Subject: mambí rebel guerilla
Setting: War of Independence, Cuba mid-late 19thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)
* de Quesada ill. Walsh 2007
* Fogg ed. 2013 p140
* Sharpe 2012 p20
"The machete ... was originally used for clearing foliage in jungle areas, but could easily be relied upon as a weapon. The machete was used in uprisings and rebellions such as that in Cuba against the Spanish rule."
* Desch-Obi 2009 online
"Machetes ... played a prominent role in the Cuban Wars of Independence.... In these liberation struggles, Afro-Cubans soldiers often dominated the ranks. The main Cuban tactic, like that of the Haitian revolutionaries, was stealthy rifle attacks against the Spanish from concealed positions. According to one Spanish source, "their main tactic was to fire from positions behind trees or broken terrain" and quickly disperse in skirmishes. Yet it was the Cuban use of the machete by black troops that terrified Spanish soldiers. The Spanish were armed with Mausers, deemed the best rifles in the world at the time. They were repeating rifles with greater accuracy and four times the range of the Remington rifle used by the Cubans. As a result, even with their guerilla tactics, Cuba"s concealed marksmen were at a disadvantage in terms of accuracy. Antonio Maceo opened up the most important battles after Maltiempo, including Peralejo and Iguara, with machete charges. These shock tactics forced Spanish soldiers to close their ranks into tight squares. This defensive positioning into massed squares made the Spanish troops much easier targets for the Cubans firing from concealed positions with the less accurate Remingtons.
"However, the machete came into play most prominently in the battle of Maltiempo, the greatest Cuban victory over the Spanish and certainly the bloodiest. The Cubans at Maltiempo were, like the Haitians at La Crete a Pierrot, running out of ammunition. However, by making a decisive machete attack they were able to soundly defeat the Spanish forces, many of whom were newly arrived recruits easily unnerved by machete assaults. The Spanish troops were armed with sabers, giving them a theoretic advantage since they had guarded handles, thrusting points as well as a much longer blade than a machete. Yet the Cubans inflicted a bloody defeat on them. According to Montejo:
'They went crazy when they saw us, and they threw themselves into the thick of it, but the fight didn't last long because at almost the same instant we started to chop off their heads. But really chopping them off. The Spaniards were scared shitless of the machetes. They weren't afraid of rifles, but machetes, yes. I raised mine, and from a distance said: "you bastard, now I'm going to cut your head off.'
"After the battle, the field was strewn with severed heads."