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"The Spanish War, 1898"
Goals, Requirements and Equipment

By Dave Rogers

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It is the primary goal of the Spanish American War 1898 to authentically portray the period of the Spanish-American War for the education of its members and the interested public. To facilitate our efforts we will:

1. Hold events that are active, instructive and challenging by concentrating upon a single theme that is within the context of the event site.

2. Provide via newsletter a means of communication for persons and organizations interested in the period.

3. Provide information on uniforms and equipment of the period and locate and/or develop sources for those items.

4. Encourage and support the coordination of a Spanish-American War Centennial Encampment/Reenactment on a national or west coast level in 1998.


1. Membership is on an individual level. All applicants for membership must be over 18 years old, complete a membership form and a release of liability. Meet the minimum uniform requirements and attend one event. The applicant must be nominated for membership and be approved by vote of the standing membership.

2. Units may exist within the Spanish American War 1898. The proposed unit must have a minimum of 3 paid members with appropriate uniforms and equipment. A new unit must be approved by vote of the standing membership.

3. Rank within the Spanish American War 1898 is per the following table. Positions are elected annually by vote of the standing membership.

3 to 6 - one Cpl.

7 to 10 - one Sgt., one Cpl.

11 to 15 - one 1st Sgt., one Sgt., one Cpl.

16 to 23 - one 2nd Lt., one 1st Sgt., two Sgt., two Cpl.

Members who have attended 5 events and completed the uniform may use the rank of PFC. There is no stripe or other decoration.

4. Duties of Offices:

a. Company Commander, overall responsibility for the club administration, conduct of events, actions of individual members at events, contact with other organizations, authenticity and safety at events.Certain of these duties may be delegated in whole or in part.

b. Deputy Commander, delegated authority to assign details and extra duties at events. Specific duty to inspect all blank ammo and weapons. Specific duty to oversee all mess arrangements, health and sanitation precautions and police of event sites. Duties shall default to the senior leader in the absence of the Deputy Commander.

c. Unit Leader, representative of that unit in club business and its leader at events, delegated responsibility for safety and authenticity within that unit and the conduct of its members at the events.

d. Company Clerk, accountability for club funds and property including receipts, purchases and expenditures. Delegated authority to purchase and transport company supplies and equipment. Specific duty to publish a quarterly account of club funds detailing all transactions. Specific duty to maintain membership and release forms.

5. Club meetings are held to discuss and vote upon all matters directly concerning the group. Annual meetings should be held between Jan 7, and Mar 7, to elect officers and to schedule events. Additional meetings may be held upon request of any member. A quorum shall consist of 60% of the paid members. It is a principle of the Spanish American War 1898 that all members should have a voice in how it is run. All opinions are welcomed and are encouraged to be actively presented. We are a group of equals learning about this period together.

6. Dues of $5 annually are required of all members. An additional $15 annually are required from members with a military impression to purchase authentic rations (rations will be issued to "soldiers" for every meal-time that occurs at an event). All dues will be paid to the Company Clerk no later than April 15, or within 30 days of the acceptance of a new member and pro-rated by event. The Company Clerk will provide receipts upon request. Any expenditure of club funds must approved by vote of the standing membership.


It is a requirement that all members obtain uniforms and equipment appropriate for their presentations. U.S. military portrayals must represent units on active duty between 1898 and 1902. Individual impressions, whether military or civilian (i.e.; correspondent) must be approved by vote of the standing membership. An impression should be supported by photographs, government records, or narratives.

1. Equipment must be obtained within a period of 2 years. Although equipment may vary for individual impressions, the following schedule should be followed as closely as possible.

Minimum Beginning Uniform

1883 campaign shirt
1883 campaign hat
1889 blue mills cartridge belt
1884 leggins
1878 canteen
Sky-blue wool trousers
Black leather boots

End of First Year

1898 haversack
1885 cup
Pre-1918 mess kit and utensils
Shelter half
Grey blanket
Tent-poles, pins

End of Second Year

1888 infantry trousers (unless dismounted cavalry)
1887 rifle sling
Bayonet and scabbord
1892 infantry style shoes

2. List of Suppliers. All of these sources have good products and are reputable. However, delivery time can vary as some items are not always in stock or must be made to order.

F. Burgess & Co., 200 Pine Place, Red Bank, NJ. 07701 (908) 576-1624 - Campaign hat, 1885 cup.

Quartermaster Shop, 5565 Griswold, Kimball, MI 48074 (810) 367-6702 - '84 & '85 trousers, '83 shirt, '84 blouse, chevrons.

Frazer Brothers, 5641 Yale Blvd. #125, Dallas, TX 75206 (214) 669-1865 - 1878 canteen with sling, shirts & trousers (in stock).

C&D Jarnigan, PO Box 1860, Corinth, MS 38834 (601) 287-4977 - Ponchos, shelter halves (tent), blankets, misc. tinware.

O'Dea & Co. 3985 Beaver Lane, PO Box 3785, Camp Verde, AZ 86322 (520) 567-0007 - '83 shirt, '84 blouse, '88 trousers,'84 Fatigues.

S&S Firearms 74-11 Myrtle Ave., Glendale, NY 11385 (718)497-1100 -Cartridge belt, "C" clasps (for belt 3ea.) Krag & Trapdoor parts and Stocks.

G.P.C. West Hurley, NY 12491 (914) 679-2417 - Rifle parts, oilers & tools, Mauser clip-pouches.

Manifest Destiny, 75H Pelican Way, San Rafael, CA 94901 (415) 456-1776 - Surplus ankle boots, must be resoled with leather.

Missouri Boot & Shoe, Route 7, Box 207, Neosho, MO 64850 (417) 451-6100 - 1892 & 1893 infantry shoes. 3. Equipment Notes - In 1884 the army sold off all its Civil War surplus. The uniforms & gear which followed were new patterns.The new uniforms were standardized and there was little variation between rank of service. This line of equipment remained in use, largely unchanged, until 1899.

We recommend the O'Dea '83 shirt and Quartermaster '88 & '84 trousers. The quality is superior, the patterns are authentic and the buttons are very close to the originals.

Missouri Boot & Shoe makes the '89 infantry shoes. They are made to order so be prepared to wait. Manifest Destiny sell surplus prison boots. This is a simple ankle boot, but must be resoled with leather.

S&S sell drab and blue single loop Mills cartridge belts, with C clasps for regulars and brass plates for volunteers. Presently, no one makes the 1894 pattern double looped belt (news forthcoming on this). Western and Southern militias often used the drab 1887 belt. Khaki contractor belts were generally issued to the new U.S. Volunteer regiments.

The '78 blanket bag (pack) was seldom used in 1898 so, like the original troops we use tent rolls. This is a single shelter-half rolled around a poncho, blanket and extra clothes and tied off with a 6' length of 3/8" manila rope. Get your "dog-tent" half from C&D Jarnigan to be sure that it is compatible with others so that you can put up a tent, no one makes the '92 shelter tent. Jarnigan also has an excellent poncho (unchanged since the Civil War) and the 1851 blanket. This blanket is grey with two black stripes and a US in the center. The '89 blanket was unchanged except that the markings were dark blue. A plain grey blanket can be marked with a blue dye. We make our own tent poles and pins from the 1889 Quartermaster Regulations.

The drab campaign hat was worn through out the army in 1898. F.Burgess has an excellent version, specify snowflake or star vent. Service brass was worn on the front of the hat, but was also worn on the side or not at all. The hat was to be creased front to back but was actually worn in many shapes, especially in the field.

The '87 sling was used on both the Krag and Trapdoor rifles and is sold by S&S. Other accessories such as oilers, tools & parts are sold by S&S and G.P.C.. Bayonets and scabbards can be found at gun and militaria shows.

Original haversacks don't hold up well at events, so get a Steve Davis 1898 haversack, he also has slings. You can get 1910 mess kits for $15 to $35 (same as the 1898 pattern but made of that new stuff called aluminum instead of iron). It is important to find a mess kit with a solid plain top, no indentations for the handle. The Frazer '78 canteen is the most reliable, be sure when ordering to specify a "long black sling."


The breech-loading rifle was a dominant "weapons-system" of the late 19th Century. The US Army adopted the .45-70 Trapdoor rifle in 1873 and only slightly modified it in the 1884 and 1888 (ramrod bayonet) models. The 1873 .45-70 carbine had only minor changes for the 1877 & 1884 models and remained in service until 1897. During the war it was used by state volunteers and supplied to Cuban rebels. The Krag rifle was produced in models 1892, 1896 and 1898. A carbine was also made in models 1896, 1898 and 1899. In 1898 the cavalry had just been rearmed with the 1892 .38 Colt pistol but other branches continued to use the 1873 .45 Colt with the 5 1/2" barrel.

All of these weapons are available today at reasonable prices. However, since they are original some care must be used in selecting one. Classified publications such as Shotgun News or the Gun List will often have these weapons for sale. Firearms made before 1898 can be shipped through the mail directly to you. Later weapons can be purchased via a gun-dealer for a service fee. Local gun shows are another source especially as the weapon can be inspected and the price negotiated. It is usually best to go with a buddy who has gone through the process before.

Old guns are rated as poor, fair good, very good, excellent or new. Generally, you would not want a gun in less than good condition while one that is better than excellent may be too good for living history. If you are up to a project, a poor rifle can be had at a bargain price and improved with replacement parts and a new stock. Whatever condition your rifle is in, you must be aware of your obligation to maintain it. This is the best way to protect your investment and safety. Even if it is less than perfect, your weapon has survived for a century in working order, which is probably more than will be said about you when you're 100.

1. 1884 model Springfield Trapdoor rifles in good condition to excellent condition are priced between $450 to $800. 1873 and 1888 models are about $150 to $200 more. 1884 rifles will frequently have 1873 breech blocks and be passed off as the older weapon. The cartouche on the left side of the stock will have the actual date of manufacture which can also be deduced from the serial number. Rifles without cartouche or proof mark have less value regardless of condition.

2. 1898 model Springfiel Krag rifles are the most common and are $400 to $700 in good to excellent condition. 1896's cost about $200 to $300 more as do converted 1892's. Unconverted 1892 Krags are very rare and can cost several thousand. Markings are the same as on the Trapdoor rifles and the same concerns apply.

3. Carbines in both Krags and Trapdoor rifles cost more since fewer were made. Trapdoor carbines will run between $750 to $1500 in good to excellent condition. Krags will start about $600. Replicas of Trapdoor carbines were made by H&R firearms until 1988. These were well made but have no historical value, however some dealers will overprice them. Pederoseli (Italy) just started making replica Trapdoor carbines and rifles, these run just over $1000, we can not attest to their quality as we have yet to see one. Many carbines were made from cut-down rifles or assembled from parts. Because of demand thes guns are often over $500. Many Krag rifles were cut-down in the 1920's and some of these are also passed off as carbines and overpriced. Some are fairly priced between $300 and $150. it will cost about $300 to convert a cutdown rifle to an authentic 1896 carbine appearence and a good deal of time. When in doubt check the serial number. Call us for a serial number listing, there is also one on the web search under krag, springfield.

4. Pistols are very complex matter and buying one should only be done after much comparison. Original 1873 .45 Colts are an object of veneration and can be dramatically priced. Fortunately, there are several reproductions made that are priced between $400 to $500. Check with Cabelas.


The Spanish American War 1898 holds several events per year to allow its members to experience the period in as much a first-hand manner as possible. We try to vary the sites and the themes to represent the diversity of army life and to prevent our events from becoming repetitive. It is a tenet of this group that event activities be within the context of the sight.

1. Events are organized by the designated Event Coordinator. The E.C. will communicate with the site authorities and will plan the best use of the site, prepare the schedule and supply & equipment requirements. The E.C. will communicate with the Company Commander and Company Clerk to plan operations and supply needs.

2. An Event Special of the newsletter will be sent to all paid members at least one week prior to the event. The Event Special will provide information on site location, uniform, equipment, scenario and schedule.

3. Only uniforms and equipment appropriate to the event will be permitted. Cameras are permitted if used discreetly.

4. No alcohol is allowed on the event site during the event.

5. Members are not required to attend all events. However, since sites and themes are not repeated during a year, members are encouraged to attend at least 2 events to stay current. Members who fail to attend any events during a calendar year must reapply for membership.

6. Events are intended to be learning experiences, therefore it is required that members attend all formations at an event and perform all normal duties unless specifically excused by their unit leader.

7. Participants need not assume a "persona" at events. However, a participant should conduct himself in a military manner.

8. Guests may be invited by members to participate at our events. Extra gear exists to equip several guests as U.S. or Spanish soldiers. Guests must be approved by the unit leader and company commander who will advise the company clerk of any ration requirements. The company clerk will ensure that the guest signs a special release of liability. A guest should not participate more than twice annually without applying for membership.


All participants at an event must sign a release of liability by which they take full responsibility for thier own safety. However, common sense dictates that we must take some precautions.

1. The deputy commander is the designated safety officer at events. It is his duty to check blank ammo and test-fire a sample if deemed necessary. It is his duty to brief all participants on safety precautions and to inspect all weapons prior to and after a skirmish.

2. Never fire directly at someone closer than 15 yards. If a round is chambered and not fired the safety must be engaged. If firing is not immediately anticipated, the weapons must be cleared and unloaded. Breech-loading rifles can become very hot during firing and caution must be used to avoid burns.

3. Take steps to prevent overheating. If you are overheating seek shade, loosen your uniform, roll up your sleeves, put water on your head, neck and arms. If you need help, call out for help.

4. Be aware of your buddies when handling your rifle or tools. Be alert to obstacles and hazards. Use caution around campfires and never leave any fire unattended. We have a first aid kit for minor injuries.


Rations are as much apart of army life as the uniforms and weapons. It's our intention to make our events as realistic as possible and rations are important to the experience. The club will purchase food that is as close as possible to 1898 army rations, and issue it to participants for every meal-time that occurs at an event. The rations will vary with the event theme. Normally, members must provide their own coffee, sugar and salt, inappropriate items will not be allowed. The soldiers who landed in Cuba initially carried canned beef & beans but were later issued salt pork & hardtack and even frozen beef & vegetables. When appropriate we will have a company mess. In the field we will issue rations for two man mess-teams and during two day events the club will provided enough firewood for two hot meals.


By 1890 the beard was old fashioned. The modern, forward looking man of the 1890s was clean-shaven and close cropped, sporting only a generous handlebar mustache. A change partially brought on by the invention of the safety razor. An example of this style was Theodore Roosevelt. Always fashionable, T.R. is invariabley shown with a handlebar and severly short hair.

For the Spanish American War 1898 events get a haircut and trim your beard. Mens' jewelry was limited to wedding rings and watch chains, so leave anything else at home. Wrist watches did not appear till WW1. Eyewear must be period ( there are many reproductions available that will fit the 19th Century period, Email for information).


No blank ammo is commercially made in .30-40 or .45-70, therefore we make our own to use at events. This is a simple process and it is possible to make over 100 rounds in about 2 hours.

1. You will need a Lee hand-loader, a plastic or wooden mallet, white glue, bathroom tissue, gunpowder and #9 1/2 rifle primers. You can use either new cases or used ones which have been decapped, cleaned & resized. Use the hand-loader to prime the case and pour in about 1/3 less powder than the scoop will hold. use the decapping tool to insert a sheet of tissue and seal it with several drops of white clue. Do not use wax as it tends to become ballistic and carry with the wadding.

2. To allow Krag or Mauser blanks to feed through the magazine, tightly roll a sheet of paper to a 5/16" diameter plug. Cut it into 3/4" sections and insert into the neck of the case with a little glue.

3. All blanks must be submitted to the safety officer for inspection. if deemed necessary several will be fired at a cardboard target at 15 yards. Any type of blank that leaves a mark will not be used.

4. At a field exercise all participants should have a full cartridge belt and 20 rounds in reserve.


The purpose of out field exercise is to experience 19th Century infantry tactics. We use remote sites, plan operations with realistic missions and objectives. We maintain a tactical environment throughout the event. Actions may include an approach march, scouting, skirmish with outposts, preparing defenses and an attack on a main position.

1. NO HITs! Our purpose is to train in tactics not theatrics.

2. Don't ignore enemy fire. If you are in a "bad spot" withdraw about 20 to 30 yards. Don't argue "who shot who"; a serious faux pas.

3. Skirmishes will be planned by unit leaders. Follow their instructions.

4. Stay with your unit. Your unit leader can declare you a sniper victim if you wander off.

5. Keep in mind the range of your rifle. For practical purposes 50 yards is too close but 250 yards may be too far.

6. Don't close to less than 15 yards. If your opponent is not retreating don't push. Watch what your unit leader is doing.

7. You may fix bayonets on order, but do not close to less than 15 yards.

8. Do not deliberately try to take prisoners. If you should take a prisoner have him sling his rifle muzzle down and turn him over to your leaders. The prisoner will be "paroled" at that time.

9. Do not damage your opponents supplies or equipment.


It is the purpose of the Spanish American War 1898 to provide a hands on learning experience for its members. Most of our events focus upon a particular aspect of "Americana" for which the presence of Spanish military unit would be inappropriate. However, at our field exercises it is necessary to to provide resistance and to add a sense of urgency. To provide a "Opfor" without forming a standing Spanish company we have adopted a program of "galvanizing". In other words, we have obtained equipment and uniforms so that we could take turns acting as the opfor. Additionally, we are able to invite guests to be the opfor by using our equipment. Galvanizing has been used successfully by other reenactment groups such as Civil War groups in the South where "yankees" are in short supply. It allows us a greater range of activities, simplifies our organization and allows us an opportunity to see ourselves from the other side.

The Spanish Army in Cuba consisted of over 150,000 men. They had been fighting the Cubans since 1895 and had gained much combat experience. In action against U.S. forces they proved to be a brave and well disciplined enemy. At El Caney, Las Guasimas and San Juan Hill the Spanish inflicted many casualties and withdrew only at the last possible moment. An honorable opponent as well as brave one all matters of military courtesy were observed. Prisoners were treated well and after the armistice U.S. and Spanish soldiers openly fraternised. The Spanish garrison of Santiago surrendered with the honors of war and were returned to Spain with their arms and colors.

The basic Spanish uniform was an unbleached cotton sack-coat and cotton trousers. N.C.O.s and officers wore similar uniforms but with standing collars and hidden buttons. There are accounts of a uniform with blue pin-stiping but photos only show officers wearing it. Straw hats were worn by enlisted men while N.C.O.s wore a large "sombero". Officers prefered a finely made Panama hat or the standard army shako. Spanish soldiers are often seen with military boots but many wore sandals or leather "slippers".

Infantry equipment generally consisted of Mauser clip-pouches, Y-staps, canteen and canvas haversack with sling. The standard Spanish rifle was the 7mm 1893 Mauser. U.S. Army records show that captured weapons included 7.65mm Argentine 1891 Mausers, .43 Remington rifles and 7mm Remington and Mauser carbines.

We cannot obtain replicas of all this equipment, therefore our Opfor is only a representation. G.P.C has Mauser clip-pouches for about $6 and inexpensive straw hats are sold in many stores. C&D Jarnigan has been able to provide a "Spanish" tunic made of cotton drill and based on a Union sack coat pattern for $35. Their standard cotton drill trouser #745E costs $40. They have in stock shirt #812 for $28, brogans #103 $87, belt (brown) #237 $26, haversack #301 $12, canteen #407 $24. They also have blankets, ponchos, tents and cooking gear.


The breech-loading rifle had three times the fire-power of the old muzzle-loaders and the new magazine rifles were faster yet. Because a formed body of men could not survive in the zone of fire a single rank with 3' to 6' between men was the basic company formation. Widely spaced skirmishers were placed to the front and flanks of the formation, relying upon the range and fire-power of their rifles to cover the gaps. The degree of emphasis upon maintaining the line or using cover varied from army to army. The British and Americans preferred small groups using cover while the French and Germans used a main line and reserve line behind their skirmishers. With units covering a wider front command depended more upon the company officers as a mounted regimental commander would not long.Cavalry was confined to scouting or flank protection or used as mounted infantry as in the U.S. or Russian armies. Since there were few rapid fire weapons and quick firing artillery was just being introduced, this system lasted until the opening days of WW1.

The U.S Army stressed the use of cover and individual marksmanship. The Krag rifle was slow to reload as it was intended to be fired singly with the magazine held in reserve. At El Caney U.S. solders were ordered to cease fire to allow the sharp shooters better aim! However,the purpose of aimed fire and "Indian Tactics" was to allow sufficient numbers to assemble to take the objective by assault. U.S. artillery was outdated and ineffective and the success of the Gatling gun detachment was only due to the efforts of its commander. U.S. infantry was quick to dig-in and rapidly took over Spanish trenches in addition to extending their own. It's worth noting that dirt was put to the front of the trench as the weapons of the time were mostly direct-fire.

The Spanish Army put greater emphasis upon maintaining the infantry formation and a high volume of fire. Although the Mauser was a very accurate rifle, its clip-loaded magazine allowed the Spanish infantry to produce a very fast rate of fire. Because of their experience in Cuba, the Spanish made wide use of skirmishers and utilized very effective snipers. At long range the Spanish infantry was trained to fire by volley and were able to harass approaching U.S. columns at distances of up to 300 yards!

The Spanish Army had Maxim machine-guns but there is no record of their use in Cuba. Spanish artillery was used effectively and a pair of modern Krupp field-guns were able to out-shoot two U.S. batteries. The Spanish used extensive field works with trenches, blockhouses and barbed-wire.

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