Battle of San Juan Hill
Overview
 
The Battle of San Juan Hill (July 1, 1898), also known as the battle for the San Juan Heights, was a decisive battle of the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

. The San Juan heights was a north-south running elevation about two kilometers east of Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

. The names San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill were names given by the Americans. This fight for the heights was the bloodiest and most famous battle of the War. It was also the location of the greatest victory for the Rough Riders
Rough Riders
The Rough Riders is the name bestowed on the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and the only one of the three to see action. The United States Army was weakened and left with little manpower after the American Civil War...

 as claimed by the press and its new commander, the future Vice-President and later President, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 was (posthumously) awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 in 2001 for his actions in Cuba.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of San Juan Hill (July 1, 1898), also known as the battle for the San Juan Heights, was a decisive battle of the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

. The San Juan heights was a north-south running elevation about two kilometers east of Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

. The names San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill were names given by the Americans. This fight for the heights was the bloodiest and most famous battle of the War. It was also the location of the greatest victory for the Rough Riders
Rough Riders
The Rough Riders is the name bestowed on the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and the only one of the three to see action. The United States Army was weakened and left with little manpower after the American Civil War...

 as claimed by the press and its new commander, the future Vice-President and later President, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 was (posthumously) awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 in 2001 for his actions in Cuba. Overlooked then by the American Press, much of the heaviest fighting was done by African-American troops.

Background

The post-battle names of San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill, 760 Spanish Army regular troops were ordered to hold the "San Juan heights" against an American offensive on July 1, 1898. For unclear reasons, Spanish General Arsenio Linares failed to reinforce this position, choosing to hold nearly 10,000 Spanish reserves in the city of Santiago.

Spanish hilltop entrenchments, while typically well-concealed, were not all correctly positioned for plunging fire
Plunging fire
Plunging fire is gunfire directed upon an enemy from an elevated position, or gunfire aimed so as to fall on an enemy from above.In naval warfare plunging fire was often used to penetrate an enemy ship's thinner deck armor rather than firing directly at an enemy ship's side...

, making return fire at the advancing Americans more difficult. Most of their fortifications and trench lines were laid out along the geographic (actual) crest of the heights instead of the military crest
Military crest
Military crest is a term in military science that refers to, "An area on the forward or reverse slope of a hill or ridge just below the topographical crest from which maximum observation and direct fire covering the slope down to the base of the hill or ridge can be obtained."The military crest is...

. This meant that the fire from the Spanish troops would have difficulty hitting the advancing enemy when the attacking Americans reached the defilade at the foot of the heights. Once they began scaling the hill, however, the attackers would be in full view of the defenders, who could engage the Americans with both rifle and artillery fire.

Most Spanish troops were recently arrived conscripts. However, their officers were skilled in fighting Cuban insurgents. The Spanish were also well-equipped with supporting artillery, and all Spanish soldiers were armed with 7 mm Mauser
Mauser
Mauser was a German arms manufacturer of a line of bolt-action rifles and pistols from the 1870s to 1995. Mauser designs were built for the German armed forces...

 M1893 rifles, a modern repeating bolt action arm with a high rate of fire, and utilizing a high-velocity cartridge and smokeless powder. Spanish artillery units were armed mainly with modern rapid-fire breech-loading cannon, again using smokeless powder.

Likewise, the American regular forces and troopers were armed with bolt-action Krag rifle
Springfield Model 1892-99
The Springfield Model 1892-99 Krag-Jørgensen rifle is a Norwegian-design bolt action rifle that was adopted in 1892 as the standard United States Army military longarm, chambered in U.S. caliber .30-40 Krag. All versions and variants were manufactured under license by the Springfield Armory between...

s chambered in the smokeless .30 Army
.30-40 Krag
The .30-40 Krag was a cartridge developed in the early 1890s to provide the U.S. armed forces with a smokeless powder cartridge suited for use with modern small-bore repeating rifles to be selected in the 1892 small arm trials...

 caliber. However, U.S. artillery pieces were of an outmoded design, with a slow rate of fire. They also used less-powerful black powder charges, which limited the effective range of support fire for U.S. troops. A small four-gun detachment of hand-cranked Gatling gun
Gatling gun
The Gatling gun is one of the best known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. It is well known for its use by the Union forces during the American Civil War in the 1860s, which was the first time it was employed in combat...

s in .30 Army caliber was also present.

General William Rufus Shafter
William Rufus Shafter
William Rufus Shafter was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War who received America's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions at the Battle of Fair Oaks. Shafter also played a prominent part as a major general in the Spanish-American War...

 commanded 5th Corps of about 15,000 troops in three divisions. Jacob F. Kent commanded the 1st Division, Henry W. Lawton commanded the 2nd Division, and Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler was an American military commander and politician. He has the rare distinction of serving as a general during war time for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the...

 commanded the dismounted Cavalry Division but was suffering from fever and had to turn over command to General Samuel S. Sumner
Samuel S. Sumner
Samuel Storrow Sumner was a United States Army general during the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion, and Philippine-American War....

. Shafter's plans to attack Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city of Cuba and capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island, some south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana....

 called for Lawton's division to move north and reduce the Spanish stronghold at El Caney, which was to take about two hours then join with the rest of the troops for the attack on the San Juan Heights. The remaining two divisions would move directly against the "San Juan heights" with Sumner in the center and Kent to the south. Shafter was too ill to personally direct the operations and instead set up his headquarters at El Pozo
El Pozo
El Pozo is a small town located about 20 minutes northeast of Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. The name of the town means "The Well" in the Spanish language....

 2 mi (3.2 km) from the heights and communicated through mounted staff officers.

U.S.

V Corps – Major General William Rufus Shafter
William Rufus Shafter
William Rufus Shafter was a Union Army officer during the American Civil War who received America's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions at the Battle of Fair Oaks. Shafter also played a prominent part as a major general in the Spanish-American War...

, Corps Executive Officer – Major General Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler
Joseph Wheeler was an American military commander and politician. He has the rare distinction of serving as a general during war time for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the...

 (Cavalry Division)


  • 1st Division – Brigadier General Jacob Ford Kent
    Jacob Ford Kent
    Jacob Ford Kent was a United States general during the Spanish-American War. Kent also served in the Union army during the American Civil War.-Early life and the American Civil War:...

    • 1st Brigade – Brigadier General Hamilton S. Hawkins
      Hamilton S. Hawkins
      Hamilton Smith Hawkins was a United States Army Major General during the Spanish-American War.Hawkins attended the United States Military Academy between 1852 and 1855, but did not graduate with the class of 1856 due to deficient academics. Despite being a South Carolinian, Hawkins served in the...

       consisted of the 6th and 16th Infantry Regiments, along with the 71st (New York Volunteer) Infantry Regiment
    • 2nd Brigade – Colonel E. P. Pearson, consisting of the 2nd, 10th, and 21st U.S. Infantry Regiments
    • 3rd Brigade – Colonel Charles A. Wikoff
      Charles A. Wikoff
      Charles Augustus Wikoff was a United States Army officer serving from American Civil War until he became the most senior ranking American Army officer killed in the Spanish-American War-Early life:...

      , consisting of the 9th, 13th and 24th (Colored) U.S. Infantry regiments
  • Cavalry Division (Dismounted) – Major General Joseph Wheeler
    Joseph Wheeler
    Joseph Wheeler was an American military commander and politician. He has the rare distinction of serving as a general during war time for two opposing forces: first as a noted cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American Civil War, and later as a general in the...

    , Division Executive Officer Samuel S. Sumner
    Samuel S. Sumner
    Samuel Storrow Sumner was a United States Army general during the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion, and Philippine-American War....

     (1st Brigade) was in command of the division when the battle began as General Wheeler was ill. Wheeler returned to the front once the battle was underway.
    • 1st Brigade – Brigadier General Samuel S. Sumner
      Samuel S. Sumner
      Samuel Storrow Sumner was a United States Army general during the Spanish-American War, Boxer Rebellion, and Philippine-American War....

      , Brigade Executive Officer Colonel Henry K. Carroll (6th Cav), consisted of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, 6th U.S. Cavalry and 9th U.S. Cavalry.
    • 2nd Brigade - Brigadier General Leonard Wood
      Leonard Wood
      Leonard Wood was a physician who served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Military Governor of Cuba and Governor General of the Philippines. Early in his military career, he received the Medal of Honor. Wood also holds officer service #2 in the Regular Army...

      , consisted of the 1st U.S. Cavalry, 10th U.S. Cavalry and 1st Volunteer Cavalry.


The American assault line consisted of the following regiments; From the far left, attacking what later became known as San Juan Hill was the 6th Infantry, the 9th Infantry, the 13th Infantry, the 16th Infantry, the 24th (Colored) Infantry, the 10th (Colored) Cavalry*, with the 3rd Cavalry, 1st Volunteer Cavalry on the far right attacking what became known later as Kettle Hill. *The 10th was the only unit that assaulted both high points on the San Juan heights (Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill).

Spanish

IV Corps – General Arsenio Linares
–15th Provisional Battalion
–4th Battalion Talavera Peninsular Regiment
–1st Battalion San Fernando Regiment
–1st Battalion Asia Regiment
–1st Battalion Constitutional Regiment
–1st Battalion Cuba Regiment
–2nd Battalion Cuba Regiment
–1st Battalion Simancas Regiment
–1st and 2nd Guerrilla Companies
–1st Cavalry Regiment

"Hell's Pocket"

A company from the signal corps ascended in a hot air balloon
Hot air balloon
The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. It is in a class of aircraft known as balloon aircraft. On November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, the first untethered manned flight was made by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes in a hot air...

 to reconnoiter the hills. The balloon made for a good target for the Spaniards. Hawkins' brigade had already passed by the new found route and Kent ordered forward the brigade under Colonel Charles A. Wikoff
Charles A. Wikoff
Charles Augustus Wikoff was a United States Army officer serving from American Civil War until he became the most senior ranking American Army officer killed in the Spanish-American War-Early life:...

. It was noon by the time Wikoff began heading down the trail, and 30 minutes later he emerged from the woods and was struck by a Mauser bullet. He died as his staff officers carried him to the rear. Next in command was Lt. Col. William S. Worth who assumed command but within five minutes fell wounded. Lt. Col. Emerson Liscom assumed command and within another five minutes received a disabling wound. Lt. Col. Ezra P. Ewers
Ezra P. Ewers
Lieut. Col. Ezra P. Ewers was born in Wayneport, Wayne county, N.Y. He was educated in the public schools and was a practical machinist by trade.On January 18, 1862, he enlisted in the 19th Infantry, USA and was promoted first sergeant March 7, 1863...

, fourth in command of the brigade, assumed command.

Kent and Sumner lined up for the attack and waited for Lawton's division to arrive from El Caney. Lawton did not arrive as scheduled, and no orders came from either Shafter or Wheeler and the troops waited at the base of the hill plagued by constant Spanish Mauser gunfire in areas dubbed "Hell's Pocket" and/or "Bloody Ford".

San Juan Hill

In the meantime, Gen. Hamilton Hawkins' 1st Infantry Brigade was preparing to assault San Juan heights. San Juan Hill 20.0200185°N 75.7982129°W was the highest of the two hilltops forming San Juan Heights. The southernmost point was most recognizable for the Spanish blockhouse (defensive fort) that dominated the crest. The Cavalry Brigade then moved into position. In open view of the Spanish positions on the heights, the Americans began to suffer casualties from rifle and artillery fire while awaiting orders from General Shafter to take San Juan. As the volume of fire increased, officers began to agitate for action.
The 2nd and 10th Infantry regiments of the 2nd Brigade were ordered by the brigade commander, Col. E. P. Pearson, to advance towards the Spanish lines. Positioned on the far left of the American line, the two regiments moved forward in good order, advanced towards a small knoll on the Spanish right flank, and drove groups of Spanish skirmishers back towards their trenches.

A former brigade staff officer, First Lieutenant Jules Garesche Ord
Jules Garesche Ord
Jules Garesche "Gary" Ord was a United States Army First Lieutenant who was killed in action after leading the charge of Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry up San Juan Hill...

 (son of General E.O.C. Ord), officially of the 6th Infantry Regiment, but then temporarily assigned to D Company of the 10th due sick and heat disabled officers in the 5th Corps, made a special request to General Hawkins. "General, if you will order a charge, I will lead it." Hawkins responded "I will not ask for volunteers, I will not give permission and I will not refuse it," he said. "God bless you and good luck!" Lt. Ord then asked the leaders to the right of the 10th Cavalry (i.e. of the 3rd and 1st Volunteers) to "support the regulars" when they would charge the heights. When Ord returned to his assigned unit, he advised his commander of D Troop, Captain John Bigelow, Jr.
John Bigelow, Jr.
John Bigelow, Jr. was a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel. He was the subject of many articles on military frontier life in Outing Magazine published by his brother Poultney Bigelow and with sketches drawn in the field by the then young and obscure Frederic Remington...

, of his conversation with the General and asking the units on the right to support the regulars. Bigelow gave the honor to sound the advance to Lt. Ord. Ord, with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other stood up and ordered the advance for his unit. The "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 10th moved out of the trenches and up the hill. Units to the right began moving forward in a ripple effect to support the regulars. To the left of the 10th, a cheer went out from members of the 24th all-black Infantry Regiment and they too moved up toward the top of the heights, accompanied by elements of the 6th Infantry Regiment, including E Company led by Capt. L.W.V. Kennon
Lyman W.V. Kennon
Lyman Walter Vere Kennon was a career United States military officer in active service from 1881 to 1918, attaining the rank of brigadier general. During the Spanish-American War Kennon was in command of Company "E" 6th Infantry Regiment and was cited for bravery at San Juan Hill...

, as well as units from the 9th, and 13th Infantry Regiments. The 16th Infantry followed some distance behind the lead formations, while the 71st (New York Volunteer)
71st Infantry Regiment (New York)
The 71st Infantry Regiment is an organization of the New York State Guard. Formerly, the 71st Infantry was a regiment of the New York State Militia and then the Army National Guard from 1850 to 1993.-Foundation:...

 infantry regiment, having failed to initially advance with the other regiments, remained at the rear. As the units began their advance up the hill, they became separated, with the battalions of some regiments placed between those of other regiments.

Lt. Ord was among the first to reach the crest of San Juan heights. As the Spanish fled, Lt. Ord began directing supporting fire into the remaining Spanish when he was shot in the throat and mortally wounded. General Hawkins was wounded shortly after. At 13:50, Private Arthur Agnew of the 13th Infantry pulled down the Spanish flag atop the San Juan blockhouse.

General Wood next sent requests for General Kent to send up infantry to strengthen his vulnerable position. When General Wheeler reached the trenches, he ordered breastwork
Breastwork (fortification)
A breastwork is a fortification. The term is usually applied to temporary fortifications, often an earthwork thrown up to breast height to provide protection to defenders firing over it from a standing position...

s constructed. The Americans' position on San Juan was exposed to artillery fire from within Santiago, and General Shafter feared the vulnerability of the American position on Kettle Hill to counter-attack by Spanish forces. In fact, a Spanish counter-attack was launched late in the afteroon, but was easily beaten back with the aid of supporting Gatling fire from San Juan Hill. Though General Wheeler assured Shafter that the position could be held, Shafter ordered a withdrawal anyway. Before the men on Kettle Hill could withdraw, General Wheeler called aside Generals Kent and Sumner, and reassured them that the line could be held. During the night, the Americans worked at strengthening the lines while awaiting reinforcements.

Kettle Hill

The 1st Volunteers (Rough Riders), along with the 3rd Cavalry regiment, began a near simultaneous assault with the regulars of the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) up Kettle Hill, supported by the fire of three Gatling guns commanded by Lt. John H. Parker. Trooper Jesse D. Langdon of the 1st Volunteer Infantry, who accompanied Col. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
Rough Riders
The Rough Riders is the name bestowed on the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and the only one of the three to see action. The United States Army was weakened and left with little manpower after the American Civil War...

 in their assault on Kettle Hill, reported:

"We were exposed to the Spanish fire, but there was very little because just before we started, why, the Gatling guns opened up at the bottom of the hill, and everybody yelled, “The Gatlings! The Gatlings!” and away we went. The Gatlings just enfiladed the top of those trenches. We’d never have been able to take Kettle Hill if it hadn’t been for Parker’s Gatling guns."


Under continuous fire, the advance began to slow as troops dropped from heat exhaustion. Officers from the rest of Wood's brigade along with Carrol's brigade began to bunch up under fire. When the regulars punched toward the top of the hill, the units became intermingled. The regulars involved were part of the all-black 10th Cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers". One of the 10th's officers who took part in the attack, Lt. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

, would later reach the highest rank ever held in the United States Army by a living officer—General of the Armies. Pershing later recalled that:
"...the entire command moved forward as coolly as though the buzzing of bullets was the humming of bees. White regiments, black regiments, regulars and Rough Riders, representing the young manhood of the North and the South, fought shoulder to shoulder, unmindful of race or color, unmindful of whether commanded by ex-Confederate or not, and mindful of only their common duty as Americans."


When the American formations (10th, 3rd & 1st Vol.) reached the summit of Kettle Hill, they fought briefly hand to hand within the Spanish defensive works. After a brief skirmish the Spanish retreated. The first American soldier to reach the crest of Kettle Hill is documented as Sgt. George Berry of the "Negro" 10th Cavalry. Sergeant Berry took his unit colors and that of the 3rd Cavalry to the top of Kettle Hill before the Rough Riders' flag arrived. This is supported in the writings of "Black Jack" Pershing who fought with the 10th on Kettle Hill and who was present when Col. Roosevelt reached the top of Kettle Hill. It appears that politics and racial discrimination led to many myths about the fighting in Cuba where the African-Americans were involved.

General Linares's troops on San Juan heights began to fire on the American newly-won position on the crest of Kettle Hill. The Americans in turn began to fire on entrenched Spanish troops on the hills in front of them.

Seeing the 'spontaneous advance' of the 1st Infantry Brigade led by the 10th Cavalry, General Wheeler (having returned to the front) gave the order for Col. Kent to advance with his whole division while he returned to order the 3rd Brigade into the attack. General Kent sent forward the 3rd Infantry Brigade — now effectively commanded by Lt. Col. Ezra P. Ewers — to join the advance of the 1st Infantry Brigade and part of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, who had successfully reached the heights.

Witnessing the assault on San Juan Hill, Col. Roosevelt decided to cross the steep ravine from Kettle Hill to San Juan Hill to support the fighting still going on there. Calling for his men to follow him, he ran forward, only to find just five of the Rough Riders following him (most had not heard his command). Roosevelt returned and gathered together a larger group of his men, leading them down the western slope of Kettle Hill, past a small lagoon, and up the northern extension of San Juan Hill, but the fighting was over for the top of the heights. General Summer intercepted Roosevelt and ordered him back to Kettle Hill immediately to prepare for the expected counterattack. When he returned his men were exhausted and his horse was again spent from the heat. A counterattack directed at Kettle Hill by some 600 Spanish infantry was stopped primarily by the fire of a single ten-barreled .30 Gatling Gun manned by Sergeant Green of the Gatling Gun Detachment, which (according to Spanish officers captured after the attack) killed or wounded all but 40 of the Spanish attackers.

Gatling supporting fire

During the 2 July assault, V Corps' newly-formed Gatling Gun Detachment participated in the first use by the U.S. Army of machine gun fire for mobile fire support in offensive combat.

Led by First Lt. John Henry Parker
John Henry Parker (General)
General John Henry Parker aka "Gatling Gun Parker" was a brigadier general in the United States Army. He is best known for his role as the commander of the Gatling Gun Detachment of the U.S...

, V Army Corps' recently-formed Gatling Gun Detachment was ordered to move forward in support of the U.S. assault. Because U.S. blackpowder artillery pieces lacked the range to reach Spanish positions, Parker's ad hoc Gatling battery of four .30-40, 10-barrelled guns was originally conceived as providing covering fire for the artillery trains. Moving forward on his own initiative, Lt. Parker received a message from his colonel, ordering him to detach one gun to General Shafter's aide, Lt. John D. Miley, then to take the remaining three guns forward "to the best point you can find". Parker set up his three Gatlings approximately 600 yd (548.6 m) from the San Juan Hill blockhouse and its surrounding trenches, occupied by Spanish regulars; 800 yd (731.5 m) away was another ridgeline, again with Spanish entrenchments. Being exposed, the Detachment soon came under attack, and quickly lost five men in action to wounds, others to severe heatstroke. Ordinarily, four to six men were required to operate each Gatling gun. Nevertheless, the crews continued to fire back at the Spanish.

Lt. Parker's three rapid-fire Gatlings provided covering fire for U.S. forces assaulting both San Juan and Kettle Hills. Equipped with swivel mountings that enabled the gunners to rake Spanish positions, the three guns poured a continuous and demoralizing hail of bullets into the Spanish defensive lines. Witnessing the assault on San Juan Hill, more than one observer from the U.S. side noticed some of the Spanish defenders fleeing their trenches to escape the intense fire. The Gatlings continued to fire until Lt. Parker observed Lt. Ferguson of the 13th Infantry waving a white handkerchief as a signal for the battery to cease firing to avoid causing friendly casualties. The American assault then broke into a charge about 150 yd (137.2 m) from the crest of the hill.

After the Spanish positions atop San Juan had been taken, two of Lt. Parker's Gatling guns were dragged by mules up the slope to the captured position on San Juan ridge, where both were hurriedly emplaced among a line of skirmishers. As they were setting up the guns, the Spanish commenced a general counterattack on the heights. Though a Spanish counterattack on San Juan was quickly broken up, the Americans on Kettle Hill faced a more serious attack from some 600 Spanish regulars. Ignoring an order from Col. Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood
Leonard Wood was a physician who served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Military Governor of Cuba and Governor General of the Philippines. Early in his military career, he received the Medal of Honor. Wood also holds officer service #2 in the Regular Army...

 to reposition one or two of his Gatling guns to the top of Kettle Hill to support the 1st Volunteer and 3rd Cavalry, Parker instead ordered the closest Gatling, manned by Sgt Green, to fire obliquely against 600 enemy soldiers attacking Kettle Hill. From a range of 600 yd (548.6 m), Sgt. Green's Gatling responded, killing all but 40 of the attackers.

After the counterattack was driven off, Lt. Parker moved to Kettle Hill to view the American positions, where he was soon joined by Sgt. Weigle's Gatling and crew from San Juan, detached to the service of Lt. Miley. Miley (who was primarily interested in inspecting troop positions for General Shafter) had restrained Weigle's crew from opening fire during the entirety of the fighting. Parker then ordered Sgt. Weigle and his crew to emplace their gun on Kettle Hill. This Gatling was used to eliminate Spanish sniper fire against the American defensive positions on Kettle Hill.

Returning to the two Gatlings on San Juan Hill, Lt. Parker had the guns relocated near the road to avoid counterbattery fire. Despite this precaution, the guns again came under shellfire from a heavy Spanish 6.3 in (160 mm) gun. Parker located the enemy gun and trained the two Gatlings using a powerful set of field glasses
Binoculars
Binoculars, field glasses or binocular telescopes are a pair of identical or mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes when viewing distant objects...

. The two Gatlings then opened fire, silencing the Spanish 6.3 in (160 mm) gun at a range of roughly 2000 yd (1,828.8 m).

Two days later, on the 4th, Parker ordered the three operational guns moved into the battle line around the City of Santiago. The wheels of the Gatling carriages were removed, and the Gatlings, along with two 7 mm Colt-Browning
M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun
The Colt-Browning M1895, nicknamed potato digger due to its unusual operating mechanism, is an air-cooled, belt-fed, gas-operated machine gun that fires from a closed bolt with a cyclic rate of 450 rounds per minute...

 machine guns (a gift from Col. Roosevelt) were placed in breastworks where they could command various sectors of fire. The fourth Gatling was repaired and placed in reserve behind the others. However, it was soon moved to Fort Canosa, where it was used during the siege of Santiago
Siege of Santiago
The Siege of Santiago also known as the Siege of Santiago de Cuba was the last major operation of the Spanish-American War on the island of Cuba. This action should not be confused with the naval battle of Santiago de Cuba.-Santiago Campaign:...

 to fire 6,000-7,000 rounds into the city to help force a surrender.

Aftermath

The battle had been a hard one for the Americans, who suffered almost five times as many losses as the Spanish. The Spaniards, meanwhile, had literally fought to the knife, losing a third of their force in casualties but yielding very few prisoners.

Lawton's division, which was supposed to join the fight early on July 1, did not arrive until noon on 2 July, having encountered unexpectedly heavy resistance in the battle of El Caney
Battle of El Caney
The Battle of El Caney was fought on July 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.-Background:At El Caney, Cuba, 514 Spanish regular soldiers, together with approximately 100 armed Spanish loyalists under the command of General Joaquín Vara de Rey were instructed to hold the northwest flank of...

. The Americans, along with the aid of Cuban insurgents, immediately began the investment of Santiago
Siege of Santiago
The Siege of Santiago also known as the Siege of Santiago de Cuba was the last major operation of the Spanish-American War on the island of Cuba. This action should not be confused with the naval battle of Santiago de Cuba.-Santiago Campaign:...

, which surrendered on July 17.

Theodore Roosevelt, along with the rest of the Rough Riders, achieved considerable fame with the victory. Other soldiers fared less well.Young Jules Garesche Ord
Jules Garesche Ord
Jules Garesche "Gary" Ord was a United States Army First Lieutenant who was killed in action after leading the charge of Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry up San Juan Hill...

 never received recognition in the popular press of the day for his actions. The Army turned down requests for a medal for his heroism from his commanding officer and his commanding general.

The large number of U.S. casualties from small-arms fire incurred in the fighting led directly to the Army's decision to update and modernize its small arms arsenal. The .45-70 and M1892 (Krag) Springfield rifles were quickly retired from service in favor of new Mauser-pattern .30-03
.30-03
The .30-03 was a short-lived cartridge developed by the United States in 1903, to replace the .30-40 Krag in the new Springfield 1903 rifle. The .30-03 was also called the .30-45, since it used a 45 grain powder charge; the name was changed to .30-03 to indicate the year of adoption. It used a...

 (later .30-06) M1903 Springfield rifles, while the remaining .30 Army Gatling guns were replaced in 1909 by the M1909 Benet-Mercie machine gun
Hotchkiss M1909 Benet-Mercie machine gun
The Hotchkiss M1909 machine gun was a French designed light machine gun of the early 20th century, developed and built by Hotchkiss et Cie. It was also known as the Hotchkiss Mark I and M1909 Benet-Mercie....

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See also

  • American Wars
  • Spanish Wars
  • History of Cuba
    History of Cuba
    The known history of Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, predates Christopher Columbus' sighting of the island during his first voyage of discovery on 27 October 1492...

  • Jules Garesche Ord
    Jules Garesche Ord
    Jules Garesche "Gary" Ord was a United States Army First Lieutenant who was killed in action after leading the charge of Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry up San Juan Hill...

  • John Bigelow, Jr.
    John Bigelow, Jr.
    John Bigelow, Jr. was a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel. He was the subject of many articles on military frontier life in Outing Magazine published by his brother Poultney Bigelow and with sketches drawn in the field by the then young and obscure Frederic Remington...

  • Lt. John H. Parker
    John Henry Parker (General)
    General John Henry Parker aka "Gatling Gun Parker" was a brigadier general in the United States Army. He is best known for his role as the commander of the Gatling Gun Detachment of the U.S...

  • 10th Cavalry Regiment - Buffalo Soldiers
  • Rough Riders
    Rough Riders
    The Rough Riders is the name bestowed on the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, one of three such regiments raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War and the only one of the three to see action. The United States Army was weakened and left with little manpower after the American Civil War...

  • Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

  • Nofi, Albert A., The Spanish American War, 1898, 1997.
  • Carrasco García, Antonio, En Guerra con Los Estados Unidos: Cuba, 1898, Madrid: 1998.
  • Frank N. Schubert "Buffalo Soldiers at San Juan Hill" from a talk in 1998 during the Conference of Army Historians in Bethesda, Maryland.

External links

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