"Camp Cuba Libre"

(Jacksonville, Florida)

By Patrick McSherry

Click here to read letters from Camp Cuba Libre from the 2nd New Jersey Volunteers
Click here to read letters for Burt O. Mullin of the 49th Iowa Volunteer Infantry
Click here to read a letter sent to the parents of Andrew Nelson, 1st Wisconsin Vol. Infantry, Co. H, on his death
Click here to read William Kniffen's diary account of the 9th Illinois Vol. Infantry at Camp Cuba Libre
Camp Cuba Libre, near Jacksonville, Florida, was the assembly point for Maj. Gen'l. Fitzhugh Lee's Seventh Corps. This camp was established on May 31, 1898, because the area around Tampa simply had gotten too crowded. Camp Cuba Libre eventually became home to 30,000 men!

When it was first established, supplies were scarce, and the men assembling at the camp had to fend for themselves. Supplies were being rushed elsewhere - mainly to the 8th and 5th Corps,  which were being readied for deployment to the Philippines and Cuba respectively. The men at Camp Cuba Libre were forced to eat with their fingers off of shingles which served as plates, because the necessary utensils did not arrive. Slowly, supplies began to trickle in, but by the time all of the men received their first issue of  uniforms, those that received their uniforms first already had worn them out! Items such as floor boards for tents and similar items were deliberately withheld by the government, on the theory that the men had to be toughened up - a condition with Fitzhugh Lee changed! Medical necessities were so slow in arriving that the camp commanders turned to the Red Cross for supplies.

Col. William Jennings Bryan (left) and Maj. Gen, Fitzhugh Lee at Camp Cuba Libre

In spite of it all, Camp Cuba Libre was probably the "model" camp of them all. Lee, an experienced troop commander and Civil War veteran chose the site for the camp himself. The men were encamped on sandy, absorbent soil that alleviated the sewage problems prevalent at other camps. Lee had water piped to each regiment. Rail lines, and commercial facilities were close by. Lee saw to it that supplies for the hospitals, the bath houses and tent floors were purchased at nearby Jacksonville as needed. When disease began to break out in the other camps, Lee had the foresight to take news as a warning of things to come and outfitted his hospitals to prepare for the onslaught of illness.

Most of the troops at Camp Cuba Libre never got to the front, spending their time in the camp in drill, target practice. They were preparing for a planned assault to capture Havana, Cuba, but the operation became unnecessary with the fall of Santiago. When the armistice was declared, morale and discipline at Camp Cuba Libre and the other camps began to break down. The Camp Cuba Libre men had a drunken riot in the streets of Jacksonville.

When the war ended, elements of the 7th Corps were sent to Cuba as part of the occupation forces. Included in the occupation forces were the elements of the 6th Missouri Volunteer Infantry and others. The U.S. continued to occupy Cuba until 1902.

The forces who were encamped at Camp Cuba Libre include:

First Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Second Georgia Volunteer Infantry
32nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry
First Florida Volunteer Infantry
Second Illinois Volunteer Infantry
First North Carolina Volunteer Infantry
Second New Jersey Volunteer Infantry
50th Iowa Volunteer Infantry
First Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry
Fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry
9th Illinois Volunteer Infantry
Second Virginia Volunteer Infantry
Fourth Virginia Volunteer Infantry
49th Iowa Volunteer Infantry
First Texas Volunteer Infantry
First Louisiana Volunteer Infantry
First Alabama Volunteer Infantry
Second Texas Volunteer Infantry
Second Louisiana Volunteer Infantry
Second Mississippi Volunteer Infantry
Second United States Volunteer Cavalry
Third Nebraska Volunteer Infantry
First South Carolina Volunteer Infantry
161st Indiana Volunteer Infantry
Fourth United States Volunteer Infantry
Sixth Missouri Volunteer Infantry
49th Iowa Volunteer Infantry


Bibliography:

(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)

Clerk of Joint Comittee 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, 218-220.

Cosmas, Graham A., An Army for Empire : The United States Army in the Spanish American War. (Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing Co., 1993).

Mullin, Burt, Letters


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