Camp McKinley (3)

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Camp McKinley (3) (1898-1899) - A Spanish American War Camp established in 1898 in Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa. Named Camp McKinley after then President William McKinley. Abandoned as a military facility in 1899.

Iowa State Fairgrounds in 2020


During the war with Spain, 1898-99, the Iowa State Fair Grounds at Des Moines were used for the mobilization of the entire Iowa National Guard and their conversion to U.S. volunteer troops. The four regiments of the Iowa National Guard arrived at Camp McKinley on 26 Apr 1898 and each was assigned quarters in a horse or cattle barn. The first mess was served that night at 8:30 pm.

Camp McKinley Mess Tent.
Camp McKinley NCOs.

The Camp was organized the next day and named Camp McKinley. The commander was General James Rush Lincoln. The month of May was spent in establishing discipline and training while each company was brought up to strength (106 men per company) with new recruits. There was attrition with troops who could not meet the federal requirements and/or pass the physicals. New recruits were required who had not had any National Guard service or military experience. Importantly during this period officers were assigned and NCO vacancies were filled from the enlisted troops.

At the end of May came the formal muster of the four National Guard regiments into the four U.S. regiments — the 49th, 50th, 51st, and 52nd Volunteer Infantry Regiments were formed and rendezvoused at Camp McKinley. Soon after the muster, the regiments began to leave for their assignments. The 49th was ordered to Chickamauga, the 50th to Jacksonville, the 51st to San Francisco and on to the Philippines, and the 52nd to Chickamauga, The 52nd then returned to Camp McKinley on 30 Aug 1898. They never saw service outside the continental U.S. and were mustered out 30 Oct 1998 at Des Moines.

As the troop trains departed Iowa in June 1898 they were met with crowds of well-wishers at every stop and crossing and especially at towns where the local National Guard unit had furnished companies of troops.

In all, some 5,859 Iowa volunteers were mustered in or trained at Camp McKinley.

Current Status

Still the Iowa State fair grounds but no signs or memorials could be located.

Location: Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa.

Maps & Images

Lat: 41.59572 Long: -93.55440

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 805'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 287.
  • Markey, Joseph Ignacious, From Iowa to the Philippines: A History of Company M, Fifty-first Iowa Infantry Volunteers, T. D. Murphy Company, 1900 - Philippine American War, 1899-1902, 320 pages.


Visited: 11 Aug 2020

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