The 1st United States Cavalry served in Cuba with Maj. Gen. Shafter's Fifth Corps during the Spanish American War. The unit was part of Wheeler's Cavalry Division, 2nd Brigade, along with the 10th U.S. Cavalry and the "Rough Riders." It took part in both the battle of Las Guasimas and the Battle of San Juan Hill. The diary below was kept by one of the unit's members, Tom Davis.
Tom was born, 28 June 1870, on a farm just outside the small town of Harmon, in Lee County, Illinois. The family had moved to Harmon from Preston County, West Virginia some time between 1868 and 1870.
The family consisted of John William Davis, his father, who was a farmer by trade. John had fought in the latter part of the Civil War (Captain Samuel Holt Company, I, 17th Regiment of West Virginia Inft Volunteers). His mother was Margaret Kennedy Mason, who ran herd on eight children. When Tom was nine (1879) the family moved again, this time to Elmo, in Dickinson County, Kansas, where descendants of the family remained until the 1970s.
Tom enlisted in the Army, on the 26th of February 1897, at the age of 26. He served three years in the 1st U.S. Cavalry Band, where he played the tuba and attained the rank of Sergeant of Band of the First Regiment of Cavalry. He received a Honorably Discharge from the Army on the 25th of February 1900, at Fort Meade, South Dakota. During his enlistment Tom served in the Spanish American War in Cuba, from June to August 1898. He participated in the battle of San Juan and the siege and surrender of Santiago.
Some time around 1905 Tom moved to Pennsylvania where he farmed. He met and married a Mary E. (maiden name unknown). Mary died in 1928?. After her death Tom moved back to Marquette, Kansas to be with family.
Some time in 1933 Tom’s family moved him to the Veterans’ Administration Facility, Fort Lyon, Colorado, where on 1 January 1934 he died. His death was caused by a stroke, which occurred on 27 December 1933.
The following was written on the inside cover of the note book:
Found on Santiago Battle Field
July 1st 98 (1898)
By Tom C. Davis
Band 1st US Cav.
Address. Dillon, Kans.
The following is the written log in ink:
June 27 - Wrote letter home. Batteries cover up. Camped on Luorna river. Rain.
Tuesday 28 - Went on mountain. Plenty to eat. Tobacco issued.
Thur 30 - Mustered at 9am. Broke camp at 3:30. Raining and very muddy. Baloon observation 4:30. Frequent stops and no one knows where we go.
Fri. July 1st - Battle opened at 6:30 am. Heavy firing all day and lots of work. Closed at 5:15.
Sat 2nd - Firing opened early 4:50. Light all day, but little work. Plenty to eat.
Sunday 3 - Working in hospital all day. Tired out. White flag raised by Spaniards at 12 n and fleet captured. Plenty to eat. Am not very well.
Monday 4th - Went on firing line. Moved camp to it. Spanish will not agree to terms. Men ordered to trenches at 12 n. Feeling well and plenty to eat. Time 5 p.m.
Tuesday 5th - Move camp 200 yrs to right in morning. Time advanced to Spaniards at least no firing today. Heavy firing on water at 12 pm. Spanish fleet destroyed morning of the 3rd. Plenty eat and all well. Found bayonet yesterday.
Wednesday 6th - All quiet today. Scouted through woods but found nothing. Official word of Miles (Maj. Gen. Nelson Miles) reinforcement coming. Concert played at 6 pm. the first for week. Hobson and men exchanged mortars came up and are now bring planted.
Thurs 7 - Scouted woods all fore noon and found belt. Came back at noon and found Draper, Roach and Illingworth sick. Staid with Draper till dark, when I got him in camp. Feeling well.
Fri. 8 - Nothing new. Sent letters home. Plenty rations. Rec., letters from home, Hattie and Bede Played a concert in honor Cornell’s victory.
Sat. July 9th - Up early expecting fighting to commence, but it did not. Col. Woods made Brig Gen. Barron joins us. Wilcox and I cooked dinner on river bank. Played concert as usual.
Sunday July 10th - Visited the 17th in am. and cooked dinner at river. Every body ordered to trenches at 4. Bombardment opened at 5 p. No one hurt on our side. Closed at dusk.
Monday 11th - Opened early by heavy art. firing which was kept up till 1 p.m. When white flag was raised by Spaniards. Their loss was great, ours none. Not feeling very well, but must pull through. With sick all day on river bank. First Ill. [Illinois] come in at 10am plus also Wash. [Washington] troop.
Tues. 12th - Rained all night and till 1p.m. today. Every thing wet and muddy. Played concert.
Wed. 13th - Very hot in morning and rain in afternoon. Gen. Miles and staff arrived. Also troops and 6 batteries of Art. (Artillery)Flour issued and we had flap jacks. Concert.
Thur. July 14 - Santiago surrenders at 8 am. Word reached us at 2:15. Moved camp to hill side. No rain today. Every one happy. And plenty to eat.
Fri. 15th - Nothing new. Rec. papers. Have been feeling pretty bad all day. Very hot and no rain. Yellow fever hospital established 18 cases. But that is not any thing.
Sat. 16 - Got up sick but done working. Onions and potatoes issued. Know nothing of what will be done.
Sunday 17 - Troops fell in. All along line at 9 am and again at 12 n to witness the Spanish turn over their arms. Bands played national airs and cheering all along line. Feeling pretty sick ut some better tonight. Fever. Hard tack and bacon, coffee & sugar a few onions and potatoes are the rations. Tel. [Telegram] From McK.[President William McKinley] Read to comd’s. [Commands].
Monday 18 - Broke camp at 9 am and march through [El] caney? to a point about 2 miles N.W. where we are in a permanent camp. Much better today, but very weak. And fell out of line for first time today. Entire Cav. Command Camped here. Including 1st, 2, 3 and 6, 9, 10th.
Tues. 19th - Every thing moves on. And all indications lead us to think we will leave in a week for the States. Feeling very well to day, with plenty to eat such as it is. No reliable news. Bracht sick.
Wed. 20 - Boynton, Draper and I went through country to French Dukeshouse where I found two forks and spoon. Back at 11 am. Rec. letter from Hattie. Plenty to eat and I am feeling well.Again rain and no concert.
Thurs. 21st - Scouted through woods and did some shooting. Major Smith joins us from Lakeland. Lots of rain and nearly all of us sick.
Fri. 22nd - Everything quiet not well. Newcomer and another 33 Mich. [Michigan] were to see us. Beef issued and put in for clothes.
Sat. 23 - Landed one month today. Lots of work in morning. Wilcox sick. Heavy rain at 3:30. Had fresh beef for breakfast the first good meal since leaving Lakeland.
Sund 24 - Sick. Yes very sick. Our tents came and were pitched. Bread issued last night. Rec. letter from Hattie. Nearly all the band sick. Company mess yesterday. Congratulations from Shafter read.
Monday 25 - Little better. Nothing new and lots of the men still sick. Muraszko goes to Santiago as Com. Sergt.
Tuesday 26 - Went on sick report the first time in more than a year.Will hook up OK. Plenty of fresh bread, beef, potatoes, beans and onions. Also lots of rain.
Wed. 27 - Doing duty today but feel horrible. Our clothes come up from Santiago tonight. Plenty of everything to eat exceptfruit which is scarce.
Thurs, 28 - Feeling good not quite so warm. Strong talk of going to states. Boynton cook and plenty to live on.
Fri. 29 - Coming on fine. Orders relative to going to Long Island received. Bought canned fruit the first since landing. Wrote letters home and to Hattie.
Sat. 30 - Cooking today and don’t feel very good. Rec. letters from mother and Hattie. Dated July 10, & 15 Resp. [respectively]
Sunday 30 - Mustered at 7:30. Feeling pretty fair.
Monday August 1st - Wrote letters home and to Refl. [The AbileneReflector]But they are still here word rec. that peace had almost been declared and that we will leave for the States with in a week Doltz discharged and left.
Tues. 2nd - Every one felling better. All officers want to town. And it looks like moveing. No concert to night. Rain.
Wed 3rd - Went to El Coney road in morning and come back sick.Nothing new about moveing.
Thur. 4th - Orders regarding moving in a few days received.
Fri. 5th - Cooking to day and got sick. Wilcox finished for me. Rained nearly all day.
Sat. 6th - Orders to leave to morrow. 3rd and 6th left today. Rain. Feeling much better.
Sunday 7th - Sent letter to Bede and yesterday got letters from mother,Hattie and Alice. Feeling bad and did not sleep a wink. Broke camp at 1:30 and marched two miles to railroad. Unloaded to boat at once at Santiago. The Mottewan [MATTEAWAN] No. 26.
Mon. 8th - Left Santiago at 10:40 and played all the way out saw the U.S. Merrimac and Spanish G.B. [Gun Boat] Mercedes. Course till dark due east. Off Gauntonamo Bay at sun set. Our bundles containing everything lost. Some old rations.
Tues. 9th - Changed course to trifle west of north at 3:30 am. Rough sea all day and nearly all sick. Played retreat and concert Making fair time.
Wed 10th - Direction north. Smooth sea. Passed islands before noon. All feeling better playing G.M. and concert.
Thurs 11th - Sailing along nicely and making good time. Fireman fell over board and lost at sunset while we were playing Kingcotton [March by Sousa}. Wrote letters all day. To night am feeling good.
Fri 12 - Passed British sloop this am at 7 oclock. Good sea and all is well. Roach taken charge of by Hospt. (Hospital)
Sat. 13 - Fair weather and all goes well. And well make port some time Monday it is thought. Prv. Ellis H 4th Art. jumped overboard at 8:40 and was lost.
Sunday 14th - Fair sea. Commenced raining at 2:30 am and drowned us out of bunks. Cold and cloudy all day. Sighted lots of ships. Put in for clothing and list of lost property.
Monday 15 - Lots of sail ships and transport passed early. Sighted land at 11:30 am and reached L.I. (Long Island) at 5:30 and waiting for pilot now. Prv. Keywell D Troop died at 7 pm.
Tues. 16 - Inspected by quarantine officers at 7 am and body of Keywell taken ashore. Lay in harbor all day. Don’t know why. Rec.letter from Hattie and joted letter to her and home.
Wed. 17 - Sent letters. And landed at 5:30 p.m. Marched to camp and it rained very hard.
Thurs. 18 - Detailed cook and am sick. Plenty to eat. Played only retreat.
Friday 19th - Rained all day. Roach reduced. Assigned to H Troop for duty when out of hospital and Hess made Band sergeant.Joe Illingworth taken to hospital. Turned over surgical cace to steward.
Saturday 20th - Feeling good and plenty rations. Beef, potatoes, onions, etc. Boynton taken to hospital. 2nd Mass and 22nd Inf. Come to Camp Wikoff. 9 men for concert.
Sunday 21st - Broke camp at 9:30 and marched about 1 ½ miles to another camp, pitched tents, had coffee, soup, tomatoes but no bread. Bracht plus Nelson taken to hospital. Played concert. Wilcox received box and what a treat.
Mon 22nd - Taken sick at 10 am and sick all day. My last day cooking letters from Hattie and Harger.
Tues. 23rd - Butter today. Plenty rations. Wilcox and Challenger cooked. W. Illingworth sent to hospital.
Wed. 24 - Every thing going smooth. Answered Hatties letter went to hospital in afternoon.
Thurs. 25 - Letters from home and Alice which were answered. Word that Brockenshire is C.M. (Chief Musician?) Wilcox sick. Lots of stuff issued by Red Cross. Play with 6 men.
Fri. 26 - Have drew lots of stuff to eat and drew clothes yesterday. Meyer goes to hospital. Letter to Reflector.
Sat. 27 - Do nothing but draw rations and cook. Molsberry and I walked three miles along coast for shells. W. Illingworth goes on furlough and everyone feeling better.
Sun 28. Went to station in morning. Plenty to eat. Nelson goes on furlough Sat. 27th.
Mon. 29 -Nothing of note. Around camp all day. Letters from Home and Hat. Sent to cuba rec.
Tues. 30 - detachment and troops of 1st cav. Come in from Lakeland. Letter from Hattie. Wilcox and Draper go on sick report.
Wed 31st - J Huntsickzer to Hos. (Hospital) Horses come last night. Mustered at 6:30. Letter from Roach.
Thur. Sept 1st - Commenced cooking. Letter from W.I. (W. Illingworth) clothing come answered Hattie letter. 2nd cav. Come from Santiago Escorted in by band. Saw Gen. Shafter.
Fri 2nd - Wrote letter to W. I. More of every thing than we can eat. Papers from Harger.
Sat. 3rd - Pres. McK. reviewed troops at 11 am. Papers from home and Harger. Taken sick and feel tough.
Sunday 4th - Feeling bad. Wrote and mailed letters home. Hess’s brother here.
Mon. 5th - Sick all day. Letter from Roach, Harger, Hattie, Alice and Bede. No concert.
Tues. 6 - Feeling better and cooking again.
Wed. 7 - Gen. Wheelers son and Lt. Kirk patrick drowned. Tigner attached to Hos. Corp’s
Thursday 8 - Letter from Hattie. Do nothing but draw rations.
Friday 9th - Moved camp. The drowned bodies of Wheeler and Kirkpatrick taken to station.
Sat. 10 - Paid at 9 am. Recruit for Band Fritz --Sent Roach pass.
Sun. 11 - Same old thing. Challinger, Adolph go on passa
Mon. - Draper goes to Boston for treatment, sick.
Tues 13 - Letter sent to mother and Hattie. Rough Riders leave.
Wed. - Items above.
Thurs 15 - Challinger returned.
Fri. 16 - no notation
Sat. 17 - Went on sick report. Adolph returns from N.Y.
Sunday 18 - Horribly sick
Mond 19 - Armstrong discharged
Tues. 20 - Bought underwear. Feeling bad
Wed 21st - Report we go to Mead (Ft. Meade, South Dakota). Still sick.
Thurs. 22 - Packing up for Riley (Ft. Riley, Kansas)
Fri. 23 - Still sick.
Sat. 24 - Wilcox home from Conn. (Connecticut)
Sun 25 - Same old story. sick.
Mon 26 - 9th loading.
Tues. 27 - Loading all day.
Wed. 28 - Broke camp at 7 am Left Montauk 9:45 Arrived L.I. City 3 P.M. Left N.Y. 11:30.
Thur. 29 - Feeling some better. Making good time. Passed through Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Cleveland, Erie, Toledo and will arrive in Chicago about 9 am.
Fri. 30 - Arr. Chicago 10:30 left at 12n. arr. R. Island (Rock Island, Illinois) at dark and mustered.
Sat Oct. 1st - Arr. K.C. (Kansas City) 12. Left 2.15 Arr. In Riley 7:20.
Dec 23rd - Orders to leave for Robinson. (Ft. Robinson, Nebraska)
Jan 2nd - Troops left
Jan 7th - I left and Arr. Lincoln (Nebraska) 7:50
Jan 8th - left for Fremont (Nebraska) 1:45
Jan 9th 99 Arrived Robinson 9 am
11th May - Left Robinson for Meade