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THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR CHRONICLES

"A splendid little war"


Article and photos
by John Troesser


Spanish American War statue
"The Hiker"
The war came about at a time when America was flexing its muscles and looking with envy at Europe with it's colonies. The Civil War, while not forgotten, had receded into the past and former foes were once again united.Two former Confederate generals served as generals in the Spanish American War.

The flashpoint came when the dreadnought battleship U.S.S. Maine was sunk in Havana harbor in early 1898. Recent findings say that the explosion was probably the result of an accidental coal dust explosion igniting the ship's powder magazine - but at the time - it was thought that it was an intentional act of war by the Spanish.
The Hiker, statue on AustinTexas Capitol Grounds
"The Hiker"

The mold for this statue was bought many years after its first casting. 50 of the statues were cast - with 2 of them standing in Texas
(Capitol Grounds and Wichita Falls)
Spanish American War veterans marker
The plaque at the base of the statue
Up until recent years, the Spanish American war was the conflict that claimed the fewest American lives. While figures vary somewhat, it is generally accepted that there were fewer than 500 combat deaths. Fever claimed more lives than combat.

Texas' involvement in the war was primarily providing men and a place to train "The Rough Riders". Technically known as the First U. S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment - the group was composed of cowboys, adventurers and polo playing aristocrats from New York. Volunteers swelled the ranks from the regulation 700 to closer to 1,000.
butter mold
A butter mold inscribed with "Remember the Maine!"
Courtesy Flatonia Historical Museum
Roosevelt was second in command under Col. Leonard Wood. The two men used the patio adjoining the bar of the Menger Hotel to sign up cowboys, adventurers and (according to some sources) even a few outlaws. Several members of the Hole in-the-Wall gang reportedly served. The polo players arrived by train.

Their training lasted about one month and had it gone on - the unit may have missed the war. Roosevelt arrived on May 16th and the unit left on a train May 28th.

Roosevelt Park in San Antonio was named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt - and the Menger bar is sometimes called the Roosevelt Room. Ironically, the Rough Riders made their assault on San Juan Hill as dismounted Cavalry - their horses having been delayed in Tampa.

The troop trains leaving San Antonio for Galveston stopped at towns along the way - where well-wishers would meet the train. In Gonzales, the Inquirer reported that young women brought cakes to feed the soldiers. While the soldiers reportedly gave the women a taste of their rations, unfortunately no mention was made of their reactions.
Spanish American War post card
The sudden war caught the Army with no khaki. Troops wore blue flannel uniforms.
Postcard courtesy of the Flatonia Historical Museum
Troops embarked from Tampa and sailed to Cuba. Dewey's fleet sailed to Manila Bay to win victory there.

The War was declared in April and fighting was over by October. An official end was declared in December.

Compared to the Civil War, the Spanish American War was a footnote in Texas history. Little remains from that brief period and even the tombstones of the participants are not all that common. Fort Sam Houston contains many Spanish American War graves - perhaps because of the city's use as a training facility. The lengthy spelling of the conflict is usually abbreviated on the stones as SP AM War.

A letter sent home to Luling, Texas and now in the Caldwell County historical society shows that one local volunteer never made it to Cuba. His service, he complained was spent "draining the swampland of the (Henry) Flagler estate."


John Troesser

February 2002 Feature
Spanish American War soldier tombstone Spanish American War soldier tombstone Spanish American War tombstone in Houston's Glenwood Cemetery
Left - One of the survivors - later buried in the State Cemetery

Center - Another SP AM War casualty with the inscription: Died January 27, 1899 "erected by his comrades-in-arms"
Independence Cemetery, Washington County

Right - A Spanish American War participant in Houston's Glenwood Cemetery is marked "killed in action near Angeles P.I." with the date of death inscribed as 1899.

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