The First Kentucky Volunteer Infantry saw service as part of the U.S. occupation forces serving in Puerto Rico.
The First Kentucky Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service between June 1 and June 10, 1898 at Lexington, Kentucky. The unit originally consisted of 48 officers and 1,251 enlisted men.
While portions of the regiment were still being mustered in, the First Kentucky was ordered to report to Camp Thomas, located on the old Civil War battlefield at Chickamauga, Georgia. Initially it was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division of the First Army Corps but, on July 5, was reassigned to the Third Brigade of the same division.
Conditions at Camp Thomas quickly worsened as it grew to a city of 30,000 men without adequate supplies or sanitation. At the peak of this crisis, the regiment was order to Newport News, Virginia to travel to Puerto Rico. Companies F, H, I, K, L and M left for Mayaguez, Puerto Rico on August 3 aboard the Transport HUDSON. They were followed by Companies A, B, C, D, E and G on August 9, with these companies bound for Ponce. The two forces arrives at their destinations on August 10th and August 17th respectively. The fighting ended on August 12 when Spain and the U.S. agreed to an armistice, too soon for the unit to find itself in action.
The unit remained in Puerto Rico as part of the island's occupation forces until December 5, 1898, when it embarked on the Transport BERLIN to return to the U.S. arriving at Newport News a week later. While the regiment was enroute back to the United States, the Treaty of Paris was signed officially ending the war on December 10. The First Kentucky Volunteer Infantry immediately set out for Louisville Kentucky. The regiment remained in service until February 24, 1899, when it was mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers and 1,222 enlisted men.
During its term of service, it lost 27 men to disease, one man suffered an accidental death and three men deserted. In addition, one man was discharged on disability.
The image aboveis of
William Hilyerd. It was taken in
Puerto Rico on December
nine days before the official end of the war. Hilyerd, whose service included helping to maintain the island's
telephone system, was born on April 26th, 1881. He enlisted in Company K of the First Kentucky Volunteer
Infantry on May 13th, 1898, at Lexington, Kentucky. He was honorably discharged with the regiment in early
1899. Hilyerd, a blacksmith by trade, was 5 feet 8 1/4 inches tall with a light complexion, brown eyes, and red hair.
After the war, he continued to live in Louisville, working as a clerk.
Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 594.
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).
Photo of, and information concerning William Hilyerd was provided by William and Barbara Hilyerd.