Theodore Anderson Baldwin
Brigadier General, United States Army
Private, and Quartermaster Sergeant, 19th United States Infantry, 3 May 1862 to 3 May 1865
Second Lieutenant and First Lieutenant, 19th United States Infantry, 9 February 1865
Regimental Quartermaster, 23 November 1866 to 23 July 1867
Captain, 23 July 1867
Unassigned 31 March 1869
Assigned to 10th United States Cavalry, 15 December 1870
Major, 7th United States Cavalry, 5 October 1887
Lieutenant Colonel, 10th United States Cavalry, 11 December 1896
Brigadier General, United States Volunteers, 6 October 1898
Honorably discharged from the Volunteer Service, 31 January 1899
Colonel, 7th United States Cavalry, 6 May 1899
Brigadier General, United States Army, 19 April 1903
Retired from active duty, 20 April 1903
Courtesy of the United States Army Center For Military History:
About 8:00 on the morning of 1 July, 1898, came the crash of artillery, first American, followed by Spanish. For forty-five minutes the duel continued with the Americans getting the worst of it. Their black powder guns poured smoke, revealing their positions, while the Spanish guns, using smokeless powder, remained hidden. Near Pershing, a Hotchkiss gun exploded, wounding two troopers. The frightened Cuban insurgents who were with Pershing fled.
As the barrage subsided, the Americans started down the ridge and moved forward along a jungle path. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore A. Baldwin, commanding the10th, ordered Pershing to act as a guide for the regiment, making sure it found its objectives and kept an orderly advance. The task was difficult; scattered artillery and rifle fire rained down as the men mixed with elements of the 71st New York Infantry along clogged roads inadequate for such large numbers. Pershing could do little but sit on his horse and shout orders to the men. Then to make matters worse, an observation balloon was sent up above the advancing column, drawing fire and revealing the American route of approach. The Spanish soon concentrated their fire on the area around the balloon, whose observer responded by telling the troops below that the Spanish were firing on them. Pershing and his cavalrymen were decidedly unimpressed by this intelligence.
Pershing, along with three other officers from the brigade, was posted in a stream bed where he dismounted to better urge the men forward. Standing in waist-high water, he led one squadron after another forward through exploding shells and intense Mauser fire. As he ran back and forth bringing up squadrons, he spotted Major General Joseph Wheeler, the division commander, and his staff, mounted on their horses in the middle of the Aguadores River. As Pershing saluted, a shell landed between the two men, drenching them both with water. Wheeler returned the salute, wheeled his horse around, and left.
Enemy fire intensified, and panic ensued as men fell everywhere. Eventually, by continually running back into the jungle, finding lost groups, and guiding them forward, Pershing managed to get the 10th across the river. During the action he was continually exposed to enemy fire. One officer who appreciated Pershing’s efforts to organize the men under fire commented that "the gallant Pershing . . . was as cool as a bowl of cracked ice."
As the men of the division waited at the edge of a wooded area below the two American objectives, San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill, they began taking more fire. Spanish snipers, in their elevated position, had a clear shot at any cavalryman who stood. Casualties mounted, a half-hour passed, and still no orders arrived to attack. Finally, First Lieutenant Jules Ord of the 6th Infantry decided that he had had enough. Shirtless, with a bayonet in one hand and a pistol in the other, he yelled to his men, "Follow me, we can’t stay here." Ord’s charge energized the Rough Riders and parts of the 10th to join the attack. Pershing was amazed and proud at what he saw: "Each officer or soldier next in rank took charge of the line or group immediately in his front or rear and halting to fire at each good opportunity, taking reasonable advantage of cover, the entire command moved forward as coolly as though the buzzing of bullets was the humming of bees. White regiments, black regiments, regulars and Rough Riders, representing the young manhood of the North and the South, fought shoulder to shoulder, unmindful of race or color, unmindful of whether commanded by ex-Confederate or not, and mindful of only their common duty as Americans."
The men waded across the San Juan River and rushed forward, slowed only momentarily by a barbed-wire fence, which most chose to climb under. In the confusion the men of the 10th divided themselves between Ord’s 6th Infantry charging up San Juan Hill and Roosevelt’s Rough Riders attacking Kettle Hill. Pershing found himself with the Rough Riders, running up the exposed slopes of Kettle Hill. It was quickly taken. In the last push to the top he saw the Spanish fleeing their positions and heading for Santiago.
Pershing had a perfect view from Kettle Hill of the ongoing fight for San Juan Hill. Realizing how tenuous it was, he, and the other men on Kettle Hill, rushed forward to assist. There they struggled against the worst fire Wheeler, a Confederate Civil War veteran, had ever seen. Despite the enemy salvos, the men pushed forward, assisted by the timely arrival of a few Gatling guns brought forward for the attack. A battle yell went up along the American line. After a final, brief American artillery barrage, the troops made a final lunge for the top. Ord, with the help of the 10th Cavalry, was the first American to reach San Juan’s summit, where he was immediately killed by enemy fire.
The victory was not without its price. Dead and wounded men lay all over the hill. The 10th Cavalry lost half its officers and roughly 20 percent of its men. Pershing came upon a wounded officer and asked him if he was badly hurt. "I don’t know," he replied, "but we whipped them, anyway, didn’t we?" Pershing also was witness to the moral character of his men when he saw a Buffalo Soldier stop at a trench filled with Spanish dead and wounded, gently lift the head of a wounded officer, and give him the last drops of water out of his canteen.
Although driven from the heights of San Juan,
the Spanish had not surrendered. At 3:00 a.m. their artillery again opened
up on the American positions as small arms fire picked up. The men of the
10th manned their posts and waited for the expected counterattack, but
none came. By 5:30 in the morning the firing began to slacken. Just before
dawn, entrenching equipment and ammunition arrived, but no food for the
hungry victors. As the sun rose, Spanish snipers began firing at anything
The firing continued into the next day, but actions farther afield most heartened the American soldiers. About 9:00 a.m. on 3 July, men heard heavier explosions reverberating from the south of Santiago. It was the guns of Rear Adm. William Sampson’s U.S. fleet routing Admiral Cervera’s Spanish squadron as it attempted to flee from Santiago. Like their navy, the Spanish troops in Santiago could neither flee nor survive. General Shafter sent a message of truce to Santiago. He initially gave the Spanish until 10:00 a.m. on 4 July to surrender or American ground and naval artillery would shell the city. This deadline was later extended.
During the truce, the men of the 10th continued to strengthen their positions. While the soldiers worked, Pershing read to them two messages of commendation; one from President William McKinley and the other from Major General Nelson Miles, the Commanding General of the Army. Miles said that he would arrive in Cuba soon with reinforcements. The men exulted in Miles’ promise. Soon after, Cuban refugees from the city, hoping to escape the expected bombardment, began to cross into the American lines. Pershing was moved at what he saw:
"Old and young, women, children and decrepit men of every class—those refined and used to luxury, together with the ragged beggar—crowded each other in this narrow column. It was a pitiful sight; from daylight until dark the miserable procession trooped past. The suffering of the innocent is not the least of the horrors of war."
As the truce lengthened, Shafter kept up the verbal pressure on the Spanish while his men advanced their siege trenches and living conditions worsened. The rainy season began, drenching the men and filling their trenches with water. The Americans started coming down with malaria and yellow fever. Pershing was no exception. Soon he was wracked with malarial fever, but this merely slowed him down. Traveling back to a supply depot, Pershing bargained successfully for a wagon which gave him the means to bring his men food, bed rolls, tenting equipment, medical supplies, and cooking utensils. Pershing was everywhere obtaining gear. He visited docks, depots, and any place else where he thought he could find some comforts for his men. He made a special effort to bring up personal baggage to front-line officers.
Spanish authorities soon realized the situation inside Santiago was hopeless, and, with permission from his government in Madrid, General de División José Toral agreed on 15 July to surrender the city. The formal capitulation took place on 17 July 1898. After General Toral handed his sword to General Shafter, the American troops were drawn up in a line along their six miles of trenches to witness the raising of the Stars and Stripes above the government palace in Santiago. At exactly 12:00 noon, a cheer went up from the American lines as artillery boomed a salute. The campaign was over.
First Lieutenant John Pershing had excelled in his role during the Santiago campaign. He led troops, filled in for fallen officers, braved enemy fire, and kept his men well supplied. Officers who witnessed his actions were quick to praise. Colonel Baldwin, his regimental commander, wrote Pershing: "You did some tall rustling, and if you had not we would have starved. . . . I have been through many fights and through the Civil War, but on my word ‘you were the coolest and bravest man I ever saw under fire in my life’ and carried out your orders to the letter—no matter where it called you." But the greatest praise Pershing received came from Brigadier General Leonard Wood, newly appointed military governor of Santiago, who wrote to the adjutant general of Pershing’s accomplishments. The letter was passed to President McKinley who wrote on it: "Appoint to a Major, if there is a vacancy."
During his seven-day cruise back to the United
States in August, Pershing reflected on what he had learned. He had found
the fighting spirit of American soldiers excellent, even among the volunteers.
As long as men were moving forward their confidence rose; sloth and disease
set in only when the troops halted. Keeping units together instead of splitting
them up also helped maintain esprit de corps. Pershing also realized that
weapons had to be upgraded to include smokeless rifles and artillery; and
old commanders would have to be replaced with younger, more agile men.
The greatest problem facing the Army, however, was supply. If the Army
could not keep supplies coming forward it could not succeed in battle.
Pershing focused his complaints in this sphere on civilian staff who lacked
the competence needed in wartime. "Good commissary and quartermaster sergeants
or clerks would have been infinitely better and more deserving," he concluded.
Lessons Pershing learned during the Spanish-American War were invaluable.
He would draw on them two decades later when he led the largest overseas
American army into battle on the fields of France.
BALDWIN, CECELIA DE JEUNE