`...But the next morning they were able to go to Sancti Spiritus
— `a forsaken place, and in a most unhealthy state. Smallpox and yellow fever are rife` They beat General Valdez and his column by a short head and on the following day set out with them on a march to the village of Iguara, blockaded by the insurgents with the object of protecting a supply convoy.
On November 29 news came that a band of 4000 insurgents under Maximo Gomez was encamped a few miles to the east of Iguara and at 5 a.m. on November 30 (1895 L.D.) General Valdez set out from Arroyo Blanco
, in pursuit of the insurgents.
There was a low mist as we moved off in the early morning, and all of a sudden the rear of the column was involved in firing. In those across open ground under a very heavy fire,` he wrote to his mother when he got back to his hotel in Havana on December 6.
`The General, a very brave man—in a white and gold uniform on a grey horse—drew a great deal of fire on to us and I heard enough bullets whistle and hum past to satisfy me for some time to come. He rode right up to within 500 yards of the enemy and there we waited till the fire of the Spanish infantry drove them from their position. We had great luck in not losing more than we did—but as a rule the rebels shot very high. We stayed by the General all the time and so were in the most dangerous place in the field. The General recommended us for the Red Cross—a Spanish Decoration given to Officers—and coming in the train yesterday, by chance I found Marshal Campos and his staff, who told me that it would be sent us in due course.`
Though he was not subsequently to be allowed to wear the Spanish decoration, the Red Cross was to be a heavy one to bear in the ensuing weeks. The popular and provincial press both in England and in New York made scathing comments when they heard that Churchill
had been with the government forces. `Sensible people` wrote the Newcastle Leader on December 7, `will wonder what motive could possibly impel a British officer to mix himself up in a dispute with the merits of which he had absolutely nothing to do.
was supposed to have gone to the West Indies for a holiday, he having obtained leave of absence from his regimental duties at the beginning of October for that purpose. Spending a holiday infighting other people`s battles is rather an extraordinary proceeding even for a Churchill
The Eastern Morning News on the same day commented: `difficulties are certain to arise and Lord Wolseley will probably order him to return at once and report himself.`
As soon as he returned to Tampa Churchill
denied that he had fought against the Cuban
s. `1 have not even fired a revolver. I am a member of General Valdes`s staff by courtesy only, and am decorated with the Red Cross only by courtesy.` In New York he gave interviews to the press who received his views with a mixture of grudging respect and tolerant amusement. `One conspicuous feature of this war
` he told them, `is the fact that so few men are killed. There can be no question as to the immense amount of ammunition expended on both sides, but the surprising truth remains that ridiculous little execution is done. It has always been said, you know, that it takes 200 bullets to kill a soldier, but as applied to the Cuban war
200,000 shots would be closer to the mark.`