A Diary of Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery,

Light Battery A (The "Keystone Battery)


Click here for a roster of Battery A
General:

The Battery was formed from Battery A, First Brigade, of the Pennsylvania National Guard. The unit reported to the Camp Hastings, a training camp at Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania on April 28, and was mustered into service on May 6, 1898. The Battery's four officers and 78 enlisted men were the first men  mustered into the Spanish American War service from Pennsylvania. The command grew in size to include one hundred and sixty enlisted men before it completed its term of service.

Beginning on May 11, 1898, the Battery served as a guard unit at the shipyards at Newport News, Virginia. The unit remained here until August 4, when it was ordered to board the transport MANITOBA to proceed to Puerto Rico, arriving six days later. The Battery served near Ponce until being ordered to return to the U.S. on August 30, 1898. On September 3, the Battery boarded the transport MISSISSIPPI bound for Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Battery later took part in the "Peace Jubilee" in Philadelphia before being mustered out on November 20, 1898.

During its term of service, it lost five men through death.



The Diary:

Wednesday, July 20.

Went to dance at Old Point Comfort.  A policeman shot a member of Battery C. Previous to this some of C's men had fired sixteen shots into a saloon.

Thursday, July 21.

A provost guard of 38 men were sent from camp to keep order in the town.

Friday, July 22.

In afternoon went allover the " Katahdin;" she is a strange craft.  Afterwards went aboard the "Minneapolis."
 
 


The Ironclad ram Katahdin





Saturday, July 23

The Battery was out and fired blank cartridges for the first time.

Sunday, July 24.

Eight of us took a sail.  Gale of wind blowing all day; we went about forty miles.  Stopped across the river to eat the lunch we had with us, then ran up Norfolk and beat toward the Point, then to Hampton where we ate again.  Back at 9. Troops from Chickamauga and Camp Alger arrived during day and camped here ready to go to Porto Rico.  They turned out to be Troop A and C of New York, and the Governor's, Sheridan and City Troop of Philadelphia, the 4th Pennsylvania, the 3d Ohio and the 4th Illinois infantry.

Monday, July 25.

We just heard that we are to go to Porto Rico also on the invading expedition.  Later news is that we go on the transport "St. Louis." I am on camp guard to-day.  There are about 6,000 men camped around us, and I have seen lots of fellows I know.

Tuesday, July 26.

Down at the C. and D. piers this afternoon watching the troops embark.  I slipped downtown and then went to the Point and had a good time.

Wednesday, July 27-

Old Point at the Sherwood and Hygeia.  There was a scrap coming back in the car.

Thursday, July 28.

Went on board the "Minneapolis" and was shown a good time.  At Old Point in evening.

Friday, July 29.

More troops arrived; we visited the different camps.  Orders came to sort all clothes and to send home what we did not need.

Saturday, July 30.

General cleaning out of tent.  Went to Hampton in evening.

Sunday, July 31.

On stable guard, four hours on and eight off.  In morning there was a muster and signing of pay rolls and in afternoon an inspection of tents.  Everything not taken with us is to be sent home.

Monday, August 1.

Took a swim and washed clothes.

Tuesday, August 2.

Not a thing to do all day long.  In evening had a pass from 6 to 12, but orders came to pass no one.  I got out through the shipyard, which an infantry regiment were temporarily occupying.  Got a few things downtown and met a couple of fellows, we were rounded up and told to come back to camp, as the transport was in.

Wednesday, August 3.

We started loading in the morning.  All afternoon I pushed trucks from our wagons to the ship.  In evening went back to camp and found all tents struck.  All marched from camp to ship at about midnight and slept aboard.

Thursday, August 4.

We have hammocks slung between decks.  Helped load all day.  The troops on board are the Sheridan and Governor's one-half the 1st Kentucky infantry and ourselves.

Friday, August 5.

To-day we loaded mules and horses.  We had to sling the mules and killed one that dropped out of the sling.  Went up-town and got a bath.  Left dock at 5.45.
 
 


Slinging a mule aboard the MANITOBA

Saturday, August 6.

Very smooth.  Water is of an indigo blue.  I was on guard during the night until 12, o'clock noon.

Sunday, August 7.

Second day out.  Fine day and heavy ground swell.  We are making about twelve knots.

Monday, .August 8.

On guard until to-morrow at 9 A. M. Getting rougher all the time.  Some fellows becoming sick.  I feel first rate, though I am in the bottom deck.

Tuesday, August 9.

Sighted Porto Rico at 4 A. M. Is mountainous and quite beautiful.  We overtook a tow that started from Newport News four days ahead of us.  When our transport tried to run into Ponce where a lot of our ships are lying we ran aground off a little island, on which is a lighthouse.  Stuck fast.  Boats came out to us with news.

Wednesday, August 10.

I slept on deck.  An attempt was made to pull us off but the tug did not succeed.  Another steamer coming in ran aground close beside us.  Our boat is lurching badly.  Weather fairly rough.  Ship pounding worse and worse.

Thursday, August 11.

Ship lurching in a jerky manner at times.  To-night we were transferred to gunboat "Annapolis," where we slept on deck all night, and in morning were taken ashore and stacked our stuff around the walls of an old cathedral. Very picturesque town. Buildings mostly warehouses, etc., one story high and made of stucco.  Dwellings generally have porches and are built of wood, with a "patio" full of cocoa-palms, etc.
 
 


Some of the men of Battery on the deck of MANITOBA

Friday, August I2.

Went up the beach with some fellows and took a swim in afternoon.  Later drove into Ponce (two miles away) in small barouche.  Very interesting town architecturally.  Slept on cement pavement of church.

Saturday, August 13

Wandered around town and up the beach.  The transport is still aground.  In afternoon talked to the governor's daughters, and tried to learn some Spanish.  In evening went down to the landing and had some wine ac a restaurant.

Sunday, August 14.

Went out on lighter and helped unload the horses.  They had to be swung from the ship 35 feet from the deck and would kick like mad in mid-air.  We had to grab them when they came down.  We took seventeen horses on our lighter, packed head to croup.  As our meals are irregular and unsatisfactory we often buy our own.

Monday, August 15.

We took all the horses up the beach and into the sea.  I had charge of two, one of them rather fractious.  It was my first experience of the kind, but I managed to swim them all right and wash them off. Later I got a bad fall from one of them, landing square on my back.

Tuesday, August 16.

On guard to-day, raining cats and dogs.  The first thing I did was to fall into a ditch up to my neck in water and black mud between the corral and the street.  Had to get under the pump.  To-day the battery moved into an old macaroni factory, dark, cobwebby and dirty. Spent a very disagreeable night, very wet under foot.

Wednesday, August 17

Kingsley and I fixed up some bunks at the end of the loft after opening it up. It was quite a secluded place and we made it very comfortable, so much so that the second morning we did not get up for roll call.  I got extra detail for that.

Thursday, August 18.

Drove to Ponce and made a few purchases.  Had a bully dinner at the Washington for 50 cents in our money.  We had puree, eggs, beefsteak, veal and macaroni, kidneys and peas, pineapple with syrup, bananas and coffee.  Lieutenant MacLeod drove back with us. To-morrow some of us move to a camp about five miles inland among the foothills.

Friday, August 19.

Sent a box with a native earthen water jug in it to the "May." No work all day long.  There are so many transports in the harbor it is hard to get lighters and tugs for them all.  We have a detail of 25 men unloading the "Manitoba." One of our men fell down a hatchway yesterday and got badly hurt.  Drivers and horses moved to a new camp.

Saturday, August 20.

Unloaded a large lighter all morning.  It was hard work as there was no derrick, and the wagons (dismounted) had to be taken off by hand.  Our forge wagon fell overboard, and we had a hard time landing it.  Packed a box with coffee and cigars and sent it home by the "May."

Sunday, August 21.

In afternoon I took a walk back to Ponce.  We stopped at the engineers' camp awhile and then got a lift from an ox-cart.  Dr. MacLeod quite sick; we took a message asking to send someone out to the Red Cross Hospital at Ponce to watch him during the night.

Monday, August 22.

Preparations to leave immediately for our new camp.  The guns were taken over by details.  Chapman shot himself in the foot this afternoon by fooling with his revolver. We left about 4 o'clock for our new camp, riding on the limbers and caissons. The camp is about two miles from Ponce near a stream on the slope of a hill, while the horses and guns are at the foot of the hill, and above the road.  I had to go on duty as provisional guard and slept, when possible, without shelter.  Growth of trees and brush all around.
 

Sunday, August 21.

In afternoon I took a walk back to Ponce.  We stopped at the engineers' camp awhile and then got a lift from an ox-cart.  Dr. MacLeod quite sick; we took a message asking to send someone out to the Red Cross Hospital at Ponce to watch him during the night.

Monday, August 22.

Preparations to leave immediately for our new camp.  The guns were taken over by details.  Chapman shot himself in the foot this afternoon by fooling with his revolver. We left about 4 o'clock for our new camp, riding on the limbers and caissons. The camp is about two miles from Ponce near a stream on the slope of a hill, while the horses and guns are at the foot of the hill, and above the road.  I had to go on duty as provisional guard and slept, when possible, without shelter.  Growth of trees and brush all around.

Tuesday, August 23.

On guard from 5 A.M. until after 8 without breakfast, and did not get any breakfast after I was relieved.  The water in the stream is fine and cold, makes excellent bathing.  Took a walk about a mile up the road and got some excellent pineapples.

Thursday, August 25.

Reichner and I got leave and went up the road foraging for a couple of miles.  Then got a native pony and a donkey and started on a ride, two natives going along with us.  We wound in and out, up and down, on mountain roads, getting on a worse road and into wilder country all the time, finally winding up some 17 kilometers from Ponce in a little village set in a valley.  The natives treated us finely, we talked in Spanish (?) to them, and finally found a Frenchman and had quite a chat.  Left there about 4 o'clock, reaching camp at 7, cooked supper then.  Picked up several curios on the trip.

Friday, August 26.

On guard to-day, but got off for a while to participate in target practice with the four guns, which fired twenty rounds each.  The target was found to be 1,900 yards away, and we did good work with shrapnel, scoring several hits.  Continued on guard.
 
 


Battery A at target Practice in Puerto Rico

Saturday, August 27.

More target practice with shrapnel today; we blew the target to pieces.  In the afternoon Kingsley and I rode donkeys in the same direction as the former trip, but not so far.  A native went with us; he would take no pay.

Sunday, August 28.

In the afternoon went up the mountain to see the effect on our shooting of yesterday.  The ground was very much torn.  We brought back some bits of shell as souvenirs.

Monday, August 29.

On stable guard to-day.

Tuesday, August 30.

Reveille at 4.30. A detail of fifty men took the guns and horses to the wharf to load on the transport.  I spent all day around camp.

Thursday, September 1.

Went into Ponce and bought some souvenirs, etc., and had lunch there.

Friday, September 2.

Reveille at 4.30, broke camp.  Loaded mule train with our luggage and ourselves and proceeded to Ponce. Went out on the first lighter, came in with a message, and then went out again and unloaded lighters all afternoon.  Ship was loaded by 11 P. M., we did not take our horses on board.  The transport is the "Mississippi."

Saturday, September 3.

Sailed about 4 A. M. Troops A and C of New York, Governor's, Sheridan and City Troop of Philadelphia are on board.  The New Yorkers are the only ones with horses.  On guard in hold from 7 P.M. to 8 A..M.

Sunday, September 4.

Making about ten knots.  The weather is fine and warm.

Monday, September 5.

Weather still hot, but fine.  Every day between 10 A.M. and 12, we get under a salt water stream on the fore deck and soak awhile.

Tuesday, September 6.

Weather continues fair and warm.  Our quarters are as good as can be expected.  As only 200 horses are on board it is much cleaner than it was going down to Porto Rico.

Wednesday, September 7.
Every day is very hot, and we do nothing but swelter in the sun.  Out of the wind and shade one gets in a dripping perspiration even when doing nothing.

Thursday, September 5.

On this whole trip we have been getting miserable rations.  Salt water coffee, (once) musty crackers, half-cooked salmon and poor beef two or three times was all we could get.

Friday, September 9.

We ran into a northeaster during the night and it blew hard all day.  The "Mississippi" made 200 knots to-day.

Saturday, September 10.

Sighted land early.  America!  Tugs and boats came down to meet us.  There was lots of cheering and they followed us into Jersey City where a crowd was awaiting us.  Went right aboard a train where sandwiches and other good things were given us.  Arrived in Philadelphia at 7 P. m. with a howling mob to welcome us. Marched to Union League and then to Horticultural Hall where they gave us a banquet and treated us like lords.  At 9 o'clock we took a train to the armory where we were dismissed, having been granted a sixty-day furlough.



Bibliography:

Howard-Smith, Logan and Reynolds-Scott, J. F., The History of Battery A. (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1912). 142-158.

Stewart, Adj. Gen. Thomas J., Record of the Pennsylvania Vounteers. (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1901) 753.


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