Mount Gretna's Camp Hastings was the rendezvous point and initial training camp for the Pennsylvania troops who served in the Spanish American War.
Mount Gretna, a small, quiet resort town in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, was the home of the Pennsylvania Chatauqua. However, it also had another major claim in history. It was the summer training base of the National Guard of Pennsylvania.
With the Declaration of War with Spain, Pennsylvania Governor Daniel Hastings ordered the National Guard to report to Mount Gretna on April 25, 1898. The camp being prepared for them would be called "Camp Hastings" in the Governor's honor. The National Guard's commander, Maj. Gen. Snowden began issuing orders to prepare the camp. Snowden had been in command of the National Guard since 1890.
The assembling of the division, 10,800 men strong, soon overtaxed the infrastructure leading to remote Mount Gretna. Railroads became jammed. Battery A arrived after a mere four hour trip to find that it was the first arrive, getting there at 12:30 P.M. on April 27. The next day, the "First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry" began its trip to the camp expecting it to take a mere three hours. The unit was in for a rude awakening when it spent all day in its attempt to get to the camp. The "Governor's Troop" and the "Sheridan Troop" both arrived the same day.
Snow and rain, which fell as the men began to arrive, formed the camp into a cold, slippery, muddy mess. Tents from the state arsenal had no yet arrived, so shelter was not yet available. The buildings in the area, including those on the exposition grounds, and those of the Chatauqua were commandeered, and occupied on a first-come, first-served basis. Battery A of Philadelphia shared its tents with the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry, making for tight accommodations. Some of the troops simply remained on their railroad cars, a most logical decision given the circumstances.
On April 29, only four days after the governor's call, 8,994 officers and men were already present for duty. Camps and tents were finally pitched, and life rapidly began to settle into a routine. While awaiting the official muster into the Federal service, the men began their drilling and training, something that was not new to the men of the National Guard. The men were placed on guard duty. The cavalry and artillery had to feed, water, and clean their horses, hauling water from the Mount Gretna lake located a third of a mile away. Behind the scenes, intense negotiations were going on between the states and the Federal army. Across the country, National Guard units were not well-respected by the Federal Army, nor were they all were supplied. The Federal army did not want to have work with the guard. In the end, the political clout of the governors, and the eventual realization of the size of the undertaking forced the Federal army to accept the National Guard's services. On May 3-5, 1898, Governor Hastings visited the camp and the men were mustered for an inspection.
Finally, after the political wrangling had ended, the men assembled at Mount Gretna were given the opportunity to enlist in the Federal service. Men with families were allowed to avoid signing up. Still, seventy per cent of those present joined up. The first organizations to be mustered in were Batteries A and C on May 6. The last unit mustered, only a week later on May 13, was a portion of the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. All units were organized around their respective National Guard organizations.
Once the mustering began, the troops rapidly received their marching orders. On the very day of its muster, Batteries A and C were ordered to report to Newport News, Virginia.
By May 19, 1898, only the 14th, 15th and 18th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry regiments, and three cavalry troops remained at Camp Hastings. Only about three weeks had past since the order to rendezvous at the camp had been given. By June 12, all that remained was the "Governor's Troop" cavalry, which was still recruiting. Prior to their leaving the camp, the men of this unit began creating a monument at the end of their street by stacking stones. This monument lasted until 1908, and was rebuilt in 1909. Later, other monuments were created for the "Sheridan Troop" cavalry and the 16th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
The last troops left the camp after ten weeks. Camp Hastings had done its duty. The town of Mount Gretna could return to normal.
The unit had been home to the following units:
First Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer
Second Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Third Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Fourth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (served in Puerto Ric)
Fifth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Sixth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Seventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Eighth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Ninth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Tenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Served in the Philippines)
Eleventh Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Twelfth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Thirteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Fourteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Fifteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Sixteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Served in Puerto Ric)
Seventeenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Eighteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry
Light Battery A, Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery (Served in Puerto Rico)
Light Battery B, Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery (Served in Puerto Ric)
Light Battery C, Pennsylvania Volunteer Artillery (Served in Puerto Ric)
First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry, Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry (Served in Puerto Ric)
Sheridan Troop, Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry (Served in Puerto Ric)
Governor's Troop, Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry (Served in Puerto Ric)
(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on Amazon.com)
Cosmas, Graham A., An Army for Empire : The United States Army in the Spanish American War. (Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing Co., 1993).
Novak, Greg, Remember the Maine and to Hell with Spain; Being a Wargamer's Guide to the Spanish American War 1898. (Champagne: Ulster Imports, 1990). 39
Sauers, Richard A., Pennsylvania in the Spanish-American War. (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee, 1998). 5-11 (Main Source, and source for image).
Howard-Smith, Logan and Reynolds-Scott, J. F., The History of Battery A. (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1912). 121-123.
Seltzer, Jim - Photo of the 16th Pennsylvania Monument at Mount Gretna.
Stewart, Adj. Gen. Thomas J., Record of the Pennsylvania Vounteers. (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1901). 5