A Brief History of the 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry

By Patrick McSherry
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The 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry served in the continental U.S. during most of the Spanish American War. As the war ended, the regiment was sent to the Philippines, where it took part in the ensuing Philippine American War.

Unit History:

The 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service at Des Moines, Iowa on May 30, 1898. At the time of mustering in, the regiment consisted of fifty officers and 789 enlisted men.

Within days of being mustered in, the regiment was sent west to San Francisco, with portions of the regiment leaving Des Moines on June 5. The entire regiment arrived in California by June 10. On August 1, the regiment was relocated from Camp Merritt the Presidio (Camp Merriam). While the regiment was in Calfornia, Spain and the United States reached an armistice effectively ending the war's fighting on August 13, 1898. On November 2, the regiment embarked on the transport PENNSYLVANIA bound for Manila, in the Philippines.

The regiment arrived at Manila on December 7. The war officially ended three days later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The regiment continued to stay aboard the PENNSYLVANIA, being shipped to Iloilo, where it arrived on December 28. The regiment continued to stay aboard the transport until January 31, when it arrived back at Cavite, near Manila. Finally, the men were permitted to go ashore and go into quarters on February 3, 1899. The regiment was attached to the Second Brigade, Fourth Division of the Eighth Army Corps. The day after the men set foot on Philippine soil, the Philippine American War broke out.

The regiment took part in the advance on San Roque on February 9, before being transferred to the Second Brigade, Second Division of the same Corps on April 14. The following day, the regiment went on campaign, taking part in actions at Quingua River, and Pulilan (April 24), Calumpit (April 25), Santo Tomas (May 4), San Fernando (May 5), and in a variety of other actions in the vicinity until July 4. The regiment took part in the advance on Calulut on August 9, and served on outpost duty in that vicinity until September 6. On that date, the regiment returned to Manila, and was quartered at the Cuartel de Francsico. On September 22, 1899, the regiment sailed for the U.S. aboard the transport SENATOR, arriving in San Francisco's Presidio on October 22.

On November 2, 1899, the 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry was mustered out of service at San Francisco. At the time of mustering out, the regiment consisted of fifty officers and 789 enlisted men. During its term of service,  the regiment lost one officer to suicide and 39 enlisted men to disease. In addition, 89 men were discharged on disability. Remarkably, the regiment only had one man desert.


Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899) Vol. 3, 177.

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) 593.

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).

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