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Collection The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures

The War in Cuba

U.S. Infantry Supported by Rough Riders at El Caney. Edison Manufacturing Co. May 1899. Orange Mountains near West Orange, New Jersey. Reenacted by the New Jersey National Guard. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress.

On June 14, American army troops left Tampa to begin their invasion of Cuba. Edison photographer Paley made his way down to Cuba with other reporters and filmed what was said to be the first U.S. troops to land on Cuban soil (U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquirí, Cuba). Although other U.S. troops had landed at Cuba in May to bring supplies to Cuban insurgents, the landing at Daiquirí was the first by the Expeditionary Force. Paley filmed the troops as they made their way from Daiquirí to Santiago, and filmed Major-General William Rufus Shafter, the commander of the U.S. Expeditionary Force. En route from Siboney to El Caney, Paley's cart broke down. After a rainy night in the open air, Paley became quite ill and his camera no longer worked, forcing him to return to the United States.

Wreck of the Vizcaya, Battle of Santiago, 1898. [between 1898 and 1901]. Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number: LC-D4-21538.

Biograph had photographers in Cuba and the Philippines as well, expending considerable resources to obtain war films. Two of the Cuban Biograph films presented here are Wreck of the "Vizcaya", filmed after the defeat of the Spanish Squadron in Santiago Harbor on July 3, showing the destroyed Spanish armoured cruiser, and Wounded Soldiers Embarking in Row Boats, filmed in Siboney after the battle of Las Guaymas. The latter shows wounded soldiers embarking in a rowboat for the hospital ship Olivette. Like Edison cameraman Paley, Biograph photographer Billy Bitzer became ill while in Cuba with typhoid malaria and had to return home.

The limitations of film equipment prevented the filming of actual battles, so Edison offered reenactments of the fighting made for the most part in New Jersey using National Guard troops. Film reenactments such as Shooting Captured Insurgents showed Spanish soldiers killing Cuban prisoners, while U.S. Infantry Supported by Rough Riders at El Caney and Skirmish of Rough Riders offered patriotic glimpses of the popular Rough Riders fighting.

Actualities of the War in Cuba

Reenactments of Events in Cuba