The History of the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry


The men of the First New Jersey Volunteer Infantry from a stereoview. Second from the right in the front row is Private Fred W. Meyer

General:

The First New Jersey Volunteer Infantry served out its term of service in the continental U.S.

The History:

The First New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, formed from the New Jersey National Guard, was mustered into federal service between May 5 and 12, 1898 at Camp Voorhees, located at Sea Girt, New Jersey. At the time of its muster in, the regiment consisted of fifty-one officers and 949 enlisted men. On May 16, the regiment was ordered to Camp Alger located near Washington DC at Dunn Loring, Virginia. The regiment broke camp on May 19 to move to the new location. At Camp Alger, the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Second Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Graham. Later, it was apparently transferred to the Second Brigade, Third Division of the same corps.

Camp Alger was a rather dusty, crowded, and unhealthy camp, with very unhealthy water. The men were subjected to malarial and typhoid fever. To aid the members of its own regiment, the men of the 8th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry dug a well, placed a pump on it, and placed a guard at the pump. On June 6, the guard, J. S. Bradshaw, found himself under attack by men from the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. One of the 8th Pennsylvania's lieutenants, Charles C. Beecher, the officer of the guard, arrived and was driven back by the New Jersey troops at bayonet point. Beecher had ammunition distributed, and took the well back by force. This was the sole "action" seen by the men of either troop during their period of . The colonels of the two regiments met and diffused the dangerous situation over what was really a matter of life and death for soldiers of both regiments.

Life in Camp Alger was, as is typical  of camp life, exhausting, boring, and for the men seemingly lacking in the glamor of life at the front. Such was the experience of most of the soldiers who served in the Spanish American War. Six hours a day were spent in company and regimental drill. The monotony was broken by certain memorable events, such as the "Battle of the Pump" and in late May, when President McKinley visited the camp for an inspection, during which he reviewed the 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. Members of McKinley's entourage complained of the dust, which a reporter from the Washington Post commented resembled a snowstorm.

In August,  the regiment was to be transferred to the Fourth Brigade of the Third Army Corps to take part in the invasion of Puerto Rico, but with the signing of the armistice ending the war's fighting on August 12, 1898, this order was not carried out. The regiment remained part of the Second Corps until September, 1898, when it was sent home to New Jersey. Arriving in Newark on September 26, the regiment was reviewd by the mayor to a review.

The regiment was mustered out of service on November 8, 1898 at Newark. At the time of its muster out, the regiment consisted of forty-six officers and 1,214 enlisted men. During its term of service, the regiment lost nine enlisted men to disease, had twenty-six men discharged on disability. In addition, nine men deserted the regiment.

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed officially ending the war.
 

An image of Private Fred W. Meyer who served in the New Jersy National Guard and Company M, 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. He is shown in his National Guard dress uniform. Private Meyer, weakened by illness contracted during the war, passed away at the age of thirty-nine on May 8, 1915 from tuberculosis.


Bibliography:

(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol. 3, 461.

Meyer, Robert J., - information on the regiment, the stereoview photo and the photo of Fred W. Meyer.

Sauers, Richard A., Pennsylvania in the Spanish-American War. (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, 1998).

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

Photo of, and information concerning William Hilyerd was provided by William and Barbara Hilyerd.


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