Inland Empire soldiers fought the Spanish American War from the Bay Area – Daily Bulletin


“Hurry and wait” is the most apt description of the drudgery most soldiers endure when not in combat.

Over this Memorial Day weekend, it is worth remembering how those words described what happened to several hundred Inland Empire soldiers in 1898 who left to fight in the Spanish-American War. They are no further than the Bay Area.

They were members of the National Guard companies of the cities of the Inland Empire, which were part of the Seventh Regiment of Southern California. The troops – volunteers from D Company in Pomona, G Company in Redlands, K Company in San Bernardino and M Company in Riverside – had been taken after the declaration of war against Spain. The war itself, fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines, hardly lasted more than a few months.

With high hopes, local soldiers received colorful shipments to their towns with patriotic parades and gala events. Crowds of family members and supporters cheered as their trains left for Los Angeles and then for the Bay Area, where they arrived on May 7.

Local soldiers, bivouacked among as many as 4,000 National Guard soldiers at what was known as Camp Merritt, were repeatedly told that they would be alongside ships and depart for service in the Pacific.

But such warnings have turned out to be false. Some other units crossed the Pacific to reach the Philippines pretty much with victory in the war long overdue. Meanwhile, the Inland Empire troops stood on the sidelines, doing little more than endless drilling and other “doing work” activities.

“We had a mock battle today in the hills behind town,” AD Gazzolo wrote in a letter to the Sun newspaper, published June 28. Company K “managed to capture a little rabbit that couldn’t run fast enough to escape. when we billed. “

The Daily Progress in Pomona reported that amid the boredom, some local soldiers got a little too accustomed to military life.

“When a corporal shouted ‘attention’ while sleeping, each man in the tent jumped to his feet and stood in skimpy clothes waiting for a supposed officer to approach, until he was excused by the dreaming non-commissioned officer, ”Progress wrote in July. 7.

Company M received a surprise visit at the end of May when a number of Riverside residents, using a reduced rate offered by the railways, traveled to the Bay Area, the Los Angeles Herald May 29. – an Irish setter puppy named Little Bell.

The morale of the troops was boosted a bit by letters and parcels from home – no different than anyone who has ever served in uniform.

A call for socks for Company K returned home, and the women of the San Bernardino Red Cross purchased and shipped 324 pairs on June 7. They also made 150 bandages that we never needed. Red Cross workers in Redlands shipped a large box of food and essentials to “our boys” at Company G, the Los Angeles Times wrote on June 19.

Company D received a large shipment of lemons and oranges from the Pomona’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. “The way in which these 106 men went to get the fruit would have done good to your mother’s heart, for the poor people had not had any fresh fruit, nor money to buy it, for several weeks,” was he was in a thank you letter from the company published in the Daily Progress on August 17.

But over the weeks, the Seventh Regime’s frustration increased as other units boarded the ships and moved away.

It became so disheartening after a refusal, that “a funeral procession has formed to bury the ‘dead hopes'” of the Seventh Regiment, the Los Angeles Evening Express reported on June 21. Led by several members of the regimental orchestra, the procession wound its way through the camp, until “the colonel’s attention was attracted and, of course, the funeral ended abruptly.”

Their anticipation peaked on August 20 when they were told to prepare to leave for service in Honolulu on Scandia Transport. But these orders were canceled without explanation five days later, and local troops returned to their former encampment area.

No small amount of anger and confusion was evident in the letters published in the newspapers in the area. Everyone asked why the companies of the Seventh Regiment were not assigned, especially since they were among the first to arrive in the Bay Area.

Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times, who received a political appointment as general overseeing local National Guard businesses, has come under heavy criticism for dispatching with other non-South California troops under his command.

“There is no doubt that there is an intense feeling within the Seventh Regiment against Brig. General Otis for this act, ”wrote Col. John B. Berry, an obviously exasperated officer in the regiment, in the Los Angeles Record for August 30. to prevent the regiment from getting its deserts.

Colonel Berry suggested that Secretary of War Russell A. Alger was to blame for his “well-known hostility to Southern California”.

Without ever knowing why they were never needed, the companies of the Seventh Regiment were finally released to return home. The troops left San Francisco by train on October 13 and returned home late the next day, greeted by large crowds.

In Pomona, a huge meal was offered late at night to the starving troops. But the ordeal for the few Ontario and Chinese members of Company D was not over.

There were no trains running at that time, so everyone had to walk several kilometers to get home, arriving around dawn, explained Louis DiDonato, a teacher at Alta Loma high school, in an article he said. wrote in 2001 for the California Historical Society.

The active service of companies was not quite over. A few days later, they had to report to Los Angeles where they were officially released from active service.

Many soldiers returned home with little money or job prospects. In Riverside, the Red Cross Youth Auxiliary held a benefit performance on Oct. 22 at Armory Hall to raise funds for returning soldiers, the Los Angeles Herald reported on Oct. 20.

And although they never faced a fight, there were 24 members of the various companies of the Seventh Regiment who died during or after the five-month ordeal. The military camps of the time were vast breeding grounds for many contagious diseases, in particular typhus, pneumonia and measles.

When D Company returned home, Herman Hills, Ont., Was forced to stay in a San Francisco hospital for typhus treatment. He passed away in December.

Redlands Company G claimed three lives – William Marske died of meningitis, William T. Ferguson died of pneumonia following a bout of measles, and a third death was LJ Wood, who died on July 4 . In K Company, Sgt. Curtis S. Rollins of Highland died of pneumonia after contracting measles, while WH Dubbs also suffered from pneumonia, dying on July 24.

Joe Blackstock writes about the history of Inland Empire. He can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @JoeBlackstock. Check out some of our columns from the past on Inland Empire Stories on Facebook at

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