The Diary of George Edgar Cripps

of the 34th Michigan Volunteer Infantry

Contributed by Joe Riley
For a report of the unit's actions in Cuba, click here ||| For letters written by members of the unit, click here
For a listing of graves of the some of themembers of the 34th Michigan, Click here!
Click here for a roster of 34th Michigan troops who were members of the Guy V. Henry Post, Camp #3, United Spanish War Veterans
General:

The following is a re-typed transcript of George E. Cripps’ hand-written journal describing his activities in the Spanish American War in Cuba as a member of the 34th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.  The journal covers the period June 6 through September 6, 1898 including the trip to Cuba, and home.  The original document is in the hands of Mr. Cripps' descendents.

(To maintain the authenticity between journal and transcript, no general license to alter any part of the journal as taken. Only one or two words have been added during the transcription where it appeared to be ncessary to continue the flow of the original. These are shown in parentheses.)
 

Biography of the author:

George Edgar Cripps was born in 1876 in Sanilac County, Michigan. He was one of eight children (including half- and step-siblings). Reportedly, at the age of thirteen, he left home and went to work in the logging industry near Alpena, Michigan. In June 1898, at the age of 22, he left Island Lake, Michigan, bound for Cuba.
 


A hand-written Journal is George Cripps account of his involvement in the Spanish American War from June 6 to September 6, 1898. It is a fascinating glimpse into the life of an ordinary soldier during those times. The journal was transcribed by one of his Grandsons on the 100th anniversary of the War.

George Cripps graduated from Ferris Institute and worked in Marlette, Michigan as both a bookkeeper at the local grain company and as the village mail carrier. In May 1910 he married Grace Thayer and fathered three children. He was active in the Marlette Methodist Episcopal Church and served for many years as its treasurer.

George Cripps died on November 21, 1958 in Marlette, Michigan and is interred in Downing Cemetery, Wheatland Township, Deckerville, Sanilac County, Michigan.
 

The Diary:

June 1898.

6. We broke camp at Island Lake and left at 11 o’clock A.M. for Camp Alger, Va. At noon we got coffee at Toledo Ohio. During the afternoon we passed through the oil fields in the northern part of the state.

7. I awoke just as the train came to the bridge which crosses the Ohio river at Port Pleasant, it was just breaking day. The river was a pleasant sight. During the day we crossed West Va. passing through 24 tunnels and crossing several streams. I was much pleased with the scenery while crossing the mountains. We got off the train at Hinton for setting up exercises. We arrived at Charlottesville just after dark. We were much amused with the negroes while there. I have seen more of them to-day than I ever saw in my life.

8. We passed by the suburbs of Washington at daybreak and reached Dun Loring at five o’clock A.M.  We marched from Dun Loring to Camp Alger in the forenoon and after taking dinner with the 33rd Mich. we proceeded to clear a place to put up our tents. The trees and stumps were very thick but we succeeded in getting up our tents before dark.

9. We put up the mess tents and got material to sleep on. In the afternoon I went to the creek for a bath.

10. I helped clear up the batallion street in the forenoon. Went swimming in the afternoon and went out on dress parade in the evening.

11. Did police duty in the morning and washed my clothes in the afternoon, went on dress parade in the evening.

12. Worked in the mess tent today, got through with the morning work in time to go to church.

13. Went out for drill in the morning. Was vaccinated in the afternoon.

14. Worked in the mess tent today. Signed the payroll in the afternoon.

15. Drilled in the forenoon went to the creek in the afternoon, had dress parade.

16. Drilled in the forenoon, had signal drill in the forenoon and went on dress parade at night.

17. Did nothing to-day as our arms are sore and the 9 Mass. were celebrating the 123rd anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. They had very nice fireworks in the evening.

18. Worked in the mess tent in the forenoon and was sick in the afternoon.

19. The regiment goes on a forced march to the Potomac river. I am not able to go. I remained at the camp and did nothing.

20. I was awakened by Lieut. Broadhead at 1 o’clock A.M. to take Johnson’s place as he had neglected his duty. I was relieved at 10 o’clock A.M. The regiment got back at 1 o’clock. The boys were very tired and much covered with dust.

21. We were paid this afternoon and have received orders to move. We were very much excited as we are glad to move from this miserable camp. We were issued the rest of our outfit.

22. The first batallion went with the 33 Mich. The rest of us laid around all day somewhat disappointed.

23. We have lain around all day waiting for further orders. I bought an identification check this morning.

24. I went out on guard mount for Pete Winchimski. We received orders to move just as it was over. We broke camp and started for Dun Loring at 6 o’clock P.M. We took the train for Newport News at 10 o’clock.

25. The train broke down and we stopped half an hour for repairs. The sun was just rising as we started again. We passed through Richmond Va. at 9 A.M. and landed at Newport News at 11 o’clock. I went to the Post Office and wrote three letters putting $10 in the one I sent to my stepmother. We were loaded on the Harvard at 6 o’clock.

26. They are loading a supply of coal this forenoon. Got through with the coal and we pulled out at 2 o’clock. The boats in the bay did a great deal of whistling as we pulled out. We passed Fortress Monroe at 5 o’clock and was out of in the ocean at dark. The Harvard is escorting a repair boat (The Vulcan) and has to travel slow. The Harvard has in all about 2500 people on board.

27. We are out of sight of land and have seen but two boats to-day. The ocean is a little rough from the storm we had last night, and at times I am a little dizzy. We saw a number of shark to-day.

28. No land to be seen to-day. We saw one vessel. Some of the boys become uneasy as we have to travel slow in order that the repair boat may keep up and some of the boys have been feeding the little fish.

29. We passed San Salvador Island to-day. A few of the boys are still feeding the little fish.

30. We passed Injuan Island this forenoon and have seen one boat today. it was the Alexandria she lay off the east shore of Cuba. The Island of Cuba hove in sight about 2 o’clock this afternoon. She seems very rough and mountainous. We are not making much headway to-night as we are waiting untill daylight before we approach the fleet.

July 1898

1. We struck Sampson’s fleet about 7 o’clock and received orders to land at Sibony a few miles east of the harbor. We landed at 10 A.M. and went into quarters with our first batallion once more. In the forenoon we were issued three days rations and 120 rounds of ammunition. At 3 o’clock a train came with several wounded men from the 33 Mich and later the train brought in the whole regiment. We got orders to move at 1 o’clock P.M. and so started for the front where a fierce battle had been fought [editor's note - this was the Battle of San Juan Hill]. We were with the 9 Mass.

2. We have been marching all night and are nearly worn out. We have stopped for breakfast. Our road lay in a ravine and it was very muddy and it was very warm so many of us have thrown away part of our stuff. I threw away my pup tent and woolen blanket. We met a great many wounded men from the front. They were going to the coast. As we are eating breakfast we can hear the roar of musketry and the boom of cannon. We marched from the division hospital (where we ate breakfast) to the front. It was something horrible to meet the wounded fresh from the fight and see the dead from the day before as we marched to the front. We were marched to the foot of a hill behind the firing line and allowed to rest an hour or two. We were then marched into a ravine to the left and allowed to rest again but the Spaniards learned our position and the shot and shell came so thick that we were compelled to take refuge behind the hill. Five or six of the boys were wounded.

3. I felt very stiff when I got up this morning as I had to sleep on the wet grass without any blanket to keep (off) the dew which is very heavy besides we had to get up and march up the hill as the Spaniards made a charge on the hill at 10 o’clock, but the regulars (who were in the pits) had driven them back with a loss of 500 so we did not have to do any fighting. About 5 o’clock we heard a great cannonading in the harbor. It was the two fleets coming together. [editor's note - This was the Naval Battle of Santiago]. With the exception of a shot now and then from or at a sharp-shooter all has been quiet to-day. The battlefield was visited by a number of foreign officers to-day and the Spaniards will have to change their ways in some respects. I was put on a detail and sent to the division hospital after our blankets. I got my roll by so doing. I had a coat, shirt, towel and 2 pairs socks in the rubber blanket.

4. This has been a dreary fourth indeed. I have had nothing to eat for two days except two hardtack which they issued to-day. Things have been quiet all day as the flag of truce has been flying. We leveled (off) a place and put up what pup tents we had. The sharpshooters have all been cleaned out and the dead have all been buried. Things are very disagreeable as it rains every day.

5. We were issued rations to-day and that seemed to mend things a great deal. The flag of truce is still floating and all is quiet. We dug a bomb proof to-night, they think the enemy may try to shell us out of our position but as we have about 16 batteries around the city I think we will try and keep even. Our works are in the form of a horseshoe around the town with the opening in the bay.

6. We finished our bomb proof this morning and have been idle since. Lieut. Hobson and his men were exchanged to-day. Our boys gave them a great cheer as they rode past our lines. The flag of truce has been down for six hours and we expect to see the fun begin at any moment.

7. The flag of truce is up again and the Spaniards have till Saturday noon. I am not feeling well at present. I am unable to eat much. I think it is the water we are drinking.

8. We broke camp this morning and marched back to a blockhouse to do outpost duty. I am still feeling mean. I came near being overcome by the heat.

9. I did guard duty at our camp last night. The women and children have been marching out of the city for a day or two. Some of them are in a pitiful condition. They seem to have neither clothes or food. We expect they will begin firing on the town soon if the Spaniards do not surrender. I went down to the creek and had a bath and washed my clothes.

10. We broke camp this morning and marched around to the top of a hill overlooking Santiago to support battery A. Captain Grimes in command. I had to drop out and rest and eat something but got here half an hour after the company. We are just behind the battery and have a fine view of the city as we are four or five hundred feet above it. The batteries opened fire on the town at 5 o’clock this afternoon and kept it up untill dark. The gatling guns were turned on the enemy as fast as the shells and the dynamite gun could drive them from the trenches and blockhouses.

11. We lay in the bomb proof all day as firing began early this morning and has continued all day untill near night. I got a letter from home, one from aunt maggie and one from cousin Bell. it did my heart good to get them. I have written to them all this afternoon.

12. Orders came this morning to cease firing untill further orders are given and the flag of truce is again floating. I am feeling mean tonight. last night there was a dreadful thunderstorm (the worst I have ever experienced) and our shelter fell down compelling us to stand in the rain with a blanket around our shoulders. During the storm we could look up and see some of the brightest stars. we were among the clouds. It has rained all day and I have had to do guard duty so I am a little damp as I go to bed.

13. I have been feeling like myself to-day. I went to the creek and washed up my clothes. There has been nothing of importance to-day.

14. The Spaniards have agreed to surrender the city and the Battery we are supporting has orders to move. I do not know where they are going.

15. The Battery moved this morning and we followed them as far as regimental headquarters. The battery is just a little distance below us. I did guard duty untill the company moved. There are six companies camped here now. The other six are down near the city. They have been making roads since we left the firing lines.

16. Things have been very quiet around camp to-day. Some of the boys have been taken sick with malaria fever. I gave a quarter towards sending a bell home which company B took off the blockhouse where we did outpost duty. I took a trip to the spring today. it is about two miles to it.

17. They signed the articles of surrender to-day and the Spaniards have laid down their arms. They were glad to quit the fight as well as we. The stars and stripes now float over the city.

18. A large number of the boys are sick with the fever. I am well at present. I think I never felt better in my life. I have been to the spring twice to-day once before breakfast, it is good exercise I must say. I am ordered to go out on outpost duty for 24 hours. The post is on the hill where the battery stood.

19. I have just come in from outpost duty and got my supper and now for bed.

20. Things have been dull around camp. I and my friend Whitlow had to build up our bunk to-day as Snyder and Linke are not felling well. It has been very warm. I was wet with sweat when I got through with the bed.

21. More of the boys are sick today. I went to the spring this forenoon and worked on a hospital detail this afternoon. My tentmates are still sick.

22. I have not been doing much to-day and things seem to be dull around camp. I made one trip to the spring.

23. I was on guard last night and went to the spring before breakfast. I made a trip to the spring this afternoon and while there had a chill which was followed by quite a high fever. I went and got 18 grains of quinine and I think that will fix me up all right by morning. We got our first issue of fresh meat and I helped to unload it regardless of the fever. The sergeant was able to cook our supper to-night.

24. 22 of the boys in our company answered the sick call this morning. Things seem to be getting worse all the time. Still I can’t complain. I am all right again and went after water as usual this afternoon.

25. I and Whitlow went for water the first thing this morning, we took the mule and brought water for the whole company. Nothing of importance happened to-day. Only 19 of the boys reported at sick call this morning but some of the boys are getting worse.

26. Things were dull today around camp. I stood guard at camp last night, guard duty comes pretty often now as many of the boys are sick.

27. We lay in camp which seems dull as usual. One half of the boys are taking care of the other half. I was at the creek a good part of the day.

28. Nothing of any account has happened in camp to-day. The boys were cheered a little by a rumor that we start for the states in a very few days.

29. Mail came into camp to-day. I got two from home and one (from) Paul Mart also one from Cousin Bell. There are not so many sick now but those who are seem to be getting worse all the while. We got our first issue of fresh bread to-night. it seemed the best we ever ate although it was poor bread.

30. Things are the same as usual about one half of the company are fit for duty. It rained very heavy this forenoon. That is something new as it always rains in the afternoon. Our duck suits came in to-night.

31. We were issued our new clothes this morning. They are good ones. They make the boys look like officers. We are patiently waiting for a chance to move as the camp grounds are getting very dirty and the oder from it is anything but pleasing to the nose. I wrote two letters to-day. one home and one to Robert D. McGregor.

August 1898

1. Good news have come with the new month. We have been ordered to move tomorrow morning. We are going to join the rest of the regiment near the city and there prepare for the trip homeward. We are all very much pleased with the prospects nowbefore us.

2. I was on guard last night for the last time at that camp. We moved down within a mile of the outskirts of the city. We are camped on quite a pleasant hill as we have a fine view of the town and can see troops on all sides. The boys seem to be improving in health as all but 3 or 4 of our company were able to march over this morning. It is about three miles.

3. We have got settled in our new quarters. This morning a detail of fifty men was sent after the other two companies of the second batallion. They are in a very bad condition and the camp where they were is not fit to put pigs in.

4. We moved our first batallion this morning. They are nearly all sick. I think they will pick up now as this is a much better place to camp. it has been very hot the last two or three days.

5. Nothing worthy of note has happened in the camp to-day. The first Illinois regiment moved up and are camped just on our right. I went to the commissary to-day to get some canned goods as it is almost impossible to live on what we get from the government.

6. Everything is quiet around camp. The boys are all uneasy they expect to move any day as the troops are leaving as fast as they can get transportation. I was on guard last night. They have sent in about 2500 immunes to do police and guard duty in the town.

7. We are still lying around and doing nothing. The boys are buying about two thirds of the stuff they eat. It seems as though the U.S. ought to be able to feed the boys better than they do. There must be something wrong somewhere.

8. Camp has been dull as usual. There seems to be an improvement in the condition of the reg’t as only about half as many report at sick call as reported two weeks ago. Many of the boys who are sick are dying. We have lost none in our company yet.

9. We were issued underwear, sock and blankets this morning. Uncle Sam makes a better hand at handling clothing than he does at handling provisions. We are still at our same old job. We are patiently waiting for transports. I got a piece of wood from the tree, under which Lieut. Hobson was exchanged and the conditions of surrender were agreed to.

10. Nothing worthy of note happened to-day. The death rate seems to be increasing every day. We have lost 3 men from our reg’t in the last 24 hours. They say that every time there are 3 men (who) go to the division hospital there are 2 who are carried to the burial places.

11. Matters are getting worse if anything as the camp is beginning to get very foul and unhealthy and money is getting scarce so we cannot buy any more canned goods.

12. I am stuck to find out what we did to-day as it has been the same old song (Lay around and wonder when we will move). The camp is getting dirtier all the while. I stood guard last night and I hope it will be the last time on the Island.

13. Things went the same as usual this forenoon but it rained about twice as hard as usual this afternoon and nearly drowned our whole tent crew as we have been sleeping on the ground. There was a young river running through in under our blankets.

14. We went and got a large tent to-day and built up our bunk as we are afraid of another flood. Things are going as usual around camp.

15. Two of our Co’s were paid and sent to finish out a load for the U.S. It is reported that the rest of the reg’t get paid tomorrow.

16. We got our money to-day. We privates drew $31.20.  It was quite a busy time among the boys for a while. They were paying back the quarters they borrowed to buy tobbacco.

17. Three more Co’s of the 34 [34th Michigan] left for home to-day and details from the rest of the companies were sent to guard prisoners that looks as if we are going to stay here a while longer.

18. The camp is lively tonight as we have got orders to move in the morning. Most of the boys in Co. B are able to walk. the sick will be moved in wagons.

19. We broke camp at eight o’clock and marched to the wharf going through the central part of the city. we stopped twice to rest. The last time was in the park. At ten o’clock we went on board the Santiago which is to take us to the best country on earth. The ship lay at the wharf all afternoon loading on supplies.

20. We pulled out at 10 o’clock this morning and passed out of the harbor. On the way we saw the Merrimac and one of the Spanish warships [Reina Mercedes - editor's note]. The warship was lying partly on her side and looked as though she had gotten in Sampson’s way. Just after we passed the boats we came to Morro Castle, it looked as though it might have been a formidable structure one day, but amounts to but little since Uncle Sam’s boats paid her a visit. We travelled along the southern coast of Cuba all afternoon and expect to round the point tonight. I stood guard last night and to-day. Just after I was relieved from my post this afternoon I became a little sick at the stomach and succeeded in throwing up all the good things I got to eat in Cuba. I was sick only about fifteen minutes and to-night I am feeling first class. Many of the boys were sick when they came on board and a great many more are sea sick.

21. When we woke up this morning Cuba had disappeared and we were all glad of it. but many of us were feeling mean as a soldier does not have the best accomodations on board a transport. We passed several islands to-day, among them was Castle Island. Only one or two ships came in view to-day.

22. The ocean has been very calm so far and to-day has (been) almost like glass. Nothing has come into view except one large vessel which was bound towards the East. We passed San Salvador last night and I think it is nearly the last on the trip. The boys have a great time buying handouts from the cook. I have been able to get a few myself. It is almost impossible to eat what we are issued.

23. We have seen nothing to-day but a boat or two. This has been a sad day for Co B as we have lost Albert Gilhooley and had to bury him at sea. It is the first death that has occured in the Company since (we) started for Cuba and the first to occur on board the ship. I took care of Albert last night. It was an awful task as he was delerious nearly all night and (had) to be watched like a cat would a mouse.

24. We have seen nothing but the sea and the sky to-day, still it seems a pleasure to breathe pure air and watch the calm ocean. I am very sleepy to-night as I helped to take care of Charley Lahr and Varney Merritt last night. they are both quite sick and need good care in order to pull them through. There are four of Co B’s boys who need to be well taken care of. The captain is also very sick. There was another burial at sea today. The deceased was  a member of Co. L (Scott, nicknamed Scotty).

25. We can still see nothing but the sky and the peaceful ocean and once in a while a passing ship. We had to leave two more of the 34th boys behind us to-day. I did not learn what company they belonged to. It does seem too bad to lose them on the way back to their home and friends. I have been taking care of Charley Lahr again to-day. he is getting stronger quite fast. We must be getting back near America at least the breeze says so. it seems quite cool.

26. When we woke up this morning we thought winter was coming on at once the wind was so cold. We saw nothng in the forenoon but about 2o’clock we saw a great many boats and in less than an hour we sighted land. We rounded the point about 5 o’clock and then the campgrounds could be plainly seen. we arrived at our destination about seven and tonight we are anchored with the other transports just outside the landing.

27. We were examined at 7 o’clock this morning and the sick were taken off this afternoon. We expected to land this afternoon but were disappointed.

28. We landed this morning and our first greeting was a ham sandwich and beef, tea followed by cold fresh milk. We thought we were in America for certain. We were then marched to the detention camp where we are to remain for three days. Our tents were all up and everything seemed like a paradise compared with what we have had.

29. We got our new class of rations to-day. They consisted of: eggs, butter, milk, bread, beef and green corn, potatoes, etc. Quite a change from our usual diet. We signed the payroll to-night. I have been on guard all day and expect to be all night.

30. Things were somewhat quiet in camp to-day. We were issued new clothes all through and were ordered to burn our old ones. I had a slight headache today.

31. We were paid to-day and we expect to start for home tomorrow.

September 1898

1. We have been getting ready and waiting for orders to start for home but I guess we will not get away before morning. I have worked in the mess tent since yesterday afternoon and will be until we leave.

2. We broke camp at seven o’clock this morning and marched to the train. At 1 o’clock the train pulled out for New York. We were on a train which had to turn out for everything. We got all the peaches and watermelons we could eat at Duogue. We arrived in New York at 1:30 P.M. and were marched to the ferry which pulled out about 12 o’clock and carried us across and down the river passing under the main span of Brooklyn bridge. it was a beautiful sight as it was all lighted up and there were 21 street cars passing over.

3. We boarded the train which pulled out at 9 o’clock A.M.. Just after we started we passed through a tunnel which took the train at least 3 minutes to pass through. It is 3 o’clock A.M. and we have passed through another tunnel in which we met and passed another train and now we are going through a town. We have a fine view of the Hudson River as the moon is bright. We stopped at Syracuse about 3 o’clock this afternoon and got coffee and rations. We are travelling along the Erie canal and a railway system having four tracks. Ours is a double track.

4. 8 o’clock P.M. we have stopped at Newark (NY) and the people have treated us so well that I am afraid we will be sick. Wine, champagne, celery, tomatoes, melons, coffee, apples, sandwiches and milk are among the things on the bill of fare. We reached Buffalo at 7:30 P.M. and were loaded down with good things untill we hadn’t car room for them. The good things were furnished by Mr Blacker of Manistee.

4(?) We stopped at Toledo at six o’clock and received coffee and other delicacies. We landed in Detroit at 8 o’clock and were escorted by the citizens to the Cadillac Hotel where we partook of a hearty breakfast after which I left my company and joined Co. F of the 33 and travelled as far as Port Huron with them. At Pt. Huron there was another grand reception and we were escorted to the St Clair where dinner was served and I took up quarters untill the morrow.

5. I left Pt. Huron for Marlette at eight o’clock accompanied by Mr. Decker and several other Sanilac Co. gentlemen and arrived in Marlette at 10 o’clock where they had prepared a surprise for me by having the whole town turn out to give me a reception. After having a talk with the people I took dinner with an old soldier. After dinner an old soldier had me enter his photograph gallery and have my picture taken then after having a chat with about a hundred more people messrs. Decker and Dougherty (from) Decker’s Mill where I stopped with Mr. Decker for the night in the meantime meeting many nice people in the vicinity all of whom were anxious to hear news from Cuba.

6. After having a beautiful night’s rest I lay around in the forenoon talking with the people as they were unable to work on account of the rain. After dinner, -the rain having ceased- Mr. Dougherty hitched up and took me home. I reached home about 5 o’clock safe and sound having never met with the least sickness or accident on my trip to Cuba.



 Bibliography:

Diary is the private collection of Mr. Cripps' family


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