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The Men of the

47th New York Volunteer Infantry

Fight Against Poor Rations

Contributed by Carolyn Burke Norcia  

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Newspaper Account of the "Revolt" ||| Letter presumed to be from William Gill

Napoleon commented that an army moves on its stomach.  Food, or the quality of it, has always been a source of complaint among troops of all eras. The food provided the troops during the Spanish American War had reputation for being bad. Generally, troops were willing to accept the sacrifice of poor foood, but many men became more vocal following the end of fighting in August, 1898. After the armistice was agreed upon between the U.S. and Spain, many men no longer saw the need for their regiments to exist. Such was the case of the 47th New York. The following account from the Brooklyn Eagle gives an account of the regiment's revolt against the food.

The letter following the article appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle. It is only signed "William." The newspaper indicated that Willian Gill was being held for providing information to the newspaper, so it is supposed that the letter was from him. 

Article 1:


Company K Refuses to Eat the Food or to Drill.


Afterward an Indignation Meeting was Held in the Company Street--On Saturday Company K Mutined Because of Their Rations and Remined in Their Tents When Call for Morning Drill was Sounded--Company I Kickked at Going Out on Dress Parade.

(Special to the Eagle)

Fort Adams, Newport, R.I., September 13---Company C of the Forty-seventh Regiment is in revolt this morning. The men were offered rancid pork, sour beans, soup and unbaked bread for breakfast. The whole company refused to eat or to drill. Six were sent to the guard house in custody of Corporals Crosier and Littmann. Privates Burke, Powell, Simon, Lott and Koffler were subsequently ordered back to quarters by First Sergeant William E. White. There was a big indignation meeting in the company street.

For some time past there has been much dissatisfaction among the enlisted men of the forty-seventh New York Volunteers, stationed here, over the quality and quantity of the rations furnished them, and, to put it no stronger, the men feel that they are not being fairly treated by the Commissary Department nor by the quartermaster sergeants in several of the companies. Efforts of committees to get accountings have been futile.

On Saturday morning matters were brought to a climax in Company K, Third Battalion, by the whole company remaining in their tents when the call was sounded for morning drill. It was real mutiny. Captain Frank Maier, A New street Broker, who had his yacht here all summer, has resigned, and First Lieutenant Marchisi T. Hanly is acting captain of the company. To him the men complained of the insufficiency of the food and the dilatoriness of the cooks. He succeeded in appeasing the anger of the men by promises of better treatment in the future and they resumed their duties.

Just before dress parade on the same evening trouble broke out in Company I of the Second Battalion. It has been brewing for some time. For breakfast, dinner and supper the men had the scantiest of fare and they refused to fall in for dress uniform. Captain John A. Doremus was away, and his brother First Lieutenant William H. Doremus, threatened the men with the guard house. Finally the men were promised they would hereafter be fed "better than any company in the regiment", whereupon they shouldered their rifles and marched out to the parade grounds.

The men know that the ration allowed by the government is sufficient, and, if properly handled, they can live well upon it.

Another cause of complaint that the volunteers have is that their officers have not seen to it that they get a share of the profits of the post exchange, or canteen, though they have been the main support thereof for three months. The receipts of the place have been between $300 and $400 each day for a week or more after pay day, and have been in the neighborhood of $100 on other days. All of the profits have gone to the messes of the regulars - Batteries B and D of the Second Artillery.

One thing that the men of the regiment have been fortunate in here is the abundance of fish, oysters, clams, crabs, lobsters and black mussels, which they can have for the catching or gathering.

Yesterday during the absence of Captain William L. Fish and First Lieutenant William S. Burrell the members of Company C had it announced to them that both had handed in their resignations. Over the retirement of Captain Fish there is sincere regrets. He is an old officer of the regiment and is conceded by all to be one of the most capable.

Upon learning there would soon be a lieutenantcy vacant the members of Company C, with a spontaneity that showed his popularity with them, prepared, signed and forwarded to Colonel Eddy a petition recommending for commission heir first sergeant, William E. White. Every man in the company affixed his signature.

It was by the vote of the company before the regiment was mustered in at Camp Black that Second Lieutenant Frank Techter gained his commission. He had been first sergeant of the company and had seen eight years' service in the regulars. All the men of the company wish to see Lieutenant Techter still further promoted, but there is a division among them as to how far he should be advanced. Some want him made first lieutenant, while others declare he must be made captain of the company.

Private William F. Gill of Company K and Corporal Taylor of Company E are under arrest for furnishing information to the newspapers.

The Letter:

The letter which is printed below was received this morning by a resident of this borough from his brother-in-law in the Forty-seventh:

Newport, RI, September 11, 1898

Dear Bob--We are still unjustly treated here--still living on the lean of the land. This morning we had for breakfast an article which was said to be bean soup. The cook kindly announced the fact; otherwise we would never have known that it was bean soup. As a matter of fact, it was a very poor quality of very bad hot water. Not one of the 1,200 men of the Forty-seventh Regiment was able to discover a bean in it, although a member of our company offered a two dollar bill to any man who could find one in it. For dinner we had baked beans and for supper hard tack and coffee. The men became not only disgusted but enraged and they refused to go on dress parade. The officers threatened to put the whole lot of us under arrest. Finally we agreed to parade on the promise that we should have better food, or rather, real food. I hope the officers will keep their word.

We are all hoping to be mustered out. We are sick and tired of affairs. We are opposed of going to Cuba to furnish additional food for the graveyard. Four-fifths of our men want to return to their homes so long as the fighting is over.



Brooklyn Eagle, September 13, 1998; Page 4

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