The 1st North Carolina served in Cuba as part of the occupation forces following the cessation of hostilities.
When war was declared against the Kingdom of Spain, and a call was made for volunteers by President McKinley North Carolina was quick to respond, and her first offering was the First North Carolina Volunteer Infantry. Colonel Joseph F. Armfield, of Statesville, N.C. who had commanded the fourth regiment of North Carolina State Guard for several years, was commissioned colonel of the First North Carolina Volunteers, and men who had served under him in the state guard for a number of years, nobly responded to the call and willingly linked their fate with his in the new First.
The regiment went in camp at Raleigh, North Carolina, the camp being formally named Camp Bryan Grimes, in honor of Col. Bryan Grimes, who commanded the Fourth North Carolina Regiment during the American Civil War of 1861-1865, and was mustered into the service of the United States on the 2nd day of May, 1898 with a total of 50 officers and 932 enlisted men.
The men were divided into several companies labeled A through M, of course with the exception of Company J as was the usual course of action to ensure that Companies I and J would not be confused. The county origin for each company is as follows:
Company A - Mecklenburg
Company B - Wayne
Company C - Forsyth
Company D - Rockingham
Company E - Iredell
Company F - Buncombe
Company G - Cleveland
Company H - Haywood
Company I - Durham
Company K - Wake
Company L - Cabarrus
Company M - Mecklenburg
On May 18, 1898, telegraphic orders were received from the War Department to proceed to Tampa, Florida, and in compliance with these orders, at noon, Sunday, May 22, 1898 the regiment departed. At Columbia, South Carolina an order countermanding the previous one received at Raleigh was received, and in compliance with this order, the regiment was diverted to Jacksonville, Florida. The regiment would join General Fitzhugh Lee's Seventh Corps at Camp Cuba Libre.
About seven miles south of Savannah, Georgia, at 5:45 AM on the 23rd of May, 1898, the third section of the train, in command of Major George W. Butler, collided with a freight train, and the result was one killed and seven injured. W. M. Barbee of company K, was crushed between the cars and instantly killed. Of the seven men injured, only one was seriously injured. Arriving at Jacksonville, on May 23, 1898, tents were pitched about two miles from the city.
This was the second regiment to encamp at Jacksonville, Florida, the Second Illinois Volunteer Infantry having arrived one day earlier. All the members of the regiment, eager to prepare themselves for real service in the field against the enemy, devoted their whole time and attention to the daily drills and other instructions, and it is due the credit of Colonel Armfield and his staff of efficient officers that the regiment attained such a high standard of merit among the volunteer organizations of the United States.
In August, 1898, orders were received from the War Department for the regiment to hold itself in readiness to proceed to the island of Puerto Rico, under command of Major General Wade, but the peace negotiations which were going on at Washington between M. G. Cambon, French Ambassador to the United States, on behalf of Spain, and the Secretary of State, resulted in the signing of the peace protocol, and a cessation of hostilities of the Army and Navy, caused the regiment to remain with the Seventh Army Corps. Nothing of special mention occurred to the regiment as an organization until orders were received for the mustering out of service of the regiment, which was early in September, 1898. Preparations were made for muster out, and when everything was ready for the mustering officer, another order was received from the War Department, retaining the regiment in the service.
On October 24, 1898, the regiment broke camp and left Jacksonville, Florida for their new camp, near Savannah, Georgia, where they were encamped with the other regiments of the Seventh Army Corps, on Thunderbolt Road, about one and a half miles from the city.
On the morning of December 7, 1898, the regiment broke camp at Savannah and that morning boarded the transport ROUMANIAN and sailed next day for Havana, Cuba, arriving on the evening of the 11th and went into camp Columbia, at Buena Vista Station, on the Mariano Railroad, seven miles from Havana. While the regiment was enroute, the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, formally ending the Spanish American War.
Being the first American soldiers to arrive at Havana, they received a welcome that will be ever remembered by those that witnessed it. Pen cannot describe the intense gladness, almost bordering on frenzy, displayed by the Cuban people at the sight of their liberators. During the stay of the regiment on Cuban soil the usual drills were continued and the same rigid discipline was enforced. The conduct of the members was beyond reproach, and their gentlemanly deportment greatly impressed the natives, who had been so accustomed to some of the cruelest and rowdiest treatment known in those parts.
Orders were given about the 18th of March to return to Savannah, Georgia, where the regiment would be mustered out, and they arrived there on the 28th of the same month, and were mustered out April 22, 1899 with a total of 50 officers and 1,028 enlisted men.
During its term of service, the regiment lost one man killed to an
accident (the train accident mentioned above) and twenty-six more to disease.
In addition, one member of the regiment was murdered. One hundred and fifteen
men were discharged in disability. Seven men were courtmartialed and thirty-six
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).