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Portrait of a General: General Roy Stone
Part 7 of 8
Education for the Cause
Throughout these years of advocacy, Stone supported education, whether in the form of object-lesson roads or school lessons. In his opening address to the first meeting of the National League for Good Roads in 1892, he had proposed a grass-roots effort, at the school district level, to promote his National Highway Commission bill and the cause of good roads in general:
Nothing is more powerful in this country than votes, except more votes. A million voters asking with one voice for anything that is reasonable, will not be denied by both parties, if by either; and a million in all is only four to a School District. For good roads we should be able to unite two million or three million or four million votes. What School District in the land could not muster its sixteen recruits . . . .(189)
He continued, in his work with the ORI, to pursue related ideas. His annual report for FY 1896 stated that he had corresponded with the U.S. Commissioner of Education and all the State and county superintendents of schools to encourage them to devote "a sufficient amount of primary education in road construction . . . in the country schools [and to make] some practical application of that instruction . . . in the improvement of highways in the neighborhood of schoolhouses and in the daily care of roads throughout school districts." He had also addressed the National Teachers' Convention at Buffalo, New York, on the same topic in July 1896:
One result of this activity was that the Agricultural College at Kingston, Rhode Island, instituted a course of instruction in practical road-building. The L.A.W. Bulletin and Good Roads described the course in December 1897:
The course of instruction is to extend over two years, and has been laid out after consultation with General Stone . . . . During the first year, the course will include higher geometry, trigonometry, surveying and other English studies. In the second year, physics, electricity, physiography, geology, mineralogy and steam engineering will be taken. The practical work . . . will include actual work on the roads, handling the shovel, driving horses, running the stone crusher, traction engine and road roller, and all machinery operated by the department.(191)
An article in the Providence Journal described the type of graduate desired:
What is needed is the educated man, who not only knows how to build a costly, ideal road, but one who can economically construct an eight-foot country road--a man who knows both the theoretical and practical end of road construction.(192)
ON DUTY IN THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR
In the mid-1890's, Spanish control of Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico was in jeopardy. A revolution in Cuba beginning in February 1895 concerned the United States because of Florida's proximity to the island. American newspapers, particularly those published by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, were carrying sensational articles about Spanish atrocities in Cuba to stir up public demands for a war of liberation. (Because one of the most popular features in Pulitzer's New York World was a cartoon called "The Yellow Kid," the irresponsible use of sensationalism to sell newspapers during this period became known as "yellow journalism.").
When disorder broke out in Havana, President McKinley dispatched the U.S.S. Maine on a "friendly visit" to protect American interests. The Maine arrived in the Havana harbor on January 25, 1898, but was destroyed by an explosion on February 15, with 268 American lives lost. The cause of the explosion was unclear, but most people blamed the Spanish military. American newspapers picked up the story and "Remember the Maine!" became the battle cry for American retaliation.(193)
At the end of March, a commission of inquiry established by President McKinley reported its conclusions. Although something external had caused the explosion, the commission had been unable to identify the responsible party. With this report providing circumstantial support for those who thought Spain had caused the explosion, the President asked Congress on April 11 for permission to use American forces to end Spanish rule in Cuba. By April 22, a state of war existed between Spain and the United States.(194)
The President asked for 125,000 volunteers for the war. He also needed officers to staff the expanded force. Brands explained the resulting problem:
Partly because there hadn't been a war in so long, partly because the war against Spain promised to be an easy and relatively safe victory, and partly from principled patriotism, would-be Grants and Lees lined up at McKinley's doorstep seeking commissions. His own Civil War experience-he was the last Civil War veteran to hold the presidency-clued McKinley to the troubles political officers could cause. For the most part he deflected the applicants, and he succeeded in keeping the majority of the responsible positions in the hands of professional officers . . . .
General Stone requested a leave of absence to serve under General Nelson Miles during the Spanish-American War. On May 28, Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado informed Stone of efforts on his behalf:
I saw the President a few moments only this morning. There was such a crowd in attendance that it was almost impossible to talk to him, but he suggested that I should make a written application . . . . I told the President that General Miles thought highly of you and that you intended to go to Cuba with General Miles with or without a commission. Now if the General will write a good strong letter to accompany my letter I think you will have a fair chance for appointment, provided you can get your Pennsylvania friends and Secretary Wilson to back you.
In a letter dated May 30, 1898, General Miles asked Secretary of War Russell A. Alger to commission Stone:
A short article in the L.A.W. Bulletin and Good Roads, June 3, 1898, suggests some of the services General Miles referred to in the letter:
In considering the matter, the Chicago Record says that Gen. Stone "reviewed with Gen. Miles the [conditions] to be anticipated in Cuba during the rainy season, when the rough roads there will be rendered impassable, and the ease with which good roads can be constructed by the use of improved machinery. He pointed out with effect the strategic advantages which would have been gained by the union armies during the war if facilities for constructing good roads had been available and if military operations had not depended in so large measure upon the elements. He recalled several instances where decided progress would have been made had the armies constructed roads instead of waiting in camp for the sun and wind to dry the mud and make the rough country passable. Gen. Stone believes that the roads that he will construct will not only materially aid the movement of the armies, but that they will remain a permanent improvement to be enjoyed by the people of Cuba after peace is restored."(196)
Stone was appointed Brigadier General of United States Volunteers on June 8 and accepted the appointment on June 14.
The primary American strategy for Cuba was launched on May 28 when the U.S. Navy blockaded the Spanish squadron in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. The Fifth Army Corps arrived off the coast of Cuba on June 20. The Corps included the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry division (minus their horses) commanded by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. The Rough Riders led the push toward Santiago de Cuba on July 1, with difficult battles resulting in Spanish defeats at El Caney and San Juan Hill, but also heavier than expected American casualties. On July 3, the Spanish fleet tried to escape the blockade, but all its ships were destroyed. The Spanish garrison at Santiago de Cuba surrendered on July 17.(197) Military operations in Cuba were over.
The battle for Cuba was over before General Stone left the United States.
On Duty in Puerto Rico
General Miles turned his attention to Puerto Rico (often spelled "Porto Rico" in contemporary accounts). The island had been the subject of debate during planning for the war. It was not viewed as being of great importance. Historian G. J. A. O'Toole explained why:
The three factors that made Cuba an object of contention-proximity to the United States, long and bitter resistance to Spanish rule, and large American capital investment-were not present.(198)
Still, it had military value as a coaling station, naval base, and supply depot. It also could be a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Spanish. General Miles had argued for an invasion of Puerto Rico before American forces invaded Cuba. He considered Puerto Rico "the gateway to the Spanish possessions in the Western Hemisphere." Further, he expected to encounter little resistance.(199) He was overruled by the President on June 6. The invasion of Puerto Rico would have to await victory over the Spanish in Cuba.
As an engineer officer on General Miles' staff, General Stone had begun his assignment in Charleston, South Carolina, He was responsible for gathering a mules and materials for service in Puerto Rico.(200)
With the fight for Cuba completed on July 17, General Miles wanted to invade Puerto Rico before the rainy season began in August. Therefore, the invasion of Puerto Rico began on July 25 on the southern coast at Guánica, a port west of Ponce, the island's most populous city. After a brief skirmish with a small American advance force, the Spanish abandoned the harbor. A brigade under General George Garretson was landed. A history of the city of Adjuntas described the brigade:
This brigade was composed of the volunteer infantry regiments from the 6th of Massachusetts, 6th of Illinois, and the 19th [Infantry], a total of 2,172 soldiers. It also included 139 soldiers and 10 officials of the Corps of Engineers; 60 soldiers and 6 officials from the Signal Corps; 641 artillery [soldiers] with their cannons and 12 artillery officials; and a squadron of artillery with 100 soldiers. It also included 60 men from the Red Cross, munition carts, engineering equipment, food supplies, etc.(201)
General Stone arrived in Puerto Rico with Garretson's brigade as a member of the Corps of Engineers.
The following day, the Americans under General Garretson defeated Spanish forces at Yauco, 6 miles north of Guánica. This success gave the Americans control of the railroad and highway to Ponce.
On July 27, American forces arrived in the harbor just south of Ponce. Spanish forces at the port immediately yielded authority, and the 500 or so Spanish troops in Ponce agreed to surrender the city the next day. They retreated along the road to San Juan, the Cuban capital on the north side of the island, but historian Ivan Musicant notes that before leaving, they "set fire to rolling stock, knocked down telegraph poles, destroyed the cable station, and planted land mines along the road" as they went.(202)
The Americans would quickly restore the rail service. At one point, General Stone gave Spanish sympathizers 2 hours to get a locomotive in working order, under threat of imprisonment. The engines were ready to go in less than 2 hours.(203)While the surrender was being negotiated, General Stone and a small force of soldiers and telegraph specialists took the train from Ponce toward Yauco in search of an arms cache in Tallaboa. Arriving in Tallaboa by train at 9 p.m., they found that the Spanish troops had left for Ponce the day before with the arms. On the morning of July 29, the American flag flew over the Yauco city hall.
The Americans were determined to gain the support of the Puerto Ricans, and to distinguish themselves from the Spanish by proper behavior toward civilians. On July 28, General Miles published a proclamation on the purpose of the war. The war, he said, was being fought "in the cause of liberty, justice, and humanity." The American forces arrived in Puerto Rico "bearing the banner of freedom inspired by a noble purpose to seek the enemies of our country and yours, and to destroy or capture all who are in armed resistance." After the Spanish were defeated, General Miles "hoped a cheerful acceptance of the government of the United States" would occur.(204)
To encourage that "cheerful acceptance," General Miles established a policy of making the best impression possible on inhabitants to gain their support. Musicant cites an example of this policy in practice:
When Brigadier General Roy Stone discovered that a soldier had defrauded a restaurant with Confederate money, he wrote, "It seems to me that nothing but a drum-head court martial and a little cold lead will serve, in a case of this kind if the guilty party can be found." The offender, a member of the 6th Illinois, was subjected to a general court-martial and received a sentence of thirteen months in solitary confinement in a federal penitentiary.(205)
General Miles' battle plan called for a four-pronged advance on San Juan. One force would travel the paved-but mined--highway from Ponce to the capital at San Juan. A second force would land 45 miles east of Ponce and move to Cayey to cut off the Spanish retreat and attack from the rear. The third would go from Ponce to Yauco by rail and then to San Germán and Mayagüez by road before turning toward Lares on the way to the town of Arecibo on the northern coast 35 miles west of San Juan. The fourth, including General Garretson's brigade, was to strike north from Ponce via Adjuntas and Utuado to capture Aricebo.(206) At Aricebo, the combined third and fourth prongs would advance to San Juan.
In advance of the fourth prong, General Stone and 75 soldiers of Company C, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers Regiment, left Ponce for Adjuntas. The Washington newspaper, The Evening Star, carried an August 2 dispatch on page 1 under a series of headlines:
MET THE SPANIARDS
The dispatch described General Stone's "dashing reconnaisance north":
General Stone began to move his small force north toward Utuado 15 miles beyond Adjuntas. They stopped at the town of Pellejas around 6 in the evening on August 2. A wealthy landowner and liberal separatist, Don Bastolomé Mayol, offered his home and grounds to the Americans. This was a welcome invitation because many of General Stone's soldiers were fatigued after their experiences on the poor road that ran between cliffs and deep precipices.(207)
General Stone's men established a telegraph link from Pellejas to his superiors in Ponce. He also sent a communication to the Spanish forces in Utuado asking them to surrender. As knowledge of his location became known, residents of Lares, Utuado, and Adjuntas arrived at Pellejas to join General Stone.(208)
The August 2 dispatch continued:
On August 3, General Stone completed the journey to Utuado, where the Spanish defenses quickly fell before General Stone's small force.
In Utuado, the example set by Stone and his troops was vitally important. Although prominent citizens came to his support and formed an auxiliary cavalry to fight with him, the lower classes were fearful. Spanish sympathizers had been spreading rumors about atrocities supposedly committed by the Americans. The Yankees were reportedly massacring people in the south, bombing San Juan and destroying every house.
General Stone's experience with the ORI came into play. The history of Adjuntas explained:
The next day [August 4], General Stone ordered the construction of the road from Utuado to Ponce, for the purpose of facilitating the transportation of carts and weapons that General Guy V. Henry would bring. A French engineer residing in Utuado, Monsier Raul Marix, auxiliary cavalry headed by Salvador Pérez Gerena and Ramón Pérez Olivencia, and legions of local townspeople united with Stone's soldiers, succeeded in completing the provisional road in 8 days.(210)
A detachment of Troop B, 2d Cavalry, consisting of Lieutenant Paine and 15 enlisted men, reported to General Stone as an escort and to help in construction of the wagon road from Adjuntas to Utuado.(211)
The road work, which provided jobs for laborers, helped overcome the fear of the Americans. However, the rainy season had begun, undermining the road project.
An August 4 dispatch from Ponce described the desire of Puerto Ricans for annexation by the United States. "Trade connections and political sympathies are mostly American." The dispatch cited another example:
The English and French settlers are strongly pro-American. Gen Roy Stone was entertained by a delighted English planter, who had not spoken his own tongue for twenty years.(212)
While road construction was underway, General Stone turned his attention to the town of Lares to the west of Utuado. Lares was defended by a provisional company of volunteers, including 187 soldiers, four officers, and a chief. On August 4, General Stone began moving toward Lares to observe the situation and determine if its capture were possible. In Comevacas y Tiznaos: Partidas Campesinas de 1898 en El Pepino, Carlos A. López Dzur described the outcome of the effort:
Stone was followed by citizens of Utuado, and curiosity seekers who, in a masochistic gesture, wanted to watch the capture. These were known as the Turkey Party. They spent the 4th through the 7th in making preparations. The taking of Lares by the invaders did not materialize, for the moment, but General Stone advanced to Arecibo and arrived almost at the principal plaza on the 7th of August.(213)
On the morning of August 6, General Miles ordered General Henry to move his forces from Ponce to Arecibo via Adjuntas and Utuado. General Garretson's brigade would accompany General Henry. The total American force consisted of 3,200 soldiers and officials.(214)
Minor fighting continued on the road between Adjuntas and Utuado. An August 8 dispatch reported that the Puerto Ricans enlisted by General Stone had engaged in a skirmish the night before with a small Spanish force, leaving a Spanish officer dead.(215)
General Henry left Ponce on August 8, traveling only 9 miles before camping at Hacienda Florida, with the 6th of Massachusetts an hour behind the 6th of Illinois ("The heat of the day and wearing new footwear were alleged causes of that late arrival," according to General Henry). Supplies were also delayed. General Henry explained:
The regiment's carts didn't arrive until the next day. The cargo had been reduced to a minimum. Because of the difficult terrain, the carts were pulled by four mules instead of the normal two, and only carried the munitions and food supplies.(216)
On August 9, General Henry marched to Adjuntas with his staff, officially taking the town that General Stone had occupied on August 1 and 2. Henry ordered his troops to advance with the greatest speed possible, but "speed" was not possible now that the rainy season had begun:
The road constructed by Stone was not yet firm because of continuous rains, so Garretson's men and the Puerto Rican volunteers did not arrive until the 10th, having been forced to leave their carts and carry the cargo on mules.(217)
More ominously, General Henry reported 53 cases of dysentery and 60 of typhoid fever, forcing him to install three hospitals in Utuado. By August 16, disease had rendered half the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers disabled for combat. Two soldiers died from typhoid fever.
With his forces finally united at Adjuntas on August 11, General Henry spent August 12 reorganizing the troops, inspecting equipment, and making repairs. He and some of his forces moved to Utuado on August 13. There, the mission came to an abrupt end when they received the news that President McKinley had signed a peace protocol with Spain on August 12, ending the fighting.(218) General Miles sent a cable to San Juan to let General Macias know the protocol had been signed. Macias acknowledged receipt of the protocol. General Henry was ordered back to Adjuntas.
Compared with the campaigns in Cuba and the Philippines, the Puerto Rico invasion was a model of efficiency, with few difficulties. The four prongs of General Miles' attack plan encountered little more than token opposition, coupled with widespread support from the Puerto Rican people. In six engagements, the Americans lost 7 killed and 36 wounded, compared with somewhat heavier Spanish losses.(219) In histories of the war, however, the Puerto Rican invasion is an afterthought, with the capture of the island accomplished by peace treaty rather than battle.
The remaining action in Puerto Rico was diplomatic. The Spanish lowered their flag in San Juan on October 18, 1898, replaced by the American flag. Under the Spanish-American treaty signed in Paris on December 10, 1898, and ratified on February 6, 1899, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States. Cession was formalized on April 11, 1899.
Stone's military records show that an effort was made by his friends, including the estate of General Wadsworth, to secure a promotion to Major General while he was in service. The Survivors Association of the 150th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers wrote to the President on October 17, 1898, in support:
The Survivors Association . . . have the honor to express the hope that you will find the services of Brigadier General Roy Stone in Porto Rico, in the Spanish War, will warrant his promotion to a major general, and that he may be commissioned as such before his muster-out of the present service . . . . Our association thoroughly believes in the ability and skill of their general, and would much like to see him now advanced to the rank [that] he is worthy of.(220)
According to Brand, President McKinley preferred to give such promotions to professional officers, not volunteers-19 of 26 promotions to the rank of Major General went to professional officers.(221) As a result, the effort on Stone's behalf was unsuccessful.
During his remaining months in Puerto Rico, General Stone had an opportunity to examine its transportation network and its agricultural practices. He wrote about both in "Agriculture in Puerto Rico," published in the 1898 Yearbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The population, he found, was supported almost entirely by agriculture "after paying a heavy tribute of taxation and another of remittances to absent landlords."
Despite the mountainous topography on many parts of the island, soil conditions were excellent. He reported that "the most wonderful thing in the island is the depth of soil on the faces of the steep mountains and its cultivation to their very peaks." Products included coffee, sugar, and tobacco, plus bananas, lemons, and limes. He quoted a gentleman of Puerto Rico who observed that, "Excellent oranges are found ripening at Utuado early in August." General Stone had undoubtedly seen this for himself while on duty.
The laborers were "mostly white natives in the interior," but many African ex-slaves were found on the south and southeast coasts where they had been employed on sugar plantations. Since the slaves had been freed in 1873, they had "entered on their new condition without any disturbance." Now, with America opening new prospects, he thought that even better things could be expected from the ex-slaves. Wages, he found, were half a peso a day (equal to 25 cents in American money).
Transportation facilities and irrigation were among the island's chief needs. Many land owners had stopped raising vegetables in the interior because "the prices obtained on the coast would not pay the cost of transporting them to the markets, which is greater than that of bringing them from Europe or some other distant country." With irrigation to open areas that did not receive sufficient rain and transportation to reduce the cost of getting produce to market, the island could prosper.
In the absence of "modern implements, methods, and appliances," export of the produce was limited:
It has so few roads that large portions of its products are brought to market on pack animals or on the heads of men and women. It has few railroads, and these consist entirely of some short pieces along the coast. It harbors are without improvements, and the cost of shipping its products amounts to an export tax.
General Stone, as his experience in road building during the August rains suggested, concluded that electric railroads held greater promise for the island than roads:
It is useless to build roads in the island unless they are thoroughly drained and macadamized. Ordinary wagon roads, especially in hilly districts, where the rain will follow the wagon tracks in the soft soil, are soon washed out of all semblance to roads, and enormous expenses would be required to keep them barely passable for ox carts. Good macadam roads, on the other hand, will cost approximately as much as electric roads, while the latter, with properly paved gutters, will stand without washing for many years, there being no frost to loosen the soil.(222)
Elsewhere, Stone summarized his views on the situation in Puerto Rico:
I can only add to all that I have heretofore said in favor of the good roads movement, a warning and reproof drawn from a country where, except for a few military lines, no roads have ever been built; and where the bulk of the product of a marvelously rich soil is carried to market on the heads of men and women or the backs of diminutive animals. As a result of this neglect, together with other kindred causes, the agricultural population of the island, although industrious and frugal, is so poor as to be almost without shelter, furniture or clothing, and entirely without supplies of food, so that their trifling wages must be paid day by day to enable them to continue this hopeless existence.
General Stone would be discharged on December 31, 1898. His activities in Puerto Rico had two later effects on him. First, as reflected in his Yearbook article, he became interested in the future of Puerto Rico. Eldridge's biographical sketch noted that, "After leaving government service, General Stone was employed by a syndicate to promote trade between the States and a port on the southern coast of Porto Rico called Port America." An obituary also noted this link.
After the war General Stone spent much time in Porto Rico laying plans for the improvement of roads and conducting important engineering work in connection with the establishment of electric railways.(223)
Second, an illness Stone contracted during the Puerto Rico campaign afflicted him the rest of his life and may have caused his death. In an affidavit related to Mrs. Stone's pension, Eldridge summarized the situation:
I hereby certify that I was associated in the Office of Public Roads (then known as the Office of Road Inquiry) with Gen. Roy Stone (Director of that Office) from May 1894, to October 1899, having been his assistant during the greater portion of that time; That from October, 1899, to the time of his death I corresponded with him often and saw him frequently, in Washington and New York; That from the time I first knew him until the time he went to the Spanish-American War he was, to the best of my knowledge and belief, robust and healthy; That when he returned from the Porto Rican campaign he often complained of stomach trouble, from which he never fully recovered, although he was careful of his diet and regular in his habits; and That I am convinced that he contracted a disease of the stomach in the tropics which ultimately caused his death.(224)
Harry N. Price, formerly of the ORI, also submitted an affidavit:
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