Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

for many years as the continued recitals of brutality in Cuba by General Weyler and his predecessors had from time to time been brought to the attention of the American people. Action had frequently been urged. On February 15th, 1898, twentyfive years ago public opinion was galvanized into action by the flashing wires telling of the dastardly sinking of the Battleship Maine under command of Captain Sigsbee while she rested in anchor on a friendly mission in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, blasting into a watery grave 266 American sailors of her crew. At once the cry sprang from lip to lip and spread north and south, east and west, "Remember the Maine,” the battle cry of 1898.

The United States had been at peace since the Civil War and had had no quarrel with any foreign nation resulting in resort to arms since the Mexican War in 1848, and as usual we found ourselves in no state of preparedness. It was necessary to delay the formal declaration of war until April 26 during which time the enemy was strengthening his forces.

When war was finally declared Spain had 197,000 men in Cuba under arms, 155,000 of whom were regulars, and protected by fortifications and works of no mean character. Her naval forces were considerable in number of ships and equipment, both in Cuban waters and in the Philippines. An outstanding incident was the wonderful patriotic response to the call of the President for the first 125,000 volunteers issued on April 23, 1898. Never in the history of any nation has there been such a remarkable response. The blood of the fathers truly coursed with abiding purpose and conviction through the veins of the young manhood of America. A free people under a free government had justified their capacity for strength in emergency

On February 17th, two days after the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor, the Governor of Illinois John R. Tanner, transmitted a message to the House of Representatives of Illinois asking authority to place the Illinois National Guard at the disposal of the Government for use in emergency. On the same day the House by resolution approved the Governor's course and authorized the tender of troops. Illinois was thus the first State in the Union to tender support and troops to the Federal Government in the Spanish-American War.

On April 27th, the day after formal declaration of war, seven regiments of infantry and one regiment of cavalry were mobilized ready for any eventuality, at Camp Tanner, Springfield, which action was taken pursuant to orders from the War Department.

Subsequently on request of the State, Battery A, Field Artillery from Danville, Captain Yeager commanding, was mobilized at Camp Tanner on April 30th.

Under the second call of the President the 9th Illinois Infantry (Provisional), under Col. James R. Campbell was mustered into service on July 4th-11th, and the 8th Illinois Infantry, colored, was mustered into service on July 22, 1898.

In addition to these organized units many thousands of young men from Illinois offered themselves for enlistment for active service in the army and navy and were accepted in large numbers. Illinois therefor justified her loyal tradition and took a first place of honor in the Nation's service in 1898.

May 1st, the electrifying news came of Dewey's bold strategy and complete victory over the naval forces in Manila Bay. The Oregon steamed her majestic 14,000-mile course from the Western Coast around the Horn and up into the Atlantic arriving in time to overhaul and destroy the last and fleetest of the Spanish battleships in their attempted flight from Santi. ago. Schley and Sampson wrote their names in fame. Ensign Bagley gave his life and his memory will live on. That intrepid American, Col. Theodore Roosevelt, typifying in his life and character the finest and noblest elements of American character, led his famous Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and with his friend and compatriot, General Leonard Wood, took the great forward stride in the esteem of his people that was destined to lead him through the Governor's chair of the State of New York to the Vice-Presidency and the Presidency of the United States, in which capacities and as the first citizen of the land in private life he was destined to influence for good and for progress the entire structure of government and public thought and conscience.

Our Commander-in-Chief during the Spanish-American War had proved his loyalty during the Civil War and exemplified a public and private life that shall ever be an inspiration. He sealed his devotion to country in his tragic death. His

mortal remains lay enshrind at his old home in Canton, Ohio. May the faith which caused Major William McKinley to love the beautiful words of “Lead Kindly Light” have found him his deserved reward. Immortal he will remain in the minds and hearts of the American people.

The Spanish-American War united in the strange alchemy of comradeship under arms in a righteous cause the he of the North and the South, and laid the foundation for national growth into that unity and strength which enabled America to express herself with the force and conviction which wrested victory from defeat in the fields of France in 1918. Among the names on the pages of the History of the Spanish-American War are General Lee, Wheeler, Shafter, Merritt, Lawton and others, famed military leaders from North and South.

By its humanitarian purpose to lift the yoke of tyranny from the oppressed and defenseless, resulting in the liberation of Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines, and conferring upon their people the benefit of orderly and decent government together with the opportunity of education progress and liberty ; the return of our portion of the Chinese Boxer indemnity amounting to $13,000,000 to be used as a fund to enable Chinese young men and women to come to America and obtain American training and education; the United States initiated in a world way its policy of "International Humanitarianism," assumed a moral leadership among the nations of the world and demonstrated its capacity to protect and enforce that leadership.

The terrible ravages of disease in the armed forces of the United States totalling 5,277 challenged the attention of the military and naval authorities of the United States to the imperative need of proper and efficient sanitary and hospital facilities. This terrible loss of splendid American manhood, with the example of other thousands sent home broken in health and incapacitated for life, purchased that attention to the subjects of sanitation and hospitalization which had progressed at the time of the World War to a point where the personnel of the army and navy were kept in a better state of health than the civilian populace, and enabled the return of between 95 and 97 per cent of all casualties to active duty after treatment. The development of prevention of fever from tropical causes,

one of the results of the war, made possible the building of the Panama Canal and has saved the world untold misery and loss of life by the prevention of plagues and epidemics. These are but a few of the outstanding results flowing from the SpanishAmerican War.

The total battle losses were 454, of whom 231 fell in the charge of San Juan Hill. My own regiment, the 39th U. S. Vol. Infantry, commanded by Lieut. General Robert L. Bullard, then a colonel of volunteers, served in the Philippines, and out of full strength of 1,272 men lost 300 dead, of whom only 25 died from wounds received in action and the remainder from disease, besides invaliding another 300 home “unfit for further service on account of physical disability” incurred in service, leaving only 672 men able to return on the Transport Lawton to the United States after 16 months service in the Islands. I speak of this regiment as typical and because it is the only one of which I had personal knowledge. I was a private soldier in the outfit and one of those fortunate enough to come back able for duty.

More important than all else resulting from the SpanishAmerican War was the diversion of the public mind from the obsession for material progress and commercial gain which had so thoroughly rooted itself in American effort, and a patriotic revival which brought to the foreground the higher and finer ideals of character, individual and national. Surely the veterans of the Civil War must have been heartened to see that their sacrifices and those of their comrades had not been in vain. The universal response of the finest young manhood of America to the first and second call of President McKinley for troops, reminded them of the days and the spirit of their own old song as with martial beat and swinging tread they sang “We are coming Father Abraham, 400,000 strong."

In these days of European turmoil, of world instability and dangerous propaganda in our own country seeking to array one group against another, of this Bloc and that Bloc, and everywhere the effort to gain special or group advantage, without regard to the ultimate stability of government and law or economics, nothing can be more important than a recurrence to those elementary virtues which lead men in an unselfish way to commit their strength, their energies and their life if need be for

the security of those guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, like the framers of that great declaration who pledged their "Lives, their property and their sacred honor” to defend and preserve the independence of this nation upon the principles announced.

It matters not what heights of fame or leadership this nation may reach in the financial, commercial and industrial world, if in the achievement of these ambitions she loses the refinement of her national character, formed as it has been by ennobling sacrifices of men and women who through the centuries have peopled our country because they loved it as a haven of opportunity, education and toleration, and who have at every call in sublime faith in its destiny stoutly defended its precepts and its integrity.

If this splendid national heritage of character which is ours, and which in the final analysis must be and is the composite character of the mass of individual citizenry, is to be preserved for posterity it must result from the application to the problems of peace, the same sterling and unselfish patriotism, devotion to ideal and character as we evidence under stress of the emergency of war. Let the patriotism for war with all of its demonstrated capacity for action be the patriotism of peace.

To promote these ends, nothing can be more conducive than a lively appreciation of the sacrifices which have been made on behalf of our beloved country, her aims and hopes, aye her destiny.

The veterans of the Civil War for more than fifty years have been the living preceptors of American Patriotism. The value of their example to rising generations of Americans has been incalculable. The veterans of the Spanish-American War have sought to carry on with the Grand Army of the Republic, and now our ranks swelled by the four million and a half veterans of the World War will be enabled to promote the teachings of loyalty, patriotism and love of country for another fifty years.

If the spirit personified by the service of these veterans shall live in the memories and hearts of our countrymen, surely we need fear no bolshevism or successful disloyalty in our fair land, nor the achievement by any agency of the destruction of those rights and guarantees which insure initiative and con

« AnteriorContinuar »