The Fifty-first Iowa Volunteer Infantry in which most of the Cass County men saw service in the Spanish-American War was largely made up of the old Third Iowa National Guard Regiment. The regiment was mobilized at the State Fair Grounds in Des Moines April 26. 1898; reorganization was effected and the regiment mustered into the national service. The camp was known as Camp McKinley and here the companies recruited to war strength and drilled until June 5th when they departed for San Francisco, arriving on the 10th.
Training continued here at Camp Merritt as a part of the Third Brigade under General Harrison Gray Otis until July 18th when the regiment was joined to the Second Brigade ami on July 29th transferred to the Presidio.
Although the peace protocol was signed in August the regiment was retained in the service and continued to drill until November when they were ordered to the Philippines. On November 3 they embarked on the Pennsylvania for the long trip. After a short stop at Honolulu the voyage was resumed and the regiment arrived in Manila on the morning of December 7 after a trip of 6.990 miles.
The regiment remained aboard the Pennsylvania in Manila harbor until December 26th when they were ordered to proceed to Hoilo, capital of the island of Panay, which had been occupied by the insurgents. Arriving there on the 28th the men had hopes of an early landing but were destined to disappointment for the attack on the city was withheld. For another month they remained on board in the harbor of Iloilo and then on January 29th the Pennsylvania proceeded northward, arriving back in Manila bay on the morning of January 31st. On February 5th the last of the troops disembarked.
It was a happy day for the boys when they at last set foot on land after spending more than three months, ninety-three days in all. aboard the Pennsylvania amid the discomforts and monotonous inactivity of ship life. It was an extraordinary fact that in all that time not a death had occurred in the regiment.
The troops settled down again to camp life in their barracks at Cavite, just across the bay from Manila. There were frequent skirmishes with the insurgents during the days that followed until February 18 when the First Battalion was ordered to Manila to participate in the defense of the city. Soon after the other battalions were ordered into action and during the months that followed the Fifty-first Iowa was in the thick of the fighting.
The campaign against the insurgents was long and beset with many complications. The topography of the country was favorable to the guerrilla warfare to which the Filipinos resorted and although they were always unsuccessful against the American forces our boys suffered frequent casualties. Unused to the extreme climate of the islands many succumbed to disease and the ranks were considerably thinned when the regiment returned to Manila on September 6, 1899.
Preparations were immediately begun for the homegoing voyage and on September 22 the regiment sailed on the transport Senator, the last of the U. S. volunteer forces to leave the islands. Stops were made at Nagasaki, Japan, and at Yokohama and shore leave was granted to the men. The regiment reached San Francisco October 22 and was mustered out a few days later.
The Iowa boys of '98 upheld the fighting traditions of the state. No volunteer regiment saw longer or more difficult service and Cass County bovs had their full share in the work.
Transcribed by Constance Diamond, April, 2018.