RUMORS OF WAR—THE BLOWING UP OF THE BATTLESHIP MAINE-
MORE RUMORS—ORDERS TO MOVE—ARRIVAL OF THE REGIMENT
AT CHICKAMAUGA PARK-COMPANIES A AND G, TO KEY WEST-
CONCENTRATION AT TAMPA, FLORIDA—THE DAILY ROUTINE AT
TAMPA—EMBARKING FOR CUBA—AT SEA—ARRIVAL IN CUBA.
Mutterings of the coming conflict with Spain were heard early in 1898, and when the battleship Maine was blown up in Havana Harbor on February 15, war was deemed inevitable. The intense excitement manifested throughout the country was reflected in the military service. Conjecture was rife as to when and where the first clash would come, and the usual stock of “grape-vine” rumors ran riot in military posts all over the country.
The first definite intimation that the Twenty-fifth Infantry received of projected movements came rather much as a surprise, and was received late in March, sometime before the actual declaration of war on April 25, 1898. Chaplain T. G. Steward, 25th Infantry, who was stationed at Fort Missoula at the time relates the entire incident in his book “The Colored Regulars in the United States Army,” (A. M. E. Book Concern, Philadelphia, Pa.) extracts from which follow:
“It was on a bright day during the latter part of March, and near the close of the day as I was looking out of the front window of my quarters that I saw the trumpeter of the guard come out of the Adjutant’s office with a dispatch in his hands and start on a brisk run toward the quarters of the Commanding Officer; I immediately divined what was in the wind, but kept quiet. In a few minutes “Officers call” was sounded, and all the officers of the post hastened to the administration building to learn the news.
“When we were all assembled the Commanding Officer desired to know of each company officer how much time he would need to have his company ready to move from the post to go to a permanent station elsewhere, and from all officers how much time they would require to have their families ready to quit the station. The answers generally were that all could be ready within a week. It was finally agreed, however, to ask for ten days.
“Immediately the work of preparation began, although none knew where the regiment was to go. At this time the order, so far as it was understood at the garrison, was that two companies were to go to Key West, Florida, and the other companies of the regiment to Dry Tortugas. One officer, Lieutenant V. A. Caldwell, early saw through the haze and said: “It means that we will all eventually land in Cuba.” While we were packing, rumors flew throughout the garrison as indeed through the country, thick and fast, and our destination was changed three or four times a day. One hour we would be going to Key West, the next to St. Augustine, the next to Tortugas. In this confusion I asked an old frontier officer where he thought we would really go. Regarding himself as an indicator and always capable of seeing the amusing side of a subject, he replied: “I p’int toward Texas.” Such was the state of uncertainty as to destination, and yet all the time the greatest activity prevailed in making ready for departure. Finally definite orders came that we were to store our furniture in the large gymnasium hall at the post and prepare to go in camp at Chickamauga Park, Georgia.
“Our regiment was at that time stationed as follows: Headquarters, four companies and the Band at Fort Missoula; two companies at Fort Harrison, near Helena, and two companies at Fort Assiniboine, all in Montana. The arrangements contemplated moving the regiment in two sections, one composed of the Missoula troops to go over the Northern Pacific Railway, the other of the Fort Harrison and Fort Assiniboine troops to go over the Great Northern Railroad, all to arrive in St. Paul about the same time.