Today I want to talk about Daniel J Campbell of PEI and his Medal of Honor, also from SAW days and in fact sitting in one of the boats with Chadwick in that incident. Of the 110 Medals of Honor that were later awarded for actions in the SAW, a total of 45% were awarded to non-American born recipients. Of these, 7 came to Canada.
Daniel was born on Boxing Day in 1874. The records so far have not revealed any details of his life before he was living in Boston when he enrolled in the United States Marine Corps in 1896.
He came onto the history radar in 1898 while still a private and attached to the USS Marblehead in Cuban waters. While there is information available about his battle, other than about a one liner containing his name and very brief details, little is known about this man. It is known that he was in one of the four vessels sent off to cut the undersea cables.
The job for these vessels was to cut 2 major undersea cable that connected the Cienfuegos harbour with Havana and the outside world. While doing this a third cable was discovered of lesser importance but still needed cutting.
To do this job both gunships supplied two small vessels each, a sailing launch and a steam cutter. Four of the Canadian MOH's in the SAR would come from this action, and one served on each of the four smaller craft. On the sailing craft there were twelve oars, so one sailor was assigned to each. In addition the sailing craft had 1 coxswain, 1 officer, 1 carpenter's mate and finally 1 blacksmith. These would be responsible for the actual cutting job. The other two cutters held the firepower to protect the cutters as they did their work. On these each would have 5 or 6 marines to act as sharpshooters. Each would also have a Marine Sergeant. And finally one would have a one pounder Hotchkiss cannon while the other had 2 Colt Machine guns like the one you read about in a blog a few days ago, These could fire upwards of 400 rounds per minute. Each would also have a coxswain a naval fireman, coal passer and 2 more seaman for general duties to operate the boat itself.
Campbell, as a marine, would serve on the steam cutter assigned to the Marblehead and he either fought using his rifle or was assigned to one of the machineguns.
No one knew what they were up against, they grabbed the tools they thought they would need and set them aside to grab in the early morning of the plan. The next morning after coffee and hardtack they said their goodbyes to their mates and boarded the four boats and off they went, some armed with rifles, others with revolvers for the closer shore to ship fighting that they thought they might face.
The waters were very rough as seen in this image, and as you got closer to shore there were plenty of rocks jutting out from the ocean floor. As many were just under the surface and scrapping anyone of them could have sank any of the boats since all were very thin wooden craft. As they moved closer to shore they even noted mines floating but just under the water line. A switch house of shore probably held the control to set any of them off and the marines soon saw Mexicans running for that shack and turned their powerful machine guns onto them killing all. Then then leveled the shack itself.
Finding the cable was not easy. They had to be in shallow water to do this, and of course that meant being closer to the enemy. The closer they got the sooner they aroused enough attention to get bullets coming their way. Soon the firing was so intense and the enemy focusing on shooting below the water line, that the sailors had to use their bullets to stuff in the holes to keep most of the water out.
When the cable was first located it then took considerable effort to grab onto it with hooks, Then the challenge was to hoist it...soaking wet and weighing over 6 pounds per foot, up and out of the ocean and drape it across the bow and then try to figure out how to cut it. Numerous tools were tried but in the end it appeared that they had to just use the hacksaws... but even then it was sawing thought a hunk of iron as thick as your wrist
When the first cable had its shore end cut it was draped on one of the boats and then hauled out to sea several hundred feet. There about 150 feet was chopped off and curled up in the boat to take back to the gunboats and later chopping up even further as keep sakes for all involved. The sea end was then just dropped overboard.
A second cable also had to be cut and this time they had to get even closed to the shore. The Mexicans had by then brought in even more reinforcements and heavier guns as well. One of the men signalled their gunboats of the increasingly dangerous situation and then both the Nashville and Marblehead started shelling the shores again. But when this happened, now the sailors and marines risked not only death from enemy fire, but also from fire VERY close to their heads from their fellow shipmates. One fellow would later claim that every time the shell went over his head he felt like he was about to be pulled from the boat... just from the pressure of the shell passing bye. The second cable had about 100 yards chopped off and then the men found yet a third unexpected cable. This one was much smaller and felt to be of considerably less importance and an initial shot at trying to get at it was abandoned due to the enemy strength now gathered.
In fact the shells and bullets being fired at the four boats were so bad that it was high time to head out to the ocean. The Nashville, seeing the predicament actually came forward and placed itself between the shore and the retreating four boats to give added protection. When the attack was completed several hours later, there were only a few deaths, and a handful of wounded Sailors and marines. But later claims had Mexican deaths of almost 300..and that is not including the wounded.
Of the 110 Medals of Honor awarded for actions in the SAW 52 were for sailors and marines involved in this cable cutting event. Only one was later awarded...posthumously.. for the entire war. And that went to a fellow named Roosevelt. Teddy, of Rough Rider fame, and a later President. His family received the award in 2000.
Lt EA Anderson recommended Medals of Honor for those troops he commanded on 2 of the 4 boats in under his command in Feb of 1899 and shortly after that they and the rest would all be awarded their medals.
Anderson went on to earn the MOH himself in later days and ended up as a Rear Admiral.
Campbell left the Marines about five years later and for the next 50 years his actions have yet to be documented. He died 58 years ago this Sunday and lies at rest in Massachusetts.