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Corps - Spanish-American War

The regular army of the United States at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war numbered 28,183, and was practically recruited to its authorized strength. The principal engagements of the regular army during the war, which were those of San Juan and Caney, at Santiago, Cuba, were fought 01 July 1898 by the regiments before they had been recruited to war strength. The movement of the 8th Corps was by seven instalments, extending over a period from May to October 1898. Only three of these expeditions reached Manila in time to take part in the assault and capture of that city.

The army, volunteer and regular, was organized into eight corps, each corps consisting of three divisions, each division of three brigades, and each brigade of three regiments. At the time, there was no great consistency in the style of the designations of corps, which might be variously deisignated as First Army Corps [most commonly], 1st Army Corps, or I Corps [seldom].

The regular army could not be increased without an act of Congress. This act was passed on 26 April 1898, five days after the outbreak of the war, and the authorized war strength of the regular army was fixed at about 60,000 men. In round numbers, this increase was effected by voluntary enlistment to 44,000 May 31, 52,000 June 30, 56,000 July 31, 58,000 August 31. The mustering of the volunteers into the United States service took place as rapidly as possible in the different State rendezvous, but was not quite as rapid as was anticipated. At the end of May the volunteer army numbered 125,000, at end of June 160,000, at the end of July 212,000, and only at the end of August 216,000.

After the declaration of war McKinley revised that arrangement and approved the organization of eight army corps, each of which was to consist of three or more divisions of three brigades each. Each brigade was to have approximately 3,600 officers and enlisted men organized into three regiments and, with three such brigades, each division was to total about 11,000 officers and men. Thus the division was to be about the same size as the division of 1861, but army corps were to be larger. The division staff initially was to have an adjutant general, quartermaster, commissary, surgeon, inspector general, and engineer, with an ordnance officer added later. The brigade staff was identical except that no inspector general or ordnance officer was authorized.

Washington, DC, planners composed a force of 18 corps and started to fill out his force. Less than half of the corps were ever formed, and even fewer units saw combat. Only the 1st through 5th, 7th, and 8th Corps were actually organized. Only seven of these corps were ultimately organized due to the shortness of the war.

To facilitate command and control, corps and division commanders requested permission to use distinctive Civil War flags and badges for their units. Secretary of War Russell A. Alger, however, disapproved the request because of pressure from Civil War veterans who had been permitted by Congress to wear their distinctive unit insignia and guarded the privilege jealously. The quartermaster general, therefore, had to prepared an entirely new group of heraldic items for the newly organized army corps and their divisions and brigades. As part of the ambitions plan, the adjutant general published a scheme of badges and flags, assuming the large volunteer foreseen by the War Department planners. Based upon the resulting defining general order, the Quartermaster's Department began to make flags and pennants and several companies cranked out versions of the small colored badges that soldiers wore on their uniform chest.

The Spanish-American War badge designs used to shape to distinguish a corps, and the colors further discriminated the divisions within a corps. First divisions had badges in red, 2d divisions white, and 3d divisions, blue. Units assigned to corps headquarters had badges that were concentrically colored, from the outside in, red, white, and blue.The small enameled badges worn by soldiers are somewhat well known to military insignia collectors, but the flags and pennants in this series are certainly scarce, even in museums.

The army corps of the Spanish-American war were usually deficient in cavalry, artillery and engineers. An idea of the difficulties which arise in thus creating an army, may be gathered from the fact that in the telegraph division of the Adjutant General's office, during July and August, twenty operators, five clerks and seven messengers were required. The Adjutant General's office had charge of the mustering in of the volunteer army in addition to its ordinary duties relating to the regular army.

On May 7 the First Army Corps was constituted and May 16 Maj. Gen. John R. Brooke was placed in command of it, being already in command of the camp. The Third Army Corps was constituted the same date, and May 16 placed under the command of Maj. Gen. James F. Wade. All the regular troops left for Tampa in the early part of May 1898. During the latter part of August quite a large number of troops were ordered to their several States and subsequently mustered out. Those remaining were disposed of as follows, viz, on August 21 and 22, the Second and Third Divisions of the First Corps were sent to Lexington, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn., respectively. Early in September what was left of tbe Third Corps was transferred to Anniston, Ala., and subsequently made part of tbe Fourth Corps. At the end of September 1898 there was but a small detachment of troops left in camp.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:35:19 ZULU