The 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry

The officers and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. F. First Sergeant Hugh Clark Hunter is seated in the first row on the far left.


General:

The following is a brief history of the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The regiment served in Cuba during the Spanish American War and took part in the battle of El Caney.

Unit History:

The 2nd massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was mustered into federal service between May 8 and 10, 1898 at Framingham, Massachusetts. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers and 896 enlisted men.

The regiment became part of the Fifth Army Corps, under the command of General William Shafter, forming part of the First Brigade of the Second Division. On June 14, the regiment steamed for Cuba as part of the invasion force on board the army transport SENECA. The regiment arrived in eight days later.

At the battle of El Caney, the First Brigade was sent to occupy the road leading westward from El Caney. On June 30, late in the day, the brigade, with the 2nd Massachusetts, moved out for their position. Arriving, the men bedded down along the road for the night. At 4:00 A.M on July 1., they were awakened and advanced on El Caney. Once the brigade was within  one thousand to twelve hundred yards of the town, it began receiving mauser rifle fire. The brigade deployed with the 2nd Massachusetts  occupying the right of the brigade's line. The 2nd Massachusetts was hampered in that it was still equipped with Springfield rifles which used black powder. This placed the men of the unit at a disadvantage since the smoke of the black pwoder would give away their position, and also obscured their view of the enemy. The shorter range of the weapon was also a handicap.

The battle for El Caney was fierce. Originally expected to be a brief skirmish, the battle lasted most of the day. It had been intended that, once El Caney had been neutralized, the men involved would advance to the San Juan Heights and join in the assault at that location, which was also ongoing. Unfortunately, by the time the town fell, there was no time to join in at San Juan Heights. When the town eventually fell, the 2nd Massachusetts found it had lost First Lieutenant Charles Field, killed, with Captain W. T. Warner, Second lieutenant D. J. Moynhan and Oscar D. Hapgood being wounded.

Santiago soon surrendered, and on August 12, 1898, the United States and Spain formally agreed on an armistice, ending the fighting portion of the war. The 2nd Massahusetts was soon boarding a steamer headed back to the United States. The unit arrived at Camp Wikoff on Long Island, New York on August 20.

The regiment was mustered out of service on November 3,1898 at Springfield, Massachusetts. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consised of forty-four officers and 896 enlisted men. During its term of service, the regiment one officer and four enlisted men killed in action. Four more enlisted men would die of wounds received in action. In addition one officer and eighty-six enlisted men succumbed to disease.

The war ended on December 10, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Hugh Clark Hunter (left) and David Donohue, two of the last surviving members of the Sherman Hoar Camp USWV (United Spanish War Veterans) living in Gardner, Massachusetts. They are shown at the Spanish American War memorial in Gardner, on Memorial Day 1960. Mr. Hunter went on to be the last surviving Spanish American War veterans in Gardner.  Hunter  was originally from Manchester, England. After the war, his life became dedicated to serving veterans. He served  at various times as the clerk of the state military affairs committee, as a member of the Municpal Veterans Rehabilitation Committee, and the Veterans Housing Authority. He served as a State Representative from 1936 to 1940.  He was also  one of the founding members of the Sherman Hoar Camp USWV.  Hunter eventually became the Comissioner of Veterans Benefits, a position he held up to his mandatory retirement at the age of 70. He died in 1962 at the age of eighty-four. He had three daughters and two sons.


Bibliography:

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, 366-368.

Goodman, Sharon, newspaper clipping related to the life of Hugh Hunter Clark (her great-grandfather) and the photo of Company F.

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).


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