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United States Volunteers - Spanish American War

In addition to the volunteer organizations furnished by the States, a number of regiments and companies were mustered in under the general title of United States Volunteers, by authority of acts of Congress dated April 23 and May 11, 1898. These acts, specially drawn for war purposes, gave to the President authority to bring about the enrollment (1) of 3,000 men from the nation at large possessing special qualifications: (3) of 3.500 men qualified for engineering work; and (3) 10,000 men possessing immunity from disease incident to tropical climates. The muster in of 3 regiments of cavalry ("Rough Riders") was completed bv May 30; that of the 10 regiments of infantry (immune) by July 30; that of the 3 regiments of engineers by Aug. 20, the last volunteer organization being mustered in Aug. 24,1898. According to the official roster, these organizations included 3 regiments of engineers. 3 regiments of cavalry, 11 regiments of infantry, and 12 companies forming a signal corps. Official data concerning these organizations is not yet sufficiently complete to admit of a detailed statement concerning the record of each during war operations. In addition to the engineers, cavalry, infantry, and the signal corps, a battery of artillery was organized through the instrumentality of a private citizen of New York (John Jacob Astor).

The federal volunteer regiments that fought in the Philippine insurgency from 1899 to 1901 were the product of intense political infighting, negotiation and compromise at the highest levels of the American government. Oddities among military units, these regiments were neither state militia nor regular army. They were national units filled with state volunteers. The federal volunteer regiments were fleeting organizations. They had no history and no future. Not only did they lack unit legacies to inspire their soldiers; they were disbanded within two years of their creation. Yet, in 1899, 1900 and 1901, the United States Volunteer regiments bore the preponderance of the American national effort in the Philippines.


The United States Volunteer Engineers, according to the official data available, did excellent service during the campaign. In the official roster showing the principal camps and stations the following statement is given : First Regiment, mustered out at New York city, Jan. 25. 1898: Second Regiment, 8 companies at Havana and 4 companies at Honolulu; Third Regiment, 4 companies at Cienfuegos with headquarters, 4 companies at Matanzas, and 4 companies at Havana.


The following statement is made concerning the United States Volunteer Cavalry : First Regiment, mustered out at Montauk, N. Y., Sept. 15, 1898; Second Regiment, mustered out at Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 24, 1898; Third Regiment, mustered out at Chickamauga, Ga., Sept. 8, 1898. The official record of the First United States Volunteer Cavalry shows that Troops A, B, D, E, F, G, K, L, consisting of 31 officers and 567 men, took part in the engagement at La Quasima, Cuba, on June 24, 1898. The casualties recorded for the regiment at that fight were : 1 officer and 15 men killed, 6 officers and 44 men wounded. In subsequent operations against Santiago (San Juan, July 1-3) the 8 troops before mentioned have the following casualty record: 1 officer and 14 men killed, 5 officers and 69 men wounded. This regiment was commanded by (1) Col. Leonard Wood; (2) Lieut.-Col. Theodore Roosevelt.

Astor Battery

Equipped and organized at New York city at the expense of John Jacob Astor, May, 1898. Mustered in for war with Spain, June. 1898. Strength: 3 officers, 101 men. Commanded by Lieut. March during war operations. Stationed during war: (1) Pelham Bay Park, N. Y. ; (2) Presidio. Cal.; (3) Manila. This battery took part in the action of Aug. 13, 1898, at Manila. Casualties during campaign : 3 men killed. The battery was mustered out in New York city, Feb. 2,1899. During the fighting at Manila on Aug. 13 the Astor Battery was on the right of the line. It shelled the blockhouse with its Hotchkiss mountain guns, the men, under Capt. March, subsequently charging the position with revolvers.


The following statement is made concerning the United States Volunteer Infantry: First Regiment, mustered out at Galveston. Texas, Oct. 28, 1898; Second Regiment, stationed at Santiago: Third Regiment, stationed at Macon, Ga.; Fourth Regiment, stationed at Manzanillo; Fifth Regiment, stationed at Santiago; Sixth Regiment, stationed at Savannah, Ga.; Seventh Regiment (colored), mustered out at Macon, Ga.. Feb. 28,1899 ; Eighth Regiment (colored), stationed at Chickamauga, Ga.; Ninth Regiment (colored), stationed at Santiago; Tenth Regiment (colored), stationed at Macon, Ga.; Territorial Regiment, mustered out at Albany, Ga., Feb. 15, 1899. The roster on which these regiments are named is dated March 9, 1899, and shows that the Third, Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth Regiments were at that time under orders to be mustered out.

Signal Corps

The roster shows that on the date given the Second. Third, Sixth, Eleventh, Twelfth. Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Companies were stationed in Cuba. The Fourth Company was stationed at Puerto Rico, and the First and Eighteenth Companies at Manila. These companies included experts from State organizations.

First United States Volunteer Cavalry

A picturesque and, as the event proved, most serviceable addition to the army was one of the special cavalry regiments organised at San Antonio, Texas, and soon known the land over as Roosevelt's Rough Riders. When the war began, Theodore Roosevelt, a New Yorker of means, an old-time ranchman, a keen hunter, a politician of no mean skill, and a nervous, restless, adventurous, and, above all, combative man of middle age, was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He had sought this place expecting war with Spain, and had exerted himself to the utmost in preparing the navy for the conflict. As the time of active hostilities grew near, he looked eagerly about for some way in which to take the field; for to one of his temperament the routine of a bureau, however useful to the nation, would be intolerable when there was opportunity to engage in real war.

The act of Congress authorising the enlistment of three regiments of cavalry opened the opportunity, and the colonelcy of a regiment forming at San Antonio, Texas, was presently given to an intimate friend of Mr. Roosevelt's, Dr. Wood, a regimental surgeon in the regular army. A most extraordinary military command this soon became. Having a nucleus of cowboys and plainsmen, it was at once dubbed by the newspapers the "Rough Riders," and began to gather recruits from the most diverse classes of society.

Mr. Roosevelt was himself a picturesque character of many dissimilar interests, and former companions of his in very different walks of life flocked to his standard. He was a college-bred man, and into the ranks of the Rough Riders came men who were still undergraduates, men famous on the athletic field or the football gridiron. He had lately been a police commissioner of New York, and members of the famous Broadway squad of giants volunteered to follow him to Cuba. The New York clubs gave some of their most gilded members, and young men went to San Antonio with their valets to become privates in the rough riding cavalry. From the West came men who had hunted the big game of the Rockies with Roosevelt, or rode with him over his ranch in the Bad Lands.

From the very first much was made of this regiment forming in the far Southwest by the newspapers, and it had the advantage - for it is an advantage even to a fighting-machine - of wide advertising. A famous shooting sheriff of Arizona, and an actor well known in the theaters of the Northern cities; several veteran Indian fighters and several Indians as well; three former officers of the regular army; four exclergymen of the Baptist and Methodist denominations; a few professional gamblers; an internal revenue agent from Tennessee, where gentlemen of his calling are at any time likely to be shot on sight, and a number of rich young men experienced in the pursuit of pleasure in many lands made up this extraordinary regiment.

In the end the First United States Volunteer Cavalry proved to be something more than picturesque. Dismounted, with all their talent for rough riding unemployed, they fought the first fight in the invasion of Cuba, suffered bravely, and acquitted themselves well. Better armed than the majority of the volunteer regiments, and composed of men most of whom were inured to hardship and trained in the use of weapons, this command had most of the good qualities of a regiment of regulars. When it is remembered that many of the volunteers, even those who had been long in service in the national guard, had never fired a gun up to the time they were brought to the camps of concentration, it is easy to appreciate the immense value of a regiment of trained hunters and pistolshooters such as this. It is worth noting, by the way, that though nominally a cavalry regiment, this command was never furnished with sabres, as it was thought the time employed in teaching the use of an unfamiliar arm would be wasted. Colonel Mosby, the celebrated "rough rider" of the Confederacy, had left his opinion that the sabre is a handicap to the cavalryman when two or more pistols can be carried.

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