That the many volunteer troops flooding into the camps of concentration were not ready for action was an issue that slowly became clear to the U.S. government. Attempts meant to test the new recruits or "toughen" was not alway well received by the public. This newspaper article indicates the response to one of those instances.
"March in Hot Sun"
"Wisconsin Troops at Charleston Get taste Of Severe Discipline"
"According to dispatches from Charleston, S.C., where the Second
and Third Wisconsin Regiments are now
awaiting transports to take them to Porto Rico, the boys have been getting
a taste of rather severe discipline. Saturday morning before breakfast,
the Wisconsin troops and the Sixteenth Pennsylvania regiments were ordered
out for a practice march of eleven miles. The thermometer was 110
in the sun and scores of the men were compelled to fall out of the ranks.
In many cases being completely overcome by the heat. Nearly fifty
percent of the boys also suffered from blistered feet as a result of the
long walk, and there was much complaint that the officers should require
so hard a task of the men, with no apparent reason other than to see just
how much they could stand. Even the residents of Charleston criticize
the officers, saying it was too much for the men to endure: that no southerner
would attempt it, and that it is folly for a northern soldier to try.
It was reported, however, that Generals Wilson and Ernst are in no
way satisfied with the showing made by the troops and will try it again
today (Monday) –18 July. Orders to that effect were issued last evening.
The various company commanders were notified to turn out the companies,
excusing only the sick and those on guard duty. The men are to be
in heavy marching order and none are to fall out without the permission
of the company commanders. Those who do, unless sick, will be placed
under arrest. The start was planned for 6:30 o’clock, the Third
Wisconsin heading, followed by the Second
Wisconsin, Sixteenth Pennsylvania and two companies of the Sixth Illinois.
Several ambulances and physicians will accompany the march."
"Late in June sickness began to play havoc with the Wisconsin troops
in the South. At Chickamauga the Second
and Third regiments became infected with
Typhoid-Malaria fevers due partially to the bad drinking water.
Early in July the Second and Third regiments at Chickamauga began arrangements
for embarking for Cuba to take part in the
Santiago campaign. On July 6, after various delays, the regiments
left Chickamauga for Charleston, S.C., where they expected to take transports
and depart for Cuba. When they reached
Charleston there weren’t enough ships and Gen. Miles
sailed for Santiago leaving the Wisconsin troops and the Sixteenth Pennsylvania
regiment behind. Santiago surrendered just after the regiments
had loaded on to transports
No. 30 and
the Grand Duchess and were
preparing to embark and they were retained at Charleston for the Puerto
Rican campaign. While waiting at Charleston the men were housed in
vacant cotton warehouses. The air was close and they were scarcely
inhabitable. At night, the men were forced to sleep on the wharves
to get fresh air. Nearly all the rations of the regiment had been
loaded on the transports, and during the time that the men were housed
in the warehouses the food supply was so limited that the company commanders
of the two regiments bought large supplies out of their own funds.
The sickness contracted at Chickamauga, and the unhealthy living conditions
of the warehouses weakened the soldiers. Yet in spite of these conditions,
the regiments, on the morning of July 16, were ordered to prepare for a
forced march. Many of the men did not have breakfast because of low
supply of food that morning and in spite of the high temperatures, they
were put on an eleven-mile march. Many were overcome by the heat
and fell out of ranks along the route and others had convulsions on their
return to camp. The city hospitals were filled with sick soldiers.
In spite of the results, another march was announced and the generals censured
the officers of the regiments for letting their men fall out. The
weakened condition of the men caused an investigation of the food supply
and from that time till they embarked for Puerto Rico
there was plenty to eat. Wisconsin demanded an investigation by the
War Dept., but the troops left on July 20th."
Weekly Northwestern Saturday, July 23, 1898.