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Spanish-American War
Fifty-First Infantry
Historical Sketch

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The following condensed historical sketch of the Fifty-first Regiment is compiled from the records in the office of the Adjutant General of Iowa. The most important features of,the service performed by the regiment are described in the official report of Colonel John C. Loper. This report includes many incidents of interest which - on account of the necessity for condensation - could not be included in this sketch. The compiler.will, however, endeavor to describe the most important events which marked the service of the regiment. The fortune of war gave to the Fifty-first Iowa a more extended field of operations than was accorded to either of the other Iowa regiments which were enrolled for service in the Spanish-American War. It cannot, therefore, be regarded as a discrimination in favor of this regiment, that a greater amount of space is occupied in describing the service which it performed.

The regiment was organized from the Third Regiment Iowa National Guard. It was ordered into quarters at Camp McKinley, Des Moines, Iowa, on the 25th day of April, 1898, and was there mustered into the service of the United States, by Captain J. A. Olmsted, of the Regular Army, on the 30th day of May, 1898. On June 2, 1898, Colonel Loper received orders from the War Department, assigning his regiment to the Philippine expeditionary forces, and directing him to proceed with the regiment to San Francisco, Cal., and, upon his arrival there, to report to the General in command of that department. In compliance with these orders, the regiment left Des Moines, Iowa, on June 5, 1898, and was conveyed by rail - on three separate trains - to San Francisco, Cal., where it arrived on June 10, 1898, and was ordered into camp at Camp Merritt. Just before leaving Des Moines, the regiment-which had been mustered in with but sixty-five men to each company - was ordered to be recruited to the maximum strength of one hundred six men to the company. Recruiting officers were left in Iowa to enlist and forward the requisite number of recruits. By the latter part of June the regiment had been recruited to its full strength.

During its stay in San Francisco the regiment was brought up, to a good state of efficiency in drill and discipline. Its first camp proved to be both uncomfortable and unhealthful, being located near the ocean front and exposed to cold winds and fogs. The location of the camp was subsequently changed to the Presidio, a more sheltered and comfortable place. While the regiment had confidently expected to be sent to the Philippine Islands in June, a series of what seemed unavoidable delays occurred, and it was not until the 3d day of November, 1898, that it was ordered to embark on the transport "Pennsylvania." On the same day, it sailed for Manila, Philippine Islands. At the time of embarkation, the regiment had been reduced from fifty officers and one thousand three hundred tlirty-two, to fifty officers and one thousand forty men. Twenty-seven men had died of disease in San Francisco. All the men who were unfit for service, and those having urgent necessity for. being relieved from the service, were discharged.

The transport reached Honolulu November 11th, where it remained four days. Thirty-three men of the regiment were left in the military hospital at Honolulu. The voyage was resumed and Manila Bay was reached on December 7, 1898; distance traveled from San Francisco, six thousand nine hundred ninety miles. The regiment was assigned to duty with the First Separate Brigade, Eighth Army Corps, Department of the Pacific,, General M. P. Miller commanding. The regiment was ordered to proceed to Iloilo, Panay Island, on December 26, 1898; arrived and anchored six miles off Iloilo on December 28th, and, on the 30th, moved up to within one mile of the city; distance traveled, three hundred thirty-seven miles. Regiment left Iloilo harbor January 29, 1899, and arrived at Cavite January 31, 1899. Had remained on the transport "Pennsylvania" during the month of January, awaiting orders. On February 2, 1899, the First Battalion went ashore, together with Companies E and M, Second Battalion. It was not until February 5th that the last troops left the ship, Companies C and L being the last to disembark.

The landing at Cavite marked the close of a most remarkable period in the history of the regiment. For ninety-four days it had lived on the "Pennsylvania," enduring the monotony and inactivity incident to life on board a troop ship. Not a death had occurred, however, and the health of the men was so extraordinarily good that the hospital claimed but two patients when the regiment landed, and these two were able to walk ashore. At no time had the health of the regiment been better, for which much credit was due to the efficient service rendered by the hospital corps, under the direction of Surgeons Fairchild and Macrae.

The last troops were not yet ashore when the storm of war descended. At 11 o'clock Saturday night, February 4th, the call to arms was sounded. Word was sent from Manila that the insurgents had attacked the Americans at that place. From across the bay the thunder of guns and the roll of volleys told that the conflict was on. It was expected that the natives would attack Cavite from San Roque, but they did not, and the men slept on their arms for the night. For the next few days the Fifty-first Iowa was engaged on outpost duty in the vicinity of San Roque. On February 8th, Admiral Dewey asked Colonel Loper to send a flag of truce to the insurgents at San Roque, and advise them that if the town was not evacuated by 9 o'clock the next day, it would be bombarded. The message was delivered, but, when the hour arrived for the bombardment to begin, it was discovered that the natives had fled, after setting fire to the town, which was mostly destroyed. Majors Hume and Moore, with the Second and Third Battalions of the Fifty-first Iowa, together with other troops, and a battery of artillery, entered the town, and endeavored to save what property had not been destroyed. These troops advanced to the causeway beyond the town - meeting with but slight opposition - where they found the outposts of the enemy; here they were ordered to halt and await further orders. On February 11th, the Second Battalion returned to Cavite and the Third Battalion remained on duty near San Roque, performing outpost duty. This duty was exacting, and the troops were frequently exposed to the fire of the enemy. On February 15th, the insurgents made an advance, but were soon driven back. On February 18th, Colonel Loper was ordered to send a battalion of the Fifty-first Iowa to Manila. In obedience to this order, the First Battalion, under command of Major Dugan, embarked on lighters and was towed across the bay at nightfall. The battalion landed on the Luneta, and was ordered to report for duty to General Anderson, on the south line, about five miles south of Manila. Assistant Surgeon Macrae was detailed to accompany this battalion.

The First Battalion bivouacked for the night near an old monastery at Pasai, where it was afterwards for a time encamped. A few miles to the left there was frequent heavy firing, and the booming of field batteries, the quick fire of machine guns and the volleys of musketry soon became familiar sounds. In the immediate front of the battalion firing was frequent, and "the song of the Mauser" was also soon well known by the men in the trenches. Companies of the battalion served in the vicinity of Culi Culi church, Pasai, and San Pedro Macati. The service was arduous. Day and night a harassing fire was kept up by the sharpshooters of the enemy, concealed in the bamboos and jungles in front. Outpost duty was perilous, involving much scouting and patrolling. On March 28th, while with a scouting party from Company H, Private Fred Borduwine was wounded in the leg and captured by the enemy. Captain Worthington at once took out a party of eighteen men from Company H, and six from Company A, all volunteers, and began a diligent search for the missing man. Upon reaching the place where Private Borduwine was wounded and captured, the enemy was again encountered and, in the conflict which ensued, the enemy was roughly handled, many of them being killed or wounded, while the Americans, moving back by the left flank, retraced their course without loss. Private Borduwine was not found. It was subsequently learned that he was taken to Malibay, by the Philippines, but his fate was never known. He is presumed to have died while in the hands of the enemy, as he was never heard from afterwards.

On March 26th, 1899, Companies C and M - under Major Hume-were ordered to Manila for provost guard duty. A few days later, Companies E and L were also ordered to Manila, and Companies I and G were ordered to return to Cavite and assist in guarding the town. On April 14th, the Second Battalion - under Major Hume - was ordered to Malolos. The Third Battalion, with headquarters, followed the next day and, on April 16th, the First Battalion left the trenches at Culi Culi church and marched to Manila, at which place the entire regiment was concentrated and assigned to duty with the Second Brigade, Second Division, Major General McArthur being in command of the division, and Brigadier General Hale, of the brigade. At this time, Colonel Loper was - on account of sickness - unable to remain in command of the regiment, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Colonel Miller, who proved to be a most able and efficient regimental commander. The campaign which resulted in the fall of Calumpit and San Fernando began on April 23, 1899. The Fifty-first Iowa was prominently identified with the most important engagements and operations of this campaign. On the date last mentioned, a party of scouts and a small body of cavalry became engaged with a force of the enemy, well posted behind intrenchments at Quingua, and a battalion of the Fifty-first Iowa, composed of Companies E, L, G and 1, and the First Nebraska Regiment, were hurried forward to their support. A brisk engagement ensued, resulting in the complete rout of the enemy and the capture of Quingua by the Americans. The day was intensely hot, and in the open rice fields the men suffered greatly. The struggle lasted for three hours, when the enemy was forced to abandon his strongly intrenched position. Lieutenant Colonel Miller, with Companies M, K and B, came up in time to participate in the fight. The Fifty-first Iowa had seven men wounded in this engagement. That night the entire regiment was concentrated at Quingua. At daybreak, April 24th, Hale's entire brigade crossed the Bagbag River and moved down parallel with the right bank of that stream, toward Calumpit. The firing line, from two to three miles in length, swept the enemy before it as it advanced. The Fifty-first Iowa was on the extreme right, the Third Battalion, under Major Moore, being in support. The brigade fought its way through miles of rice fields and jungles. Near the town of Pulilan, a short distance from Quingua, the right of the regiment encountered a strong force. After a brisk. engagement, in which eighty Philippinos were killed, the enemy was driven from the field. The Second and Third Battalions, and Company D of the First Battalion, participated in this engagement. Toward evening the First Battalion, Companies H, F, A and D, under Major Duggan, joined a South Dakota regiment in driving a body of the enemy out of a long trench, reaching far out from the Bagbag River, four miles from Calumpit. Here Major Duggan was wounded in the arm. There were five others wounded, making six casualties in the regiment during the day.

At daybreak the next day, General Hale's brigade drew near the defenses of Calumpit. At 10 o'clock Hale's and Wheaton's brigades were moving forward to the attack. The artillery and musketry fire of both brigades was soon in full play, and the enemy was driven from his strong line of works, after a brief struggle. The Fifty-first Iowa performed its full share of duty during this important engagement. The regiment went into temporary quarters at Calumpit. On April 29th, the First Battalion was ordered to proceed to Bocaue, fifteen miles from Manila. The next day the battalion escorted a supply train ten miles in the direction of General Lawton's forces, near the mountains, and, on May lst, rejoined the regiment at Calumpit. On May 2nd and 3rd, the regiment was engaged in clearing the country around Quingua of scattered bands of the enemy, and, on May 4th, advanced - with its brigade and division - on San Fernando, the insurgents' Capital. The Third Battalion, under Major Moore, was left to guard the railroad bridge over the Rio Grande de Pampanga. The First and Second Battalions led the advance of Hale's brigade through the deep mud of the Candaba swamp, and drove the enemy, in full retreat, through Santo Tomas. Here the division bivouacked for the night. The next morning the First and Second Battalions of the Fifty-first Iowa, with no support, and without other aid than a single rapid-fire gun, descended on San Fernando. General Hale directed the movement in person. The Iowa troops charged across the river before San Fernando, scattered a, force of the enemy left behind to burn the town, and sent them flying across the fields. The Fifty-first Iowa, therefore, had the honor of being the first to enter the rebel Capital.

The Third Battalion was soon brought forward, and the regiment was again united. Here the regiment lay for some weeks, enjoying a well earned rest. For months to come it was engaged in the performance of outpost duty and occasional fighting, mostly in resisting night attacks on the garrison. With the advent of the rainy season there was a marked increase in sickness among the men and officers of the regiment. On May 25th, 26th and 31st, portions of the regiment came into conflict with the enemy. Four men of the regiment were wounded in these engagements. On June 16, 1899, the enemy made a general attack on the American forces at San Fernando, and the Fifty-first Iowa bore its full part in resisting the attack. The outpost of the Iowa troops was located on the north front of the town. The First and Second Battalions held the left, and the Third Battalion the right, of the line. During the engagement the regiment had five men wounded." Through the month of June there were frequent night attacks upon the outposts, in resisting which, several men of the regiment were wounded. At the close of June, thirty-six men were dischargedd for the purpose of enabling them to enlist in the Thirty-sixth Infantry United States Volunteers. A. month later forty men were discharged for re-enlistment in the Eleventh Cavalry United States Volunteers.

On July 21, 1899, Lieutenant Guy E. Logan commanded a scouting party; sent out to locate outposts of the enemy. On August 9, 1899, ten companies of the regiment marched to the outpost of the Seventeenth Infantry, and took part in the advance against the enemy at Calulut, meeting with considerable resistance from the enemy. Companies F and K did not take part in the movement, but were, at the same time, engaged in supporting two guns of Battery E, First Artillery, in action on the road to Mexico. The regiment had, at this time, become so reduced in numbers, from disease and wounds, that but two hundred thirty-six men out of the ten companies were available for duty when Calulut was taken. General McArthur requested all the men, who could possibly do so, to take part in the initial attack; those who could not stand the hard march could be excused and remain in camp. Quite a number of the men and officers who had been in the hospital for some time took part in the advance. They went as far as they could, and, when the limit of their strength was reached, were excused by the surgeons. It will thus be seen that there was not only no disposition to shirk from duty, but that these brave men were ever ready to respond to the call to march against the enemy, as long as they were able to keep on their feet.

After the capture of Calulut, a scouting party of fifty men of the regiment, under command of Lieutenants Mentzer and Van Arnam, advanced in the direction of Angeles, encountered the enemy, and routed him after a lively skirmish. Another scouting party of fifty men, commanded by Lieutenants Ross and Wilson, after an engagement with the enemy, on August 11th, entered Angeles, and drove out the insurgents posted there, afterwards returning to Calulut. The regiment remained at Calulut until August 17th, when it was moved to Sindalan. On September 4, 1899, the regiment was relieved by a battalion of the Twenty-second Infantry, and ordered to proceed to San Fernando. At that time fifty-three per cent. of the regiment were on the sick list. On leaving Sindalan, General Wheaton highly commended the regiment for the faithful and efficient service it had rendered. The regiment remained at San Fernando until September 6th, performing outpost and provost guard duty, Major John T. Hume acting as Provost Marshal. On the date last mentioned it was relieved by other troops and conveyed by rail to Manila. Upon the departure of the regiment from San Fernando, General McArthur addressed the officers and men of the regiment in complimentary terms, and closed by saying: "God bless the Iowa boys; may you have a safe voyage home. We will endeavor to complete the work which you have so well begun."

Preparations for the homeward voyage were at once begun. On September 22, 1899, the regiment embarked on the transport "Senator," and sailed for San Francisco, Cal., where it arrived October 22, 1899. Upon disembarking, the regiment was assigned to its old camp at the. Presidio, where it was mustered out of the service of the United States November 2, 1899. Colonel Loper commends in the highest terms the conduct of the officers and men of the regiment, and, near the close of his official report, says: "They were gentlemen as well as soldiers, and they did not fail to uphold the honor of the regiment and the dignity of the State from which they were sent."

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