When it arrived, the unit reported its strength at 37 officers, and 483 enlisted men. However, when the day arrived for being mustered into the Federal service as the Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the assistant surgeon and fifty-five of the men refused to join, and one of the officers was rejected as being too old! The empty positions were quickly filled, and the unit was mustered in on May 11, 1898 with thirty-seven officers and 604 enlisted men. The unit was eventually expanded to include forty-one officers and 1,022 enlisted men by July 20.
The unit was rapidly assigned to the First Brigade, Third Division of the Fifth Army Corps, and on May 17, 1898, found itself enroute for Camp Thomas, on the former Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga, Georgia. The camp was one of the major training camps for troops in the U.S., and it soon became the size of a small city, but without decent sanitation, supplies, etc. Disease became the unit's main enemy.
Meanwhile, by agreement with the Federal government, the existing
companies in the regiment were recruited to include 106 men each, and four
additional companies were added. The four additional companies became Companies
I, K, L, and M. All recruiting was completed by late July, 1898. In the
final analysis, the unit's companies were from the following locations:
Company A - Huntingdon County
Company B - Centre County
Company C - Blair County
Company D - Indiana County
Company E - Clearfield County
Company F - Indiana County
Company G - Mifflin County
Company H - Cambria County
Company I - Somerset County
Company K - Tioga County
Company L - Clearfield County
Company M - Adams County
As disease spread in Camp Thomas efforts were made to adjust the camps to allow for a more sanitary condition. As a result, on August 12, 1898, the Fifth's camp was relocated about a half mile to a site with better drainage and higher ground. Still, it was clear that the best move would be to abandon Camp Thomas altogether. On August 22, the Fifth Pennsylvania was ordered to Lexington, Kentucky to Camp Hamilton. It arrived in this camp, which was described as being "all that could be desired for health and beautiful surroundings" on August 23-24.
The fighting had already stopped on August 12, 1898 with an armistice being declaring between the U.S. and Spain, though the formal end of the war would not come until the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. With the fighting all over, the need for troops had decreased. The Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was given a thirty days furlough and ordered to its former headquarters in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The furlough was later extended for an additional twenty days.
The unit's last major action was to take part in the Philadelphia
Peace Jubilee on October 27, 1898. The regiment was mustered out of
service between Novermber 7 and 11, 1898. At the time of mustering out,
the unit consisted of forty-eight officers and 1,231 enlisted men. During
its term of service, sixteen enlisted men died from disease, one man died
as the result of an accident, one man committed suicide, and one man deserted.
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).
Stewart, Thomas J., Adj. Gen., Record of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1901) 212-213.