In his second book, originally intended for publication in 1898, but delayed by his recuperation from a chest wound received at the fall of Santiago, George Clarke Musgrave tells us about the patriotic struggles of the Cubans, and about the iniquities practised upon them by the impulsive Spanish occupation of Cuba. Sent with a dual commission from an English newspaper and an American journal, he landed in Cuba “a warm sympathiser with Spain.” For two years, though, he lived and served with the revolutionaries, learned of their cause and experienced their suffering. Appointed as a Captain on General Garcia’s staff, he repeatedly crossed the lines carrying despatches from the insurgent Cuban Government to the Americans. Danger and hardship became his companions and he was twice imprisoned, three times wounded, barely rescued from a spy's death and finally arrested and deported to Spain under threat of execution. Following intervention by the British government he was eventually released from prison in Cadiz, from where he journeyed back to England and on to America to join the United States forces at Tampa Bay for the invasion of Cuba at the start of the Spanish-American war. Thus equipped, he gives us “a plain story of the sufferings and sacrifices of the Cubans for their freedom.”
This detailed review of the insurrection from the arrival of General Weyler to the Maine disaster and the ultimate advent of the American forces is thorough, vivid, picturesque and full of incident. The sketches of troops and commanders, lifestyles and politics, characters and manners, are finely drawn and illuminating, as are the comments on the abject failings of the commissariat of the American Army in Cuba and the crushing indictment of the oppressive Spanish rule.
The war in Cuba left the world with a much changed opinion of the Cuban patriots. They had prevailed against all the forces which Spain could bring against them. The stories of torture, of murder, and of the imprisonment and rescue of Evangelina Cisneros match anything in the history of crime, and bring a spotlight to bear on the cruelty perpetrated by the Spanish aggressors. Yet the author retains enough of his former views to make him give Spain credit for all the good qualities she has. He says in his preface: “Now that right has triumphed and wrong is overthrown we can feel sympathy with the humiliated nation that, blinded by traditional pride and patriotism, cloaked and defended the policy of a corrupt faction to its own undoing.”
The later chapters are devoted to the war and chronicle the action from the arrival of the US forces to the final capitulation of Spain at Santiago, depicting in intimate detail the horrors and the heroism of this brief but bloody war, and paying graceful compliment to “the amazing valour of the American soldier” and “the stupendous challenges faced in taking Santiago.” In his concluding retrospect the author expresses his belief in the British policy of making an ally of a conquered enemy and his opinion that this should be a priority for the United States as they work to fulfil their moral pledge of giving the Cubans independence.
About the Author
From his birth in 1874 until he answered the Reaper's call in 1932, George Clarke Musgrave’s time in this world carried him through the great challenges and changes of the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. His life, his travels, his work and his writings, though, were always more closely aligned with the reformers, the heroes, the visionaries and the Empire builders of the 19th century, than with the dour and stifling traditionalists of the 20th. But, dear reader, it is you who must decide whether the soubriquet of "Victorian Adventurer" that he has acquired is appropriate.
In any event, it is the sad reality that he is no longer here to recount his life and times to you in person. That task has slipped several branches down the family tree to myself and it is with some trepidation, and a fervent desire to be faithful to his memory, that I have dedicated myself to channelling for you the stories of my great-uncle, the fascinating, multi-faceted, complex character, George Clarke Musgrave: author, war correspondent, journalist, soldier, hero and family man.