Cobb that same evening submitted the open letters to the United States prize-court for approval, and I made an arrangement with Mr. E. F. Knight, war correspondent of the London "Times," who was just starting for Havana, to take the Cuban letters with him and mail them there. The letters for Spain were sent to the National Red Cross of Portugal.



Until the illuminating search-light of war was turned upon the island of Key West, it was, to the people of the North generally, little more than a name attached to a small, arid coral reef lying on the verge of the Gulf Stream off the southern extremity of Florida. Few people knew anything definitely about it, and to nine readers out of ten its name suggested nothing more interesting or attractive than Cuban filibusters, sponges, and cigars. In less than a month, however, after the outbreak of hostilities, it had become the headquarters, as well as the chief coaling-station, of two powerful fleets; the news-distributing center for the whole Cuban coast; the supply-depot to which perhaps a hundred vessels resorted for water, food, and ammunition; the home station of all the newspaper despatch-boats cruising in West Indian waters; the temporary headquarters of more than a hundred newspaper correspondents and reporters, and the most advanced outpost of the United States on the edge of war. In view of the importance which the place had at that time, as well as the importance which it must continue to have, as our naval base in Cuban waters, a description of it may not be wholly without interest.

The island on which the city of Key West stands forms one of the links in a long, curving chain of shoals, reefs, and keys extending in a southwesterly direction about a hundred miles from the extreme end of the peninsula of Florida. It is approximately six miles long, has an average width of one mile, and resembles a little in shape a huge comma, with the city of Key West for its head and a diminishing curve of low, swampy chaparral and mangrove-bushes for a tail. The shallow bay of pale-green water between the head and the tail on the concave side of the comma is known as "the bight." It is the anchorage of the sponging-fleet, and is the eastern limit of settlement on that side of the island. Beyond it are sandy flats and shallow, salt-water lagoons, shut in by a dense growth of leather-leaved bushes and low, scrubby China-berry, sea-grape, and Jamaica-apple trees. The highest part of the Key is occupied by the city, and the highest part of the city is the low bluff on its western side, where the slender shaft of the lighthouse stands at a height of fifteen or eighteen feet above the level of tide-water. Owing to its geographical position in a semi-tropical sea, just north of the Gulf Stream and within the zone of the northeast trade-winds, Key West has a climate of remarkable mildness and equability. Twenty years' observations show that its lowest monthly mean of temperature is 70 deg. F. in January, and its highest 84 deg. in August—an annual range of only 14 deg.. Between the years 1886 and 1896 the highest temperature recorded was 92 deg., and the lowest 40 deg.—a range of only 52 deg. between maximum and minimum in a period of ten years. New York and Chicago often have a greater variation of temperature than this in the course of ten days.

Equability, however, is not the only noteworthy characteristic of the Key West climate. It is also remarkable for its sunniness in winter and its breeziness at all seasons of the year. The average number of cloudy days there is only sixty-four per annum, and between October and April the sun often shines, day after day, in a cloudless sky, for weeks at a time. But even more constant and continuous than the sunshine are the cool breezes from the foam-crested waters of the Atlantic, which temper the heat of the almost perpetual summer. From the reports of the Weather Bureau it appears that the average number of calm days at Key West is only ten per annum. In 1895 only three days were calm, and in 1894 there were only twenty-seven hours, of day or night, in which there was not breeze enough to ripple, at least, the pale-green water of the harbor. For all practical purposes, therefore, the sea-breeze at Key West may be regarded as perennial and incessant. It varies in strength, of course, from day to day and from hour to hour; but in the two weeks that I spent there it was never strong enough to be unpleasant in the city, nor to necessitate the reefing of small sail-boats in the comparatively open and unsheltered bay.

The average annual rainfall on the island is about thirty-nine inches, and nearly the whole of this precipitation is confined to the so-called "rainy season," between May and November, when showers fall, now and then, at irregular intervals of from three to ten days. For their fresh water the inhabitants depend entirely upon this rainfall, which is carefully collected and saved in large roof-covered cisterns. There are a few wells on the island, but the water in them is generally brackish, or is so impregnated with lime and earthy salts as to be unfit either for drinking or for irrigation. To sum up briefly, the climate of Key West may be roughly described as mild and dry in winter, warm but showery in summer, and breezy and sunny at all seasons.

In this geographical and climatic environment there has grown up on the island an interesting but rather sleepy and unprogressive city of twenty-two thousand inhabitants. The most important of the elements that go to make up its population are, first, whites from the United States, who are chiefly engaged in shipping or commerce; second, Cubans of mixed blood, employed, for the most part, in the cigar factories; third, immigrants from the Bahamas, known as "conchs," who devote themselves mainly to fishing, sponging, and wrecking; and, fourth, negroes from America and the West Indian Islands, who turn their hands to anything they can find to do, from shoveling coal to diving into the clear water of the bay after the pennies or nickels thrown by Northern tourists from the deck of the Mascotte or the Olivette. Nothing in the shape of fruit, grain, or vegetables is raised on the island for export, and the greater part of the city's food-supply comes either from Florida or from the islands of the West Indies.

The first thing that strikes a newcomer in Key West is the distinctly and unmistakably foreign aspect of the city. In spite of the English names on many of the sign-boards over the shops, the American faces on the streets, and the crowd of American officers and war correspondents smoking or talking on the spacious piazzas of the Key West Hotel, one cannot get rid of the impression that he has left the United States and has landed in some such town as San Juan de Guatemala or Punta Arenas, on the Pacific coast of Central America. Everything that meets the eye seems new, unfamiliar, and, in some subtle, indefinable way, un-American. The vivid but pale and delicate green of the ocean water; the slender, fern-headed cocoanut-palms which stand in clumps here and there along the streets; the feathery Australian pines and dark-green Indian laurels which shade the naval storehouse and the Marine Hospital; the masses of tamarind, almond, sapodilla, wild-fig, banana, and cork-tree foliage in the yards of the white, veranda-belted houses; the Spanish and Cuban types on the piers and in front of the hotels; the unfamiliar language which strikes the ear at almost every step—all suggest a tropical environment and Spanish, rather than American, influences and characteristics.

The two features of Key West scenery that appear, at first glance, to be most salient, and that contribute most to the impression of strangeness and remoteness made by the island as a whole, are, unquestionably, the color of the water and the character of the vegetation. The ocean in which the little coral key is set has a vividness and a delicacy of color that I have never seen equaled elsewhere, and that is not even so much as suggested by the turbid, semi-opaque water of the Atlantic off the coast of Massachusetts or New Jersey. It is a clear, brilliant, translucent green, pale rather than deep in tone, and ranging through all possible gradations, from the color of a rain-wet lawn to the pure, delicate, ethereal green of an auroral streamer. Sometimes, in heavy cloud-shadow, it is almost as dark as the green of a Siberian alexandrite; but just beyond the shadow, in the full sunshine, it brightens to the color of a greenish turquoise. In the shallow bay known as "the bight," the yellowish brown of the marine vegetation on the bottom blends with the pale green of the overlying water so as to reproduce on a large scale the tints of a Ural Mountain chrysolite, while two miles away, over a bank of sand or a white coral reef, the water has the almost opaque but vivid color of a pea-green satin ribbon. Even in the gloom and obscurity of midnight, the narrow slit cut through the darkness by the sharp blade of the Fort Taylor search-light reveals a long line of green, foam-flecked water. Owing to the very limited extent of the island, the ocean may be seen at the end of every street and from almost every point of view, and its constantly changing but always unfamiliar color says to you at every hour of the day: "You are no longer looking out upon the dull, muddy green water of the Atlantic coast; you are on a tropical, palm-fringed coral reef in the remote solitude of the great South Sea."

Next to the color of the ocean, in its power to suggest remoteness and unfamiliarity, is the character of the vegetation. The flora of Key West is wholly tropical, and in my first ramble through the city I did not discover a single plant, shrub, tree, or flower that I had ever seen in the North except the oleander. Even that had wholly changed its habits and appearance, and resembled the pot-grown plant of Northern households only as the gigantic sequoia of California resembles the stunted Lilliputian pine of the Siberian tundra. The Key West oleander is not a plant, nor a shrub; it is a tree. In the yard of a private house on Carolina Street I saw an oleander nearly thirty feet in height, whose branches shaded an area twenty feet or more in diameter, and whose mammoth clusters of rosy flowers might have been counted by the hundred. Such an oleander as this, even though its leaves and blossoms may be familiar, seems like a stranger and an exotic, and, instead of modifying the impression of remoteness and alienation made by the other features of the tropical environment, it deepens and intensifies it. Among the vines, plants, shrubs, and trees that I noticed and identified in the streets and private grounds of Key West were jasmine, bergamot, poinsettia, hibiscus, almond, banana, sapodilla, tamarind, Jamaica apple, mango, Spanish lime, cotton-tree, royal poinciana, "Geiger flower" (a local name), alligator-pear, tree-cactus, sand-box, cork-tree, banian-tree, sea-grape, cocoanut-palm, date-palm, Indian laurel, Australian pine, and wild fig. Most of these trees and shrubs do not grow even in southern Florida, and are to be found, within the limits of the United States, only in southern California and on the island of Key West.

A mere perusal of this long list of unfamiliar names will enable the reader to understand why the vegetation of the island reinforces the impression of strangeness and remoteness already made by the color of the sea.

Key West, after the outbreak of war, had two chief centers of interest and excitement: first, the harbor, between Fort Taylor and the government wharf, where lay all the monitors, cruisers, and gunboats of the North Atlantic Squadron that were not actually engaged in sea service; and, second, the Key West Hotel, which was the headquarters of the war correspondents, as well as of naval officers assigned to shore duty, and visitors on all sorts of business from the North. I found it hard to decide which of these two centers would offer better opportunities and facilities for observation and the acquirement of knowledge. If I stayed on board a vessel in the harbor, I should miss the life and activity of the city, the quick delivery of daily papers from the North, the news bulletins posted every few hours in the hotel, and all the stories of fight, peril, or adventure told on shady piazzas by officers and correspondents just back from the Cuban coast; while, on the other hand, if I established myself at the hotel, I could not see the bringing in of Spanish prizes from the Florida Strait, the arrival and departure of despatch-boats with news and orders, the play of the search-lights, the gun practice of the big war-ships, the signaling, the saluting, and the movements generally of the fleet.

After having spent a week at the hotel, I decided to go on board the Red Cross steamer State of Texas, which was lying off the government wharf, nearly opposite the custom-house, and within one hundred yards of the two big monitors Puritan and Miantonomoh. I made the change just in time to see, from the best possible point of vantage, the great event of the week—the arrival of the two powerful fleets commanded respectively by Admiral Sampson and Commodore Schley. Early Wednesday morning the graceful, black, schooner-rigged despatch-boat of the New York "Sun" came racing into the harbor under full head of steam, followed closely by the ocean-going tug of the Associated Press and two or three fast yachts in the service of New York papers, all blowing their whistles vigorously to attract attention from the shore. Something, evidently, had happened, and, looking seaward with a powerful glass, I had no difficulty in making out on the horizon, at a distance of eight or ten miles, the cruiser Brooklyn, the battle-ships Texas and Massachusetts, and two or three smaller cruisers and gunboats of the United States navy. The Flying Squadron from Hampton Roads had arrived.

The harbor at once became a scene of rapid movement and intense activity. Steam-launches darted out from the piers carrying war correspondents to their respective despatch-boats, and naval officers to the monitors and the huge four-masted colliers; a long line of party-colored flags was displayed from the signal-halyards of the Miantonomoh; two or three fast sea-going tugs carrying the naval commandant and other harbor officers started seaward at full speed, with long plumes of black smoke trailing to leeward from their lead-colored stacks; and the eight hundred marines on the auxiliary cruiser Panther swarmed on deck and crowded eagerly aft to gaze at the dim, distant outlines of the newly arrived vessels.

About the middle of the forenoon the swift, heavily armed gunboat Scorpion entered the harbor flying the commodore's pennant, and was received with a salute of eleven guns from the monitor Miantonomoh. The remainder of the day passed without any other unusual or noteworthy incident, but sometime in the night the fleet of Admiral Sampson joined the Flying Squadron in the offing, and Thursday morning the people of Key West saw, in their harbor and at sea off Fort Taylor, the largest and most powerful fleet of war-vessels that had ever assembled, perhaps, under the American flag.

All day Thursday the harbor was the center of incessant movement, activity, and excitement. The lighter vessels of the Flying Squadron, which had come in to coal, rejoined the heavier cruisers and battle-ships in the offing, and their places were taken by the big monitors Amphitrite and Terror, the cruisers Detroit and Marblehead, and the gunboats Wilmington, Helena, Castine, and Machias, which steamed in one after another from the fleet of Admiral Sampson. When all these vessels had anchored off Fort Taylor and the government wharf, there were in the harbor more than twenty ships of war, including three torpedo-boats and four monitors; six or eight armed yachts of the mosquito fleet; twelve or fifteen big transports, troop-ships, and colliers awaiting orders; twenty-two Spanish prizes of all sorts, from the big liner Argonauta to the little brigantine Frascito; and, finally, a fleet of newspaper tugs, launches, and despatch-boats almost equal, numerically, to the fleets of Commodore Schley and Admiral Sampson taken together. The marine picture presented by the harbor with all these monitors, cruisers, gunboats, yachts, transports, troop-ships, torpedo-boats, colliers, despatch-boats, and Spanish prizes lying at anchor, with flags and signals flying in the clear sunshine and on the translucent green water of the tropics, was a picture of more than ordinary interest and beauty, and one that Key West, perhaps, may never see again.

About two o'clock in the afternoon I was able, through the courtesy of Mr. Trumbull White in offering me the use of the Chicago "Record's" despatch-boat, to go off to the flagship New York and present my letter of introduction from the President to Admiral Sampson. I was received most cordially and hospitably, and, after conferring with him for half an hour with regard to the plans and work of the Red Cross, so far as they depended upon or related to the navy, I returned to the State of Texas. The fleet sailed again at half-past ten o'clock that night for the coast of Cuba.

After the departure of the blockading fleet and the Flying Squadron on May 19 and 20, the small army of war correspondents at Key West had little to do except watch for the arrival of vessels with news from the Cuban coast. Most of them regarded this work—or rather absence of work—as tedious and irksome in the extreme; but if they had been living on board ship instead of at the hotel they would have found a never-failing source of interest and entertainment in the constantly changing picture presented by the harbor. Six or eight war-ships, ranging in size and fighting power from monitors to torpedo-boats, were still lying at anchor off the custom-house and the Marine Hospital; transports with stores and munitions of war were discharging their cargoes at the piers; big four-masted schooners, laden with coal for the blockading fleet, swung back and forth with the ebbing and flowing tides as they awaited orders from the naval commandant; graceful steam-yachts, flying the flag of the Associated Press, were constantly coming in with news or going out in search of it; swift naphtha-launches carrying naval officers in white uniforms darted hither and thither from one cruiser to another, whistling shrill warnings to the slower boats pulled by sailors from the transports; officers on the monitors were exchanging "wigwag" flag-signals with other officers on the gunboats or the troop-ships; and from every direction came shouts, bugle-calls, the shrieks of steam-whistles, the peculiar jarring rattle of machine-guns at target practice, and the measured beats of twenty or thirty ships' bells, striking, at different distances, but almost synchronously, the half-hours.

Interesting, however, as Key West harbor might seem in the daytime, it was far more beautiful and impressive at night. One clear, still evening late in May, when the rosy flush of the short tropical twilight had faded, and the Sand Key beacon began to glow faintly, like a setting planet, on the darkening horizon in the west, I went up on the hurricane-deck alone and looked about the harbor. The city, the war-ships, and the massive square outlines of Fort Taylor had all vanished in the gathering darkness and gloom, but in their places were rows, clusters, and constellations innumerable of steadily burning lights. A long, slender shaft of bluish radiance streamed out from the corner of Fort Taylor, widening as it extended seaward, until it struck and illuminated with a sort of ghostly phosphorescence the whitish hull of a gunboat stealing noiselessly into the harbor from the direction of the Cuban coast. The strange craft hung out a perpendicular string of red and white lights, which winked solemnly once or twice, changed color two or three times, and then vanished. A second search-light from the monitor Miantonomoh sent another slender electric ray of inquiry in the direction of the intruder, as if still doubtful of its character; but when the straight blue sword of the Fort Taylor search-light rose to the clouds and fell to the water three times, as if striking a whole league of ocean three successive and measured blows, the Miantonomoh understood that all was well, and her own search-light left the gunboat and swept across the starry sky overhead like the tail of a huge blue comet swinging at its perigee around a darkened sun.

In a moment the monitor itself hung out a string of lights which winked, changed color, vanished, reappeared, and again vanished, leaving only a red light at the masthead. In a moment an answering signal-rocket was thrown up by an invisible war-ship in the direction of Fort Taylor, and instantly two powerful search-lights were focused upon a pale, whitish object, far out at sea, which looked in the bluish, ghostly glare like the mainsail of the Flying Dutchman. Before I had time to form a conjecture as to the significance of these mysterious signals and apparitions, I was startled by a sudden flash and the thunder of a heavy gun from the darkness ahead; and away out at sea, in the strip of green water illuminated by the search-lights, a heavy projectile plunged into the ocean, near the sail of the Flying Dutchman, and sent a column of white spray thirty feet into the air. Then I understood what it all meant. The Wilmington, was engaged in night gun practice. For half an hour or more the war-ship threw solid shot and explosive shells into that illuminated strip of green water, and the thunder of her cannon, which could be heard all over the island, suggested to the startled negro and Cuban population that the Spanish fleet had arrived and was bombarding the city. Then the Miantonomoh hung out another string of colored lanterns, the uproar ceased, and the pallid, ghostly canvas of the Flying Dutchman suddenly vanished as the search-lights left it and resumed their slow, sweeping exploration of the harbor, the channel, and the open sea.



Few things impressed me more forcibly, in the course of my two weeks' stay at Key West, than the costly, far-sighted, and far-reaching preparations made by the great newspapers of the country to report the war. There were in the city of Tampa, at the time of my arrival, nearly one hundred war correspondents, who represented papers in all parts of the United States, from New England to the Pacific coast, and who were all expecting to go to Cuba with the army of invasion. Nearly every one of the leading metropolitan journals had in Tampa and Key West a staff of six or eight of its best men under the direction of a war-correspondent-in-chief, while the Associated Press was represented by a dozen or more reporters in Cuban waters, as well as by correspondents in Havana, Key West, Tampa, Kingston, St. Thomas, Port-au-Prince, and on the flagships of Admiral Sampson and Commodore Schley. Every invention and device of applied science was brought into requisition to facilitate the work of the reporters and to enable them to get their work quickly to their home offices. The New York "Herald," for example, paid fifty dollars an hour for a special leased wire between New York and Key West, and set up, in the latter place and in Tampa, newly invented, long-distance phototelegraph instruments, by means of which its artist in the field could transmit a finished picture to the home office every twenty minutes.

In their efforts to get full and accurate news of every event at the earliest possible moment, the war correspondents shrank from neither hardship nor danger. A week or two before my arrival in Key West, for example, Mr. Scovel, one of the most daring and enterprising of the war correspondents, landed from a despatch-boat on the coast of Cuba in the night, with the intention of making his way to the camp of General Gomez. As he had not had a previous understanding with the latter, no arrangements had been made to meet him, he could get no horses, and, with only two or three companions, he walked eighty miles through tropical forests and swamps, dodging Spanish sentinels and guerrillas, living wholly upon plantains and roots, and sleeping most of the time out of doors in a hammock slung between two trees. He finally succeeded in obtaining horses, reached the insurgent camp, had an interview with General Gomez, rode back to the coast at a point previously agreed upon, signaled to his despatch-boat, was taken on board, and returned safely to Key West after an absence of two weeks, in the course of which he had not once tasted bread nor slept in a bed.

Upon the record of such an achievement as this most men would have been satisfied, for a time, to rest; but Mr. Scovel, with untiring energy, went from Key West to the coast of Cuba and back three times in the next seven days. On the last of these expeditions he joined a landing force carrying arms and ammunition to the insurgents, participated in a hot skirmish with the Spanish troops, wrote an account of the adventure that same night while at sea in a small, tossing boat on his way back to Key West, and filed six thousand words in the Key West cable-station at two o'clock in the morning.

I speak of this particular case of journalistic enterprise, not because it is especially noteworthy or exceptional, but because it illustrates the endurance and the capacity for sustained toil in unfavorable circumstances, which are quite as characteristic of the modern war correspondent as are his courage and his alert readiness for any emergency or any opportunity.

Owing to the distance of the seat of war from the American coast and the absence of telegraphic communication between Cuba and the mainland, newspapers that made any serious attempt to get quick and exclusive information from the front had not only to send correspondents into the field, but to furnish them with means of moving rapidly from place to place and of forwarding their despatches promptly to an American telegraph office or a West Indian cable-station. Every prominent New York paper, therefore, had at least one despatch-boat for the use of its correspondents, several of them had two or three, and the Associated Press employed four. These boats were either powerful sea-going tugs like the Hercules and the Premier, or swift steam-yachts of the class represented by the Wanda, the Kanapaha, and the Bucaneer. Exactly how many of them there were in West Indian waters I have been unable to ascertain; but I should say not less than fifteen or twenty, with almost an equal number of naphtha-and steam-launches for harbor and smooth-water work. In these despatch-boats the war correspondents went back and forth between Key West and Cuba; watched the operations of the blockading fleet off Havana, Matanzas, or Cardenas; cruised along a coast-line nearly a thousand miles in extent, and, if necessary, went with Admiral Sampson's squadron to a point of attack as remote as Santiago de Cuba or San Juan de Porto Rico. Whenever anything of importance happened in any part of this wide area, they were expected to be on the spot to observe it, and then to get the earliest news of it to the nearest cable-station—whether that station were Kingston, Cape Haitien, St. Thomas, Port-au-Prince, or Key West. All of the newspaper despatch-boats were small, many of them had very limited coal-carrying capacity, and some were nothing but sea-going tugs, with hardly any comforts or conveniences, and with no suitable accommodations for passengers. The correspondents who used these boats were, therefore, compelled to live a rough-and-tumble life, sometimes sleeping in their clothes on benches or on the floor in a small, stuffy cabin, and always suffering the hardships and privations necessarily involved in a long cruise on a small vessel in a tropical climate and on a turbulent sea. The Florida Strait between Key West and the north Cuban coast is as uncomfortable a piece of water to cruise on as can be found in the tropics. It is the place where the swiftly running Gulf Stream meets the fresh northeast trade-winds; and in the conflict between these opposing terrestrial forces there is raised a high and at the same time short, choppy, and irregular sea, on which small vessels toss, roll, and pitch about like corks in a boiling caldron. I was told by some of the correspondents who had cruised in these waters that often, for days at a time, it was almost impossible to get any really refreshing rest or sleep. The large and heavy war-ships of the blockading fleet rode this sea, of course, with comparatively little motion; but it is reported that even Captain Sigsbee was threatened with seasickness while crossing the strait between Havana and Key West in a small boat.

Discomfort, however, was perhaps the least of the war correspondent's troubles. He expected discomfort, and accepted it philosophically; but to it was added constant and harassing anxiety. As he could not predict or anticipate the movements of the war-ships, and had no clue to the plans and intentions of their commanding officer, he was compelled to stay constantly with the fleet, night and day, in order to be on the scene of action when action should come. This part of his duty was not only difficult, but often extremely hazardous. As soon as night fell, every light on the war-ships was extinguished, and they cruised or drifted about until daybreak in silence and in darkness. Owing to their color, it was almost impossible to follow them, or even to see them at a distance of a mile, and the correspondent on the despatch-boat was liable either to lose them altogether if he kept too far away, or be fired upon if he came too near.

On my visit to the flagship New York I was accompanied by Mr. Chamberlain, one of the war correspondents of the Chicago "Record." Just before we went over the side of the ship on our return to the "Record's" despatch-boat, Mr. Chamberlain said to Admiral Sampson: "Can you give me any directions or instructions, admiral, with regard to approaching your fleet in hostile waters? I don't want to be in your way or to do anything that would imperil my own vessel or inconvenience yours."

"Where do you propose to go?" inquired the admiral.

"Anywhere," replied the war correspondent, "or rather everywhere, that you do."

The admiral smiled dryly and said: "I can't give you any definite instructions except, generally, to keep away from the fleet—especially at night. You may approach and hail us in the daytime if you have occasion to do so, but if you come within five miles of the fleet at night there is likely to be trouble."

This was all that Mr. Chamberlain could get from the admiral; but the officer of the deck, whose name I did not learn, had no hesitation in explaining fully to us the nature of the "trouble" that would ensue if, through design or inadvertence, a newspaper despatch-boat should get within five miles of the fleet at night. "We can't afford to take any chances," he said, "of torpedo-boats. If you show up at night in the neighborhood of this ship, we shall fire on you first and ask questions afterward."

"But how are we to know where you are?" inquired the correspondent.

"That's your business," replied the officer; "but if you approach us at night, you do it at your own peril."

When we had returned to the despatch-boat, Mr. Chamberlain said to me: "Of course that's all right from their point of view. I appreciate their situation, and if I were in their places I should doubtless act precisely as they do; but it's my business to watch that fleet, and I can't do it if I keep five miles away at night. I think I'll go within two miles and take the chances. Some of us will probably lose the numbers of our mess down here," he added coolly, "if this thing lasts, but I don't see how it can be helped."

The difficulty of keeping five miles away, or any specified distance away, from a blockading fleet of war-ships at night can be fully realized only by those who have experienced it. Except on Morro Castle at Havana there were no lights on the northern coast of Cuba; if it was cloudy and there happened to be no moon, the darkness was impenetrable; the war-ships did not allow even so much as the glimmer of a binnacle lamp to escape from their lead-colored, almost invisible hulls, as they cruised noiselessly back and forth; and the correspondent on the despatch-boat not only did not know where they were, but had no means whatever of ascertaining where he himself was. Meanwhile, at any moment, there might come out of the impenetrable darkness ahead the thunder of a six-pounder gun, followed by the blinding glare of a search-light. Unquestionably the correspondents were to be believed when they said privately to one another that it was nervous, harassing work.

But the list of difficulties and embarrassments which confronted the correspondent in his quest of news is not yet at an end. If he escaped the danger of being sunk or disabled by a shell or a solid projectile at night, and succeeded in following a fleet like that of Admiral Sampson, he had to take into serious consideration the question of coal. Fuel is quite as essential to a despatch-boat as to a battle-ship. The commander of the battle-ship, however, had a great advantage over the correspondent on the despatch-boat, for the reason that he always knew exactly where he was going and where he could recoal; while the unfortunate newspaper man was ignorant of his own destination, was compelled to follow the fleet blindly, and did not know whether his limited supply of coal would last to the end of the cruise or not. When Mr. Chamberlain sailed from Key West at night with the fleet of Admiral Sampson, he believed that the latter was bound for Santiago, on the southeastern coast of Cuba. The Hercules could not possibly carry coal enough for a voyage there and back; in fact, she would reach that port with only one day's supply of fuel in her bunkers. What should be done then? The nearest available source of coal-supply would be Kingston, Jamaica, and whether he could get there from Santiago before his fuel should be wholly exhausted Mr. Chamberlain did not know. However, he was ready, like Ladislaw in "Middlemarch," to "place himself in an attitude of receptivity toward all sublime chances," and away he went. Nothing can be more exasperating to a war correspondent than to have a fight take place while he is absent from the scene of action looking for coal; but many newspaper men in Cuban waters had that unpleasant and humiliating experience.

The life of the war correspondent who landed, or attempted to land, on the island of Cuba, in the early weeks of the war, was not so wearing and harassing, perhaps, as the life of the men on the despatch-boats, but it was quite as full of risk. After the 1st of May the patrol of the Cuban coast by the Spanish troops between Havana and Cardenas became so careful and thorough that a safe landing could hardly be made there even at night. Jones and Thrall were both captured before they could open communications with the insurgents; and the English correspondents, Whigham and Robinson, who followed their example, met the same fate. Even Mr. Knight, the war correspondent of the London "Times," who landed from a small boat in the harbor of Havana with the express permission of the government at Madrid and under a guaranty of protection, was seized and thrown into Cabanas fortress.

If a war correspondent succeeded in making a safe landing and in joining the insurgents, he had still to suffer many hardships and run many risks. Mr. Archibald, the correspondent of a San Francisco paper, was wounded on the Cuban coast early in May, in a fight resulting from an attempt to land arms and ammunition for the insurgents; and a correspondent of the Chicago "Record" was killed after he had actually succeeded in reaching General Gomez's camp. He was sitting on his horse, at the summit of a little hill, with Gomez and the latter's chief of staff, watching a skirmish which was taking place at a distance of a quarter of a mile or more, between a detachment of insurgents and a column of Spanish troops. One of the few sharp-shooters in the enemy's army got the range of the little group on the hill, and almost the first ball which he sent in that direction struck the "Record" correspondent in the forehead between and just above the eyes. As he reeled in the saddle Gomez's chief of staff sprang to catch him and break his fall. The next Mauser bullet from the hidden marksman pierced the pommel of the saddle that the staff-officer had just vacated; and the third shot killed Gomez's horse. The general and his aide then hastily escaped from the dangerous position, carrying the "Record" correspondent with them; but he was dead. In the first two months of the war the corps of field correspondents, in proportion to its numerical strength, lost almost as many men from death and casualty as did the army and navy of the United States. The letters and telegrams which they wrote on their knees, in the saddle, and on the rocking, swaying cabin tables of despatch-boats while hurrying to West Indian cable-stations were not always models of English composition, nor were they always precisely accurate; but if the patrons of their respective papers had been placed in the field and compelled to write under similar conditions, they would be surprised, perhaps, not at the occasional imperfection of the correspondents' work, but at the fact that in so unfavorable and discouraging an environment good work could be done at all.



The most important event in the early history of the war, and the event that controlled the movements of the Red Cross steamer State of Texas, as well as the movements of General Shafter's army, was the arrival of the Spanish fleet of cruisers and torpedo-boats at Santiago de Cuba on May 19. There had been skirmishes and bombardments before that time, at Matanzas, Cardenas, and various other points on the Cuban coast; but none of them had any strategic importance, or any particular bearing upon the course or the conduct of the war. It was the appearance of Admiral Cervera at Santiago which determined the field of action, and, to some extent, the plan of campaign. The invasion of eastern Cuba had already been under consideration, and when the Spanish fleet took refuge in Santiago harbor the President and his counselors decided, definitely and finally, to begin operations at that end of the island, and to leave the western provinces unmolested until fall. The regular army, it was thought, would be strong enough, with the aid and cooeperation of Admiral Sampson's fleet, to reduce the defenses of Santiago, and the volunteers might be left in camp at Chickamauga, Tampa, and Jacksonville, to get in training for an attack upon Havana at the end of the rainy season.

The preparations for the invasion of Cuba seemed, at that time, to be nearly, if not quite, complete. The whole regular army, consisting of seven regiments of cavalry, twenty-two regiments of infantry, and fourteen batteries of artillery, had been mobilized and transported to the Gulf coast; the quartermaster's department had, under charter, twenty-seven steamers, with a carrying capacity of about twenty thousand men; immense quantities of food and munitions of war had been bought and sent to Tampa, and there seemed to be no good reason why General Shafter's command should not embark for Cuba, if necessary, at twenty-four hours' notice.

On May 26, just a week after the appearance of Admiral Cervera and his fleet at Santiago, the President held a consultation at the Executive Mansion with the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the members of the Board of Strategy, and decided to begin the invasion of Cuba at once. Orders were presumably sent to General Shafter to prepare for an immediate movement, and Secretary Long telegraphed Admiral Sampson as follows:

WASHINGTON, May 27, 1898.

Sampson, Care Naval Base, Key West:

If Spanish division is proved to be at Santiago, it is the intention of the department to make a descent immediately upon that port with ten thousand United States troops, landing about eight nautical miles east of the port. You will be expected to convoy transports....

[Signed] LONG.

Three days later General Shafter was directed, in the following order, to embark his command and proceed at once to Santiago:


Major-General William R. Shafter, Tampa, Florida:

With the approval of the Secretary of War you are directed to take your command on transports, proceed under convoy of the navy to the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba, land your force at such place east or west of that point as your judgment may dictate, under the protection of the navy, and move it on to the high ground and bluffs overlooking the harbor, or into the interior, as shall best enable you to capture or destroy the garrison there and cover the navy as it sends its men in small boats to remove torpedoes, or, with the aid of the navy, capture or destroy the Spanish fleet now reported to be in Santiago harbor.

You will use the utmost energy to accomplish this enterprise, and the government relies upon your good judgment as to the most judicious use of your command, but desires to impress upon you the importance of accomplishing this object with the least possible delay....

[Signed] H. C. CORBIN, Adjutant-General.

In view of the fact that General Shafter had been nearly a month at Tampa, and of the further fact that his command was composed wholly, or almost wholly, of regular troops, who were completely equipped for service when they left their stations, he should have been able, it seems to me, to comply with this order at once; but, apparently, he was not ready. Day after day passed without any noticeable change in the situation, and on June 7 the army at Tampa was apparently no nearer an advance than it had been when Cervera's fleet entered Santiago harbor on May 19.

Admiral Sampson, who was anxious to strike a decisive blow before the enemy should have time to concentrate and intrench, then telegraphed Secretary Long as follows:

MOLE, HAITI, June 7, 1898.

Secretary of Navy, Washington:

Bombarded forts at Santiago 7:30 A. M. to 10 A. M. to-day, June 6. Have silenced works quickly without injury of any kind, though stationary within two thousand yards. If ten thousand men were here[1] city and fleet would be ours within forty-eight hours. Every consideration demands immediate army movement. If delayed city will be defended more strongly by guns taken from fleet.

[Signed] SAMPSON.

When this despatch reached Washington, the Secretary of War sent General Shafter two peremptory telegrams, as follows:


Major-General Shafter, Port Tampa, Florida:

You will sail immediately, as you are needed at destination at once. Answer.

[Signed] R. A. ALGER, Secretary of War.


Major-General Shafter, Port Tampa, Florida:

Since telegraphing you an hour since, the President directs you to sail at once with what force you have ready.

[Signed] R. A. ALGER, Secretary of War.

Upon receipt of these "rush" orders, General Shafter hastily embarked his army, amid great confusion and disorder, and telegraphed the Secretary of War that he would be ready to sail, with about seventeen thousand officers and men, on the morning of June 8. Before the expedition could get away, however, Commodore Remey cabled the Secretary of the Navy from Key West that two Spanish war-ships—an armored cruiser and a torpedo-boat destroyer—had been seen in Nicholas Channel, off the northern coast of Cuba, on the night of June 7, by Lieutenant W. H. H. Southerland of the United States gunboat Eagle. Fearing that these Spanish vessels would intercept the fleet of transports and perhaps destroy some of them, Secretary Alger telegraphed General Shafter not to leave Tampa Bay until he should receive further orders.

Scouting-vessels of the navy, which were promptly sent to Nicholas Channel in search of the enemy, failed to locate or discover the two war-ships reported by the commander of the Eagle, and on June 14 General Shafter's army, after having been held a week on board the transports in Tampa Bay, sailed for Santiago by way of Cape Maysi and the Windward Passage. The Spanish fleet under command of Admiral Cervera had then been in Santiago harbor almost four weeks.

It is hard to say exactly where the responsibility should lie for the long delay in the embarkation and despatch of General Shafter's expedition. When I passed through Tampa on my way south in June, the two railroad companies there were blaming each other, as well as the quartermaster's department, for the existing blockade of unloaded cars, while army officers declared that the railroad companies were unable to handle promptly and satisfactorily the large quantity of supplies brought there for the expedition. Naval authorities said that they had to wait for the army, while army officers maintained that they were all ready to start, but were stopped and delayed by reports of Spanish war-ships brought in by scouting-vessels of the navy.

That there was unnecessary delay, as well as great confusion and disorder, there seems to be no doubt. As one competent army officer said to me, in terse but slangy English, "The fact of the matter is, they simply got all balled up, and although they worked hard, they worked without any definite, well-understood plan of operations."

The principal trouble seemed to be in the commissary and quartermaster's departments. Many of the officers in these departments were young and inexperienced; army supplies from the North came down in immense quantities on two lines of railway and without proper invoices or bills of lading; it was often utterly impossible to ascertain in which, out of a hundred cars, certain articles of equipment or subsistence were to be found; and there was a lack everywhere of cool, trained, experienced supervision and direction. It was the business of some one somewhere to see that every car-load of supplies shipped to Tampa was accompanied by an invoice or bill of lading, so that the chief commissary at the point of destination might know the exact nature, quantity, and car-location of supplies brought by every train. Then, if he wanted twenty-five thousand rations of hard bread or fifty thousand pounds of rice before the cars had been unloaded, he would know exactly where and in what cars to look for it. As it was, he could not tell, often, what car contained it without making or ordering personal examination, and it was almost impossible to know how much of any given commodity he had on hand in trains that had not yet been unloaded or inspected. As the result of this he had to telegraph to Jacksonville at the last moment before the departure of the expedition for three or four hundred cases of baked beans and forty or fifty thousand pounds of rice to be bought there in open market and to be sent him in "rush shipment." It is more than probable that there were beans and rice enough to meet all his wants in unloaded trains at Tampa, but he had no clue to their car-location and could not find them. Such a state of things, of course, is wholly unnecessary, and it should not occur a second time. To take another example:

When our army embarked at Port Tampa it was the business of some officer somewhere to know the exact capacity of every transport and the numerical strength of every regiment. Then it was some one's business to prearrange the distribution of troops by assigning one or more designated regiments to one or more designated steamers and giving necessary orders to the colonels. As it was, however, according to the testimony of every witness, a train-load of troops would come to the docks at Port Tampa, apparently without orders or assignment to any particular steamer, and while they were waiting to learn what they should do, and while their train was still blocking the way, another train-load of soldiers would arrive in a similar state of ignorance and add to the disorder and confusion. As a natural consequence, men got on wrong steamers and had to be unloaded, and often, after transports had moved out into the bay, parts of companies and regiments had to be transferred in small boats from one vessel to another. These are examples of what seems to have been bad management. In another class of cases the trouble was apparently due to mistaken judgment. To the latter class belongs the loading and treatment of horses and mules. It would have been much better and safer, I think, to load these animals on vessels especially prepared for and exclusively devoted to them than to put them into stifling and unventilated holds of steamers that also carried troops. If, however, this was impracticable, it was manifestly best to load the animals last, so as to expose them for as short a time as possible to such murderous conditions. The mules, however, were loaded first, and held in the holds of the transports while troops were embarking. They began to die from heat and suffocation, and then they were unloaded and reshipped after the troops were on board. This caused unnecessary delay, as well as the loss of many valuable animals. Eighteen perished, I am told, on one transport while the troops were embarking.

These cases of disorder and bad judgment are only a few out of many which were the subject of common talk among officers and civilians in Tampa. I could specify many others, but criticism is at best unpleasant duty, and the only justification for it is the hope that, if mistakes and disorders are pointed out and frankly recognized, they may be guarded against in future.

The army of invasion, when it finally left Tampa Bay for the Cuban coast, consisted of 803 officers and 14,935 enlisted men.[2] With its animals and equipment it filled thirty-five transports. It comprised (in addition to regular infantry) four batteries of light field-artillery, two batteries of heavy siege-guns, a battalion of engineers, a detachment of the Signal Corps, twelve squadrons of dismounted cavalry, and one squadron of cavalry with horses. All of the troops were regulars with the exception of three regiments, namely, the First Cavalry (Rough Riders, dismounted), the Seventy-first New York, and the Second Massachusetts. The command was well supplied with food and ammunition, but its facilities for land transportation were inadequate; its equipment, in the shape of clothing and tentage, was not adapted to a tropical climate in the rainy season; it carried no reserve medical stores, and it had no small boats suitable for use in disembarkation or in landing supplies on an unsheltered coast. Some of these deficiencies in equipment were due, apparently, to lack of prevision, others to lack of experience in tropical campaigning, and the rest to lack of water transportation from Tampa to the Cuban coast; but all were as unnecessary as they afterward proved to be unfortunate.

When the army of invasion sailed, the Red Cross steamer State of Texas, laden with fourteen hundred tons of food and medical supplies, lay at anchor in Tampa Bay, awaiting the return of Miss Barton and a part of her staff from Washington. As soon as they arrived, the steamer proceeded to Key West, and on the morning of Monday, June 20, after a brief consultation with Commodore Remey, we sailed from that port for Santiago de Cuba. In the group assembled on the pier to bid us good-by were United States Marshal Horr; Mr. Hyatt, chairman of the local Red Cross committee; Mr. White, correspondent of the Chicago "Record," whose wife was going with us as a Red Cross worker; and Mrs. Porter, wife of the President's secretary, who had come with Miss Barton from Washington to Key West in order to show her interest in and sympathy with the work in which the Red Cross is engaged. About ten o'clock the steamer's lines were cast off, the gang-plank was drawn ashore, the screw began to churn the green water into boiling foam astern, and, amid shouted good-bys and the waving of handkerchiefs from the pier, we moved slowly out into the stream, dipped our ensign to the Lancaster, Commodore Remey's flagship, and proceeded down the bay in the direction of Sand Key light.



The course usually taken by steamers from Key West to Santiago lies along the northern coast of Cuba, through the Nicholas and Old Bahama channels, to Cape Maysi, and thence around the eastern end of the island by the Windward Passage. Inasmuch, however, as we were going without a convoy, and Commodore Remey had advised us to keep out of sight of land, in order to avoid possible interception by a Spanish gunboat from some unblockaded port on the coast, we decided to go around the western end of the island, doubling Cape San Antonio, and then proceeding eastward past the Isle of Pines to Cape Cruz and Santiago. Tuesday afternoon we saw the high mountains in the province of Pinar del Rio looming up faintly through the haze at a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles, and late that same evening we passed the flash-light at the extremity of Cape San Antonio and turned eastward toward Cape Cruz and Santiago. After rounding the western end of the island we had a succession of thunder-storms and rain-squalls, with a strong easterly breeze and a heavy head sea; but Thursday night the weather moderated, and at half-past six o'clock Friday morning we sighted Cape Cruz rising out of the dark water ahead in a long, transverse stretch of flat table-land, backed by mountains and terminating on the sea in a high, steep bluff.

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