San Francisco Examiner/November 6, 1898

Mr. Richard Harding Davis will not do. His criticisms of General Shafter, in the October “Scribner,” have neither the air of sincerity nor the credentials of competence. General Shafter was unfit to command the American army at Santiago, and nothing but the superior unfitness against which he was pitted gave him the success which so strongly resembled a fool’s luck. On these propositions all men of military attainments having common knowledge of the campaign are agreed. But Mr. Davis is not a man of military attainments. Like nearly all “war correspondents,” he lacks that first, second and third qualification for his work, a military education. I am unable to say why war correspondents are not required to know something of the art of war—to know at least that it is an art; the newspapers that employ civilians to criticize the work of soldiers would not think of employing divers and coal miners to criticize the work of astronomers.

On second thoughts, I am not so sure that they would not.


When Mr. Davis confines himself to the things that he ought not to write about he is intelligible and sometimes graphic; for example, when he says that Shafter, despite blunder after blunder and folly upon folly, still believed himself infallible, still bullied his inferior officers and still “cursed from his cot.” It is not altogether to “apt alliteration’s artful aid” that those last words owe their vivacity and point. But when Mr. Davis criticizes the military conduct of the campaign and the tactical dispositions he is silly. His notions that the army might have been divided, landing on the two sides of the harbor mouth, or that, landed at Siboney, it might have moved upon the Morro castle “along the railroad which clings to the coast from Siboney to Agudaores under the shelter of a steep range of cliffs,” are valuable contributions to the literature of humor, but as serious views on practical strategy they have about the same interest as the evening song of the wild ass on a Syrian hill.


Mr. Davis makes an outcry because the Rough Riders were placed behind a hill on which one of our batteries was firing, and the First and Tenth dismounted Cavalry a hundred yards from it, along the ridge—presumably to the right or left. He took the pains to learn that these troops had been so placed by express orders of Gen. Shafter, and he gravely remarks that “they might as sensibly have been ordered to paint the rings in a target while a company was firing at the bull’s-eye.” He seems to have overlooked the still more damning fact that the poor gunners were placed even nearer to the guns that that! Probably he will be astonished to learn that it is customary in action to put the infantry supports of a battery right close up to the guns on both sides, sometimes even in front of them. In Gen. Davis’s army (when he is entrusted with the defense of his country against Kansas) the artillery will be in hard luck. It will be austerely isolated as a thing unclean—a veritable leper, within the sphere of whose infection nobody will be safe in battle. In wonder what this unearthly tactician would say if he saw a regiment ordered out of cover into the open for the avowed purpose of drawing the enemy’s fire. I have seen that done without censorious comment. True, there were no Richard Harding Davises present, expecting the one ridden by the brigade commander’s cook.


Miss Nance O’ Neil, the actress, is in private life Miss Gertrude Lampson.—Daily Newspaper.


Just now I learned Miss Nance O’Neil

That your are Gertrude Lampson,

And quite as great a pride I feel

As Dewey, Schley or Sampson.


I swell and strut, and that’s no crime

When your career I’m scanning,

Remembering how closely I’m

Connected with its planning.


That moonlight midnight at Sunol

You can’t forget I’m certain.

When you from your most secret soul

Rang up the curtain.


You told me how you yearned and sought

To tread the stage—the oddest

Confession ever heard. I thought—

You were so young and modest.


Two hours I labored all in vain

To kill that mad ambition.

You listened, smiled and made it plain

Killing was not my mission.


Accept felicitation, dear,

I’m very proud about it.

Your genius is my boast and cheer,

For I was first to doubt it.


The Administration knows its own mind at last. This was not a war of conquest after all; in taking Spain’s colonies we are only indemnifying ourselves for the expense of taking them. Spain having no money, we are compelled to accept islands; but if the value of these, as appraised by ourselves, exceeds our outlay in their capture and retention the excess will be paid to Spain; if they are appraised at a little less we will generously bear the loss.

  1. B.—The value of Cuba is not to be reckoned; we are not going to take it. It is going to come to us by a special Providence.


The vulture is cracking his beak expectantly over our soldiers in Manila. It is their turn to die like flies in grease. At last accounts they were beginning to “go before” with extreme rapidity—at the rate of about forty a month, and a correspondent of the “Evening Post” estimates that within sixty days from October 7 forty per cent of the force will be unfit for duty. The trouble is typhoid fever, smallpox, dysentery—in a word, climate. This correspondent, who appears to be uncommonly intelligent, says:


Our men do not convalesce here. We carry the patient past the recognized point of danger in many cases of typhoid, etc., only to have him linger and die of exhaustion. There seems to be no vitality or gain of strength.


In other words, the Torrid Zone is exacting its immemorial tribute from the Caucasian races. Nature is prosecuting trespassers. If the American people knew as much today of the Philippines as they will know ten years hence the Administration would find no difficulty whatever in handing them over to their inhabitants—an inferior race, but one which can live there and remain partly alive. In punishment of our ignorance the story of conquest entails the calamity of retention.


An interesting feature of the American occupation of Manila is pointed out by this correspondent, namely, that our little army there is virtually besieged by land. “One cannot,” says he, “go a mile outside the city without being turned back by sentries of the insurgents, who are posted entirely around it.” I have no doubt of the truth of this significant statement: Aguinaldo’s men, whom our invalid battalions are keeping out of the city, are quite as firmly keeping our men in it. The difference is that Aguinaldo wants to go in, but Otis does not want to go out. But if he did he would have to fight the moment he got outside the sphere of influence of our fleet’s big guns. The problem is doubtless perfectly understood in Washington—all but the solution. I should say that the easiest way out of the difficulty is by the way of Corregidor island and Honolulu to San Francisco.


The War Investigation Commission has heard the testimony of Dr. Hartruff, who was chief surgeon at Camp Thomas on the old Chickamauga battlefield. Dr. Hartruff said that, dissatisfied with the water supply, he recommended the use of Crawfish Spring. Nonsense!—the water of Crawfish Spring is not fit to wash a pig with. Lot’s wife would not have touched it at high noon of an August day. Its very color condemns it: it is clouded and streaked with red. Its surface bears little clusters of crimson bubbles, which drift together, forming an offensive froth. There is hair in it, entire heads of hair, with the heads adhering; hands too—yellow-looking human hands, with arms to the shoulder. Evidently Dr. Hartruff has not seen that unpleasant water source.


The Commission may rely on my account of Crawfish Spring. I know all about it, for one hot autumn afternoon in 1863 I saw it, close to. I did not stop to analyze the stuff, but fancy that in an analysis it would have panned out about as follows:


Sanguinate of slush: .60

Macerated coat sleeve: .21

Hair oil (federal): .03

Scalpine and Cutanine: .07

Solution of bayonet: .03

Hydrate of patriotism: .06

Traces of collar button, tobacco, frog, felt hat (Confederate) and water: .01


Now, how could anybody drink stuff like that? Thirty-five years have no doubt changed many things, but the principles of chemistry are eternal.


De Young.—The Democrats are saying pretty hard things about you, Henry.

Gage.—Call me Governor, please. What are they saying?

De Y.—That they don’t know you, for example.

G.—Now look here, Mike—

De Y.—Senator, if you will be so good.

G.—I was about to say there’s no use in ignoring facts: I am obscure, that’s the truth. Yesterday I met my dog in broad daylight and he didn’t recognize me.

De Y.—Incredible!

G.—He bit me.

De Y.—Perhaps he has turned Democrat.

G.—A fellow of whom I borrowed a hundred dollars asked me if I could tell him where to find me.

De Y.—I guess he didn’t know you in the first place.

G.—I called on a lady and she asked me whom she had the pleasure to receive.

De Y.—Was she a friend?

G.—No, we had never met.

De Ye.—Then how could you expect her to know who you were?

G.—But I couldn’t tell her! (Exit Gage, weeping.)

De Y.—Hully Gee! What wouldn’t I give to be like that?


To Certain Correspondents:

L. O.—The only colonies in the world that are profitable to the country of their allegiance are Great Britain’s Canadian, Australian and South African dependencies—all lying in the temperate zones and all settled and self-governed by Englishmen. No other nation has a single profitable “possession” of any considerable magnitude outside its own borders. Great Britain’s “crown colonies,” lying mostly in the torrid zone and inhabited by God’s irreclaimables, are sources of expense, trouble and peril. India itself is the heaviest burden that a nation ever bore. Spain’s colonies were valuable to her only because she looted them; we can make them valuable to us in the same way, and in no other; and the same is true of Hawaii. All our new dependencies lie between the tropics; all have climate deadly to Americans; all are peopled by alien and worthless races. If we derive from them a balance of advantage we shall have falsified all the teachings of modern political history.

“Burro.”—I did not “ridicule turn-down collars,” nor men that wear them. The words on which you ground your assertion that I did were ascribed in an “apocryphal conversation,” to Ned Greenway, a “society” dude who gives his mind to such matters. It is no great gift.

B.—The word is from the Latin “desultory,” an equestrian performer who rode two horses, leaping from one to the other. What is desultory is inconstant, not continuous. The author’s use of the word was correct.

A. C.—Yes, the Republican party in this State has a policy, a very definite one: it is to get the offices. The policy of the Democrats is broader and more statesman like—to keep them.

Amos McC.—Judge Maguire, as I understand him, is not asking for any votes on the ground of his faith in the single tax, but hopes that some of the unconvinced will vote for him despite his conviction. In this he is entirely reasonable—just as reasonable as he would be in asking the support of a man with a wart on his nose, although Judge Maguire’s own nose is devoid of that charm. The single tax theory has no more to do with this election than warts have, or the doctrine of foreordination. Be a dupe if you will, but be more intelligent in your choice of men to do your duping.


He stood at the station desiring

A ship, for he thought him marooned.

About him the sunshine was firing

The air till it swooned.


The marshes were all of a quiver;

The tules were withered and bowed;

His kidneys were melting, his liver

Complaining aloud.


He dragged himself up to the wicket,

And mopping his tropical face

Demanded a non-return ticket.

To any old place.


“Well, Napa,” agent said, eying

Him over, from headgear to shoe.

“If far,” said the traveler, sighing,

“Napa will do.”


And then he sat down to his paper

And read of the war with Spain—

How Shafter cut many a caper,

And hundreds were slain.


And famine was reveling madly,

And pestilence walking at noon.

Then raising his eyes he said, sadly:

“War is Suisun!”

(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)