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An Accident in 7th U.S. Artillery, Battery M

as remembered by

Private Frederick A. Winter

Contributed by Chuck and Brian Winter
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The following account was written by Frederick Winter of Battery M, 7th U.S. Artillery. The Battery was sent to Puerto Rico, where it served in the garrison of Ponce. Apparently, toward the end of the brief Puerto Rico Campaign, the Battery was sent on the road toward San Juan, to participate in the attack on the capital. The assault never occurred, since Spain and the U.S. agreed to an armistice before American forces reached the city.

The account is interesting in that it graphically shows the tremendous work it took to transport artillery over the central mountains of Puerto Rico. For clarification, the reader made want to know that a prolonge is a rope attached to a hook. This tool was utilized to maneuver the gun once the horses were removed from the battlefield (the hook would be attached to the gun and the gun pulled by the gun crew). Secondly, the limber chest is the ammunition box for the gun. Typically a cannon was towed behind a wagon which carried a single ammunition chest. The cannon and limber would usually be pulled by six horses.

Frederick Winter, 7th U.S. Artillery, Battery M

Frederick Winter

One of twelve children, Frederick Arthur Winter was born September 11, 1880 in Bromley/Bow, Middlesex County, England. He died September 6, 1960 in Riverside, California, USA. Along with his parents, Samuel William and Emily Eliza (Brown) Winter, immigrated to the United States in 1887, locating in Ohio. In 1898 Frederick enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was discharged in 1901. As a young man he traveled extensively in the United States. He was never able to pursue his artistic interests as a vocation, but worked as a cook, a house painter/sign painter and even as a ship painter during World War II at the Kaiser Shipyard in Vancouver, Washington. During 1914 - 1915 he worked as a cook near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. As a cook he was also employed at one time as chef for the Idyllwild Inn in Idyllwild, California. Winter also had spent time cooking in logging camps and C.C.C. (Civilian Conservation Corps) Camps and in the late 1920s cooked for a crew building look-out towers in Oregon. As head cook at Camp Emerson (Boys Scouts of America), Idyllwild, California, he was fondly referred to as “Cookie.” Much of his “Scouting” poetry was written on napkins. In 1932 he married Cecelia Margaret Fray (1893-1971). The couple had one son, Charles H. Winter (1933).

The following account was copied from the original, without alteration to grammar, punctuation, etc.

The Account:

“My name is Frederick A Winter. On June 14th, 1898 I was enlisted as a Private in the U.S. Army! We were then at war with Spain! I was 17 years of age and though I was under age I was told that it was all right and was duly sworn in.

I was immediately sent to Columbus Barracks Ohio, Here I was kept for two days and then sent to Fort Meyer Virginia. Upon my arrival at Fort Meyer I was assigned to the Kitchen as a Cooks Helper which work I kept for two weeks, I was then fitted with a Uniform and given about a weeks instruction after which I was shipped to Florida. In a few days time I was shipped to Porto Rico, Here I was assigned to Battery M, of the Seventh Light Artillery.

Either a few days before or after I was enlisted a young man named Frederick Winter was enlisted and consigned to Battery C of the seventh Light Artillery. I learned later that he was from Zenia Ohio.

While in Porto Rico we had about two weeks of Artillery Practice and then were ordered to help storm San Juan the Capital of Porto Rico. The following details are to help in my proof of what I have so far narrated, I was assigned to section thee, my position was the left side of the Field Piece,  On our way toward San Juan while going up a narrow steep and curveing road the drivers of the section to which I was attached at leaste the leading Driver too to wide a curve and the off wheel of the Piece slipped over the edge. My position being nearest to the piece I had to unhook the prolonge which O [I] fastened to the wheel and I and the men nearby grasping the prolonge tried to pull the Piece back up onto the road and though we strove with all of our might we were unable to accomplish Our effort, The lead team became balky and the Driver frightened jumped off and the frightened Horses became unmanageable, Our First Lt., Immediately caught hold of the bridel strap of the Lead horse, the horse went over the edge pulling the Lt. With it at almost the same moment the entire outfit wet over and rolled down the steep incline mowing the Trees and Brush in their path, piling into a grotesque heap near to the bottom of the steep hill, I leapt over hem and met the Lt. About twenty feet from the top I recall that his face was ashen, I asked him if he were hurt , He said No, so I hurried down to where the Artilery and the Horses were piled in a heal, I thought immediately that I must try to extricate those poor Horses and wondered what I could possibly do, Glancing around I saw two men who we[re] on the other side of the stream, one of them met me half way across and handed me an American Army mess knife and at the same time made me to understand that he was A Spaniard but friendly to our Cause, I accepted the knif[e] and at once started to cut the harness from the Horses, I had made perhaps a dozen cuts when the Lt. Arrived and said that it would be no no good to try to free the Horses so I stopped what I was doing  and asked him what I might do. Then the rest of our Battery was summoned to give us help. The Lt., speaking to the body of men  that had assembled said “ Men we can nothin[g] for the Horses, However we have go to salvage the Piece and the Limber Ches[t] That is our responsibility, We formed a long line from the equipment to the top of the hill, having fastened the Prolonges together we stood one above t[he] other and passed all of the smaller equipment hand over hand to the top of the hill, The heavier parts we had to drag up and that was at last accomplished. It was near midnight when we made camp a few miles down the road, Here we strung a line for the Horses and after a hurried snack made camp as best we could under the circumstances.”


Winters Family documents, submitted by Brian and Chuck Winter,

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