Cuban history home page

Battle of Jigüe

An excerpt from Terrence Cannon’s book:
Thomas Y. Crowell, New York
© 1981 by Terrence Cannon | Page 92

The battle of Jigüe, which lasted for ten days in mid-July (1958), was probably the most important and certainly one of the most interesting, revealing the complex nature of the war. During it, letters were exchanged, troops on opposite sides shared their food, and a commander changed his allegiance.

Battalion 18 of the government forces was camped at a river fork close to the rebel headquarters. Rebel units took up positions surrounding it. Seventy-two hours passed in silence, during which the government troops ran out of food. They made several attempts to break out and were beaten back.

“On the morning of the fifteenth, the air force appeared,” Fidel reported over Radio Rebelde. The aerial attack against our positions, with machine-gun strafing and 500-pound explosive bombs as well as napalm, lasted uninterrupted from six in the morning until one in the afternoon. The pasture and forest… were left scorched, but not one of the rebel combatants moved from his position.”

That same day Fidel learned that the commanding officer of the besieged battalion was Major José Quevedo, a former classmate of Fidel’s at the University of Havana. Fidel wrote his opponent a letter, which was delivered by one of the government soldiers who had been taken prisoner.

“With great sorrow I have learned… that you are in command of the surrounded troops,” Fidel wrote. “We know that you are a learned and honorable military officer of the Academy, with a law degree. You know that the cause for which your soldiers, as well as yourself, sacrifice and die is an unjust cause.”

Fidel offered Quevedo “a dignified and honorable surrender. Accept this offer; you will not surrender to an enemy of the fatherland but to a sincere revolutionary, a man who fights for the welfare of all Cubans, including that of the soldiers who fight us. You will surrender to a university classmate who wants the same things that you want for Cuba.”

Still believing that reinforcements could break through, Quevedo refused. Four days later, the rebels beat back the last reinforcements advancing from the coast.

“On the morning of the twentieth, we ordered a cease-fire from six in the morning until ten,” Fidel reported. The enemy soldiers, who were weary in the trenches, accepted the cease-fire. Little by little several of those who still could walk laboriously came close to our trenches and asked for water, food, and cigarettes. On seeing that our men did not shoot and shared the food they had in their hands, they embraced our soldiers and cried with emotion. How different was the treatment from that which they expected perhaps, fooled by the dictatorship’s false propaganda! The sight was an emotional one for all.”

The next day, the battalion surrendered.

Major Quevedo, who remained at the Rebel Army headquarters, deeply influenced by what he had experienced and by his discussions with Fidel, joined the revolutionary forces and convinced several other military units to surrender or defect to the rebel side.

The landing of the Granma | Frank País and the "Underground Movement in the cities: from Terrence Cannon's: Revolutionary Cuba

Return to 1958