miércoles, 3 de noviembre de 2010

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Writer´s initial comments:  Puerto Rico does not exist in a vacuum of history.  The historic memory of its colonial relationship with the U.S. dates back to the Spanish-American War, although it is open knowledge that concerning Cuba and thusly its Caribbean Frontier, the United States had designs to annex that island since the times of Jefferson, and wanted to convert it into three Southern slave states.  Later on when John Quincy Adams was secretary of state, he developed the "Ripe Fruit Theory", whereby eventually Cuba would gravitate towards the United States, as result of its struggle against Spain.  Likewise it is a fact of history, that President Grant conspired with his Dominican counterpart Buenaventura Baez,  In order to annex the Dominican Republic around 1870.  That annexation failed since it confronted a strong opposition within the Dominican Republic, and in the U.S. Senate.  The former caused an internal war of six years, against the government of Buenaventura Baez which sponsored annexation, and the latter a lengthy political conflict between U.S. Senator Charles Sumner against President Ulysses S.  Grant, who was an accomplice of Dominican President Baez in that annexation plan.  Concerning Cuba and Puerto Rico however, history has written a script which stands unquestioned to this day, and which has had an effect even in the collective psyches of these two Caribbean nations, as well as being a determining factor on their historic, albeit tortuous relationships with the Colossus of the North.  

The Caribbean-Central American Basin, a region of prime interest to a burgeoning U.S. imperialism at the end of the 19th Century, due to its industrial expansion resulting from the unprecedented growth of capital during that period, which in turn looked to the outward growth of markets.  This region would be of prime interest to U.S. geopolitical designs well into the 20th Century, resulting into becoming the focal point of many conflicts involving U.S. imperialism.

On November 25, 1897, the royal decree had been published which ordered the establishment of the autonomist regime in Cuba effective January 1, 1898.  So one month afterwards on December 24, 1897, the Undersecretary of War, J.M. Breackseason, sent a letter to Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles which has been published several times, and which has never been denied, and which speaks for itself, given the fact it was written one month and three weeks prior to the explosion of the USS MAINE in Havana Harbor, the incident which has always been presented as the starting point of the Spanish-American War.  

In that letter were completed to Gen. Miles "the instructions concerning the part of the military organization of the impending campaign in the Antilles", which had been given previously probably verbally, and in which "some observations were made relative to the political mission which as Commanding General of our forces will be placed upon you". The last paragraph of this letter started thusly, "The probable timing of our campaign will be in October, but it is convenient to finalize the most minimum detail in order to be ready upon the eventuality that we would be forced to precipitate the events to annul the development of the autonomist element which could annihilate the separatist movement".  This last reference is to Spain's Royal Decree of November 25, 1897 which had been published, establishing the autonomist regime in Cuba effective January 1, 1898.  As can be seen, the royal decree of November 25, (1897) hastened the discharge of a blow which was already prepared.  That blow was the intervention of the United States in the Cubans' war against Spain, and it would also be the starting point for the appearance on the stage of a new empire in the imperial frontier of the Caribbean.

Writer´s comment:  The two previous paragraphs are the beginning of a translation from the book: "El Caribe, Frontera Imperial, De Cristobal Colón a Fidel Castro, by Prof. Juan Bosch, Editorial Alfa & Omega, Santo Domingo, 2005.¨  I am quoting verbatim beginning with Chapter XXIV THE CENTURY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN EMPIRE page 585.  The point thus far leads us to the historic memory of the origins of the Spanish-American War, which is commonly and erroneously believed as the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, on the night of February 15, 1898, or 23 days after the MAINE dropped anchor in Havana Harbor. The MAINE actually arrived inport Havana on January 24, 1898. It is thus clear to see that the United States of America intended to commence hostilities with the Bourbon Crown of Spain, prior  to the explosion of the MAINE on February 15, 1898, as the historical record shows, with Undersecretary J.M. Breackseason's letter dated December 24, 1897.  But the historical record further shows that hostile intent against Spain by the U.S. predates that date, due to the probable verbal orders which can be reasonably inferred from the historical record, and which were given to Gen. Miles, on a date which obviously precede the letter dated on December 24, 1897.  Regarding the term ¨Imperial Frontier¨ as used by Prof. Bosch, this writer remembers quite well, the similar term of  ¨Caribbean Sea Frontier¨ employed by the U.S. NAVY to designate that naval region which included Puerto Rico during the 1950s.  In fact the term ¨Caribbean Sea Frontier¨ was inscribed on the sign at the main gate, of the Miramar Naval Base in San Juan during that period.  Curiously enough, Bosch´s use of the title ¨Imperial Frontier¨ for his authoritative book should not be considered capricious, in this writer´s opinion.  The concept of  ¨Imperial Frontier¨, was also employed  during the times of the Roman Empire beginning with Emperor Augustus, when Rome put into practice the so-called ¨strategy of the limes¨.  The limes was the Latin word which represented in a general sense, those   land demarcations defining the borders of the Roman Empire, according to Yann LeBohec in his book on the Roman Army.   
Military cargo being loaded onboard US NAVY aircraft in Puerto Rico during the intervention of Dominican Republic in 1965.  Notice "Caribbean Sea Frontier" written at base of aircraft's vertical stabilizer 
As we can see, (Spain's) Royal Decree of November 25, (1897) triggered the onslaught of a blow (by the U.S.), which was pre-staged. That blow was the U.S. intervention in the war of the Cubans against Spain, and it would be the starting point, for a new Empire in the Imperial Frontier of the Caribbean.  An entire legend has been weaved around the idea that the USS MAINE's explosion in Havana Bay provoked U.S. intervention in the war, but Undersecretary Breackseason's letter indicates that before December 24, 1897, the Commanding General of U.S. forces which were to intervene in that war had already been appointed, and (verbal) orders had already been given him, which were detailed in the letter; and afterwards before the end of 1897, a general battle plan to intervene in Cuba was already in place. The plan would be executed in mid-1898, practically without variations. Regarding the port visit by the MAINE, it wasn't a visit; the battleship had been ordered by request of the U.S. Consul in the island's capital Mr. Fitzhugh Lee. There had been serious riots in Havana provoked by volunteers and Spanish military opposed to Cuba's autonomy (the Royal Decree) which in turn had begun to take effect on January 1, 1898; these riots became alarming on January 12th, and Consul Lee had asked the U.S. government to send to Havana a warship to "protect the lives and properties of U.S. citizens". Due to that request the MAINE was ordered to Cuba's capital, which arrived inport Havana on January 24, 1898. Had it been a port visit, the MAINE would have been in Havana for a few days, perhaps a week, though this would have been too long a visit. But the MAINE anchored out in Havana Harbor until it blew up due to an explosion the night of February 15, 1898, that is to say, twenty three days after having pulled into Havana harbor. One must ask him/herself what would the U.S. had done with that warship had it not blown up that night, since it would've been an inexplicable provocation to keep her for a longer time in Havana harbor. 

The MAINE's explosion caused the death of 280 of its crew. Undersecretary of the NAVY Theodore Roosevelt, said that the loss of the ship was not due to an accident, which was a veiled though sinister accusation; but the American press openly accused Spain of having mined the MAINE. The U.S. government named a commission to investigate the causes of the disaster and its conclusions were these: "...the MAINE was destroyed due to an underwater mine which caused the partial explosion of two or more of the (forward magazines). The Commission has not been able to obtain testimony which would fix responsibility for the MAINE's destruction over any person or persons." Spain formed another commission, which concluded that the explosion had originated inside the ship, not outside.  The Spanish government proposed to place the matter in the hands of a neutral commission and it declared beforehand that it would accept such commission's findings; but the U.S. government did not accept that proposal; what it did was to respond to Spain with the threat of communicating to Congress its own commission's report if Spain would not aver itself to quickly liquidate the case of the MAINE with an agreement that would guarantee the peace in Cuba. And since Spain could not accept that imposition since it would be a tacit admission of its guilt in the blowing up of the ship, (President) McKinley accused (Spain) in his celebrated message of April 11, sent to Congress with these words: "...in any case the destruction of the MAINE by an exterior cause whatever it may be, is proof that the government of Spain cannot guarantee the safety of a U.S. Navy ship on a friendly visit to Havana Harbor." But there was no proof-and there hasn't been until today-that the destruction of the MAINE may have been caused by an exterior cause, "whatever it may have been", and the ship was not "in a friendly visit to Havana Harbor." 

Writer´s comment:   Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover the founder of the U.S.'s nuclear NAVY, conducted an investigation in 1974. Using information from the two official inquiries, newspapers, personal papers and information on the construction and ammunition of the MAINE, it was concluded that the explosion was not caused by a mine.  Instead, spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker next to the forward magazine, was speculated to be the most likely cause.  Coal was a highly volatile fuel used in warships at the time.  The circumstances surrounding the sinking of the MAINE, as well as the pre-existing conditions of a historically established hostile intent by the U.S. to intervene in the Cuban War of Independence, would seem like a portent of things to come in what would later be known as "gunboat diplomacy" in the Central American-Caribbean basin, well into the 20th Century.  It doesn't take much imagination to compare the MAINE's scenario, with what happened for instance with the U.S.´s military interventions in the Dominican Republic in 1965, Grenada in 1983, and Panama in 1989, not to mention all the other military interventions by the U.S. in the region, during the early 20th Century, such as; Nicaragua, Haiti, etc., etc.  In short, the Monroe Doctrine along with its Roosevelt Corollary, and an extra-territorial version of Manifest Destiny, were being applied before, during and after the MAINE's sinking.  The same pretextual reasons of  "protecting American lives and properties", seemed to ring again and again like a worn out script, adroitly adapted  to each historical period under which U.S. imperialism was being applied in the region throughout the 20th Century.  All this reminds us of the first pages of Howard Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States", wherein it reads that,....'It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion".

Body of Charlemagne Peralte, leader of the Haitian Cacos guerrillas who fought the U. S. Marines during the occupation-Peralte was assassinated in 1919 by two U.S. Marines who infiltrated his hideout in Grand Riviere du Nord, thanks to a betrayal by a fellow Cacos guerrilla.  This era of U.S. imperialism in the hemisphere, was known as the period of "Gunboat Diplomacy".

During the negotiations which took place due to the MAINE's sinking, President McKinley demanded on March 25th that Spain would place the Cuban people "in conditions of economic self-support" and to offer "the Cubans complete self-government with a reasonable indemnity.", and when the Spanish government asked what "self government" meant, the Department of State responded that "self government with indemnity meant Cuban independence."  That answer was dated on the 28th of (March 1898); on the 29th, President McKinley submitted to Spain  the following points:
1)  The United States don't want the island of Cuba.
2)  The United States want an immediate peace (in Cuba).
3)  The United States suggest an armistice (in Cuba) until October 1st (1898).

In the letter of December 24, (1897), addressed to General Miles by Undersecretary of War (Breackseason) it read:  "The probable season for our campaign will be next October."  One may draw his own conclusion from that curious coincidence.

President McKinley demanded a response to what he called a suggestion within three days, but the Spanish government asked for more time.  Mr. Woodford, the U.S. ambassador in Madrid, cabled Washington that if sufficient time were given "he was certain of achieving peace in Cuba before next October, with justice for Cuba and protection for our great interests", and on April 3rd he received an answer with the question if he believed that the peace "which you are so confident in obtaining", means the independence of Cuba."  Woodford immediately telegraphed asking if the President could avoid a declaration of war from Congress in case the Queen of Spain proclaimed a suspension of hostilities in Cuba before noon April 6th and the State Department answered that the President couldn't make that commitment..  The State Department's cable was transmitted from Washington on the night of (April) 5th, therefore it wouldn't give time for the Queen to declare the suspension of hostilities at noontime on the 6th, but also on April 5th the U.S. Consul in Havana was ordered to evacuate U.S. citizens residing in the capital of Cuba.  Those who may know all these details have to ask themselves what was that the United States wanted, since they were asking for peace in Cuba and when Spain offered it they refused the offer.

These last details would be better seen within the political moves that were to immediately take place.  The morning of (April) 9th, the Spanish government granted an armistice in Cuba; on the 10th, the Spanish ambassador in Washington officially transmitted the move to the Department of State, however on April 11, 1898 President McKinley submitted to Congress his known message in which he requested authority to "employ the military and naval forces of the U.S. in the measure that may seem necessary." to end the (Independence) war in Cuba, and on (April) 19 Congress handed down its historic joint resolution conceived in these terms: "First: that the people of the island of Cuba is, and has the right to be free and independent.  Second: That the U.S. has the duty to request, and thus the government of the U.S. requests that the Spanish government renounce immediately to its authority and government over the island of Cuba and withdraws from Cuba and from Cuban waters its land and naval forces. Third: That the President of the U.S. be given authority and faculties, as hereby given, to use all the land and naval forces of the U.S. and to mobilize the militias of the various States for the service of the U.S., in the measure that may be necessary to execute the present resolution. Fourth: That the U.S. hereby declines all disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or authority over said island, except for its pacification and affirms its determination, that once such is realized, to leave the government of the island to its people."
In that joint resolution Puerto Rico is not mentioned. What is more, Puerto Rico is not mentioned once in the course of the negotiations which began at the onset of the explosion in the MAINE. But in the aforementioned letter of Undersecretary Breackseason to Gen. Miles, it was written:  "The problem in the Antilles presents itself under two aspects: one, the one relative to Cuba, and the other one to Puerto Rico, just as also our aspirations are different and the policy regarding them that must be observed." And in the following paragraph, after taking for granted that Puerto Rico would be conquered, the letter read:  "This acquisition which we must make and conserve, will be easy for us since upon changing sovereignty I consider that (Puerto Rico) has more to gain than to lose."  It is very significant that at the outbreak of hostilities, Gen. Miles, not having participated in Cuba, would personally lead the conquest of Puerto Rico. A calculating or scheming person would say, that in the diplomatic game initiated at the onset of the explosion in the MAINE, Puerto Rico was the ace up the sleeve in one of the players. 

Puerto Rico Expedition.png

Historical Map of the Puerto Rican Campaign Illustrating Operations July 25-August 12, 1898, and showing Municipality borders in 1898. (Blue} are US Naval Forces, {Red} are US land forces, and {Green} are Spanish ground forces. Sources Historical Map of the Spanish-American War: Puerto Rico 1898 Puerto Rico bajo las dos banderas

Congress's joint resolution was approved by President McKinley April 20th and that same day Ambassador Woodford was notified and requested to place it under the knowledge of the Spanish government, to which a term of three days was given to renounce its authority over Cuba.  The Spanish government had knowledge of the cable's text before Woodford's notification; thus when the ambassador was preparing to accomplish his pitiful mission, which he was about to do on the morning of the 22nd, he received his passport and the information that Spain's ambassador in the U.S. had left Washington the day before and that diplomatic relations between the two countries were broken.  On that same day of (April) 22nd Cuba's blockade by the American fleet had started and at least two Spanish merchant ships were captured, the Buenaventura  and the Pedro, and yet there was no declaration of war.

On (April) 23rd Lieutenant Andrew Rowan arrived in Kingston, Jamaica.  Lt. Rowan must have left New York at least on (April) 18th, one day before the U.S. Congress approved its joint resolution and two days before it was approved by President McKinley, which makes one suppose that he left Washington around April 15th or perhaps even earlier.  In the history of the United States there is the celebrated case of the so-called ¨A Message to García¨ and an article written with that title shortly afterwards, has been reproduced millions and millions of times, to the point it is believed it is the most divulged piece in the literary history of the world.  It is still reproduced.  In that article it is said that Lt. Rowan was called by the Secretary of War, and that he gave him verbal orders and told him:  ¨Take this message to Garcia¨, that Lt. Rowan didn´t ask who was García or made the slightest comment, he gave a military salute, and left the office of the Secretary and embarked himself upon finding García without even knowing who he was, and that thinking and thinking he came to the conclusion he should have been a Cuban and made immediate arrangements to go to Cuba, where he came upon a thousand risks, and guided only by his instinct, since given the importance of his mission he couldn´t talk to anyone, he headed towards the headquarters of General Calixto García, to whom he communicated the celebrated message.  Thanks to that article, Lt. Rowan became and still is, the first incarnation of the North American ¨Superman¨, who knows everything, guesses everything and resolves all problems by himself.  The article concludes presenting him as the model to be followed by the youth of his country.

Well then, the real story is that instructions were given to Lt. Rowan to go see General Calixto García in Cuba, not just any ¨García¨, in order to convey to him a message related with the war that the United States were going to initiate against Spain, and he was ordered to see Mr. Tomás Estrada Palma in New York in order to arrange with him all the details about his trip to Cuba.  Rowan therefore, traveled from Washington to New York and spoke with Estrada Palma, and he in turn sent him to Jamaica with an introduction letter to the representative of the Cuban Junta in Kingston, Jamaica, that Junta representative called on Major Gervasio Sabio and ordered him to take Rowan to Cuba and bring him in person to General García.  Sabio and Lt. Rowan departed for Cuba and landed at Mora Inlet, by the foothills of Sierra Maestra, close to its western extension, a cavalry squadron awaited them there under the command of Lt. Eugenio L. Fernández Barrot, of the Cuban forces from Manzanillo, under the command of General Salvador H. Ríos.  Lt. Fernández Barrot took Sabio and Rowan as far as Bayamo, where they were received by Colonel Cosme de la Torriente, who took them personally to General García.  He in turn received Rowan on May 1st.

Six days before, on April 25th, the U.S. Congress had declared war on Spain, but it did so retroactively, starting with the 21st, which explains why on the 21st the order had been given to blockade the island of Cuba, on the 22nd Spanish merchant ships had been captured and the 24th communications were transmitted to Commodore Dewey, who had gotten underway hastily for the Pacific and who awaited orders with his squadron in Hong Kong, that war had broken out with Spain and that he would have to depart immediately towards the Phillippines to attack and capture Manila.

On the very same day of May 1st, upon concluding his interview with Rowan, General Calixto García sent General Enrique Collazo and Lt. Colonel Carlos Hernández with a letter for the Secretary of War, in which he communicated to him that, according to what Lt. Rowan had told him, the Cuban army in Oriente Province was willing to participate in the war of the United States against Spain, one month afterwards General Miles wrote to General García with the help of Lt. Colonel Hernandez to ask him to place ¨the highest number of forces in the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba, in order to reveal all sorts of information, by signals, which Colonel Hernández will explain to you, be it to the Navy or our Army, upon our arrival, which I hope will be in a few days.  Also it will be convenient for us if you will push and harass the Spanish troops close to Santiago de Cuba, threatening or attacking them in all their points, in order to avoid, by all means, that they receive reinforcements to such a bastion.  (Also) it will be advantageous a prominent command position to the east or west of Santiago de Cuba, or on both places.¨ In his letter of December 24 of the previous year Undersecretary Breackseason was telling Gneral Miles:  ¨The most convenient base of operations will be Santiago de Cuba and the Eastern Deparment (Province)¨ and, as can be seen, those instructions would be followed to the letter.

But let´s not get ahead of ourselves.  These events were produced in the following order:

The war started in fact, with a previous declaration, on April 22nd, with the blockade of Cuban ports, there were numerous seizures of Spanish merchant ships and the Matanzas fortification was bombarded at the beginning of May with the objective of neutralizing a new battery that had been emplaced there.  On April the Spanish squadron got underway from Cape Verde under the command of Admiral Cervera, who had to decide upon arriving in the Caribbean, if it was convenient to be stationed in Puerto Rico or Cuba, on May 11th Cervera was ordered to return to Cádiz, but the message arrived at Fort-de-France, Martinique, when Cervera had already left, therefore Cervera didn´t receive it.  On the 12th of the same month of May the American Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Sampson and with the battleships of the line Iowa, New York, Indiana and Detroit, the cruisers Amphitrite, Montgomery and Porter, the tugboat Wampatrick and the coal ship Niagara, bombed the city and port of San Juan of Puerto Rico.  Their fire was returned from the (Fort of el Morro).  The North Americans had one dead and seven injured, but the dead among the civilian population of San Juan were more than one hundred.  As it was learned later on, the attack was due to the fact that Sampson had received reports that Cervera´s squadron had entered San Juan Bay the night of the 11th to the 12th.  At the time of the shelling Cervera was preparing to get underway from Fort-de-France towards Curazao, where he took on coal and left on the 15th to arrive at Santiago de Cuba at dawn on the 19th.  On June 3rd the North Americans scuttled the coal ship Merrimac with the objective of impeding that Cervera could get his ships underway to open waters, and and from that day on they maintained the entrance to the bay illuminated with the battleships´ searchlights so that Cervera could not get his squadron  out in the darkness.

Thus, having started on April 21st and declared on the 25th of the same month, the war was in a strange phase still at the middle of June, it had gotten to a deadlock before hostilities had broken out.  What must have been done to break that deadlock?  Spain had in Cuba 190,000 regular troops and 30,000 guerrillas and 40,000 urban volunteers.  The Cuban Revolution´s forces reached 54,000 men and the North Americans were at that moment only 17,000.  Undersecretary Breackseason knew what he said in his letter to General Miles, when he mentioned the month of October, 1898, as the time when the United States would be prepared for action, and President McKinley also knew it when he asked Spain for an armistice in Cuba until the 1st of October.  But events had come to a head and they had to attack in the month of June, since all of North America was asking to attack Spain, the country was in a state of hysteria under the slogan of ¨Remember the Maine¨, and those demands had to be met.

The North American military leaders were confused, they didn´t know where to start operations.  Compelled to act, Sampson and General Shafter, Army commander, formulated a campaign plan which consisted of forcing the entrance to the Bay of Santiago with the Navy while the infantry attacked the Morro Castle and the Socapa, the two forts that guarded the entrance to the bay.  But General Calixto García, to whom this plan had been forwarded, presented another one in a meeting at the Aserradero on June 20th, and General García´s proposal was approved and commenced to be executed on the following day, on June 21st.

At dawn on that day General Agustin Cebreco marched towards the west of Santiago with a Cuban column, with the mission to impede that the Spaniards would fortify themselves at some point on that side; at sundown, Brigadier Castillo Duany, along with 500 Cubans in an American troop transport which took him to  Sigua, to the East of Santiago, and on the first hours of the 22nd attacked and captured Daiquiri, where American troops immediately started to disembark.  On the 23rd, when the division under the command of General Lawton had landed, he in turn marched westward, towards Firmeza and Siboney, preceded by the Cuban forces of Castillo Duany, which easily took those two points and advanced towards Las Guasimas, a place situated a short distance from Siboney on the road to Santiago, where the Spanish detachments which had retreated from Firmeza and Siboney, had fortified themselves.  Lawton encamped in Siboney.  General Wheeler's cavalry division joined him there.  Wheeler reinforced Castillo Duany who was harassing Las Guasimas, with a brigade from his division and a volunteer corps called "The Rough Riders", with  whom the Undersecretary of the NAVY Theodore Roosevelt was riding.  The Spanish forces at Las Guasimas received orders to retreat toward Santiago and the  place was occupied by the Americans.

On the 29th General Shafter and General Calixto Garcia met in Siboney to combine plans; on July 1st 19,000 departed for Santiago, 15,000 of them Americans under Shafter's command and 4,000 Cubans under (General) Garcia.  Between that force and the Eastern capital of Cuba was El Caney and in El Caney was Colonel Vara del Rey with 520 entrenched Spanish soldiers in a small stone fort called El Viso and four smaller wooden forts.  As anyone who doesn't even have military knowledge can appreciate, the force of Vara del Rey was too small to put at risk 19,000 men, but Shafter did not want to leave it in his rearguard and commanded that El Caney would be taken by Lawton's brigade and Captain Apron's battery while he and Garcia continued towards Santiago de Cuba.

The attack to El Caney was undertaken by 6,600 infantrymen and artillery,  because upon five hours of combat, in view that the Spanish garrison wouldn't surrender, General Bates's brigade had to join Lawton's forces.  In the Battle of San Juan, which was taking place at the same time as El Caney,  took place with 12,400 men on the American-Cuban side.

As is logical,, the fortress at El Viso and the wooden forts surrounding it had to fall into the hands of the attackers, but when they fell, the surviving Spanish soldiers made themselves strong in the town of El Caney.  The battle which had started at 6 a.m., was going to last until 6 p.m. and finished when the Spaniards had lost 305 men between dead and wounded.  Injured in both legs, Vara del Rey was commanding his troops until killed by a howitzer round.  A son of his also was killed there.  After El Caney it is risky to give examples of heroism.

The battle of Santiago de Cuba took place in the hills of San Juan and El Cardero.  In the first one there was a fort with 250 men commanded by the military governor of Santiago, General Arsenio Linares; in the second one there was another fort with 200 Spaniards.  The Cubans' main force occupied the entrances to Santiago to impede that reinforcements would reach the Spaniards, but about 400 Cubans, under the command of Colonel Gonzalez Clavel, that were supporting Captain Grimmes' American battery, were going to take part in the assault on San Juan Hill.  The position at El Cardero was taken with relative ease; not so the one in San Juan, where General Linares put up stiff resistance.  Wheeler's brigade took part in the capture of the hill and within that brigade, the "Rough Riders" were prominent, and that charge was headed under the command of Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt.

The actions at El Cardero and San Juan were combined in the battle which take the latter's name.  In that battle only 90 Spaniards survived and all their commanders and officers were either wounded or killed, beginning with General Linares who was among the wounded.  The Americans had more than 1,000 casualties among dead and wounded and the Cubans more than 150, and Santiago still had to be captured, where some 7,000 Spaniards were under the command of General Jose Toral, which took command upon General Linares being wounded.  American losses had been so high and Spanish resistance at El Caney so unexpected and stiff, that General Shafter lost heart, and thought retreating to Siboney.  On the day following the two battles he convened an officers'  council to propose retreat and, although the majority dissented from his opinion, the General cabled Washington on the 3rd proposing it.  But it so happened that on the same day, ordered by a telegram sent on the afternoon of the 2nd by Captain General Blanco for the immediate departure of the squadron, Admiral Cervera got his ships underway from the bay and that step was going to decide the war in a spectacular way.

Cervera knew his ships could not confront the North Americans, not only because they were inferior in firepower, because above all, they had left Cape Verde in bad conditions, some with malfunctioning boilers, others not well supplied with coal, and all in sum, forced to maintain the underway speed of those in worst conditions.  Before he left he transmitted a message to General Blanco informing him that he would obey his orders, but that he was conscious that he was taking his men to their death.  His flagship, the cruiser Maria Teresa, left for open seas at nine in the morning, and the last ship before ten.  Well then, at two in the afternoon all units were either on fire, or sunk, or ran aground.  Admiral Cervera who swam up to Punta Cabrera, was taken prisoner by Cuban Colonel Candelario Cebreco, to whom the Admiral remarked that his duty was to surrender to the North Americans, since it was they who had vanquished him; Colonel Cebreco understood this and rendered him, under receipt, to Lieutenant Norman, commanding the Gloucester, an auxiliary yacht that millionaire John Pierpoint Morgan had donated to the U.S. NAVY upon the declaration of war.

The Spanish sailors had 510 casualties, among them 30 dead.  Almost 1,700 men fell prisoners.  The highest ranking officers that Spain lost in the disaster were Commander Villamil, the destroyer flotilla commander, and Captain Lazaga, who was in command of the cruiser Oquendo.  The prisoners were taken to Guantanamo, situated to the East of Santiago de Cuba, which was being used by the U.S. NAVY as a naval base and from which they would never leave; they were still there seventy years later.

Although the situation in Santiago de Cuba was desperate, since the blockade had affected its supplies since the end of april, and there was hunger and the state of war did not allow to attend to the public services, and although the city was shelled on the 10th and the 11th, the surrender took place only on the 16th of July.  The act of the surrender of the garrison was solemn, with all the rules of the times, but its North American organizers had a slight remiss, they ignored that they were in Cuba, that the forces of the Cuban Revolution had participated in all land actions, from Daiquiri to San Juan Hill, and in some others in which the Americans had not participated, and no Cuban commander was invited to witness, not even, the parade that officially surrendered the city to General Shafter.

Nine days after the surrender of Santiago de Cuba on July 16th, on July 27, 1898, Gen. Nelson A. Miles having left Guantanamo, landed in Guanica on the southern coast of Puerto Rico.  He was in command of 3,400 infantry, artillery, two engineer and one communications company, and an escort of five warships.  Miles landed with his forces without opposition.  Spanish detachments in that zone retreated towards Yauco and Utuado, engaging in skirmishes as they went.  On July 27, 1898, General  Wilson arrived in Guanica with reinforcements and the same day, Miles detached a formation of three ships with Commander Davis in command.  Ponce being east of Guanica, was the most important city in the southern coast, and the second most populated city in the island.  The German and British Consuls mediated between Davis and Colonel San Martin, who was in command of the Spanish detachment, and Ponce surrendered by midnight July, 27.  Gen.  Miles arrived in Ponce on July 28, in which he established his headquarters, and made a proclamation in which he assured the Puerto Rican population, that American soldiers had arrived on the island to “bring protection, not just to yourselves but to your properties.”  On the aforementioned letter of December 24, 1897, Undersecretary of War Breackseason had told Miles:  “The peaceful inhabitants will be rigorously respected, as well as their properties.”
On July 31 a force under the command of General John R. Brooke, landed in Arroyo east of Ponce.  Upon its landing, the Americans had in Puerto Rico over 15,000 men and over 100 artillery pieces.  On August 3rd, ordered an advance towards Guayama in order to proceed towards Cayey, a town located on the northside of a mountain range with the same name.  Brooke’s men were to join a column under the command of Gen. Wilson which was advancing from Ponce via Coamo; while at the same time Gen. Schwan was leaving Yauco with some 1,500 infantry, a cavalry squadron and two artillery batteries with six guns headed towards Mayaguez, the main port on the Western coast from which they were to proceed to Arecibo, a port on the northern coast. 

 Wilson entered Coamo on August 9th without having found any resistance.  The Spanish detachment in Coamo had abandoned that position and were heading to Aibonito when suddenly they found that their retreat had been cut off by the 16th Pennsylvania Regiment, thus they  had to retreat breaking through these lines, with the result that its commander Rafael Martinez Illescas, Captain Fruto Lopez and several soldiers fell in combat; and some 30 were injured and over 160 fell prisoners.  The Spanish forces in Aibonito, formed  by two companies and including two artillery pieces,  under the command of Jose Nouvillas, took up better positions in the Asomante Heights.  Wilson started an artillery bombardment of Asomante and ha d ordered to advance on the position on the 13th, but on the 12th, Spain had accepted the peace terms imposed by the United States, so that Wilson received orders to stop hostilities and Asomante was not attacked.

Spain had started peace negotiations, through the French government, as soon as it was known in Madrid that Santiago de Cuba had fallen to Shafter, but the United States government imposed from the onset conditions which Spain could not accept without making an effort that would allow it to save its dignity before the world and before its own people.  Two of those conditions were the immediate evacuation of Cuba and Puerto Rico and the ceding of Puerto Rico to the United States.  In the meantime Gen. Miles had not grouped together the forces in Guantanamo to attack Puerto Rico, an island where there was no war of independence, as in Cuba.  The American government did not answer the Spaniards’ notes arguing against those conditions.  Trapped in a military, economic and political situation from which there was no escape, Spain had to accept at the end the demands of the United States, the only way to achieve a cessation of hostilities. 

However, this had not been everything.   When talks started for the peace treaty-began in Paris on October 1st-, the American representatives refused to revise any aspects of the accords of August 12; what is more, Spain was not allowed to renounce to its sovereignty over Cuba and Puerto Rico or to transfer that sovereignty to the United States.  Both islands were legally autonomous, and therefore their peoples’ opinions were to be taken in consideration  in order to decide their destiny, but neither them nor Spain could take any decision over its present or its future; the United States wouldn’t allow it.  In the case of Puerto Rico the U.S. representatives alleged that they would retain her on account of reparations for costs of the war; thus they could say later that the island was not conquered, but taken in payment for a debt, with which they could maintain their international image of a country that has never conquered foreign territories under arms.