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A Brief History of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry

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The following is a history of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The unit was formed during the Spanish American War, but saw the majority of service in the theater of war during the Philippine American War. It was during this latter war that the unit gained fame, fighting in the Philippines.

Unit History:

Governor Leedy of Kansas issued a call for troops to fight in the Spanish American War on April 26, 1898, as soon as war was declared. The 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry was officially mustered into service between May 9 and May 13 at Topeka, Kansas. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of forty-six officers and 964 enlisted men.

Three days after the entire unit was mustered in, the regiment left Topeka for Camp Merritt at San Francisco. The regiment spent the majority of the summer in the camp. By late July, there was an effort to relocate forces from their old camps to new locations to stem the tide of disease which had been rising in the poor conditions of the army camps in general. Perhaps as part of this effort, the regiment was relocated to Camp Merriam on August 5. It was while the regiment was in Camp Merriam that an armistice was declared, ending the fighting between the U.S. and Spain on August 12.

The Fifth Philippine Expedition was preparing to leave for the journey across the Pacific, and the 20 Kansas was to take pat. On October 27, the second and third battalions (Companies C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, and M) of the 20th Kansas steamed for Manila, Philippines aboard the transport INDIANA as part of the build up to occupy the city and surrounding areas. The first battalion (Companies A, B, F, and L) followed aboard the transport NEWPORT. The route across the Pacific was quite lengthy. The INDIANA arrived in Honolulu on November 5, departing four days later, and finally arriving in Manila on December 6 (some sources indicate November 30). The NEWPORT arrived in Honolulu on November 16, departed after three days, and also arrived in Manila on December 6. The Spanish American War officially ended on December 10, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The war was over.

The 20th Kansas was encamped in tobacco warehouses in Manila. On February, 1899, the Philippine American War began and the 20th Kansas was ordered to the front. The regiment advanced on, and was the first to enter, Caloocan on February 10. On March 25, the regiment swam the Tulihan river, captured a blockhouse, and then was involved in the engagements of Malinta and Maycuayan three days later. On March 28th, some of the Kansans swam another river, capturing eighty prisoners among the men occupying the earthworks on the opposite side. On March 31, the regiment entered Malalos, the capital of the Filipino forces. On April 24, the 20th Kansas was involved in the advance against Calumpit, and in the next month, against San Thomas.

On September 6, 1899, the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry boarded transports and steamed for the U.S., arriving on October 10. On October 28, the regiment was mustered out of service. At the time of mustering out, the regiment had decreased in size, including forty-six officers and 720 enlisted men. During its term of service, the regiment had three officers and nineteen enlisted men killed in action. An additional eleven enlisted men died of wounds received in battle. Thirty-five enlisted men died from disease, and 145 more were discharged on disability. Four enlisted men were court-martialed, and four men deserted.

Clark Messenger, 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, Co. F

Clark Eastus Messenger of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry, Co. F served as a wagoner. Messenger was born on September 26, 1874 in Scandia, Republic Co., Kansas to Chauncey and Hester Messenger.  During his service, Messenger was wounded in the hand  on February 5, 1899, which kept him out of action for two weeks. In 1900, he married Maymie Sellers at Fort Scott, Kansas. The couple later lived in Elma and Aberdeen, Washington. Messenger was a member of the Aberdeen B.PO.E. and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The couple had five children Messenger died on November 2, 1949 at the Madigan General Hospital, Fort Lewis


Harmia-Mitcham, Rose M. - Photo and biographical data on Clark Messenger.

Linger, D. A. - Roster of Company from a printed roster.

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).

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