From “My Memories of Cuba”
John H. Clifford
1st Battalion, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba 1898
Printed in “The Leathneck” June 1929
After the Maine was blown up, Feb. 15, 1898, Americans became incensed about the tragedy and many volunteered for action. On April 6, 1898, orders came from Col. Charles Heywood, Commandant of the Marine Corps, to gather and assemble into a battalion for duty in Cuba. After training in Key West, Florida, the battalion broke camp, June 6, went aboard the USS Panther and on June 10, landed at Guantanamo Bay under cover of the guns of the Texas, Marblehead and Yosemite. The battalion established Camp McCalla.
John H. Clifford’s words:
The first brush with the enemy occurred on the night of June 11, a night which will never be forgotten by the men of the 1st Marine Battalion. It was pitch dark, rain fell in torrents and heavy fire from our trenches was directed over the enemy’s lines. A surprise attack engaged our outposts under the command of Captain Spicier and at another location under LT Wendell C. Neville. The latter, with 30 men, returned the fire and held back the enemy.
During the night, desultory fire opened on the camp by small parties from differnt directions on five occasions. Pvts. McColgan and Dumphy, who were on outpost duty with Company LD, were killed in one of the first engagements, each of which recieved eight wounds, any one of which would have caused death.
About 1 a.m., a combined attack was made and Acting Asst. Sur. John Blair Gibbs, USN, was killed while later in the morning on the 12th, Sgt C. H. Smith was killed and several other enlisted men were wounded.
The attacks continued on the night of the 12th and Sgt. Maj. Henry Good was killed. Firing on the camp persisted on the 13th and at 8 a.m. on the 14th, a rather smart fire was opened on the camp but it was soon repelled.
Early in the morning of the 14th, a force consisting of Companies C and D and a few native troops, proceeded through the hills about six miles. What a day it was! The hills were steep, the roads mere trails and a blistering Cuban sun shone down. An extra load of ammunition on our backs added to our discomfort. One of the boys said to Lt. Neville: “We never can get up those hills. We go up one foot and slip back six.”
“You won’t if you stand there and look at them,” replied Lt. Neveille. “Get up. Dig in. We must get there.”
And we did! Nothing could stand against those machine guns of ours. We were continually in action against the Spanish but our heavy rifle fire mowed them down like grass before a blade. We reached our objective, destroyed a blockhouse and a well of drinking water and captured 38 Spanish prisoners together with rifles and ammuniation. It was reported that 60 of the enemy were killed and 150 wounded while our force lost according to the offical report, two Cubans killed, two wounded and three privates wounded.
We were very tired when we returned that night. Many of the boys suffered from bleeding feet, caused by thorny cactus. In all, the Marines lost five killed and 11 severely wounded while there were several minor casualties. Ina dditon to those I mentioned, Pvt. Goode Taurman was killed in one of the earlier encounters.
We continued to hold the area until the battalion embarked on the Resolute August 5, 1898.
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