Battle of Tayacoba

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Battle of Tayacoba
Part of the Spanish-American War
Date June 30, 1898
Location near Trinidad, Cuba
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
Spain Kingdom of Spain United States United States
Cuba Republic of Cuba
Commanders and leaders
unknown Lt. Carter P. Johnson[1]

General Emilio Núñez

Strength
100 Spanish infantry, Krupp field guns 30 infantry,
1 gunboat
Casualties and losses
unknown 1 dead,
7 wounded[2]

The Battle of Tayacoba, June 30 1898, was a disastrous American effort to land supplies and reinforcements to Cuban rebels fighting for their independence in the Spanish-American War.

Background[edit]

On June 25 the steamers USS Fanita and USS Florida accompanied by the gunboat USS Peoria[3] left Key West carrying a cargo of troops, ammunition, supplies and arms (including two dynamite guns, 4,000 Springfield rifles and 200 Mauser rifles), to aid Cuban insurgents under the command of Máximo Gómez. On board were 650 Cubans under General Emilio Núñez, fifty troopers of the Tenth U. S. Cavalry under First Lieutenant Carter P. Johnson and Second Lieutenant George P. Ahern,[4] and twenty-five Rough Riders under Captain Winthrop Astor Chanler,[5] brother of Captain William Astor Chanler.

The first attempt to land took place on June 29 near the port of Cienfuegos, at the mouth of the San Juan River, however as a result of a prior assault on May 11, the position was too heavily defended to effect a landing.[6] The American force then sailed about 40 miles east along the south coast of Cuba, to a point near the town of Trinidad. On June 30 a landing party went ashore on a beachhead just west of Tunas de Zaza, near the mouth of the Tallabacoa River (mispronounced 'Tayacoba' by the Americans).[7]

Battle[edit]

Four miles west of the town, at the mouth of the river, stood a large fort built of railroad iron, surrounded by earthworks and defended by about 100 Spanish regulars. The Peoria fired several shots with her three-pounders into the fort but there was no response. Before dropping off mules, men, and materiel, a party of 30 Cubans and Americans led by Captain Jose Manuel Núñez (brother of General Núñez) and including Winthrop Chanler and Dr. William Louis Abbott, went ashore to ensure the safety of the landing site, about 500 yards east of the fort.[8]

Private Dennis Bell was awarded the Medal of Honor after participating in the rescue of Cuban soldiers on the beach at Tayacoba.

Rowing onto the beach, the force crept into the jungle but was discovered by Spanish scouts and came under heavy fire.[9] Unable to retaliate or even protect themselves, the Americans retreated onto the beach only to find that their boats had been sunk by Spanish cannon fire. Captain Núñez died of a gunshot wound to the head,[10] Chanler was shot in the elbow,[11] and Abbott was shot through the right shoulder.[12] Five Cuban soldiers were also wounded. The party took cover in a mangrove swamp and one of them, a German surgeon named Dr. Maximilian Lund[13] swam out to the Peoria (naked and armed only with a knife to fend off sharks) to report that survivors on the beach were in need of assistance.[14]

Rescue[edit]

The Peoria continued firing at the Spanish troops, who were hidden behind a grove of coconut palms.[5] On the Florida Lieutenant Johnson began organizing rescue attempts. The first four were dispersed by heavy enemy fire and forced to retreat, but the fifth, operating under cover of darkness and crewed by four men of the U.S. 10th Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Ahern, successfully located the Cuban survivors. The body of Captain Núñez was left on the beach.[5]

Just before sunrise, a second boat manned by Lieutenant Ahern and war correspondent (later Lieutenant) Grover Flint[15] located Chanler and Abbott.[6] Once they were safely aboard, the Florida promptly left the bay.[16]

Aftermath[edit]

The USS Helena

On the afternoon of July 2 the Peoria returned to the mouth of the Tallacaboa River accompanied by the USS Helena and shelled the fort for 30 minutes, damaging the fort and the earthworks. The force then proceeded east to Palo Alto where the troops and supplies disembarked on July 3.[5]

On June 23 1899 four of the five rescuers, Sergeant William H. Thompkins,[17] Corporal George H. Wanton,[18] Trooper Dennis Bell,[19] and Trooper Fitz Lee,[20] all of the 10th US Cavalry, were awarded Medals of Honor for their heroism. Winthrop Chanler returned to his home in Barrytown, New York to recover from his injuries. He returned briefly to military service as a Captain in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.[6] William Louis Abbott recovered from his wound and returned to his previous occupation as an ornithologist.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anthony L. Powell, "Black Participation in the Spanish-American War."
  2. ^ "Landing Aid for Cubans: The Little Peoria Covers Herself with Glory," The New York Daily Tribune, Friday July 15, 1898, p. 2.
  3. ^ Edward L. N. Glass, The History of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921, Acme Printing Company, 1921, p. 32.
  4. ^ Frank N. Schubert, Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870 - 1898, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009; ISBN 1442201932.
  5. ^ a b c d Rice, Wallace, editor. Heroic Deeds in Our War with Spain: An Episodic History of the Fighting of 1898 on Sea and Shore, G.M. Hill, 1898.
  6. ^ a b c Thomas, Lately. The Astor Orphans: A Pride of Lions, W. Morrow, 1971.
  7. ^ Richard H. Titherington, A History of the Spanish-American War of 1898, New York: D. Appleton and Company 1900, p. 149.
  8. ^ "In a Hot Engagement: Captain Nunez was Killed, Winthrop Chanler and Five Others Wounded." The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA July 14, 1898, p. 2.
  9. ^ Carl Ploense III, "A Unit History of the 10th Cavalry Regiment."
  10. ^ "Captain Nunez Killed Outright," The Day, New London, CT, July 15, 1898, p. 1.
  11. ^ "EXPEDITION LANDS AFTER A COMBAT American Force Carries Out a Daring Project With the Loss of Only One Life." San Francisco Call, Volume 84, Number 45, 15 July 1898, p. 2
  12. ^ James Otis, The Boys of 98, Ch. XIV "Minor Events." Dana Estes, 1898.
  13. ^ "Acting Assistant Surgeons in the Army," in George Frederick Shrady, Thomas Lathrop Stedman, eds. Medical Record, Volume 57. W. Wood, 1900; pp. 561-62.
  14. ^ "NUNEZ KILLED; Chanler's Brother Wounded - Filibusters Get Near the Fire Line." Minneapolis Journal, July 15, 1898, p. 8.
  15. ^ Grover Flint, Marching with Gomez: A War-Correspondent's Field Note-Book Kept during Four Months with the Cuban Army, New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1899.
  16. ^ "FIGHTING FILIBUSTERS; Expedition to Cuba Has Several Brushes with Spaniards. GEN. NUNEZ'S BROTHER KILLED. Winthrop Chanler of New York and Five Cubans Wounded. Guns of the Peoria Do Great Execution Among the Enemy -- Two Shiploads of Supplies for the Insurgents Landed." New York Times, July 14 1898.
  17. ^ William H. Thompkins, Medal of Honor Recipient
  18. ^ George Henry Wanton, Medal of Honor Recipient
  19. ^ Dennis Bell, Medal of Honor Recipient
  20. ^ Fitz Lee, Medal of Honor Recipient
  21. ^ William Louis Abbott Papers, Record Unit 7117, Abbott, William Louis (1860-1936) Smithsonian Institution Archives