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Report of Capt. George J. Newgarden, Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army, of His Services at Santiago, Cuba

Spanish - American War

227

REPORT OF CAPT. GEORGE J. NEWGARDEN, ASSISTANT SURGEON, UNITED STATES ARMY, OF HIS SERVICES AT SANTIAGO, CUBA, 

WITH THE THIRD UNITED STATES CAVALRY

We arrived at Daiquiri, Cuba, on June 22 and went into camp on the side of a hill about 1 mile from the landing place. I was unable to take any supplies along, not having any transportation for the same. I succeeded in obtaining an emergency case from Major McCreery while in camp. A mackintosh and a woolen blanket constituted my protection from the elements. The brigade surgeon offered me for use with the regiment a medical and a surgical pannier, but no transportation having been provided for them I was obliged to refuse them with regret. On June 25 I made personal and thorough effort to secure transportation and supplies, but without success. I applied personally to the major-general commanding on board the Seguranca and requested a mule for a mount, but was refused. Later I succeeded in getting a Government horse from the brigade surgeon, which I managed to get equipped with a teamsters saddle and mule bridle after considerable effort. Before leaving this camp a box of first-aid packets was turned over to me and one was issued to every man and officer in the regiment. We proceeded as far as El Poso hill, where hostilities began at daylight on July 1. Captain Grimes's Battery, which was planted here, opened fire on the enemy. Reply was received in the form of a steady, well-aimed shrapnel fire, which did considerable injury to the troops of the cavalry division drawn up in column in the road below the hill. It was here that I had my first injury to dress; a bands-man of the Third Cavalry, perforating shrapnel wound of the buttock.

We marched to the San Juan River, after crossing which the command was formed for action, and it was here the actual conflict began. I observed that this point was an excellent place for a first-aid dressing station, as the bank was about 3 feet high, and there was a short or gravelly shelf running from it to the creek, where the staff officers had left their horses. I had these removed, and in conjunction with Dr. Menocal, contract surgeon on duty with the Sixth Cavalry, decided to establish here the dressing station for the Third and Sixth regiments of cavalry. By the aid of a few men with shovels I had this shelf increased in area by filling in the creek along its sides. By the time this was done the battle commenced, just over the bank. This, which was the nearest dressing station to the firing line, became, by virtue of its location, a general collecting, first aid, and ambulance station for the whole line of fire, as the only road ran right by it and it was at the regular ford of the creek on this road. The wounded came in so fast that our energies and the capacity of the station were frequently strained to their utmost. Dr. Menocal and myself cared for all corners from whatever regiments, dressing their wounds and making them comfortable, having covered the earth with leaves, and spreading the ponchos of the wounded over these. I endeavored to keep records of the wounded and the nature of their injuries, but it was absolutely impossible for the time being. I did manage, however, to keep track of the injured of my regiment fairly well, which records I completed later, after reaching the regiment on the cessation of hostilities. Improvised, litters were made of boughs and shelter halves. Men who were able to walk were allowed to proceed to the division hospital on foot, if their injuries were not grave. Those more severely injured and able to bear it were sent back on litters with bearers.

Pack wagons which passed toward the front with ammunition and commissaries were pressed into service on their return, and such wounded as could endure the rough ride were carried to the rear in this manner. Three ambulances only were available later, and in these the worst cases were transported. As it was, the capacity of the station was strained severely at all times during July 1, as the wounded were steadily pouring in from all regiments. Later in the day Maj. S. Q. Robinson arrived at the station and assumed charge until night, when the fighting ceased. During the night he proceeded to the front and presumably joined his command. Captain McCaw also reached the station about the same time with Major Robinson, and the four of us had all we could attend to in looking after the wounded. At no time was this station safe, as the bullets were coming in from all directions continually, cutting the trees all around us, and occasionally so thick that it looked like rain in the creek. Shrapnel shells were also bum-sting disagreeably close at times, as the enemy had the road enfiladed. The wounded were made quite safe under the bank, but it was very dangerous in the open, where we had to go and come continually, looking after the welfare of the injured and preventing blockade in the station by incoming troops on the way to the front. Captain McCaw remained at the station until next day, when he proceeded to rejoin his regiment, the Sixth Infantry, returning toward evening, as there was little to do


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forward, all the wounded having reached my station. During his absence on the second day the division surgeon, Maj. V. Havard, rode up to the station and ordered Dr. Menocal to join his regiment, commanding me to remain in charge of the station until relieved by orders from him. It appears that this locality, though dangerous in the extreme, so much so that it gained the name of "Bloody Angle" or "Bloody Bend," was of great value as a dressing and ambulance station while the conflict lasted. Many men were wounded at and about this station. Dr. Danforth, contract surgeon, with the Ninth Cavalry, received a mortal wound, perforating the brain. Six animals were killed on the creek bank, and one having dropped in the creek I made efforts to procure a detail to have the carcass dragged out and buried, but without success. Eventually I had to employ an ambulance team to do the work, and also Hospital Corps men to bury it and the others, as they were rapidly becoming offensive.

Chaplain Swift of the Thirteenth Infantry did excellent duty here, quieting the fears of the wounded, burying the dead, and superintending the foraging for food, in which he was very successful, securing a camp kettle and plenty of coffee, sugar, bacon, hard-tack, and canned roast beef. Coffee was kept continually boiling, and the wounded revived by the same, as well as food for those who wished to eat. Even smoking tobacco was plentiful, and it was a great boon to the injured who smoked. The sufferings of the severely wounded were quieted by hypodermics of morphine; and, on the whole, there was nothing further desired except transportation, and that we were sadly in need of. Several of the fatally injured were retained at this station over night, and made as comfortable as possible on litters with plenty of blankets, of which latter there was an abundance, as many of the volunteers had discarded them along the road. A few very severely injured who could not stand transportation in pack wagons were also retained by their own choice as well as ours, and sent safely to the rear in ambulances in the morning. On the 5th of July I received orders from Maj. V. Havard that I should abandon this station, as it was no longer needed, and was at all times dangerous, and rejoin my regiment. I immediately obeyed the order, and with Dr. Harris and Dr. Menocal started a brigade hospital behind the San Juan Hill for the three regiments, Dr. Harris being brigade surgeon in command. As the men were now succumbing to the prevailing fever, we had plenty of work on our hands. In the meantime Maj. V. Havard, division surgeon, established a supply station close to this hospital, where we replenished our medicines as needed, also receiving and dispensing such articles of sick diet as beef extract, malted milk, and canned soups and broths, etc. I continued at my duties with the regiment until I myself was stricken with a severe attack of fever on July 16, and on the 18th was sent to the division hospital for treatment.