Buku The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

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The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

Author:Clay Risen

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Scribner

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The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

CHAPTER 11

“AN AMPHITHEATER FOR THE BATTLE”

At about 4 a.m. on July 1, the nearly 17,000 men who comprised General Shafter’s Fifth Corps crawled from under their blankets and out of their tents. There had been no bugle blasting reveille, so as not to warn the Spanish. Instead, sergeants went from man to man, shaking them awake. More than 10,000 soldiers were encamped around El Poso and Sevilla; the rest were already a few miles north, preparing for the assault on El Caney. If the men climbed the slopes of El Poso and peered hard enough, they could see the glow of central Santiago, seven miles away, framing San Juan Hill like a halo. Where they had time and inclination, they set small fires to boil coffee or fry some bacon. Most just ate a few pieces of hardtack and called it breakfast. No one spoke. Few had any illusion about what the day had in store for them. The night before, word had passed down—that morning, they were going to take the heights.1

 

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The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

 

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The Crowded Hour by Clay Risen

Author:Clay Risen , Date: June 21, 2019

,Views: 69

Author:Clay Risen

Language: eng

Format: epub

Publisher: Scribner
CHAPTER 11

“AN AMPHITHEATER FOR THE BATTLE”

At about 4 a.m. on July 1, the nearly 17,000 men who comprised General Shafter’s Fifth Corps crawled from under their blankets and out of their tents. There had been no bugle blasting reveille, so as not to warn the Spanish. Instead, sergeants went from man to man, shaking them awake. More than 10,000 soldiers were encamped around El Poso and Sevilla; the rest were already a few miles north, preparing for the assault on El Caney. If the men climbed the slopes of El Poso and peered hard enough, they could see the glow of central Santiago, seven miles away, framing San Juan Hill like a halo. Where they had time and inclination, they set small fires to boil coffee or fry some bacon. Most just ate a few pieces of hardtack and called it breakfast. No one spoke. Few had any illusion about what the day had in store for them. The night before, word had passed down—that morning, they were going to take the heights.1

On paper, the battle that unfolded that day paled in every way to the major engagements of the Civil War—Antietam and Gettysburg, of course, but also fights that have receded from common memory, like Malvern Hill and Perryville. And it was nothing like the weeks-long battles that would follow it in the twentieth century, like Belleau Wood and Iwo Jima and Hue. It was a one-day assault on the outer defenses of a provincial capital in the Caribbean, with a few hundred deaths on both sides. The Spanish defenses were formidable, but the landscape could not compare with the imposing escarpments that Union soldiers scaled at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, in 1863, or that Army Rangers climbed at Pointe du Hoc, on D-day.

And yet the Battle of San Juan Heights remains among the most important, celebrated, and contested engagements in American history. Numbers and topography tell us little about why the soldiers that morning, from Shafter to Roosevelt to the greenest volunteer private, felt in their bones the extraordinary significance of what they were about to undertake. For many it was to be their first experience of combat, and for most, their last. They were right to be afraid; by the end of the day, one out of every six of them would be dead or wounded. But there was something else, something collective and energizing and, in a way, much more daunting than the prospect of being shot by a Mauser bullet. If they carried the day, they would declare to the world that the United States Army could beat a European military power. And they were not just any army, but a small, untested force of enlisted regulars and barely trained volunteers, a force that most Europeans would dismiss as hardly an army at all.

Few Americans paused to think that Spain had long ceased being a first-rate empire, or that the soldiers arrayed against them had been dragooned into service, then physically weakened and emotionally demoralized by three years of counterinsurgency warfare.

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