Henry Alexander Schimberg Goes to War
2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry,
(As told by his younger
brother, Albert Paul Schimberg)
Contributed by Carin Rhoden
Click here to read about the
history of the 2nd Wisconsin
Click here to read about
the 2nd Wisconsin on a forced march!
Click here to read
about the 2nd Wisconsin's departure for Puerto Rico!
Click here for the
roster of the 2nd Wisconsin
Click here for
information on the Battle of Coamo
Relatives of Mr. Schimberg can email Carin Rhoden by clicking
This is the account of Albert Paul Schimberg describing how his brother,
Henry Alexander Schimberg went off to war with the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer
Infantry, Co. G.
From "Quiet Rebel" by Albert Paul Schimberg:
When one evening in April, soon after this country
declared war on Spain, the Appleton Crescent printed a list of the
soldiers who had left that day for war service, my brother's [Henry A.
Schimberg] name was missing. The next morning I marched into the
office and told them so. That evening's paper contained a little
note giving Henry's name and other names "inadvertently" omitted from the
earlier list. I continued to be as patriotic as the dickens and intensely
proud of my soldier brother, but my ardor was dampened a little when, one
evening, I happened to go upstairs and there slumped against a window-sill
I saw my mother crying her heart out. This was something I had not
reckoned with, had not expected. This was something about war that
I didn't like at all. But I kept on being proud of my soldier brother,
Henry, who had enlisted in Co. G, the Appleton unit of the Wisconsin National
Guard. It was from him that letters came to 877 Lake Street from Camp Chickamauga,
Ga., and later from Puerto Rico. Those from
the Philippines came from a cousin of my mother's,
Eugene Pierrelee. Because Henry was with the troops invading island, we
were of course more interested in the Puerto Rican than in any of the other
campaigns of the war. Even before the Wisconsin troops were landed
on the island, while they were still in camp, in this as in all wars rumors
circulated in the Ward and throughout the city, as doubtless in all other
towns of the whole country. A martinet regular army general, fat
on a horse, compelled the raw volunteers to march interminable miles under
a blazing Southern sun. In camps, nothing was done to prevent flies
from visiting the outdoor eating places after having visited the camp latrines.
The summer uniforms so sorely needed by the troops did not reach them,
they were forced to wear heavy uniforms throughout the summer in tropical
latitudes. A persistent vaudville joke even sometime after the war
ended was this: "In the Middle Ages armor saved the lives of soldiers.
In this war (Armour food) killed soldiers." Some of the stay-at-homes
of military age, or older, called the whole affair a comic opera war. It
was a contest between the American giant and a diminuative Spain, and there
was such ineptitude, such bragging, such an avid desire for publicity as
had their comical aspects. But no war, no matter how brief, how unequal
the strength of the contestants, is a comic opera affair. It was
a serious matter for the soldiers who fought and bled, and died, and for
their loved ones. The rumormongers did not even spare the mothers
and fathers of the soldiers. A rumor that Henry had died in Puerto
Rico reached his mother's, his father's, his sweetheart's ears. Their agony
of waiting, of uncertainty was not relieved by catchwords, bombastic speeches,
the reports of glorious victories by Richard Harding Davis and the other
bright young men to whom the war was a romantically interesting adventure.
In our case, the rumor proved false. In many cases, reports of death
in battle or from disease were all too true. Before victory finally sat
on our standards.
Henry Alexander Schimberg in camp
We followed the news of the Wisconsin regiment to
which Henry belonged. We did not know, then, how on one occasion, after
having been landed on Puerto Rico, the Americans were marched through a
valley between hills, from which, had they been alert, the Spaniards could
have directed a deadly fire on their enemies below. Nor did we know,
then, what havoc disease wrought among our troops and that Henry fell sick
with a tropical disease just as his regiment was about to embark for home
at the war's end. The sick, those who could not walk, were to be
left behind, to the mercy of inadequate sanitary personnel and provisions.
Then it was that my brother's knowledge of French served him well.
Determined not to be left behind, to a fate at best uncertain, he managed
to get a ride in a carriage with a number of officers, though he was no
more than a corporal. En route to the coast, where a ship was waiting,
the Americans were overtaken by nightfall and lost. After some time
they saw a light in the distance and came upon a plantation owner's home.
But the planter was not at all friendly; did not seem inclined to offer
hospitality to the tired, sick Americanos. Something in the man's speech
told Henry that he was French, or at least spoke with a French accent.
So my brother addressed him in the French language, and at once the man
grew friendly. He took the officers and corporal into his house,
dined them, opened bottles of splendid wine, and the next morning directed
them to the port and the waiting ship.
On the Sunday in September, 1898, on which the Appleton
soldiers were to be welcomed home, the Zouaves of St. Joseph's parish were
summoned to Mass, after which they would march to the railway station to
greet the returning heroes. Well, the sermon at that Mass was longer
than even the usual lengthy sermon at St. Joseph's. On and on droned
the preacher, while we Zouaves, especially those who had older brothers
in the army, fidgeted and wished he would finally bring his discourse to
a close. When we were finally released from church, it was too late.
No proud marching to the station for us. We were dismissed and each
ran to catch up with his soldier brother by this time nearing home.
I caught up to Henry on Brewery Hill, a few blocks from home. It has always
seemed to me that someone ought to have told the preacher that among his
supposed-to-be hearers were the parents and brothers and sisters, and sweethearts
of the soldiers. This once the sermon might have been cut short,
or omitted entirely, to give the excited people an opportunity to be at
the railway station when the troop train pulled in.
An image of Mary Schimberg, Henry's sister, wearing
his uniform and hamming it up for the camera. This version was hand colored
by computer by Carin Rhoden.
To visit the website bibliography, click
here. To visit the website video bibliography, click
this Site by Visiting the Website Store! (help
us defray costs!)
We are providing the following
service for our readers. If you are interested in books, videos, CD's etc.
related to the Spanish American War, simply type in "Spanish American War"
(or whatever you are interested in) as the keyword and click on "go" to
get a list of titles available through Amazon.com.
Visit Main Page
for copyright data