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"Tactics Spanish American War" Topic

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06 Nov 2017 7:57 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Comments or corrections?

10thMountain01 Oct 2016 5:43 p.m. PST

Can anyone recommend any good sources pertaining to the Spanish – American War 1898?
Thank you

Col Durnford01 Oct 2016 6:14 p.m. PST

Al Nofi put out a good book in the old S&T style.

Other good books include Empire by Default, Rough Riders by TR, and The Spanish War.

Old Glory put out a two part magazine format history that is aimed at the war gamer – very good.

Watch the movie The Rough Riders.

Short answer on tactics:

Spanish put up a halfhearted defense in trenches, American blunder into them, and the Cuban always seem to disappear if there is any fighting to do.

Grignotage01 Oct 2016 6:30 p.m. PST

Well, except for all that fighting the Cubans did before the Americans showed up.

An Army for Empire by Graham Cosmas has a lot of good info, as does Brian Linn's the Phillpines War (slightly after Cuba but the troops had the same tactical training).

US Army training at the small unit level was pretty good---short rushes from cover to cover, aggressive assaults.

Major Mike02 Oct 2016 7:25 a.m. PST

I would recommend "A Memory of Two Wars" by Frederick Funston. He wrote it about his service in Cuba prior to the beginning of the Spanish/American War and then his service in the US Army during the War and after in the Philippines. It can offer up a number of scenarios for fighting battles from the period.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Oct 2016 12:57 p.m. PST

the US Army--meaning the Regular Army, not the Volunteer units still permitted and heavily relied upon--had the newer weapons, but not the best, and their tactics were not especially up to date either.

The Yanqui's were able to bring a fairly large force to Cuba and the Philippines, but it's a serious mistake to confuse that for an "army." Co-ordination (always problematic on foreign ground, and tropical at that) was nearly impossible, and the sheer lack of relevant experience worked heavily against them, too.

That 1200 or so Spanish troops pinned down for most of a day some 10,000 Yanks, and inflicted some 10% casualties on them, is a partial measure of the essential inability of the North Americans to make any headway, despite their enormous numerical superiority.

The "short rushes" Grignotage refers to were not "doctrine," but the de facto means of a few exceptional leaders to pick up a small number of motivated men--randomly picked up from their pinned comrades in multiple units--late in the fight and get them to advance at all.

The only definite and important US contribution to the battle was Capt. Parker's chance to prove his then unaccepted theory of the proper use of Machine Guns as weapons for close support of infantry, rather than Field Artillery. The fire directed by his Gatling battery at the Spanish trenches helped to suppress their fire sufficiently for Roosevelt, Pershing, et al, to get their mixed mob of fighters up to and among the defenders and carry the day.

Most war game rules used for the subject have no understanding of the actual events that decided San Juan Heights, and so make the whole action look like a US walkover. It was, in fact, as near run a victory as Waterloo, and the simultaneous action at El Caney was the same story of essentially clueless troops being man-handled by a tiny force that made the best use of terrain and good defenses.

The better armed Spanish troops, with years of combat experience in theater, achieved far more with far less than their opponents of otherwise overwhelming numbers.

All this to the original poster's point that this war is an excellent subject for war games, and that the tactics required for the US forces to prevail must rely on remarkable leadership at the very ground level.


P.S. All books mentioned are helpful, but DON'T watch "Rough Riders!" for any ideas of how the battle was actually fought. As much as I LOVE this movie, it is so full of misinformation (German Spandau's on the heights, etc) that it must be enjoyed for its entertainment value (rather like the Duke Wayne "Alamo") but not its history.

Col Durnford02 Oct 2016 1:19 p.m. PST

Yes, I'm not sure why the Germans were included at all. That and Funstun was not even in Cuba at the time are the two most glaring errors. I'm sure there are more. Still the movie is a great watch.

On a gamer note, I was justified in painting my Spanish in duck egg blue and not attempt to paint the pinstripe pajamas. It's only in the close ups that you can tell the difference.

vtsaogames04 Oct 2016 1:34 p.m. PST

What TVAG said. The morale of the expeditionary force was adversely affected by the realization of the losses they had taken cleaning out two battalions. But the Spanish strategic situation was hopeless. There was no chance of relief and breaking out into the hostile countryside was not an option. And the Spanish navy was hopelessly outgunned.

The British would discover similar problems trying to dislodge dug-in Boers armed with Mauser rifles.

Cody Glossop06 Jun 2020 3:48 p.m. PST

Hi, the topic really requires special attention, because it is interesting to study, without missing a single important point. I liked the literature suggested by the commentators above, but I recently read the link these are very good materials, which fully reveal the essence and all the processes. A lot of critical material, chronological studies, comparisons with the results. I needed to prepare a report for the university and I got the highest score. I recommend it to all readers. Success in learning!

Courteney7519 Feb 2021 5:35 p.m. PST


ElsaAvend07 Apr 2021 9:35 a.m. PST

Completely agree with Courteney75, but I'd like to suggest

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