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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  15 - Spanish-American War

by Marshall Cousins

Introduction

(-as transcribed from pages 218 - 223)


All through the month of April the people of the nation watched the gathering war clouds with deep concern.  With all others of the National Guard of the country, the members of E Company were particularly close observers of developments, and as day by day went by the feeling became more certain war would result.  The Armory, then situated at the corner of First avenue and Ann street, facing on the Chippewa river, was open every evening and the rendezvous of the men of the company.

At 12:19 on the morning of Thursday, April 28, the following telegram was received by the company commander:

"Captain J. M. Ballard,
Eau Claire, Wis.

Assemble all men enrolled at Armory ready to entrain at 10:30 a.m., Omaha.  Bring all extra property, one day's rations.

By Command of the Governor,
C. r. Boardman,
Adjutant General"

Many men were in the Armory when the call was received and immediately were dispatched to carry the word to all other members of the company.  It was a busy night and by eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th the company was assembled at its Armory ready to take up the march to the depot.

Captain Ballard had been advised by General Boardman several days before, the maximum strength of volunteer companies was fixed at 101 and the minimum at 89.  these figures included officers.  Instructions had been given, however, not to enlist over 65 men in the National Guard Company.

All business in the city was practically suspended.  At ten o'clock banks, stores and factories closed.  Shortly after ten the company left the Armory and began the march to the Omaha Station.  An immense cheering assembly greeted the men as, in heavy marching order, in column of fours, they moved out onto First avenue.  An escort column was made up as follows:

  • Metropolitan Band,
  • Mayor, Aldermen and other City Officials,
  • Eagle Post, Grand Army of the Republic, 150 strong,
  • Griffin Rifles, E Company.

From Armory to the depot was one grand ovation.  At the depot it was estimated fully half of the people of Eau Claire had assembled.  The troop train from Hudson did not arrive until 11:15 and the company immediately boarded the car assigned to them.  Plentiful lunches had been provided by the Grand Army and the Women's Relief Corps.  Carnations and roses from the ladies decorated the blue uniform of every soldier.  Ninety-seven men and officers were on the company roll.

On this train was C Company, of Hudson, and H Company, of Menomonie.  At Merrillan A Company, of Neillsville, was attached.

The Regimental Sergeant Major, Marshall Cousins, traveled with E Company.

Among those who accompanied the troop train from Eau Claire were Captain Charles H. Henry, a veteran of the War of the Rebellion; Harry M. Atkinson, editor of the Leader, and Professor M. S. Frawley of the Eau Claire High School.

Harry Atkinson was determined to enlist.  He had, for a short period several years before, been a member of the Guard.  His brother, Percy C., had already enlisted, but it required long argument on the part of Captain Ballard, Captain Henry, Professor Frawley and others to convince Harry his first duty was to remain with his paper.  He only gave up when assured should a second call come, he would be permitted to go.

In Captain Ballard's Company were a number of high school boys, among them members of the spring graduating class.  The graduation essays of several of the young soldiers were then in the hands of Professor Frawley. At frequent intervals throughout the day the professor would take out these essays and gaze at them with tear-dimmed eyes.

It was a bright sunny day and at every village and city along the route the troops received an ovation.  Madison was reached late in the afternoon.  There were assembled thousands of students and citizens.  Several state officers boarded the train to extend their greetings, among them being the noted newspaper correspondent, Hon. Gilbert E. Vandercook, then Assistant Secretary of State, and Hon. Sewall A. Peterson, State Treasurer, a former officer of H Company.  Nels Nelson, a University student, had served an enlistment with E Company.  He boarded the Eau Claire car to bid his former comrades goodbye, but soon changed his mind and announced to his classmates on the platform he was going on with the company.  He finished his course at Madison after the war.

The Wisconsin troops were mobilized at the State Fair Grounds, near Milwaukee, the camp being named "Camp Harvey," in honor of the War Governor, Louis P. Harvey, drowned April 19, 1862, at Pittsburg Landing, in the Tennessee river, while on a visit to the wounded Wisconsin soldiers in Shiloh.

Sometime after dark the train reached the camp and was met at the depot by Governor Scofield, General Boardman, Colonel Patton and Colonel Ginty.  The trotting horse stables were assigned to Colonel Moore's Third Infantry, and to these quarters the troops from the northwest were conducted.  The writer of this sketch recalls the trip in the darkness with Governor Scofield as a guide, from the station to the Administration Building, where the Governor had established his military headquarters.  Lanterns were few and the night dark, but the companies moved without confusion to the quarters.

The large roomy box stalls had been plentifully supplied with fresh straw and the tired men were glad to roll themselves in their blankets and seek rest in these improvised barracks.

From this point on, the war history of the company becomes intermingled with that of the other companies of the regiment.  The history of the regiment will be given with such additions as pertain particularly to the Eau Claire Company.

On the regimental roster when the regiment was called to service were the following field and staff officers:

  • Colonel Martin t. Moore, La Cross.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin F. Parker, Milwaukee.
  • Major Thomas J. George, Menomonie.
  • Major Julius E. Kircheis, La Crosse.
  • Major Randolph A. Richards, Sparta.
  • Captain Orlando Holway, Adjutant, La Crosse.
  • Captain George A. Ludington, Quartermaster, Neillsville.
  • Major John B. Edwards, Surgeon, Mauston.
  • Captain Edward H. Grannis, Assistant Surgeon, Menomonie.
  • Captain Charles F. King, Assistant Surgeon, Hudson.
  • Marshall Cousins, Regimental Sergeant Major, Eau Claire.

In addition to the above, the regiment carried as a National Guard Organization three Battalion Adjutants, but at the first call for troops the Battalion Adjutants were not included.  They were:

  • First Lieutenant E. Bartlett Farr, First Battalion, Eau Claire.
  • First Lieutenant Louis Schalle, Second Battalion, Tomah.
  • First Lieutenant henry W. Klopf, Third Battalion, Neillsville.

A few days after the regiment arrived at Camp Harvey, Congress passed a law accepting National Guard Organizations as they had existed int he states and the Battalion Adjutants were ordered into the camp.

Immediately on arrival of the regiment at Camp Harvey, Colonel Moore looked about for a regimental headquarters.  Between the barracks occupied by his men and the race track, under a spreading tree (not a chestnut) was the blacksmith shop, where the trotters, the former occupants of the barracks, had their shoes adjusted.  This being the only available building, was quickly converted into the headquarters of the Third Infantry.

The morning of April 29 opened cold and raw.  Throughout the stay of the troops at Camp Harvey the weather was uncomfortably cold.  The men sleeping in the barracks or box stalls, being well supplied with straw, did not suffer greatly from cold during the nights, but those officers who had been supplied with tents would get up in the morning chilled through and through.  The dressing room facilities at this camp, while perhaps suitable for the former occupants of the barracks, were not exactly convenient for the young soldiers, but they made the best of it.  Going across the race track from quarters they would break the ice on the brook and make their toilets, talking and laughing even with chattering teeth.

The period at Camp Harvey was full of excitement and uncertainty.  The air was charged with rumors of battles fought and orders to the front.  It was fully expected the Wisconsin regiments would be rushed into Cuba.  Governor Scofield made every effort to prepare the men properly for service.  He looked with no enthusiasm upon war and much deplored it, although heartily endorsing the course of President McKinley.  He had made a brilliant record for himself in the War of the Rebellion and received promotion to the rank of Major for gallantry on the field of Gettysburg.  He knew what war meant.

The troops were, immediately on arrival at Camp Harvey, put on the regular army ration.  To this the Governor, however, insisted there should be added milk and butter.  He said the great dairy state of Wisconsin could well afford to supply her soldiers with these articles while they were still in the state; that there would be time enough later for them to do without.

A change in the personnel of the regimental staff took place during the period the regiment was in preparation for muster in.  Captain George A. Ludington, who had for so many years served faithfully and well as Regimental Quartermaster, owing to his physical condition was rejected by the surgeons.  Charles R. Williams for some years had been in charge of Camp Douglas Reservation and held the rank of Captain in the Quartermaster's Department.  He was transferred to the regiment as Quartermaster, and Captain Ludington became depot Quartermaster at Camp Douglas.  Captain Williams came to the regiment splendidly equipped owing to his familiarity with the supply departments of the army and proved to be a most efficient officer.

Another change in the staff occurred at this time.  Lieutenant E. B. Farr, of Eau Claire, was rejected by the surgeons and Marshall Cousins, then Regimental Sergeant Major, was commissioned by Major George.  This position had been offered to Lieutenant Cousins in 1895, but he had declined it in order to find a place as a commissioned officer for Lieutenant Farr.

May 1 was the first Sunday in the camp and the newspapers of Milwaukee estimated 60,000 visitors passed through the grounds.  Daily during the time the troops were at Camp Harvey thousands of citizens visited the camp.  Monday morning, May 2, the camp was aroused at an early hour by the cry of the newsboys announcing Dewey's great victory at Manilla, "and many Spaniards killed."  Cheer after cheer went up from the young soldiers and the chilly sunrise temperature was forgotten.

Active preparations were going on night and day to complete the organization and to fully and completely prepare the troops for active service.  Lieutenant Colonel Tilden, Deputy Surgeon general of the United States Army, organized and swore the Regimental Surgeons as Government Examining Surgeons, and on May 5 the examination of officers and men was begun.  A few of the Eau Claire boys failed to pass this physical examination.  Several of them, on being informed by the kindly Dr. Tilden they could not be mustered in, could not restrain the tears.

Wednesday, May 11, 1898, was an eventful day in the history of the soldiers of the Third Infantry, as well as of Wisconsin.  For on this day at 1:30 o'clock, Captain William L. Buck, of the United States Army, began mustering the regiment into the United States service.

Shortly after noon Captain Buck entered regimental headquarters, formerly the blacksmith shop, where he found Lieutenant Cousins on duty.  The headquarters' rolls were in readiness and Captain Buck asked they be immediately signed by the officers of the field and staff, handing a pen to the Lieutenant.  That officer, however, suggested Colonel Moore be given the honor of first signing the oath as a soldier of the United States.  Following Colonel Moore, the Lieutenant signed and became the second to muster.  After the headquarters had been mustered, one by one the companies were taken up, the roll called and in an impressive manner the men, with uncovered heads, took the oath as United States Volunteer Soldiers.  Many spectators witnessed this interesting ceremony.

The Third Infantry was the first Wisconsin organization to be mustered into the Federal service.

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