Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR

THE SPANISH - AMERICAN WAR


This month marks 115th anniversary of the climax of the Spanish-American War.   The combat in Cuba lasted only a few weeks.  Consequently, only a few Laurens Countians saw any action during the war.  The origin of the war goes back to the early 1890s  when Cuban political parties were formed to seek independence from Spain.  Before it was over, the United States would spend four years fighting a war which did not officially end until July of 1902, when hostilities in the Philippines finally ceased.

On the day after Valentine's Day in 1898, the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor.  After an investigation determined that the explosion had been caused by a mine, cries for war and "Remember the Maine!" were heard over the entire country.   U.S. Naval Forces under the command of Commodore George Dewey began moving toward the Philippines.  On April 19th, 1898, Congress approved a resolution declaring war against Spain.  After months of training, U.S. Marines landed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on June 10th.   Ten days later, the main U.S. force arrived in Santiago Harbor.  

On July 1st, the battle for control of Cuba took place in the heights of San Juan.   Col. Henry K. Carroll commanded the 3rd, 6th, and 9th (Colored) Cavalry regiments.   Colonel Leonard Wood commanded the 1st and 10th Cavalry regiments together with the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the "Rough Riders."   Gen. Joseph Wheeler, namesake of Wheeler County, Georgia and a former Confederate Cavalry General, was originally in command of the American Cavalry in Cuba.  Wheeler fell ill early on in the fighting.  It was said that, at the sight of the retreating Spanish soldiers  dressed in their blue coats, Wheeler yelled "Hurrah!  We've got the d... Yankees on the run!"  

Along the Santiago Road near the San Juan River Valley, Carroll's Cavalry was waiting to attack.  The 9th Colored Regiment held the right.   Their objective was Kettle Hill.  Behind the 9th, the "Rough Riders" were in held in reserve.   As the lead elements began to tire, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry became entangled with the "Rough Riders."   The 9th made it to a depression about half way up the hill.   Col.  Roosevelt told the commanding officer of the 9th to charge or get out of the way.  As Roosevelt galloped ahead, the soldiers of the 9th took to their feet and their horses and followed him.    The Spaniards were falling back, from one line of defense to another.  The cavalry swarmed to the top of the hill to plant their colors.

Spanish soldiers concentrated rifle and artillery fire on the victorious Americans.  The battle swung back and forth.  Roosevelt took four men and charged the Spanish line.  After their officers had deserted them, the men of the 9th  jumped into action and followed Roosevelt, who led the men to victory and became immortal in American history.

One Laurens County man was a member of the Buffalo Soldiers of the United States Army.  William Little was born in Baldwin County, Georgia on April 4, 1875.  Little enlisted in the army in 1898.  He was assigned as a cook in Company F of the  9th U.S. Cavalry.  Little remembered Col. Roosevelt as "a great fighter who would get on his horse and say 'follow me' which the men gladly did."  After the war, Little  re-enlisted on April 11, 1899 in the 1st Cavalry.  On September 16, 1900,  he was shipped overseas to the Philippine Islands.  Private Little was assigned as an orderly to Governor-General Arthur MacArthur.

Arthur MacArthur has served as adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War.    At eighteen years of age, MacArthur led his regiment up Missionary Ridge and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism.  He was promoted to major and then to Colonel at nineteen  years of age.  Col. MacArthur was promoted to Brigadier General during the Spanish American War.  He was appointed military governor of the Philippines in 1900.  Small insurrections took place until 1902.  He was subordinated to a civilian governor, William Howard Taft,  in 1901.   MacArthur was described by one colonel as "the most egotistical man I have ever seen until I met his son."  His son was the legendary General Douglas MacArthur.

After three years and twenty three days of service, Little was discharged from the service. Little returned to Dublin where he was living at 606 South Jefferson Street in 1946.  At the age of eighty five, Little was living alone but he loved piddling around in his garden and going to church.

The war continued in Cuba for a few more weeks.   President William McKinley signed a resolution annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United States on July 7th,  1898.  On July 17th, Cuban and Spanish forces surrendered at Santiago.  A month later U.S. forces occupied Manila,  the capital of the Philippines.   The Treaty of Paris was signed on April 11, 1899.  Some Spanish forces continued to resist until June.

  Those Laurens County men who did serve during the Spanish-American War saw much less action. Laurens County men actually began their training in the early 1890s when the Dublin Guards were formed.  The guards mustered in the hall of the Stubbs-Leitch Building during the Spanish-American War.  The building was located at the southwest corner of West Jackson Street and South Jefferson Street.   Most of the men joined units in Georgia.  William W. Ward, a river boat captain of wide repute, joined the Macon Hussars which were mustered into the U.S. Army as the 1st Georgia Regiment.  The Hussars trained at Fort Oglethorpe at Chickamauga Park, Georgia.  From there, the Georgians were sent to Puerto Rico in anticipation of a full scale battle in the Caribbean.  The war ended so quickly that Ward never saw any action.

Other Laurens Countians who served in the armed forces during the Spanish-American war were John D. McDaniel, William Lingo, Jule B. Green, Andrew J. Bass, "Pet" Pritchett, Neal Jones, J.E. Burch, Wesley Kea, and "Windy" Williams.  It is a shame that the newspapers of the era have not survived.  They would add many more details to our knowledge of the activities of our county's men during the war.

The Spanish-American War was one of the shortest, but also one of the most important, wars in our country's history.  It established the United States as a world power.  America began its territorial control over the islands of the Pacific Ocean.  Within forty years the control of the Pacific Ocean would become one of the main focal points of World War II.  The lasting reminders of the war in our community are streets named for some of the war's most well known participants.  Grateful Dubliners named streets for Gen. Joseph Wheeler, Adm. George Dewey, Adm. Winfield Scott Schley, and Col.  Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt Street was renamed in the 1940s.  After  Lawrence Street was named in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the city council changed Roosevelt Street in southwestern Dublin to Hester Drive.  That portion of North Calhoun Street north of West Moore Street was originally named Sigsbee Street after Charles Sigsbee, captain of the " U.S.S. Maine. "  The Dublin Guards, who intensified their training during the war, later became Company A of the 121st Georgia Infantry and the first National Guard company in the southeastern United States.

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