I could go on for pages, but it has to be written later; now they would only think it was an attack on the army. But it is sickening to see men being sacrificed as these men will be. This is the worst season of all in the Philippines. The season of typhoons and rainstorms and hurricanes, and they would have sent the men off without anything to sleep on but the wet ground and a wet blanket. It has been a great lesson for me, and I have rubber tents, rubber blankets, rubber coats and hammocks enough for an army corps. I have written nothing for the paper, because, if I started to tell the truth at all, it would do no good, and it would open up a hell of an outcry from all the families of the boys who have volunteered. Of course, the only answer is a standing army of a hundred thousand, and no more calling on the patriotism of men unfitted and untrained. It is the sacrifice of the innocents. The incompetence and, unreadiness of the French in 1870 was no worse than our own is now. It is a terrible and pathetic spectacle, and the readiness of the volunteers to be sacrificed is all the more pathetic. It seems almost providential that we had this false-alarm call with Spain to show the people how utterly helpless they are.
Well, here we are again. Talk of the "Retreat from Ottawa" I've retreated more in this war than the Greeks did. If they don't brace up soon, I'll go North and refuse to "recognize" the war. I feel I deserve a pension and a medal as it is. We had everything on board and our cabins assigned us and our "war kits" in which we set forth taken off, and were in yachting flannels ready for the five days cruise. I had the devil of a time getting out to the flagship, as they call the headquarters boat. I went out early in the morning of the night when I last wrote you. I stayed up all that night watching troops arrive and lending a helping hand and a word of cheer to dispirited mules and men, also segars and cool drinks, none of them had had food for twenty-four hours and the yellow Florida people having robbed them all day had shut up and wouldn't open their miserable shops. They even put sentries over the drinking water of the express company which is only making about a million a day out of the soldiers. So their soldiers slept along the platform and trucks rolled by them all night, shaking the boards on which they lay by an inch or two. About four we heard that Shafter was coming and an officer arrived to have his luggage placed on the Seguranca. I left them all on the pier carrying their own baggage and sweating and dripping and no one having slept. Their special train had been three hours in coming nine miles. I hired a small boat and went off to the flagship alone but the small boat began to leak and I bailed and the colored boy pulled and the men on the transports cheered us on. Just at the sinking point I hailed a catboat and we transferred the Admiral's flag to her and also my luggage. The rest of the day we spent on the transport. We left it this morning. Some are still on it but as they are unloading all the horses and mules from the other transports fifteen having died from the heat below deck and as they cannot put them on again under a day, I am up here to get cool and to stretch my legs. The transport is all right if it were not so awfully crowded. I am glad I held out to go with the Headquarter staff. I would have died on the regular press boat, as it is the men are interesting on our boat. We have all the military attaches and Lee, Remington, Whitney and Bonsal. The reason we did not go was because last night the Eagle and Resolute saw two Spanish cruisers and two torpedo boats laying for us outside, only five miles away. What they need with fourteen ships of war to guard a bottled up fleet and by leaving twenty-six transports some of them with 1,400 men on them without any protection but a small cruiser and one gun boat is beyond me. The whole thing is beyond me. It is the most awful picnic that ever happened, you wouldn't credit the mistakes that are made. It is worse than the French at Sedan a million times. We are just amateurs at war and about like the Indians Columbus discovered. I am exceedingly pleased with myself at taking it so good naturedly. I would have thought I would have gone mad or gone home long ago. Bonsal and Remington threaten to go every minute. Miles tells me we shall have to wait until those cruisers are located or bottled up. I'm tired of bottling up fleets. I like the way Dewey bottles them. What a story that would have made. Twenty-six transports with as many thousand men sunk five miles out and two-thirds of them drowned. Remember the Maine indeed! they'd better remember the Main and brace up. If we wait until they catch those boats I may be here for another month as we cannot dare go away for long or far. If we decide to go with a convoy which is what we ought to do, we may start in a day or two. Nothing you read in the papers is correct. Did I tell you that Miles sent Dorst after me the other night and made me a long speech, saying he thought I had done so well in refusing the commission. I was glad he felt that way about it. Well, lots of love. I'm now going to take a bath. God bless you, this is a "merry war."
In sight of Santiago-- June 26th, 1898. DEAR CHAS.:
We have come to a halt here in a camp along the trail to Santiago. You can see it by climbing a hill. Instead of which I am now sitting by a fine stream on a cool rock. I have discovered that you really enjoy things more when you are not getting many comforts than you do when you have all you want. That sounds dull but it is most consoling. I had a bath this morning in these rocks that I would not have given up for all the good dinners I ever had at the Waldorf, or the Savoy. It just went up and down my spine and sent thrills all over me. It is most interesting now and all the troubles of the dull days of waiting at Tampa and that awful time on the troopship are over. The army is stretched out along the trail from the coast for six miles. Santiago lies about five miles ahead of us. I am very happy and content and the book for Scribners ought to be an interesting one. It is really very hard that my despatches are limited to 100 words for there are lots of chances. The fault lies with the army people at Washington, who give credentials to any one who asks. To The Independent and other periodicals--in no sense newspapers, and they give seven to one paper, consequently we as a class are a pest to the officers and to each other. Fortunately, the survival of the fittest is the test and only the best men in every sense get to the front. There are fifty others at the base who keep the wire loaded with rumors, so when after great difficulty we get the correct news back to Daiquire a Siboney there is no room for it. Some of the "war correspondents" have absolutely nothing but the clothes they stand in, and the others had to take up subscriptions for them. They gambled all the time on the transports and are ensconced now at the base with cards and counters and nothing else. Whitney has turned out great at the work and I am glad he is not on a daily paper or he would share everything with me. John Fox, Whitney and I are living on Wood's rough riders. We are very welcome and Roosevelt has us at Headquarters but, of course, we see the men we know all the time. You get more news with the other regiments but the officers, even the Generals, are such narrow minded slipshod men that we only visit them to pick up information. Whitney and I were the only correspondents that saw the fight at Guasimas. He was with the regulars but I had the luck to be with Roosevelt. He is sore but still he saw more than any one else and is proportionally happy. Still he naturally would have liked to have been with our push. We were within thirty yards of the Spaniards and his crowd were not nearer than a quarter of a mile which was near enough as they had nearly as many killed. Gen. Chaffee told me to-day that it was Wood's charge that won the day, without it the tenth could not have driven the Spaniards back-- Wood is a great young man, he has only one idea or rather all his ideas run in one direction, his regiment, he eats and talks nothing else. He never sleeps more than four hours and all the rest of the time he is moving about among the tents-- Between you and me and the policeman, it was a very hot time-- Maybe if I drew you a map you would understand why.
Wood and Gen. Young, by agreement the night before and without orders from anybody decided to advance at daybreak and dislodge the Spaniards from Las Guasimas. They went by two narrow trails single file, the two trails were along the crests of a line of hills with a valley between. The dotted line is the trail we should have taken had the Cubans told us it existed, if we had done so we would have had the Spaniards in the frontband rear as General Young would have caught them where they expected him to come, and we would have caught them where they were not looking for us. Of course, the Cubans who are worthless in every way never told us of this trail until we had had the meeting. No one knew we were near Spaniards until both columns were on the place where the two trails meet. Then our scouts came back and reported them and the companies were scattered out as you see them in the little dots. The Spaniards were absolutely hidden not over 25 per cent of the men saw one of them for two hours-- I ran out with the company on the right of the dotted line, marked "our position." I thought it was a false alarm and none of us believed there were any Spaniards this side of Santiago. The ground was covered with high grass and cactus and vines so that you could not see twenty feet ahead, the men had to beat the vines with their carbines to get through them. We had not run fifty yards through the jungle before they opened on us with a quick firing gun at a hundred yards. I saw the enemy on the hill across the valley and got six sharp shooters and began on them, then the fire got so hot that we had to lie on our faces and crawl back to the rear. I had a wounded man to carry and was in a very bad way because I had sciatica, Two of his men took him off while I stopped to help a worse wounded trooper, but I found he was dead. When I had come back for him in an hour, the vultures had eaten out his eyes and lips. In the meanwhile a trooper stood up on the crest with a guidon and waved it at the opposite trail to find out if the firing there was from Spaniards or Len Young's negroes. He was hit in three places but established the fact that Young was up on the trail on our right across the valley for they cheered. He was a man who had run on the Gold Ticket for Congress in Arizona, and consequently, as some one said, naturally should have led a forlorn hope. A blackguard had just run past telling them that Wood was killed and that he had been ordered to Siboney for reinforcements. That was how the report spread that we were cut to pieces-- A reporter who ran away from Young's column was responsible for the story that I was killed. He meant Marshall who was on the left of the line and who was shot through the spine-- There was a lot of wounded at the base and the fighting in front was fearful to hear. It was as fast as a hard football match and you must remember it lasted two full hours; during that time the men were on their feet all the time or crawling on their hands-- Not one of them, with the exception of ----, and a Sergeant who threw away his gun and ran, went a step back. It was like playing blindman's buff and you were it. I got separated once and was scared until I saw the line again, as my leg was very bad and I could not get about over the rough ground. I went down the trail and I found Capron dying and the whole place littered with discarded blankets and haversacks. I also found Fish and pulled him under cover--he was quite dead-- Then I borrowed a carbine and joined Capron's troop, a second lieutenant and his Sergeant were in command. The man next me in line got a bullet through his sleeve and one through his shirt and you could see where it went in and came out without touching the skin. The firing was very high and we were in no danger so I told the lieutenant to let us charge across an open place and take a tin shack which was held by the Spaniards' rear guard, for they were open in retreat. Roosevelt ordered his men to do the same thing and we ran forward cheering across the open and then dropped in the grass and fired. I guess I fired about twenty rounds and then formed into a strategy board and went off down the trail to scout. I got lonely and was coming back when I met another trooper who sat down and said he was too hot to run in any direction Spaniard or no Spaniard. So we sat down and panted. At last he asked me if I was R. H. D. and I said I was and he said "I'm Dean, I met you in Harvard in the racquet court." Then we embraced--the tenth came up then and it was all over. My leg, thank goodness, is all right again and has been so for three days. It was only the running about that caused it. I won't have to run again as I have a horse now and there will be no more ambushes and moreover we have 12,000 men around us-- Being together that way in a tight place has made us all friends and I guess I'll stick to the regiment. Send this to dear Mother and tell her I was not born to be killed. I ought to tell you more of the charming side of the life--we are all dirty and hungry and sleep on the ground and have grand talks on every subject around the headquarters tent. I was never more happy and content and never so well. It is hot but at night it is quite cool and there has been no rain only a few showers. `No one is ill and there have been no cases of fever. I have not heard from you or any one since the 14th, which is not really long but so much goes on that it seems so. Lots of love to you all.
After reading this over I ought perhaps to say that the position of the real correspondents is absolutely the very best. No one confounds us with the men at the base, and nothing they have they deny us. We are treated immeasurably better than the poor attaches who are still on the ship and who if they were spies could not be treated worse. But for Whitney, Remington and myself nothing is too good. Generals fight to have us on their staffs and all that sort of thing, so I really cannot complain, except about the fact that our real news is crowded out by the faker in the rear.
Headquarters Cavalry Division, U. S. Army. Headqrs. Wood's Rough Riders.
I suppose you are back from Marion now and I have missed you. I can't tell you how sorry I am. I wanted to see you coming up the street this summer in your knickerbockers and with no fish, but still happy. Never mind, we shall do the theatres this Fall, and have good walks downtown. I hope Mother will come up and visit me this September, at Marion and sit on Allen's and on the Clarks' porch and we can have Chas. too. I suppose he will have had his holiday but he can come up for a Sunday. We expect to move up on Santiago the day after to-morrow, and it's about time, for the trail will not be passable much longer. It rains every day at three o'clock for an hour and such rain you never guessed. It is three inches high for an hour. Then we all go out naked and dig trenches to get it out of the way. It is very rough living. I have to confess that I never knew how well off I was until I got to smoking Durham tobacco and I've only half a bag of that left. The enlisted men are smoking dried horse droppings, grass, roots and tea. Some of them can't sleep they are so nervous for the want of it, but to-day a lot came up and all will be well for them. I've had a steady ration of coffee, bacon and hard tack for a week and one mango, to night we had beans. Of course, what they ought to serve is rice and beans as fried bacon is impossible in this heat. Still, every one is well. This is the best crowd to be with--they are so well educated and so interesting. The regular army men are very dull and narrow and would bore one to death. We have Wood, Roosevelt, Lee, the British Attache, Whitney and a Doctor Church, a friend of mine from Princeton, who is quite the most cheerful soul and the funniest I ever met. He carried four men from the firing line the other day back half a mile to the hospital tent. He spends most of his time coming around headquarters in an undershirt of mine and a gold bracelet fighting tarantulas. I woke up the other morning with one seven inches long and as hairy as your head reposing on my pillow. My sciatica bothers me but has not prevented me seeing everything and I can dig rain gutters and cut wood with any of them. It is very funny to see Larned, the tennis champion, whose every movement at Newport was applauded by hundreds of young women, marching up and down in the wet grass. Whitney and I guy him. To-day a sentry on post was reading "As You Like It" and whenever I go down the line half the men want to know who won the boat race-- To-day Wood sent me out with a detail on a pretense of scouting but really to give them a chance to see the country. They were all college boys, with Willie Tiffany as sergeant and we had a fine time and could see the Spanish sentries quite plainly without a glass. I hope you will not worry over this long separation. I don't know of any experience I have had which has done me so much good, and being with such a fine lot of fellows is a great pleasure. The scenery is very beautiful when it is not raining. I have a cot raised off the ground in the Colonel's tent and am very well off. If Chaffee or Lawton, who are the finest type of officers I ever saw, were in command, we would have been fighting every day and would probably have been in by this time. This weather shows that Havana must be put off after Porto Rico. They cannot campaign in this mud.