United States Launches First Attack in the Invasion of Guantanamo Bay

The 1898 Battle of Guantánamo Bay happened June 6–June 10, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, when American and Cuban forces invaded the strategically and commercially important area of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and took control of it from Spanish forces. The invasion was instrumental in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba and the subsequent invasion of Puerto Rico.

The wresting of Guantanamo Bay from Spanish forces in 1898 was a brief but violent phase of the Spanish-American War. Overshadowed by the land and sea battles on a grander scale at Santiago, the establishment of a United States naval base at Guantanamo Bay and the rout of defending Spanish troops by combined U. S. and Cuban forces had an effect on the war which far transcended its local consequences.

The first successful U. S. foray against Guantanamo Bay occurred on June 6, with the arrival of the cruiser USS Marblehead, captained by Commander Bowman H. McCalla, and the USS St. Louis. Commander McCalla had been detached by Admiral Sampson from the blockading fleet at Santiago and ordered to reconnoiter the bay for a naval base. The captain of the St. Louis was to cut the cables which had their terminus in a small station on Fisherman's Point, and connected Cuba with Haiti and the outside world.

On a previous occasion, the St. Louis, on a similar mission, had been driven from the bay by the Spanish gunboat Sandoval. As the two ships came into the bay at dawn, Spanish soldiers clustered about the blockhouse on the hill above Fisherman's Point which is today known as McCalla Hill. The blockhouse and the village were speedily cleared by fire from the Marblehead's six pounder (2.7 kg) and one five-inch (127 mm) shell. The Spanish gunboat Sandoval came down the channel from Caimanera to meet the attack but retired precipitately upon discovering the caliber of guns against her. The guns of the fort on Cayo del Toro also opened fire on the Marblehead, without effect.

The cables leading east to Cap-Haïtien, in Haiti, west to Santiago, and the small cable in the bay connecting Caimanera (and Guantanamo City) with Cap-Haïtien were all successfully cut, and from June 7 to July 5 the town of Guantanamo had no communication with the outside world.

Upon returning to the blockading fleet from the reconnaissance, the Marblehead carried two Cuban officers who had been brought off to the ship from Leeward Point (the western side) of Guantanamo Bay. They had been sent to Admiral Sampson by General Calixto Garcia (the same who figured with U. S. Lieutenant Rowan in the famous "A Message to Garcia") to report that the Cuban forces, whose outposts occupied positions on the coast from the mouth of the Yateras to a point fifteen miles (24 km) west of Santiago were at the disposition of the U. S. Commander-in-Chief. Commander McCalla thereafter maintained close liaison with General Pedro Pérez, commanding the Cuban forces around Guantanamo City, through the latter's Chief-of-Staff, Colonel Vieta, and thus received valuable advice and assistance.