8th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry

General:

The Eighth Pennsylvania was created from the Eighth Regiment, of the National Guard of Pennsylvania. The unit did not see action, but spent its time at Camp Alger (Virginia), Camp Meade (Pennsylvania) and Camp Mackenzie (Georgia).
 

Unit History:

The Eighth regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers reported at their training camp at Camp Hastings, Mount Gretna, Lebanon County, on April 28, 1898, in accordance with General Orders No. 7 issued by the Commonwealth's Adjutant General Office. On arriving, the unit found itself facing snow and rain, and it was unable to set up camp until the next day. The various companies commandeered buildings on the Exposition and Chautauqua grounds to keep dry for the night.

While at Mount Gretna, the unit's colonel, Frank Magee, was disqualified from serving for medical reasons. The Eighth's second in command, Thomas F. Hoffman, was promoted to fill the command.

To expand the National Guard units, the number of men per company was increased to eighty men. On May 5, representatives were sent home to the individual company  stations to recruit. The companies of the Eighth Pennsylvania were all from Southcentral Pennsylvania, as follows:

Company A - York County
Company B - Schuykill County
Company C - Franklin County
Company D - Dauphin County ("Harrisburg City Grays")
Company E - SchuylkillCounty
Company F - Schuylkill County
Company G - Cumberland County
Company H - Schuylkill Cunty
Company I - Lancaster County
Company K - Schuylkill County

By May 11, Company G was able to be mustered into the Federal service. The remaining companies were mustered the following day. At the time of musertering in, the unit consisted of forty-one officers and 774 enlisted men.

After being ordered initially to Camp Thomas on the Federal battlefield park at Chickamauga, Georgia, the order was countermanded, and the unit was sent to Washington DC.  The 8th Pennsylvania, followed a day later by the 6th, 12th and 13th Pennsylvania Volunteers, broke camp at Mount Gretna on May 18, arriving outside of Washington D.C. by train at about 6:00 P.M. This trip was followed by a march of about three miles to a point near Falls Church, Virginia. The Eighth set up camp here on May 19, and became the first regiment to encamp at what was to become Camp Alger, named after the Secretary of War. Here, the unit was officially assigned to the First Brigade of the First Division of the Second Army Corps.

While the unit was stationed at Camp Alger, the size of the individual companies was again expanded, this time to 106 men. Also, on June 15, Pennsylvania Governor Daniel Hastings visited the camp to review the Pennsylvania gathered there. The Eighth spent its time at Camp Alger in drill, provost duty, practice marches, etc. On July 20, the unit was presented with a silk flag, donated by the ladies of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

As the threat of disease began to surge to the forefront, brought on by unsanitary conditions, and the crowded conditions, the morale of the troops at Camp Alger began to suffer. Typhoid broke out. To attempt to stem the disease, camps were relocated as was possible, with the 8th relocating a few miles on July 13. In the face of growing cries of gross mismanagement of Camp Alger and similar camps, it was determined the men had to be relcated to new, healthier sites. The Eighth was ordered to its home state to encamp at Camp Meade in Middletown, Pennyslvania, arriving on August 31, 1898. The fighting in the war with Spain had ended a few weeks earlier on August 12, 1898 and it was now clear that the members of the Eighth would never see action.

The 8th Pennsylvania at Camp Meade

Again, the Eighth found itself languishing in Camp. It was not ordered out of Camp until October 26, when the unit was sent to Philadelphia to take part in the Peace Jubilee in that city. A little over two weeks later, on November 13 departed for the south, passing through Washington, Rcihmond, Raleigh, North and South Carolina, finally arriving near Augusta, Georgia. Here it set up camp at Camp Mackenzie.

On December 10, 1898, the Spanish American War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The Eighth Pennsylvania would remain in service until March 7, 1898, when it was finally mustered out of service. At the time of mustering out, the unit consisted of fory-nine officers and 1,074 enlisted men.

During its term of service, the 8th Pennsylvania had nine enlisted men die from disease, four men desert, and twenty-seven men discharged on disability.



Bibliography:

(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)

Sauers, Richard A., Pennsylvania in the Spanish-American War. (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, 1998) 6, 9, 10, 21-23, 25-27, 29, 46, 48-50.

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

Stewart, Thomas J., Adj. Gen., Record of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1901) 325-326.


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