Spanish American War Website Banner

A Brief History of the South Carolina Naval Militia

Compiled Originally By: P. H. Pinckney

Edited and contributed by Kenneth H. Robison II

Please Visit our Home Page to learn more about the Spanish American War
Click here for a roster of the South Carolina Naval Militia


The South Carolina Naval Militia served on various ships during the war and manned a variety of shore stations. The ship with the largest contingent of South Carolina Naval Militia was CELTIC.

The following contains two accounts of the naval militia's service prepared by Commander P. H. Pinckney.

The History:

"Headquarters So. Ca. Naval Militia,
Charleston, S.C., November 25th, 1899.

General J. W. Floyd, Adjutant and Inspector General of South Carolina, Columbia, S. C.

Sir: In response to your request for a correct and condensed record of the part the Naval Militia of South Carolina took in the late war with the Kingdom of Spain, I respectfully submit the following as addenda to the report, and also the roster previously sent your office:

Number of Officers 21 and men 302 -in active organization at outbreak of hostilities. Total 323 - increased by 102 reserve members joining and enlisting as active members within ten days after the declaration of war, making total of 425 officers and men in the force.

Number of commissioned officers 18, warrant officers 6, men 187 who were mustered into the Naval Service of the United States. Total 211 in United States Navy.

The Naval Militia of South Carolina supplied 18 commissioned officers, 6 warrant officers, and 187 men to the Naval Service. Of this number, the following list will show the disposition of both men and officers and the service in which engaged:

6 commissioned officers, 80 men, manned U. S. S. "Celtic."
5 commissioned officers, 40 men, manned naval batteries at Port Royal.
3 commissioned officers, 20 men, manned Coast Signal Stations 4th District.
1 commissioned officer, 15 men, manned U. S. S. "Chickasaw."
1 commissioned officer, 15 men, manned U. S. S. "Cheyenne."
1 commissioned officer, 15 men, manned U. S. S. "Waban."
1 commissioned officer was detailed at Naval Station, Port Royal.
4 warrant officer was detailed on U. S. S. "Hercules."
1 warrant officer was detailed on U. S. S. "Massasoit."
4 warrant officers were detailed at U. S. Navy Yard, New York.
2 men were detailed on U. S. S. "Morrill."
24 officers, 187 men-total 211 in U. S. Navy.
In addition to above, the Naval Militia furnished:
12 men for Charleston Heavy Battery, U. S. Vol. Army.
2 men for Bamberg Guards, U. S. Vol. Army.
2 men for Manning Guards, U. S. Vol. Army.

16 total in army-making a grand total of 227 men in service, and leaving 198 men who were not called out, but who were ready and anxious to volunteer their services to their country for the honor of their State.

After the 227 men were in service, I wired the Secretary of Navy that the South Carolina Naval Militia could and would furnish from 100 to 200 more men if they were needed to man any vessel and to go anywhere. Special mention of this offer was made in the official report of Captain Bartlett, U.S.N., Chief of the U.S. Coast Defense Service, to the Government. But there was no further necessity or call.

They all served with intelligence, fidelity and zeal, notwithstanding that to a large number, being men of education, the work was far different from anything that they had ever been accustomed to. They met the issue as a duty, in such manner as to merit the approval, and commendation of their superior officers, and earn the enviable record of "work well done." Where all did so well, it is hardly fair to make any special mention, but only to show the value of the Coast Signal Service to the Government, I will cite as an index the details of one piece of work, from among many, performed by the crews of the Morris Island and Charleston Signal Stations. On the night before the arrival of the U.S. Ships "Columbia" and "Yale" off the bar, at 12 1-2 o'clock, a dispatch was received at the Signal Headquarters requesting that the Chief Quartermaster of Camp Alger, Virginia, be noti¬fied immediately on arrival of Cruisers "Columbia" and 'Yale" off Charleston bar, and to communicate with Captain Sands, U.S.N., as to when he will be ready to receive troops on board. I immediately caused Morris Island Station to be called, and signaled instructions to keep lookout at mast-head and report approach of any vessel from southward. At 3 o'clock, Morris Island called Headquarters by signal lights (they are five miles apart), and reported “Cruiser "Columbia" coming up from south.' I told the signal man at Charleston Station to ask him, "How do you know it is 'Columbia?' He replied instantly, 'Four smoke-stacks." The station at Morris Island had not been told what vessels were expected, and the answer showed hw thoroughly they knew by looks each and every vessel in our Navy, and also in that of our enemy. In about half an hour Morris Island reported, "'Yale' coming up from south." These vessels when first seen were fifteen miles at sea, they were recognized instantly, however, and that at night and at such a distance. The information thus obtained was instantly wired to Camp Alger, and as soon as the two cruisers anchored, which they did beyond the light ship, nine miles off shore and away from the station, they were signaled by the Morris Island crew, who called for Captain Sands, commanding the "Columbia," and flashed the message across nine miles of midnight sea; it was received, and the answer came back as follows: "Ready now for troops, or as soon as they can get here" and coupled with the request that he be informed as to how many were coming and when they would arrive. This message was immediately sent to Camp Alger, and notice of arrival was at same time sent to Washington, and in half an hour rep1y that troops numbered 2,700 - half would arrive forenoon and half afternoon of the following day, and that they bring 18 horses; all of this was flashed to Captain Sands. The next morning the first section of train rolled down on the East Shore Terminal tracks loaded with troops. General Garrison immediately came to the Headquarters Office and requested a message of an entire sheet of foolscap to be at once sent to Captain Sands; it was transmitted from Charleston Station to Morris Island, and thence to the "Columbia," nine miles away, and inside of thirty minutes the answer was handed to General Garrison. When the other sections of the train arrived, bringing General Wilson, he sent a message also, and received the answer with equal promptitude. The service rendered was so well done as to merit and receive the commendations of Generals Garrison and Wilson, also of Captain Sands and Captain Wise on the ships; and when it is further stated that during the entire time of service the Morris Island Station never missed discovering and reporting each and every vessel of whatever description which came into this part day or night, and also all those which passed out¬side either North or South, if they were within reach of the powerful te1escopes of the station, all of this was most valuable to the National Government; hence, the Department’s desire that, the Naval Militias continue to practice the Signal Codes.

There were many other instances of work done by the Signal Stations at Charleston and Morris Island at critical times and when of vital importance to the Government.

The men and officers of the Naval Militia of South Carolina who went on the ships "Celtic," ”Chickasaw," "Cheyenne," and "Waban," and also those who manned the naval batteries at Port Royal, did their duty well and to the entire satisfaction of their commanding officers, who have testified in writing to' the several Depart¬ments the high appreciation of the intelligence, patriotism and zeal of the South Carolina Naval Militia. And further, when it is borne in mind that the Naval Militia was the only command in the State who were ready at a moment's notice, and who supplied every demand made up an them an the instant, with out having to open books for enlistment, their value to their native State is apparent.

The needs of the Naval Militia are very different from those of the other State troops, and while the National Government makes an appropriation for them, it can only be used in obtaining arms and ammunition. They have always had to provide their own uniforms, while the other troops are supplied by the State out of its national appropriation. They have also had to pay their own expenses for transportation, food and lodging, when assembled at Charleston far the annual cruises.

It would, therefore, be but a fitting tribute for the State to show its appreciation of its blue jackets by making a small and special appro¬priation far the use and maintenance of the Naval Militia.

I have the honor to be, yours respectfully,

R.H. Pinckney,
Commander South Carolina Naval Militia.

Headquarters S.C. Naval Militia
Charleston, S.C.

General J. W. Floyd, Adjutant and Inspector General of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.

Sir: I herewith submit the following report of the South Carolina Naval Militia, which I have the honor to command, first, as State troops and subsequently in the service of the United States, just prior to, and during the war with the Kingdom of Spain.

On March 28th, 1898, I received Orders from your office, to put the Battalion in readiness to answer any sudden call of the President for their services. Upon receipt of this order, I left my business in North Carolina, where I was then engaged, and returned to Charles¬ton, and at once issued the necessary orders putting the entire com¬mand in constant drilling and training far any call which might be made upon it. Also received through your office letter of Navy Department, requesting detailed information of vessels belonging to the seaports of the State suitable for transformation into improvised gun vessels, rams or torpedo boats, and the necessary blanks on which to make such report, together with the order to comply with desire as expressed in letter of Department. This order was obeyed after ten days hard and continuous work, the papers forwarded to the Department, and under date of April 15th, the acknowledgment of their receipt and the thanks of the Department were received, with instructions to report to Commander C.H. Arnold, U.S.N., in charge 6th District Coast Defense, Headquarters Charleston, S.C., and to give him any further information I might obtain. I reported to Commander Arnold April 18th, and he so endorsed my order.

On April 20th, received from your office a copy of the letter from the Navy Department to Governor, requesting that Naval Militia officers be permitted to receive instructions and orders direct from Capt. Goodrich, U.S.N., or such other officer as should be appointed as Super¬intendent of Coast Signal Service on the breaking out of war. Also, the official order to me to comply with above request. Thereafter the following orders were received direct:

Received order dated April 21st: "Commander Pinckney, kindly forward estimates immediately. (Signed) Goodrich." Order obeyed, all estimates and bids for construction of Signal Stations along the coast, and for the full and entire equipment of same having been previously secured, were forwarded. When it is remembered that these Signal Stations were all on the seaward side of far outlying islands, miles away from any railroad facilities, and only approachable by small boats, the details of visiting the several localities and selecting the most advantageous sites required time, care and con¬siderable expense, which was borne personally by me, and which cannot be refunded by the National Government unless Congress passes an Act authorizing Secretary of Navy to pay such claims to the Governor as reimbursement; it will be seen what difficulties were met and overcome promptly by the Naval Militia.

Received order, dated April 22d: "Commander Pinckney, establish and man Coast Signal Stations already determined on. Lowest bids, greatest economy, most speed necessary. (Signed) Goodrich."

This order was executed with utmost dispatch, so that by May 2d, the stations had houses built, signal mast's 100 feet high, with 40-foot yard arm 65 feet from ground erected, with all necessary halyards for lanterns and flags, consisting of 12 large Fresnal lens lanterns, 6 white and 6 red, complete sets of all signal and code flags, telescopes, binoculars, rockets, mess outfits, stoves, chairs, tables, charts, and secret codes and books, all supplied; the men enlisted and armed; sta¬tions, ail of them, manned and in working order; telegraph and tele¬phone lines and cables connecting the various station's with the headquarters stations at Charleston, were then being rapidly erected and were subsequently completed; the men being thoroughly proficient in all the various and necessary knowledge of signaling in any and every way, performed such valuable service to the National Gov¬ernment as to merit the following very complimentary extract from letter of Capt. John R. Bartlett, D. S. N., Superintendent of U.S. Coast Signal Service and Chief of Auxiliary Naval Force of United States, to wit:

"Express to the officers and men of the Signal Service under your command, my appreciation of their excellent services, and that I con¬sider that they have served their country just as efficiently and rendered just as valuable 'service as if they had been at the front.
"(Signed) Jno. R. Bartlett, U. S. N.,
"Supt. Coast Signal Service, Washington, D.C."

Received order, dated April 22d: "Commander Pinckney, please nominate an officer as assistant to Commander Arnold, in charge 4th District, Coast Signal Service. He will be commissioned an Ensign. (Signed) Goodrich." I nominated Ensign C.S. McKinley, of 2nd Division, one of the best signal officers in the corps, who reported for duty immediately, was examined and commissioned, and served until honorably discharged after termination of war.

Received order, April 30th: "Commander R. H. Pinckney.: The Department orders me to request that you nominate a second officer of Naval Militia to act as assistant 4th District Coast Signal Service. He will be commissioned an Ensign U.S.N. (Signed) C.H. Arnold, Commander U. S. N., in charge 4th District Coast Signal Service." I nominated Ensign E.A. Darby, of 1st Division, who at once reported for duty, and was subsequently examined and commis¬sioned, and served until honorably discharged after termination of war.

Received order from Assistant Secretary of Navy, T. Roosevelt, "to furnish 105 officers and men to go to Wilmington, N.C., and man U.S. S. 'Nantucket,' and take her to Port Royal, S.C., and to notify him if I could fill quota, and when." Under same date I wired Department as follows: "Naval Militia of South Carolina ready and qualified to man Nantucket now. Can furnish quota, send lists for crew.”

The next day this order was countermanded, and the Naval Militia of North Carolina, who were then in charge of the vessel, were assigned to this duty. Thereupon, I again tendered unconditionally the services of the South Carolina Naval Militia to the Secretary of the Navy, to man any vessel and to go anywhere, and on May 4th received communication from Navy Department, asking that I detail 40 men and nominate 5 officers of Naval Militia for assignment to duty at Port Royal, to man the Naval Batteries there. I nominated N.G. Morrall as Lieutenant, William Elliott, Jr., and E.J. Burn as Lieutenants Junior Grade; H.S. Townsend as Ensign, and Dr. T. O. Hutson as Assistant Surgeon - all officers of 3rd Division, S.C.N.M. They were so commissioned, and detailed 40 petty officers and men of 3rd Division at Beaufort for above service. They served until honorably discharged after termination of War.

On May 8th, several of the men of the Naval Militia, being dis¬heartened at the countermanding of the order to man "Nantucket," requested permission to go to Columbia to join the ''Heavy Battery" being then organized. I granted their request, and 12 men of the Naval Militia joined said Battery, 2 more joined the "Bamberg Guards," and 2 the "Manning Guards," and were enlisted in U.S. Volunteer Army with these commands.

Received order, May 19th, from Chief of Bureau of Navigation at Washington, D.C., to report to Commander Roxwell, U.S.N., at Port Royal, S.C., for examination for commission as a Lieutenant in U.S. Navy. I obeyed the order, reporting May 21st, was examined and commissioned, and ordered to assume charge of the 4th District Coast Signal Service, extending from North Carolina to Florida, with headquarters at Charleston, and served in that capacity until honorably discharged after-termination of war, and after winding up all the affairs of the various stations in said District.

Received, May 25th, order of Secretary of Navy: "To furnish 6 officers and 80 men to go to New York and man the U. S. S. 'Celtic,' and to notify him where and when a recruiting officer could meet and enlist men." I wired as follows: "Crew ready. Recruiting officer can meet men here as soon as he can get here."

With only twelve hours time allowed to select and enlist crew, it was done, the officers nominated as follows: J. J. Igoe, Lieutenant; J. A. Patjens and T. F. Webb, Lieutenants Junior Grade; W. M. Bostick and W. F. Webb, Ensigns; W. H. Touchstone, Assistant Engineer, rank of Ensign. They were all examined and subsequently commissioned, and with the 80 petty officers and men left Charleston May 26th, 1898, for New York. They manned the vessel and took her to Santiago de Cuba, being attached to the North Atlantic squadron, and there they were present and took part in the grandest naval victory of modern times, the entire destruction of Cervera's fleet by Admiral W. S. Schley. They were honorably discharged after termination of war.

Received orders, June 15th, from Commander C.H. Arnold, U.S.N., in charge 6th District. Coast Defense: To. furnish three crews of 15 men each and 3 officers, to man auxiliary cruisers "Cheyenne," "Chickasaw," and "Walban," as soon as they were refitted by Government. This was done, the 45 men enlisted, with three officers nominated by me, viz: George H. Swann, Lieutenant Junior Grade, J. E. Relyea and John Wickart, Ensigns, were commissioned. The three vessels sailed from Charleston on July 27th for Key West and other places. These men served until honorably discharged after termination of war.

The detailed list of the names of officers and men, the positions each and everyone of them held, the service in which each was engaged, and the vessels on which they served, and the Naval Militia Division from which each came, will more fully and completely appear in the Roster of Naval Militia in the Spanish War, which has already been forwarded to your office.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
P. H. Pinckney,
Commander S. C. Naval Militia, and late Lieutenant U. S. Navy.


Floyd, Joseph W., Historical Roster and Itinerary of South Carolina Volunteer Troops who served in the late war between the United States and Spain, 1898, coupled with Brief Sketches of their movements from the Beginning to the Ending of the Conflict. (Columbia, S.C., The R.L. Bryan Company, 1901).

Support this Site by Visiting the Website Store! (help us defray costs!)
We are providing the following service for our readers. If you are interested in books, videos, CD's etc. related to the Spanish American War, simply type in "Spanish American War" (or whatever you are interested in) as the keyword and click on "go" to get a list of titles available through

Visit Main Page for copyright data

Return to Unit Profiles

Return to Main Page