That the many volunteer troops flooding into the camps of concentration were not ready for action was an issue that slowly became clear to the U.S. government. Attempts meant to test the new recruits or "toughen" was not always well received by the public. This newspaper article indicates the response to one of those instances.
"March in Hot Sun"
"Wisconsin Troops at Charleston Get taste Of Severe Discipline"
"According to dispatches from Charleston, S.C., where the Second
and Third Wisconsin Regiments are now
awaiting transports to take them to Porto Rico,
the boys have been getting a taste of rather severe discipline.
Saturday morning before breakfast, the Wisconsin troops and the
Sixteenth Pennsylvania regiments were ordered out for a practice march
of eleven miles. The thermometer was 110 in the sun and scores of
the men were compelled to fall out of the ranks. In many cases
being completely overcome by the heat. Nearly fifty percent of the
boys also suffered from blistered feet as a result of the long walk, and
there was much complaint that the officers should require so hard a task
of the men, with no apparent reason other than to see just how much they
could stand. Even the residents of Charleston criticize the
officers, saying it was too much for the men to endure: that no
southerner would attempt it, and that it is folly for a northern soldier
to try. It was reported, however, that Generals Wilson and
Ernst are in no way satisfied with the showing made by the troops and
will try it again today (Monday) –18 July. Orders to that effect were
issued last evening. The various company commanders were notified
to turn out the companies, excusing only the sick and those on guard
duty. The men are to be in heavy marching order and none are to
fall out without the permission of the company commanders. Those
who do, unless sick, will be placed under arrest. The start was
planned for 6:30 o’clock, the Third
Wisconsin heading, followed by the Second
Wisconsin, Sixteenth Pennsylvania and two companies of the Sixth
Illinois. Several ambulances and physicians will accompany the
"Late in June sickness began to play havoc with the Wisconsin troops
in the South. At Chickamauga the Second
and Third regiments became infected
with Typhoid-Malaria fevers due partially to the bad drinking
water. Early in July the Second and Third regiments at Chickamauga
began arrangements for embarking for Cuba
to take part in the Santiago campaign. On July 6, after various
delays, the regiments left Chickamauga for Charleston, S.C., where they
expected to take transports and depart for Cuba.
When they reached Charleston there weren’t enough ships and Gen.
Miles sailed for Santiago leaving the Wisconsin troops and the
Sixteenth Pennsylvania regiment behind. Santiago surrendered just
after the regiments had loaded on to transports No.
30 and the Grand
Duchess and were preparing to embark and they were retained at
Charleston for the Puerto Rican campaign. While waiting at
Charleston the men were housed in vacant cotton warehouses. The
air was close and they were scarcely inhabitable. At night, the
men were forced to sleep on the wharves to get fresh air. Nearly
all the rations of the regiment had been loaded on the transports, and
during the time that the men were housed in the warehouses the food
supply was so limited that the company commanders of the two regiments
bought large supplies out of their own funds. The sickness
contracted at Chickamauga, and the unhealthy living conditions of the
warehouses weakened the soldiers. Yet in spite of these
conditions, the regiments, on the morning of July 16, were ordered to
prepare for a forced march. Many of the men did not have breakfast
because of low supply of food that morning and in spite of the high
temperatures, they were put on an eleven-mile march. Many were
overcome by the heat and fell out of ranks along the route and others
had convulsions on their return to camp. The city hospitals were
filled with sick soldiers. In spite of the results, another march
was announced and the generals censured the officers of the regiments
for letting their men fall out. The weakened condition of the men
caused an investigation of the food supply and from that time till they
embarked for Puerto Rico there was plenty to
eat. Wisconsin demanded an investigation by the War Dept., but the
troops left on July 20th."
Weekly Northwestern Saturday, July 23, 1898.