by Patrick McSherry
The First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry served in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.
The First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry, was the oldest military unit in continuous active service at the time of the Spanish American war, having been formed on November 17, 1774. When ordered to report in accordance with General Orders No. 7, issued by the Headquarters of the National Guard of Pennsylvania, the troop assembled at their Armory at 5 o'clock A. M., April 28th, 1898. Three quarters of an hour later, the troop left mounted, armed and fully equipped, and boarded the railroad bound for the training and induction point known as Camp Hastings at Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania. The troop arrived around 2.30 P. M. of the same day. The trip had been expected to take a mere three hours, but the troop spent most of the day in transit. Since tents were available on a "first come, first served" basis the later arrival created an issue with accommodations. The members of the troop had to share tents with members of Pennsylvania Battery A.
On May 7th the organization was into the federal service. At the time of mustering in, the organization consisted of three officers and sixty enlisted men. On June 17th Captain Groome, as the senior officer of the three Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry troops – the First Troop, the Sheridan Troop and the Governor’s Troop - was placed in command of a cavalry squadron which included all three organizations.
The troop remained at Camp Hastings for two months then, on July 7, was ordered to Camp Alger at Dunn Loring, Virginia, near Washington D.C. In addition, the organization was ordered to increase the troop size to include one hundred enlisted men. Arriving at Camp Alger on July 8, the troop was attached to headquarters of the Second Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. William Graham. Here, the men were outfitted with federal arms and equipment and the troop’s own equipment was returned to its armory in Philadelphia.
Six days after the capitulation of the Spanish forces defending Santiago, the First Troop was ordered to Newport News Virginia. It arrived the next day and was placed aboard the transport MASSACHUSETTS bound for Guanica, Puerto Rico, arriving on August 2. The regiment took along its 105 horses and sixteen mules, and four drivers. Arriving off Ponce the following day, the MASSACHUSETTS unfortunately ran aground. The troop and its equipment were disembarked into lighters which landed the force at Ponce, Puerto Rico. Initially, the men were lodged at the Cathedral Virgin del Carmen. it took four days to disembark all of the troop's horses and equipment.
The Troop, in accordance with orders, reported to Major General Brooke at Guayama. On August 9th the troop joined the 6th U. S. Cavalry, Troop H to serve as an escort to the hospital train, signal service, headquarters horses and wagon train, and marched to Arroyo, arriving there August 10th. Here the regiment caught up with Major General Brooke, and went into camp about one mile from General Brooke's Headquarters. On August 12th Brooke ordered the First Troop and the Sixth United States Cavalry, Troop H to move to Guayama, which they did, finding Brooke on the road to Cayey, about two miles beyond Guayma. Here the troop was ordered to take position on the right of the battle line being formed to attack the Spanish entrenchments at Aibonito. In the late morning, as the battle was about to begin, the news was received that Spain and the U.S. had agreed to an armistice, ending the fighting. The war itself, however, would not conclude until December 10, when the Treaty of Paris was signed by the United States and Spain.
Beginning on August 14, the troop served as an outpost overlooking the Spanish lines near Aibonito. On August 25th the First Troop received orders to return to Ponce, where it boarded the transport MISSISSIPPI for return to the U.S. The organization arrived at Jersey City New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 10, after a week at sea. At Philadelphia, the troop was given a furlough of sixty days, beginning on September 12. On November 21, 1898, the regiment was mustered out of federal service.
At the time of mustering out, the troop consisted of three officers and ninety-eight enlisted men. During its term of service, the regiment lost one enlisted man to disease and one man was discharged on disability. The troop suffered no desertions.
Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) 519, 616
“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.
Stewart, Thomas J., Adj. Gen., Record of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1901) 780.