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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR. Clevelanders were active, enthusiastic supporters of U.S. foreign policy as practiced by Ohioans Pres. Wm. McKinley, Secretary of State Wm. R. Day, and his successor, JOHN HAY†. They lamented the national loss when the battleship Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, in mid-Feb. 1898; they were attentive to the diplomatic efforts to end Spanish control in Cuba in the weeks that followed. When war came, following McKinley's War Message to Congress on 11 Apr., they demonstrated their commitment by volunteering in large numbers for active service in what John Hay later called the "splendid little war." Despite the rapid response, the Cleveland contingents recruited for service were denied an opportunity to demonstrate their bravery in battle; the war was so short in duration, there was neither time nor transport facilities enough to move eager troops to the battlefields.

Approximately 1,000 Cleveland-area volunteers responded to the 26 Apr. "first call" for troops; an additional 1,400 volunteered with the second call in June. Most of these men were rostered in the 5th Regiment of the Ohio Natl. Guard. Until the war came, the regiment's duties had been confined to peacekeeping in labor conflicts such as the 1896 Brown Hoist strike. Now, on 29 Apr. 1898, the 5th (845 men) left Cleveland for "Camp Bushnell" (an improvised rendezvous near Columbus named for then-Ohio governor Asa Smith Bushnell). Geo. A. Garretson, a CIVIL WAR veteran who was president of the Bank of Commerce in Cleveland, was commissioned brig. gen. of volunteers. Majors Chas. F. Cramer and Arthur K. A. Liebich served with Garretson in command of the 5th Regiment. Battery A, with 103 men commanded by Capt. Geo. T. McConnell, followed after the 5th on 30 Apr. The regiment was mustered into U.S. service on 11 May, sent to Camp Thomas, GA, and then moved to Tampa, FL. Other Cleveland units were troops A, B, and C of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (265 officers and enlisted men), commanded by Maj. Webb C. Hayes, which left Cleveland on 6 May, and Co. D, 9th Battalion (colored), commanded by Capt. John C. Fulton (eventually 107 officers and enlisted men), which was mustered into the Natl. Guard on 27 May. Ten officers and 206 enlisted men of the Naval Reserves, and the 1st Battalion Engineers (the Grays), with 12 officers and 309 enlisted men, in mid-June were incorporated into the 10th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commanded by Maj. Otto M. Schade. It is estimated that an additional 15 officers and 531 enlisted men from Cleveland volunteered independently and served in various other units during the conflict.

While the Cleveland contingents formed and were sent to training camps, the war went forward rapidly. American troops in Cuba captured the heights of El Caney and San Juan in the first 3 days of July; on 3 July, the American fleet, commanded by Adm. Wm. T. Sampson, destroyed the Spanish fleet under Adm. Pasqual Cervera, blocked the, entrance to Santiago Harbor, and effectively sealed off the island's defenders from external support. On the other side of the world, Commodore Geo. Dewey had captured Manila, and the U.S. occupation of the Philippine Islands proceeded. Some Cleveland men volunteered for service with outfits that did get to Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines, including some physicians and surgeons. But for Cleveland-based contingents, it was a different story. The 5th Regiment arrived by train in Tampa on 21 May, "travel stained and weary from a three days' journey through dust and smoke and heat." There the men established camp and waited for their supplies to be issued and transport assigned. On 1 June they were told to be ready to move at an hour's notice; their equipment, including the officers' horses and outfits, was on board the transport Florida. They expected to board ship on Monday, 6 June, but the Florida was struck by another transport and partly sank in Tampa Bay with the 5th Regiment's equipment. When Gen. Wm. R. Shafter sailed for Santiago on 8 June, the Cleveland contingent was left behind. The Peace Protocol was signed and hostilities ceased on 12 Aug.; the formal treaty ending the conflict would be negotiated at Paris and ratified by the U.S. Senate on 6 Feb. 1899. By then, many of the Cleveland soldiers had already returned to civilian life. The 5th Regiment had come back to the city in September; it was mustered out on 5 Nov. Twenty deaths had occurred in its ranks. TROOP A of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry was mustered out in Cleveland in October; Co. D of the 9th Battalion would remain in service until Jan. 1899, and the 10th Ohio Volunteer Infantry until March of that year.

The churches of Cleveland held Thanksgiving services on 10 July for "glorious American victories" in the War with Spain. In his sermon at Old Stone Church, Dr. HIRAM C. HAYDN† asserted that wars seemed "necessary now and then to bring out the qualities of courage and bravery" among the people, adding that peace also offered "daily opportunity for heroism." What a contrast with the MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR, when churches were particularly involved with antiwar efforts. The War Emergency Committee of the Western Reserve Chap. of the Daughters of the American Revolution (see PATRIOTIC SOCIETIES) opened a collection point for contributions of pillow slips, pajamas, and nightshirts, as well as money for military hospitals. As the "veterans" from the Florida embarkation camps returned, parades in their honor escorted them to feasts in the CENTRAL ARMORY, with "well-drilled young ladies, dressed in white and carrying flags," and the band playing "The Girl I Left behind Me." After the peace treaty was concluded, celebration of the nation's effort continued. A Spanish cannon, trophy of the war, was mounted on PUBLIC SQUARE. Pieces recovered from the battleship, Maine were eventually mounted in WASHINGTON RESERVATION/WASHINGTON PARK (see U.S.S. MAINE RELIC). The United Spanish War Veterans formed a permanent organization in Cleveland and soon built up a substantial membership. Under the direction of Maj. Otto M. Schade, the first commander, the organization's activities flourished. As late as the 1940s, there were 7 camps in the Cleveland area and a membership of 700. Each camp was supported by a "White Escort" or women's auxiliary, especially in its Decoration (Memorial) Day commemorations. Although the war with Spain paled in significance compared to the enormities of 2 world wars, some Clevelanders were dedicated to keeping alive memories of the short but (in their perspective) "splendid" conflict.

Carl Ubbelohde

Case Western Reserve Univ.

Revere, Paul. Cleveland in the War with Spain (1900).

Last Modified: 22 Jul 1997 03:29:50 PM

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