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Spanish American War Brigade

After the Civil War, the Army again was reduced in size and no permanent units above regimental level were retained. It was not until the 1890s that the Army made any significant organizational changes, the most important being the reorganization of the regiment with three subordinate battalions. When an army was raised in 1898 to fight Spain, many of the precedents established in the Civil War were followed. Volunteers were called out and eight corps were raised. At full strength, each corps had three divisions with three brigades each. When a corps' strength was less than a full division of three brigades, the extra brigade or two were considered "separate" and fell directly under the corps headquarters. An act of Congress in 1898 had established the brigade as consisting of three or more regiments, though in practice some would only have two. Brigade designations followed the pattern established in the Civil War, with brigades numbered sequentially by division and corps, with no unique designations.

Unlike the previous war, the Regular Army was kept mostly intact during the short war with Spain. Most brigades were either all regular troops or all volunteer. The regiments of the regular force were mostly consolidated into the brigades of the Fifth Corps, with some in the Fourth Corps. Most volunteers raised did not see action. The Fifth Corps provided the attack force for the expedition to Cuba. The Fourth Corps served in an occupation role in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Eighth Corps served as the Philippine Expedition and was active in those islands long after the other corps had been disbanded.

While almost every state and several territories contributed at least one regiment of infantry or cavalry volunteers, no brigades were formed with regiments all from the same state. A special category of volunteers, recruited from the nation at large, rather than from particular states, was used extensively during the war itself in 1898 and in operations in the Philippines in 1899-1901.

The Philippine Expedition, which formally lasted from 1898 to 1901, saw the Eighth Corps, the command headquarters in the islands, organized into as many as seven brigades at its largest size in January 1900. The organization in the Philippines was a lot more flexible than elsewhere. Artillery batteries were often attached directly to brigades and infantry and cavalry regiments were sometimes brigaded together.

As in previous wars, the authorized grade of a brigade commander was brigadier general. However, with the paucity of general grades, like in the Civil War, regimental colonels and lieutenant colonels often commanded brigades for extended periods of time, the most famous being Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, 1st US Volunteer Cavalry, who commanded the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, Fifth Corps, in July 1898, after the Battle of San Juan Hill.55 The war itself had two phases, a short campaign against Spain in April-July 1898, and a longer war from 1898 to 1901 in the Philippines against Filipino insurgents. This duality saw the unusual situation of some general officers holding two volunteer commissions, one for the 1898 campaign and a subsequent one, sometimes at a lesser grade, in the Philippines.

At the end of the century, the maneuver brigade remained a temporary organization consisting of little or no headquarters staff and troops from a single branch, infantry, or cavalry. The brigade structure had changed little from the establishment of the first brigades in the War of 1812. The main reason for this static organizational development was, that, despite technological advances in weaponry, infantry and cavalry tactics were generally unchanged. And a brigadier general could still control on the battlefield a force of 2,000 men divided into several large regiments or several more smaller regiments. However military and technological advances would see changes in the next century. With the volunteers in the Philippines mustered out in 1901, the regiment returned to its status as the largest permanent unit in the Regular Army.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:59 ZULU