Colorado in the Spanish American War

On the night of February 15, 1898, the U. S. Battleship “Maine” lay peace-fully at anchor in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. Without warning and with the suddenness of a lightning flash the majestic warrior of the seas was destroyed, together with the lives of 266 of the American sailors on board.

Interested the country had been in the events preceding this disaster, watch-ful and apprehensive, but the tragedy in the Havana Harbor quickly kindled the fires of martial excitement and in Colorado, as in the whole nation, the people prepared for war. President McKinley appointed a commission to investigate the “Maine” explosion, and when this committee made its formal report, which was sent to Congress by the President, the warlike spirit of the country was expressed in the determination to drive Spain out of the Western Hemisphere. Nothing more remained but to declare war, which was done by Congress on April 25th. On April 23d, President McKinley, as authorized by Congress, issued a proclamation calling for 125,000 volunteers for two years’ service or for the duration of the war. Within an incredibly short time this number was secured and on May 25th 75,000 more volunteers were called.

In Colorado the quota fixed under the two calls of the President was: one regiment of infantry, two troops of cavalry and one battery of artillery, consisting in all of about sixteen hundred men. Military affairs in the state had been at low ebb for several years prior to April, 1898, but when the first rumors of friction between Spain and America became current, recruiting was vastly stimulated. There were two partial regiments of infantry, three small cavalry troops and the Chaffee Light Artillery in Colorado and these forces quickly approached war strength in the few months just before the declaration of war.

After hostilities were in force Governor Adams issued a mobilization order to all the Colorado troops and on April 29th they were assembled. Camp was made in Denver, near the City Park, which site became known as Camp Adams, in honor of the governor. Hardly a week passed before one full regiment of infantry, two troops of cavalry and a battery of artillery, which filled the quota, were ready for active service.

The First Regiment

The First Regiment of Colorado Infantry was mustered into the service of the United States on the 1st of May, 1898. The field and staff officers, appointed by Governor Adams, were:

  • Irving Hale, of Denver, colonel.
  • Henry B. McCoy, of Pueblo, lieutenant colonel.
  • Cassius M. Moses, of Pueblo, major.
  • Charles H. Anderson, of Denver, major.
  • Dr. Clayton Parkhill, of Denver, surgeon.
  • Dr. Louis H. Kemble, of Denver, surgeon.
  • Dr. Charles E. Locke, of Denver, assistant surgeon.
  • Alexander McD. Brooks, of Denver, adjutant.
  • William B. Sawyer, of Denver, adjutant.
  • David L. Fleming, of Leadville, chaplain.

There were twelve companies in the First Regiment, each company representing a group of towns or a city. Companies A and C were enlisted mostly from Pueblo; Companies B, E, I and K from Denver; Companies F and L from Lead-ville; Company G from Cripple Creek; Company H from Boulder; and Company M from Colorado Springs. The company officers were:

Company A, John S. Stewart, captain; William F. Dortenbach, first lieutenant; Samuel E. Thomas, second lieutenant.
Company B, Frank W. Carroll, captain; Charles B. Lewis, first lieutenant; Charles E. Hooper, second lieutenant.
Company C, Ewing E. Booth, captain; William H. Sweeney, first lieutenant; Willard P. Bidwell, second lieutenant.
Company D, John A. Taylor, captain; George Borstadt, first lieutenant; Albert J. Luther, second lieutenant.
Company E, Kyle Rucker, Captain; Clarence W. Lothrop, first lieutenant; Rice W. Means, second lieutenant.
Company F, G. Ralph Cummings, captain; Charles S. Haughwout, first lieutenant; Willard G. Riggs, second lieutenant.
Company G, David P. Howard, captain; Thomas C. Brown, first lieutenant; Walter P. Burke, second lieutenant.
Company H, Charles B. Eastman, captain; Charles H. Wilcox, first lieutenant; Fred L. Perry, second lieutenant.
Company I, William R. Grove, captain; Charles H. Hilton, Jr., first lieutenant; Charles O. Zollars, second lieutenant.
Company K, William A. Cornell, captain; William J. Vannice, first lieutenant; Ralph B. Lister, second lieutenant.
Company L, David P. LaSalle, captain; Cornelius F. O’Keefe, first lieutenant; Franklin Ballou, Jr., second lieutenant.
Company M, Clyde C. Spicer, captain; Charles H. Sleeper, first lieutenant; James H. Gowdy, second lieutenant.

The First was a regiment of picked men in every sense of the word. The number of applicants for enlistment was far in excess of the number desired, consequently only those best fitted and trained for military life were accepted. At first it was thought that the regiment would be sent to Cuba and among the early orders the First was included among the regiments ordered to Chickamauga Park, Tennessee. However, the Philippines became the center of interest before the regiment moved and on May 13th orders were received directing the First to entrain for San Francisco, thence across the Pacific to Manila.

On the 14th the regiment marched proudly into Denver, where a national flag was presented by the Sons of the Revolution. On the next day a handsome regimental flag, the gift of Mrs. William Cooke Daniels, was presented to the First with appropriate ceremony.

May 17th was the day of farewells to the regiment. The whole command, consisting of 1,086 men, accompanied by the regimental band, marched through the City of Denver, along streets black with cheering crowds, to the Union Station. It is said that never before, nor since, has such a patriotic celebration occurred in Denver. Four trains awaited with steam up to carry the soldiers west-ward, while the men hurriedly said their good-byes.

The First arrived at San Francisco on May 21st and encamped at Camp Merritt, their section of which was called Camp Hale, in honor of the colonel. While here, orders from the War Department directed that each company be recruited to a strength of 104 men, and accordingly a detachment of the First returned to Denver, obtaining 200 new men in quick time. The new soldiers arrived at San Francisco June 24th one week after the regiment had sailed for Manila; one half of the detachment followed on August 1st, arriving at Manila September 1st, and the remainder started August 21st, were delayed at Honolulu, and did not disembark at the Philippine port until November 23d.

The main body of the First were landed at Paranaque and pitched tents at Camp Dewey. After a week spent here the active work of the campaign was begun. Regimental activities for a time consisted mainly of reconnoitering, road making, trench digging, guard duty, with a few skirmishes thrown in for excitement. The First was ordered to participate in the attack upon the City of Manila, which occurred August 13th, and in this engagement the Colorado boys conducted themselves brilliantly. Late in the morning of that day, after some artillery preparation, Colonel Hale was ordered to lead his regiment against the Spanish fortifications and capture Fort San Antonio. This was done in one charge, while the regimental band played “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” and the flag raised over the fort by Adjutant Brooks, Lieutenant Colonel McCoy and Lieutenant Lister was the first to be flown over the Manila defenses. Shortly after, Color Serg. Richard Holmes and the Color Guard raised the flag at Malate, a suburb of Manila, which was the first national emblem within the city.

The predominant part played by the First Colorado in the capture of the Philippine city led to several promotions. Colonel Hale was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by President McKinley and Governor Adams advanced Lieut. Col. Henry B. McCoy to the command of the regiment, while Maj. Cassius M. Moses became lieutenant colonel.

For several months afterward the duties of the First were not greatly hazardous, consisting of guard and outpost work, part of the time at Bilibid Prison.

In February, 1899, the insurgents under Aguinaldo became troublesome and the First became part of the force which captured blockhouses 5 and 6, also participated in the recovery of the Manila water-reservoir, and the pumping-station. Until late in March the regiment then remained on guard at the pumping-station, with frequent small engagements with the natives who were conducting a guerrilla warfare.

Companies A, M and a portion of E, under Lieutenant Colonel Moses, engaged in the advance toward Malolos on March 25th and fought bitterly with the insurgents during the entire day. On March 31st, Companies C, D, E and G participated in a movement against Mariquina and San Mateo, capturing the enemy entrenchments under extreme difficulties. During the latter part of May and the forepart of June, Companies A, C, F, G. K and L were in the advance upon Antipolo and Morong, under General Lawton. The next expedition, also under the command of the brave Lawton, in which Colorado troops engaged, was against a large force of Filipinos near Paranaque and Las Pinas. The American force, consisting of about five thousand men, was composed of regulars, with the exception of a troop of Nevada cavalry and Companies B, D, E, F, I and M of the First Colorado under Colonel McCoy. Several casualties were inflicted upon the First in the capture of Las Pinas, but during the whole of the fighting the Colorado soldiers bore a conspicuous part and received warm praise for their gallantry. This was the last active field service in which the Colorado men .participated. On June nth they went into camp at Manila, were assigned to guard duty at the waterworks, where the greater portion of the regiment remained until departure for the states.

Orders for embarkation were received July 4th and on the next day camp at the waterworks was “struck.” On the 6th the regiment marched into the City of Manila, boarded the transport Warren on the 15th, and sailed on the i8th, just one year after the troops had arrived on Philippine soil. The transport stopped at Nagasaki and Yokohama, Japan, on the return voyage and arrived at San Francisco on August i6th, there to be met by Governor Charles S. Thomas, Adj. Gen. J. C. Overmeyer and other Colorado men of prominence. The regiment was mustered out at the Presidio on September 8th and reached Denver on September 14th. In their home city the men were accorded a gigantic welcome. A fund of $35,000 was raised by popular subscription to provide for their transportation home, in order that they might keep the funds which had been given for that purpose by the Government; new colors were presented; addresses were made and a banquet given; and, as a fitting reward, subscriptions were raised to provide for a bronze medal for each soldier, commemorative of their heroic service upon foreign soil.

Many changes occurred in the personnel of the First Colorado during the period of service. Officers were changed frequently and many men from the ranks received commissions. Fully 10 per cent of the regiment had received discharges at Manila, preferring to remain in the service. Most of these men enlisted in the Thirty-Sixth U. S. Volunteer Regiment, being organized at the time the First sailed for home.


One of the features of the First Colorado’s war service is the fact that so few men died of disease, a fact which proves the excellent physical character of the men, and the efficient sanitary methods of the regiment. The list of those who died in the service, either from Spanish bullets or sickness, follows:

  • Aldrich, Archie A., Company E, died at Manila, April 18, 1899, of wounds.
  • Bell, William H., Company C, died of smallpox, January 11, 1899.
  • Bowser, Clifford H., Company K, died of wounds, June 9, 1899.
  • Bryant, R. M., Company K, died of variola, February 25, 1899.
  • Bush, W. H., Company I, died of dysentery, March 24, 1899.
  • Carlson, Charles, Company L, killed in action, February 5, 1899.
  • Daniel, Elmer E., unassigned, septicemia, at San Francisco, August 1, 1898.
  • Dawson, B. W., unassigned, died of remittent malarial fever, at Honolulu, October 24, 1898.
  • Donahue, W. J., Company F, variola, February 26, 1899.
  • Doran, Elmer F., Company I, killed in action, February 5, 1899.
  • Downing, Walter, Company L, acute dysentery, November 22, 1898.
  • Doxsee, Harry L., Company C, killed in action. May 23, 1899.
  • Duval, Frank A., Company F, died of wounds, June 28, 1899.
  • Falkenburg, Harry C, musician, died of smallpox, January 20, 1899.
  • Haviland, Albert, Company F, variola, February 24, 1899.
  • Hegewer, Bert C, unassigned, spinal meningitis, at San Francisco, August 15. 1898.
  • Jefferson, W. S., Company G, typhoid fever, at San Francisco, November 20, 1898.
  • Lillie, Charles, Company I, acute diarrhea, February 10, 1899.
  • Lindsey, Frank B., Company L, died at sea on homeward voyage, August 8, 1899.
  • Loosa, August H., unassigned, septicemia, at San Francisco, August 5, 1898.
  • McDowell, Harry A., Company M, suicide, December 4, 1898.
  • McMurray, William S., Company C, accidentally drowned, November 2, 1898.
  • Neptune, Frank D., Company H, at San Francisco, August 22, 1899.
  • Phillippi, Leonard E., Company G, died of wound, April i, 1899.
  • Phoenix, Charles, Company I, died of wound, August 18, 1898.
  • Pynchon, Edward R., Company K, died of wound, March 20, 1899.
  • Ramsay, Arthur, Company F, spinal meningitis, February 20, 1899.
  • Reisig, Harry J., Company M, July 14, 1899.
  • Sarazin, Norbert, Company B, typhoid fever, October 4, 1898.
  • Saunders, David I., Company I, smallpox, December 20, 1898.
  • Scroggs, John A., Company A, acute malaria, October 4, 1898.
  • Smith, Bernard J., Company B, variola, March 18, 1899.
  • Springstead, F. E., Company K, killed m action, August i, 1898.
  • Stewart, Capt. John S., Company A, killed in action, March 25, 1899.
  • Sullivan, Niel C, Company H, spinal meningitis, June 4, 1898.
  • Tinnerholm, Ivan, Company H, tuberculosis, at sea on homeward voyage, August 2, 1899.
  • Warrington, George W., Company F, dysentery, July 8, 1899.
  • White, Cass, Company D, killed in action, February 5, 1899.
  • Whiteside, Thomas F., Company M, at Manila, March 23, 1899.
  • Wise, Walter W., spinal meningitis, at sea, July 5, 1898.

Service Of Other Colorado Troops

As stated before, the remainder of Colorado’s troops in the Spanish-American war consisted of two organizations of cavalry and one battery of artillery. There were really three small cavalry troops in the state, Troop A at Leadville, and Troops B and C at Denver but A and B received precedence over C as ranking organizations. Troops A and B were mustered into the United States service on May 6th, the official date being given as May 1st, however. The officers of Troop A were: Charles A. McNutt, captain; John Harvey, Jr., first lieutenant; and Frederick A. Follett, second lieutenant. Troop B was officered by: William G. Wheeler, captain; Arthur L. B. Davies, first lieutenant; Francis A. Perry, second lieutenant. These two troops were assigned to the Second United States Volunteer Cavalry, under command of Col. Jay L. Torrey. The Colorado troopers left Denver May 30th for Fort D. A. Russell, near Cheyenne, Wyoming, and became the ranking troops of “Torrey’s Rough Riders.” On June 22d the regiment left Fort D. A. Russell and proceeded to join the Seventh Army Corps, under Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, at Jacksonville, Florida. Arrival was made June 28th and camp was pitched at Panama Park, near the city. The regiment, with the Seventh Corps, was destined for active service in Cuba, also attack upon Havana, but the early closing of the campaign in that country prevented the Second Cavalry from leaving its native soil. The regiment remained in camp at Jacksonville until October 24, 1898, when it was mustered out of the service. Five men of the Colorado contingent died while in camp; these were:

  • Johnson, Ralph S., Troop B, died of fever, September 10, 1898.
  • Moss, Peter E., Troop B, died of fever, September 15, 1898.
  • Nellis, George G., Troop B, died of fever, September 15, 1898.
  • O’Brien, William J., Troop B, died of fever, September 13, 1898.
  • Woodhall, Serg. Thomas A., serving on Colonel Torrey’s staff, died of fever, October 2, 1898.

The Colorado Battery, formed from the Chaffee Light Artillery, was not mustered into the United States service until July 1, 1898. The officers were: Harry J. Parks, captain; John G. Locke, first lieutenant; and John C. Exline, second lieutenant. The organization was assigned as Battery A, First Colorado Volunteer Artillery, but was known as an independent battery during the term of service. On July 2, 1898, the battery was taken to Fort Logan, near Denver, and there remained until August 12th, when it was transferred to Fort Hancock, New Jersey, arriving August i6th. Here the battery stayed until mustered out of the service November 7, 1898. No deaths occurred in Battery A during this period.

Two other young men of Denver who met death in the service were Herbert A. Lafferty and Thomas R. Sullivan. Lafferty, a graduate of West Point in February, 1898, became a second lieutenant in the Seventh U. S. Infantry, served in Cuba, and died at Montauk Point, New York, September 17, 1898 of wounds received at Santiago, Cuba. Sullivan, formerly member of Troop B, Colorado National Guard, was discharged March 9, 1898, and became first lieutenant in Company I, First U. S. Volunteer Engineers, contracted fever in Porto Rico and died in New York City November 3, 1898.

History of Colorado

Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

3 thoughts on “Colorado in the Spanish American War”

  1. I have a Spanish American War service medal from Colorado named to: E. Kennedy It comes in the 2 original boxes, and is in excellent condition. Can you tell me anything about his service?
    Thanks in advance
    Bob Moffatt

  2. To whom it may concern.
    I have in my possession a very interesting piece of Colorado history. Its a trophy given to the Chaffee Light Artillery Company. There is no date. So I need historic information about this fine treasure of the past.
    The trophy was given to the Chaffee Light Artillery Company by Hayden Brothers out of Omaha according to the inscription. The inscribed reads. { Awarded to the Chaffee Light Artillery for being the most popular company in camp. I would like to send pictures of this trophy because it is so interesting to see, It has a soldier kneeling on top of it with rifle in hand. Below is a canon barrel surrounded by four musket rifles with lead ammo balls at bottom of each rifle. Trophy stands about 20 inches tall.I would appreciate any information I could get from you of the History of this most unusual piece of history.

    1. Hello there! That sounds like a neat treasure, The Chaffee Light artillery had a long history of service! So depending on the age of the trophy I could be able to supply you with a fairly exact history. – George
      feel free to reach me at my email (
      (Hobbyist Colorado Historian)

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