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Maceo`s Challenge: Crossing the Spanish Defence Line
Cuban cavalry charge
Cuba 1895
Martinez Campos, regretting that he had not requested a greater number of troops, accepted the 26,835 men the Queen Regent and the young King had sent off at the pier in Vitoria in an elaborate ceremony of sentimental farewell attended by the populace and featuring music and oratory. The contingent brought the total of Spanish soldiers on the Island to some 37,000. Soon after arrival, the total would be reduced by the usual twenty percent claimed by fever, the change of climate, and diet. Fighting methods, as practiced by the Spaniards, caused unnecessary losses, for the men were not taught how to combat the surprise machete attacks of the Cubans. The collective opinion of Spanish veterans was that four Spanish soldiers on the Island equalled one able combatant.

The entire month of August was given over to skirmishes and battles, in a munition-short situation. On the 30th he received an urgent summons from his brother Jose to come to his aid as the Spaniards, aware that he was incapacitated with sciatica, were about to overwhelm him. Maceo went forward and engaged the Spaniards in a nine-hour bloody battle in the craggy area of Sao del Indio. As the battle progressed, he issued an order allowing the Spaniards to move on. He had had bombs placed in the path of the enemy; on explosion the column was expected to retreat in panic into the waiting rebel lines. Instead they continued forward, leaving the injured on the field, and moving away from the murderous rebel attack.

The Maceo brothers renewed the battle, which continued for thirty- six hours, mustering what men they could since they too had suffered great losses and were short of ammunition. Incidents of great valor were recorded by the insurrectionists, and in due course Madrid acknowledged that they had been beaten in Sao del Indio. Though the count of casualties differed in various reports to the Peninsula, in the final reckoning the figures were given at eight officers and one hundred soldiers killed in action; forty seven wounded. The rebels admitted to eighty-nine casualties out of a total of six hundred men. The Spaniards claimed there were 3,500 insurrectionists in this action, which is a considerable difference and attests to the punishment they received. In this instance, it can be assumed that the rebels` claim to a force of six hundred represented their total men in battle.

by Magdalen M. Pando
Article ID 150
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