On April 22, 1898 the regiment was assembled under Col. D. D. Van Valzah at New Orleans. Here the third battalion, companies I, K, L, and M were organized by transferring a nucleus of noncommissioned officers and seasoned privates from other companies to drill recruits that had already begun to arrive in response to President McKinley's call. Companies I and K were first to complete their organization and companies L and M completed their organization shortly after the first of July.
Following Admiral Dewey's victory at Manila Bay on May 1st it became apparent that troops would be needed to occupy the city of Manila and a number of Volunteer regiments from the western states were ordered to San Francisco for embarkation for the Philippines. The need for some well-trained Regular troops being recognized, the 14th, 18th and 23rd regiments of Infantry and some regular Artillery units were also ordered to the Philippines to become a part of the 8th Army Corps.
The 18th Infantry left New Orleans on May 24 and entrained for San Francisco, arriving there on May 29, and went into camp at Camp Merritt, just outside the Presidio. Here the organization of the 3rd Battalion was completed and the companies aassigned as follows.
lst Battalion, Companies A, B, E and G, under command of Lieut-Col. C. M. Bailey;
2nd Battalion, Companies C, D, F and H, under Major Chas. Keller; 3rd Battalion, Companies 1, K, L and M, under command of Capt. C. R. Paul.
At the end of June the strength of the Command was given as 20 officers and 1,125 enlisted men.
On June 14 the lst Battalion embarked for Manila, companies A and G on the "China" and companies B and E on the "Colon". They sailed next day as part of the Second Expedition under command of Major-General F. V. Greene, U.S.V.
The China, loaded with troops, including Companies A and C of the 18th U.S.
On June 26, Headquarters, Band and companies C and F embarked on the "Ohio" and companies D and H on the "Indiana". Both transports sailed on the 27th as part of the Third Expedition under command of Major General Merritt.
Both expeditions touched at Honolulu, the 1st Battalion arriving in Manila Bay on July 17 and Headquarters, Band and the 2nd Battalion on July 31st. The 1st Battalion immediately disembarked and went into camp at Camp Dewey, near the Spanish lines, where it took part in outpost and reconnaisance duty, relieving the Filipino insurgents in their trenches on the 29th. On the night of August 2nd the battalion was under heavy fire from the Spanish lines, which, under orders of the Commanding General was not returned.
Headquarters and the 2nd Battalion disembarked at Cavite on August 1st, where they remained until the 7th, when they crossed Manila Bay in small boats and joined the 1st Battalion at Camp Dewey. Here the regiment was brigaded with the 2nd Brigade, lst Division, 8th Army Corps. The 2nd Battalion took their places in the trenches on August 10 and 11.
The Capture of Manila
Early on the morning of August 13 the regiment took its place in line with 26 officers and 1,027 enlisted men, the 1st Battalion on the right with the 3rd Artillery and the 2nd Battalion resting on Calle Real, connecting with the 1st Colorado Volunteers and the Utah Light Battery.
The engagement began at 9:30 A.M. with a bombardment of the enemy's trenches. The 1st Colorado deployed to the front and the 2nd Battalion of the 18th deployed to the right of Calle Real, followed at 200 yards by the 1st Battalion. Companies C and F were on the firing line with companies D and H in support, but their support were soon absorbed into the line. The 1st Battalion deployed in rear of the 2nd, with Company E, under Capt. Wheeler, in reserve.
The lines then advanced as skirmishers, firing volleys at halts, which had the effect of decreasing the Spanish fire. Reaching the Spanish trenches only three of the enemy dead were found. Major Keller then advanced into the city with his Battalion. During this advance the Battalion was under quite heavy fire from the right, which was believed to be from the insurgents, and it was necessary to seek cover where it could be found. General Greene then ordered one company, F of the 18th, to go ahead in advance guard formation toward the "Walled City" and also ordered other troops to keep in the rear of the 18th Infantry. Soon a white flag was seen to be flying from the "Walled City" and the regiment, having been joined by Company E, was ordered to advance to the "Iron Bridge" and hold it. Two iron bridges were found, and one battalion was placed at each. [The two bridges were the Colgante or Suspension and the Bridge of Spain., noted the editor of the American Oldtimer].
In the afternoon the regiment marched across the bridge "El Puente del Espania" and lined up on the Escolta and Calle Rosario, where they spent the night, guarding property and bridges. On the 14th they were assigned to quarters in Cuartel del Fortin.
No casualties were suffered by the Regiment in this engagement. Col. Van Valzah, in his report of the fight, said, "I wish to testify to the bravery and intelligence displayed by all the officers and men of my regiment. There was, to my knowledge, no occasion for the conspicuous display of personal bravery but each man did his duty." The regiment remained at Cuartel del Fortin, performing guard and police duty, until October 18, when they were transferred to Cavite.
The "Milk Battalion"
Meantime the 3rd Battalion, the "rookies" left behind at Camp Merritt, spent two weary months drilling over the sand-lots of San Francisco and learning their "company manners" under the hardboiled non-coms. assigned as their instructors. At last, however, on August 20 they embarked on the transport "Arizona" (afterwards rechristened the "Hancock") and sailed the next day, making the run to Honolulu in less than six days sailing time, a fast run in those days. Here they disembarked and went into camp at Camp Otis, in the Waikiki race track, just bordering beautiful Kapiolani Park, together with recruits for the 10th Pennsylvania, 1st Nebraska and 1st Colorado, and the "Arizona" went on to Manila without them. Two months of drilling and training and they again embarked on the "Arizona" and arrived in Manila Bay on November 25th. They disembarked on the 30th and joined the Regiment in quarters at Cavite.
On December 3rd the companies of the regiment were re-assigned as follows:
1st Battalion, Companies B, E, I and K, Capt. Bates, commanding
2nd Battalion, Companies A, C, H and L, Major Keller commanding
3rd Battalion, Companies D, F, G and M, Major Paul commanding.
Off for Panay
During the month of December the Commanding General of the 8th Army Corps received several appeals from the Spanish garrison at Iloilo for relief, as they were besieged by Filipino insurgents and were holding the town awaiting the arrival of the Americans. Accordingly he ordered General Miller with the 18th Infantry to proceed to Iloilo and take over the town if the Spanish garrison still held it, but to avoid any clash with the Filipinos. The regiment embarked on Christmas eve, again on the "Arizona" and sailed for Iloilo, accompanied by the "Boston" and the "Petrel".
On arrival in Iloilo Bay five days later they learned that the
Spaniards had abandoned the city to the Insurgents, who now held the
place and refused to permit the Americans to land peaceably.
Accordingly General Miller, having in mind his orders to avoid a clash
with the Filipinos, sent a dispatch boat back to Manila with his report
and a request for orders. He was directed to remain in the harbor until
further orders, and the regiment remained on the "Arizona"
until February 11."
[By this time the Spanish American War was over, having ended by treaty on December 10, 1898. As of February 4, 1899, a new war had commenced, the Philippine-American War]