The Spanish-American War began in April, 1898. Most of the battles and engagements of this war were fought in Cuba, although the same war continued in other places such as the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Before the war, Cuba was under Spanish colonial rule but the Cuban people had rebelled against the Spanish and wanted to gain independence.
The USA initially remained neutral but then decided to support the Cubans while led to a war between American and Spanish forces. The Battle of Las Guasimas was the first land engagement fought between the American and Spanish armies on Cuban soil.
Once the American land forces started arriving in Cuba in 1898, their main objective was to advance towards the city of Santiago and take its control from the Spanish forces. The Spanish, on the other hand, prepared to defend the city against the attackers.
Located along the road to Santiago, Las Guasimas de Sevilla was a Spanish stronghold. However, at this time, the Spanish army at Las Guasimas was actually preparing to retreat and rejoin other forces in Santiago. The Americans mistakenly believed that the Spanish soldiers intended to defend their positions, so they launched an attack. This led to the Battle of Las Guasimas.
When and where did the battle take place?
The Battle of Las Guasimas took place on June 14, 1898. It was fought around Las Guasimas de Sevilla, near the city of Santiago in Cuba.
The American army was commanded by Major General Joseph Wheeler. He commanded around 1000 infantry soldiers and 3 field guns. The American army further included around 800 irregular soldiers. A group of Cuban soldiers under the command of Colonel Gonzales Clavel was also a part of the American army but he refused to take part in the battle.
The Spanish army was commanded by Brigadier General Antero Rubin. His army comprised of around 1500 infantry soldiers and 3 field guns.
The Spanish forces were already retreating towards the city of Santiago when the Americans attacked them. So they dug up defensive positions and fought back. The American army tried to encircle the Spanish army but the Spanish soldiers repulsed the attack successfully.
The American soldiers then led a number of frontal assaults but each of these were repulsed. Although the American army advanced, the Spanish stiffly resisted and the American army couldn’t make much headway. After inflicting some damage on the American side, the Spanish forces continued to withdraw towards Santiago in one piece.
Both sides claimed victory at the Battle of Las Guasimas. The Americans claimed that they had forced the Spanish army to retreat to Santiago and leave open the route to the city. The Spanish claimed that they were falling back to the Santiago anyway and that they had slowed down the American advance successfully. 27 American soldiers died in the battle and 52 were wounded. On the Spanish side, 7 soldiers were killed and 14 were wounded.