Prologue Magazine
Spring 1998, Vol. 30, No. 1

"New Glory to Its Already Gallant Record"
The First Marine Battalion in the Spanish-American War, Part 2

By Trevor K. Plante

First Marine Battalion Officers First Marine Battalion officers with Colonel Huntington seated front and center and Captain Elliott standing at his right. (NARA, 20M-521218)

On reporting that he had dispatched marines to their new duty stations, Huntington concluded his report by stating, "I believe this encampment has been of great benefit to the health of the battalion."55 The adjutant and inspector of the Marine Corps also found the men at Camp Heywood in good health. In his inspection report the adjutant concluded, "It is worthy of note that during the entire service of this battalion of 25 commissioned officers and 623 enlisted men, from April 22, when they embarked on board their transport at New York to the present time, there has not been a single case of yellow fever nor death from disease of any kind and but few cases of serious illness; a remarkable fact, when it is considered that these men were the first United States troops to land in Cuba, and during their entire service they were subject to the same climatic influences as other troops, among whom fever, diarrhea, dysentery, etc., caused so many casualties."56

The quartermaster of the battalion reported to the commandant that because of the use of distilled water for drinking and cooking and the sanitary conditions aided by sufficient food and clothing, 98 percent of the battalion was brought home fit for duty, and "not a single man of the command died from disease."57 The men had used only distilled water obtained daily from the Panther, Resolute, or Vulcan. McCawley also had had the foresight to purchase empty wine casks in Key West for use as water containers, increasing the amount of water that could be kept on hand at camp. The excellent health of the battalion can be attributed to this careful preparation of water.

On September 18 a parade was held in the streets of Portsmouth.58 After the battalion was disbanded, detachments headed for New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Washington, and Annapolis left Portsmouth together and passed through the city of Boston. The Washington detachment consisted of 3 officers and 164 men who arrived in Washington on September 22. That morning President McKinley informed the commandant of the Marine Corps that he wanted to review the detachment. Remnants of the battalion were led by the U.S. Marine Band from the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. The parade proceeded despite heavy rains while President McKinley and several officers reviewed the troops.59

Individual honors were bestowed upon Sergeant Quick and Assistant Surgeon Gibbs. Sgt. John Quick was awarded the Medal of Honor for "cool and gallant conduct" in signaling the Dolphin on June 14, 1898, at Cuzco, Cuba.60 The secretary of war honored John Gibbs, the assistant surgeon killed at Guantanamo, four months after his death by naming an army hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, after him.61

Although the majority of marines during the Spanish-American War served aboard ship fulfilling various duties from ship guards to gunners mates, the First Marine Battalion received such wide newspaper attention that it dominated the public view of the marines' role in the war. They received favorable press coverage not only because they were among the first to see action, but because they always encountered an enemy that had superior numbers. The battalion enhanced the reputation of the Marine Corps and showed the American public their usefulness as an American fighting force. Newspapers also reported on the low rate of disease and sickness in the battalion as opposed to the high rate found in army units.

The Spanish-American War showed the navy that the Marine Corps had a role in their future war plans. With the postwar acquisitions of the Philippines and Guam, the navy was now responsible for actively operating in the Pacific Ocean. The navy would need advanced bases and coaling stations if their ships were to successfully operate in this area. The marines would play a vital role, for these bases and coaling stations would need to be captured and held if necessary.62

During the Spanish-American War, the First Marine Battalion demonstrated the fast mobilization of the Marine Corps. The battalion was prepared and displayed something future marines would take pride in— the ability to be called and respond at a moment's notice. Marine Corps historian Alan Millett observed that for this era the First Marine Battalion "made the greatest contribution to the Marine Corps's reputation for combat valor and readiness."63 The battalion could be proud of its accomplishments. The unit dominated what was seen as the Marine Corps role in the war. In his general order acknowledging the one-hundredth anniversary of the Marine Corps in 1898, the secretary of the navy proclaimed that in the war with Spain the Marine Corps added "new glory to its already gallant record."64

"New Glory to Its Already Gallant Record," Part 1

Notes

1 Sgt. John Henry Quick received the Medal of Honor on June 14, 1898. Capt. George F. Elliott rose quickly through the ranks and went on to become the tenth commandant of the Marine Corps serving from October 3, 1903, to November 30, 1910. First Lt. Wendell C. Neville went on to serve as commandant of the Marine Corps from March 5, 1929, to July 8, 1930.

2 "Casualties Occurring on the U.S.S. Maine," Statistical Report, Special Appendix, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Year 1898: Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Miscellaneous Reports (1898), p. 793 (hereinafter cited as Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898).

3 Appendix to Report of Chief of Bureau of Navigation, 1898 (1898), pp. 17 - 18.

4 Huntington served under Maj. John G. Reynolds as a platoon leader at First Bull Run on July 21, 1861. See entry 196, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Record Group 24, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC (hereinafter, records in the National Archives will be cited as RG ___, NARA); Bernard C. Nalty, The United States Marines in the War with Spain (rev. 1967), p. 7.

5 "Report of the Commandant of United States Marine Corps," Charles Heywood, colonel commandant, to the secretary of the navy, Sept. 24, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 822 (hereinafter cited as Commandant's Report).

6 Commandant of the Marine Corps to the secretary of the navy, April 23, 1898, letter #73, book 7, box 2, entry 6, Press Copies of Letters, Endorsements, and Annual Reports to the Secretary of the Navy, Feb. 1884 - Jan. 1904, Records of the US Marine Corps, RG 127, NARA.

7 Commandant's Report, p. 823, and Charles L. McCawley to the quartermaster, US Marine Corps, Sept. 27, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 884.

8 Entry for April 22, "Journal of the Marine Battalion Under LT COL Robert W. Huntington, Apr. - Sept. 1898," p. 2, entry 153, RG 127, NARA (hereinafter cited as Huntington Journal).

9 John H. Clifford, History of The First Battalion of US Marines (1930), pp. 9 - 10, box 15, Cochrane Collection (PC# 1), Marine Corps Historical Center (MCHC), Washington, DC. Note: The Panther was purchased as the Venezuela on April 19, 1898, from Red D. Line S.S. Co. See Vessels Purchased, Bureau of Construction and Repair, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 516. McCawley to quartermaster, Sept. 27, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 885.

10 Battalion Order No. 8, USS Panther, entry for Apr. 24, Huntington Journal, p. 53; Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 11.

11 Chief of Bureau of Navigation to colonel commandant, Apr. 22, 1898, April 1898 folder, box 46, Historical Division Letters Received, 1818 - 1915, entry 42, RG 127, NARA.

12 Commandant's Report, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 824.

13 McCawley to commandant, Jan. 8, 1900, Jan. - June 1900 file, and Huntington to commandant, Nov. 3, 1899, July - Dec. File, box 48, entry 42, RG 127, NARA.

14 Commandant's Report, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 824; entry for Apr. 26, Huntington Journal, p. 2.

15 Pvt. Edward A. Donahue, Company E, was sent to the US Army Hospital in Key West after fracturing his arm from falling off of a Jacob's ladder, hitting the boat, and falling overboard. See entry for Apr. 29, Huntington Journal, p. 3.

16 Telegram #33, box 1, North Atlantic Station— Naval Base, Key West, Telegrams Recvd May 7 - Aug. 15, 1898, Records of Naval Operating Forces, RG 313, NARA.

17 McCawley to the quartermaster, Sept. 27, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 885 - 887.

18 Battalion Order No. 13, USS Panther, entry for Apr. 28, Huntington Journal, p. 58.

19 Entries for May 12, 13, and 15, Huntington Journal, pp. 5 - 6; Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 12.

20 Telegram #107, box 1, North Atlantic Station— Naval Base, Key West, Telegrams Recvd May 7 - Aug 15, 1898, RG 313, NARA.

21 Charles L. McCawley, "The Marines at Guantanamo," (ms., n.d.), p. 11, Folder 2, McCawley Papers (PC #360), MCHC.

22 Entry for June 10, Journal, p. 8.

23 "Extracts from the Autobiography of Admiral B.H. McCalla," pp. 1 - 2, box 381, OH (Shore Operations), Subject File, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, RG 45, NARA; First Indorsement by B. H. McCalla, June 19, 1898, of Colonel Huntington's report of June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 839.

24 Entry for June 10, Huntington Journal, p. 8; McCawley, "Marines at Guantanamo," pp. 12 - 13; McCalla Report No. 85, June 11, 1898, June 11 - 12 folder, box 29, Area 8 File, RG 45, NARA.

25 Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 12; Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 838; McCawley, "Marines at Guantanamo," p. 13.

26 Chief signal officer, War Department, to the secretary of the navy, June 11, 1898, and McCalla Report No. 86, June 12, 1898, June 11 - 12 folder, box 29, Area 8 File, RG 45, NARA; McCalla, "Marines at Guantanamo," p. 11.

27 Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 838 - 839.

28 McCalla, "Marines at Guantanamo," p. 5.

29 McCawley to Huntington, June 10, 1902, and Huntington to McCawley, June 14, 1902, 1898— June Folder, box 47, entry 42, RG 127, NARA. These two letters identify Lieutenant Draper as raising the first flag over Camp McCalla.

30 James McGolgan and William Dumphy, entry for June 11, Huntington Journal, p. 9; Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 838 - 839. Note: In several sources Dumphy's name appears as Dunphy.

31 Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 13; "Engagements at Guantanamo, Cuba, Marine Battalion, North Atlantic Fleet, June 11 to 20, 1898," Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 798; Spanish-American War volume, entry 36A, Medical Certificates and Casualty Lists, 1828 - 1939, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, RG 52, NARA. On June 12 McCalla states in report no. 86 that two privates and one sergeant were killed and that their bodies were mutilated.

32 Commandant's Report, p. 824, and Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 838 - 839.

33 John R. Spears, Our Navy in the War with Spain (1898), pp. 265 - 266; Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 15.

34 Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 838 - 839; Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 15; McCawley, "Marines at Guantanamo," p. 28; "First American Fortifications in Cuba, Playa del Este, Guantanamo Bay, July 9," The New York Times Illustrated Magazine, July 21, 1898, p. 4, clippings file, box 2, Huntington Collection, PC #276, MCHC.

35 Chaplain's letter of Aug. 29, 1898, from USS Texas, copied into Huntington Journal, pp. 294 - 296; Spears, Our Navy in the War with Spain, p. 267. Chaplain Jones returned to his launch accompanied by two reporters, George Coffin of the Journal and T. M. Dieuaide of the New York Sun. An account was published in the New York Evening Sun on July 18.

36 McCalla to commanding officer of Panther, June 12, 1898, Marblehead, box 3, North Atlantic Station, Correspondence with Commanders of Vessels, Dec. 1897 - Dec. 1899, RG 313, NARA.

37 Commandant's Report, p. 824, and Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 838 - 839.

38 Elliott to Huntington, June 15, 1898, ibid., p. 845.

39 McCalla to Sampson, June 16, 1898, p. 846, and Huntington to Heywood, June 17, 1898, ibid., pp. 838 - 839.

40 McCalla to Sampson, June 16, 1898, ibid., p. 846.

41 First Indorsement by McCalla of Elliott's Report of June 18, 1898, ibid., p. 845.

42 Squadron Bulletin No. 4, Thursday, June 16, 1898, and Squadron Bulletin No. 8, Monday, June 20, 1989, box 461, OO, Subject File, RG 45, NARA; Spears, Our Navy in the War with Spain, pp. 270 - 271; McCalla, "Marines at Guantanamo," p. 13.

43 McCalla to Huntington, June 18, 1898, Marblehead, box 3, North Atlantic Station, Correspondence with Commanders of Vessels, Dec. 1897 - Dec. 1899, RG 313, NARA.

44 Entry for June 20, Huntington Journal, p. 17; Sampson to Comdr. George C. Reiter, June 21, 1898, 1898— June 20 - 21 folder, Area 8 File, RG 45, NARA.

45 Entry for June 24, Huntington Journal, p. 18. Almost a year later the bodies were disinterred and buried in the United States. On April 29, 1899, the remains were buried in the following locations: Dumphy and Good buried at Naval Cemetery, New York; McColgan buried at Stoneham, Mass.; Smith buried in Smallwood, Md.; and Taurman buried at Richmond, Va. See 1898— April folder, box 46, entry 42, Historical Division Letters Received, 1818 - 1915, RG 127, NARA.

46 Entry for June 25, Huntington Journal, p. 18; Squadron Bulletin No. 13, Saturday, June 25, 1898, box 461, OO, Subject File, RG 45, NARA. On June 28 William F. Arnold, US Navy, joined the battalion as P. Asst. Surgeon; see p. 278, June, 1898 Muster Rolls, RG 127, NARA.

47 Memos (three of July 4 and one of July 5) from New York to McCalla, Marblehead, and memo for Chief of Staff from McCalla, July 7, 1898, box 3, North Atlantic Station, Correspondence with Commanders of Vessels, Dec. 1897 - Dec. 1899, RG 313, NARA.

48 General Order from McCalla, July 12, 1898, Marblehead, box 3, North Atlantic Station, Correspondence with Commanders of Vessels, Dec. 1897 - Dec. 1899, RG 313, NARA; entries for July 23, 26 - 27, Huntington Journal, pp. 23 - 24.

49 Pages 24 - 25, July, 1898 Muster Rolls, RG 127, NARA.

50 Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 24.

51 Entries for Aug. 5 and Aug. 9, Huntington Journal, pp. 25 - 26.

52 Goodrich to McCalla, Aug. 13, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, pp. 842 - 843.

53 Entries for Aug. 18 - 19, Huntington Journal pp. 28 - 29; Correspondence Relating to Cuba, April 15 to September 1, 1898, vol. 1, Correspondence Relating to the War with Spain (1902), pp. 234 and 240.

54 Commandant's Report, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 825; Huntington was promoted to colonel, Elliott advanced three numbers, Lucas to brevet captain, Neville to brevet captain, Magill to first lieutenant and brevet captain, and Bannon to brevet first lieutenant. See Huntington Journal, entry for Aug. 29, p. 28; entry for Aug. 30, copy of letter received from the commandant, pp. 31 - 32; and entry for Sept. 19, p. 33. Order dated Sept. 17, 1898, Order Book No. 40, pp. 898 - 900, box 13, Letters and Telegrams Sent to Officers Conveying Orders ("Order Books"), entry 24, RG 127, NARA.

55 Huntington to commandant, Sept. 21, 1898, 1898 - September folder, box 47, entry 42, RG 127, NARA.

56 "Report of Inspection of the Marine Battalion at Camp Heywood, Seaveys Island, Portsmouth, N.H., September 14, 1898," Maj. George C. Reid, Sept. 18, 1898, Navy Dept. Annual Report, p. 849.

57 McCawley to quartermaster, Sept. 27, 1898, ibid., pp. 884 - 888.

58 Clifford, History of the First Battalion, p. 26.

59 Commandant's Report, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, pp. 825 - 826.

60 General Order 504, Navy Department, acting secretary, Dec. 13, 1898.

61 Special Order No. 254, US Army Adjutant-General, Oct. 27, 1898, Extract, Appendix to Report of Chief of Bureau of Navigation, 1898, pp. 441 - 442.

62 Alan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps (1991), pp. 134 - 135; Jack Shulimson, "Marines in the Spanish American War," in Crucible of Empire, ed. James C. Bradford (1993), pp. 150 - 151; Nalty, United States Marines in the War with Spain, p. 17.

63 Millett, Semper Fidelis, p. 131.

64 General Order No. 494, Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, July 30, 1898, Commandant's Report, Navy Dept. Annual Report, 1898, p. 834.


Trevor K. Plante is an archivist in the Old Military and Civil Records unit, National Archives and Records Administration. He specializes in military records prior to World War II.
Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.
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