Newsgroups: soc.culture.cuba Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 09:45:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: Larry Daley <>
To: William Bridges <>
Subject: Funston at Las Guasimas in 1898?
Message-ID: <>

Funston at Las Guasimas in 1898?

By Larry Daley, 21 July, 1997


Last night i watched the "Rough Riders" a Turner production on TNT. And I was struck by two things.

(a) the appearance of Fred Funston just prior to the action at Las Guasimas. No it is not that i begrudge the apparently spurious insertion of Funston in a film for dramatic effect, when i believe he was on the way to the Phillipines, nor the disparagement of the small but critical Cuban artillery. I know that Fred was not there but certainly he deserved to be. What struck me was the interesting statement placed in the mouth of an actor portraying one of the Rough Riders or was it General Wheeler, to the effect that he believed Fred was working for the State Department. This is a thought that had crossed by mind before and may well be worth exploring.

(b) Crouch's book also arrived yesterday via interlibrary loan, and i started to reread it, with the images of the film fresh in my mind. Crouch's book (Crouch, Thomas W. A (1975) Yankee Guerrilla Federick Funston and the Cuban Insurrection, 1896-1897. Memphis State University Press. ISBN 0-87870-027-7) like the Turner film director's directors and script writers miss a extremely significant point. In this film there is expression of puzzlement as to how the Spanish did not attempt to stop the US landing at the beaches.

The reality of the situation is quite simple, the Spanish could not do that because the beachheads had been cleared, as agreed to in a prior Sierra Maestra meeting with the US forces leadership, by the Cuban insurgent forces. The Spanish knew that even if they used a massive deployment and simply displaced the Cuban forces again this not only would cause great Spanish casualities but would catch them between US Naval guns from the sea and heavy Cuban fire from land. This would haved placed the Spanish forces in untenable positions.

All this came about because of the losses of Spanish fortified staging positions in the interior of Oriente. With the losses of these positions such as, Tunas, Guisa and Bayamo, Spanish lines would have been over extended and overland distances too hard to fight through. In addition in this situation, Spanish military intelligence of the landings sites and the landings progress, was screened by Greatgrandfathers (General Garcia's) very mobile cavalry and extremely fast infantry.

The whole point of this is that Greatgrandfathers forces control of the country side and critical military points allowed these US landings --so poorly organized as to be chaotic-- to succeed and this was decisive. Since Fred's initial development, training and unique methods of deployment of Cuban artillery allowed this control of the Cuban countryside. And since Fred's Cuban successors in that charge, Portuondo if i remember correctly, became as competent and successful as Fred (note the victory at Guisa when Fred was incapacitated) one could say that Fred's actions and training played a large role in assuring victory in the Spanish-Cuban-American War.

However, Fred by that time had been captured by the Spanish, had given his word of parole not the fight the Spanish, and been released to go to the US through the mediation of Robert E. Lees nephew Fitzhugh Lee, the US consul in Havana. Therefore, as a man of honor Fred did not go to Cuba at that time and thus was not there to see the fruits of his work. Instead Fred went on to capture Aguinaldo in the the Phillipines, and later negotiate the 1906 rebellion in Cuba, and stop with dynamite the fire after the earthquake in San Francisco.

Thus despite his fine groundbreaking work - with rare details such as Fred's Artic expeditions--, Crouch seems unaware of many details that could be derived from Cuban sources. The details over looked include that Fred was surely aware that Grandfather Calixto Enamorado -- so tactfully decribed by Fred as a nephew-- was in reality a brother to Carlos Garcia and also a son of Greatgrandfather. Fred and Carlos and Grandfather were there together in many actions including the sinking of the Spanish patrol boats on the Cauto river which closed Spanish access to the Plains. Crouch seem also seem unaware that Mario Menocal became a Cuban president, the critical role of Fred and his Cuban contacts in the successful Taft-Bacon peace mission in 1906 Cuba, etc...

There is much to be done before the definite Fred Funston history is written.

best wishes