William Weinsheimer, the son of Jacob and Agnes (Hausman) Weinsheimer,
was one of eleven children that survived infancy. Jacob, William's
father was a miller in Allentwon, Pennsylvania. Jacob had served in the
54th Paennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was on Allentown;s first baseball
team. Unfortunately, he died in 1888, when "Will" was about 9 years old.
At the time of the Spanish American War, William was 19 years of age,
and working as a laborer, something he again did following the war.
Sometime after his service, Will
moved, along with his mother and most of his siblings, from Allentown to Noxen, Pennsylvania.
Will's youngest sister, Florence, is mentioned in his letters and
later became a grammar school teacher in Philadelphia. Before the war
Will's occupation was listed as laborer in an Allentown census.
Letter 1, August 4, 1898:
"Address all letters to:
Co. D 4th Regiment
August 4, 1898
I received Florences letter and was expecting one from you before I left New Port News. We wher out on the Atlantic when I got Florences letter. We had a fine trip down here. But I just tell you the Ocean is no place for me. All you can do is watch for fish and throw the stuff out that you have in your stomach to feed them. We saw several diferent kinds of fish and among them were 7 sharks. And some fine birds came around ther ship when we came near shore. The second last night we wher on the ship we had a scare. I was standing on the front of the boat talking two one of the watches when he sighted something he thought was a ship and then he called to the Cap of the ship. (Ship ahead) then you Should have seen how our ship took a sneak in the other direction. And everyone was afraid we would be chased but we werent. For next morning we came in sight of it again we found it was nothing but a big rock near the shore. We got past there all right and when we came into one of the harbors i don't know what the name of the place was. We saw them shel it and drive the Spaniards up on the mountains. After that we landed and marched about two miles out of the town to gard cattle. So we formed a scirmish line and laid there for about an hour. I was on picket duty and I thought I saw someone and reported it. Then everyone watched for all he was worth. Then up out of the grass bobbed heads and it was dark and we thought a Spaniash army was advancing on us. And we were just one Company. That is 100 men. Then came the command . Ready. Aim. Fire. We all thought this would be a hot battle and we let drive where ever we saw anything bob above the grass. After about the third volley the officers saw that our enemys wher nothing but a herd of cattle in the next field. They were pretty well filled with shot. After it was all over the fellows started to laugh and tease each other ther till we thought our own men would start a scrap among themselves. But it all turned out all right in a few minutes. This morning a crowd of us went for fruit and got plenty of it. This island is nothing but Cocanuts, Lemmons, Limes, Oranges Bananes, Pine Apples. And lots of other different fruit that I don't know the name. You might think there was a little of the stuff here. But I will tell you what I got in about 1/2 hour, a piece away from camp. 35 lemmons and about 6 Coconuts. Every thing the pedlars sell down here is not more than a cent in our money. The tobacco they give away but it is the rankest tobacco I ever tasted. I think there is lots of us will have to stop smoking till we get tobacco from America. We just found out that we would get the repeating rifles today and our duck suits. It is hot as the dickens down here. Tell Uncle Willie that the first thing he could do for me would be two send about 100 packs of that tobacco down here at once. I will close now with
Love to all
Tell Florence to hint to Hint to Uncle Willie about the tobacco."
August 15, 98
I received your letters today and you cannot immagian how glad I was to hear from home. Today was the first time we heard anthing from America and the fellows are going wild over it. The first place we camped was at Aroyo that was a rank place nothing but shanties for houses and almost all of them starving. Day before yesterday we moved to Guayama which is a little better place. There is a big Church bigger than any I have seen in America And about every 15 minutes the chimes ring. We are getting mighty tired of hearing them. The people make coconut candy and trade it for hard tack. And at every meal there is about 25 children about as big a Florence and skinny as a rail with nothing but a rag on there boddy standing at the mess tent waiting for what the fellows have left on their plates. It is a sight to see the starving people laying around in there old shanties About 8 to each house. But every one of them are as clean as a pin. And the beauty of it is they all have to salute when we pass. We are camping near the sea shore and every day we go for a sea bath. Tell Harry he ought to live down here. for he could buy all the horses he wanted for 5$ and 10$ dollars in our money but twice as much in theres. Fine horses at that to. Every thing seems cheap down here because our money is just twice as much as theres. Don't forget to tell Florence to keep them kittens till I come home I don't think that will be long. Them 30¢ came in fine. And the tobacco finer. But don't send anything but letters after this. I forgot to tell you in my last letter that mail does not leave here but once in two weeks. And sometimes it takes longer than that. So don't expect so manny letters. And another thing I don't know what to write. We don't get out of our camp and if we did there would be nothing but the locals to write about. And I for one hate the sight of them. It is mighty hard to see these lazy folks laying around and we are working like slaves for them. . I expected a letter from Frank but was disappointed I received two from you and two packs of tobacco And one letter form Art Cole. I could have used about ten more from home. But I guess these two will do for a time. Tell Uncle Bob to tell Boas to write me a letter and pack it with lies so I can show it to the fellows. And have a little fun with it. If they pay us down here I will bring some thing to bring home. But if we don't I will have to do with out it. I started this sheat and I don't know what to put on it. One thing I havent felt bad since I left home. I will tell you about our march yesterday but don't get nervous about it because it is all over now. On the 12th orders were given tomorrow morning at 4 oclock with two days rashing. And see that guns are in good working order. On the 13th at one oclock we wher turned out and got our breakfast and our things packed..."
[Remainder of the letter is missing. In short, however, action was
planned for the following day, but as the fight was about to start, word
arrived that an armistice was reached between the U.S. and Spain -
"Co. D 4th Regiment
August 17 1898
I thought I would write you a few lines as the mail is going out this afternoon. At 3:30 and mail is coming in at the same time. I hope there is about 6 letters there for me. It is raining just now and the way it looks it will keep up for the next few days. But Rain is just what we want for they have started to drill us the same way they did in Camp Thomas and so no one is stuck on that. Yesterday our company was out garding the flag of truce that was stuck up near the mountains. Adrain and I wher on when the press reporter came along looking for something for the paper and he took our picture. You might see it in the paper in a day or two. I must cut this letter a little short for I might miss the mail. And then it might be long before you would get one again. As the mail does not go ourt here often. Every on is waiting for the orders to board transports for America. We all say the order can't come too soon. We are camping on a hill and this rain does not affect us a bit. I think it will not be manny days before we will be in America. As there is 8000 regulars down here that can do all protecting this island needs. We are about a mile away from the shore now. And we miss our every day bath in the sea. Tell Florence I will try to bring something along home from this place if I can. And tell her not to forget to keep the kitten in good trim till I get home. With Love to All
[On August 31, 1898, the regiment boarded the transport CITY OF CHESTER to return to the U.S. - editor]
Remmell, John - Copies of family letters.