A Brief History
By Patrick McSherry
Photo of Charles Rice
Walker of the 16th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Co. B
of Duck Run, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Walker was eighteen years
he enlisted. After the war, he married Lillie Belle Shaffer and
the couple had seven children
Walker was a coal miner and in 1926 was trapped in a mine cave-in for twelve hours.
Walker eventually moved to California where he passed away in 1958.
Click here for a history of the Puerto
The Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry saw action in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.
The regiment, under the command of Colonel Willis J. Hulings, was
formed generally in western Pennsylvania (Newcastle, Punxsutawney and
Jeanette, Pennsylvania) in early May 1898, and was then transferred to Camp Hastings at Mount Gretna in
eastern Pennsylvania. The regiment was formed in three
battalions. The first two battalions consisting of companies A, C, D,
E, F, H, I and K left Camp Hastings
on orders to report to Camp Thomas
at Chickamauga, Georgia. On arriving, the regiment was assigned to the
Third Brigade, First Division, of the First Army Corps.
On July 5, these two battalions were ordered to Charleston, South
Carolina, arriving the next day. Here the men were housed in some large
cotton warehouses, which were clean, however, with the brick baking in
the sun, the temperature at midnight in the buildings was 104 degrees
Fahrenheit. However, the men had ample opportunity to bathe and swim
around the nearby wharves, and did not need to depend on army rations.
The men were welcomed into the homes of many local families or chose to
eat in local restaurants. It was here that some of the men began to
exhibit signs of typhoid fever, apparently contracted at Camp Thomas.
On July 22, the men departed Charleston aboard the Army Transport MOBILE. These companies
arrived at Ponce, Puerto Rico on July 26. In
Puerto Rico the regiment
was reassigned to the First Brigade of the same division. The regiment
was immediately deployed as an advance guard about four miles outside
In the four-pronged Puerto Rican
Campaign, the 16th Pennsylvania was
part of General Ernst’s First Brigade, along with the 2nd and 3rd
Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry regiments, two batteries of artillery
the regular army and Troop C of the New York Volunteer Cavalry. The
plan was have the brigade advance northwest from Ponce, toward the
towns of Juana Diaz, Coamo, and Aibonito.
The 16th Pennsylvania’s most notable action was at Coamo on August 9.
The regiment was detailed to flank the town via a nighttime march on a
mountain trail that only permitted the regiment’s 650 men to proceed to
single file. The maneuver brought the regiment in contact with the
Spanish forces, dug in along the Aibonito road. The companies deployed
in open ground. After a portion of the regiment flanked the Spanish
positions, the Spanish retreated. The 16th Pennsylvania captured five
officers (a major, a captain and three lieutenants) and 162 enlisted
men. Colonel Hulings was recognized in the report of Brigadier General
Ernst as being “an example and inspiration to his men.” With the
brigades’ other forces attacking Coamo in frontal attack, and the
Sixteenth Pennsylvania in the town’s rear, the Spanish troops in Coamo
departed before the American forces arrived, leaving
the town under the
control of a few officers and newspaper correspondents, including
Richard Harding Davis.
The Spanish also lost four enlisted men killed and forty wounded. The
16th Pennsylvania lost six men wounded, one of which subsequently died.
An armistice was announced between the United States and Spain on
August 12, ending the fighting. The Sixteenth Pennsylvania eventually
marched to San Juan.
Meanwhile, the third battalion consisting of the remaining companies
(B, G, L and M) remained behind at Camp
Hastings. At some point the
battalion was sent to Newport News, Virginia and then, on August 16,
four days after an armistice ended the war’s fighting, was ordered to
Camp Meade, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, not far from Camp Hastings.
These four companies were later ordered to New York, where they boarded
the transport OBDAM, bound for Puerto Rico.
They arrived in San Juan on
September 21. At San Juan apparently all three battalions were together
for the first time during the war.
While the regiment was at San Juan, the men began to suffer from
dysentery, malaria, and most notably, typhoid fever. Newspaper accounts
indicated that only 225 men were available for duty. The decision was
made to send the regiment home in an effort to save lives.
On October 10, the reunited regiment departed from Ponce aboard the transport MINNEWASKA bound for New
York, arriving on October 17. The
regiment was immediately given a sixty day furlough on October 18. The
companies were mustered out in their home towns between December 22 and
At the time of muster out, the regiment consisted of forty-eight
officers and 1,238 enlisted men. The regiment had six men wounded on
battle, one of which died. Thirty-eight men died from disease and three
men deserted. The regiment had captured two stands of Spanish colors,
which were presented to President McKinley
at the White House
Sixteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument
at the former Camp Hastings, Mount Gretna, PA.
(As a service to our readers, clicking on
will take you to that book on Amazon.com)
Clerk of the Joint Committee on
Printing, The Abridgement:
Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of
(Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol 3,
Relating to the War with Spain Including
the Insurrection in the Philippine Islands and the China Relief
April 15, 1898 to July 30, 1902. Vol. 1 (Washington DC: Center for
History, 1993) 615
Reed, Walter, Victor
Waughan, Edward O. Shakespeare, Report
on the Origin and Spread of Typhoid Fever in U.S. Military Camps During
Spanish War of 1898, Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing
Sauers, Richard A., Pennsylvania
in the Spanish-American War. (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Capitol
Preservation Committee, 1998). 5-11 (source for monument image).
“Sixteenth Coming,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
October 6, 1898, page 1.
Brings Troops,” Scranton
PA). October 18, 1898, page 1.
Image and information on Charles Rice Walker.
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