by David Ott
On the night of February 15, 1898, the American cruiser Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor, killing 260 sailors on board. It had been sent to Cuba to protect U.S. citizens and property following anti-Spanish rioting and much agitation for military action by Pulitzers New York World and Hearsts New York Journal. Americans were already sickened by Spains treatment of the Cubans, so they readily blamed the Spanish for the loss even though the real source of the explosion would not be discovered until some 60 years later. "Remember the Maine!" became a national cry which spurred patriots and expansionists everywhere, including Adams County. Within weeks volunteers from Hastings and the countys villages and farms were on their way to join in the conflict.
After Spain declared war on the United States on April 25, Congress responded with its own declaration of war, calling for 125,000 trained soldiers to fight. Volunteers from all parts of the country, including veterans of both sides of the Civil War, their sons and grandsons, soon filled the ranks. They fought valiantly to release Cuba and the Philippines from Spanish tyranny. The one-sided war was decided swiftly (not unlike the recent Gulf War), ending on December 10, 1898. This year marks the 100th anniversary of that eight month war.
Where and how does Adams County, Nebraska, fit into this historical event? Following the Congressional declaration, Secretary of War Russell A. Alger called on Nebraska to supply two regiments toward the effort. This was a request of approximately 2,000 soldiers. Adams County responded, even though at the time of this request, there was not even a National Guard or militia unit in the county.
Ironically, first to step forward was a group of musicians. The Hastings Military Band, consisting of 23 men under the direction of Theodore A. Miller, was successfully enlisted into the 2nd Nebraska Regiment on May 10, 1898, just 17 days after the presidents initial call for troops. They were sent to Chickamauga Park, Georgia, an unseemly camp where mosquitoes and disease were rampant. As one writer stated, "The conditions were worse to face than the armed forces of Spain." The bandsmen served until October, 1898, when they returned to Omaha for the Trans-Mississippi Exposition and were discharged back home.
Soon came a second call for volunteers to fill in the Nebraska Regiments to maximum formation. This meant Nebraska needed to enlist 1,400 more men to meet the quota. On April 29, 1898, the Hastings Daily Tribune carried a front page story encouraging "young men to show their patriotism by enlisting and going to the front. It should not be said that the city of Hastings does not contain enough patriots to form a company of volunteers .... Sign the roll and report for duty. Be a patriot. Be a soldier."
Adams County took the opportunity to put its love of country into action. A young practicing attorney, Harry S. Dungan, was given permission to raise a company of 100 volunteers, for the 3rd Nebraska Regiment headed by politician-soldier William jennings Bryan of Lincoln. Men from Hastings, Juniata, Prosser, Roseland and other south central Nebraska towns heeded the call to arms. Aided by William J. Ohlheiser of Hastings and Carl Shuff of Lincoln, Dungan kept an eye on the physical condition of the applicants, and thus had the lowest percentage of rejected applicantout of the ten companies of the 3rd Nebraska Regiment.
On May 27 the enlistments began. The recruiting camp was set up on the old East Ward School ground, between Second and Third Streets and Minnesota and Kansas Avenues in Hastings. The company was designated Company K in the 3rd Nebraska Regiment. Harry Dungan was commissioned captain. The other officers and NCOs (sergeants, corporals, etc.) were elected, an unheard of practice today, and subsequently appointed by Nebraska Governor Holcomb. Carl Shuff was named first lieutenant and William J. Ohlheiser became second lieutenant. This company of more than 100 men were mustered into service at Fort Omaha on July 18, 1898, three weeks after Teddy Roosevelts Rough Riders stormed San Juan Hill and the day after Santiago had surrendered.
By July 19, the rest of the 3rd Nebraska was formed and on its way to Jacksonville, Florida. The troops received a warm welcome from Southerners en route. Nationalism was in full bloom, and they were no longer scorned as "Yankees" or Northerners. This was a united effort to stop Spain.
When Company K arrived in Nashville on July 21, the servicemen were surprised to find that the ladies of that city provided a substantial dinner for the battalion. Even more surprising, every man was given a neat lunch-basket filled with delicacies for the next meal and containing the name of the young woman who made the basket. It was each mans obligation to thank the lady responsible for his basket. From this event friendships were formed and some even married. Max W. Hadden of Trumbull from Company K married his basket maker after the war and made a home in Nashville for a while.
The battalion continued on toward Jacksonville and on July 23, in Atlanta, Georgia, it was once again welcomed warmly by Southerners. Veterans of the Confederacy were holding their annual reunion, and old Confederate generals and their widows mingled with the battalions staff less than 35 years after General Sherman and the Union Army made their destructive march to the sea through Atlanta.
On July 24 the battalion finally arrived in Florida. It was quartered at Camp Libre in Panama Park along with the 2nd Mississippi and the 61st Indiana. After an inspection by the future Governor of Massachusetts, Inspector-General Curtiss Guild, the company was assigned to the 7th Army Corps under the command of General Fitzhugh Lee. The insignia of the corps was a red, white, and blue seven pointed star.
Panama Park was located seven miles from Jacksonville. Not only was it too far from town for social entertainment. The soldiers were camped on a sandy plain with no natural shelter from the blistering sun. "Its a 120 degrees in the shade," remarked a soldier before drill. "Yes, and no shade!" added Frank ("The Count") Lepinski, the company jokester. The only defense from the torrid heat was the nearby St. Johns River, where the men found great comfort in swimming until a fourteen foot long alligator was captured in the stream. From then on the Nebraska boys gave up bathing in the vicinity. .
In the exposed desert of Panama Park many suffered from dysentery and other heat related illnesses, but luckily none from Company K were lost. John ("Frank") Kealy (Dr. Donovan B. Footes father-in law) later reflected on conditions he experienced while stationed in Florida: "Our camps were laid out with the row of company cook tents (no fly screens) next to the open latrines and we sat around there in the sand to eat whatever was dished up to us with one hand while using the other to brush flies. Even after a lot of deaths from typhoid, dysentery, etc. there was nothing done about it. One morning nine men in our company was all that could stand up in line to answer roll call." Company K was fortunate to have no fatalities in Florida since 5,000 of the 5,400 American deaths in the war were caused by disease. Another volunteer, Thomas C. North, one of the few Hastings men assigned the 1st Nebraska Regiment, was not as lucky; he died in a Manila hospital of smallpox, the wars only victim from Adams County.
On September 9 the men were ordered from Panama Park to Pablo Beach. It was a welcome change because it was the location of a small summer resort. The 3rd Nebraska now pitched its tents near one of the best beaches in the country. Of course it proved too good to be true, and the resort atmosphere came to an abrupt end when Pablo Beach was graced with the worst storms of the year. Tents were blown away and a nearby creek swelled to river proportions with a river-sized current to match. In this disaster Lieutenant Ohlheiser was noted for his cool head as he calmly led the men out of the waist-deep water to town without a single soldier lost.
The troops were relocated to Fairfield, Florida, where they remained until October 24, when they were ordered to Camp Onward near Savannah, Georgia. Here the 3rd Regiment was brigaded with the 1st Mississippi and the 2nd Louisiana. The citizens of Savannah proved as hospitable as any of their hosts. The men and officers were treated to a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day, and a review of the force was made by President McKinley and Secretary Alger. By now, however, the war was essentially over. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, the War Department reduced the size of the army, and Company K had 20 men discharged, mostly those on sick furlough.
Still, word spread that the Nebraska men at last were headed for Cuba. The letters of Harry E. Marian, an Adams County soldier who was the uncle of Mrs. Lloyd Thomas and part of the family for which Marian Road in Hastings is named, preserve the thoughts of the volunteers during this time. He wrote on December 19, 1898, that when Company K left the camp site for Havana, the troops were instructed "to leave their tents stand for other regiments to move into. We will have new tents when we get to Cuba." He also wrote that he was going to take along "a box of writing paper, about thirty stamps, a box of quinine, a bottle of bay-rum, a razor, a looking glass, a spool of thread, some brass polish, two cakes of soap, a revolver, a box of shells, and last but not least is a bottle of Oil of Cedar . . . to keep away the gray backs."
On the last day of 1898 the men boarded the U.S. transport Michigan. On January 3 they arrived in Havana harbor. The next day they went ashore and marched through the city to Camp Columbia near Cieba. This time their camp was on an elevated place overlooking the sea. Finally in Havana, they served on patrol duty and ceremonial occasions. They were part of the only Nebraska regiment present the day Havana was officially turned over to the United States.
Harry Marian wrote again in February, 1899, that each Company had received $50 and that the Nebraska boys intended "to spend some of it for Washingtons birthday." He also wrote, "I wish we had a little cold weather down here to mix up with the warm weather." Private Marian also referred to cases of red measles, yellow fever and small pox in the 2nd Division hospital. But he noted that "We have only one boy from our Company in the hospital. He has the mumps." Marian concluded that "We all think we will leave here by the first of April."
The Company, in fact, left Havana on April 7, 1899, and were then mustered out at Camp MacKenzie in Augusta, Georgia. Harry Marian, now a veteran of "The Splendid Little War" wrote a final letter to Hastings: "I intend to go [home] around by Chicago . . . and visit Montgomery Ward & Co. Is there anything you folks want from there?" Life was returning to normal.
Even though the men of Company K never saw action, they came home with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Harry Dungan had been promoted to major. One former private, Sergeant Jay L. Benedict, continued his military career and eventually served in the Philippines and graduated from West Point. For the rest of the men, their military adventures were over. But restating Frank Kealys words, they would "never need to apologize and explain why they were not in the service when men were needed."
ROSTER OF ADAMS COUNTY VOLUNTEERS
THE HASTINGS MILITARY BAND
Theodore A. MILLER, band leader
Waldorf A. BAKER, Bert L. BROWN, Edd. F. BARNHOUSE, Harry BOHNET, Walter F. BOYD, Florus H. CASSEL, Ed CUSHING, Edward CHALOUPKA, Ralph FERGUSON, Alfred R. GIFFIN, Fred GRASS, Otto GRASS, William B. HARTIGAN, Frank HERMAN, Theodore F. KNAPP, Boyd C. LITTLEFIELD, William S. McGINTIE, Newton PRATT, Roy S. WORK, Charles R. YOCUM, Ernest E. YOCUM.
FIRST NEBRASKA REGIMENT
Clarence A. BELKNAP, Salem J. HAMMOND, Joseph Edgar JONES, Thomas C. NORTH (Adams County's only casualty), Roy O. SUTTON, George W. WORK.
SECOND NEBRASKA REGIMENT
Walkter W. WEIERSCHMIDT
THIRD NEBRASKA REGIMENT
First Assistant Surgeon, Captain Ralph J IRWIN
COMPANY K, THIRD NEBRASKA REGIMENT
Major Harry S. DUNGAN, Hastings, Captain Carl L. SHUFF, Lincoln, First Lieutenant; William J. OHLHEISER, Hastings, Second Lieutenant;
Sergeants: Merl E. PALMER, Walter GARVER, Jay L. BENEDICT, Hastings; Adam RUTHERFORD, Hastings; Frederick GUNDEL, Spring Ranch.
Corporals: Walter M. BURR, Juniata; Frank E. DICKSON, Clay Center; David P. SINCLAIR; Charles BEHR; Francis M. FOUNTAIN, Hastings; John F. KEALY, Hastings; Stanley McCARTNEY; George ROBERTS, Stanley MATHEWS; Ed HAWBROCK; Orpha VAN MATRE, Hastings; Bartholomew W. PARKS, Holstein; Cyrus ABBOTT; Bert M. MINNIX; Clarence F. WARD;
Musicians, John D. HOUSER, Hastings; Lewis D. CULY.
Wagoner, Peter WERNER, Hastings.
Artificer, George FRISCH, Glenvil.
Privates: Oliver ANDERSON, Hastings; Otto H. ARNOLD, Denver, CO.; Ray A. BARRETT, Ashland; Samuel L. BOWLING, Hastings; Charles F. BEHR, Wood River; Alfred F. BROOKHAVEN, Hastings; Frank BUTLER, Juniata; Daniel P. CARROL, Verona; George F. CLAWSON, Bladen; Lloyd CLINE, Juniata; Charles C. COCKRALL, Red Cloud; Chester A. COFIELD, Juniata; William A. COPLEY, Goudy; Charles R. COLFORD, Maryville, CA.; Charles CRISWILL; Louis D. CULY, Oak; Ray R. DAMERELL, Hastings; William H. DEAN, Pauline; Robert DECKER; Charles F. DODD, Hastings; Hays C. H. DOOL, Aledo, ILL; Lawrence M. DOUGLAS, Hastings; Arthur J. EDGERTON, Hastings; C. Charles EPPLER, Centerville I.T.; Stephen L. FITZGIBBONS, Fairfield; Charles A. GALER, Clay Center; Lyman GRAY, Hastings; Henry C GRESS, Bladen; Max W. HADDEN, Trumbull; Jesse A. HANSEN, Hampton; Glenn H. HANNA, Juniata; Howard W, HARE, Prosser; Edward H. HANBROCK, Hastings; John HERBERG, Hastings; Harry A. HIGHTOWER, Omaha; Herbert HUNT, Georgetown; Fredrick L. HUFORD, West Liberty; George ISREAL; Carl JACOBSON; Robert E. JESSUP, Clay Center; Frank J. JORDAN, Waterloo; James H. KENDALL, Hastings; George H. KENNEDY, Ranch City, MO.; Clinton D. KONKRIGHT, Juniata; Jacob F. KORTUM, Hastings; William KRUGER, Wabash; Frank LAMPMAN; Frank B. LEPENSKI, Hastings; William LEWELLYN; Casper E. LISTON, Hastings; Fred MAGNER, Grundy Center, IA.; Harry E. MARIAN, Hastings; Francis W. MASTERS, Springgreen; Fredrick E. MASTERS, Springgreen; Stanley MATTHEWS, Fairbury; Donald G. McCARTY, Juniata; William G. McCAULLEY, Seward, IA.; Philip S. McCORMICK, Howard; William B. MEAD, Dawn, MO.; James S. MINES, Hastings; Wilbur E. MORSE, Juniata; Joseph E. MAXWELL, Valentine; Troy NICHOLSON, Omaha; William C. PAINTER; James R. PORTERFIELD, Fairfield; Patrick J. REARDON, Omaha; Charles C. REYNOLDS, Hastings; James W. ROBERTS, Hastings; John L. ROFF, Hastings; Fred SANDS, Wagner; William S. SIDWELL, Juniata; Edgar F. SIEGNER, Juniata; William SMALL, Hastings; Albert I. SMITH, Prairie View, KS.; Charles SNIDER, Nebraska City; Mitchel SOULIGNEY, Hastings; Samuel STAMP, Hastings; Daniel O. STOCKTON, Grant; Abram W. THOMAS, Cowles; James B. THOMPSON, Kearney; Harry W. VANCE, Glenville; Cyrus VAN SICKLE, Gothenburg; Clarence F. WARD, Kansas City; William M. WILLIAMS, Gothenburg.
Roster of Soldiers-Sailors and Marines
compiled by Charles W. Pool, Secretary of State
These additional names of Spanish-American War veterans living in Adams County are listed in the above cited roster
ADCOCK, G. L. Hastings
BURNHAM, C. M. Hastings, Gun Mate
BURY, J. C. Hastings, Co. E. 44 US V.
HUBS, Chas P. Hastings, Steward in Hospital Corps.
KNUDSON, James Hastings, Co. E, 3rd NE Vol Inf.
McDONALD, C. P. Hastings, Co. B. 128th Inf. 32d Div.
MINOR, H. V. Hastings, Co. H, 1st NE Infantry
MITCHELL, Geo Juniata, Co. L 2nd Infantry
SHERMAN, Claud Hastings, Co. E
TOWNLEY, Dr. F. N. Kenesaw, Co. H, 28th US Infantry
WARD, Arthur Ingleside, Co. C, 1st Wisconsin