History of Marion County, Iowa by Wright and Young (1915)

Chapter XII - Spanish-American War, Etc.

Conditions Before the War - Cuba Under Spanish Rule - Insurrections and Revolutions - The Ten Years' War -
Debt and Tyranny - Uprising of 1893 - General Weyler - Sentiment in the United States -
Destruction of the Battleship Maine - Action of Congress - Cuban Ports Blockaded - War Declared -
The Fifty-first Iowa Infantry - Service in the Philippines - Iowa National Guard - Soldiers' Monument at Pella

In order that the reader may have a better understanding of the conditions that existed prior to and the causes that led to the war with Spain, it is well to notice briefly the history of Cuba during the four centuries that followed the discovery of America. From the time the first Spaniards settled on the island until the close of the Spanish-American war in 1898, Cuba was a dependency of Spain. When that country was losing her other American possessions, one by one, the people of Cuba remained loyal in there allegiance to the mother country, and when the Spanish dynasty was overthrown by Napoleon in 1808 the Cubans declared war against Napoleon. Their loyalty and patriotism received a poor recompense, however, for in 1825 a royal decree placed the lives and fortunes of the unfortunate Cubans at the absolute disposal of the captains-general, or governors, of the island. The “conquistadors” were slow in coming, but they had at last arrived, and from that time the history of Cuba is one of oppression, injustice and insurrection.

In 1829 a conspiracy was formed among the Cubans for the purpose of throwing off the Spanish yoke, but it was discovered and crushed before the conspirators were ready to assume the aggressive. As the man who has served a term in prison is often watched by the officers of the law after his release, so the people of Cuba were kept under surveillance by the Spanish authorities after this conspiracy. Notwithstanding all the resources of Spain were employed to keep the islanders in complete subjection, the blacks rose in arms in 1844.

This was followed by the filibustering and futile expeditions of Narcisso Lopez in 1849-50, and then came the “Ten Years’ War” - from 1868 to 1878 - during which Spain threatened to make a desert of the island. Spanish troops to the number of 257,000 were sent to Cuba to suppress the uprising, but so great was the sacrifice of human life that fewer than fifty thousand of them returned to Spain. During the war property to the value of $300,000,000 was destroyed, and the enormous expense incurred was saddled upon the Cubans at the conclusion of the conflict as a penalty for their rebellion.

Although the Cubans were overpowered in the Ten Years’ war, the spirit of independence was not subdued. One of the effects of the war was to make the captains-general more tyrannical in their administration of insular affairs. Added tot his tyranny was the heavy burden of the war debt, so that it was not long until the influential men among the Cubans began planning another revolution. Past experience, however, had taught them to move with caution, and for more than fifteen years every movement of the revolutionists was made with the greatest secrecy.

In 1893 the revolution broke out at several places on the island simultaneously, under the leadership of Generals Gomez and Maceo. Captain-General Campos, at that time governor of the island, conducted his military campaigns according to the established usages of civilized warfare, which policy was not satisfactory to the Spanish Government. Campos was therefore removed and General Welyler was placed in command with instructions to use any methods he might deem advisable to check the insurrection. Weyler adopted the policy of removing the people from the rural districts to the cities, where they were kept under close guard, in order to prevent them from furnishing supplies to the revolutionists. The inhumanity that accompanied this policy soon aroused the indignation of the entire civilized world. The supply of food was inadequate to the needs of the “reconcentrados,” as the people confined in the cities were called, the Spanish authorities made no effort to see that a larger quantity of food was supplied, and many of the unfortunates actually starved to death.

In the United States the press was energetic in picturing the sufferings of the reconcentrados; political conventions, regardless of party, commercial organizations in many of the principal cities, and even some of the State Legislatures adopted resolutions calling upon the Federal Government to intervene in behalf of the oppressed Cubans. The proposition to raise money in the United States to alleviate the condition of the reconcentrados started riots in Havana, some of the people asserting that intervention on the part of the United States meant in the end the annexation of Cuba to the American Republic. Merely as a matter of precaution, the Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy was ordered to the Dry Tortugas, within six hours’ sail of Havana.

On January 25, 1898, the United States battleship Maine dropped anchor in the harbor of Havana, not with any intention of assuming a hostile attitude, but to be on the scene in case of emergency. The presence of this war vessel was displeasing to the Spanish officials, who sought a measure of retaliation by sending the armored cruiser Vizcaya to New York. This matters stood until February 9, 1898, when the Spanish minister to the United States resigned his position. On the evening of February 15, 1898, the Maine was blown up, causing a loss of more than two hundred of her officers and men. A court of inquiry subsequently reported that the loss of the Maine was due to “a submarine mine, which caused the partial explosion of two or more of her forward magazines.”

The excitement which had prevailed in the United States previous to the destruction of the Maine was nothing to that which followed the disaster. “Remember the Maine!” was adopted as a universal slogan, and the demands for intervention became more and more insistent. Still the administration declined to take any positive action, chiefly for the reason that General Blanco, who had superseded General Weyler, issued a proclamation declaring a suspension of hostilities and announced that the reconcentrados would be permitted to return to their homes and plantations. Through the reports of American consuls it soon became certain that this promise was not being kept, and that the suffering among the imprisoned Cubans had not been diminished in the least.

On March 8, 1898, Congress appropriated $50,000,000 for the national defense and thus matters rested for more than a month. Then it was learned that General Blanco’s promise to release the reconcentrados had not been fulfilled, and on April 19, 1898, Congress adopted a resolution recognizing the independence of Cuba. The resolution also demanded that Spain withdrew all troops and relinquish authority over the island. It closed with these words: “The United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said island, except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination when that is accomplished to leave the government and control of the island to its people.”

A few days later an act was passed to provide for an increase in the army to 61,000 men. Under the resolution of April 19, the President of the United States was authorized to employ the forces of both army and navy to aid Cuba, and Rear Admiral Sampson was ordered to place the ports of Cuba in a state of blockade. This was quickly followed by a formal declaration of war and a call for 125,000 volunteers, to be supplied from the National Guard of the various states as far as practicable.

In anticipation of such an event, the Iowa Legislature, which adjourned a short time before war was actually declared, appropriated $500,000, or such part thereof as might be found necessary, “to aid the general government in case of war,” and preparations were immediately commenced to fill any call for troops that might be made. On April 21, 1898, Adjutant-General Byers issued a general order to the company commanders of the Iowa National Guard to have all officers and men undergo a physical examination to determine their fitness for active military service. Two days later came the President’s proclamation, reciting the causes that had led up to the declaration of war against Spain and calling for the 125,000 volunteers above mentioned.

On April 25, 1898, Governor Shaw received a telegram from the Secretary of War advising him of the number of troops that Iowa would be expected to furnish under the call. The state fair grounds, near the City of Des Moines, were secured as a point for the mobilization of the Iowa National Guard and named Camp McKinley, in honor of the President. The officers of the four infantry regiments were ordered to report with their commands, with the least possible delay. In order to avoid confusion in after years, it was decided by the governor to continue the numbering of the volunteer regiments from the last infantry regiment that served in the Civil War. The First Regiment of the National Guard, therefore, became the Forty-ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and Second, Third and Fourth were changed, respectively, to the Fiftieth, Fifty-first and Fifty-second regiments of Iowa Volunteer Infantry.


Prior to the beginning of the war a company of the National Guard was organized at Knoxville and became a part of the Third Regiment, which was mustered into the United States service on May 30, 1898, the Marion County company becoming Company D. The organization of this company at the time of muster-in was as follows: Louis K. Butterfield, captain; Miles R. Hoover, first Lieutenant; William C. Mentzer, second lieutenant (promoted regimental adjutant); Fred P. Woodruff, first sergeant; Lee E. Johnson, second; Carl C. Jones, third; Marurice L. Curtis, fourth; Frank D. Jackson, fifth; Leonard B. Myers, quartermaster-sergeant; Harry E. Craddick, first corporal (promoted sergeant); Frank C. Simpson, second corporal (promoted quartermaster-sergeant); John C. Steven, third corporal; Fred L. Fisher, fourth corporal; Paul Bellamy, fifth corporal; Bert Terry, sixth corporal; Fred D. Gillaspy and C. F. Jenks, musicians; Simon J. McGinnis, artificer; Edward ward, wagoner.

Privates - Fred Aldrich, Bert E. Barnes, Robert A. Barnes, William H. Barnes (promoted corporal), William P. Bird (promoted cook with the rank of corporal), Robert Blaine (discharged August 2, 1899, to enter regular army), Fred M. Booth, William D. Boydston (promoted sergeant), Frederick Brewer, Frank C. Burnette, Lloyd L. Bush (promoted corporal), William L. Camp (promoted corporal), Edguer E. Carle, William C. Crawford, Harvey W. Darrah, Louis R. Elliott (promoted corporal), George E. Graham, William C. Hall, David A. Harner, William G. Hicks, Nathan E. Hodges (promoted corporal), Dot Jackson, Charles F. Jenks (promoted musician), Orval A. Jenks, Charles C. Kendall, Martin Linn, Charles E. Lucas (promoted corporal), Nathan H. McCorkle, Stephen D. McGinnis, James T. McGowen, Clinton C. Maddy, Carlos B. Marshall, Frederick Mills, Allen W. Mitchell, Clarence W. Morgan, John C. Myers, Joseph Ohman (discharged August 23, 1899, to enter the regular army), Clarence A. Overton, Thomas J. Parkison, Edward Phelps (transferred form regimental band), Fred Phelps (transferred form regimental band), Albert E. Ream, Thomas L. Risewick (promoted corporal), Ora J. Roberts, Nathan A. Rockafellow, Lloyd E. Russell, Walter H. Sanders, Edward W. Scull, Ami F. Severns, John A. Sharitt, William H. Simpson (promoted corporal), Mike M. Sullivan, Hans R. Terry, Charles M. Ulsh, Clyde J. Updegraff, Harvey M. Weir, Walter E. Wellons, John T. Wilson, Hollie M. Wolfe (promoted corporal), Lewis S. Woodruff, Arthur D. Worthington (promoted corporal).

On April 25, 1898, the regiment was ordered into quarters at Camp McKinley, Des Moines, where it was mustered into the United States service on May 30th following, with John C. Loper, of Des Moines, as colonel. On June 2, 1898, it was assigned by the War Department to the Philippine expeditionary forces, and Colonel Loper received order to proceed at one with the regiment to San Francisco. Pursuant to this order, the Fifty-first left Des Moines on June 5, 1898, on three special trains, and arrived at San Francisco on the 10th, going into quarters at Camp Merritt. The regiment was mustered in with but sixty-five men to the company. Just before leaving Des Moines orders were received to increase the enrollment to 106 men to each company and recruiting officers were left in Iowa to enlist and forward the requisite number of men. Several of the recruits came from other counties and are not included in the roster given above.

The regiment remained at San Francisco until November 3, 1898, when it embarked on the transport “Pennsylvania,” 1,090 strong, and sailed for the Philippines. Upon arriving at Manila on December 7, 1898, the regiment was assigned to the First Separate Brigade, Eighth Army Corps, Department of the Pacific, commanded by Gen. M. P. Miller. The day after Christmas the transport was ordered to Iloilo, Panay Island, but the men remained on board the vessel awaiting orders until January 29, 1899, when they were ordered to Cavite. Here they disembarked on the last day of January, having passed ninety-four days on the transport.

Company D was made a part of the First Battalion, commanded by Major Duggan, which was ordered to Manila on February 18, 1899, and upon its arrival there was soon under fire at Pasai. After the engagements at Culi Culi Church and San Pedro Macati, the battalion left the trenches at the former place and marched back to Manila, where the regiment was concentrated about the middle of April. The Fifty-first was then assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, and took part in the campaign that resulted in the fall of Calumpit and San Fernando. The regiment was also present at the capture of Quingua, crossed the Bagbag River on April 24, 1899, and marched upon Calumpit, the firing line, which was about three miles in length, driving the enemy before it as it advanced. Company D was next engaged at Pulilan, and afterward joined a South Dakota regiment in driving a body of the enemy from a long trench near the Bagbag River. The regiment performed its full share of duty in the capture of Calumpit, after which some time was spent in driving small bands of the enemy out of the country around Quingua.

On May 4, 1899, the Fifty-first Iowa led the advance upon San Fernando, and the next day it was the first regiment to enter the insurgents capital. As a matter of fact, the capture of the town was effected by the First and Second battalions with one machine gun. After the occupation of San Fernando the next three months were spent in scouting, skirmishing and outpost duty. It was on one of these occasions that Company D saw its hardest service and won it greatest renown. On June 15, 1899, the company was ordered to an old sugar mill, about a mile and a half from San Fernando, to watch the movements of the enemy. Captain Butterfield and Lieutenant Hoover were both in the hospital and Lieutenant Mentzer was serving on the staff of General Hale, leaving First Sergeant Woodruff in command of the company. Upon arriving at the sugar mill, Sergeant Woodruff sent eight men, under the command of Corporal Stevens, to the extreme right, and a similar squad, under Corporal Bellamy, to the extreme left. During the day a lookout was maintained on top of the mill and at night a line of pickets was thrown out to the right and left, to connect the two outposts under the corporals with the main body at the mill. These pickets were instructed to retire at the first appearance of dawn, so as not to be observed by any of the enemy that might be lurking in the neighborhood. Just as the pickets were coming in on the morning of the 16th a volley was fired from a growth of timber near by. Company D promptly responded, and the “Song of the Mauser” was soon heard along the entire line. Sergeant Woodruff succeeded in holding back the enemy until the company could reach the sugar mill, where the men were protected to some extent. General MacArthur, the commanding officer, thought this action of the enemy was a feint and declined to send reinforcements to the company, fearing a stronger attack would be made at some other point. For over an hour Company D held its position and kept back about a thousand of the enemy before relief came. The men had exhausted their ammunition and it looked bad for the heroic little band of Iowa boys. Prior to this time the Fifty-first had taken part in several charges, and at the beginning of the charge it was the custom of the men to yell at the top of their voices. Recalling this fact, Sergeant Woodruff ordered the men to yell, as though they were going to charge, but to remain under cover. The order was carried out and almost immediately the enemy’s fire ceased. That the company gave a good account of itself in this engagement was evidenced by the fact that 389 Filipinos were found dead on the field and were buried by the American troops in the cemetery at San Fernando. Sergeant Woodruff was brevetted captain by the state and was offered a lieutenant's commission in the Thirty-ninth United States Volunteer Infantry, which he declined, preferring to remain with his own company.

Ten companies of the Fifty-first took part in the movement against Calulut on August 9, 1899, and after the capture of that place a scouting party of fifty men, commanded by Lieutenant Mentzer, of Company D, and Lieutenant Van Arnam, of Company L, had a lively skirmish witht he enemy near Angeles, and come off victorious. Order were received on September 4, 1899, to move by rail to Manila, and on the 22nd of the same month the regiment embarked on board the transport “Senator” for San Francisco, where it arrived on October 22, 1899. It was assigned to its old camp at the Presidio and remained there until the 2nd of November, when it was mustered out and the men returned to their homes, Company D being given an enthusiastic reception by the people of Knoxville upon its arrival. Concerning the personnel and discipline of the regiment, Colonel Loper said in his official report: “They were gentlemen as will as soldiers, and they did not fail to uphold the honor of the regiment and the dignity of the state from which they were sent.”

The commission offered Sergeant Woodruff, in the Thirty-ninth United States Volunteer Infantry, was later given to Frank c. Burnette, a Company D boy, who has since risen to the rank of captain in the regular army. Carl C. Jones, who went out as third sergeant of Company D, is now a captain in the regular army, and Robert Blaine is also still in the regular service.


Article VI of the state constitution of 1857 relates to the militia of the state and reads as follows:

“Section 1. The militia of this state shall be composed of all able-bodied male citizens, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, except such as are or may hereafter be exempt by the laws of the United States, or of this state; and shall be armed, equipped and trained as the General Assembly may provide by law.

“Section 2. No person or persons conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to do military duty in time of peace; provided that such person or persons shall pay an equivalent for such exemption in the same manner as other citizens.

“Section 3. All commissioned officers of the militia (staff officers excepted) shall be elected by the persons liable to perform military duty, and shall be commissioned by the governor.”

Supplementary to these constitutional provisions, the Legislature has, from time to time, enacted laws for the organization , support and regulation of the state troops. Under the act of 1902 the Iowa National Guard was declared to consist of “four regiments of infantry, one signal company, and, at the discretion of the commander-in-chief, two batteries of artillery.”

The Marion County company that enlisted for the Spanish-American war and served in the Philippines was reorganized as part of the National Guard on December 11, 1899. Following the act of 1902 the four regiments of the Guard were numbered to succeed the last regiment serving in the war with Spain, becoming the Fifty-second, Fifty-third, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth. In the general reorganization the Marion company was made Company D, Fifty-fifth Regiment. On January 11, 1911, the company was mustered out, but during the year it was reorganized and again mustered in, with its former letter and regiment, on January 8, 1912. It then continued in the Iowa National Guard as Company D, Fifty-fifth Regiment, until December 31, 1914, when it was again mustered out of service. At that time the company numbered sixty-four men, rank and file, Capt. R. S. Mentzer being the only commissioned officer.


Albert Hobbs Circle, No. 57, Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, was organized at Pella on December 10, 1907, with fourteen charter members, and Mrs. Edna Dennis as president. About a year later the circle started the movement for the erection of a monument in the public square at Pella, to be dedicated to those who served in the army or navy of the United States during the Civil war. The first money paid into the monument fund was the sum of $10, which was received from the sale of white carnations for “Mothers’ Day” in 1909. With this $10 as a nucleus, the circle began giving socials and other entertainments, each adding a few dollars to the fund.

After more than two years of this labor of love on the part of these patriotic women, a monument was erected, at a cost of $650, on the corner of the public square at the junction of Main and Franklin streets, and was formally dedicated on Memorial Day, 1911. On the front of the monument - that is, the side facing the streets - is the inscription:

“Erected by
Albert Hobbs
Circle No. 57,
Ladies of
G. A. R.
May 30, 1911.”

On the reverse side of the monument is the inscription:

to the
Soldiers and
Sailors of the
Civil War
1861 - 1865.”

On the occasion of the unveiling or dedication of this memorial Gen. James B. Weaver was the orator of the day, and paid a glowing tribute to the “Boys in Blue,” to whom the monument was dedicated. An address was also delivered by John F. Lacy, and others made short speeches. In 1912 Albert Hobbs Post, No. 404, obtained two 3-inch rifled cannon and mounted them on concrete blocks in front of the monument. Measured in dollars and cents, the Pella soldiers’ monument is indeed a modest affair, but measured in true patriotic sentiment; in loyalty to the principles for which those to whom it is consecrated fought; in gratitude to the veterans of the Civil war, it is as large as any monument in the country. It was not erected for show, but to give expression to the loyalty, patriotism and gratitude of a generation many of whom were unborn when the tocsin of war was sounded through the country in 1861.

Transcribed by Mary E. Boyer, February 2007, reformatted by Al Hibbard 10 Oct 2013