Spanish-American-war

1899 cartoon depicting Uncle Sam educating the “uncivilized" nations of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippines.  

An interesting cartoon created after the Spanish American War and at the beginning of America’s global ambitions. The racial prejudice’s illustrated depict what was called “The White Mans Burden”, the belief that it was the duty of white European and American society to civilize and Christianize the rest of the world, even by force if necessary. Note the racial attitudes being shown by the cartoon, with people of color being depicted as crude caricatures and stereotypes.  In the background are an American Indian holding a book upside down, a Chinese boy at the door, and a black boy cleaning a window. The other white children depicted represent US States.  Originally published on p. 8-9 of the January 25, 1899 issue of Puck Magazine.

Written on the blackboard: "The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact. — England has governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly advanced the world’s civilization. — The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”

Caption:  "School Begins. Uncle Sam (to his new class in Civilization): Now, children, you’ve got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!“

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Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th US Cavalry (USCT) in Philadelphia, 1898.

To celebrate the close of the Spanish American War, twenty-five thousand regular and volunteer troops of the Federal Army were reviewed by President William McKinley in Philadelphia on Thursday, October 17, 1898. This photo was taken at 13th and Market Streets.

The 10th Cavalry fought with distinction and honor in the Battle of Las Guasimas, the Battle of Tayacoba (where four members were awarded the Medal of Honor), with Colonel Theodore Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill and the Siege of Santiago de Cuba.

Photographic image made by Williams, Brown & Earle, dealers in stereoscopic views, 918 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia and is from our private collection.

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The Forgotten American Straight Pull — M1895 Lee Navy,

Most people have been led to believe that the Krag-Jorgensen was the main battle rifle used by the US Military in the 1890’s. Hence, every Spanish American War buff knows about the Krag, but few know about the Lee Navy. At the time the branches of the military were not yet into the whole standardization thing, and each branch of the military used their own equipment and firearms.  The Krag was used by the US Army, while the Lee Navy Model 1895 was used by the US Navy and Marine Corps. 

A straighpull that used a 6mm rimless cartridge, the Lee rifle was manufactured by Winchester with over 15,000 produced.  The Lee rifle saw action in Cuba and the Philippines with Marines and sailors during the Spanish American War and the proceeding Philippine Wars, as well as the Boxer Rebellion in China.  Because of its high velocity and long range the Lee rifle was famous for being used by American sailors to pick off Spanish crew and officers from ship decks during the Battle of Manila Bay.  It’s straight pull action, requiring only a back and forth movement of the bolt, allowed for more firepower than most bolt action rifles of its time.  The Lee Navy used a five round box magazine, which was loaded using a special en bloc clip.  Unlike other bolt action rifles of the day, the Lee Navy did not have a magazine cutoff, a mechanism which limits the rifle to single shot use only.  Rather, sailors and marines were encouraged to make use of the repeating bolt action mechanism of the rifle.  

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Lee Navy short of its straight pull action was its ammunition, a 6mm smokeless cartridge that was extremely odd for the day.  The 6mm Lee Navy used only a 112 grain bullet, a small copper jacketed projectile which could achieve muzzle velocities in excess of 2,500 feet per second.  The Navy at the time wanted a high velocity, long distance cartridge intending it for long distance shooting on the high seas.  At the time, the 6mm Lee Navy was the first military caliber measured in metric units, and the smallest military caliber until the adoption of the the 5.56X45mm NATO cartridge adopted in 1964.

Despite its advantages the Lee Rifle had some serious drawbacks.  Due to its high velocity long range cartridge the rifles had to be sighted in at 700 yards minimum, which mean’t that the rifle shot very high when used at close ranges.  Some Marines complained that Lee was not a very good rifle in the field.  The firing pin could be fragile leading to misfires and eventual breakdown.  Often the springs in the magazine were weak which led to jamming and failures to feed. Finally, the Lee Navy utilized rifling similar to the British Lee Metford, which had a tendency to wear out the barrel quickly.  

The model 1895 Lee would be replaced after the Spanish American War by the .30-40 Krag and later the 1903 Springfield would be adopted.  Most were sold to the Bannerman Company, which in turn sold them to the civilian market as military surplus.  From there many were converted into target and hunting rifles.  Today not many survive, and they are high sought by collectors.

I can’t help but notice that the majority of art about APH America is about the US in World War II, The American War for Independence, or to a lesser degree, the American Civil War. It is seldom about the period between the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the First World War. Perhaps this is understandable; a common perception is that the United States never really had any transformative events between 1865-1914. History however, has a different narrative.


Art by ThePotsdamSyndicate

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America’s Forgotten Soldier, Heinrich Schwindler

At the age of 7, Heinrich Schwindler, a recent immigrant, ran away from home. With minimal command of the English language, he was having quite a hard time, but was taken under the wing of a ethnic German soldier in the US Army, serving in the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, and was soon integrated into the regiment as something of a mascot. He trained as a drummer boy, and that year headed to Mexico with the Regiment, where he earned a mention in dispatches for his nerves under even the heaviest fire. Army life suited him, and at the age of 16 he traded in his drum for a long arm, seeing some action against the Native American population in the west serving in New Mexico. (The Third American: The Life and Times of Heinrich Schwindler, by Albern Schwindler, 1972)

By the outbreak of the Civil War, he was a veteran sergeant, and the massive need for expansion of the Army meant that he was able to secure a commission as a Lt. in a unit of volunteers, serving with the 195th New York Volunteer Infantry. Composed of so many recent immigrants, his command of both English and German was seen as a major asset, and by the end of the war he was a brevet Colonel in command of the entire Regiment! Not bad for a young man still in his twenties! It of course didn’t hurt that he had an agile mind and was unflappable in battle. He always led from the front, and took any risk he expected of his men. He had the distinction of never seeing his men break in battle, and his greatest achievement was undoubtedly saving the entire Army of the Wabash when his Regiment - placed alone on the extreme right flank - repelled numerous attacks by superior Confederate forces. Had they broken, it is assured that the Union line would have been entirely rolled up, and the Battle of Mount Carmel would have been a crippling defeat to the American efforts in the theater (The Civil War: A Tale, Hands 1967).

With the end of the war, he lost his brevet, and but he had risen in Regular Army rank as well, and served as a Captain of Cavalry in the Plains Wars, fighting Sioux and Shawnee with the same pluck and panache he had shown against the Rebs (A. Schwindler) . His continued success meant that, at the age of 58, he was a Brigadier General by the time the Spanish-American War broke out, and while his rank and age precluded him from battle, his role in planning out the Battle of Frying Pan Hill simply can’t be overlooked, as it is a text book assault plan, and still taught at West Point as an example of small unit tactics successfully taking prepared positions despite being outnumbered (Atlas of American Military Tactics, Pasman de Croire, 1984).

Following the end of the fighting in Cuba, he was sent to the Philippines to help fight the continuing insurgency, but took temporary leave from there when he received orders to divert to China where he partook in the relief effort of the Peking Legation during the Boxer Rebellion. He returned to the Philippines, where he was stationed for two more years. and his work there really revolutionized American counter-insurgency doctrine. Finally in 1904, he retired at the age of 64. Settling in Columbus, New Mexico, as he had fallen in love with the state (then territory) while serving there as a young man in the 3rd US Regiment. As fate would have it, in 1916 he would be out hunting with his grandson in the wee hours of the morning when Pancho Villa and his men made a cross border raid on the town. He fired a warning shot, which alerted the town garrison who were able to rouse themselves and repel the attackers. It is thought that the raid would have been much more disastrous without Heinrich’s intervention. He and his grandson (Albern) of course had exposed themselves with the shot, but took up a strong position in a rocky outcropping, and fought of the band of Villistas who attempted to charge them. Heinrich, always humble, insisted it was a lone raider that they killed, but Albern always insisted it was at least a half dozen (A. Schwindler), and the Army’s after action report stated there were five bodies in the vicinity, and indication that 3 more were wounded and either escaped or were carried off by their comrades (The Columbus Report, Library of Congress collection F1234 .C33).

By the 1930s, Heinrich was starting to slow down in his old age, a man in his nineties after all! Albern, now an Army Captain himself, insisted that Heinrich move to be closer to him so that Albern’s wife could look after him, so Heinrich moved to Hawaii, where his grandson was stationed, and took up residence with his family there. Heinrich was there on Dec. 7th, 1941, and true to form, refused to cower in the basement, although he rushed - rather hobbled, he was, afterall, 101 - the rest of the family there. He grabbed his old .29-31 Winchester (The rifle was later donated to the National Firearms Museum, where it is now on display!), and stood in the middle of the street taking potshots at Japanese planes. I wish I could tell you he downed one, but odds are against it, and truth is, we simply can’t be sure (Answering the Call of Duty: Civilian Military Involvement in World War II, Ben Chichoski 2003). Nevertheless, he was certainly out there. He passed away peacefully in his sleep two years later, at the ripe old age of 103. One of the more decorated of Army officers ever, not to mention one with a span of combat experience from the 1850s to 1940s, he was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery (Section 46 Lot 366-11 Grid O/P-22.5 if you ever care to pay your respects).

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Photograph of the wreckage of the USS MAINE, 1898

From the Series: Court of Inquiry into the Sinking of the USS Maine, 02/1898 - 03/1898

This telegram from the Key West Naval Station forwards word from Charles S. Sigsbee, Captain of the Maine about the destruction of his ship in Havana harbor on the evening of February 15, 1898, a pivotal event leading up to the Spanish-American War.  Read More about the legacy of the USS Maine at Prologue

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Springfield Tradoors of the Spanish American War,

Generally it is believed that the Model 1896 Krag Jorgensen bolt action rifle was the standard issue firearm of the Spanish American War.  However, believe it or not many US troops were not lucky enough to be issued the five shot bolt action rifle.  Instead many had to make due with the older Springfield Trapdoor single shot breechloader.  In a war when the enemy was armed with the bolt action Mauser from Germany, this was a whole new level of suck.

First adopted in 1873, the Trapdoor Springfield was the standard service arm of the US Army from 1873 until the 1890’s. Essentially the trapdoor was a conversion of older Springfield muskets from the Civil War, although most were produced on their own. To operate the trapdoor the user had to open the breech and insert a cartridge each time before firing.  By the 1890’s this system was woefully outdated as armies began to adopted bolt action repeating rifles which typically held five rounds, sometimes more.  I contend that the Trapdoor was outdated from the onset.  One example to illustrate the Trapdoor’s inadequacy in firepower was the Battle of Little Bighorn, where men under the command of Custer were overwhelmed and slaughtered by the Sioux, man of whom sported Winchester lever action repeating rifles.

By 1892 the US Army had adopted the Krag rifle, a bolt action repeater with a five round magazine.  While it was the best the United States had to offer, at the beginning of the Spanish American War there were not nearly enough to go around.  Regular Army Troops (those who were professional full time soldiers before the war) got first dibs.  The hundreds of thousands of volunteers who joined at the start of the war  got what was left, first come first serve.  As a result, many volunteer units were not issued the best, but instead had to settle with old antiques that were salved from arsenal storage.

The most common model issued was the M1889 Trapdoor, which differed little from the original Model 1873, with the exception of a prong bayonet rather than a triangular bayonet.  Otherwise it was pretty much the same dang thing.  To be issued one would have been an incredible bummer, as you were literally generations behind the weapons used by the enemy.  The most obvious drawback to the Trapdoor was its single shot firepower, which was woefully inadequate against modern bolt action rifles.  The Trapdoor was also long and heavy, a great liability considering that most of the fighting occurred in areas of heavy vegetation, such as Cuba and the Philippines.  In addition the Springfield used a blackpowder cartridge which produced lower velocities compared to smokeless powder, and created a large puff of thick smoke when fired.  Soldiers often joked that in battle they could simply hide behind the smokescreen of their rifles.  It wasn’t so funny when the combustion of black powder revealed your position.  

In comparison to the trapdoor, most Spanish soldiers were armed with the Spanish Mauser Model 1893.  While holding five rounds in its magazine, it fired 7x57mm smokeless powder cartridge that achieved incredible velocity, range, and accuracy.  With the use of stripper clips, the Model 1893 could load and fire dozens of rounds per minute.  In contrast an experienced soldier with a trapdoor could only achieve 8-15.  The comparison between the two is like World War I biplanes against modern fighter jets.

As the war continued production of Krag rifles was ramped up to so that Trapdoors in use could be discontinued and retired.  By the invasion of the Philippines and later Philippine Insurrection only secondary units were issued Trapdoors.

Theodore Roosevelt (center) at the 1899 Rough Riders Reunion in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Group also includes Lieutenant William Kelly and William Griffith standing and Captain Fritz Mueller and Lieutenant Colonel Myron McCord seated.

Date: 1899

Negative Number 005991

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“You may fire when you are ready, Gridley”

With this command, Commodore George Dewey opened the first major engagement of the Spanish American War in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898.  Commanding from his flagship USS Olympia, Dewey’s American Asiatic Squadron would destroy the Spanish Pacific Fleet in little more than 7 hours.  The battle was the beginning of the end for Spain’s aspirations in the Pacific, and would allow the United States to emerge as a global power.

Months earlier Dewey had earlier received coded orders from then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to seek out and engage the Spanish.

Obit of the Day (Historical): Annie Oakley (1926)

Annie Oakley, America’s most famous sharpshooter, died on this date eighty-five years ago at the age of 66. Rather than go into her amanzing, nearly mythical life I present this letter Ms. Oakley wrote to President William McKinley just weeks before the beginning of the Spanish-American War:

Hon. Wm. McKinley President,

Dear Sir I for one feel confident that your good judgment will carry America safely through without war.

But in case of such an event I am ready to place a company of fifty lady sharpshooters at your disposal. Every one of them will be an American and as they will furnish their own arms and ammunition will be little if any expense to the government.

Very truly Annie Oakley

It never happened. But if only it had. And according to the National Archives she made the same offer to President Woodrow Wilson at the beginning of World War I. (Someone write this novel or film. Please.)

(Image courtesy of The National Archives, #300369, who also have a few tumblrs: aotus.tumblr.com, todaysdocument.tumblr.com, ourpresidents.tumblr.com, usnatarchivesexhibits.tumblr.com, and congressarchives.tumblr.com. Collect them all!)

Important note: Annie Get Your Gun is horribly inaccurate from an historical perspective, just buy “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” on MP3 and never watch the film or see the musical again. Thank you.

U.S. Army “Jack Brutus” a fine soldier, (shown here in uniform) serving during the Spanish - American war became the official mascot for Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. “Old Jack” as he was known, and his unit, spent most of the war encamped at various places here in the states providing coastal defense from Maine to Virginia. Old Jack died of spinal troubles in 1898.