A Brief History of the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

by Patrick McSherry
Click here for a roster of the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

Click here for letters written by and to 1st Sgt. William Curtis of Co. A, 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

General:

The 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry served part of its term of service in Cuba during the war, but apparently did not see action. The regiment was, however, involved in the "HARVARD Incident" in which several Spanish prisoners of war were killed in a disturbance aboard the Auxiliary Cruiser HARVARD.

Unit History:

The  9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service at South Framingham, Massachusetts between May 9 an May 12, 1898. At the time of mustering in, the unit consisted of forty-seven officers and 896 enlisted men.

The 9th Massachusetts apparently became a part of the First Division of the Second Army Corps, and was stationed at Dunn Loring, Virginia. On June 9th, the unit the was brigaded with the 33rd Michigan and the 34th Michigan, all of which were placed under the command of the 9th's commander, Col. Fred. B. Bogan. When the brigade was sent to Cuba, some elements of the regiment stayed behind and was assigned in the Second Division of the Second Army Corps.

The regiment departed the United States for Cuba on June 26, arriving on July 1, the same day that the battles of El Caney and San Juan Heights were fought. The 9th, just arriving in Cuba, was not in position to take part in either action. After the naval Battle of Santiago on July 3, portions of the 9th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry were serving as guards aboard the Auxiliary Cruiser HARVARD when a disturbance broke out. The guards, believing the Spanish prisoners were attempting to take the vessel fired into the crowd killing a dozen Spaniards. It now appears that the incident resulted from a misunderstanding and a lack of ability to communicate because of the language barrier on the crowded vessel. The action has become known as the "HARVARD Incident." The men were found to have acted in a reasonable manner considering the conditions under which they were placed.

The city of Santiago surrendered on July 17, and on August 12, the United States and Spain agreed to an armistice, ending the fighting. The 9th Massachusetts remained in Cuba only until August 26, when the regiment departed for the United States. The arrived back in the U.S. on September 4. Some of the men, including 125 mean who were suffering from diease and illness were about the steamer LEWISTON. The ship went agrund with a hard shock at Point Judith. The men were rescued by the lifesaving station at Point Judith and the Tug GAYNOR.

The regiment was mustered out of service on November 26, 1898 at Boston. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consisted of forty-six officers and 1,151 elisted men. During its term of service, the regiment lost four officers and an incredible one hundred ten enlisted men to disease. One  other enlisted man died as the result of an accident and one other deserted. Two additional enlisted men were discharged on disability. Colonel Bogan was among those claimed by disease. He had been sent home, but died at his home in Charlestown, Massachusetts in early August, 1898.

On December 10, 1898, the Spanish American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.



Bibliography:

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).

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,  473, 474, 475.

McSherry, Patrick “The Harvard Incident, ”  Sea Classics. Vol. 37, No. 12 (Chatsworth, CA: Challenge Publications, Inc., December, 2004) 18-21, 56-57.

"Short Special," The Lima News. (Lima, Ohio), August 10, 1898, p 5.

"Went Ashore in the Fog" The Evening Democrat. (Warren, Pennsylvania) September 6, 1898, p 1.


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