The Junior Patriot: The Battle for San Juan Heights

After successfully defeating the Spanish fleet in Manila, the U.S. turned its attention to Cuba.  With around 200,000 troops in Cuba, Spain was definitely a major, if not dominant, force in Cuba.  To counter this force, the President sent the Fifth Corps and a superior navel force to capture and blockade Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city in Cuba.

Major General Shafter, in command, planned to assault the two hills of San Juan Heights, which overlooked Santiago, simultaneously supported by dismounted cavalry and 4 gatling guns.

The plan did NOT work! While assembling in the open, the Spaniards rained down gunfire so fierce that some places became known as ”Hell’s Pocket” or ”Bloody Ford”. To make this worse, no one ordered a charge, so the men were standing and getting killed.  Who would save these bold men?

At last, Col. Theodore Roosevelt, commander of the ”Rough Riders”, was tired of this bloodshed. He decided to get out of there.  The only way was up, as more and more troops gathered behind him.  He made a brave decision. He charged up the hill into that fatal gunfire.  At the end of the day, those tired men found themselves looking at Santiago. And the very next day, they began the siege.

The lesson is, once again, preparedness.  Or rather, the consequences of a lack of preparedness.  This deficiency was the main reason that the US suffered 114 deaths and 1,024 wounded.  Preparedness could have saved the US many casualties and could have captured the whole Spanish force.  Only because of Roosevelt’s bold decision were the casualties not higher.  We never know what might happen, so being prepared might not do anything, or it might mean everything.


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