The 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry

Officers and Non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co F, 1898

The officers and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. F. First Sergeant Hugh Clark Hunter is seated in the first row on the far left.


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General:

The following is a brief history of the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The regiment served in Cuba during the Spanish American War and took part in the battle of El Caney.

Unit History:

The 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was mustered into federal service between May 8 and 10, 1898 at Framingham, Massachusetts. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers and 896 enlisted men.

The regiment became part of the Fifth Army Corps, under the command of General William Shafter, forming part of the First Brigade of the Second Division. On June 14, the regiment steamed for Cuba as part of the invasion force on board the army transport SENECA. The regiment arrived in eight days later, landing at Daquiri. From Daquiri, the regiment marched to Siboney. The 2nd Massachusetts was sent out from Siboney to Las Guasimas but arrived long after the skirmish had ended. The regiment  ended up making camp beside Roosevelt's Rough Riders, and shared their rations with the latter. In the subsequent days, rations, and tobacco both ran out. The regiment used the officers' horses to bring up a supply of both.

On the morning of July 1, one member of the 2nd Massachusetts described the scene:

"Just below us was Santiago still wrapped in the morning mist and apparently still unarowsed from its slumbers. All about us were frowning hills and and mountains and in the distance we could see the harbor outside of which sat the grim war ships of the United States waiting for their prey to come out..."

Later, as the regiment was split up and moved a short distance into ine, the same soldier described what he saw before him:

"El Caney lay almost directly in front of us, a small twon backed up against a steep hill as if at bay and with forts, intrchments and houses bristling with rifles. To our right on a small elevation was the famous stone fort over which floated the red and yellow flag of Spain. A little to the left was the village church, of stone and converted to a fortess while on either sides of both the fort and church were the familiar Spanish blockhouses. And in front of all were the trenches, well built and covering all the front and sides of the town, a covered way connecting some of them with the fort and with their fronts guarded by fences and entanglements of barbed wire..."

At the battle of El Caney, the First Brigade was sent to occupy the road leading westward from El Caney. On June 30, late in the day, the brigade, with the 2nd Massachusetts, moved out for their position over trails that were very mucky and muddy follwing a heavy rain. Arriving, the men bedded down along the road for the night. At 4:00 A.M on July 1., they were awakened and advanced on El Caney. Once the brigade was within  one thousand to twelve hundred yards of the town, it began receiving mauser rifle fire. The brigade deployed with the 2nd Massachusetts  occupying the right of the brigade's line. The 2nd Massachusetts was hampered in that it was still equipped with Springfield rifles which used black powder. This placed the men of the unit at a disadvantage since the smoke of the black powder would give away their position, and also obscured their view of the enemy. The shorter range of the weapon was also a handicap.

The battle for El Caney was fierce. Originally expected to be a brief skirmish, the battle lasted most of the day. It had been intended that, once El Caney had been neutralized, the men involved would advance to the San Juan Heights and join in the assault at that location, which was also ongoing. Unfortunately, by the time the town fell, there was no time to join in at San Juan Heights in time to join in that day's battle. When the town eventually fell, the 2nd Massachusetts found it had lost First Lieutenant Charles Field, killed, with Captain W. T. Warner, Second lieutenant D. J. Moynhan and Oscar D. Hapgood being wounded.

After fighting most of the day, the 2nd Massachusetts spent the night marching to the San Juan Heights and joined in the skirmishing that occurred over the bext few days. On July 4, the regiment was again on the march, extending the battle line to attempt to encircle Santiago, digging trenches on what became known as "Misery Hill." Seven days later, the regiment was again on the march to what would become its last camp. Throughout this period, the regiment was lacking rations and other supplies. Three days after arriving at the last camp, Santiago surrendered to Major General William Shafter.

Santiago soon surrendered, and on August 12, 1898, the United States and Spain formally agreed on an armistice, ending the fighting portion of the war. The 2nd Massachusetts joined the 8th U.S. Infantry and the 22nd U.S. Infantry aboard the transport MOBILE, departing Cuba on August 13 bound for Camp Wikoff on Long Island, New York. The transport arrived on August 20.

On arrival, the regiment was placed in the quarantine came, from which it was released on August 24. The following day, it was given a sixty day furlough.The regiment was mustered out of service on October 3,1898 at Springfield, Massachusetts, but was not paid for its service until November 17. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consised of forty-four officers and 896 enlisted men. During its term of service, the regiment one officer and four enlisted men killed in action. Four more enlisted men would die of wounds received in action. In addition one officer and eighty-six enlisted men succumbed to disease.

The war ended on December 10, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Surviving Members of Sherman Hoar Camp, USWV

Hugh Clark Hunter (left) and David Donohue, two of the last surviving members of the Sherman Hoar Camp USWV (United Spanish War Veterans) living in Gardner, Massachusetts. They are shown at the Spanish American War memorial in Gardner, on Memorial Day 1960. Mr. Hunter went on to be the last surviving Spanish American War veterans in Gardner.  Hunter  was originally from Manchester, England. After the war, his life became dedicated to serving veterans. He served  at various times as the clerk of the state military affairs committee, as a member of the Municpal Veterans Rehabilitation Committee, and the Veterans Housing Authority. He served as a State Representative from 1936 to 1940.  He was also  one of the founding members of the Sherman Hoar Camp USWV.  Hunter eventually became the Commissioner of Veterans Benefits, a position he held up to his mandatory retirement at the age of 70. He died in 1962 at the age of eighty-four. He had three daughters and two sons.


Bibliography:

Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol. 3, 366-368.

Goodman, Sharon, newspaper clipping related to the life of Hugh Hunter Clark (her great-grandfather) and the photo of Company F.

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).

Ward, Walter W., Springfield in the Spanish American War. Reprint by Wentworth Press, 2019.


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