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THE WAR IN CUBA., Issue 10446, 16 October 1897, Supplement
THE WAR IN CUBA.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WEYLER CAMPAIGN.
lathe 'Arena' for September the following articlo is contributed by Crittenden Marriott, the war correspondent of the * Chicago Record,' who ia eminently fitted 11 pronounce' an unbiased judgment on the prospects of the Cuban war of independence, as he has filled some important diplomatic posts. He writes : Gsneral Weyler started west from Havana on January 16, 1897, with an army alleged to consist of 16,000 men. This he gradually increased to 2d,000 from garrisons scattered along his route. He reached the city of Santa Clara on February 1, and at once issued " concentration " orders for that pre-, vince similar to those already put into effect in the three western provinces. On February 9 he marched to Placetas, and thence south to Sancti Spiritus, both important towns. Three weeks later he returned to Havana, discouraged by his inability to bring the rebels to bay. Oa March Bhe received orders from Spain directing him to enter into negotiations with the rebels. He was kept at Havana for some time by a severe cold, but finally, on March 2S, reached Cienfuegos, whence he sent a commission of three Cubans, leaders in the last war, to negotiate with the rebels. General Gomez refused to receive them, threatening to hang them if they c*me to his camp. General Weyler thereupon, after marching here and there in the province for two weeks longer, on April 22 declared it pacified. Meanwhile, General Gomez and President Cismros crossed the central trocha from i Jucaro to Moron in January, and attacked the town of Arroyo Blanco. The garrison resisted gallantly, and on February 3 were relieved by General Weyler's advance guard. Gomez then despatched general Margia Rodriguez to pass General Weyler, get in his rear, and create a diversion in Havana and MantaZiS Provinces, left partially stripped of troops by the Spanish. This Rodriguez did with great success. General Gomtz himself scorned to retreat. Sending Pr sident Cianeros and his Cabinet back across the trocha to a place of safety, he established himself within ten miles of Arroya Blanco, and has remained there ever since. The Spanish have reported three battles with him at almost the same place, and in each have claimed a great victory. It is noticeable, however, that it is the rebels who have held their ground, and the Spanish who have retreated. For more than four months previous to the d*te of this writing (June 1) General Gomez has been within five miles of the field of La Reforma, his position perfectly well known to both friend and foe, keeping up regular communications with the world at large.
The truth of the matter i 3 that there have been no such battles as the Spanish claim. There have been a few long-range skirmishes, and that ia all. Tae Spiiiard3, though enormously overnumb:ring the insurgents, have not cared to come to close quarters with Gomez, and he, 83 a matter of policy, preferred to harass Weyler by ambushes and skirmishes rather than risk a battle which would mean ruin if he were defeated. The Spanish army, therefore, if not beaten, ha 3at least been ineffective. This is due chiefly to ita childishness, corruption, and cowardice.
Many newspaper writers have remarked on the youthfulness and apparent stupidity of the regulars. I suppose 75 per cent, of them are under 21 and 95 per cent, are under 25. They are mostly ploughboys, freshly caught by-the conscription and shipped across the seas without any training or drill whatever. Spain has kept her older troops at heme to protect herself against the Carlists and the Republicans, who are supposed to be plotting against the Government.
Theß9 boys are set dowa far from home in a strange land, where yellow fever and smallpox prevail all the year round. They are treated with greatest brutality by their officers, robbed by the commissaries, insufficiently clothed and fed, shot down from ambush by enemies whom they cannot see and cannot catch, and are paid irregularly or not at all. Can such soldiers be expected to prove efficient? I have seen a whole company crying like children because one of their number had reoeived a letter from home, and the rest were homesick. I have seen a major-general in the Spanish army lash a private over his face and head with a whip because the man did not notice his approach and failed to salute him cjuickly enough. I have seen half a dozen of these soldiers 6cra.Tibling on the floor of a coffee-house for a few coppers contemptuously thrown to them by an American correspondent. Are these the proud soldiers of Spain, the descendants of the foot soldiery that were the terror of Europe a few centuries ago ?
The contrast between the officers and the privates is most striking. The former aro the handsomest race oi men I have ever seen, not very tall, but well set up, of good figure, with intelligence in every feature, kindly, courteous, and polite in civil life, no doubt, but cruel in war. The men are heavy, dull, with, vacuous faces, badly developed figur.s, and though young are bowed by labor. No one seeing the private and his cflicer together would imagine that they belonged to the same race. Yet the officer, equally with the man, has his faults, and terrible faults they are. I do not speak of his cruelty, fiendish as it is, for opinions may differ as to that, but of hia corruption and his cowardice and his mendacity. From the highest to the lowest the Spanish officers in Cuba are corrupt—corrupt with a deadly destructive corruption, which strikes at the very heart of their mother country. It is a jest in Havana that General Weyler made half a million dollars out of the war. Merchants there have shown me on their books the records of enormous bribes to him and to other generals. Colonels carry on the rolls of their regiments the names of dozens of men killed in battle, claim pay in their names, and will appropriate it when Spain pava the soldiers. Captains and lieutenants make large profits by taking their troops on numbers of unnecessary railway journeys, and sending in false vouchers about them. The commissary department robs the Government at home and the soldier in the field, ruining the one and half starving the other. A general officer has been recalled to Spain, charged with having accepted a bribe of 40,000 dollars to change his line of march and avoid a fight with the rebels. Nine-tenths of the rebels' ammunition nowadays is bought, in the original boxes, from Spanish officers. Ido not speak from hearsay, but tell of what I know.
The officers are cowardly, too, and shrink from active service. The coffee-houses in the cities are crowded with them. On a rail road train fired on by half a dozen rebeh from alongside the track, I have seen them, clad in full regimentals, grovelling in the dust of the floor underneath the seats to avoid the bullets, while the train, in spite of ita large military escort, put on extra steam and ran away. Ic is only when he gets some poor devil of a pacifico tied to a tree and at his mercy that the Spanish officer shows how courageously h.B can fight for Spain. The murder of non-combatant prisoners is the first article of his creed. The official reports of operations in the field sent in by tho officers are enough to coavict them of the most outrageous mendacity. When a colonel reports that his regiment was exposed for three days to a murderous fire from continual ambushes, and finally charged up the side of a mountain and took three successive lines of stubbornly contested intrenchment?, killing fifty rebels (who were carried off by their comrades), all with the loss of one man wounded, it needs no expsrt to tell that he has told a falsehood. Yet this report, and others quite as extravagant, are repeatedly published. The worst of it all is that these things are perfectly well known. There ia no real concealment about them. They are common places in Havana; they have been repeatedly brought to the attention of the Spanish Government by the honest officers in Cuba ; they have been published in the Madrid pipers ; everybody knowß them to be true. Yet Spain's only answer is to prosecute the editors of the Spanish papers that dare to publish them. To barricade itself behind multitudinous htone walls ia certainly a curious way for an attacking army to make war, but it is the way of the Spanish in Cuba. At least two-thirda of all ita troop 3 in the
-island are garrisoned in cities; forts, and troohas, and have- never fired a shot except when -attacked by the insurgents.: For, mark you, the most curious thing about these garrisons is that they never sally forth. ; Their orders are to defend the fort: or the trocha or • the defensive house they occupy, and not to defend the town or bridge or railway station, which in other lands they would be expected, to protect. For instance, a town is encircled by a number of these forts, and has one or two squads located in some large building inside of it. If the rebels attack this town and come within range of the forts blockhouses the soldiers will fire on them; but they will never leave their defences attack.- Two or three times a week during my stay in Cuba large towns were entered by squads of insurgents, who pillaged and burned a goodly part of them, and the garrisons, though far greater, in number than the rebels,- never came out of their forts to give battle. The commanding officer always telegraphed to some jiear-by town for some one of the numerous marching columns that happened to be there at that time, and whose business it was to fight in the open. The garrisons of the towns were not expected to do this under any circumstances. I know this, for on two occasions I was present in such towns when attacked. The favorite time for the rebels to enter a town was about nine or ten at night, because they knew that no" column would make a night march to attack them. Invariably the troops would remain quiet until daylight, thus giving the rebels time enough to loot thq town and get away. A Spanish column never makes a night march, never camps out, and seldom continues its pursuit of a rebel band for more than one day. Thousands of these little forts are scattered all over Cuba. I call them forts for want of a better name, but they are not at all what we think of when we speak of forte. The smallest are about 15ftsquare, two-storeyed, builtof stone, the walls 2ft thick, with one narrow doorway, elaborately loopholed on both storeys, and defended by a garrison of Beven men and a sergeant. Others are larger, but the same in plan, and hold twenty men; and a few
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still larger have fifty. Most of the larger forts, however, are old stone buildings, with their walls reinforced by roughly broken stone piled against them. Usually around a town there is a series of these little sentry-box forts, each surrounded by a ditch, and all the ditches connected by one grand encircling ditch. These forts are very strong, and the rebels cannot take them without artillery; and, as a matter of fact, have taken only two or three since the war began. But what earthly use they are in offensive warfare I am unable to see.
The same is- true of the troohas. There are two of these—one in the west, separating Pinar del Rio province from the rest of the island, and the other in the centre, cutting the island nearly into halveß. The first was very prominent in the campaign of last December, which ended with the "pacification" of that province. It is now of little consequence, and has been practically abandoned, and most of the forces that held it for so long have been drawn off to the central trocha.
These erections consist for the most part of a barricade of stone and barbed wire, backed by a ditch, with a waggon road or railroad running along it. There is a string of the little sentry-box forts at short intervals, with occasional depots where larger" garrisons are stationed. At two or three points in the rear are large bodies of field columns, which go in a hurry to any attacked point—always provided that it is daylight. The garrisons of the forts here, like thoße in other partß of Cuba, are not expected to leave their fortifications under any circumstances, nor -are the marching columns required to go out into the night air.
The whole system is curious, and seems very foolish in the circumstances prevailing in Cuba. The rebels never attack a trocha, and, of course, the Utter is of no value outside of rifle range. It might be valuable for shattered columns to fall back on and to reform, but there is little danger of it ever being required for that purpose. The only way a trocha comes into action in Cuba is through an effort of the rebels to cross it for some military purpose. As a matter of fact, they do not care to cross very often, but when they have tried there has never b'een a recorded case where they were prevented. Obviously the garrison at any given point is not strong enough to stop any considerable force, and by the time reinforcements can be brought the rebels are over and gone. Moreover, by crossing just after nightfall the rebels not only get over with less resistance, but are sure of at least ten hours' start before pursuit will be made. The most resent crossing on record was that of Quintin Bandera, the negro rebel leader, who crossed the central trocha in April, with about 500 men, was killed in doing it, and his force destroyed utterly, according to an offioial Spanish report. A few days later he met General Weyler'a forces, and was annihilated again. A celebration was held by the troops over his defeat, and Santa Clara was declared pacified on the strength of it. Still, a few days and he came east through the island and crossed the other trocha into Pinar del Rio. Is it necessary to say that he was once more beaten and driven back? The last reports from Havana now say that he has been beaten in Pinar del Rio, himself badly wounded, and his troops scattered. Probably before this is printed he will have been killed in the official reports two or three times more.
This account is literally true. The official reports declared that' he was defeated, wounded, and dispersed four separate times
I^A th^ e hy columns stationed over A »f°"of the officers whi 2Sr^ter?S? ,ybeenpr ° moted TiPl!T Chaßftre iu P arfcs ™y unhealthy. The o.ic runs through swamps at •the sonth and through an unhealthy region .nlhe north. last summer it use! to W;/r e 2 ' ooo t0 3 '°°° 80ld *«s to the nSLl Ve i y m i ,nth ' The central one is nearly a3 bad, and may be expected to show during the coming ?W» A f. oo F dlD g to the Spanish report! t«H„ w f real J lt l° oVer 10,000 deaths W fhl„ nn p V M r - I f s V ummer ' with rather less than one-thtrd of the present number of fe ln * he **& I* is.easy to calculaS what it will probably be this year. Possibly the most novel feature'of the war in Cuba is the treatment of the non-com-batant or pacifico population. This matter is not properly understood in the Uoited btates; indeed it is doubtful whether our people can understand it without personal observation. We think of these pacificos as oeing such in name only. We imagine them as a sort of Kuklux or White-Cap body, who come out to fight and then return home and pretend to be altogether innocent. We imagine when we hear of " concentrations " , °. F 1 ( l aal V 1 villages that only women and children have been brought in, and that the men have all gone to fight. All this is wrong. The pacificos are reallvr pacific. They will not fuht. Peace at any pnoe is their motto. They will d«re the firing squad in the early morning, or the torture of the African prisons, or the risk of being cut down by the gu«rillas-r-dare auything—if they are not called upon to kill auvono or to go into actual battle This they will not do. Ihey will be killed unresistingly with bravery and composure, but they-will not right., ihey have less spirit than a cornered rat.
This is not the idea of the average Amerithinks of Spanish-American people as being all alike, and in whose mind Spanish America is a land of stilettos and assassination. The mistake is in confounding Cuba with the mainland, and in missing the important fact that in Cuba there is no admixture of Indian blood to lend fierceness to the nature of the people. The Cuban peasantry are all either negroes or of pure Spanish descent, enfeebled by generations of life in a soft, easy, tropical climate. The whites abhor all strife; the assassin and even the fighter is unknown among them; they would favor universal arb£ tration if they ever heard of it. Natnrally enough the Spaniards despise them and tyrannise over them. Their willingness to be slaves makes their masters "tyrants. A race that, will not fight for its privileges willTose them, and ought to lose them. Spain would never, have dared the abuses that brought about this and all previous rebellions had not the Cubans to invited outrage by their meekness.
Americana sometimes question whether Spain is not right after all. When they see the scores upon scores of great hulking white men loafing about the concentrations, without work, or money, or food, starving themselves, watching their, wives and children starve, and yet unwilling to take up arms, although they know that within rifle shot of their huts they will find brothers in arms ready to welcome them. It is nob that they fear to fight, but that they feel no impulse to do it. The Anglo-Saxon, treated as they have been, wourd see all red, and would fight till he dropped against any odds. The Cubans do not even feel angry. Question them and they will tell you their story without hesitation but with no note of anger in their voice. - Misery, starvation, death—they undergo them all as a matter of course. One turns in relief to the negroes, who at least will fight for their lives.
The truth is the war was not started by Cubans, but by foreigners—Central and South Americans and naturalised citizens of the United States. The former, Boldiers of fortune who had fought in every revolution from Mexico to Patagonia, scented' the rich plunder that must fall to their share if they could control the Government of Cuba, and basted to the banquet; the latter learning for the firat timo wbob freedom 'was, and thereby gifted with imagination—the first requisite in a battle for an idea—yearned to free their country from the yoke of Spain. The home people of Cuba, bovine, indolent, unimaginative, took no part in the uprising, take no interest in the progress, and wfll care little if ic fails. Between the rebels and the Spanish they are ground to powder. The population of the four western provinces where concentration prevails is in round numbers 1,300,000, of whom onethird are negroes. There are no statistics of rural and urban population, but for rough computation the country dwellers may be placed at about half this number. That gives 650,000 people to whom these concentration orders apply. Supposing 50,000 of these are living under rebel rule (a very liberal estimate) it leaves 600,000 people who have been " concentrated."
These people are herded in amill towns in swampy, unhealthy locations, with narrow streets, shallow surface wells, no good protection against the fierce tropical rains now beginning, and with no provision whatever for carrying off the sewage. Their hovels, built from the fronds of the palm trees, are crowded to the doors r sick and well together. What this means in a warm, yellow-fever, smallpox country can be readily conceived. They are all starving. In these days of idleness even the original city dwellers are hungry, and the peasants—torn from their homes, robbed of all they possess, skilled in no labor except that of the farm—find themselves utterly destitute. How the majority of them keep soul and body together is a problem I have been unable to solve. They long ago gave over begging, they have no work, they get no rations; how they live at all is incomprehensible.
Now, what bas Spain gained by all this misery and bloodshed ? What are the pros. pects for her final success? Concede all that General Weyler claims, and where does she stand? According to her own reports she has gotten the Cuban rebels into a position a little better than the one they occupied at the beginning of the ten years' war from 1868 to 1878. That war was confined to the two eastern provinces of Puerto Principe and Santiago de Cuba, ard never penetrated the vrest at all. Yet it lasted ten years, and was ended only by a treaty, making promises which were broken before the ink was dry. Even Weyler does not claim to have pacified these two eastern provinces yet, although, according to his interpretation of the term, he might just aa well do so. -
But, as a matter of fact, the war in the west is not over yet. On the contrary, there are more rebels under arms there than ever before. They avoid battle whenever possible, ambush the Spanish columns at long range, and retreat to the hilla on the least effort at pursuit. This is not a noble form of warfare, bub an effective one nevertheless. Whenever the Spanish evacuate a spot the rebels swarm into it. Pinar del Rio, which has been pacified for five months, requires 30,000 troops to keep the rebels bottled up in the hills and prevent their doing mischief. The ether two western provinces are as bad. In Santa Clara, the central province, Maximo Gomez is still camped where he has been for monthß, and his subordinate generals are all around him. If Spain can keep up her present array and her present operations for ten years longer she may win, otherwise the triumph of the rebellion is certain.
THE WAR IN CUBA., Issue 10446, 16 October 1897, Supplement
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