View of the July 1898 scene of action showing General Lawton’s division attacking at Caney on the right and General Joe Wheeler’s in the center, while General Kent on the left moves on Aguadores and Sampson’s fleet bombards Morro and the other forts at the entrance. The Spanish fleet in the upper harbor is also taking part in the fight.
Date: July 1, 1898
Battle involving U.S. troops and a fortified Spanish strong point on the western side of the San Juan River some three miles east of the harbor entrance to Santiago, Cuba. The U.S. attack on Aguadores was planned as a diversion during the concurrent principal U.S. attack against San Juan Heights. The plan called for U.S. Navy ships and 2,500 American troops under Brigadier General Henry N. Duffield to attack the Spanish garrison there.
North Atlantic Fleet commander Rear Admiral William T. Sampson had ordered his flagship, the armored cruiser New York, and the gunboat Gloucester and armed yacht Suwannee to commence shelling Aguadores at 6:00 a.m., but Duffield’s troops were three hours late arriving, and the naval gunfire did not commence until 9:20 a.m. When the men of the 33rd Michigan Regiment arrived at the 700-foot railroad bridge over the San Juan River, they discovered that the Spanish had blown a 40-foot span on the western side. The Americans were thus never able to secure positions from which they could lay down effective fire against the 274 Spanish defenders at Aguadores. The Americans subsequently came under effective Spanish long-range rifle fire. At about 1:30 p.m., after his men had sustained casualties of 2 killed and 10 wounded, Duffield withdrew to Siboney. While Secretary of the Army Russell A. Alger claimed that the operation had prevented the Spanish from reinforcing San Juan Heights, there is no evidence to support this conclusion.
Further Reading Cosmas, Graham A. An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American War. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994. Trask, David F. The War with Spain in 1898. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.