Chicago: Kurz and Allison, 1898. Chromolithographic print, 20 x 28 inches. Expertly cleaned and backed. A bit of faint browning in the upper center and left portion. Near fine. Item #WRCAM56697
A large, bold, and energetic depiction of the first land conflict of the Spanish-American War, the Battle of Las Guasimas (here called Quasimas), highlighting the important contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers in the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments. The battle was fought near Santiago on June 24, 1898, and pitted these two African-American units, some of the Rough Riders, and their Cuban allies against the Spanish rear guard led by Antero Rubín. The American forces were commanded by Major General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Wheeler, who had been a Confederate cavalry general during the Civil War.
The scene shows numerous Buffalo Soldiers and White soldiers in the foreground, firing rifles at opposing forces while an African- American flag bearer props up a White officer. General Wheeler (looking much younger than his sixty-two years) sits astride a large horse near the rear of the American forces. Several American soldiers lie dead or wounded on the ground, including two African-American soldiers; one African- American soldier is being led away on a stretcher in the background. The Americans fought bravely, but lost twenty-seven men and count fifty-two wounded after the battle; the Spanish lost only seven men with fourteen wounded. Despite the casualty counts, at the time the battle was framed as a glorious victory for the American forces. Upon further review, Wheeler was heavily criticized for the casualties incurred and for the lack of wisdom in ordering a frontal assault so early in the war. Regardless of contemporary perception of the battle, the present scene presents the African-American soldiers in Cuba as every bit as brave and willing to sacrifice as their White counterparts, and the image served as inspiration for African-American military families and others in succeeding generations.
On the heels of Louis Prang's celebrated series, WAR PICTURES, the lithographers, Kurz & Allison of Chicago, are most notable for their series of patriotic chromolithographs of Civil War battles. They also celebrated American involvement in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and the Russo-Japanese War. The present lithograph is one of a pair celebrating the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba during the Spanish-American War; the other depicts a scene of the charge of the 24th and 25th Colored Infantry at the Battle of San Juan Hill, where they rescued the Rough Riders. Both of the Kurz & Allison chromolithographs are rare and highly desirable celebrations of African-American bravery in combat.