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Curtis Jennings

of the Auxiliary Cruiser PRAIRIE

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Written by Curtis Jennings; Contributed by Elizabeth Losa

Crew of the U.S.S. Prarie
A view showing members of the crew of the Auxiliary Cruiser PRAIRIE. These men were members of the Massachusetts Naval Militia. The view was taken amidships, presumably just aft of the pilot house. Interestingly, none of the men have a "watch stripe" on their uniforms which would designate on which of the two watches they served on (one watch was awake while the other slept). A six-pounder gun can be seen at right. The third row from the front shows the officers. The officer seated second from the right appears to be Commander C. J. Train, the commander of the vessel (image courtesy of Mark Cannedy)

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Curtis Herman Jennings was a member of the Massachusetts Naval Militia who served aboard the U.S.S. PRAIRIE during the Spanish American War. Jennings interrupted his medical school training to volunteer for the Spanish-American War. After medical school he practiced in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and the surrounding area. At Burbank Hospital he established a diagnostic laboratory and worked with radiology equipment there as well as in Keene, New Hampshire. Jennings was a prominent member of the Fitchburg chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He enlisted for service again in the Navy again during World War One.

The editor's notes clarifying various points are included in brackets [].


PM PROVIDENCE Mass May 27 1898  V.27.98

Dear Folkes:

You say the other fellows write oftener than I.  The reason is: I spend nearly all my spare time working in the sick-bay.  Eddie Smith is really very bad off: but he is that nervous temperament that needs attention all the time and makes matters worse.  Times are much improved and I wish the papers would shut up.  They will get us into serious trouble before long.  Too bad about Tossie.  Wish she could have a home of her own.  Looks now as if we wouldnít get to Boston at all.  Coaling up here at Provincetown and rumors say ---- dynamo and --- to run it ---.  Then hurray for the south.  Everybody so well satisfied now that they sing and joke at their work and more than ever: but have their off watch to themselves.  Good times evenings now.  I read to Smith most of the times.  All we ask for now is to see a Spaniard to prove weíre not the Ďice-cream sailorsí the Boston papers acuse us of being.  I wonít have a cent of my first monthís pay and maybe $10 out of the $30 of next monthís.  Some of the fellows have lost from 5 to 20 lbs.; but hold my 150 and will unless I get sick: and it would take something to make me.  Am stronger and have more life han for months past.  Glad Iím here.  Weather has been bad most of the time.

 Tata   Curt

Destroy my last letters.

PM -------TOWN  --- 25   1898   Wed 18.

Over date  Write to USS Prairie  Provincetown, Mass

Dear Folkes:

You will think it a long time since you heard from me.  I still continue well and am much better than most of the fellows.  I was just 8 lbs heavier when we left Brooklyn than when we stuck there: but guess I donít gain much now.  Austerhaus our First Luff [common nickname for a ship's executive officer] has sworn to kill the Naval Brigade and guess heíll do it unless he goes overboard first.  Some of the coal-passers swear theyíll kill him at the first opportunity and I guess the would. if they could without getting caught.

Probably a paper with every manís name attached will be handed to Capt. Weeks for Sec. [of the Navy] Long the first time we strike Boston.  We are crusing up ;and down the New England coas and will run into Boston every ten days  Should like to see you when we run in Sun, Mon, Tues. or sometime the first on next week or the last of this.  I have my two 6Ē guns looking as fine as silk and mean to keep them so.  Have to stand watch one night from 8 till twelve, and from 4 till reville; the next night from 12 till 4 then work till 8 next evening.  Have to inspect all the guns once an hour and report to the officer of the deck batteries all secure, sir!   Most of the fellows have their hair right off to the scalp.  The ship has a very odd looking crew now.  Mustaches and hair all gone on men whom you are use to seeing incivilized guize, gives rather a comical effect.  About a dozen men are sick from overwork with insufficient food and sleep.  Whole gangs of others are or have been sea sick; but as weíve seen no rough weather they are not very bad and have to work just the same.  First Luff made us shift the coal from our part of the ship to another yesterday and today Ďjust to keep us from loafing about the ship.í Luckily my work is not hard if the hours are long and I am able to help the fellows out some when ĎOld Arsurpeshausí isnít looking.  Havenít had any signs of seasickness, and am feeling first rate; but mad.  Itís a wonder Iíve had time to write so long, all at one time too!  Some of the men who have served before say were are not treated right. ĺ rations and no rest when off duty: but then Iíve no kick except for the other fellows.   Tata   Curt.

[In the same envelope as above]    USS Prairie, 40000 miles from nowhere

     4 bells (2am) in the morning watch   VI.23.98

Dear Folkes:

 Received your letter yesterday eve, also one from Marion Hubbard, another from Ruth Montagne, and the greatest surprise of the season one from Doris Whitesides.  Times are much better since a lots of the fellows complained to Crossman, Buffington and Shugan; and they went to Capt. Train.  Our mess have eaten 75 loaves of bread and nearly a bushel of oatmeal besides any quantity of canned stuff, together with the regular govít ration.  We have only 9 loaves of bread, a few cans of tomatoes and part of a mess of oatmeal left.  Beside our battery watch of 3 men there are always 50 or 60 men on watch at night.  Not a light shows outside the ship, so the men at the cat-head and the lookout in the crowís next must be always on the alert.  We came within 2 rods of running down a small schooner a few nights ago.  She had no lights out and was not sighted until almost too late.  Yesterday aft a flock of whale passed within 100 yds. Of us.  They very nicely.  Had my head shaved Thurs, and you just ought to have seen my head!  Blackís no name for it.  Our daily rout now Is: Picture  of a triangle with the points marked  Newport, N.H., Highland Light near Provincetown, and Nantucket Shoals

We see land, at Highland light, about half-an-hour a day: where we meet the ĎFrisco and get the mail.  Iíll tell you therís lots more comes aboard than leaves this craft.      6 bells

Have just made my rounds & reported.  Only one hour more then turn in for one hour.  Iím not half as sleepy as usual to-night.  I donít know when we shall run in to Boston.  Probably some time this week.  The papers will let you know.  Probably we will get no shore liberty: but guess friends can come aboard   OK.  Iíve done lots of work in the sick-bay.  Have to bandage Eddie Smith twice a day.  Nearly a rupture.  Only one sheet of paper at a time.  So  tat a  Curt

Pc PM TOMKINSVILLE NY JUN 24  98  Thur eve.

Dear Folkes:

Just received your letter & one from Jim Fouger.  Went to work on the coal half an hour after you left & have been on it ever since.  Three or four days more of it then donít know where we go.  All sorts of rumors.  Mr Gilbert on board to-night coaling from 5.30 to 7.30-8 to 12 and 1 to 6   isnít much fun: but it has to be done.  Ship couldnít run without it.

Pretty nearly time to turn in.  tata   Curt


Address letters to Key West, Coal by search-light till 12 tonight  Everybody working with light hearts because its for something this time.  Pretty tired: but well and hearty.  Wonít have more thime to write till after we sail.  Your son    Curt
Send more postals


Dear Folkes:-

Everything lovely: but no time to write.  The postmark of my next will be hundreds of miles from here.  Sail to-morrow daybreak   Curt

PM KEYWEST JUL ? 98    Key West VII.1.98

Dear Folkes;

We dropped anchor here at 5 this morning.Had a lovely sail down.

Pc PM WASHINGTON? AUG 8  í98  Ponce Porto Rico July 1, 98

Dear Folkes:-

Weíve been off San Juan [Puerto Rico] some time.  No mail for a month.  No time to write; but all well.  6 fellows laid up with dysentery. No one from Spfld sick.  Tata Curt

PM KEY WEST FLA. JUL 19 98   USS Prairie, In Front of Havana

July 3

Dear Folkes:-

 We sailed from Key West, just after I wrote last with mail for the Havana bread squads.  We now occupy the most responsible station.  The extreme western end of the blocade. Havana is in plain sight all the time and old Moro and the other forts show up nicely.  They are much stronger than is generally supposed.  Sand batteries all along the coast, to the east.  The Cubans hold most of the Puma del Rio. to the west. We cruise around directly in front of the city.  During the day we keep 10 or 12 miles out & the night run in to within 4 or 5 miles.  The [U.S.S.] Mayflower followed us in last night and got a shot from one of their 12Ē guns pretty close to her.  Guess weíll stay here until they combard.

You canít imagine how pretty the water is here: Looks as though you had emptied a can of blueing into a tub of water.  The sharks follow us around like dogs.  Weíve just started under full speed toward the land to the west of the city.  Donít know what for.  Donít seem as though anything would dare to run out in broad day light.  ĎFirst Life-boats crew stand by your boat.í  Guess weíre going to get mail from the Amphelite [U.S.S. AMPHITRITE] which is just steaming around in sight.  Fine weather and very comfortable.  Thundershowers came up last night about 5.30 PM without any warning and we had to bustle to get things secure.  All over in 15 minutes and then it was fine.  Sunsets are beautiful.  Weíre within range of the fort and its strange they donít give us a shot.  Guess they know its wasted ammunition.  I get rid of letters as soon as Iíve read them and emptied them of stamps so that I canít answer all your questions: but will copy our routine for you on another paper; but we get general quarters nearly every vessel we see, now.  You kick about my writing so seldom: but I write to you and one to each of my other correspondents: and I get one from you to three from each of the others. (That is some of them, Jim & Clark donít write so often.)  I tell them donít write so often.)  I tell them to write whether they hear from me or not & Iíll answer when I get time.  Life boat just returned.  Didnít get any mail; but sent some as the [U.S.S.] Marietta is going to Key West to coal.  Havenít received my mail since leaving Brooklyn.  All well & happy.  Hope to get back to school in fall.  Dr. says he shall ask for me in case of action.  Expect there are hot times around Santiago now.  Here pretty soon.  Tata  Curt

[The following was included with the letter as he indicated]

Daily Post Routine
Am |
5 | Call all hands
5.15 | All hammocks stowed. Coffee.
5.30 | Turn to. * Execute morning orders  * Will give list of days
7.15 | Spread mess gear

| Breakfast
7.55 |First call
8. |Colors
8.15 |Turn to.  Clean deck brightwork
8.30 |Sick call
9 |Pip [pipe] sweepers.  Clear deck for quarters
9.25 |Officers call
9.30 |Quarters.  Drill, exercises & inspection
11 |Retreat from quarters
11.30 |Pipe sweepers
11.45 |Spread mess gear
12 |Dinner

am [PM]
1 |Turn to. Pipe sweepers
1.30 |*Afternoon drills
3.30 |Retreat from aft. Drills.
4.30 |Clear up decks & pipe sweepers
4.55 |Officers call.
5 |Quarters
5.30 |Pipe Sweepers
5.45 |Spread mess gear
6 |Supper
6.30 |Turn to.  Pipe sweepers
7.30 |Pipe down hammocks
8.30 |Tattoo
9 |Pipe down Tips.  Set  anchor watch

Daily Sea Routine

4.30 |Clear up decks. Pipe sweepers. Wash down srub & wash clothes
5 |Call adlers & servants.
6 | Pipe up all hammocks
7.15 |Hammocks stowed.  Spread mess gear.
8 |Relieve the watch. Clean bright work.
8.15 |Turn to.
8.30 |Sick call
9 |Retreat from brightwork.
9.25 |Officers call.
9.30 |* Quarters, Inspection & drill
10 |Relieve wheel & lookout
11 |Retreat from drill.
11.30 |Pipe sweepers & mess gear
12 |Dinner, Relieve wheel & lookout.  Relive watch

1 |Turn to clean up decks for drill.
1.30 |*call to drill.
2 |Relieve wheel & lookout.
3 |Retreat from drill.  Pipe sweepers
4 |Relieve the watch.
4.30 |Pipe sweepers.
4.55 |Officers call
5 |Quarters
5.30 |Pipe sweepers
5.45 |Spread mess gear
6 |Supper
6.30 |Turn to. Relieve the watch
7.30 |Pipe hammocks.
8 |Turn in

Mon Clear ship for action Div. drill

2. General Quarters Subcal practice

Tues Great guns & Detail Instruction

Subcaliber practice

Wed Collision drill Bags 

Subcal practice

Thurs Gen. Quarters Arm & equip boats

Subcal prac.

Fri. Division drills Fire Quarters

Abandon ship

Sat Clean ship Bags

Sun General Inspection

Once a week At any time during the night General quarters

Fire quarters

Pc PM BROOKLYN NY with date illegivle  Guantanamo, Cuba   July 25

Dear Folkes            20 miles east of Santiago

We are with the big fleet now.  Begin coaling to-morrow.  Just arrived from Gibara.  The Brooklyn, New York, Texas, Oregon, Iowa, Indiana, Marblehead, Montgomery, Mayflower, Vesuvius, Cushing, ericcson, Mc.Cullam, Glucus and some small boats here.  Very powerful fleet and very pretty sight. The is where the marines first landed.  Weíve just moved farther up the harbor and there are some other big boats here.  Havenít made out their names yet.  Had a hard tonsillitis last week.  Lost 10 lbs. O.K. and on duty again now.  Yankee, Yosemite and Newark just came in. We now have the most powerful fleet ever brought together right here in this little bay.  Hope to be back in time for school.  Guess itíll be Cleveland.  I hate to leave Old Reserve as the time draws near.  Tata   Curt

Pc PM BROOKLYN with date illegible  July 26

Dear Folkes:

 Havenít slept for too long (Illegible) Start for Porto Rico to-night.  From there to Spain: so you may not hear again for some time.  Going to sleep now for 8 hours.   Curt



pc PM Montauk Station NY Au 13  Montauk Point Aug. 27

Dear Folkes:- We brought 3 Coís 7th Reg Inf from Santiago- a sudden fog ran us aground; but we got off OK yester.   N.Y. papers would give us an unjust roast.  and ought to be prosecuted.  As we have a clean health bill; donít expect to be quarantined long: if at all.  Hope weíll all be discharged during next week.  I had quite a go with dysentery down at Ponce, PR.  Lost flesh till I only weighed 132 lbs.  Have been over it for sometime now, and am putting on flesh rapidly.  Never wanted to get into the woods so bad in my life.  Fishing tackle & gun in Ragged Hill woods is my dream: still I want some time at home.  Hope to be home during next two weeks.    Curt


Losa, Elizabeth - Family Records

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