A Brief History of the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry
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1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, Co. H,1898
1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, Co. H

General:

The 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry served its term of service within the continental U.S.

Unit History:

The First New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service at Concord, New Hampshire between May 8 and May 14, 1898, under the command of Colonel Robert H. Rolfe. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers, 952 enlisted men, and a Skye terrier named “Ching” as a mascot. The regiment’s companies were organized at the following locations: Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Keene, Claremont, Newport, Lebanon, Franklin, Laconia, Portsmouth, and Dover.

1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infnatry departs Concord, NH, 1898
The 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry departs Concord, New Hampshire
The regiment departed Concord on May 17, arriving at Camp Thomas, a training camp located on the old Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga, three  days later. The regiment was equipped with the Springfield “Trapdoor” rifle. While at Camp Thomas, the regiment was supplied with new lightweight tents and new regimental colors (regimental flag).

As spring passed into summer, the regiment sweltered at Camp Thomas, which was growing more and more unhealthy by the day. The camp became the home to over 40,000 men, but did not have adequate sanitation or fresh water. Also, as men were brought together from all over the country, many men were exposed to strains of illnesses to which their bodies had little immunity, adding to the amount of sickness.

In July, a target shooting match was held between nine regiments at Camp Thomas. The 1st New Hampshire’s team did quite well, coming in second in the competition, scoring 474 points to the 8th Massachusetts’ team’s 481 points. The team consisted of twelve men, and the range was 150 yards. The regiment’s best marksman was R. L. Piper of Company K who scored six “bulls eyes” out of ten shots.

One of the major aspects of camp life was, unfortunately boredom. To keep the men in top shape drills and sham battles were held. Reviews by officers and dignitaries were also common, but an unusual review was held in the beginning of August. This was a transportation review. The wagons and ambulances of the Third Division of the First Corps, of which the 1st New Hampshire was a part were ordered to be assemble for inspection and review. Over 250 wagons and approximately fifteen ambulances - with well over a thousand mules pulling them - were then reviewed and paraded. The review attracted a fair amount of attention, being a very rare event.

In early August, the regiment appeared to be poised to go to the front. Col. Rolfe’s brother-in-law, Maj. Gen. John Brooke, was one of the leaders of the planned expedition to Puerto Rico. On August 1, the regiment was assigned to the Third Brigade of Wade’s Provisional Division which was expected to go to Puerto Rico as part of the invasion force. However, the unit was not needed for the Puerto Rican campaign and was left at Camp Thomas. While the regiment waited at Camp Thomas, an armistice was reached between the United States and Spain ending the war’s fighting on August 12.

Col. Rolfe, 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, 1898


At the prompting of New Hampshire’s governor, the regiment finally departed Camp Thomas on August 27, arriving at Camp Hamilton, near Lexington, Kentucky, the following day. Only a day after their arrival, the regiment received orders to muster out of the federal service. The regiment departed Camp Hamilton on September 11, and arrived back in Concord, New Hampshire the following day. Their train included two hospital cars containing fifty sick men. Immediately the regiment was given a thirty day furlough. The regiment was mustered out of service on October 31, 1898. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consisted of forty-seven officers and 1,234 enlisted men.


During its brief five month term of service, the regiment lost three officers and twenty-nine enlisted who died as a result of disease. Additionally, thirteen men deserted.



Bibliography:

Correspondence relating to the War with Spain And Conditions Growing Out of the Same Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Island and the China Relief Expedition. Vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902) “Get New

"Tents,” Boston Globe, July 28, 1898, 5

“All Here,” Lexington Herald-Leader, August 29, 1898, 8.

“First New Hampshire,” Nashville Banner, August 26, 1898, 1.

“First New Hampshire Infantry” Chattanooga Daily Times, May 21, 1898, 5.

“For Home,” Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), September 6, 1898, 4.

“General Breckinridge Now In Command at Camp Thomas,” Chattanooga Daily Times, August 3, 1898, 5.

“Ten Days Rations Issued” Boston Globe, June 30, 1898, 7.


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