In The First Land Fight Four of Our Men are Killed

Stephen Crane

New York World June 13, 1898

ON BOARD THE WORLD DISPATCH BOAT TRITON, OFF GUANTANAMO, VIA PORT ANTONIO, JAMAICA, June 12.—For thirteen hours the marines, under Lieut.-Col. Huntington, who landed from the Panther and raised Old Glory over the battered fortifications of the Spanish at the mouth of Guantanamo harbor, sustained an attack made by the Spaniards.

Four of our men were killed and one wounded. The killed are: Assistant Surgeon JOHN BLAIR GIBBS, of Richmond, Va. Sergt. CHARLES H. SMITH, of Smallwood. Private WILLIAM DUNPHY, of Gloucester, Mass. Private JAMES McCOLGAN, of Stoneham, Mass.

Corporal Glass was slightly wounded on the head.

The advance pickets under Lieuts. Neville and Shaw are thought to be prisoners.

The attack began at 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon. It lasted with almost continuous skirmishing until this morning.

It is not known how great was the Spanish loss. Their dead and wounded were carried off. It is thought from blood splashes found after the fighting that their loss was heavy.

The Spaniards advanced upon our outposts through thick tropical underbrush and began firing.

Sergt. Smith, who was at the extreme picket post relieving the guard, fell at the first fire.

The firing at first was desultory. The Spaniards drove in the outposts, a part of Capt. Spicer’s company.

They fell back upon the camp, where the fighting was continued until 5 o’clock, when the Spaniards were repulsed.

Capt. McCalla landed reinforcements from the marines of the Marblehead in the launch. Ensign Sullivan afterward went close to the shore in the launch trying to draw the enemy’s fire, but failed to accomplish this.

The bodies of Privates McColgan and Dunphy were found in the brush. Both were shot in the head. The large cavities caused by the bullets, which inside a range of 500 yards have a rotary motion, indicate that they were killed at close range. Their bodies were stripped of shoes, hats and cartridges and horribly mutilated.

The marines received the attack upon the camp formed into three sides of a hollow square. The country about was craggy, cut with ravines and covered with a tropical thicket. The Spaniards up to midnight attacked from the cover of this undergrowth.

The afternoon was cloudy and the night windy. After sunset it grew very dark. At night the enemy was discoverable only by the flashes of their arms, save when occasionally the searchlights of the ships sweeping along the deep foliage discovered a party of the Spaniards.

Whenever this happened the guns of the marines lined along the camp and the machine gun of the launch of the Marblehead volleyed at the assailants.

The launch pushed up the bay along the shore firing upon the Spaniards with her gun. It is believed that her fire was deadly.

About midnight the Spaniards charged up the hill from the southwest upon the camp. Under repeated volleys of bullets they broke and retreated. So close did they come that revolvers were used.

Three Spaniards got to the edge of the camp, where Col. Jose Campina, the Cuban guide, fired upon them. They turned and ran helter-skelter down the hills.

It was during this assault that Assistant Surgeon Gibbs was killed. He was shot in the head in front of his own tent. He fell into the arms of Private Sullivan and both dropped. A second bullet threw dust in their faces. Surgeon Gibbs lived ten minutes, but did not regain consciousness.

Firing was kept up by small squads of Spaniards. The marines had lain upon their arms, and some of them, worn out with the fatigue of two days of labor and fighting almost without rest, had fallen asleep. At dawn all were aroused in anticipation of a second assault, but one was not made.

When daylight made it possible to use field guns three twelve-pounders opened upon the few Spaniards then visible, who fled.

Our men behaved well and are praised by their officers. The great majority of them had never before been under fire, and though a night attack is especially trying not one of them flinched.

They themselves give credit for courage to the Spaniards, whom they express a desire to meet again.

It is thought that most of the attacking party were guerillas.

It is not known how large the force of Spaniards were. They are said to be 3,000 strong in the vicinity of Guantanamo.

Three hundred Cubans were expected to occupy today the point opposite the camp.

Dr. John Blair Gibbs, who was killed at Guantanamo harbor, was known in New York.

His friends here say that he was highly courageous. He was forty years old, of medium height and strongly built. When war was imminent he was one of the first to offer his services to the government. Two months ago he was ordered to the Surgeon-General of the Navy at Washington, and his friends understood he was appointed acting Assistant Surgeon. Later he was ordered to the transport Panther.

Dr. Gibbs had been practicing in this city for four years. He was in partnership with Dr. Parker Syms, at No. 60 West Forty-seventh Street. He had marked ability in his profession.

He came of two old Virginia families, the Blairs and the Gibbses. His father is dead, his mother is in Virginia, his brother lives at Altoona, Pa., and a cousin, Mrs. Roosevelt, in this city.

Dr. Gibbs was graduated from Rutgers College in 1878, and was a member of the University Club, the Southern Society and the Rutgers Alumni Association.

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