Spanish American War

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Spanish American War (1898-1898) - Triggered by the explosion of the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor 15 Feb 1898 and declared in April 1898. Hostilities ceased in Aug 1898 and the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris in Dec 1898. As a result of the war the United States gained ownership of the Island of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Cuba was granted independence in 1902 after an America occupation.

Charge up San Juan Hill from a painting by Frederick Remington


President McKinley approved the organization of eight army corps, each with three or more divisions with three brigades each. Each brigade was to have three regiments, each regiment with about 1,200 officers and men.

  • Regiment 1,200 officers and men
  • Brigade 3,600 officers and men
  • Division 11,000 officers and men
  • Corps 33,000 officers and men

The regular U.S. Army had about 25,000 effective officers and men scattered at posts all over the country, not nearly enough it was thought, to provide an effective invasion force. They were mobilized, concentrated at Camp Alger and Camp George H. Thomas, and finally shipped to the port camps at Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans and San Francisco.

President McKinnley issued two calls for volunteers, the first call for 125,000 volunteers was issued with quotas for each state and was meant to mobilize the state National Guard units for Federal service. The regiments were organized by the states at state muster camps and then shipped to Federal camps to be organized into brigades, divisions and corps. Each of the eight corps was to have a camp or camps to organize and train the state units. The organized and trained troops would then advance toward embarkation camps at Tampa, Jacksonville, New Orleans and San Francisco.

The Presidents second call for volunteers was for 75,000 men and since the National Guard units were already depleted these troops would be raw recruits for the most part. Thirteen new regiments were created from this set of volunteers with the designation of U.S. Volunteer Regiments (USV) (3 cavalry and 10 infantry) and shipped off to recruit training camps. The regular Army was also expanded to 62,597 officers and men. Raw recruits were necessary for this expansion.

The Army was totally unprepared for this rapid mobilization and influx of 200,000 new troops. The organization and training camps for the eight Army Corps were hastily selected, poorly sited and many lacked even the most basic sanitation needs. Some of the larger camps had to be moved to new locations because of the mistakes in siting and the resulting spread of disease. Had the war not ended so quickly and the troops mustered out so quickly a greater tragedy could have happened. As it was, many of the units that did not go overseas lost personnel to disease and those that did get overseas suffered even greater losses.

The War

Invasion forces departed for the three major campaigns of the war, Cuba, the Philippine Islands and Puerto Rico which were quickly won and a peace treaty signed. The war lasted exactly 109 days. The troops were quickly returned to the U.S. leaving small occupation forces behind. Quarantine camps were used to isolate the sick and diseased returnees but these camps also proved deadly by concentrating large numbers of troops in small areas. Camp Wikoff on Long Island, New York, was one of the larger quarantine camps and became notorious for its inadequacies.

Losses by the volunteers (State and USV) included 316 officers and men killed in action overseas and 4,187 lost to disease, mostly within the United States.

The memorable events of the war included the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor on 15 Feb 1898 and the charge up San Juan Hill by Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders on 1 Jul 1898.

The United States gained as territories the Islands of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. Hawaii also was annexed during this period. The Philippine conflict degenerated into an insurgency with the local population that lasted until 1902.

Volunteer Losses
Loss From State Officers State Enlisted USV Officers USV Enlisted
Promotion or Transfer 198 6,104 53 770
Resigned or Discharged 2,015 - 155 -
Discharged for Disability - 4,544 - 532
Discharged by General Court Martial - 265 - 38
Discharged by Order - 18,554 - 2,192
Killed in Action 18 190 2 21
Died of Wounds Received in Action 3 78 0 3
Died of Disease 119 3,729 9 330
Died of Accident 4 97 1 17
Drowned 1 21 0 2
Suicide 3 11 0 0
Murdered or Homicide 0 30 0 7
Deserted 0 3,069 0 306
Total 2,369 36,692 223 4,218


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