The Spanish-Cuban-American War (1898) was entering its decisive stage when at dawn on June 22, the U.S. Army began landing at the Daiquiri Beach that had been secured by Cuban forces under the command of General Demetrio Castillo Duany and Colonel Carlos Gonzalez Clavel. (A force of over one thousand Cuban veteran fighters).
Three days before (June 19), while the invasion army was on its way to Oriente, General Calixto Garcia, second in command of the Cuban Army of Independence, arrived at the small coastal hamlet of El Aserradero where he was invited by Admiral William Sampson to come on board the cruiser New York. Strategic options were discussed in this meeting that included General of the U.S. Army William Shafter. General Calixto Garcia’s plan was adopted. The Cuban General proposed the landing of the invasion force on the beaches of Daiquiri and Siboney, 12 miles east of Santiago, and to fight the decisive battle at the gates of the old city. A Cuban contingent was shipped in U.S. transports and taken to Sigua beach, from where, led by General Demetrio Castillo Duany, they advanced and secured Daiquiri Beach. By night fall (June 22) over 6,000 American soldiers were in Cuba. The following day (June 23) the combined forces of Cubans and Americans took Siboney beach. Around noon some of the boat loads of U.S. troops began landing there. By late evening the U.S. Army had landed 17,000 men, 26 pieces of artillery and four Gatling machine guns.
Upon arriving at Siboney, Major General Joseph Wheeler, learned from General Castillo that there was a considerable force of Spanish troops, dug-in-with artillery, on the heights of “Las Guásimas.” Wheeler, a 62-year-old former Confederate General and Colonel Gonzalez Clavel and the “Rough Riders” led by Colonel “Teddy" Roosevelt, attacked the Spanish forces. It was a bitter fight but fearing a flanking attack coming from the coastal road, the Spaniards retreated into Santiago's outer defenses.
The U.S. army was advancing through dense vegetation and mountains, which covered most of the region and the few roads turned into mud during the rainy season. For the average soldier, the natural environment was harsh and deadly. The United States was learning the hard facts of fighting in the hot, humid, mosquito-infested hills of this tropical island. With Yellow Fever about to strike the troops, the Americans needed to move swiftly to avoid a catastrophe.
*Pedro Roig is Executive Director of the Cuban Studies Institute. Roig is an attorney and historian that has written several books, including the Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba. He is a veteran of the Brigade 2506.