Spanish American War (1898-1899)


On the 25th day of April, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain largely based on the sinking of the United States Navy battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor. The President promptly called for 125,000 volunteers to serve for two years unless sooner discharged. Washington State’s allotment was one regiment of infantry.

  Members of the Washington National Guard who volunteered for service with the First Washington Regiment, United States Volunteers were immediately discharged from the National Guard and enlisted with the First Washington. In most cases, entire companies were enlisted, but the ranks were filled from all Washington National Guard units including the cavalry squadron and light artillery battalion as well as the two infantry regiments.
The first and most important appointment was that of Regimental commander. Many candidates were presented for the honor to lead during war. Few candidates had the prerequisite knowledge of the military science. The position was finally offered to First Lieutenant John H. Wholley, 24th US Infantry, whom accepted with the consent of the War Department. Colonel Wholley was at the time a professor at the State University in Seattle. He had graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1890. His appointment to the rank of Colonel and Regimental Commander was April 23, 1898.

Named “Camp John R. Rogers” after the current governor, the mustering site was selected near modern day 84th Street and South Tacoma Way. Companies were recruited as follows:

Seattle – two companies of infantry
Spokane – one company of infantry, one battery light artillery volunteering as infantry
Tacoma – one company of infantry
Walla Walla – one company of infantry
North Yakima – one troop of cavalry volunteering as infantry
Waitsburg – one company of infantry
Ellensburg – one company of infantry
Centralia – one company of infantry
Dayton – one company of infantry
Vancouver – one company of infantry

On the morning of May 1, 1898, 12 companies were assembled at Camp Rogers for mustering in. The Regiment completed mustering activities during the period of May 6-13, 1898. The First Battalion departed Tacoma on May 10 by steamship “Senator” arriving in San Francisco. The Second Battalion departed Tacoma on May 14 on board the steamship “City of Peking” arriving in San Francisco. The Third Battalion departed Tacoma on May 25 by rail to Vancouver Barracks. Several weeks later, the Third Battalion left Vancouver Barracks by rail arriving in San Francisco.

SS Valencia

The Regiment performed garrison duties until the Second Battalion boarded the United States Transport “Valencia” on Oct 19 bound for Manila. The troops had a several day layover in Honolulu waiting for the “Valencia” to coal before arriving in Manila on Nov 22, 1898.

On Oct 28, Headquarters, First Battalion and Third Battalion embarked on the United States Transport “Ohio”. After a coaling layover in Honolulu, the “Ohio” arrived in Manila on Nov 26. The Regiment was reunited.

SS Ohio

Upon arrival in the Philippines, the First Washington Infantry was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, 8th Army Corps and subsequently reassigned to the First Brigade.

Between Dec 8, 1898, and July 27, 1899, the Regiment participated in 29 engagements and skirmishes resulting in the following casualties:

Officer Killed: 1
Officer Wounded: 5
Enlisted Killed: 24
Enlisted Wounded: 98

Orders were received for the Regiment to board the United States Transport “Pennsylvania” departing Manila on Sept 5. Arriving in Yokohama, the Regiment was given seven days shore leave before departing Sept 19. The voyage from Japan to San Francisco was labeled as very rough and tedious, but the Regiment had returned to the continent Oct 9.

A welcoming committee consisting of Governor Rogers and a delegation of Washington State citizens provided breakfast for the troops when they stepped off the transport in San Francisco. Afterwards, the Regiment marched to the Presido where they were lunched and entertained. Mustering out of Federal Service occurred on Oct 31 at the Presido and the troops were returned home.

Upon return to Washington State, a large welcome home celebration was organized in Seattle on Nov 1.