Scenes of the Final Surrender

When reveille sounded Sunday morning half the great semi-lunar camp was awake and eager for the triumphal entrance into the city. Speculation ran rife as to which detachment would accompany the General and his staff into Santiago. The choice fell upon the Ninth Infantry. Shortly before 9 o’clock General Shafter left his headquarters, accompanied by Generals Lawton and Wheeler, Colonels Ludlow, Ames and Kent, and eighty other officers. The party walked slowly down the hill to the road leading to Santiago, along which they advanced until they reached the now famous tree outside the walls, under which all negotiations for the surrender of the city had taken place. As they reached this spot the cannon on every hillside and in the city itself boomed forth a salute of twenty-one guns, which was echoed at Siboney and Aserradero.

The soldiers knew what the salute meant, and cheer upon cheer arose and ran from end to end of the eight miles of the American lines. A troop of colored cavalry and the Twenty-fifth colored infantry then started to join General Shafter and his party.

The Americans waited under the tree as usual, when General Shafter sent word to General Toral that he was ready to take possession of the town. General Toral, in full uniform, accompanied by his whole staff, fully caparisoned, shortly afterward left the city and walked to where the American officers were waiting their coming. When they reached the tree General Shafter and General Toral saluted each other gravely and courteously. Salutes were also exchanged by other American and Spanish officers. The officers were then introduced to each other. After this little ceremony the two commanding generals faced each other and General Toral, speaking in Spanish, said:

“Through fate I am forced to surrender to General Shafter, of the American Army, the city and the strongholds of Santiago.”

General Toral’s voice grew husky as he spoke, giving up the town and the surrounding country to his victorious enemy. As he finished speaking the Spanish officers presented arms.

General Shafter, in reply, said:
“I receive the city in the name of the government of the United States.”
General Toral addressed an order to his officers in Spanish and they wheeled about, still presenting arms, and General Shafter and the other American officers with the cavalry and infantry followed them, walked by the Spaniards and proceeded into the city proper.

The soldiers on the American line could see quite plainly all the proceedings. As their commander entered the city they gave voice to cheer after cheer.

Although no attempt was made to humiliate them the Spanish soldiers seemed at first to feel downcast and scarcely glanced at their conquerors as they passed by, but this apparent depth of feeling was not displayed very long. Without being sullen they appeared to be utterly indifferent to the reverses of the Spanish arms, but it was not long ere the prospect of regulation rations and a chance to go to their homes made them almost cheerful. All about the filthy streets of the city the starving refugees: could be seen, gaunt, hollow-eyed, weak and trembling.

The squalor in the streets was dreadful. The bones of dead horses and other animals were bleaching in the streets and buzzards almost as tame as sparrows hopped aside as passers-by disturbed them. There was a fetid smell everywhere and evidences of a pitiless siege and starvation on every hand.

The palace was reached soon after 10 o’clock. Then, General Toral introduced General Shafter and the other officials to various local dignitaries and a scanty luncheon, was brought. Coffee, rice, wine and toasted cake were the main condiments.

Then came the stirring scene in the balcony which every one felt was destined to become notably historic in our annals of warfare, and the ceremony over, General Shafter withdrew to our own lines and left the city to General McKibbin and his police force of guards and sentries. The end had come. Spain’s haughty ensign trailed in the dust; Old Glory, typifying liberty and the pursuit of happiness untrammelled floated over the official buildings from Fort Morro to the Plaza de Armas–the investment of Santiago de Cuba was accomplished.

Johnson, Edward A. History of Negro Soldiers in the Spanish-American War, and other items of Interest. 1899.

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