Battle of Asomante
The American cavalry pursued the soldiers that had retreated from Coamo, but were not able to reach them until the units had entered Aibonito Pass, a region more commonly known as Asomante.
The region had been prepared by allied Puerto Rican and Spanish troops, who had built a trench and placed soldiers and equipment around the foliage. As soon as the soldiers noticed the presence of the invading unit they opened cannon fire. The cavalry received infantry reinforcements, which were received by battery fire. Six American soldier were injured in the crossfire, prompting a retreat order. The allied units (Spanish and Puerto Rican) lost five soldiers and two civil guards. During the following two days the Americans decided to do a battlefield reconnaissance and Colonel S. Reber, developed a croquis of the Aibonito Pass. Spies were deployed throughout Coamo, including a Puerto Rican separatist named Carlos Patterne, who was able to enter the city without suspicion and contact Rufino Huertas, a separatist teacher. Huertas gave Patterne a series of defense plans that were previously developed and organized by Martínez Illescas. While inactive, the Puerto Rican soldiers deployed in Asomante completed rounds every two hours, working four hours daily. They mostly ate beans, some rice and meat, while conserving several cracker packs for Spanish reinforcements that were supposed to arrive. They slept in improvised huts that did not protect them from the rain.
Puerto Rican soldiers and their Spanish Commander (in white) pose with their American captors
The American commanders decided to attack the trenches with artillery, while sending a large group to Barranquitas, from which they would try to attack the allied troops from the back. At 10:30 a.m. Captain R.D. Potts led part of the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment through the central highway to Aibonito. Lieutenants Bliss and O'Hern led two units with similar equipment. At 1:00 p.m. the allied troops opened cannon fire as the Americans entered their range. Potts ordered the deployment of two batteries while O'Hern received orders from Commander Landcaster to set a cannon at a distance of a 100 yards to the vanguard's right. They intended to defeat the a small group led by Captain Hernaíz. Shrapnel from allied cannon fire was falling close to Lancaster's location, and he asked Potts to help him by deploying a battery nearby. One of Hernaíz's Placensias cannons overheated, which forced him to order a temporary cease to the offensive. Landcaster believed that the opposition had been annihilated, ordered an advance. However the allied fire was renewed, this time supported by Mauser rifle fire. The sudden attack caused confusion among some soldiers, who reported seeing a second Spanish unit nearby. Fearing that the allied units could capture the American equipment, Landcaster ordered a retreat. Lieutenant Hains was gravely injured by a Mauser bullet, being replaced by Sergeant John Long. Meanwhile, most of Potts' men fled the battlefield. In the crossfire the allied forces overpowered the American infantry, using Mauser fire to disorganize their artillery, during which time four American officials were gravely injured including Long, Lieutenant Harris, Captain E.T. Lee and Corporal Oscar Sawanson. Private Frederick Yough, Corporal August Yank, George J. Bruce and Private Sices also received injuries, with Yough subsequently dying. Harris' position was filled by O'Hern, while Sawanson was fatally shot while trying to support the artillery. In total the allied units had only an injured artillery man, while the American side had two dead and five injured. Wilson's camp was the first to receive a telegram from General Miles notifying him of the amnesty declared by the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The Americans sent Bliss to Asomante, but Nouvilas refused to suspend the hostilities after receiving a telegram from Macías denying any peace treaty. All military actions in Puerto Rico were suspended August 13, after President William McKinley and French Ambassador Jules Cambon, acting on behalf of the Spanish government, signed an armistice whereby Spain relinquished its sovereignty over the territory of Puerto Rico.
The name Machetero evokes an impromptu band of Puerto Ricans who assembled to defend the island of Puerto Rico from the invading forces of the United States Army during the Spanish American War, between July 26 and August 12, 1898. Macheteros de Puerto Rico were dispatched throughout the island, working in cooperation with other voluntary groups including the Guardias de la Paz in Yauco and Tiradores de Altura in San Juan. These voluntary units were involved in most of the battles in the Puerto Rican Campaign. Their last involvement was in the Battle of Asomante, where along units led by Captain Hernaíz, defended Aibonito Pass from invading units. The allied offensive was effective, prompting a retreat order from the American side. However, the following morning the signing of the Treaty of Paris was made public. Subsequently, both Spanish and Puerto Rican soldiers and volunteers disengaged and Puerto Rico was annexed by the United States.
Spanish-American War Resources