The following diary kept by Private William Karg of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (nicknamed "McKinley's Own" after the Ohioan president), Company M, documents his experiences as the enlisted to serve his country in the War with Spain. Karg was born October 2, 1868 in Bucyrus, Ohio to German immigrant parents. From 1894 to 1897, he served in the Bucyrus City Guard with many of the same men who answered McKinley's call for volunteers in April 1898.
Karg's experience in 1898 was typical of that of many Ohio volunteers, and volunteers from other states. They enlisted with great patriotism and a sense of adventure. Their weeks in training camp were filled with marching drills, card-playing, drinking, weekend passes, and the boredom of waiting to embark for war. Once in Cuba, the Ohio soldiers witnessed the last days of battle and the surrender of the Spanish at Santiago. It was an exciting time, but then the sickness began. One by one the Ohio soldiers fall ill.
Karg's diary is not an eloquent narrative. It is a faithful, private record of daily events without embellishment or complaint. Karg meticulously notes the names of soldiers as they fall ill in Cuba, and the time of death and burial for his 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry comrades. Karg mustered out of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in November 1898. He returned home to Ohio in September 1898 with a case of malaria. Karg survived, but the malaria recurred throughout his life. In 1900 married Anna Boehm, the “Anna” mentioned in the diary. The couple settled in Shelby, Ohio near family and friends. He seldom spoke of his time in Cuba.
Other people commonly mentioned are Anson H. Smith, wagoner; Ezra L. Eckis, a fellow private both in Karg's Co. M.
The diary was recorded in a 2 1/2" x 6" book and was kept for years
in a box along with photographs taken by Karg in Cuba.
It has been transcribed exactly as it was written down. Some of his photographs
are included to give a sense of the experience.
April 26th leave Mansfield over Erie 10:50 AM. Arrive Akron 2:30 PM on Baggage Detail quartered at Assembly hall. Karg, Eckis, Smith slept at Ohio house on N. Main St.
Took in sights at Akron. Went through fire department in afternoon. Had good time in evening. Slept at Assembly Hall.
Left Akron on Baggage Detail for Columbus. Arrived at Col. 9 PM. Loaded baggage and started for Camp Bushnell four miles east of Columbus. Arrived camp grounds 4 AM. Took some time before we got our tents pitched. Slight rain in night.
First day at Camp Bushnell. Worked all day getting things in shape. Karg, Smith, Eckis, Bloom, Johnston, Carick in mess tent No 5.
Anson Smith & Karg went to Columbus. Had good time.
Sunday, May 1st
First Sunday in camp. Nice day. Big crowd from Mansfield in camp.
Raining this morning. Pleasant in afternoon. Went to city in evening.
Cooler this AM. Company Inspection today.
A fine day. Eckis 24th birthday. Karg, Smith, Beverstock and Eckis celebrate. Good time.
Rained hard all day. Smith, Karg went to city.
Rained hard all day. Camp grounds pretty sloppy. Karg & Smith slept at hotel in city.
Got up early went to restaurant for breakfast. Bought oil stove for tent and went back to camp. Came to city in afternoon.
Big crowd from Mansfield. Father, Mother and Sister Kate and Ethel
Parkerson came to see me. Ethel brought box with chicken, apples, oranges
and bananas. Father also brought basket of lunch. Eckis Father, Mother
and Uncle brought large box of grub.
Clear and cold drilled for first time since left home. Took bath in crick in evening.
Pleasant day had Hot Toddy in evening.
Cold and rain. Will be examined today. Was examined and all passed [meaning they were giving U.S. Army phyiscals - ed.]. Rained in afternoon. Prof. Roberts entertained us at YMCA in evening. Had Chilled Chasers meeting in Tent 4.
Rained all night. Had Hot Toddy reception in Tent Pup 8. Some kick. Smith & Karg swore off from all kinds of booze. Impatiently waiting for muster.
A fine day. Feeling good. Was mustered into US services today.
First day in OVI 8th Reg. Feeling good. No more tin soldier [i.e. local militia - ed].
Large crowd from Mansfield. Ethel down to see me. Took her to train in evening. 1st Reg. left last evening. 4th leave today. Inspected. Looks like rain this evening.
Got up early. Went down to city to see his girl off. Took a hot bath. Went back to camp at 8:30 PM.
Hot. Orders to leave for Washington Wednesday morning.
Broke camp early in morning. Went on Baggage detail. Left Columbus over I.L.C.C. 11 AM.
Arrived Camp Alger 3 PM with baggage. Company got there at 4:30 AM. 17 miles from Washington and 3 miles from Dunn Loring.
Hot day. Rained hard. Eckis & Smith find moonshine joint and Penn boys rob beer wagon. Smith got two bottles. Slept on board with soft side up.
A pleasant morning but awful hot. Nice scenery around camp grounds. First death in camp. Boy from Rockford Ill., member 6th Ill., Typhoid fever. Karg & Smith went to Falls Church & saw oxen hitched like horses.
First Sunday in Camp Alger. Attended church in afternoon. 6th Mass. Reg. came into camp today. Rain in evening.
Rained a little most all day. Three men arrested suspected of being Spanish spies poisoning springs. Company called to arms to keep crowd away. No trouble.
Pleasant day around camp all day.
Broke camp this AM. Going to Dunn Loring. Mrs. Frank Carpenter our first visitor since in at Dunn Loring. [Co. M was detailed to guard duty at Dunn Loring, the supply station for Camp Alger]
A fine morning, a snap here. Mrs. Carpenter sends us two crates of strawberries and a large mess of shad fish. Capt. [Fred S.] Marquis [commanding Co. M] cooked supper this eve. and it was fine. Strawberries, shad, mashed potatoes, bread & coffee. Thanks to Mrs. C. [Mrs. Carpenter is the wife of Ohio native Frank G. Carpenter, the famous photographer, journalist, and author of "Carpenter's Geographic Readers", standard texts in American schools for forty years.]
King, Smith, Karg & Eckis had a cornbread and molasses dinner at a colored family’s home. Boys unloading provisions and sweating like troopers.
Rhode Island troops arrived last night -- all recruits. President McKinley, Vice President Hobert and all members of the Cabinet reviewed all the troops at Camp Alger today. Left train at Dunn Loring and took it at Falls Church. 22 Kan[sas] arrived today. 1st Rhode Island last night.
Worked at commissary. Sweat like the dickens.
Declaration Day ["Decoration Day," the early name for Memorial Day] Company A boys visit us at DL. 7th Ill from Chicago came in at 8 PM. Guard duty all day.
Working in commissary. More troops coming in today.
Wednesday June 1st
Went swimming. Short drill in afternoon. Held seance on church steps in evening and put up cold storage. [The Co. M soldiers formed a social club at Dunn Loring called the “8 Devils” and spent evenings drinking and gambling. The only spirits at these séances were alcohol.]
King, Smith went to Washington to meet Allen King who came to see his Bro. Went on guard at 7 PM. Allen slept in tent.
Guard duty all day. Allen King left this AM to take up his summer work at New York as pianist. Foggy and damp this AM. Rain last night.
Lovely day. Got 48 bottles Schlitz for 8 Devils. Band came over to serenade Co. M. Gave them 26 bottles. 8 Devils held séance on old church step. Eckis and Karg went to Washington today. Took dinner at Hotel Malls.
Got our state pay last night. 25 dol. 16 cts. 3rd Virginia Reg. came into camp today. Old Hi opened this PM.
Old Hi opened again. Made a cleaning. 8 Devils held séance on church steps. 8 Dev buy Ko.Dak. [i.e., the bought a camera]
Fine day. Hotter than Dutch love. Boys playing Old Hi, crap & poker. Cong. Kerr [Winfield S. Kerr, U.S. Representative from Ohio 14th District] visits us today. Brings us box of Strikers.
Capt. Marquis went home to recruit company. The 8 Devils held meeting at which Gambling Element held floor.
Hot day. Received orders to move back to Camp Alger. 8 Devils had 96 bottles Schlitz. Held séance in evening. All feeling blue over orders to move back to Camp Alger.
Very hot day. Move back from Dunn L to Camp Alger.
Hot day back at Camp Alger.
Very hot and dry. Showers in evenings.
Very warm. Regular drill.
Same old thing. Recruits came in, 19 in number. Had keg on tap in Tent 4 for rec[eption].
Comfortable weather. Seven more recruits came. Got dog tents.
A pleasant morning. Inspection in heavy marching order this AM.
Cool and pleasant. Brigade review this evening. 8 Devils held meeting.
Went to Washington. Cool & pleasant. Sent two souvenirs to Mother.
Pleasant day. Rookies dress parade. Lots of fun for boys.
Cool day. Capt. [Marquis] ret. from home. Allie Shantz sent box to me and Eckis but I failed to get any. Had picture taken with little nigger on my knees.
Cool day. Regular camp routine. Initiated Eckis into 8 Devils.
Chaplin Kieffer died at 4:30 AM. No drill this AM.
Orders to move this AM. Countermanded.
Receiving last of our equipment will move soon. Band serenade us in evening.
Rained last night. Hot and dry as ever today.
Ready to start to Potomac this AM. In camp 1 mile from Potomac. At 11 AM start for river to take a swim. Karg and [Pvt. Charles A.] Gates go scouting for grub. Return to river at 6 PM with ham, berries, eggs, bread and crackers. Had supper and start for camp getting there about 9 PM. Had good time.
Back at Camp Alger. Start from Pot. at 7:10 AM. Temp 124 in sun. One man from 6th Ill drowned. One man 6th Mass injured in sham battle on our return. Rained hard.
A little sore over march from Potomac. 124 in sun yesterday. What will it be today.
Capt. Critchfield [8th OVI, Company H] said if Cuba was hotter than here Hell would be a summer resort. Inspection in heavy marching order this AM by General Garrison. Dr. Mary Walker and Clara Barton of the Red Cross Society visited camp one day last week. Neglected to make note of it.
Friday, July 1st
Very hot. Expect to move at any time.
Drills shortened to 30 min instead one hour & thirty min on account of heat.
Very hot and nothing to do but keep cool. King went to city to meet his mother and sister. Ret. to camp with them. Left camp at 6 PM for city. Received word would probably move tomorrow. Went on guard at 7 PM.
Glorious Fourth firecrackers and blanks are in order. Band paraded ____ streets over [Admiral] Schley’s victory [naval Battle of Santiago]. Got orders to move tomorrow at 4 AM. Will go to New York and take St Paul for Santiago. Was on guard all day.
Very nice weather. Will go to Dunn Loring to start for New York.
In New York City. Arrived 11 AM on baggage detail. Went aboard St Paul at 5:30 PM. Left dock at 7:30 PM. Quite a lovely sight as we steamed away.
On board St Paul. Out of sight of land and very smooth sea and hard to get anything to eat but that awful canned beef.
Raining and a little rough.
Sighted San Salvador at 8:30 this AM. Sighted Windward Islands 2 PM. First day in Cuban waters running along careful and keeping a sharp lookout for the enemy.
Sighted Cuba and [Rear Admiral William] Sampson’s fleet at 5:30 AM. Morrow Castle 8 AM. Got orders to unload at Siboney. Saw three battleships bombard Santiago also big land battle being fought. Wounded being brought in very fast but game to the last. 1st Bat left ship to go to front. I was left on Baggage detail.
On board St Paul. 2nd and 3rd Bat unloading. Still bombarding Santiago, throwing shells into the city.
Still on board St Paul.
Unloading 8th Reg baggage. Went ashore 2PM in small board. Land at
Siboney. Pitched tent. Karg, Smith, [Cpl. Frank] Beverstock, [Pvt.
Robert Lowry], [Pvt. William V.] Hartman slept in tent first night
on Cuban soil at Siboney. Also saw Lieutenant [Richmond]
Hobson at landing.
Worked unloading baggage from boat. Went to see Spanish prisoners. Saw leg amputated and buried. About seven hundred Spanish prisoners raised flag of truce.
Unloading boat. Went to camp in the afternoon. King furnished us with coffee and beans for our supper.
With co. in camp on hill about three miles from the firing lines and within sight of Santiago. Karg, Smith, [Pvt. Charles R.] Johnston mess together. Saw perfect Spread Eagle in clouds this PM.
King, Karg, Smith went to firing lines to see surrender of Santiago. Saw trenches where six hundred Spanish soldiers were buried. Saw Col Wykoff grave and quite a number of American soldier graves. Also got wine and rum from Spanish soldiers at firing lines after surrender. Got Friday p____ well jagged.
Down along road watching Cubans travel toward Santiago.
Stayed in camp all day whittling.
In camp all day. Went on guard at 6 PM.
Guard duty all day. Rained hard.
Laid around camp HSH my shoes. Nailed _____ in afternoon.
Water Detail. Rained in afternoon.
Built Cuban hut over our tent to keep sun off. HSH two pairs shoes. Got first papers from home.
Cool nice day. Smith gets into a hornets nest. Got first letters from States. Got letter from Anna.
Wood Detail. Tinkering around house. Cramps in stomach after supper. [1st Sgt. John B.] Huggins sick in our tent.
Smith, Karg took bath in river. Huggins and Eckis sick in our tent. Strict orders to stay in camp. Leave in ten days if no yellow jack breaks out in reg.
Thursday July 28th
Nice morning. Good deal of sickness in camp. Huggins and [Pvt. Harry W.] McFarlin in tent. McFarlin pretty sick. Huggins getting better. 1st death in Camp M____. 3rd Bat Corporal Knowle, Co. K, Alliance, died 7:30 PM. Buried 12 M[idnight].
Taking care of sick. All kinds of rumors afloat . Eckis getting better. Getting pay role ready to sign. Got letter from Brother John. Bought watch.
Rained hard. Taking care of sick. Pretty busy.
1st death in 1st Bat, Harry Hague Co. H, Shreve, died 8 AM, Buried 6:30PM. Under the weather in forenoon. Attended church in afternoon. Attended funeral in evening. No rain for change.
Monday August 1st
Another death in 1st Bat L.L. Weiker Company H, Shreves, died 1 AM. Buried 1:30 PM. Death in Company M, [Pvt.] Amos G. Simpson. Died 9:15 PM. Buried 10:30 AM, Aug 2nd. Washed him and gave him clean change underwear in morning. Arthur Nelson, Akron, Died 9 PM. Buried in same grave with Simpson at 10:30 AM, Aug 2nd.
Ed Wingerter, Co. J [Co. I], Canton, Died 12:15M, Buried 8 AM. Chas Miller, Co. C, Ashland, Died 10 AM Buried 2:30PM. Chas Keplinger, Co. A, Bucyrus, Died 3 PM, Buried 5:30 PM.
Wm Adams Co. H Shreves Died 8 AM. Buried 1:30 PM. Priva. McDole, Co. H, Shreves, Died 5 AM. Buried 2:30 PM. Chaplain Campbell arrived in camp. Left Wooster 14th. Lt Col. Dick went to confer with War Department about getting off island.
Sargent Chas Thoman, Co. A Bucyrus, Died 1:30AM. Buried 11 AM. Lt. Col. Dick leaves for States to confer with [Note: The following text is struck out by Karg : President about getting troops off island. Adjutant Schaber resigned, poor health. Sargent Major Reed discharged, poor health. Joseph Hapley War Correspondent All go to States with Dick.]
Moving sick from Reg. hospital to General Hospital at Siboney. John Simon, Joy Warner, Frank Overholt, Roethlisberger, Lindsay taken to Siboney. Coleman very bad. Mosier taken to hospital feeling bad for two weeks.
Company M sick list:
Harry McFarland Bob Lowry
George Coleman [A check mark denotes that he later died]
Amos G. Simpson [later died]
Pep [Charles] Johnston
Arthur Kaufman [later died]
Chas Cadora [Not in Co. M roster]
Wesley Townsende [Not in Co. M roster]
Got two letters from Ethel while band serenaded us. Was glad to hear from her. Rumors to get off island as soon as possible.
Friday, Aug 5th
[Pvt.] Geo. [C. W.] Coleman, Co. M, Died 4:45 AM. Buried 11 AM. Got papers from home. Sick doing well.
Taking care sick all day. Improving.
Washed sick before breakfast. Took Bob Lowry, Blain Hull, Richard Rickets, Ralph Myers and David Mosier to City Hospital at Santiago. Balance all doing well. Attended church in evening rain. All left church and went to their tents. 1st sermon for Chaplain Campbell. Second services in Cuba. Went down along road and bought bottle of rum from Cuban. Happer, Co. H cook, died at Siboney Hospital.
Washed sick this AM. All doing well. Surgeon General examined Reg. this PM. Convalescent to be taken away in morning and Reg follow Wednesday. Had mush for supper. Capt. Leininger, Co. F, Died 4 AM Santiago Hospital.
Smith, Karg went to river took bath and washed our pants. Beautiful rainbow in eastern skies in afternoon. Haven’t moved sick yet. San Juan River too deep to cross. Got letter from Anna. 2nd Bat. start for Santiago at 3 AM to build bridges.
2nd Bat start toward Santiago. They go into camp near city till orders come to go on board transport. Went to Siboney to load Reg stores _______. 4 PM shoved cars down and get ready to load. Loaded two cars finished 9:30 PM. Slept in Rice’s tent – Karg, [Orlando] Rice, [Cpl. Chalres C.] Beelman.
Loaded canned goods & officers’ luggage. Sold rub. boots. Bought rum. Lt. Taylor in charge of detail [that] returned to camp Bat. had left near Santiago. Stayed with Sick Detail at Camp Grounds. Sick all doing well.
Sick left are –
___ Anson Smith
Ebble Bland [Co. A Bucyrus] died Siboney.
Back with company three quarters of mile from Santiago between Spanish and American lines. Will leave Island as soon as sick are moved to hospital.
In camp between firing lines. Went to spring after water. Orders came in evening that would leave tomorrow.
Boys all feeling blue. Will not leave island till sick are all in hospital. Two Spanish Regiments embark for Spain this AM. Went to Santiago in afternoon. Bought spurs, attended church. Went down on road. Got knife from Spanish prisoner. Began to take 8th Regiment sick to Santiago hospital.
Went with Wood Detail. Walked along Spanish trenches out on road. After dinner two Co. of 34th Michigan march to city to take transport for Long Island. Go on guard at Six. Boys all feeling pretty good will leave soon. Ward Willford of Akron died.
On guard. Corp. Tarner, Co. L, died. Hospital wagons leave camp to take sick to hospital at Santiago. Wagon broke down. Transferred sick to Cov wagon. Got orders to move [to] Santiago and go aboard ship. Left camp at 3 PM on Baggage Detail. Unloaded Bag in driving rain. Slept in wet clothes all night. Went got two bottles of beer on tick. John S. Lee, Wadsworth, died.
Waiting at Santiago Harbor to get baggage loaded. Took walk down to Macheau shop. Loaded bag in afternoon to lighter then to boat about 5 miles out in Bay. Took dinner at City Market. Had steak, potatoes, coffee, bread & butter. Three Co. of 34th Michigan go on transport with us to Montauk Point, Long Island [Camp Wikoff]. Leave dock at Santiago on lighter at 5 pm. Towed to transport by tug San Francisco, arrived at transport at 5:30 PM. Unloaded baggage till 9:30 PM. Went to sleep on boat.
Finished unloading Lighter about 2:30. Start to leave Bay 4:35 PM. Passed Merrimac 5:25 PM. Passed Morrow Castle at 5:40 PM. Out in ocean start for States 6 PM. Run along coast of Cuba all night. Hard tack & ______. Pri. Price, Co. H, hollering and making awful noises. Insane. Left seven of Co. M in hospitals. Whiteman and Coffman at Santiago Hospital. Coffman deranged. Joy Warner, John Simons, Rothelsberger [Roethlisberger], Overholt, Lindsey at Siboney hospital. Start back to states less thirteen the number we left Mansfield with. Seven left in Cuba in hospitals. Two deaths. Four at Camp Alger in hospital.
Still in sight of land out in ocean. Sighted land last about 12M. Sea a little rough. Some of boys pretty sick. 6 PM sea getting rougher. 10:30 PM sighted five shore lights to our right.
Lovely morning. Sea calm. Boys all feeling pretty good. Sick doing well. Sighted San Salvador about 7:30 PM took two hours to pass Island. Two cases of Typhoid Fever on board boat. Rained hard about 9 PM. Detailed to sit up with [Sargent] Huggins.
Lovely morning. Sea calm, making good time. Attended church on board ship at 10:30 AM. 3 PM sailing along nicely, sea very calm. Lovely evening.
Monday Aug 22nd
Raining hard. Running along Cape Hetter. Pri. Eddy, Co. E, died on board 7 AM hospital. Thrown over board off starboard side at 11:10 AM. Watched lovely sun set.
Lovely day. Sea calm. Shining shoes.
Saw lighthouse about 3 AM. Sighted land 4:30 AM. Saw tents from boat 9 AM. Lovely morning sea calm. Passed steamer Shinnecock going up to some island at 10:45 AM. All came to side and waved hankerchiefs. It made every body on board feel good to see American women. Dropped anchor 12N. Doctors came on board to examine Reg. for Yellow Fever at 12:30 PM. Report no Yellow Fever on board. Pri. [Roos], Co. B died 9:30 PM on board Mohawk.
Went on detail to take sick ashore on Vigilance. Over 250 start to load at 8:30 AM. Reached shore 11 AM. Started to unload sick. Karg, Smith, Seamore, Mackley on Sick Detail. Col. Hard first to go ashore. Got sick ashore and start for our quarters. Get located about 6 PM. Lt. Birk’s father to see us. Brings Lt. bad news. Mrs. Birk dead D_________. Bunk together first night on American soil. [“Birk” is Lt. John Birk, Co. A, Bucyrus. His mother, Bertha Susan Volk Birk, died on August 10, 1898 in Bucyrus, Ohio, while her son was in Cuba.]
Friday, August 26th
First morning on American soil is a lovely morn. Regiment came ashore in afternoon. Bob Lowry furlough. Karg, Smith, & Starrett mess together in Camp Wikoff.
Lovely morning. Took sick to hospital and _______ up sick to deliver mail down to Commissary in afternoon.
Went down to Commissary in morning. Sick came from Siboney – Simon, Overhalt, Lindsey Roethelsberger in afternoon. Did not go to church. Lazed in tent and slept.
Moved from Detention Camp. Got boxes from Mansfield.
Lovely day. First day in new camp.
Committee from Mansfield arrived – Dr. Stewart, Dr. Mail, Mr. Hall, Mrs. Marquis, Mrs. Wolf.
Thursday, Sep 1st
Lovely day. In camp all day.
Sent dispatches for Dr. & King. Not feeling very good. Regiment had pictures taken in Makenscope. Rained and blowed hard tonight.
Lovely morning. Received back pay. Reviewed by President and staff. King, Karg, Smith get two-day furlough. Leave for N.Y. City 8 PM.
Board of Trade provide sleeping quarters and gave us breakfast. King went to visit Brother, Smith sister. Karg taking in sights N.Y. at Central Park. Got into [West Borough?].
Return to camp. Orders to leave at 8 AM tomorrow. Took sick. Headache.
Broke camp and marched to train. Left Montauk at 2 PM Reached Long Island City at 9 PM Had supper with Red Cross people then went aboard ferry for Weehauken [N.J.] arriving 12:40AM. Here we boarded a west shore train for home.
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