Outside the city, young American boys found their dreams of combat glory filled with nightmares of fighting an unseen enemy that was not vulnerable to bullets or artillery. Though the enemy soldiers that manned the guns in and around Santiago were living on "borrowed time", victory was not assured for the Americans. "The men had been standing day and night crouched in trenches - often knee deep in water from thunderstorms, and always short on rations," reported General Marcus Wright of the 22nd Infantry. "The oppressive heat and sickness was having a detrimental effect on the troops. They were unprotected from the drenching rains, and fell easy prey to tropical diseases. Morale was low, and every day it became more difficult to arouse them to vigorous action."
General Shafter realized that his hoped-for ground victory over the Spanish would quickly vanish unless it came soon. His Fifth Army was loosing the battle to the tropical climate almost as quickly as Spain's Navy had lost its ships to the Americans. On July 6th he sent word to General Toral that his patience had worn thin. If the Spanish commander didn't surrender, Santiago de Cuba would be shelled and destroyed by the American guns. General Toral requested time to communicate with General Blanco in Havana before making such a decision, and General Shafter granted extra time. Whether as a gesture of good will, or as a humanitarian gesture towards the now ill members of Richmond Hobson's volunteers, General Toral also released the eight valiant prisoners on July 6th. Six Spanish officers were released by the Americans in the friendly exchange.
On July 8th the Spanish squadron from Cadiz, Spain, at last en route to the Caribbean, was recalled to protect the homeland. There would be no relief for the Spanish defenders. On July 9th the Fifth Army was reinforced however, by the arrival of the First Illinois and the First District of Columbia Regiments under General Randolph. General Shafter sent word to General Toral that, unless he surrendered, his attack on the city would commence at 4 o'clock on the afternoon of the 10th of July.
Two hours before the deadline, General Shafter extended his surrender demands again, coupled with the promise that if the Spanish Commander complied, all of his soldiers would be transported home to Spain. When General Toral continued to resist, the battle was renewed.
Actually, it was the Spanish soldiers that fired first when the deadline passed, but their efforts were brief and lackluster. There was little fight left in the embattled and doomed Dons. The Americans answered the Spanish guns with heavy fire, supported by a horrible rain of artillery from the ships of Admiral Sampson's fleet. The Morro Castle was reduced to rubble, and devastated what remained of the Spanish forces. Within 48 hours General Toral sent word to General Shafter that he would resist no longer.
In the interim between the renewed battle and General Toral's reluctant decision to end the fight, General Nelson Miles arrived in Cuba. The man who had earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, and who had been named Commanding General of the Army three years earlier, came to Cuba to confer with his senior ground commander on how best to end the stalemate at Santiago. On July 14th General Miles joined General Shafter in meeting personally with the Spanish commander to negotiate the surrender.
The meeting was indeed an open negotiation. General Toral was left with no other option but, to make his tough decision more palatable, General Shafter agreed to avoid the use of the word "surrender". Instead, General Toral, now with the permission of the government in Madrid for which he had served and to which he had sworn his allegiance, would "capitulate" his Army and the city of Santiago. The capitulation would include all of southeast Cuba, including the 11,500 Spanish soldiers remaining at Santiago as well as another 12,000 enemy throughout the region.
On July 17th General Toral presented his sword to General Shafter in the formal capitulation of Santiago de Cuba and the surrounding regions. Sick and weary American soldiers lined up across their six miles of trenches to witness the end of their war. At exactly 12 noon the American artillery boomed a salute as the Stars and Stripes were raised over Santiago.
With the capitulation of General Toral and his army, the Fifth Army's campaign in southeast Cuba ended in an unqualified victory. For all practical purposes it also signaled the end of the Spanish-American war, save for a few skirmishes elsewhere around the island, and a brief campaign into Puerto Rico. Perhaps however, it opened the most un-splendid chapter of that Splendid Little War.
With the capitulation, American units like the 71st New York Infantry (shown here), began leaving their trenches to move back to Siboney. Large numbers of the men were gravely ill with Malaria, Yellow Fever, and other tropical illnesses. Eventually the war that had lasted only three months and claimed fewer than 500 American combat deaths, would in its relatively peaceful time of recovery, claim more than 5,000 more lives.
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