The Second U.S. Infantry served in Cuba during the Spanish American War. The events described in the letters below by Corporal James Jones of the 2nd U.S., Company C, occurred in the days following the attack on the San Juan Heights on July 1, 1898.
James P. Jones was born April 21, 1865 in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Irish immigrant parents. Several weeks after his seventeenth birthday, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and began a military career that spanned twenty-four years. During this time frame, Jones was stationed with the 5th, 22nd, 2nd, and 7th U.S. Infantry regiments, and saw duty at army posts in Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and California. Jones also participated in the military adventures that launched the United States to becoming a world power and its involvement in the Pacific - the Spanish-American War and the Philippine American War.
During the Spanish-American War, Jones was a corporal with Co. “C,” Second U.S. Infantry, and he fought in the battles and skirmishes around Santiago, Cuba in June and July 1898. At this time, he wrote a letter to his girlfriend back home in which he described the conditions on the front line. The heat, lack of food and water, friendly fire incidents with poorly trained volunteer units, camaraderie, and implied sense of a soldier’s duty are all described in the letter that covers a six day period of action.
After the war, Jones stayed on in Cuba where he re-enlisted at Caiberien Barracks, Cuba on January 18, 1900. After this, he served in the Philippine Islands as a 1st Sergeant, Casual Detachment, 2nd U.S. Infantry. Jones’ army career ended with retirement as a cook assigned to the band, Second U.S. Infantry on December 31, 1906.
Sometime after retirement, Jones married and moved to San Antonio, Texas. His wife, Elvira, was born approximately 1892 in Mexico and came to the United States in 1894. Their son, James Wilson Jones, was born approximately 1919. James P. Jones died December 11, 1938 in San Antonio, Texas and is buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
The remakable letters below do include some elements that should be read with a note of caution. First, there are several references to "friendly fire" incidents. These may well have happened as described, or the wounds may have been received from other sources on the battle line and attributed through rumor to the volunteer forces mentioned. The U.S. regulars did look down upon the volunteer forces, and would cast blame for such things their way whenever possible. The official reports of the 2nd U.S. Infantry do not make reference to these incidents. The official reports do note that the 71st New York Infnatry did, on several occasions, cause problems with the formation of the 2nd U.S., and that the 2nd received artillery fire while in the vicinity of the 71st New York resulting in loss of life..
Secondly, the estimates of killed and wounded Spaniards in Jones' July 2nd letter is quite high, though it clearly reflects what he was hearing at the front line.
Lastly, in his July 6 letter, he takes offense to the suggestion that men were sick with "the fever." He is probably correct that the 2nd was not yet suffering a high loss from this source. It should be noted that within a few weeks, disease would run rampant through the U.S. forces, creating a dangerously low number of able fighting men available for action. This condition would result in the forces being removed from Cuba in short order, and fresh troops brought in to occuppy the island.
Jones mentions the following people in his letters:
Rosa – Rosa Baumgard
Henry – Henry Daum – Henry was Rosa’s brother-in-law
Mary – Mary (Baumgard) Daum – Mary was Rosa’s sister and Henry’s wife
Daum – Louis Daum – Louis was Henry’s older brother, and he survived the wound but died from disease contracted in Cuba.
Little Rosa and Willie – These were children of Henry and Mary Daum.
Well my Darling Rosa. We are still alive and I thank God for it
and if I ever get back I will go to church right along. but I
suffer from the heat and I have lost 40 lbs. it has rained every
day that we had been here. And we are all wet all the time.
We were on picket duty on June 30th and on the morning of July 1st we
pulled out for the fighting lines where we are now I came near being
shot twice by spanish sharpshooters and we got fired into by the 71st
new york and the 9th Mass. but thank god
Henry or I was not hit. we marched 7 miles and got on a hill so
that we could see the town and most of us was asleep when a bullet came
over the hill and killed Ryan of the Company and the same bullet went
through Corp’l Houston’s right ankle and took off 2 of his toes on his
left foot and he will never be able to stand up much and he will have a
limp to his walk you can bet that we ran under cover of the hill. Henry
was sent after rations and he came near giving out but he is all right
now. I thank god that I am well and in good health and hope that
you are the same and I pray that I may soon be with you again and we
will talk it all over so Love I will close for this day and good night
dear and pleasant dreams from your own spike.
July 2nd 1898
We went into the trenches today and had a hot time of it. about
9 oclock we were all sitting around the bank when a shell came and stuck
sergt Hayes in the temple and you could see his brains they all ran away
and left me to bind up his head. he was send to Camp Hospital and
we do not know what has become of him I was then detailed to go for the
Doctor when sergt Brown wanted to go and I left him. he did
not come back and we do not know how he is getting along about 10 oclock
we were bringing some water up from the river when Nemecek was hit
between the shoulders but it did not go in far. for he got up and
started for the rear. I have not seen him since it was not long
before Daum was hit in the calf of the leg and then the spanairds fired
a volley and Lytton was hit and it went straight through his
heart. some one asked him if he was hit and he said you can bet
boys that I am shot. well Rosa Love you might not want to hear all
this but I told you I would let you know all the news and I intend to
while I am in Cuba. that night when we were all asleep and had our
pickets out they began shooting and the shells were bursting all around
us when they made a charge up the hill on our right and none of our boys
was hit. and lots of the spaniards did not come back for the next
morning the 9th and the 13th Inftry
kept on firing and they killed 500 and wounded 700 more and how many
they took away god only knows. and a spanaird told us that we
wounded over 1500 and the houses was filled with them and they dying
like pigs. the Commanding officer of the spanish forces send in
flag of truce so that we would have time to bury his dead and we are
laying on our arms and neither Army can fire a shot I would like to just
the same. well dear I will close for this day good night sweet
from your Jim.
July 3rd 1898
We just heard that the Spanish commander said that spain has lost more
men in this war than ever she did before. and I think that she
will quit before long I hope so for I want to go back to see you once
more and you can bet that we will have a good time. the firing
opens at 7 oclock and Dempster of the Company was getting his gun fixed
when a shot came and hit him and I asked him if he felt it much and he
said you can bet I did and he asked sergt Hodel for a drink of water he
was going to give it to him when he (Dempster) fell over and was
dead. he was hit over the right side and it came out under his
left leg. we put him up where Ryan and Lytton was and I made some
crosses to mark their graves by. the wind came up and at 6.15 A.M.
it began to rain and now we are all wet and look like drounded rats for
I have not washed or left the pit since 30 of June and we cant get water
enough to drink not alone wash and we have been in the trenches for over
100 hours and have nothing to eat but hard tack Bacon and water but we
are happy Just the same and there is no kicking the Captain is my bunky
and he is just like the rest of us. for he’s got to be. all
the fellows wish that they were back to Montana again. and they
would not Kick no matter what came along. they all wanted to leave
but now they wish that they were back. well Rosa love I have got a
headache and now I will close for this day. good night my love and
my own from spike.
July 4th 1898
Well darling 1 year ago today you know what a time we had and how we
enjoyed ourselves. well we cant help it dear and we will make up
for it when I get back. I suppose you did not have any time
yourself but Rosa dear don’t fret for it will all come out in the
wash. when I told Henry about it he came near crying and I cheered
him up. the fellows said that it was the first fourth that they
did not have anything to drink and they will make up for it when they
get back. and I want you to take a drink for me. well dear
we did not have anything to do today. and we are laying in the
shade the sun is terrible hot and we aint got any water to drink until 8
oclock that night and when I got it I drank it all at once. Wilber
of “B” Co. was the first man shot in the Regiment and the Killed are 9
and the wounded 52. we got more men in our Company than any
one of them. and I just heard that sergt Hayes was dead. we
do not know what spain is going to do. and we are going to open
the ball at 9 oclock tomorrow. I shot a horseman today at 1200 yds
and Lt Muir said that it was a fine shot and a dandy one. he has
been picking them off for the last 3 days. I wish that this war
was over for I want to get back. and I will stay as long as the
war lasts. and I will not leave the trenches if I had to die for
it and you may be sure that I will go back I now will now close
for this day. and I pray that you are well as this leaves me at
present Rosa dear dont kill yourself working. and if you can get a
place stay there if you only get 15.00 a month. I will send you
some money just as soon as I get it. well love I will close for
this day and pleasant dreams from your sweet heart and true love
July 5th 1898
Well Rosa we layed in the pit all day and did not fire a shot and the
same old story rained like Hell and we are all wet and I had to put my
clothes out to dry and I got sun burned and when I go back you will not
know me for I am not going to shave until I go back and of course I will
have to stand my chances as well as the rest. I guess that they
will raise Hell with us for they have got the range and you may be sure
that they will do something. sergt Wels went to draw rations today
and some of the 9th Mass fired into the
party. and he dropped his gun and ran away from the fellows.
and they said that he is a coward and he is trying to go on the boat
again but the Captain said that he will have to stay with the
Company. sergt McPheeters is also sick and we have not seen him
for over 11 days he got sick the night of the first and he was never
sick before. Sergt Brown is also sick and has not been with us
since sergt Hayes was hit. I tell you dear they are all brave when
they are in the post. but when it comes to the real thing they are
not there I would not go sick if I had to die in the
trenches I am reading all your letters that I have got from
you. and you can bet that I will save them all it is getting
dark now love and I will close for this day. Henry sends his love
to you. and dont forget that I send mine and when you write to
Mary send my regards to her and my love to little Rosa and Willie so
good night my own and except xxx Spike
July 6th 1898
Well Darling on the afternoon of this day we got orders to be ready to shoot at any movement and that the 3rd Inftry was going to make a charge that night into their intrenchments. and when it got dark 3 Companies of the 20th Inftry was to sneak up and take their lines to about 400 yards from the spanairds. but that morning Just at day brake of day we would begin firing that night I could not sleep at all and most of the men sat in groups and all was talking it over when 4 oclock the orders changed again and the flag of truce was coming up to our lines again that we could all lay down and sleep and you can bet that we did. and now we are waiting for orders from Washington. for a wonder it did not rain and that is the first time since we are here and we are all dry. well Darling I received your letter that was dated in the 26th of last month. and I got it on the 11th of July. so you see that it takes a long while to have you get a letter from me. say Rosa did you get the stuff that I send from Tampa. Fla. for you I send about $8.00 worth in sea shells and Henry send some too. I now will close for this time and I hope to hear from you soon again. Henry sends his love to you and of course I do. so hoping to hear from you soon I remain your ever true lover
James P. Jones. Corp’l. Co. “C” “2” U
S Inftry in Cuba. my letter was written on the 12 day of
July my own true love we have heard that Sergt Hayes wrote to
Harrison. And said that the men was all sick and that most of the
men had fever but you tell Mary when you write that it is all a
lie. and if anything was the matter I would have told you.
so dont believe anything of the sort. look on the other side and
you will see how our Army and the spanairds lines are"
David, Linda - Information on eventual fate of Louis Daum
Tom Trotter - Letter from James Jones.