TRIP TO HAITI AND SANTO DOMINGO
1 9 1 7
Toward the end of January, 1917, I decided that it was
time to inspect the occupation of Haiti and Santo Domingo by
the United States Marine Corps.
The day before leaving for the South, I presided, as
President, at the Dutchess County Society Dinner in New York.
I was to leave on the 1:00 A.M. train and nearly missed the
whole trip because the speakers at the dinner spoke so lengthily,
that it was exactly midnight before I could call on Senator
James Hamilton Lewis, the piece de resistance. At 12:30, he
was just warming up; at 12:40 he said for the third time or
fourth "and now, finally". At 12:50 I pulled his coattails
and whispered loudly that I had to go. Four minutes later,
he ended in a burst of glory. I shook him by the hand, got
o Tom Lynch to telephone to the Pennsylvania Station to hold the
z train for three minutes and was on my way in a taxicab, exhausted
Sby my narrow escape.
- The next morning in Washington, I picked up the other
z members of the Party and we all proceeded to Key West, where
O we proceeded to Havana in one of the old destroyers.
SA few hours in Havana saw us on our way by rail to
-g Santiago and we had not been going long before we were all
Invited into the private car of Benny Van Horn, the President
of the Cuba Railroads. He is a son of my father's great friend,
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Sir William Van Horn, President of the Canadian Pacific, who
lives on a delightful island close to St. Andrews, N.B. and
14 miles from Campobello. Benny provided all the liquid
nourishment necessary -- and more.
The next morning we arrived in Santiago, boarded
another destroyer and went out to sea past the amazing entrance
to this large harbor, which I had visited before in 1904. I
thought again of the gallant dash to sea of Cevera's Fleet
in 1898 and I felt again, in view of the hopeless right turn
which he made along the Coast, he would have been far better
off if his four cruisers and two torpedo boats had headed
directly out to sea and into the middle of the American Fleet.
He might easily have caused such confusion among ships which
had held the same position for many weeks that he might have-
g seriously wounded several of our ships before he lost his own.
z A few hours later, we were steaming into the magnifi-
Scent Port au Prince -- past the lovely Island of Gonaves and
up to the town. I have never been in Naples, but this Bay
0 with its wonderful setting must be the equal of anything in Italy.
o The whole Atlantic Fleet was anchored in the Bay.
o The next morning I went ashore with my party consist-
ing of Major General Barnett, Commandant of the Marine Corps,
c and his aide, Honorable John L. McIlhenny,. President of the
Civil Service Commission, Mr. Livingston Davis, my assistant,
and Mr. George Marvin, of Washington, an old friend who
formerly was a Master at Groton, and who, at this time, was
Washington Editor of World's Work. He had a commission to
write half a dozen articles about the West Indies and was to
leave us in Santo Domingo.
When we landed at the end of the long pier, we were
met by a number of gentlemen in frock coats and silk hats.
I assumed, erroneously, that they were the Mayor of Port au
Prince and representatives of President D'Artignave. As
they stepped forward, with a scroll, I bowed and delivered
the speech I had intended as my official address as Assistant
Secretary of the Navy. The speech, which is in the appendix
of this, I had translated, with a good deal of difficulty,
= into French and delivered it thus.
We all entered automobiles and to the shore end of
o the wharf we drove, where we were met by another delegation.
This time it was the Mayor and as I had but one speech, I
redelivered it again, explaining, to the amusement of all,
Sthat I had prepared only one speech in French and was there-
o fore repeating it.
0 Then to the Palace of the President, where we were
U ushered upstairs into a red plush and gold drawing room
U where we met the President and his Cabinet, and I made the
same speech for the third time.
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I sat on the sofa with the President and we were handed
The next day I went on board the American Flagship and
soon the Admiral's barge brought President D'Artignave and
his Cabinet on board. He received full honors and we pro-
ceeded to the quarterdeck, where a long table had been laid
out with the Admiral at one end and I at the other. The
President of Haiti sat on my right and the Secretary of State
on my left.
I noticed during the luncheon that John McIlhenny, who
came from New Orleans, was not eating much. After the Haitian
officials had been piped over the side, I asked him what the
trouble was. He said: "Did you see the Secretary of Agriculture
who sat opposite me? He was 6'6" and must have weighed 250 lbs.
SHe ate with both hands -- everything in sight -- two helpings
of every dish. I was fascinated -- too fascinated to eat.
I couldn't help saying to myself that that man would have
brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud
That afternoon the Fleet put to sea.
The following day, January 26th, General Smedley Butler
gave me a dinner and later all of us went to a dance given
by the President and his Government. Most of the young Marine
officers were there and the Haitian ladies were beautifully
dressed in Paris clothes, most of them wearing yellow powder
instead of flesh-colored powder on their countenances.
We spent three or four days in Haiti lunching with
Harry Roosevelt, the Quartermaster in charge of the Marines;
with our Minister Bailly Blanchard -- and, too, with Herr
Tippenhauer, the German representative who came here 18 or
20 years ago under The German Government has
acquired a sugar mill and several plantations,, all the rail-
roads and port facilities, together with the lighthouse and
other concessions. Because under the Haitian law only a
citizen can hold real estate, and because citizenship is
confined to people of color, Herr Tippenhauer married the
daughter of one of the members of the Cabinet. Through her
> and her relatives the corporations were formed, Tippenhauer
becoming the agent or trustee. He lives in a really charming
villa on the side of a mountain. We were introduced to
Madame Tippenhauer, who presided beautifully dressed over
the tea table. While we were sitting there the door opened
L from the garden and in came one of the loveliest girls I
Shad ever seen -- a blond with blue eyes -- not a trace of
I color. A moment later the same door opened and in came a
0 fine looking boy of about sixteen, who was introduced as the
eldest son. He was completely black. But both the children
had excellent manners and spoke both German and French.
On one of the days, General Cole, General Smedley
Butler and my party went over in a tug to the Island of
Gonaves, populated at that time almost exclusively by convicts
or runaways who live in primitive fashion without giving
much trouble. The Haitian GoVernment sent a detachment of
gendarmes with us, together with a supply of horses for our
ride. We climbed to the higher parts of the Island and saw
numbers of the cattle which are said to be in direct descent
from the cattle which Diego Columbus brought from Spain.
They are fine, clean-looking animals, being apparently
tick proof. Whenever fresh meat is desired for a Presidential
banquet in Port au Prince, they send men with rifles to shoot
a steer for the evening meal.
Meanwhile, plans were made for the four or five
Sday ride through the center of Haiti to Cape Haitien on the
_ North Coast.
SOn Sunday, the 28th of January, we went to a
z to President D'Artignave and his Cabinet.
The next day, we motored out a few miles where we
found the horses ready and I was glad to find my Whitman
I saddle, which I had brought from Hyde Park. I rode a fine
Looking, small stallion -- about fourteen hands -- and the
whole party,accompanied by General Cole and General Butler
started up the long incline over the mountain chain north
of Port au Prince. We followed what was left of the old
French road, hewn in part out of the solid rock and guarded
on the outside by a heavily built wall. The road is, on the
whole, in good shape, in spite of its century or more without
It is a bit too steep and the curves are rather too sharp
for modern motor traffic, but I told Butler to proceed with
its repair before undertaking a new highway with better
We lunched at Trianon, unsaddled the horses and
proceeded down hill, arriving at Las Cahobas where we spent
the night. Here we were in the Plaine D'Artibonite. On
looking down at it from the top of the mountain, somebody
said that it contained half a million people. There was no
sign of habitations or highways or cultivated land -- only
an occasional curl of smoke rising from the jungle. Our
road had become a trail and the 200 men in the party had
to proceed single file -- about 150 Marines, 50 gendarmes
and 50 pack mules. The night was comfortable, though we
g heard rifle shots from the hills and an occasional bullet
z going by overhead.
The next day was a long one, forty miles or more.
I tried an experiment by getting the outfit under way at
_6 A.M., riding until 8, then half an hour out, then 2 hours
more. This gave man and beast a chance to get something
to eat and to take a siesta. We started again at about 2,
road until 4, took half an hour out, and got in to Hinche
about half past 6.
-it about half past 6.
On this trip, good old Livy Davis became the butt of
the party. On the first days ride he complained bitterly
about his horse, whose gait was very jiggly and tiring.
He asked his orderly to bring him a different horse the
next day. The orderly changed saddles but brought back
the same horse and on the second day, Davis was full of
praise for the new steed.
I think it was at Hinche that we all went in for a
swim in the creek, just outside the town. We were having
a wonderful swim in a state of nature when, on looking up,
we found that the entire female population was lining the
banks. They had never seen a white man in this condition
before and seemed to take it quite calmly. We came out,
dried off, and dressed -- all except Davis, who insisted
Q on sending for his bathing suit before coming out.
The next day was another long ride, from Hinche to
St. Raphael. We were all quartered on cots in a big single
room on the ground floor. The stone walls, rising only
five or six feet, the rest being wood. On turning in,
we were told not to show any light other than the lantern
Snear the corner of the wall. McIlhenny and the rest of
us had got into bed -- except Davis, who, coming in last,
upset the lantern and all the kerosene over John McIlhenny,
who was on the next cot. The language from McIlhenny ought
to have taken the skin off Davis who, however, was asleep
by the time that John had finished.
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The final day of the ride was the most strenuous. Before
daylight, John McIlhenny and Smedley Butler and Harry Roosevelt
climbed the hill on the top of which is the famous Fort Riviere.
This was the famous fortification captured by Smedley Butler and
twenty-four Marines in the Caco Rebellion of a few months before.
The top is a hog's back ridge a quarter of a mile long. Butler
and his Marines left a machine gun at one end of the ridge while
he and about eighteen Marines crawled through the grass into
the Fort itself.
It is a square structure, with very thick walls enclosing
Sa courtyard about 250 feet each way. All that was left of the
Cacos in northern Haiti had collected within this Fort. Butler
w and his men got to the wall, but could find no entrance except
B the main gate which could be reduced only by artillery. Crawling
z down to a corner they,found a tunnel into the courtyard and
U serving as a drain when it rained. Butler started to crawl
through this drain, which was about 2- feet high and 2 feet wide.
The old Sergeant said to him: "Sorry, Sir, I was in the Marines
before you were and this is my privilege." Butler recognized
his right and the Sergeant crawled through first.
o On coming to the end within the courtyard, he saw the
shadows of the legs of two Cacos armed with machettes guarding
the hole. He took off his hat, put it on the end of his revolver,
pushed it through, felt the two machettes descend on it, and
jumped forward into daylight. With a right and a left he got
both Cacos, stood up and dropped two or three others while his
companions,headed by Smedley Butler, got through and onto their
feet. Then ensued a killing, the news of which put down all
insurrections we hope for all time to come. There were about
300 Cacos within the wall and Butler and his 18 companions killed
over 200 of them, others jumping over the wall and falling
prisoners to the rest of the force of Marines which encircled
I was so much impressed by personal inspection of the
scene of the exploit that I awarded the Medal of Honor to the
Marine Sergeant and to Butler. Incidentally, Butler had received
the Medal of Honor at Tientsin at the time of the Boxer Rebellion.
j He had been awarded a second at the capture of Vera Cruz in 1914
0 but declined to accept it. The third at Fort Riviere, he did
On coming down the mountain, McIlhenny and I, who
had.shotguns, got two Haitian doves and on rejoining the party
Z had our photographs taken with one of the doves and with a non-
1 descript dog which we had picked up.
On my return to Washington several weeks later, a
g young reporter for the New York Evening Post was so insistent
r on getting a human interest story that I spun a yarn for him
which he printed with all seriousness in the Post. It was to
this effect and is worth recording, because so many people who
did not know birds believed this one.
"As you know, there are various species of birds believed
to be extinct -- the Dodo and the Great Auk. The same thing was
true of the great Haitian Shrink Bird. The last specimens were
seen seventy or eighty years ago. This rare bird has the curious
quality of shrinking away to nothing when shot. McIlhenny and
I, on coming down the mountain, each shot a huge bird three or
four feet from wing to wing. We rushed to them. I could not
find mine, but we found Mcllhenny's. Our beaters rushed up with
a large pot of boiling water -- for it is well known that if a
Shrink Bird is quickly placed in a boiling pot the shrinking will
cease. Because three or four minutes elapsed before we were
able to get him into the hot water, he had already shrunk to the
size of a dove. However, once the hot water took effect he shrank
no more and the photograph which I have shows him as he appears
S when we got to the foot of the mountain. Thus, the great Haitian
Shrink Bird can no longer be considered extinct."
The members of the party who did not accompany us were
obviously exhausted for they rode at once to the Palace of Sans
Souci at Milot and thence by rail to Cape Haitien. My party,
however, rode a bit to the left and climbed to the famous Citadel
of the Imperial Cristoff -- I think it is the largest masonry
0 structure in the Western Hemisphere with mos of the guns and
galleries intact. It is here that Cristoff is reputed to have
been dissatisfied at the drilling of one of his companies in the
courtyard, headed them on the double quick to the open side of
the courtyard, which had no railing, and trotted them to their
death 300 feet below. Here it is also said that Cristoff is
reported to have received a British Admiral about 1805, who
had been sent by his Government to report on the strength of
Cristoff's Empire. The Admiral is reputed to have been taken
to the Citadel, where he reviewed 12 separate regiments, 1000
men to each. regiment. Actually, Cristoff had but 2000 men there
but he had uniforms -- all different -- for each of 12 regiments.
One regiment, looking very smart, would come past the British
Admiral in review, pass around to the rear of the Citadel,
redress in another uniform and march past again. Thus, the
S Admiral firmly believed that he had seen 12 different regiments.
I liked, too, the local native legend about Cristoff
S at the time of his death in 1815. He was sitting on a marble
S throne, under a great tree, at Sans Souci, dispensing justice
E to his subjects. A revolt was on in the Island coming closer
and closer to the Citadel. The Emperor knew full well that if
S the garrison of the Citadel remained loyal and held out he and
Sthe Empress were safe. At that moment, a panting servant came
through the crowd and threw himself at Cristoff's feet, bringing
o him the news that the garrison of the Citadel had joined the
revolution. Cristoff and his Empress, both in full regalia,
spoke together in low tones, Cristoff handing a bag of gold to
the bearer of ill tidings. He then told the Empress to kneel
at his feet, pulled out a silver-moun'ed pistol from the left
of his sash, put into it a silver ball, and shot her through
the head. Then, reaching to his right side, he brought out a
golden-mounted pistol, loaded it with a golden bullet and shot
himself through the head.
This differs from the usual account of his attempt to
mount his horse and falling dead with a stroke of paralysis.
I prefer the version which was told to me by several old colored
people when I was there in 1917.
On our descent, we stopped at Sans Souci and I made
up my mind that here was the spot for a lovely resort, gardens,
trails and a beach not far away. Most of the old Palace could
0 easily be put back and the guests would use Fort Riviere with
o its cool nights for living purposes.
i We took supper with the old French priest, who was in
charge of the rebuilt church and then took the little train
with our horses into Cape Haitien.
Our last morning in Haiti was spent reviewing the
Marines and gendarmes in the Place at Cape Haitien and after
the reviewing was over, I looked down and saw a disreputable
looking man at my stirrup. His former white clothes were ragged.
He was wearing broken sneakers and on his head was a dilapidated
straw hat and a two weeks growth of beard. Frankly, I did not
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recognize him until a pleading voice said, "Franklin, don't you
recognize me? I am your old friend and classmate, Preston Davie."
Sure enough, he had been in Haiti for many months trying
to grow cotton on plaine dunord, but his crop had been ruined
by a rising water table and was a complete failure. He looked it
too. He was much worried by the expectation that we would soon
be at war with Germany and pleaded with me to take him back to
the United States.
I was delighted to do this and we went on board the
USS HANCOCK which was waiting for me in the harbor. There I
found Davie coming out of a 15 hour sleep and beginning to feel
like a human being once more.
Like a human being once more.
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On the afternoon of February second, we boarded the
USS HANCOCK and received news by radio that Germany had pro-
claimed a war zone. We worked it out on the chart and came
to the conclusion that Germany was attempting to exclude
every American ship from all of Europe and the eastern waters
of the Atlantic Ocean.
During the night, we steamed along the coast to Puerto
Plata and went ashore in a bit of a blow accompanied by light
This was bad for the little train which was to take us
S up the long, steep hill to Santiago to Los Cabelleros. After
Many jerks and stops, the little train of a passenger coach
. and a freight car, pulled by an ancient locomotive had great
difficulty in avoiding sliding backwards into the Atlantic Ocean.
But a number of natives ran ahead and alongside of us, sprinkling
sand on the track and pushing ties under the wheels, which saved
our lives. It was too risky to try the short but steep descent
from the top of the mountain, so carrying our saddles and bags,
S we walked down the hill until we were met by another locomotive
S and a box car, which had three good wheels -- the other wheel
being so flat that we were given a tremendous jolting before we
got in to Santiago. At that place, Colonel Kane was in charge
of a battalion of Marines and was comfortably ensconced in the
lovely old house of one of the early Spanish Governors. After
we had inspected the Marines we were escorted by a mounted
company to the old house, got out of our riding clothes and
went to a very lovely dinner party in the courtyard which was
filled with flowers.
Toward the end of dinner, my orderly brought me a
code message just received over the field radio set. I went
out to decode it. It was from the Secretary of the Navy and
read: "Because of political situation please return Washington
at once. Am sending ship to meet you and Party at Puerto Plata
When I went back to the table, my face must have been
rather long because Mrs. Kane asked me if I had had bad news.
I told her that we would have to leave immediately after dinner
S and get to the coast by train and horseback and I added that I
did not know what had happened, but that the Secretary had said
the recall was based on political conditions.
Mrs. Kane looked at me in horror and said, "What can
political conditions mean? It must be that Charles E. Hughes
has lead a revolution against President Wilson".
I replied, "My dear lady, you have been in the tropics
o too long!"
Actually, we did not leave until early the next morning
and had time first to look at the great pile of arms and knives
which had been taken from the natives in the process of complete
disarmament of them. I found in this pile a very lovely old
Spanish sword, which I later took to the Metropolitan Museum in
New York and was advised that it was a Spanish Cavalier's sword
of about 1510. Without much question, therefore, it was brought
to Santo Domingo by one of the earliest Spaniards to have come
to the island -- perhaps one of Diego Columbus' party. It is
now at Hyde Park.
Sunday afternoon we arrived back in Puerto Plata and
to our relief found the USS HANCOCK in the harbor. She had been
caught by radio on her trip to Samana Bay. After dark we met
the USS NEPTUNE, one of our newer colliers and transferred to
her in small boats. No one knew anything for certain except
that the German Ambassador in Washington, Count Von Bernstorff,
had been given his passports and it seemed probable that the
United States and Germany were already at war.
o As we headed north through Caicos Island passage on our
S way to Hampton Roads no lights were showing, the guns were manned
and there was complete air silence.
SStill without any definite knowledge of what had actually
S happened, we landed at Fortress Monroe on the morning of February
c 8th. The Colonel in command seemed utterly surprised, insisted
S that there was no war, that no special preparations were going
on and that he had had no orders from Washington to stand by.
Late that afternoon we were back in Washington. I
dashed to the Navy Department and found the same thing --/diplomatic
relations with Germany broken off, no excitement, no preparations,
no orders to the Fleet at Guantanamo to return to their home yards
on the East Coast.
But that is another story.
It is with very sincere pleasure that I have come
to the Republic of Haiti. Several times before I have
seen your blue mountains from the sea, and I have wished
i to know more of your people and your smiling land. I
consider it a great privilege to visit you now, and I
LU am looking forward with interest to my journey from here
jto Cape Haitien. Please believe that the people of the
ZUnited States evince a lively interest in the welfare
" of your country and hoppeethat the bonds of friendship ..
and peace and true liberty will in the future become even
R closer between the United States and the Republic of
I am particularly glad that I can be here when the
i American fleet id paying you a visit of courtesy, and I
want to thank you for the cordial reception you have
given them. They greatly appreciate your expressions, of
goodwill and will carry home many the most delightful
feelings towards the soveriegn people of Haiti.
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