Contributed by Robert Pendleton
Sergeant Charles Hampton Smith was a member of Company D, First Marine Battalion (Reinforced). Company D, commanded by Captain William F. Spicer, suffered the majority of KIA and WIA during action against Spanish infantry and Cuban irregulars at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Spanish American War.
Charles Hampton Smith was born on the family farm at Bird Hill, a small village located approximately two miles from the city of Smallwood, Carroll County, Maryland. He was the third born (first son) of more than eight children to Howard Thomas Smith and Elizabeth Ann (Caple) Smith. He was described as ...“ a man of fair education, medium height, deep blue eyes and dark curly hair. He was quiet in disposition and as a boy was prompt in his duties. He was cool and courageous, and just the sort of a man for an ideal soldier.”
As a young man of twenty-one he traveled to Baltimore and was employed there for five years with the John Hancock Life Insurance Company starting as a canvasser and collector then later being promoted to assistant superintendent,
On August 30, 1893, at age 26, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. For the next five years he served on shore and at sea traveling extensively to many ports of call around the world.
By April of 1898, Sergeant Smith was stationed at Marine Barracks, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Seavey Island, Kittery, Maine, and from there, on April 18, 1898, he reported for duty with the First Marine Battalion (Reinforced) then being organized at New York Navy Yard, New York City, New York.
The First Marine Battalion arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on board the U.S.S. PANTHER during the afternoon of Friday, June 10, 1898. Four companies (including Company D) disembarked at 2:00 p.m. and took up defensive positions passing a quiet and uneventful night. The two remaining companies disembarked on the morning of Saturday, June 11, 1898.
During the afternoon of that day, Company D was assigned to picket duty. Later that evening, two Marine privates (McColgan and Dumphy) were both on perimeter outpost duty near Camp McCalla, when they were suddenly attacked by Spanish infantry and Cuban irregulars and instantly killed. In the early morning hour of 1:00 a.m., Sunday, June 12, 1898, another enemy attack took place and Sergeant Charles Hampton Smith was fatally wounded at his perimeter outpost also near Camp McCalla. He was shot through the breast and killed instantantly. Attempts to recover his body were foiled by enemy fire for several days, necessitating his being buried where he fell [click here for his commanding officer's account of Smith's death and burial].
Later, in March of 1899, Smith remains were returned in the U.S. [Click here to read a letter related to the return of Smith's body] On Sunday, April 30, 1899, Sergeant Charles Hampton Smith’s remains were received by his father and mother. On Sunday, May 7, 1899, his memorial service and re-interment were held at Deer Park Methodist Church Chapel. Present were his parents, his 86 year old maternal grandfather, Mr. Robert Caple, his two brothers and four sisters. Many of his friends were also in attendance as well as a very large crowd of citizens. One newspaper account relates that “The coffin containing the remains was taken into the church, and rested before the altar railing during the services. It was covered with the American flag, and some rare and beautiful roses laid upon it formed the principal floral tribute.”
The chapel sermon and re-interment services were by Reverend Walter H. Graham, D.D., Pastor of the Methodist Protestant Church of Smallwood. A newspaper account reports that after the chapel service was concluded, the coffin was borne to the adjoining cemetery by pall-bearers of Burns Post No. 13, Grand Army of the Republic. The burial was read by Dr. Graham and the Grand Army burial ritual, which followed the religious services, was terminated by the firing of three volleys over the grave.
The Democrat Advocate newspaper issue of August 8, 1903, of the city of Smallwood, wrote that a monument in the memory of Sergeant Smith was erected by his parents at Deer Park Methodist Church Cemetery and was dedicated on Sunday, August 2, 1903.
First Marine Battalion (Reinforced) Muster Rolls, Company D, 18 April through 30 June 1898, Camp McCalla, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, compiled by Robert M. Pendleton, unpublished manuscript.
Carroll County Times, “Sgt. Smith Falls in Battle in Cuba,” Jay A. Graybeal, June 14, 1998.
Letter to Ms. Dorwin from Captain William F. Spicer, Commanding, Company D, Camp McCalla, Playa del Este, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Copy of the letter was provided to the contributor by Catherine Baty, Curator of Collections, The Historical Society of Carroll County, 210 East Main Street, Westminster, Maryland. 21157. Website: www.carr.org/hscc.
Westminster Democratic Advocate or American Sentinel, “His body Sent Home,” May 6, 1899 and “The Burial of Sergeant Chas, H. Smith,” May 13, 1899.
Westminster Democrat Advocate, “The Monument to Sergeant Smith,” August 8, 1903