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Spanish American War Camps

Camp ThomasChickamauga Park, Ga.Apr. 14 425First


Camp RodgersTampa, Fla May 2 56Fifth

Camp Cuba LibrePanama Park, Fla
[Jacksonville, Fla.]
May 26 246Seventh
Camp AlgerFalls ChurchMay 18 107Second
Camp MeadeMiddletown, Pa.Aug. 24 64Second
Camp CoppingerMobile, AlFirst
Camp MerrittSan Francisco, Ca May 7 139Eighth
Camp BlackLong Island, Ny.0
Camp ColumbiaHavanna, Cuba5
Camp BushnellColumbus, Oh.0
Camp FernandinaFernandina, Fl0
Camp GordonSt. Simons Island, Ga1
Camp Hamilton Lexington, Ky.Aug. 2329
Camp HobsonLithia Springs, Ga.5
Camp MacKenzieAugusta, Ga.5
Camp MerriamSan Francisco, Ca
Camp OnwardSavannah, Ga.
Camp Poland Knoxville, Tenn Aug. 21 23
Camp Shipp Anniston, AlaSept. 312
Camp WheelerHuntsville, Ala Aug. 17 35
Camp WikoffMontauk Point, NYAug. 7257
posts, minor camps, etc 362
Manila, Philippine Islands June 30 63
Porto Rico July 25 137
Cuba (not including killed or died of wounds)June 22 427
At sea, en route from Cuba to Montauk PointAug. and Sept87

The number of deaths from all causes, between May 1 and September 30 inclusive, as reported to the Adjutant-General's office up to October 3, were: Killed, 23 officers and 257 enlisted men; died of wounds, 4 officers and 61 enlisted men; died of disease, 80 officers and 2,485 enlisted men. Total, 107 officers and 2,803 enlisted men, being an aggregate of 2,910 out of a total force of 274,717 officers and men, of whom 425 died as a result of enemy action, and 2,485 died of disease.

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. Fourth Army Corps, Major-General John J. Coppinger, Mobile, Alabama - disintegration of this temporary camp - with no official name but sometimes called Camp Coppinger - began as early as June 2d; sent to Tampa and Fernandina, Florida, and then to Huntsville, Alabama.

The Commanding General of the Army, Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles, had planned to expand the Army in an orderly fashion by holding the volunteers in state camps for sixty days. There they would be organized, equipped, and trained for field duty. During that period the War Department was to prepare large training camps and collect the necessary stores to outfit the new army, while McKinley was to appoint the general officers who would command the new brigades, divisions, and army corps. Miles' plan soon went awry. Because of the lack of Regular Army officers to staff state camps and the need to have volunteers and regulars train together, he quickly abandoned it. In mid-May the volunteers were moved to a few large unfinished camps in the South, and when they arrived only seven instead of the eight projected army corps were organized. Two army corps, the IV and V consisted of regulars and volunteers, while the others were made up of volunteers.

The eight corps were thus commanded:

  • First Army Corps, Major-General John R. Brooke, Camp Thomas, Georgia (Chickamauga Park).
  • Second Army Corps, Major-General William M. Graham, Camp Alger (Falls Church), Virginia.
  • Third Army Corps, Major-General James I. Wade, Camp Thomas, Georgia.
  • Fourth Army Corps, Major-General John J. Coppinger, Mobile, Alabama (disintegration of this temporary camp began as early as June 2d; sent to Tampa and Fernandina, Florida, and then to Huntsville, Alabama).
  • Fifth Army Corps, Major-General William R. Shafter, Tampa (Santiago campaign).
  • Sixth Army Corps, Major-General James H. Wilson, Camp Thomas, Georgia (not finally organized); Wilson subsequently commanded first division of First Corps and went to Puerto Rico.
  • Seventh Army Corps, Major-General Fitzhugh Lee, Tampa; moved May 31st to Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Eighth Army Corps, Major-General Wesley Merritt, San Francisco and Manila.
As soon as possible the organizations were ordered into great camps of instruction similar to those established in the civil war where they were formed into brigades, divisions and corps, and instructed in their military duties. The I and III corps were at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga, and together had a maximum strength of 56,500 men. The II corps was at Camp Alger, Va., and had a maximum strength of 22,600 men. The IV corps was at Mobile, and had a maximum strength of 20,000 men. The V corps was concentrated at Tampa befora it moved on to Santiago, Cuba; it was composed principally of Regulars and had a maximum strength of 18,500; the VI corps was never formed; the VII corps was at Tampa, Florida, and had a maximum strength of 27,800; the VIII corps was in the Philippines and had a maximum strength of 15,600 during the period given.

The War Department has been criticised for assembling so many troops in large camps. The reasons for such action may be stated as follows:

  • The supply bureaus could not establish in each of the forty-five States depots for rationing volunteers during the period required to manufacture and ship equipments for these recruits. Moreover, there were not enough regular army officers in the Quartermaster, Commissary, Medical, and Ordnance departments to detail one of each kind to so many scattered State camps, and regular army officers alone at that time were qualified to do the work.
  • It was desirable to place volunteer regiments in camps with regulars, in order that the former might have the example and instruction that seasoned troops would furnish.
  • It was deemed inadvisable to have volunteer organizations remain in their own States any longer than was absolutely necessary for the mustering-in process, in that home influences tended to retard military discipline.
  • Immediate drill in brigade, division, and corps manoeuvres was of the first importance, as the experience of the Civil War had demonstrated. This could be accomplished only in large camps of instruction.
  • Considerations of national moment, which subsequent events proved wise, suggested the brigading of regiments, not from the same State, but from the four great geographical divisions-North, South, East, and West. In this way clannishness and provincialism were obliterated, and the result was a homogeneous army.

On April 15, 1898, by direction of the Secretary of War, a part of the Regular Army was ordered to rendezvous at Chickamauga Park, selected by the Commanding General of the Army as a place for the assembling of a portion of the troops intended for use in the anticipated war with Spain. On the 23d of the same month the encampment was designated as Camp George H. Thomas. Chickamauga Park, as is well known, is situated about 9 miles from the city of Chattanooga, Teun., in the State of Georgia, and is the property of the United States. The first regiment of the Regular Army arrived about the middle of April 1898 and the others followed in rapid succession until 7,283 officers and men were in the park. The first volunteer troops arrived about the middle of May and were quickly followed by others, until by May 31 there were 44,227 present. Some days as many as five or six regiments arrived, taxing the railroads and camp transportation to the utmost.

Chickamauga Park, near Chattanooga, Tenn., was the point of concentration for the regular troops which were gathered for the war with Spain. It was the initial camp where the mobilization took place, and from which soldiers and supplies were dispatched to seacoast towns within easy striking distance of Cuba. When orders went out from army headquarters at Washington for the movement of the regulars to Chickamauga a thrill of soldierly pride swelled the breast of every man who wore Uncle Sam's blue uniform, and there was a hasty dash for the new camp. There is nothing an army man, officer or private, dislikes so much as inactivity. Fighting, especially against a foreign foe, suits him better than dawdling away his time in idleness, and word to "get to the front" is always welcome.

For nearly three weeks troops poured into Chickamauga on every train. They came from all parts of the country, and from every regiment and branch of the service. There were "dough-boys" and cavalrymen, engineers and artillerymen; some regiments were there in force, others were represented by detachments only. There were companies and parts of companies, squadrons and parts of squadrons, batteries and parts of batteries. It was a bringing together of Uncle Sam's soldier boys from all conceivable sections of the country.

The camp was well named. "Camp George H. Thomas" they called it, in memory of old "Pap," the hero of Chickamauga, and men and officers alike took a very visible pride in being residents of the tented city. The establishment of the community at Camp Thomas was much like the establishment of a colony in an unsettled land, in so far as domestic conveniences were concerned. Everything had to be taken there, and each regiment, which was a small canvas town in itself, had to depend entirely upon its own resources.

The responsibility for the conditions at Chickamanga rested upon those who assembled over 60,000 raw levies and kept the great mass of them together for weeks, and upon those whose duty it was to inspect, advise, and order-officers, medical and military, regimental, brigade, division, corps, and of the camp, and the higher the authority the greater the responsibility. If, as at Camp Thomas, a regiment can go for ten days without digging sinks; if the sinks dug are not used or they quickly overflow and pollute the ground; if practically no protection is afforded against the liquor sellers and prostitutes of neighboring places; if commands are crowded together and tents are seldom struck, or even never during the occupation of the camp; if no one is called to account for repeated violation of sanitary orders, it can not but be that typhoid fever once introduced will spready rapidly, widely.

Officers and men in these camps were rife for war, and drill, parades, practice marches, and military camp duties occupied the whole of their time and energies. Considerations of domestic economy and sanitation in the companies and regiments were not given proper attention, and men who were being taught to meet the enemy in battle succumbed to the hardships and insanitary conditions of life in their camps of instruction.

The sites of certain of the camps have been instanced in the newspapers as the cause of the sickness which was developed in them; but a review of the whole situation shows that it was not the site, but the manner of its occupation which must be held responsible for the general spread of disease among the troops. The density of the military population on the area of these contracted camps prevented the possibility of a good sanitary condition. Camps of this character may be occupied for a week or two at a time without serious results, as in the case of National Guardsmen out for ten days' field practice during the summer, but their continued occupation will inevitably result in the breaking down of the command by diarrhoea, dysentery, and typhoid fever.

Soon after the newly raised levies were aggregated in large camps sickness began to increase progressively from causes that were so general in their operation that scarcely a regiment escaped. These may largely be referred to ignorance on the part of officers of the principles of camp sanitation, and of their duties and responsibilities as regards the welfare of the enlisted men in their commands. Medical officers, as a rule, were also without experience in the sanitation of camps and the prevention of disease among troops. The few who knew what should be done were insufficient to control the sanitary situation.

No doubt typhoid fever, camp diarrhoea, and probably yellow fever were frequently communicated to soldiers in camp through the agency of flies, which swarm about fecal matter and filth of all kinds deposited upon the ground or in shallow pits, and directly convey infectious material, attached to their feet or contained in their excreta, to the food which is exposed while being prepared at the company kitchens or while being served in the mess tent. Typhoid fever ranged from its mild, ambulatory form and on to its worst type, attended with cerebro-spinal complications, ulcerations, and perforations of bowels, hemorrhages, and death. The men drank out of cups in common, dipping them into water barrels in common, and thus the diseased men readily and surely communicated typhoid germs to the uninfected. It is for this reason that a strict sanitary police is so important. Also because the water supply may be contaminated in the same way or by surface drainage.

Complaints of starvation appeared almost daily in the newspapers during the occupation of Camp Wikoff. It is now generally understood that the weakness, prostration, anaemia, and emaciation of so many of the troops were the results of malarial, typhoid, and yellow fever, from which the army suffered as a consequence of its exposure to the climatic influences and local infections of Santiago and its neighborhood pending and subsequent to the surrender of the city.

In view of the necessity for the return of the troops of the Fifth Army Corps from Santiago, Cuba, preparations were made for encamping them at Montauk Point, Long Island. These included the establishment of temporary tent hospitals, not only for the treatment of the large number of sick brought by each command from Cuba, but for the isolation and treatment of those from transports lying under the suspicion of yellow-fever infection. The detention hospital received its first cases on August 15. The temporary tent hospital, which was locally known as the general hospital, Montauk Point, consisted of eighteen pavilions similar to those of the detention hospital. A central corridor running east and west had nine of these pavilions opening on it on each side. An annex had speedily to be constructed to accommodate the large number of sick arriving on the transports, transferred from the detention hospital, or received from the regimental camps of the Fifth Army Corps. This annex consisted of fourteen tent pavilions, arranged seven on each side of a central corridor.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi, which lives only in humans. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in their bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers , recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed S. Typhi in their feces (stool). You can get typhoid fever if you eat food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding S. Typhi or if sewage contaminated with S. Typhi bacteria gets into the water you use for drinking or washing food. Therefore, typhoid fever is more common in areas of the world where handwashing is less frequent and water is likely to be contaminated with sewage.

Typhoid fever has an onset characterized by fever, headache, constipation, malaise, chills, and myalgia. Diarrhea is uncommon, and vomiting is not usually severe. Confusion, delirium, intestinal perforation, and death may occur in severe cases. Persons with typhoid fever usually have a sustained fever as high as 103 to 104 F (39 to 40 C). They may also feel weak, or have stomach pains, headache, or loss of appetite.

Typhoid fever has an insidious onset with few clinical features that reliably distinguish it from a variety of other infectious diseases. Many medical officers were failing in the recognition of typhoid fever. The regimental medical officer had the majority of these cases under observation for so short a time that with the means at his command it was quite impossible in a large percentage of the cases to make a positive diagnosis. The dissemination of typhoid fever in the military camps in 1898 was most largely from person to person by contact and not through infected water or food. After typhoid fever became epidemic in a command the only way to get rid of the infection is to disinfect everything and then move to a new site. Change of location alone is not sufficient to rid a command of typhoid infection. The bacteria in the blankets, in the tentage, and clothing must be destroj'ed. When this is done, all sick left behind, all new cases isolated promptly and a new location secured, the epidemic ceases.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:44:55 ZULU